I don't own Naruto or Negima.

A quick reminder; the Kansai dialect uses "-han" in place of "-san".

This chapter would like to remind you that Happy Families Are All Alike is indeed rated M. Just a notice to those of you who have issues with violence, blood, or Tsukuyomi.

It would also like to remind you that my scenes are too damn long—I had to cut the chapter in half again, and that's after shortening the fight scenes by a third.

Thanks to Vandenbz and Ebony Scales for their help with the chapter.

The title is from the song of the same name by Yuki Kajiura, made for the anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica. It means "Witch Hunt" in Latin, and I suggest listening it to once things get moving.

Chapter 16:

Venari Strigas

Negi gaped in shock at the empty thing bound before them. Even its insides looked like a Disneyland costume, but the breathing heaves and undulations of the fabric showed it to be unmistakably alive.

It was no mere enchanted costume or shikigami. It had to be one of the talisman master's demons. A cold dread washed over him. "S-Setsuna—"

He spoke to empty air. She was already sprinting for the inn.

Setsuna slammed the door open, with Negi right behind her as she bounded up the stairs with complete disregard for the number of steps it held.

"Kagurazaki-san! Is—"

Asuna stood outside the restroom with her lip caught between her teeth, accompanied by Yue (who was bashing her head against the door for reasons Negi probably wouldn't enjoy hearing).

"Come on, please get out! I really need to go! K-Konoka!" Every word was punctuated with another thud.

"It's occupied~"

"You can't keep saying that! I'm dying! I am literally dying! I am about to drop dead on the spot, and only the toilet can save me!"

"It's occupied~"

Yue moaned in despair and sagged against the door.

"Well, that's how it is. She's been in there for… well, too long. I'm sort of worried. I've tried talking to her, but she just keeps repeating herself." Asuna tried to look at them as she talked, but her eyes kept sliding towards the door.

Repeating. The monkey suit's laughter was always repeating. Negi's eyes widened as he realized just what their intruder had done.

"Konoka-ojōsama, are you alright?" The worry laced through her voice betrayed her growing suspicion.

"It's occupied~"

"… That wasn't what Sakurazaki-san asked."

"It's occupied~"

"You're so cruel! Just let me in!"

"I'm sorry, but I must make sure you're unharmed. Please forgive my rudeness, Ojō-sama!"

And then they were too far away for him to hear more, as he was halfway to the building's exit.

It was reckless, he acknowledged. But realizing that Konoka—who he'd lived with for months and who had a heart that put mere gold to shame—had been kidnapped was too much for him. He already knew she wasn't in the bathroom. A demon with that sort of skill wouldn't make all those unnecessary movements, movements that sent it back and forth across his barrier and set his alarm sounding ceaselessly in his head.

So much so that he wouldn't notice it ringing for a separate intruder.

Unbidden, the wind he always held with him blew open the doors before he reached them to let him run outside without pause. He stopped at the edge of his barrier to search for the presence of unfamiliar magic. If she had headed into the woods instead of the city it would be almost impossible to follow her.

Or she could be… above him? Negi looked up just in time to scream and dive to his right. As such, he managed to keep his brains inside his head as something big and furry crashed into the ground where he had stood. Cracks marred the pavement where it landed.

Negi scrambled to his feet as it approached him. No—her. Another animal suit stood before him, this one in the shape of a bear, although with all the distorted proportions of the other. In its open mouth was a face he could hardly make out, although her large and round spectacles shone white under the moon.

And in her arms was an unmoving Konoka.

"Y-you—!" Anger bubbled up from his chest, and he wanted to scream at this woman and vilify her for what she had done. But the sight of Konoka lying motionless in her arms, her head flopped back and hair hanging towards the ground, froze his tongue in renewed fear.

His hands shook as his eyes ran over her. Was that movement her breath, or just the bear woman jostling her? Was she limp because she was unconscious, or—

"Heh heh heh… you didn't do too badly, little wizard," came a husky, mocking voice from inside the suit. "But it seems you're cuter than you are talented." The onmyōji stepped towards him.

And activated one of his flytrap spells.

He stared with stunned eyes, not having realized that he had leapt over his own trap. But the sound of Konoka dropping to the ground pushed him to move and it took him only a moment to cast a repurposed divination spell. Checking Konoka's immediate health was infinitely more reliable than his earlier attempt at fortune-telling, and Negi released a sigh of relief when he saw she had only been forced into an enchanted sleep.

The one who had worked that magic was right there beside him, and with his driving worry out of the way it occurred to him that he should apply some more layers of flytrap spells to keep her in place until the others got here. He rose to face her.

The empty bear suit stood still under the binding straps of the spell, but its head had fallen off. The freed sorceress stood beside it with a smirk on her face and an ofuda held in between two fingers. It was no wonder no one had noticed her enter the building—she wore the inn's uniform! Black stockings rose up her legs to stop just a short distance past her knee, letting a small band of skin show before it was covered by the hem of her dark skirt. Her shirt was a dark blue, but the white apron she wore over it all made the small amount of dark colors that showed through stand out by contrast.

