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Anything That Burns

Chapter Text

"You want me to do what?" Moroboshi Ataru asked.

Gathered in the small living room of the Moroboshi family home in Tokyo-3 were all three members of that family and their frequent visitor, Ataru's at-times-nominal girlfriend Miyake Shinobu. Ataru was honestly a bit confused about why she was there at the moment, but as she was the least surprising of the three non-residents present, he'd decided to just go with it.

"Your country would appreciate it if you would play a game of tag," the gentleman who had introduced himself as Mr. Kuro, and was dressed appropriately, repeated. "But perhaps I should clarify. Let me reintroduce 'Invader'."

"How ya doin'?" said the nine foot tall man with horns in a tiger-striped one piece who was occupying most of the floorspace of the living room. Ataru found himself a bit confused as to how he had gotten through the front doorway.

"Could be better," replied Ataru's father with an admirable amount of sang-froid. Ataru's mother nodded agreement.

"Invader is the commander of the alien armada that is orbiting our planet," the government agent continued to explain. "He has decided to give our species a sporting chance to avoid conquest at his hands."

"Ummm," Invader interject. "'Bout that. Slight change of plans, here ... well, we've changed our minds about conquering you guys."

"E-excuse me?" asked a startled Mr. Kuro. "Then, what exactly is the point --"

"Well, y'see, it ain't really worth it to occupy and garrison you guys, under da circumstances, so we scrapped dat notion. Instead, if dis here Ataru feller don't win da big game, we'll just pillage and loot da planet, and take ... oh, I dunno ... maybe a few million of you wit' us as slaves when we leave." Invader nodded for no particular reason.

"Oh," said Mr. Kuro. "How ... generous."

"Dat's us all over. On da other hand, we're kinda in a rush, here, so we ain't gonna give you ten days to see if you can pull a win off, either, like we said we would. Game starts tomorrow morning at sunrise, ends at sunset, nice, quick, easy peasy."

"And I have to play tag with you?" Ataru asked, having finally found his voice where it had run off and hid.

The oni laughed. "Oh, not me, kiddo! Damn, don't I look a bit too old for dis sort of thing? Hey, sweety, get in here and meet da competition!"

"Sure thing, cha." With that, there walked into the room an impossibly beautiful woman of an unguessable age, dressed in a tiger striped bikini top and a matching pair of hot pants and furry boots, with bedroom eyes and hair that changed color five times in the minute that Ataru spent staring at her in poleaxed amazement. "Lum," she said.

"Lum?" Ataru repeated.

"My name. Lum," she confirmed. "And you're the guy who's going down tomorrow, right?"

"Ah ..."

"Ataru-kun, please stop drooling at the agent of humanity's downfall," said Shinobu with quite appropriate patience.

A few moments later, with no clearer idea of how Invader had managed to get out of the house without damaging it, they were in the street in front of the house, in a small area that had been cordoned off by Mr. Kuro's associates in order to keep the press and the rest of the neighborhood back.

"Well, see you tomorrow morning," said Invader cheerfully. For her part, Lum just offered a jaunty wave. With that, they lifted into the sky on their own power, heading towards a much smaller version of the flying saucer that was still hovering over the Japanese capital.

"Hey! Hold it!" Ataru cried, finally breaking out of the mild daze he'd been in since Lum's arrival. "You can fly?"

The two aliens' ascent paused so that they could look back. "Can't everybody?" asked Lum.

"No, but, I mean ... you're not going to be flying in the tag match, right?" he demanded.

Invader and Lum exchanged an incredulous look, before Invader turned back to reply, "Who'd hamstring demself like dat?" With that, they resumed their climb towards the spaceship.

"Sporting chance my ass!" Ataru yelled out his bedroom window. "We're doomed!"

"Ataru-kun!" Shinobu said from behind him. "You cannot think that way. If you do, it really is over ... and not just for you, but for all of us."

"But she can fly!" he said, turning back to look at her. "All she has to do is hover outside of my reach and --"

"Then extend your reach!" she said. "Ataru-kun, you have no good qualities. You're a coward, a weasel, a jerk, a cheat, a cad, a bounder -- but that's not important right now! Right now, one of your bad qualities is what's needed -- and there is no one in Japan, and maybe not even the world, who is as much of a skirt chaser as you are!" Shinobu took a deep breath. "Win, and I swear that I will marry you!"

"... wow, an offer of marriage from someone who thinks I'm a coward and a weasel," sneered Ataru, having gone back to glaring out his bedroom window.

"You're not likely to get a better one anytime soon!" snapped Shinobu, who then turned and stormed out of the bedroom, slamming the door shut behind her, leaving Ataru in shadows.

"Hello," said the shadows after a moment.

First period the next day was rather subdued, by 2A standards. Having seen this same sort of worry in the faces of his two roommates all through the previous evening and into the morning, Negi was in a better position to pick up on the class' mood than he might have otherwise have been, and chose to address it at the start of the class. "Okay, everyone? I'm sure that you're all concerned about the events that are happening today in Tokyo-3, and I can't really blame you. But ... regardless of the world's situation, we have class to conduct. So please pay attention, and, um .... Hasegawa-san? Please stop sneaking peeks at that small television you're hiding in your desk, all right? I'm not going to confiscate it, under the circumstances, but it is a distraction from the lesson."

Chisame gave him what he recognized as a scorching look in response to that remark, but shoved the smartphone into her bag. That also won Negi an unhappy glare from Yuna, who'd been sneaking peeks at the display whenever Chisame brought it into view. Yuna had been less than impressed when she found out that, instead of giving up her maidenhead in response to an impending alien invasion, she'd done so in response to an impending game of tag with the stakes of alien invasion riding on it. She didn't actually complain about it, since Akira had been with the two of them all morning, but the looks she kept shooting Negi were not of a warm or cheerful nature.

It was neither an easy class, nor a fun class, but it was a class that they finally got through. "All right," Negi said, as the minutes clicked down towards the end of the hour. "I've had the chance to go over your test scores, and ... well, I'd like to meet some of you at the end of class today to discuss supplementary lessons."

"Go go Baka Rangers," someone sang from the middle of the room. (It was Misa, if you're curious.)

Negi decided to ignore that. "So if Asuna, Ayase, Nagase, Sasaki, Ku and Naba could remain after the end of class, we'll have that discussion then. In the meanwhile, take care for the rest of the day, try not to worry too much the tag game, and try to avoid carrying large quantities of books that block your view of where you're walking." He honestly thought he was doing the heavily blushing Nodoka a favor by not mentioning her name, but judging from the looks the other students were giving her, it became painfully obvious she was the only one in the classroom who would ever have needed such farewell advice. Ooops.

He slid open the door and was promptly seized by the person on the other side of it, physically picked up and carried as that person ran down the hall towards the building exit.

Hm, Negi thought. I wonder if this sort of manhandling is going to be a theme of my time here. Well, he didn't exactly sense any hostile intent at the moment, so he just settled in to enjoy the ride, or, more specifically, the bosom he was pressed up against.

"Kidnapping!" he heard the class representative's voice shriek just as the person carrying him cleared the front door and started running along Academy City's streets.

A few moments later, he heard his captor speak for the first time. "They're chasing me," she said in a tone of clear disbelief. "Those screwy middle school girls are actually chasing me! Why are they chasing me?" 

She had, Negi thought, a rather sexy voice. Perhaps that was why he felt moved to answer. "I suspect that they might be under the impression that I'm being kidnapped."

"Well, where did they get a silly notion like that? Yip!" With that, his kidnapper turned and entered the front doors of a different school building, racing down yet another hall that led to a set of stairs which she quickly hustled up, followed by a short jog down the hallway, then into a supply room where she dropped or perhaps threw Negi to the floor while she turned back to the door, locking it with a loud click.

"That last bit was the sort of thing that kidnappers might do," he advised her.

She turned to look right at him, and he finally saw her face. The smile was the first thing he noticed. Some of the girls in 2A had a smile that was almost like that, with its mixture of unholy glee and sheer enthusiasm, but he'd never met a girl quite like this before. The fact that she was rather beautiful, with her long brown hair held back with an orange ribbon that set off her eyes, did not escape his attention. "Hello, sensei, I need your help," she cooed.

"And ... you didn't just visit me in my office, because ...?" asked Negi as he looked up at her.

"Bureaucracy is for suckers."

"I see. Well, then, what can I do for you, uh ..." 

"Suzumiya Haruhi, supreme commander and perpetual dictator of the Spreading Excitement All Over The World With Suzumiya Haruhi Brigade," she stated, posing heroically. 

The effect was somewhat undercut by the way that the door began to rattle on its hinges. "Sensei!" cried the class representative's voice from the other side. "Sensei, are you in there?!"

"No!" Haruhi yelled.

"Yes!" Negi contradicted her. "But please don't vandalize school property! I'm all right, just wait a few moments, please!"

"Why did you do that?" Haruhi asked him, both perplexed and annoyed.

"I think that's really my question for you, Suzumiya-san. What exactly did you want me to do? And you might want to make it quick, I don't think those young ladies are going to wait very long before they break down the door."

She pouted. "All right, here it is. The Spreading Excitement --"

"You don't have to repeat your club name."

"-- we need a faculty adviser."

Negi stared at her. "I'm a teacher at a completely different school."

"You're a teacher at Mahora Girls Middle School," Haruhi explained to him in the manner of someone telling the prince about their father the king. "This is Mahora Integrated High School, which shares an academic hierarchy with your school, Mahora Boys Middle School and Mahora Elementary." She spread her hands. "It's all good."

"I see," he said, impressed by her knowledge of school regulations, somewhat in spite of himself. "Well, I'd like to know exactly what you do -- wait, no," he broke off as Haruhi opened her mouth to "explain". "In what way are you spreading excitement, is what I meant."

"Primarily, we search for aliens, time travelers, espers or sliders," she revealed.

"Ohhhh," Negi said, in a tone of great understanding. "Now I understand why you're so excited, the business in Tokyo-3 must be very much on your mind?"

She frowned. "That hoax? Why would I give a damn about that?"


"Hoax. Fraud. Fake. I mean, come on, sensei, you're a genius. You should know that when aliens show up, they aren't going to look just like us. They'll look weird, and mind-bending, and sanity disturbing, and weird."