"Yuuki, I'll be needing your help again." Her dark eyes were sharp and held a cruelty that Negi couldn't allow Konoka to be subject to.

"Rastel Maskil Magister…"

The ofuda clung in the air to something that wasn't there before being subsumed into the body of the monkey suit that manifested around her.

A paw struck him in the chest mid-incantation, tossing him against the trunk of a tree. She ripped his staff from his loosened grip.

"I'll be taking this. Children shouldn't play at being adults."

"My staff!" Her tail pulled it away from him before he could grab it, and Konoka was again in her arms.

He grit his teeth as he pulled out one of his wands, tipped with a miniature replica of Jupiter. "Flans—wah!"

His incantation was once more broken when a dozen hairs on her suit transformed into monkeys and dragged him to the ground.

"Heh heh heh… it's been fun, my cute little wizard." The bear woman (monkey woman?) hopped away from him to avoid any of his other traps—just in time, as a rain of kunai and shuriken stabbed into the ground where she had stood. A second volley struck the ground around Negi to slice up the monkey shikigami.

"There she is!" The sound of splintering wood followed Asuna's voice.

"And that would be my cue to leave."

With a parting laugh the monkey woman turned tail and darted away.

"Negi! Are you alright?" Asuna's concerned face stared into his as she pulled him up. Dust, splinters, and chunks of wood littered her hair and shirt. The monkeys attacking him were reduced to crumpled balls of paper at her feet.

"It's nothing, but she stole my staff—"

Naruto landed beside them with Chamo in hand, who was quick to leap to his master's shoulder. "If that's the case then we'll just take it back. But we have to move!"

So they did.

Their brief pause had given Setsuna a two meter head start on them, but they managed to draw unevenly nearer to her. The monkey woman took a beeline towards the city, and the four of them chased her over the bridge leading to it.

Negi thrust his wand forwards and drew upon all the power remaining from his last use of the activation key. "Mea virga!"

The staff jerked in the suit's tailhold to point towards him. He felt a rush as though victory had already come—he could easily catch her in the air!

But the suit's grip on it was strong, and it stayed in her grasp long enough for her to reach around and slap paper onto his staff—which dropped as though it was nothing more than a stick.

"What? You can't do that!" Indignation burned like coals alongside his anger at the kidnapping. But sealing his staff's magic had slowed her enough for them to shrink the distance between them.

Gravel crunched under their feet as they tore down the road, but whatever demon formed that suit was fast. However hard they pushed themselves along the path down to Kyoto they could draw no closer to her after that.

"I swear, if you've hurt Ojō-sama—"

"She's fine!" Negi called out from behind her to assuage Setsuna's worries. "The talisman master just put her to sleep."

"That's the only positive thing that's happened since Chachazero tried to stab me," Naruto responded. Negi tried not to think about that. His friend pulled his backpack off his right shoulder before slinging it over his left. Somehow this filled his hands with shuriken. "But let's see if we can add to that."

Naruto's arms blurred—but as the deadly projectiles neared her, the suit's tail spun and lashed about, using his staff to knock the blades away with a sound not unlike the clash of metal on metal.

"That is so fucking cheating! She couldn't even see them!"

"The suit she's wearing is her demon." Setsuna didn't take her eyes off the woman as she spoke. "And there's no way to know how it senses."

"W-w-wearing a demon?!"

Naruto stumbled over his feet, barely regaining his balance after he and Asuna had passed him. "That's insane! She's—Asuna, why are you covered in chunks of wood?"

"Rastel Maskil Magister! Ūndecim spīritūs āeriālēs, vinculum factī inimīcum captent! Sagitta Magica, āēr captūrae!"

"The door was held shut with one of those seals. So I kinda borrowed your method of walking through walls." Negi would have paid dearly to have been part of whatever conversation that had been.

Eleven arrows of wind launched forth from the air around his wand. The monkey women must have sensed them, as she grabbed the pole of a streetlight to make a sharp ninety degree turn into the train station at the bottom of the path.

She must not have known how the Magic Archer spell worked, and Negi grinned as the arrows unerringly followed her into the building. But as the four of them rushed into the building they were met by eleven tiny monkeys blurred inside chains of air.

Setsuna growled at mockingly evasive onmyōji. "She's trying to escape by train!" She was the first to vault over the laughable barrier that was the ticket gate, none of them dropping pace in their race to the train.

"She's in a freaking monkey costume carrying an unconscious girl! Who would let someone that sketchy on board?" Asuna asked. "Wait—why isn't there anyone here? I know it's late, but a station's never empty!"

"I've seen seven talismans so far that would keep ordinary people from even thinking about entering. She must have intended to flee this way from the start."

One turn later and the trains came into view for just a brief moment. A brief moment, because no sooner had they rounded the corner than did a wave-like ripple roll through the ground before them, lifting and cracked the floor into an uneven mess—and worse, black smoke rose up from the split open ground to shroud their vision.

Negi ran easily over the surface, his body already lightened by the same magic that let him run alongside his friends, but the others weren't so lucky. He heard rock grinding against rock and the sound of somebody falling to the ground with a curse, their footing lost on the treacherous floor.

Negi and Setsuna emerged out of the cloud only in time to see the talisman master slip into the train, even though her costume's comically large head barely fit through the door. She turned around to send them a cheery smile and a wave as the doors closed upon her entry. "Sorry, but it's good-bye for now. Nice try, children!"

As the woman had no doubt planned, the train lurched into motion the moment she finished. She continued to wave as the vehicle began to leave, taking some smug joy from watching them futilely running towards her before turning away. The bitter swell of frustration and failure rose in Negi's gut.

And then Setsuna was next to the train.

"Didn't I say it before? I'll never let you take her!" With the screech of metal carving metal she split open the side of the cabin. Broad metal siding crashed to the ground as Setsuna leapt into the hole.

"Come on, hurry!"

Negi felt an arm wrap around his back. "Sure thing—just hold on, Negi!"

"To whaAAAAH!" he screamed as Asuna jumped aboard the moving train with him in hand, both of them collapsing to the floor from the perpendicular shift in momentum.

Negi groaned and rubbed at his head. "I could have gotten on myself, you know. But at least we're all—wait! Naruto-kun!"

A look through the gaping hole in the wall showed that they had just left the station, and they were starting to pick up steam. He leaned his head out of it to ensure that Naruto was alright.

Said ninja was clinging to the side of the train. The wind pushed his hair completely flat and his clothes lashed about, his face rippling from the force of the air. Naruto moved forwards, but against the lashing wind he moved slowly.

"Asuna-san, help me pull Naruto-kun into the car. He'll tear his hands open on the edge of the hole like this!"

The green- and blue-eyed girl nodded and grabbed his arm with one hand and a hanging strap with her other. Negi leaned out of the train and reached his hand out towards Naruto. "Need some help?" he shouted. The air the train rushed past, pushed him backwards with fearful force, and he was suddenly very glad he had thought to ask for Asuna's help.

"Thanks," Naruto shouted back. The wind was so loud he could hardly hear him, but Negi got the message when the other boy held out his backpack.

That hang-up over being touched would get him hurt one day. Negi grabbed Naruto's bag and called out for Asuna to pull them in. One Asuna-strength heave later and they were piled on the floor of train—well, he and Asuna were. Naruto had twisted to his feet before he would have landed on them.

Setsuna turned from her study of the railway map at the front of the car. "If you need a moment to prepare, this would be the time. She's confined to the train until it stops, so we aren't in danger of losing her anymore. But we still don't have much time."

"I'm good to go. I may have thrown a few, but I still have a lot more pointy things left."

Negi helped Asuna to her feet after rising himself. "I think we're ready, too. I don't have much to offer in the way of support or augmentation magic. Do you know where she's taking Konoka?"

Setsuna's hair hid her pale face as she turned her head away in shame. "No. I don't. She can't bring Konoka-ojōsama to the Kansai Magic Association itself or she would face something much more frightening than just us, but I couldn't guess where she would go instead."

Even if she were up to date on Kansai politics it was doubtful that she would have known, but Setsuna silently berated herself for not keeping track of it all the same.

Asuna harrumphed and crossed her arms. "Well, the answer to that's pretty easy then. We just don't let her go, right?"

"O-oh." The straightforward answer bulldozed over any fears of failure, and it occurred to her that Asuna might not be worried that they would lose Ojō-sama at all. That all she felt was resolve to bring her back. Setsuna felt her lips crease into a smile. "Yes, that's exactly it, Kagurazaki-san."

Two train cars closer to the front they found the witch, still dressed in her demon clothing and with the unconscious princess slung over her back.

"You again? And here I thought we already broke up—stalking is a crime, you know!" the onmyōji taunted as a full score of monkeys manifested from her suit.

"You're just throwing your shikigami away." She cut through them without effort as bolts of light that coursed past her to destroy those her first swing hadn't exorcised. "Those aren't enough to stop us!"

The monkey woman paused at the entryway of the next cabin. "True… but there's no need for them to stop you when slowing you down works as well. Ofuda-han, Ofuda-han, call forth the tides to save us from our irate enemies!"

Her body reacted to the danger as soon as the psycho started chanting. She swung upwards and cleaved through the talisman that had been pasted to the underside of the luggage rack. But her quick response wasn't enough, and dread flushed down her at the sight of the woman's smirk.

The three other talismans in the cabin briefly shone with light before a torrent of water smashed Setsuna into the ceiling.

The cabin roared with the crash of water against its sides. The shouts of the others were just dim sounds over the deafening rush filling her ears as she dropped. Setsuna fell onto the backs of the seats below, her body bent backwards over them for only a single second before the water dragged her off and knocked her into Negi.

Setsuna struggled to keep hold of her sword and slow herself. The car filled to the brim in moments, but the seals continued to produce a current that bashed everyone around the car. Only Asuna managed to wedge herself between the seats—grabbing a chair while moving underwater at their speed was unreasonably difficult.