"You said weird twice."

"Most important part."

"'When aliens show up,'" Negi repeated. "But aren't you familiar with the stories about --"

"Sensei!" Haruhi honestly looked a little appalled. "Don't tell me you believe in the nonsense about Superman and all that rot."

"Well, I visited his grave with my family, so I suppose that --"

"Exactly, it's a tourist trap. I mean, if Florida still existed, you could visit Disneyworld, but that wouldn't mean that Mickey Mouse had ever been real, would it?"

The door began to rattle on its hinges again. "Sensei! Haruna-san has found a fireman's axe! Please let us know that you're all right, or we're breaking down the door!" Ayaka cried out from the other side.

"Where in the world did she find a --" Negi started to ask, then shook his head. "I'm still all right!" he called out. "Suzumiya-san, would you mind if I held off on becoming your advisor until after I'm introduced to your club? Today after school, events permitting?"

"Oh, we can do that right now," Haruhi assured him. "Almost all our teachers buggered off because of the hoax. I think that was actually the point of the whole thing, to be honest," she confided.

What an unfathomably strange and yet incredibly attractive young woman, Negi thought.

When Negi at last unlocked the supply room door and stepped out into the hallway, he was genuinely surprised, both at how many of the girls of 2A had followed Haruhi all the way to this school, and at the fact that Akira and, very surprisingly, Yuna numbered among them. Aside from those two, the Class Representative, and Haruna -- who had indeed found an axe somewhere and was rubbing its edge while murmuring 'blood soon, blood soon' as the lenses of her glasses gleamed -- Makie, Ako, the trio of girls whom he knew to be cheerleaders and the pair of twins had also engaged in the hot pursuit.

"Thank you all for your concern," Negi said. "But this is all just a huge misunderstanding that I'm going to correct as soon as possible. Suzumiya-san just wanted to ask me to be her club's faculty adviser."

"Then why didn't she ask you in your office?" the girls chorused. Well, most of them did. Akira nodded in agreement with the sentiment. On the other hand, Yuna was giving him a very skeptical look, which felt extremely unfair.

Also unfair was the fact that he suspected that a straightforward and honest answer would not be well received. "Well," he hemmed, looking back at Haruhi who'd just stepped out of the supply room behind him.

She yawned exaggeratedly without bothering to meet Negi's gaze or look at any of the girls surrounding the two of them. No help there, clearly.

"Answer the question!" demanded Makie, frowning ... but Negi realized that she was frowning up at Haruhi rather than downwards at him.

Now Haruhi did meet Makie's gaze ... and whatever Makie saw there made the pink-haired gymnast take a step back. And that was before Haruhi started talking. "You know, I wonder what the Student Council Executive would have to say about a bunch of middle school girls confronting one of their sempai like this. I wonder what sort of academic and social penalties those middle school girls would suffer. I wonder if some of them might end up crucified on the hill. I wonder all sorts of things."

Negi let out a cough. "All right then," he said, just a bit more loudly than was necessary. "I think all of you young ladies should probably head back to our school before you get in trouble with the authorities for missing class. I will see all of you later. Thank you again."

They didn't go happily, but, in the end, they did go. Once they were gone, Negi turned to look at Haruhi with an annoyed expression that only Zazie had provoked from him thus far. "Suzumiya-san, do you really think that threatening my students is a good way to get me to me to agree to be your club's adviser?" he asked sharply.

"That wasn't threatening, that was reminding them of how things work here," Haruhi answered. "I wouldn't narc on anybody, but somebody else who saw this might. Or had you forgotten we're kind of in public?"

"But that crucifixion business --"

"That's how things work here, when Honnouji decides that there's been sufficient cause," she interrupted. "I've seen people go to the hill for insolence to a sempai, Negi-sensei. And I've seen what's left of them when they're taken down from there, too." Haruhi looked away, then. "The club room's over this way," she said, just a bit harshly. "Or have you already made up your mind to say no?"

"Lead the way," Negi said after a moment.

"Well, I found a teacher to sponsor us like I said I would," Haruhi announced as she threw open the door. "Praise me, filthy minions!"

"Oh, no, you kidnapped someone again," said one of the three young women who were sitting around the table inside the room behind the door. "And an elementary schooler, too!" The speaker was of average height, slender and flat-chested, with a long brown pony tail and an incredibly dry expression on her face.

"Kyonko, this is the very talented and very mature Professor Negi Springfield from Mahora Girls," Haruhi explained in a long-suffering tone. "Negi-sensei, this is Kyonko."

"My actual name is --" she started to say.

"Kyonko. In this room, your name is Kyonko."

"But --"

"Your name is Kyonko, your sign is Kyonko, your number is Kyonko, you need to let it go," Haruhi concluded.

'Kyonko' started rubbing her forehead.

"Over to her left, we have Koizumi Itsuko," Haruhi introduced the other, slightly taller girl with brown-blonde hair who was, indeed, sitting beside Kyonko with a pleasant smile, having just set down a copy of the Asahi Shinbun.

"Good afternoon, Negi-sensei," she said, in a much less harsh voice than Kyonko possessed. "My personal name is actually Itsuhime."

"Itsuko sounds so much better," Haruhi asserted. "You should consider changing it."

"Perhaps so," said ... Koizumi.

"How come she gets to --" Kyonko started to ask.

"She outranks you. Even further outranking you, on the other side of the table, meet Nagato Yuki." The young woman Haruhi was gesturing to wore a thick black jacket over her school uniform, a pair of glasses, and was carrying a thick book in such a way as to suggest that she intended to use it as a shield if it became necessary. She made a faint sound that might possibly have been the word 'hello'.

"Well, it's very nice to meet you all," Negi said, since he was a polite young man. "But, Suzumiya-san, since you know student regulations so well, could you maybe tell me whether or not I'm mistaken about school clubs requiring five or more members?"

"Yes, it used to be four, but they upped it to get rid of all the clubs that only had four members," Haruhi agreed. "Of course we do have a fifth member, they're just engaged in field research! I'll go get them right now!"

"That's not necessary," Negi told the void where she'd been standing a few seconds earlier. Slowly he turned to look at the students at the table.

They looked back.

"So ... aliens, time travelers, espers, and ... um ... what was the fourth thing?" Negi asked.

"In my case, Suzumiya-san recruited me on the basis that there must be something odd about someone transferring in so late in the year as I did," Koizumi explained. "Also I believe that she believes I'm a lesbian."

"I can't imagine what gives her that idea," Kyonko said sourly. "This whole thing is sort of my fault, I sit behind Haruhi in our class and gave her the idea of starting a club. I wish I'd kept my mouth shut."

"This used to be the literary club's room," said a third voice. It took Negi a moment to realize that Nagato was speaking. "But we only had one member left, so ... I joined Suzumiya's club, instead."

"I see. So, there's not actually that much enthusiasm for the club's endeavors," said Negi. "That's ... unfortunate."

The door slammed open again. "And here he is!" cried Haruhi, dragging in with her a young man with hair just a bit lighter in shade than Negi's own.

"Oh no," the boy wimpered. "Not again."

"Meet Asahina Mitsuru, our resident bishonen-type!" Haruhi introduced him.

"And the first kidnapping victim."

"Shut up, Kyonko."

"All right, hold it," Negi interjected. "Asahina-san, is someone forcing you to be here?"

Asahina's eyes lit on Negi when he spoke up. They stayed there for a while. "I'm sorry, could you please repeat the question?" he asked dazedly.

"Are you actually a member of this club, or just someone the leadership calls in to make up numbers?" Negi pressed. "Nobody should be forced to pretend to belong to a group that they don't actually want to participate in. If you'd like to leave, you should feel free to do so."

"I love it here," Asahina said, eyes never leaving Negi's face. "I'd never leave if they'd let me stay."

Negi blinked. That was an odd reversal of the position he'd seemed to be expressing when he arrived, but maybe 'not again' had referred to being dragged around by Haruhi, rather than the destination, as such. "Well, all right, then."

"So, then, can we count on you to be our adviser, Negi-sensei?" Haruhi asked, holding up a legal document covered by seals and stamps.

Negi took the document, and examined it while adjusting his pince-nez. "I suppose that you've answered my most important objections. But you should understand that I wouldn't be able to advise you very much."

"That's not a problem," Haruhi assured him, since saying, 'That's the whole point of asking an incompetent child teacher to take the job' wouldn't have gone over very well. "All you really need to do is sign, and we'll take care of the rest."

"Oh, I wouldn't be that negligent," Negi assured her. "I'll show up for a meeting at least once a week to make sure you're actually taking steps towards finding the subjects of your inquiries."

Haruhi's smile froze a bit. 

"Hurray," said Asahina, smiling bashfully.

"And signed," he said, matching the word to the deed.

"Heigh-ho/heigh-ho/it's back to class we go," Haruna sang, resting the shaft of the axe against her left shoulder. She gave voice to a short little whistle, then concluded, "Heigh ho/heigh ho heigh ho heigh ho! Come on everyone, you know the words!"

Misa, Sakurako and Madoka exchanged a look, then shrugged as one. "Heigh --" they sounded the note.

"Stop that," snapped Ayaka, irritably, turning back from her position at the head of the small crowd. "Saotome-san, do you understand the meaning of the words 'low profile'? We are trying to sneak across campus. You cannot sneak and sing songs."

"Being in large groups is pretty bad for sneaking, too," Haruna replied cheerfully. Of course, if we split up to get back to class on our own, you wouldn't be In Charge, would you? she thought, as fondly as she could think of Ayaka. Which wasn't much.

"And get rid of that axe already!" Ayaka continued to rant, ignoring Haruna's well-considered observation, of course. 

"But what if we run into trouble?" Haruna asked sunnily.

"The only trouble we are going to run into would be representatives of the Student Council Executive, who will not be impressed or intimidated by that thing, but who will be angered by the fact that you are walking around outside of class, outside of school, above and beyond your possession of a deadly weapon! So get rid of it, Haruna-san, get rid of it so that we can hurry up and get back to our proper place and avoid those judgmental violent maniacs, and why are all of you waving your hands at me in that manner?" asked Ayaka ... before her eyes slammed shut in realization.