Naruto clung to a window, but the water pressure sealed it shut. Fire burnt in her chest as her lungs used up the last of her oxygen, and the mindless thrashing of drowning youths filled the cabin. The familiarity of the feeling sent new waves of panic through her that she wasn't able to answer.

She couldn't swing her sword with any force in the water. Had she been better, had she devoted more time to training, she could have broken them out immediately, but now, with this failure… but now Ojō-sama…

"Do try not to drown… I'd feel terrible if I killed a bunch of kids, you know? Sorry, but my stop's arrived. So we'll take our leave now. Ta ta!"

The voice was distorted through the water, and the monkey woman's shape was deformed equally so. But Setsuna could still see her walking away. And she could still see Konoka-ojōsama, and the paper talisman now attached to the unconscious girl's forehead.

"Kono-chan! Take my hand!"

"S-Set-ch—"a flurry of bubbles stole her words away as her head dropped under the water.

Setsuna screamed as the icy liquid surrounded her, losing air and filling her mouth and throat with river water. Unthinking terror stole over her as oxygen fled and she frantically grabbed for anything, for everything, that could possibly save her.

They sank deeper, and Setsuna's last sight before the light faded from her eyes was Kono-chan's face, as still and cold as death.

'No! Never again!'

The word was all but illegible under the water, but Setsuna nonetheless screamed it with all the fury the day had brought her.


Her enraged defiance gave her clarity, and with a focus more intense than she had ever before achieved Setsuna struck through the churning water. Water rippled as a thin chi-born vacuum sliced out in the wake of her stroke.

Then it ripped the train open.

Had the train not already stopped, they might have died in the explosive torrent of escaping water, so great was its force. Like wave bursting out of the ocean the water surged out of the train car, tossing their group out onto the cement and smashing the monkey woman into the ground.

Setsuna spat out the salty water to swallow desperate lungfuls of oxygen. Water still flowed over the ground, but with the initial wave finished such a small amount did nothing to move her.

She gasped for more air as she glared at the kidnapper. Her demon suit had pulled her to her feet already, and she once more took hold of Ojō-sama. Setsuna scowled with sword in hand. "Did you see that, monkey woman? If you don't want me to repeat it on your neck, you'd best return Konoka-ojōsama!"

The onmyōji didn't answer until she lifted her captive, the ofuda still affixed to her face below her hairline. "With your strength, I wouldn't want you after my head… but Konoka-ōjosama is something I will never part with."

'Something?' Setsuna gnashed her teeth together at the woman's objectification of Ojō-sama.

"What did you say!?"

The face in the monkey suit's smirk was all Asuna received in response. The water splashed as she took off once again.

Setsuna finally rose to her feet, her lungs protesting against the movement. She told them to shut up, and once more began the chase. The sound of splashing water reassured her that she was not alone.

That thought gave her pause. She quickly shook it away.

"Setsuna-san, what did that monkey woman mean?" Negi asked from behind her.

"She called Konoka 'Ōjo-sama'! What's up with that? Come to think of it, she didn't even try to take Negi's letter from us!" Asuna this time, her twintails no longer recognizable as such with her wet hair splayed apart and clinging to her.

Negi chimed in. "And she didn't touch anyone else—just Konoka-san. Again! What's happening?"

More monkey shikigami leapt away from the retreating kidnapper; Setsuna relished the brief delay that prevented her from having to explain. Still, it slowed the three of them enough for the costumed lady to gain some distance, and Setsuna had no more excuses for remaining silent.

"You know that Konoka-ojōsama is from a magical family, yes?" At their acknowledgement she continued, despite how uncomfortable it made her to reveal something so private. "When onmyōdo began to decline in influence in the imperial court, several families—including the Konoe—began a long-term project in order to breed the ideal mage. Konoka is the culmination of those hundreds of years of carefully arranged marriages that composed the breeding program. It's only thanks to the Elders' efforts that she's been permitted a normal life until now."

"B-breeding program?" Negi repeated in a tone like spiders falling out of his mouth. She could tell he had more to ask, but they had reached the stairway leading out of Kyoto Station and the question was left to die away.

It was as massive as one might expect of the entrance into the primary train station of the former capital of Japan, the immense and sprawling monument to the modern side of the historical city. The stairs were easily a dozen meters wide, with a narrow strip of staggered rails bisecting the steps into two lanes.

And 'lanes' was an appropriate term, as the path looked more like two wide streets broken up into layers. Lights shone along each side and was reflected off the glass paneling to illuminate the darkness—not that the veritable glow of the city's nightlife hadn't done that already. Despite the shallow incline the staircase still reached up to several times Setsuna's size. Such was its size that each dozen steps widened out into a brief plateau, and she counted ten such surfaces before abandoning the attempt to focus on her.

Several layers above them, an empty monkey suit sat splayed out on the ground. Konoka leaned against it at a haphazard angle, her head slumped forwards to allow the strip of paper on her forehead to coil on the stairs. And sneering down at the three would-be rescuers was the onmyōji herself.

She wore the blue-and-white uniform of their hotel with the white apron that reached down past her knees, clad in black stockings; hair like a crow's feathers flowed down to her skirt and shifted as though in a breeze despite the lack of wind. Rather than accenting her beauty, it only emphasized her sharp features to give her face an almost predatory cast.

"Heh heh heh… I'm impressed! I truly am, and Amagasaki Chigusa isn't one to give praise lightly." Her eyes narrowed. "But I'm afraid I can't afford to play games any longer. This is the end."

Setsuna leapt up at her, tossing Yūnagi's sheath aside to swing the sword with both hands. "As though I'd let it stop here!"

"As I thought… Ofuda-han, oh great Ofuda-han! Reduce all mankind to ashes: Kyōraku Daimonji-yaki!"

A roar ripped through the air, the challenging cry of the inferno that poured screaming from the paper seal in the kidnapper's hand. The cracking of paved steps under the terrible heat burst into the quiet night like staccato gunshots. And she was diving headfirst into it.

"Look out!"

Asuna grabbed her yukata half a moment before Setsuna's arc through the air would have sent her into the flames. She screamed along with her rescuer as they fell down the stairs, tumbling to a stop on one of plateaus between inclines.

"Rastel Maskil Magister!"

"K-Kagurazaka-san? You… thank you."

Chigusa shook her head. "Tsk… I thought that would have finished off at least the Shinmei girl." It would have been too much to hope for her ofuda to have gotten rid of these persistent children so easily.

"You really shouldn't have kept following me. You've brought this upon yourselves, you know." If they couldn't be scared off and were good enough to avoid her previous traps… well, she had considered that she might be seen by such a person.

"Flet, ūnā vente…"

She pulled forth the final spell this night would need. A pulse of light shone for a brief moment before her ofuda crumbled into dust. But her smug smile faded quickly. The other four ofuda hadn't responded to her activation spell.

She stared daggers at the brats below her, who were very much not collapsing into thought-eating comas. What had they done?

So she'd have to take harsher action… well, that was of no consequence compared to the value of the Konoe ōjo-sama. "Yuuki, rise! Enki, return to my side!" At least the damnable Easterners were held down behind her barricade of fire.

Another ofuda fell apart, and with a puff of smoke the familiar ursine outline of Enki materialized beside her, as Yuuki rose up from his seated position. "De—"

"Flāns Saltātiō Pulverea!"

Chigusa had a moment to sneer at the boy—a mere child!—as he completed his incantation. And then the wind screamed to life.

From the small mage's wand erupted a flood of howling wind so large and so violent that it visibly distorted the air. The onmyōji screeched as the wall of wind crashed into her and flung her head over heels into a wall.

Her barrier had hardly slowed it at all.

She lay, stunned, as something large and flat slammed into the ground beside her. The crunching sound forced Chigusa's thoughts into movement again, only barely in time to banish the object before it fell over onto her. It was a sign. A sign bigger than her entire body, and as thick.

Chigusa stared incredulously at the bent object, once held up over the walkway by large signposts. Those metal pillars were now bent over to hug the ground. The sound of metal on concrete scraped through the large and empty space as the broken and twisted handrails, completely uprooted from the ground, began to crash their way back down the stairs.

And her fire was gone. Her magically fueled grand pyre, of such size that any wind should have only fed its flames, had been blasted down with enough force to smother it completely. Yet despite that devastation, neither the bell girl, Ōjo-sama, nor the Shinmei swordsman had been thrown as had she.

The bespectacled freak of magic glared at her, not looking away as he swung his wand to his companion. "Sīs mea pars per centum octōgintā secundās! Ministra Negiī, Cagurazaka Asuna!"

"Ane-san, this would be a good time to use that artifact of yours."

"The activation phrase to summon it is 'adeat'!"

"O-Oh? Right, here goes nothing. Adeat!" Card in hand, the redheaded girl repeated the word of power. The card disappeared into the length of light she called forth.

"Sweet! This is the most awesome fan I've… ever… ever… fan? What the fuck, Negi!?"

Whatever she meant to do, conjuring a giant paper fan obviously wasn't it.

A fistful of ofuda burnt to ash as Chigusa finished layering protective magic over her demons, and returning her own protections to full strength. No, even more than that—she had placed a third layer over the shield in response to that kid's ridiculous amount of magic. That Ōjo-sama would have power greater than that made her giddy with anticipation.

Their pause had been too easy to take advantage of. But then again, they were still children. "Enki and Yuuki, tear them apart!"

Her Zenki and Goki, only barely moved by the gale, burst into motion at her command; but her opponents weren't quite foolish enough to wait for her to make their move. The two girls had already begun their charge.

She mentally commanded Ōjo-sama to return to her, and a red letter briefly glowed from the meter-long strip of paper on her head. Konoka's body floated to Chigusa's side.

She held the girl's head in a grip that would have been painful had she been awake. Using Ōjo-sama's power would be enough to destroy all three of them. "Allow me to give you a taste of the power I am soon to—"

Wait. Hadn't there been four brats?