"Perhaps they are trying to warn you about judgmental violent maniacs," said Suzushiro Haruka, resplendent in her white Student Council Executive uniform, with a small black star on its collar, standing in Ayaka's blind spot.To her side was a younger woman with long black hair in the same outfit, minus the star. 

Ayaka opened her eyes, took a deep breath, and turned around with a pleasant smile on her face and thoughts of being crucified on her mind. "Suzushiro-sempai. I don't believe we've ever been formally introduced. I am --"

"Yukihiro Ayaka, Class Representative of Class 3A, Mahora Girls Middle School, Vice-President, Mahora Girls Middle School Equestrian Club, Member, Mahora Girls Middle School Flower Arranging Club, only daughter of the head of the Yukihiro Financial Group," Suzushiro rattled off without blinking an eye. She paused, eyebrows raised on her high forehead, before adding, "Under suspicion for several acts of child molestation."

"Never formally charged," Ayaka growled reflexively, and then immediately strove to repair her smile. "As of course you are surely aware."

The executive didn't bother to respond to that. "So, are you going to take responsibility, here? Or --"

"It was me," interjected Haruna. "All me. I led my poor classmates astray, and poor Iinchou came to try and stop us. And on top of that I have this lethal weapon that I feel strangely inclined to start swinging wildly! Oh, won't someone stop me!"

Suzushiro turned away from Ayaka and stared blankly at Haruna. "Drop the weapon or get dropped," she offered as a suggestion.

"'kay," Haruna replied, and let the axe fall to the ground.

"Cuff her, Kokegawa. You're going to Detention, Saotome." Suzushiro looked around at the other 2A students. "The rest of you should consider yourselves on watch. Now get back to class."

The accompanying member of the executive looked like she wanted to say something, but kept her mouth shut as she walked forward to secure Haruna's arms behind her back and put a pair of metallic cuffs on her. For her part, Ayaka also looked like she wanted to say something, but settled for making a forceful gesture to the rest of the girls, who followed her (not without a lot of unhappy looks in Haruna's direction) on the path towards the school.

"We don't actually want you, you know," Suzushiro said over her shoulder, walking ahead of Haruna while her adjutant followed along behind.

"Hey, great, I don't want you either. So can I go?"

"Ah, very funny. And very brave, to be defiant under these circumstances. Kokegawa, you should make a note of how brave the prisoner is." Suzushiro nodded, and kept walking. "You see, you are a little fish that we might be able to use in order to ... to ..." She paused, noting the absence of footsteps behind her, and turned to look behind her. "For pity's sake, that was sarcasm!" she snapped at the sight of her adjutant standing still and fishing her notepad out of her skirt pocket. 

"It was?" she asked.

"I couldn't tell either," admitted Haruna. For her part, she had also come to a halt right in front of the adjutant.

Suzushiro muttered for a few moments. The most audible part of it was, "-- never went through this crap with Yukino, why the hell did I let them talk me into giving her --" At last she spoke up again. "Look, Saotome. You can probably guess who I want."

"This Yukino person, probably."

The temperature of the area dropped precipitously. "I would progressed that you distract that stagement," Suzushiro snarled. "We want Tatsumiya. Tell us what you know of her festivities and you can walk all the way back to your class of phycoliths with our thanks."

Haruna stared. "Okay, not only am I not entirely sure what you just said, but if this is about who I think it's about, you should know that Tatsumi stays out of everybody's way and we all do the same for her."

"Fine," Suzushiro said after a moment. "Play dumb. To Detention, then, Kokegawa."

"It's Kotegawa, sempai," said Kotegawa Yui.


In the before-time, in the long-ago, "Detention" had been the police station of the town that grew into Academy City. When campus security took over the duties of the police in the area, they took over the station as well ... and when campus security had been succeeded by the Student Executive, the station came to them. Haruna had vague memories of having visited the building on a field trip in elementary school, and honestly, it didn't seem like much had changed. Certainly the cells hadn't.

Standing in front of one of them, seeing and smelling the two girls seated on the bench within, made Haruna start to really wish she'd had some dirt on Tatsumiya after all. "I don't suppose that I get a phone call?" she asked Kotegawa, who was undoing her cuffs.

"This isn't America, Saotome, and I don't think you even get a phone call in America these days," she answered. The cuffs came off, a buzzer sounded, and the cell door slid into the wall. With a helpful shove, Haruna entered the cell just before the buzzer sounded again, with the cell door closing behind her.

There was actually only one girl seated on the bench on the far side of the cell from where Haruna was standing. She had purple hair just a bit brighter in shade than Haruna's own, and dark red eyes that seemed (to Haruna at least) to be sizing Haruna up for her tolerance for pain. The other girl, a redhead, was asleep on her lap.

"I actually have no tolerance for pain whatsoever," Haruna decided to risk saying. "You would not find the experience at all diverting."

The girl blinked. "What?" Then shook her head. "Never mind. You name Saotome?" she asked, with a Chinese accent that was thicker than that of Haruna's roommate.

"Yep. Saotome Haruna. Nice meeting you. Why don't we divide this cell evenly, with you two having that half over there, while I take this half over here, and neither of us trespasses --"

"Stop talking, talks-too-much-girl." She slapped her rather large chest. "I Hua Shanpu."

"... wash shampoo?"

The girl said something that Haruna couldn't understand but had a hunch was not very complimentary, then pointed to the slumbering redhead. "This Saotome Ranma."

Haruna stared in silence.

"You daughter of Saotome Genma?" Shanpu asked.

Haruna continued to stare in silence.

"Not hard question," the Chinese girl said irritably. "Him father, yes or no?"

"Okay," Haruna said after a long moment. "I'm not sure whether you are one of the best con artists I've ever met -- because you've clearly done your research, and great job on setting up a seeming coincidental meeting, seriously, I'm beyond impressed here -- or whether you are one of the worst con artists I've ever met -- because while I had an older sibling named Ranma, he was my brother, not my sister. Also, I'm pretty much beyond outraged that you'd use my dead brother and father's names like this."

"Not follow. You call me a liar?"

"Yes, I'm sorry, I was using more words than I needed to say that I think you're lying to me."

"Why?" Shanpu asked bluntly.

Haruna blinked. "Like I said, I had a brother, not a --"

"No," Shanpu interrupted, with feigned patience. "Why I lie to you? You in jail, same as us. What lie to you get me?"

She stared. "You ... honestly have no idea, do you?" 

"No idea of what?"

Haruna ignored the question, focusing her attention on the slumbering figure in Shanpu's lap. "You're trying to tell me that that's my brother."

"Yes. Long story."

"Wake her up so that I can hear it from her," Haruna growled.

With a shrug, Shanpu smacked the redhead, jolting her into consciousness. "Whatchadothatfor?" the other girl yelled as she looked up.

"I find another sister," Shanpu informed him, pointing in Haruna's direction.

The redhead followed the pointer and looked at Haruna. "Oh. Um. Hey."

"Hey yourself," Haruna said agreeably. "What's your mother's maiden name?"

"I don't even know what her personal name is," she admitted.

"Oh we are just off to the races as far as convincing me of your identity is concerned," Haruna told her, though she privately noted that the claimant was clearly a native Japanese speaker.

"Look, dad wouldn't even tell me if my mom was alive or not," the redhead protested. "I didn't even know I had a sister until ... look, my name's Saotome Ranma, and yes, despite everything you're seeing, I am in fact a guy. My dad dragged me to a cursed training ground in China, I fell in a cursed spring, and now anytime I have water spilled on me I turn into a girl. If you're the daughter of my mother, I really need some help, here."

"Worst. Con artists. Ever," Haruna proclaimed after a moment.

"Step back from the cell doors," said an irritated voice from the other side of the door. Haruna obediently stepped toward the invisible line she'd drawn down the middle of the cell -- though not over it -- and turned to look back.

"How exactly do you know the Minister of Communications?" Kotegawa demanded.

"In the course of an active life, one acquires connections," Haruna replied.

"You're fourteen years old."

Haruna shrugged in a way that suggested that she didn't see what that had to do with anything.

Kotegawa let out a long sigh. The buzzer sounded, and the cell door opened. Haruna took a step towards the open doorway, then looked back at her cellmates. "Are you coming or not?"

"Now wait a minute --" said Kotegawa.

"Two ways this plays out," Haruna interrupted, holding up a pair of fingers. "They walk out of here with me, and are out of your hair. Or, I walk out of here alone, make a few phone calls, then you get another one."

"All right, all right! Just have them out of town by nightfall!"

"Sure thing. Let's go, you crazy girls."

High noon.

It was almost impossible to tell if the plan was working or not. Lum didn't seem to be getting fatigued, but Ataru had noticed that she was mostly "skating" within a few centimeters of the ground, keeping out of his grasp with speed, where before she'd launched herself into the air and above his reach without moving terribly quickly. It gave him hope that she might have limits when it came to flying. On the other hand, it also gave him cause for concern that she might want him to think she had limits when it came to flying.

All right, he thought. Phase 2. Drawing on reserves of energy that he'd carefully held in check all through the morning for just this point, Ataru pushed himself to run just that little bit faster down the cordoned-off street, leaping into a diving tackle at the end. Startled by the burst of speed, Lum found herself grapped around her waist even as she started to rise up towards the sky.

"Not getting rid of me that easy!" Ataru yelled, and reached up with one arm to grab hold of one of her breasts. Greatest girl-chaser on Earth? he thought as he molested the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen. Fine, I'll be the greatest girl-chaser on Earth!

"Release me da cha!" Lum shrieked, slapping him harder than Shinobu had ever managed.

The force of the blow made him lose his grip on her torso ... yet he heard a tearing noise as he did so, before tumbling back down to Earth. Opening his eyes after a moment, Ataru blearily looked at what he was holding in his right hand. Son of a gun, it worked, he thought as he looked at the bikini top.

"Return that," Lum demanded, any trace of insouciance utterly banished from her tone as she hovered in the air, one arm crossed over her chest.

Ataru smirked as he came to his feet. "Oh, this? You want this?" he pretended to ask, waving the top in the air. Before she could dart forward and grab it, though, he brought it up to his nose. "Oooooooh," he groaned, painting a look of utter, depraved hedonistic bliss on his face. It was surprisingly easy to do.