It was only by luck that she noticed the almost-invisible strand of metal. She stumbled back and nearly fell as a noose of thin wire snapped taut in a loud twang. Her throat had only just left that space. If she hadn't moved, it would have taken her head.

The rasping of metal bit into her ears as her eyes followed the retracting wire up the wall behind her.

The blond boy clung to the wall like a demented spider, the lights only illuminating half of his body. The rest was garbed in shadow, with nearly his entire face obscured. The air surrounding him vibrated with bloodlust, and Chigusa found herself pierced in place by red eyes that all but glowed in the darkness.

"You're the one… you're the one who violated Makie and Ayaka. You poisoned Mana!" the too-young teacher snarled. His voice was thick with dripping hatred. Chigusa's heart began to race at the unfamiliar, almost painful, experience of being the target of genuine and deep-seated loathing.

Nonetheless, she wasn't one to still her tongue in the face of danger. "Poison… heh heh heh, so there really was one of those beasts with you. I had thought the cursed poison I brewed for Tsukuyomi was an unnecessary precaution. Tell me, is she dead yet?"

"Shut up! What did you use? How do we help her?"

She sighed. "Do you always try to kill people before asking for their help? You're a bit slow, aren't you? Why would I ever tell you how to cure someone I just poisoned?"

"Then I'll take the antidote from you once I've torn off your limbs!"

He lunged down before she could respond. Chigusa couldn't act at that speed and was only able to stare at the kunai he thrust towards her eye.

Fortunately, she didn't need to act at all.

Something fast and red and large burst out of the wall like a train through rice paper. It crashed into the little monster, hurling the two to the opposite side of the stairwell.

Chigusa still didn't move, belated terror boiling through her as she stared at the dagger hanging in midair, supported by the bottommost layer of the barrier it had pierced.

'Where the hell is Naruto?'

A ninja would be pretty handy at the moment!

"Am I supposed to thwap you to death or something?" Asuna leapt up the last set of stairs to the weird bear, bringing the big stupid fan down onto its furry head (a fan! What happened to that awesome sword on the card?). Or she tried to.

Its huge arms grabbed her artifact in its claws. The bear spun, and her grip on the harisen pulled her with when Enki tossed her into the wall with a snarl that would put any real bear to shame.

Its mouth didn't move at all despite its furious bellowing. Asuna didn't know why that was so unnerving.

She groaned at the surprisingly dull pain of the impact as she forced herself to her feet. It was fast! And those claws… Asuna shuddered at the thought of one of them actually cutting her. Although from the look of it, 'ripping' would be more accurate.

"What the hell did you do to the giant teddy bear?"

They weren't the natural claws of any animal, let alone a bear. No, it was more like the crazy lady had shoved arrows through the demon's paws—she could even see the shaft and fletching sticking out of the back of its paws, and stuffing peeked out where claw met fake fur. The arrowheads weren't clean or sleek at all, looking instead like rusty, jagged chunks of metal stuck on a stick.

There was no blood to accompany the damage, but that only made it seen even more unnatural.

Behind Enki she could see Setsuna, the monkey fading into nothingness behind her. Something red hurled past the swordsman and crunched into the opposing wall.

It was time for Asuna to do her part, now.

She pushed off the wall to bash the demons head in, her body lighter, faster, and stronger than she had ever felt before. Again and again she swung her weapon, as fast as she possibly could even if she couldn't get any good force behind it; she couldn't let the bear catch her again! And she didn't actually know how to defend herself if it tried to counterattack.

But seriously, she was so freaking fast! She felt like she could outrun a motorbike!

Even so, every swipe was countered by the bear despite its huge head getting in the way. Enki knocked aside every blow with those monstrous talons, bestial sounds rumbling forth as it strove to keep her back. But even though she was using a fan made of freaking paper, it never damaged the harisen at all, and no matter how hard she swung her artifact it barely bent at all.

Maybe a fan didn't suck that much after all.

The observation was a mistake. The demon took advantage of her distraction and stepped into her reach to grab her artifact just inches above her own grip. The other claw struck out at her head.

Her reflexive jerk back saved her face, and Enki's arrow-claws only skidded along her cheek. But instead of the expected pain of a ripped face, if felt more like she got a shallow cut.

Magic was a wonderful thing.

Something burst out from beneath Naruto to send the two crashing across the entire distance to the opposite wall—and through it. The bear—likely the Zenki—blocked Asuna's fan and flung her against the wall. Only Setsuna broke through, the monkey lady's monkey cut in half.

Yet even when Chigusa shook herself out of her horrified observation of Naruto's kunai she didn't spare a moment to consider the Shinmei-ryū warrior hurtling towards her. She abandoned whatever she had intended to do with Konoka and turned away from the battle, Konoka floating alongside her.

And his staff was left lying on the ground, forgotten.

After he overcame his initial freak-out—'Oh god, Naruto just tried to kill someone!'—Negi recited his activation key as he gathered easily five times the magic the spell required. He extended the simple incantation and jabbed the wand towards his staff.

"Rastel Maskil Magister! Mea virga redde!"

Strengthened in four different ways, the spell so basic it didn't even require a casting device ripped the paper seal on his staff into shreds as his longtime companion slipped smoothly into his open hand despite moving at a speed he couldn't see.

The warm familiarity of the heirloom settled into his bones as his magic naturally aligned itself with the casting device. But the brief spot of comfort faded quickly.

Someone had leapt down from the wall above them to counter Setsuna's attack, the force of the two blows sending each combatant rolling away from one another. Chigusa ignored them entirely as she continued up the stairs.

The impact of twenty-three multicolored globes of light rocketing into her magical defenses was enough to make her pay attention again.

Negi's jaw locked into place as the onmyōji spun to face him, his teeth grinding together in his anger. The world disappeared for a moment, until all Negi could see was magic. Fault lines cracked across the surface of her magical shield as dark lines laid over the top of the oval barrier. But what concerned him was the length of red trailing down from the almost sun-bright Konoka's face.

His eyes refocused and the physical world returned to his sight. Again Chigusa clutched at Konoka's head, her thumb resting atop the unusually long (and unusually blank) ofuda affixed to his student. A red sigil—Sanskrit, perhaps?—traced itself onto the paper.

He didn't wait for it to finish. "Flāns exarmātiō!"

The burst of magic-infused wind blew apart the small cyclone the onmyōji had formed. That didn't slow her at all as the ofuda she had held in her other hand came into effect, tearing up the concrete to launch a spread of stone at him.

It was one of the basic tactics in magical combat: she intended to hit his barrier from multiple locations at once to overwhelm it. His shields were more than strong enough to survive the rock shower.

His assumption almost cost him the battle. Each chunk of concrete detonated like earthen grenades upon contact with his screen. Shards shredded his shield from the front while the pieces that had soared past him exploded to pepper his back and sides with more fragments.

Negi didn't have to check his protections to tell that her attack had left the shield only one step away from complete collapse.

"Y'know, if you had more Ministra this wouldn't be a problem."

"Not helping!"

The monkey demon had been quick, but Setsuna wasn't trying to take it prisoner this time. Her sword arm was faster—but not fast enough to cut down the demon tackling Naruto. The faintest of guilts came over her at not moving to help him, but he could certainly take care of himself.

Ojō-sama could not.

Setsuna leapt over the last set of stairs between her and Konoka-ojōsama, blade readied to strike down and through her kidnapper's barrier. But her attempt fell short as a new player entered the game.

She was forced to shift her sword upwards to knock aside the blade of the girl who had just leapt off the top of the wall. Their aerial collision and the force behind their blows was enough to send each tumbling in opposite directions.

Setsuna rolled with the motion to end the painful spin on her feet. Her opponent didn't bother, and took the scrapes of the hard stairs as punishment.

The girl looked… frail. She was pale and thin, flat and short—well, shorter than Setsuna was, anyway. Her choice of clothing didn't help—the frills on her skirt and blouse were large enough to emphasize her own smallness, even though another layer of frilled and stringy clothing could be seen through her open blouse. Was that even a blouse? Or was it some kind of mixed blouse/bolero jacket… thing?

"Oh… ow, ouch, owie..."

Pink Mary Janes. Black pantyhose that met up with a white-and-pink skirt that led into a pink blouse-thing layered over white. She even had bows—black ribbons tied around her neck and in her hair. They served no purpose—the hair under that giant sunhat was completely straight. She looked like nothing so much as one of those gothic lolita girls that kept popping up on campus.

All in all, she gave Setsuna the uncomfortable impression of a beautiful dress-up doll grown to human proportions. Then someone gave that doll a katana and wakizashi, which did nothing to make her look combat-worthy. The gothic lolita outfit took that away entirely—it was like she had done everything she could to look like a child.

But her eyes…

They were red behind her oval glasses, an unusual color in and of itself. But her gaze was… wrong. Matching her gaze only escalated Setsuna's discomfort to new heights.

"Owie. That really hurt…" The gothloli girl brushed herself off as best she could while holding swords. Standing once again, she smiled charmingly before addressing Setsuna.

"How do you do? I am Tsukino Tsukuyomi, of Kyoto Shinmei-ryū."

Setsuna glared at her and her curtsy. Either not noticing it or completely ignoring Setsuna's expression, Tsukuyomi continued in an overly cutesy voice. "It looks like you follow Shinmei-ryū as well, Senpai… but I'm on a job you know! I can't just let you do as you please."

"Tch. I didn't expect anything else," Setsuna retorted. She eyed the blonde's horrendously impractical clothing with distaste. "Sakurazaki Setsuna, of Kyoto Shinmei-ryū. Is this what the Shinmei School has become while I was away?"

Tsukuyomi laughed. "No, no, I'm quite unique if I do say so myself! But that aside… would you please go easy on me, Senpai?"

That woman got farther away, Ojō-sama dragged through the air behind her. "I don't have time for this!" Setsuna lunged forwards—but Tsukuyomi had moved before she even began and intercepted her before Setsuna could do more than shift her balance.