"You -- YOU!" the partially-denuded princess seethed ... 

And storm clouds rolled in out of nowhere, with lightning bolts crackling between them.

Uhhhhhh, thought Ataru. Nobody mentioned she could do that. This isn't part of the plan!

"I represent a consortium of interests who have no desire to see Earth pillaged by interstellar slavers," said the dark skinned girl who materialized out of the shadows in his bedroom. "My name is Zazie. I've been sent here to help you win this conflict."

"Well, great," said Ataru, displaying remarkable equanimity about the presence of an unfamiliar girl in his room. Under most other circumstances, he'd have been flirting by this point. "How're you going to help me?"

"Not in the material way that you'd probably prefer," said Zazie, crossing the room to sit on his bed and look up at him. "Giving you any superweapons or biological enhancements is right out, the Urusei would detect them, cancel the game, and begin their assault. Magical assistance would 
probably run the same risk; most starfaring cultures have technology that can recognize, counter and in some cases duplicate esoteric energy manipulation. So our best option is to give you some tactical assistance, in the form of information about how Lum Invader has played this particular game in the past."

"Right," he said, after a moment, sinking down into his desk chair so that he could face here. "The sheer amount of additional questions the answer to my question just gave me ... no, forget it, alien oni have descended to play tag, nothing makes sense anymore." Despite that, some lingering attachment to cause and effect made him ask, "Have these obnoxious assholes been here before, that you have that information about how that chick fights?"

"No," she replied calmly. "I said I represented a consortium of interests. I never said anything about those interests being restricted to Earth."

They talked, and schemed, and hammered out the details of the plan over the next few hours.

At last, Zazie rose to go. "Hopefully, we won't need to meet again," she told him as she walked over to the window and climbing half-way out of it. She paused, however, and stepped back into the room. "Just one more thing, in the interest of giving you a morale boost. The young woman you were speaking with before I revealed yourself ... she does in fact have strong romantic feelings for you. I suspect that, like many people, she's just not very good at expressing them. You might want to consider holding the promise she made in your heart. After all, if she marries you, she'll have to you let you do this sort of thing."

And very suddenly, her face was up against his own and her lips were pressed to his and her tongue was in his mouth. When next he regained self-awareness, Ataru found himself alone in his room, lying on his back on the bed ... and fully dressed.

"Divine Retribut--" Lum began to shout.

"No," came the voice of Invader, seemingly from everywhere at once. The clouds began to clear just as suddenly as they'd appeared.

"Father!" she growled. "Do you not know what this one has done?"

The omnipresent voice sighed. "Sweety, I don't pretend t'understand why you care dat a bunch of monkeys are gettin' a look at what ya Mama gave you. But it don't matter, either, 'cause dis is a tag game. You don't use Divine Retribution in a tag game."

"It's the principle of the thing!" Lum cried out, hands shaking at her sides -- incidentally giving the "monkeys" an even better look.

"Yeah, da principle is, we follow da rules of da game. Play tag, daughter." By now, the clouds were nowhere to be seen.

Lum glared down at Ataru even as she somewhat belatedly remembered her modesty. He smiled saucily up at her, waving the bikini top in the air. "Come and ge-et it," he sang-song, "or it's go-ing down my sho-orts!" He began to pull his shorts elastic outwards in preparation to do just that.

"Nooo!" Lum shrieked, darting towards him. She grabbed hold of the loose end of the top ...

... and with everything he had -- including, as Zazie had told him, the promise of Shinobu -- he snapped the top like a whip, dragging her down to the ground, then grabbed hold of her shoulders with one arm and the all-important horns with the other. "TAG!" he cried.

Lum went stiff in his arms for a moment, then very limp. "Tag," she quietly agreed.

All around him, he could hear the sound of human cheers, of people chanting his name, of praise for the savior of humanity. None of it mattered to him, though. "Now she has to marry me!" he declared.

Slowly, Lum turned to look at him, those beautiful eyes seeming to stare into the very depths of his soul.

"Are you fucked in the head?" she asked after a moment.

When the news came over the radio in the teachers' office, the collected educators let out a spontaneous cheer. Negi couldn't quite bring himself to join in; the possibility still existed, at least in his mind, that the aliens might renege on their agreement. In which case, this wasn't the end, but the beginning. But he had to admit that he was breathing a little easier now. By the end of the school day, it had become apparent that his concerns were moot, and it was with a somewhat lighter heart that he made his way back to 2A's classroom for the meeting he'd scheduled earlier.

"Ah, good, you're all still here," he said, walking in the door. "I thought some of you might --"

"Baka Rangers Assemble!" the majority of the girls chorused, posing in unusual manners.

"Baka Black," declared Yue, the petite philosopher who was apparently part of some library club with Nodoka -- whom Negi saw was waiting in the back of the room for her friend.

"Baka Blue," proclaimed the remarkably tall Kaede.

"Baka Pink," admitted Makie, blushing prettily.

"Baka Yellow!" cheered Ku Fei.

Asuna let out an annoyed sigh. "Yeah, yeah, I'm Baka Red, let's move on?"

"Baka Greeeeeeen!" Chizuru declaimed gleefully, even making some rather elaborate martial arts moves in the process.

"... ooooookay," Negi said a moment of consideration. "This is all clearly in reference to some popular culture with which I'm totally unfamiliar. It is amusing, though. Take your seats, please." Once they did so, he continued. "Now, before I start handing out test papers, I'd like to have a little conversation about the reasons that you're not doing so well in English. Why do you think this is?"

"Because it's hard?" Makie answered into the silence.

"True," he replied.

"Wait, that was the right answer?" Makie asked, gaping. "How'd that happen?"

"... there's no right or wrong answer, Makie-san, I want to know what you think."

She stared at him. "Negi-kun, you are very cute, but I think you might be kind of crazy."

He chose to ignore that. "What about the rest of you? Do you agree or disagree with Makie-san's perspective? With regards to English, not with regards to my mental health," he added, as Asuna started to open her mouth. She promptly made a show of closing it.

"I agree-aru," Fei spoke up, now that the floodgates had opened.

"I'd say it's more boring than hard," said Yue after a moment. 

"There are numerous activities with which one would choose to engage before selecting the study of English as one's task," Kaede admitted.

"It is hard, though not really much harder than Japanese," Chizuru observed. "At least for me."

"Ah, thank you, Chizuru-san, I wasn't sure whether you'd want your special circumstances acknowledged or not," said Negi.

"No, you can say that I'm dyslexic. I don't mind."

He paused momentarily to consider Naba Chizuru. Between her height and her other physical dimensions, she deserved the term 'young woman' even more than Iinchou, to the point where Negi found it incredibly difficult to believe that she was not only of an appropriate age to be in the second year of middle school, but the second youngest member of the class. She was also surprisingly forthright ... yet as one who strove to be as straightforward and honest as possible while still keeping a secret, he had the sensation of recognizing another such.

"Okay, what is the point of this?" Asuna asked abruptly, verbally pulling Negi away from his speculations. "What does knowing why we suck get us?"

"You don't 'suck'" Negi replied, making air quotes around the word. "You just have problems. And problems can be solved."

"But what is the point?" Asuna repeated. "This is an elevator school, you have to seriously work to not get accepted into the attached high school, regardless of what kind of grades you get. So why bother to study?"

"There are many good reasons. Learning can be its own reward, it can open up doors you didn't realize existed, it can help to impress teachers on whom you have a seemingly hopeless romantic fixation, it can serve as a way to pass time even when other options aren't avail--"

"I am seriously going to kick your ass one of these days," Asuna informed him.

Briefly, the eyes of all six girls in the room settled on her with a quizzical look, then looked elsewhere when it became apparent that no further outbursts would be occurring.

Negi coughed. "Okay, then, I'm going to pass out a test paper. In the future, you won't be allowed to leave these sessions without answering at least half the questions right, but for now we're just trying to get your measure."

"Okay," Negi said a little while later, restraining his inclination to flinch as he saw the test papers. "We've got a ways to go, but I'm confident that we're going to get there together. Class dismissed ... but could Fei-san and Asuna remain behind just a little longer?"

The rest of the girls hastened to escape the classroom, with Nodoka in particular catching up to walk beside Yue as they both left. Once they were gone and the door slid shut behind them, Ku Fei looked at Asuna with a rather horrified look on her face, then turned her head to stare at Negi. "I do that bad on first test?" she asked.

"Oh, gee, thanks," Asuna groused.

"No, that's not what this is about," Negi reassured her. "I was just wondering if you'd mind answering a couple of questions, Fei-san. One of them is a bit personal -- I hope you don't mind my asking where in China your family are from?"

Ku blinked. "Oh," she said. "I no mind. My people come from Qinghai, originally, but we move to Guangdong in great-grandfather's time. Then to Japan not long after I am born. I still have family in Guangdong." A shadow crossed her face. "If Brittanians not yet kill them all."

"That's what I thought, and I'm sorry if the question brought back unhappy memories," said Negi. "Um. It's against school rules for me to offer any of my students private tutoring, so I can't do that. On the other hand, it's not against the rules for a student to offer their teacher private tutoring -- say, in the Chinese language -- and then accept payment for them in whatever form they chose. Would that idea interest you?"

Ku Fei looked moderately perplexed, and then a lantern lit inside her head. "Sneaky Negi-bouzu!" she proclaimed, grinning broadly. "Oh ho! Yes! We speak on this again, soon!"

"I look forward to that," Negi agreed.

Fei turned to wave at Asuna, then half-walked, half-skipped out the door of the room, humming something as she went.

"So I do that bad on first test?" Asuna asked, imitating Fei's somewhat childlike Japanese.

Negi silently held up a test sheet with a large red 1/10 on the top. "Please tell me you didn't deliberately do this badly, just to spite me," he asked in return.

"No," Asuna sighed, lowering her face to the desk. "Don't get me wrong, I'm still mad about the 'hopeless romantic' thing, but I really, really am just not very good at this. And yes, they've checked, and there's nothing wrong with my ability to read. I just ... don't get it. We all have things that we're not that good at, and this is one of mine." She fell silent for a moment, before speaking again. "Do your mom and dad know abut Takahata-sensei?"

"No, and I promised him that I wouldn't say anything," Negi assured her, leaving out the fact that Takamichi had said that there was nothing to know. He thought that would probably not go over all that well.

She looked up, then, a little. "Thank you," she said quietly. "Hiding things from your mom ... can't be easy for you."

"She'd be really happy if you started calling her 'our' mother, you know."

Asuna let out a sound somewhere between a growl and a sigh as she sat up the rest of the way. "There are lots of things that would make her really happy that are never, ever, ever going to happen, okay? And I know that you know what I'm talking about, I saw the way Yuna was walking to school this morning."

Negi coughed. "A gentleman doesn't discuss such matters."

"Suuuuure he doesn't. Look, whatever. Charm whoever else you like, and don't think I don't know what you're trying to pull with those so-called Chinese language lessons --"

"What?" Negi interjected. "No, I'd really like to be able to --"

"-- but nothing sexy is going to happen between you and me. Ever." She was full-on glaring at him, mismatched eyes seeming to gleam and the bells in her hair were like a victor's laurel. He didn't think that he'd ever wanted anyone as much as he wanted her in that moment.

"I understand, and I will respect your decision," Negi told her.

"Fine. We done here?"

"For now."

She got up from her desk and headed for the doorway, pausing once she was there, and looking back. "Like I said, we all have things that we're not that good at ... and on the other side of things, things that we're really good at. I've found out that I'm really good at fighting. If you need that kind of help, Negi, then I'm with you. All the way. See you tomorrow." And then she was gone.

He stayed where he was standing until he could move safely.

"Excuse me, sensei?"

Negi's solitary walk to the dorms, during which he tried to think very unsexy thoughts, was abruptly interrupted. He looked up, and blinked. "Oh, it's Kyonko, isn't it?"

"No," said the girl he'd met earlier that day. "It's not. We're not in the clubroom, and Haruhi is nowhere to be seen." She paused, and took a moment to look around -- thoroughly -- in order to confirm that. "So my name is Tadamichi Kyouko," she concluded when she felt secure.

"Pleased to make your acquaintance," said Negi. "Would you rather I called you that than the other at club meetings?"

"I would rather not have on my conscience what Haruhi will do to you if you do," said Kyonko, for that was her true name regardless of what she thought. "But Kyouko-san will do for private business. Anyway. I was hoping that I might ask you for a pretty big favor." She pulled a small envelope out of her skirt pocket. "I found this in my shoe locker after school today."

Negi's eyes widened. "Is that a love letter?" he asked.

"No. Well, maybe. Sort of. Basically, it's an invitation to come meet someone in one of the classrooms of our building, and ... well, the tone is sort of love letterish." Kyonko was, it should be noted, blushing a bit. "But, anyway, not only can I not ... handle this sort of thing, I also have to get home to take care of my little brother. So I was planning on just ditching whoever sent this, but then I ran into someone I knew who could go in my place and let whoever sent this down gently." She held it out to Negi. "Please, teacher?"

"... I'll consider this reason to keep calling you 'Kyonko' when I visit the club," said Negi, as he took it from her hand.

Going to a semi-deserted school building in order to 'let [someone] down gently' was not among the things that Negi had ever envisioned doing when he imagined coming to Mahora -- and he'd envisioned quite a bit. In all honesty, he was not even sure how to go about letting someone down gently. He had a vague idea of how to comfort someone, from times when he'd held Ilya while she was not-crying about not-missing her father, but he suspected that technique might not be the most appropriate method under the circumstances, given what his relationship with Ilya had eventually turned into.

... well, maybe if whoever had sent the love-letter was cute.

He arrived at the classroom, took a deep breath, slid open the door and walked in. Within, sitting atop one of the desks, was a young woman with light brown hair in a girl's school uniform and hip high socks. She looked at Negi. Negi looked at her.

"Okay," she said after a moment. "I'm going to assume this is a mix-up, but I really don't know how a little kid managed to get all the way here from the elementary school division and into the building without someone stopping them. How'd you swing that, boya?"

"As it happens, members of the staff are issued skeleton keys for all the schools in their association, just in case," Negi explained, holding up his. "And I am actually a member of the staff."

Her eyes bulged. "Oh wow. Are you that kid teacher from Mahora Girls? Damn, it's always the quiet ones," she added in a murmur.

Unsure what that last remark might mean, he found that an unworthy part of himself considered telling her that he was actually a different recently hired child teacher. "Yes, my name is Negi Springfield. I realize that I'm probably not the person you were expecting, but the person to whom you sent the letter ... was otherwise engaged, unfortunately, and asked me to come deliver their apologies." He braced himself for anger and sorrow.

A grin was completely unexpected. "I have a most amusing coincidence to report," she announced, kicking her legs a bit. "But first, I'm Momioka Risa, first year, Mahora Integrated. And I didn't send any letters."

"Excuse me?" Negi said, then had a flash of intuition. "No, don't tell me."

"Well, it was less 'asked to come deliver their apologies' and more 'got told by Iinchou to go wait in the empty room when she saw the girl who sent the letter running for the hills and went to go chase her down'. Which is kind of an abuse of a class representative's authority, now that I think about it, but somehow I always end up doing what that girl tells me to do." She shrugged.

"Well, this is ridiculous," said Negi, with a shake of his head.

"One word for it," Risa said agreeably. "Was the other guy hot, at least? I mean, if he was hot, I could see why Nagato would choke."

Negi controlled his instinct to express surprise. Nagato?  Once again, he had no idea how common that name was, but given that they were discussing a female by that name who attended this school, it seemed fairly likely that they were the same person. So Nagato had sent a love letter to Kyonko. Interesting! Not pertinent, however. "I don't think that really matters. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all. And more importantly, it's what's inside that counts." He nodded soberly.

Now she was staring at him. "Welllll," Risa said, smiling a little wickedly. "Getting lectured on vanity by a little kid. Definitely a new experience. Tell me, then, Negi-sensei, are you at all interested in what's inside this?" She pulled up her skirt to expose her panties.

A high school girl. As she'd said, definitely a new experience. "Yes," he answered honestly.

She blinked those lovely brown eyes, and for a moment it looked like she was about to slide her skirt back down even more quickly than she'd pulled it up. But her hand clenched, and she kept right on smiling as her legs spread apart. "Then what are you standing over there for?"

He approached, crouched, and began to rub at her mons through the fabric of the panties. He suspected that the jolt that ran through her body at his touch was at least two-thirds simple surprise that he hadn't backed down, with the rest being the pleasure of touch. He searched for the clitoris, found it, and pressed through the cloth with his thumb. Definitely getting a reaction, from the sounds of things, and the fingers of his other hand went down below to stroke against the lips. Now he could both see and feel her response, and Negi went down to lick against the panties.

"Oh fu-uck," Risa gasped. "Inside ... you said you cared about what's inside ..."

He pulled back just long enough to slide the panties to the left, and then resumed his attentions ... a bit more gently, yet far more directly. There hadn't been time to do this with Yuna, and he regretted that, as he thought she might not -- no, stop, don't think about someone when you're with someone else, it degrades the one you're with.

Blissfully unaware of her degradation, Risa rocked backward on the desk. "Oh, holy shit. This, this is the best head I've ever gotten, and I didn't have to give a blowjob to -- oh. Fuuuuck. Get up here."

"Uhm?" asked Negi, his tongue otherwise occupied.

"Get up here, I want your cock in my mouth," she said, licking her lips.

Negi considered. "No, sorry, not enough time. Also, not necessary." He stood up, undid his zipper, and fished his erection out of his boxers. Grabbing hold of Risa's hips, he pushed up and into her.

"Holy fuck, you can fuck," she gasped.

"Yes," he agreed, and did so quite forcefully, clinging to her as her body rolled back so that her head rested against the back of the desk's chair and her legs crisscrossed behind his hips. The posture seemed a bit uncomfortable, and he needed to hold her firmly so there could unfortunately be no breast play. He needed to get stronger so that he could hold with one hand while the other worked elsewhere, he decided ... but that was for later, as her orgasm came anyway, and then his own.

"Omigod, omigod, omigod," Risa babbled a bit, then let out another gasp. "Ohhh. I finally fuck a teacher and he's a ten year old boy. My parents are going to kill me if they find out."

The faintly gleeful tone of her words didn't quite register with Negi. "I won't let that happen. I'll protect you."

"No, I didn't mean --" She broke off as she took a look at his face. "But you did mean it, didn't you? Wow. Just wow." 

"Hey, what's going on in there?" came an adult male voice from the hallway.

Risa's eyes went wide, she looked at Negi, looked at the door, looked at the window, then back at the door. Then drew a deep breath. "I'm masturbating, go away!" she yelled.

Dead silence greeted her words. "Well, finish up and go home!" the voice yelled, and the sound of footsteps moving rapidly away could be heard.

"... I oughta get someone to buy me some lottery tickets, this has got to be my lucky day," Risa mused.

They quickly adjusted their clothing and went their separate ways, though not before Risa gave Negi a deep kiss and a verbal promise to introduce him to some of her friends. He found himself wondering whether he might have bit off more than he could chew when it came to her, but it certainly was the novel experience he'd been promised.

Fei was still humming when she got back to her dorm room, though she'd moved on to some of the lesser known parts of Jackie Chan's oeuvre. She reached down to unlock the door, only to have it flung open and her extended hand grabbed, pulling her off balance and into the room.

"It's about damn time you showed up," Haruna told her as her roommate slammed the door shut behind the pair of them.

Fei decided to ask the most pertinent question first. "How you out of jail so soon?"

"Politics," Haruna asked brusquely. "I need your help."

The martial artist sighed. "Paru, I tell you once already -- I will not beat up people so you study injuries for draw better."

"Not that. This," she added, pulling Fei towards the living room.

"你好," said the purple-haired girl on the couch, beside a redhead.

"Okay, why exactly did you keep us on the hook for all this time waiting for this girlfriend of yours?" asked said redhead.

Ku bristled a bit at the tone and content of that remark, but Haruna held up a quelling hand. "She's an impartial witness, who'll listen to your story without my prejudices," the artist explained.

"Those being that you think I'm full of it," the other girl said sourly.

"E-yep. Plus, she speaks Chinese, so your girfriend doesn't have to strain her abilities with Japanese."

Shanpu said something in Chinese that, again, didn't sound very flattering. Fei answered the remark in the same tongue, making Shanpu's eyes go wide, before making another comment.

"I just get my accent insulted by girl what sound like hickest hick in hickville," Fei complained. "But yes, we know same dialect. Actually ..." She asked Shanpu a question, then got an answer. Then stared at nothing in particular.

"I almost followed that," Ranma interjected. "Yeah, that village was still standing when we left."

"Nycheizu still exist?" Fei asked.

"So what's --" Haruna started to ask.

"She come from village that great-grandfather and his family leave," Fei said, looking more than a little stunned. "She ... she Joketsuzoku, tribe of warrior women."

Haruna swallowed before speaking again. "Fei, are you familiar with a legend of a cursed spring that serves as a training ground?"

"Eh? Uh ... yes. Only idiot train there, though."

"Can't argue with that," said Ranma.

"Nope," said Shanpu, shaking her head.

"Right," said Haruna, nodding with eyes closed, filing away the fact that she lived with one of the maybe ten people in all Japan who might know about this crap as yet another odd coincidence. She got up and walked over to the kitchen. "Time for the empirical portion of tonight's show."

"Empiriwhoosis?" Ranma asked.

Haruna answered the question by throwing the contents of a pitcher of hot water just out of the tap at her.

"... thank you for not using a kettle," said the young man with coal black hair that was now seated on the couch.

Fei made an exclamation. Shanpu replied in a way that suggested the words, 'yeah, tell me about it.'

"Okay. So your story is clearly not completely made up," Haruna said, studying his face. Noting points of similarity between the boy and her mother. Making a decision. "Between that and some other clues ... I am tentatively accepting you as my brother Ranma."

"Thank you," said Ranma. "It really does mean a lot to me that you --"

Haruna threw another pitcher of water, cold this time.

"Why?" asked the young woman, with what should surely count as remarkable patience under the circumstances.

"I'm breaking the rules enough by letting the two of you stay here overnight. No way am I letting a guy stay in a girl's dormitory. Unless you can turn into a ten year-old, too, that would probably make it all right."

"What?" asked Ranma.

Fei, annoyed yet not really surprised that she wasn't being consulted about the idea of these people staying in what was also her dorm room, answered before Haruna could. "Long story. You tell you long story first how about?"

Ranma shrugged. "Well, when I was about a year old, the old man decided to take me with him on a warrior's pilgrammage."

"Our Mom was pregnant with me when you left," Haruna supplied. "I wasn't born until after everything went to hell, though."

"I figured," the red-haired girl said with a nod. "About five years ago, dad decided that we'd learned everything we were going to learn here in Japan, so we headed off to China. We were actually in Shanghai when the invasion happened. It ... was pretty crazy."

Haruna shot a glance at Shanpu, whose expression while considering the invasion of her country could best be described as bored indifference.

"We got out of town and across the border into Chinese territory, then lit out for the wilder areas. That's where I got cursed, and that's where she and I met up," he concluded with a jerk of his thumb towards Shanpu.

"I fight in village tournament," Shanpu picked up the story. "Of course I win. Outsiders eat feast for victor's prize, so I challenge to a duel." She paused for a moment, and then said, with some difficulty. "I ... not win."

"Hoo boy," said Fei, hand over her face, as she guessed where this was going.

"By tribal law, I take man who beat me as my husband," Shanpu concluded.

"... so, you two are married?" Haruna asked, eyes wide.

"No," they chorused firmly.

"I challenge father. Him beat me. Him marry me," Shanpu added.

"Ooooookay. Little problem there, like the fact that he's still married to my mom," Haruna said, starting to stand up.

Shanpu, expression back to bored indifference after the momentary animation she'd shown while talking about the fight, rattled off something in Chinese. Ku made a face. "This why great-grandfather leave in first place," she muttered.


"Uh ... it very legal, but basically, Joketsuzoku not recognize outsider marriage when law of conquest is invoked." Fei looked very uncomfortable. "Or consent of husband."

Haruna stared at Fei, then looked at Ranma, who rubbed her face without saying anything. Haruna finally turned her frankly horrified attention to Shanpu. "So you're basically telling me that you jumped my dad's bones?"

"Him no complain, either," Shanpu replied evenly. "No brag."

"I ... really ... did not need to know that," quoth Haruna. "Well ... where is he? Why isn't he travelling with the two of you?"

Shanpu made a disgusted noise. "Prior claim," she said.

"Prior --" Haruna started to ask.

"Maybe I should tell this part," Ranma suggested, looking a bit uncomfortable. "Well, um, it's sort of like this. Basically, Komu, Shanpu's mother, was on her own warrior's pilgrammage about seventeen years ago and she visited Japan --"

"What," said Haruna.

"Oh, it worse than I think," Fei groaned.

"-- and she and dad met and, well, fought, and, well --"

"Him run off after him done and nine moons later I born," Shanpu finished. "Mother have prior claim on father, I no can beat mother -- yet -- so I leave him in village with her and travel with sister."

"Brother," Ranma corrected.

"You sister when I meet you, you sister forever. That why I say, find another sister, before," Shanpu told Haruna, helpfully.

"What," said Haruna. She shook her head, then repeated, "What?" a bit more forcefully.

"Ah, Haruna?" Fei spoke up, using her roommate's name to attract her attention. Usually, she just called her 'you' or 'Paru'. "Maybe I can explain?"

"Oh, I kinda doubt that," the artist told her.

"I try all the same. Traditional Joketsuzoku culture not really have concept of 'father'. Only of 'mother's husband'. If man no longer mother's husband, because mother die or move on, and he beat woman in battle, then she take him as husband even though he was mother's husband ... and even if he was mother's husband before woman born." She shot Shanpu a very disturbed glance. "Not really supposed to try to take mother's husband away from mother, though."

"My honor at stake," Shanpu said defensively. "Everyone in village see him beat me."

"And why the hell aren't you freaked out about this?" Haruna abruptly demanded of Ranma.

"Well, what can I say?" the redhead replied with a helpless-seeming shrug. "It all happened months ago, and I've had plenty of time to get used to it."

"Our father had sex with one of his daughters!" Haruna snapped. "That's not something you 'get used to'!"

"Oh-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho," laughed Shanpu, looking smugly in Haruna and Ranma's general direction.

"... well, you have to understand the circumstances," Ranma said, rather hesitantly, as Haruna slowly turned to look in Shanpu's direction, then snapped back to look at Ranma. "We were on the road for months, in territory where there weren't any, uh, places of negotiable affection, and well, once there was an available way to relieve certain tensions, it's completely understandable that dad would try to relieve them, so, you see --"

"He raped you," Haruna said. It wasn't a question.


"Once you were cursed to turn into a girl, he raped you," Haruna said. Again, not a question.

"... it's not rape if you enjoy it. Right?" Ranma said a bit defensively.

"And that why you a sister," Shanpu informed him. "It step up from 'husband's concubine', no?"

"Ohhhhhh, here come lunch again," Fei groaned as she got to her feet and tottered off in the general direction of the suite's toilet.

Haruna, who'd missed lunch owing to the whole Detention business, just stayed where she was sitting, staring at Ranma -- who had the grace to look embarrassed -- and Shanpu -- who was, surprise surprise, indifferent. "I think," she said at last, very quietly, "that I preferred it when I thought you were a pair of con artists. Mm-hm. Things were good back then. I could mourn the memory of my lost father -- when I did so, which, I have to admit, I didn't do very often, just the annual visit to our family shrine, really -- without ever considering the possibility that he might be an unfaithful incestuous rapist!" That last was delivered a bit more loudly than the rest.

"You have to understand the circumstances," Ranma started to say again.

"Seventeen years ago he was married to our mother and you were probably on the way!" she snapped at him. "What was his excuse then? Why are you even making excuses for him?"

"Well ..." the redhead started to say, then trailed off.

"Him that good at sex," Shanpu informed her.

Haruna spared Shanpu a glance that would have had most people regretting their word choice. It bounced off Shanpu's complete contempt for the opinions of outsiders, of course. "Why did you come back here? Why not stay in your village and ... or run around in China having adventures, or hide under a rock somewhere?" she asked Ranma.

"I still have an obligation," her brother-sister-whatever replied. "Apparently, Dad made some sort of deal with a guy named Tendo to marry his son to one of the guy's daughters. That ... can't happen, now, obviously, so I need to find him and offer apologies. The good news is that I was able to find out he's alive, and that he moved here with his family when Tokyo was abandoned."

She knew the name, for some reason, and with a bit of thought she realized that she knew the reason. "Okay. It figures." Haruna leaned back in her chair, and stared up at the ceiling for a moment before lowering it as she started to speak. "All right, here's how it's going to be. You can stay here tonight. Tomorrow is Saturday, so after morning classes I'm going to generously volunteer my time to go visit the Tendo dojo and ... I don't know, either get the whole thing worked out myself or at least set up a meeting so that you can. After that, you are on your own."

"Okay," Ranma said. "Um. Could you maybe also give our moth--"

"No," said Haruna, flatly.

"But --"

"She thinks her son died on a quest to become a man among men," she told him. "I am going to let her keep that fantasy."

Haruna could tell that, of the many things that had been said so far, this was the first that had genuinely hurt Ranma. She was, however, not particularly inclined to give a damn.

She stood up. "Okay. For some strange reason, I feel the need to have a bath. When Ku gets done puking her guts out, tell her that I went to the baths."

"We could use bath --" Shanpu started to say.

"Sorry, official residents only," Haruna said, since telling her that no amount of bathing was going to get her clean would have been a bit rude even under the circumstances.

Negi opened the door to the dorm room and stepped in, then looked up to see Yuna glaring down at him just a bit down the foyer.

"I'm home," he announced unnecessarily.

"Welcome back," she answered his formality. "Where were you? Makie got back from those supplementary lessons of yours an hour ago."

"I ran into some business on the way back," Negi answered honestly.

"Some business," Yuna repeated.

He nodded, since he didn't think the answer required anything in the form of elaboration or reiteration. Yuna apparently thought differently, as she stalked towards him, grabbed hold of his shoulders and bent down to take a deep, long whiff of him. Having done so, she stood in silent contemplation for a moment, before nodding to herself, and patting Negi's shoulders.

"Hey, Akira?" she called down the hallway. "Is dinner almost ready?"

"No, I'd say we have at least another half-hour to go. Why do you ask?" came the answer.

"Guess who really needs a bath now?" Yuna began pointing towards the door with one of her fingers.

"Ah. Have fun in the baths, Negi-kun."

"That doesn't seem very likely, but I appreciate the thought, Akira-san," Negi called back, reluctantly turning towards the door.

"Well," said Negi, taking his first look at the baths. "I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't this." A huge warmed pool, a genuine hot tub, an incredibly high ceiling, water that smelled like actual water ... it reminded him of a book he'd seen once.

"Yeah, yeah, pride of the dorms, only reason to live in the dorms, actually," Yuna told him as she finished stripping off the rest of her clothes. "Honestly, without this, I suspect everybody would move into one of the apartment complexes over on the other side of town. Hell, my dad told me once that they talk about tearing this place down about once a year so we'd have to do that."

"That's terrible. Why would they --" Negi turned to see that she was standing naked before him, and blinked. "Aren't you going to put on a swimsuit?"

"It is way way way past too late for you to be worrying about my modesty, kiddo," she told him, glowering.

"But what if someone comes in and --"

"Then we are going to learn how well you can hide and/or breathe water. Sit down and let me soap you up, we've got stuff to talk about."

Negi then endured having his hair and upper body scrubbed rather vigorously, sitting on a stool while Yuna knelt behind him and spoke into his ear. "You had sex with someone before you got home, didn't you? I could smell someone's perfume on you."

"Yes, I did," Negi admitted, eyes closed. "I would prefer not to go into details, since a gentleman doesn't talk about such matters --"

"Oh, what the hell, you little Don One!" interrupted Yuna.

"Don Juan," he corrected her.

"That's what I said."

"No, the numeral 'one' and the Spanish name 'Juan' sound the same, but they don't mean the same thing. Juan is a fairly common name, it's like John in English."

"That's your middle name," she asked.


"You were named after that Don guy, weren't you?" she accused.

"No, I was named after a friend of my parents who died shortly before I was born, and I believe he was named after --"

"Don't try and change the subject!" interrupted Yuna again. "You told me that you'd had sex with your mother, your father, your parents' squeeze and your sister!"

"Except for Ilya, I didn't actually have intercourse with them, and, well, I regret telling you abut Ilya. I was trying to answer your questions as completely as I could, and I went too far. I won't tell you about my other relationships, and I won't tell them about you, either." He noded, as one does when one reaches a conclusion.

"It was that Haruhi bitch, wasn't it?" Yuna asked.

"Didn't I just say ... no, I haven't had sex with Suzumiya-san. Yet."


"And please don't call her names," Negi continued. "While she has some unpleasant personality traits, she's a very remarkable young woman, and considering her interest in the mysterious, I'm sure that she'll be interested in working with me to help save the world. And, again, she is very beautiful, and so, yes, I would like to have sex with her."

"I can't believe that I'm having this conversation," Yuna groaned, somewhat collapsing against Negi's back. "I can't believe ... when they told us that the aliens lost, Akira hugged me, and even though it was Akira hugging me, I was wishing you were there to do it, and ... and oh my god you are getting turned on from listening to me talk like this, aren't you?" she asked, looking down over his shoulder.

"Would you prefer it if I said that my current erection was due to fantasies about Suzumiya-san?" he asked warily.

"Not really," Yuna told him wearily, then spun him around on the stool so she could kiss him hungrily, and one of her hands could go down to wrap around the hard-on and stroke it a few times. She broke from the kiss and, without further ado, went down to take him in her mouth.

"W-wait," Negi stammered, "I haven't washed there, and --"

"Oh wow, 'no it's dirty'?" asked a somewhat familiar voice.

Negi's head jerked to the side from which the voice had come. Yuna's head jerked backwards, and she let out a shriek of "GAGKH!" (Which was amusing, as this noise was normally caused by a penis entering the mouth -- well, the throat -- rather than leaving it.)

Standing in the pool not too far from them, naked and unafraid, Haruna looked at them with interest. "Sorry, that was just so cliche that I had to say something. Now, about this fucking to save the world business ... more details please?"

"Okay, so magic is real, the world could be ending, and Negi here wants to find people who can help him stop it and get a harem in the process," Haruna said, a few moments later, as she sat beside Negi on the side of the pool, feet dangling in the water, and delicately rubbed his member. Her other hand was down between her own legs. Yuna was sitting on the other side of Negi, watching this production with a certain amount of envy. Her hands were at her sides.

"Not a h-harem," Negi said, struggling to keep control over himself as he was wanked. "That implies -- uh -- slavery. I prefer the term collehhhctive, as the members would b-be free to havvvvve other lovers -- uh -- if they wanted."

"That's very enlightened of you, Negi-kun," Haruna told him, smiling broadly.


"You're taking the 'magic is real' part really well," said Yuna, just a bit suspiciously. "Why?"

Haruna shrugged. "As an artist, I am a sensitive soul, and have thus always been somewhat aware that there are powers in this world beyond those which are visible. Should the confirmation of this truth disturb me?"

"Bullshit," Yuna replied. "What's the real reason?"

"My older brother is cursed to turn into a girl when he gets spashed with water."

Yuna looked away. "All right, if you don't want to tell me, don't tell me. There's no need to make dumb shit up."


Haruna's hand stilled. "Okay, Negi-kun, I have two important questions that I need to ask you. And I know that you will not lie to me, because you are a gentleman. Question the first: These children that you're hoping to breed with us -- are you going to abandon them?"

"No, of course not," he told her. "I mean -- if I have to go somewhere for a mission, like I am right now, I will leave my companions and children in the care of those who love them, like my mothers are caring for my sister Ilya. But I will still do everything in my power to get back to them. Ilya will probably be close to her delivery by the time summer break begins, so I plan to go back to be with her --"

"Stop," said Haruna, very firmly. "That was not quite the right answer. Good intentions aren't good enough."


"Question the second," Haruna said, and then fell silent for a while. When she spoke again, she was speaking very quietly. "If you had daughters, would you fuck them, Negi-kun?"

"Of course not!" he answered, appalled. "I would never do anything to hurt a child!"

"Not when they were a child, I'm not talking about being a kiddy-diddler. I mean when they grow up to be sexy teenagers, and maybe their moms don't look so hot anymore. Would you take advantage, then?" Haruna's voice remained very quiet and very steady.

"No," Negi answered firmly. "That would be completely unethical."

"But what your mom did with you --" Haruna started to say.

"-- was not intercourse. If a child of mine needed practical sex education, I would allow them to find a partner of their own age, and help them to do so. I would not take her -- or him -- as a partner myself. That is not what my education was about."

"You're getting soft, so I guess you really mean it," Haruna said, after a moment. She then resumed stroking. "It's not the best answer, but I guess it's an okay one. Very well, I have two conditions."

"Conditions?" said Negi. "Uh."

"First of all, you're going to do it with all the girls in our class. All of them."

"Ahhhhhhhh," Negi said, as much paralyzed at the thought of doing anything with a certain Scottish member of the class, to say nothing of one of the eight or nine incarnate goddesses abroad in the world, as by what Haruna had started doing to him with her fingers.

"Hold it," interrupted Yuna, who'd been listening to all this with an unsatisfied expression. "He and I already agreed that Akira was off-limits." For him, added the treacherous part of her that kept wanting to ogle Haruna's breasts.

"Hm. Well, I suppose that condition does take priority over mine," Haruna said, nodding. "Of course, you do realize what would take priority over even that."

"... what would that be?" asked Yuna, a little bit thrown by how reasonable Haruna was being.

"Oh, you don't realize? Well, it's not important right now," the artist said airily. "Anyway, condition two -- all that bullshit about gentlemen don't discuss such matters? That stops right here, right now." She was no longer even remotely talking airily. "We have a right to know who is getting into a collective with us, who's going to be sharing the life we share with you. And I won't budge on this."

"Ah-all right," said Negi. "I ... have a chaaaallenge to the first con-dit-ion. IIII ... I won't do anything with anyone who doesn't want to be with me," he managed to gasp out.

"Hm," said Haruna, thoughtfully. "Well, in addition to the other girls with daddy complexes, we do probably have a few lesbians and maybe even an asexual or two in the class. So I guess actually that's a good point. Hm. Really that earns back a few of the points you lost with the weaselly answers to my questions, Negi-kun. Nicely done!"

"Other girls with daddy complexes?" Yuna asked.

"You thought you were the only one?"

"I'm not one."

Haruna coughed. "Well, yeah, not now, obviously."

"Ahhh," Negi interjected before Yuna could make the witty retort that would have left Haruna weeping in self-reproach. "Ha-ha-haruna-san, I think I am aboooouut ready to c-c-climax."

"Oh, well, you should do that, then," she told him, as one might remark on matters that nothing to do with oneself.

He made a face. Actually, he made several faces. "I -- think -- it -- would -- be -- bad -- to -- do -- that -- in -- a -- public -- pool!"

"Good point. So about those conditions?" Haruna said, using the hand that had been between her legs to reach up and take off her glasses and set them down beside her hip. Her eyes were surprisingly small without them.

"I agree!" Negi gasped.

"Then so do I," she said, then pulled her legs up out of the pool. Turning to face Negi, she sat down on his hips, bringing his member up into her, then fell backwards into the pool, pulling him down with her. He exploded within her the moment they hit the water's surface, and she clutched him tightly to her as they sank until her back pressed against the bottom of the pool. She kissed him deeply, and he stared at her as her long dark hair moved in three dimensions, surrounded by bubbles. Their lips were again pressed against each other as they rose again to the surface, and began to drift towards the far side of the pool, with splashes accompanying their motions.

"Okay, then," said Yuna, abandoned for the moment. "I'll ... go make sure no one else comes in while you two are ... yeah." And the worst part was that she wasn't sure who to envy the most.

"So how get chui back?"

"I don't think they're going to give the stuff they took away from us back."

"... know they no give. How get?"

Fei was making a rare genuine attempt to do some studying of her English text. It didn't make any more sense than it usually did, but it at least offered a distraction from the inanity of her two depraved roomguests. At a bare minimum, it was something to look at that wasn't the pair of them.

"Do you really wanna rob a bunch of cops? That's kinda criminal, even for us, y'know."

"Them bigger crook! Chui in family since --" Here the Joketsuzoku used a Chinese term that Fei mentally translated as 'White Moon Kingdom'. The term meant nothing to Fei; while she'd learned about her ancestors' customs, out of curiosity, she'd never had the time or opportunity to learn much of their mythology.

"We don't even know where they're keeping any of that stuff!"

Fei covered her face with her hands. The distraction was clearly not working. "I go to take walk," she announced. The two of them paid her no mind, neither as she said that nor as she walked out the front door. Of course, she didn't have anywhere to go right at the moment, but at least it got her out of earshot of those two.

"You okay there?"

She turned to see Haruna approaching, wearing a bathrobe and a blissful smile. "Oh, I fine, now, but they kind of hard to take," she told her roommate.

"Yeah," Haruna agreed. "Fei, I am sorry that I agreed to let these two stay here without asking you what you thought about it."

Ku stared. The temptation to cry 'who are you and what have you done with Haruna' was a strong one, because Haruna never apologized. "Uh ... thank you, Paru," she said instead. "I ... sorry about ongoing family tragedy."

Haruna nodded. "You might want to go spend the night in Satchan's room, rather than being here." Several times in the past, when Haruna had been burning the midnight oil on a manga project close to deadline, Fei had ended up sleeping in the room of her classmate and restaurant manager employer, Yotsuba Satsuki, who had no roommate.

"No, it okay, we actually work that out. You ... sibling ... sleep on couch, and Shanpu-san sleep on floor because she above comfort." That last was delivered pretty drily.

"Mm-hm. But you might want to go spend the night in Satchan's room, rather than being here," said Haruna, gazing steadily into Fei's eyes.

Fei found herself faintly flumoxed by the repetition. Why would Haruna insist on this? What did she think was going to happen -- and then a rather disturbing thought came to Fei's conscious attention. "No ... you no think they ... in our room? While we there?"

"Yes," Haruna answered firmly. "While you're there."

"I --" The martial artist paused and considered the implications of the slight difference in phrasing between what she'd said and what had been said in response to it. "Haruna?" she asked weakly.

"I don't want to talk about it. Not now. Not ever. You might want --"

Fei threw up her hands and waved them in front of Haruna's face. "I go spend night in Satchan's room. Maybe in morning I talk to dorm boss about moving there." She spun on her heel and started walking down the hallway, shaking her head as she went.

Haruna took a deep breath and walked into her room, closing the door and locking it behind her before heading into the living room area.

"And I'm telling you, this won't be nearly as easy as you're thinking," Ranma was saying to Shanpu as the two of them occupied opposite ends of the couch.

"I'm back," Haruna announced. "So are you two having sex with each other?"

Ranma started coughing. Shanpu spared him a glance, then answered the question. "When first met, I think she father's concubine. I sex her to get new husband happy. Afterwards ... nothing wrong if two warriors share their strength."

"Mm-hm, I kinda figured that would be your attitude. Very Spartan. But you only do it when they're in girl form, right? Not as a boy?"

Shanpu looked aghast. "That adultery!"

"Because adultery is ... yeah, okay. I think I'm starting to understand your worldview, Shampoo."

"Shanpu," she corrected.

"Uh, look, we don't want to make any problems," Ranma started to say.

"Way way way past that," said Haruna, as she started to undo the belt of her bathrobe. "But you know what? The world is ending. So who cares?" The belt came undone, and the robe pooled around her feet. "Show me what to do, oneesama," she said in a little girl's voice as she stood naked before two other daughters of her father.

"Ahhh!" he cried out as the climax ripped through him. Exhausted by the sensation, he collapsed onto her, his head lying on one of her full breasts as he gasped in release. It was so different from what he'd imagined it would be.

It came to him, after a moment, that she was being very quiet. He looked up at her face. "S-s-suzumiya-san?" Mitsuru stammered.

She blinked, and looked down at him. "Oh, are you done?" she asked.

"Ah ... yes?"

"Okay. You know where the door is. See yourself out." The eyes closed, and her head turned to the side as though sleeping.

He pulled back and out of her, then got up from the bed and slid off the condom. By the time he was dressed, he'd come to the conclusion that it was really all his fault for not waiting for Negi-sensei to make a move. Still unsure of what to do with the condom, he dropped it in the toilet of the room's ensuite on his way out the door.

Once the door was closed, Haruhi curled up in a ball and began rubbing herself between the legs in order to feel something.

"John," she whispered.

She was a devout believer in the Student Council Executive's mission to oppose the chaos and shameless behavior that lurked in the heart of every student in Academy City, but when assigned to the front desk of Detention, even Kotegawa Yui found herself counting the minutes until shift change, when she could go back to her apartment, take a shower, have some dinner and vegetate in front of the TV for a while. All that she wanted, right now, was for absolutely nothing to happen that would delay that.

Aw, nuts, she thought as the front doors slid open and two women in remarkably sexualized uniforms walked in. Both were brown-haired, one a little taller than the other, though ironically the taller one looked like a seventeen year old instead of the twenty-something who was leading her.

"Can I help you?" Yui asked, in the vague hope that they'd say, 'No, wait, we're in the wrong place after all.'

Instead, they flashed badges. "Special Agent In Charge Kurumi Imari, and Special Agent Kino Makoto," the shorter one declared. "We're with the Special Investigation Research Team, Tokken."

"... okay," said Yui, who'd never heard of this particular agency before. That meant nothing. Special agencies had proliferated in the years since Second Impact, and there was probably a special agency which was specifically tasked with keeping track of all the other ones.

"We receieved a report that you took an individual named Saotome Ranma into custody earlier today," said the one supposedly named Kino. She held up some paperwork. "We have a warrant to take him into our custody."

Awwwwwwww, nuts! Hoping that none of her inner turmoil was showing, Yui spoke in a calm, indifferent tone. "Unfortunately, we no longer have him in custody. He was only charged with trespassing on school grounds, so he was only held for a few hours, then released outside of them after nightfall." That's what Saotome was supposed to do, and I have no reason to believe that she didn't do just that. None at all. Nope.

"Excuse me?" said Kurumi, leaning closer. Her turquoise eyes seemed to turn a much darker shade of blue as she glared at Yui. "Do you have any idea just how big of an investigation you just scotched?"

"No, I don't. As far as I'm aware, we have not received any requests to assist in any such investigation from your agency -- or any requests from your agency whatsoever, before now," Yui replied stonily. "As it doesn't involve a student at one of the schools here --"

"Oh, do not get me started about the students at the schools here!" Kurumi snapped.

Kino laid a calming hand on her superior's shoulder. Kurumi let out a frustrated sigh. "Fine. We'll be canvassing the neighborhood surrounding the school perimeter. Have a very pleasant evening."

"Canvassing? Really?" asked Makoto once they were out of the building.

"I don't know," Imari answered, beyond irritated. "We have to find this guy, or the business with the Phoenix People is going to go all pear shaped, but ... ughhhh, I don't want to spend another minute here longer than I absolutely have to! You have no idea what kind of bad memories this place brings back."

"Let's head back to HQ, see what the boss thinks," her partner proposed. "I'll drive."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah."

"So then what happened?"

Lum rolled back on the bed in her chambers aboard the Urusei flagship. "We left, of course. That was the deal, and never let it be said that my esteemed father breaks a deal. I think he may have talked a few of the Earther factions into giving us 'gifts' in exchange for going away so easily, but ... no, this was a pretty big loss, especially when you consider how many of our ships got wrecked on the way sunward. We should have listened to Oyuki. This whole system is a death trap, especially the third planet."

"But the guy really proposed marriage to you?" asked the figure on her view screen.

"Yeah," Lum said, a bit distantly. "I couldn't believe it either. The sheer audacity. It almost made me want to ..." She shook her head. "But the nose knows. He's sterile. Funny, he didn't smell like that the day before. Maybe he took some sort of drug to boost himself for the match, and it had side effects. Doesn't matter. Dad says we might go back in a decade or so, after all the humans are dead, to see if there's anything left worth the looting. Start thinking of a present you'd like."

"The sterile champion of a dying world," her friend mused aloud. "That's almost poetic. And you're sure that it's dying?"

"Definitely. Why do you ask?" Lum asked.

A smile beyond price was her answer.

"Oh no. You wouldn't. It's a death trap!" repeated Lum.

"Who would think of looking for me inside of a death trap?" replied Lala Satalin Deviluke. "I'll see you again in a few years, dear one." The signal cut off.

To Be Continued



Fei found it a bit bewildering that she was sitting around the table eating breakfast with her roommate and two unwelcome houseguests, given how she'd fled this den of perversion and obscenity the previous night, but then she realized that she was in an omake and should really just relax.

As she did so, Haruna finally spoke up. "Okay, there's just one more thing I don't understand," she said, looking in Shanpu's direction.

"You understanding not my burden," Shanpu told her.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever, but if you people are so matriarchal that you don't even have the concept of 'father', why do you call the children of your mother's husband your sisters?" Haruna pressed.

Shanpu let out a sigh. "One, I not an idiot. Two, mother adopt Ranma before we leave, and she adopt you too if you ever meet."

"Oh, so that's what the business with the feather duster and the bowl full of groats was about," Ranma said in a tone of great revelation. "I wondered!"

"Ha?" said Fei, looking confused. "Thought Joketsuzoku tradition was to kill prior children of husband?"

Haruna and Ranma dropped their toast in unison.

"Gehh," Shanpu replied disgustedly. "Not even great-grandmother is that old school!"


"Mentor, great master, elder of clan," Shanpu answered with a nod.

Fei felt a horrible suspicion. "Her name ... it not chance to be Ko--" She broke off, shaking her head rapidly. "No. No. I no want to know. So glad this an omake, and I never actually have this suspicion."

"What?" chorused the other three people in the room as the omake ended.