"Ahahaha! Let's have some fun, Senpai!"

The girl was fast. Very fast.

''Go easy on me' my ass! If I did I'd be dead already!'

Tsukuyomi's blades dove at her in a relentless barrage Setsuna hadn't thought the simpering girl to be capable of. Setsuna parried as many blows with her nodachi that she could, but Tsukuyomi refused to allow her to build any distance between them.

Yūnagi alone wasn't enough to keep her at bay; she was thankful for the extent to which she had practiced wielding the long blade in one hand, because she had never needed to use her left this desperately.

She swept away strikes from the above and left before her free hand caught Tsukuyomi's by the wrist, pushing her downwards slash aside. She couldn't capitalize on the grip, as the other Shinmei warrior was quick to attack the offending limb.

Setsuna backpedaled. The laughing girl refused to let Setsuna get away from her and pushed forwards exactly as much as Setsuna fell back, forced to repeat the tactic in a dozen variations as she struggled to establish her balance.

A sharp thrust of the wakizashi was met with steel; a swipe of the katana deflected with a sharp smack of her hand against Tsukuyomi's forearm. She dropped into a half-kneel to knock away another blow to the side and allowing her free hand to grab Tsukuyomi's around the shorter blade. Rolling onto her back, Setsuna pulled the yelping annoyance down with her, cutting that yelp short as her feet struck Tsukuyomi's stomach and flung her behind her.

No sooner did she kick Tsukuyomi away then she jumpped to her feet—and unlike their first clash, her enemy wasn't content to lie on the ground. But Setsuna's maneuver had bought her the brief moment of distance she needed to meet Tsukuyomi's lunge with the sharp point of Yūnagi.

Tsukuyomi pulled back less than an inch before her eye would have introduced itself to her sword. Her desperate movement opened up even more space between them. "Ahaha… so that's what you wanted, Senpai. Clever~ So clever~!" More laughter. "This is exciting!" Her hat had flown off at some point, but the girl clearly didn't care.

Magic from the dueling spellcasters lit the space between them, but neither paid it mind as anything other than another obstacle.

"Stop talking! You're an annoyance!"

Tsukuyomi again closed the ground between them in an instant, but now Setsuna had the advantage of reach—and more importantly, was ready for the rush. A shallow slash with her nodachi forced Tsukuyomi to leap to the side and down the steps to avoid her longer reach. It didn't disturb the overdressed fool's balance in the least, but it did give Setsuna the high ground.

Setsuna's opponent was undeterred and once again began the exchange of blows.

Tsukuyomi had controlled the flow of battle for too long; when Setsuna pushed back her rush, she stepped down after the other swordsman, using the greater weight and length of her nodachi to force Tsukuyomi to fall back.

The sharper and angrier movements of her blades gave away Tsukuyomi's dislike for the defensive position, but her face never changed from that eager grin. She stood her ground against Setsuna's assault, focusing her left arm to defense while trying to step close enough to use her katana.

Tsukuyomi was fast, but not fast enough that she could keep Setsuna at bay with only her off hand. Two short, controlled blows tore an opening in that defense.

Setsuna took it.

"Shinmei-ryū Secret Technique: Nitou Zanchikakuken!"

The furious two-sword onslaught cut furrows into the ground and forced Setsuna to leap away from Tsukuyomi, but the damage had been done. Crimson fell from her left arm to dye pink clothing in red. Tsukuyomi grimaced at the deep incision, but showed no sign that she was willing to concede.

"Amazing, Senpai! Ahahaha, it really hurts. Although…" The girl's eyes darkened in unexpected intensity. "Isn't that part of the fun, too?"

Setsuna had to repress the urge to step away at the husky tone that overcame Tsukuyomi's voice, all pretense at cuteness gone.

"Ahahahahaha! Shinmei-ryū Ukigumo: Nyūdōgumo Kara Rakka!"

Tsukuyomi all but flew at her, spinning sideways through the air to kick at her a full four times before touching the ground. Setsuna blocked every blow with her sword—only to hear metallic clangs where blade met shoe. Infuriatingly still possessed of feet, Tsukuyomi pushed her attack to make a swing with her blades held together, the momentum of her initial assault giving them a crushing force that Setsuna didn't dare meet directly.

She beat them aside, only for Tsukuyomi to use the redirection to continue her spin into a series of twirling leaps. With blades held close to her body she struck in rapid-fire slashes down onto Setsuna's head. The speed of the motion and insane rate of the blows kept Setsuna focused entirely on her defense, unable to take advantage of the opening such a maneuver would create.

Once one surpasses the speed of a human being, otherwise suicidal tactics become entirely viable.

What had come earlier had been but a tentative scouting of the other's talent. Now that the fight had begun in earnest neither held the slightest restraint in their blows, to their environment's misfortune. Each swing cleaved open the ground following the blade's arc; every slash averted split apart the stairs from the deflected force behind every strike.

Tsukuyomi broke the motion to drop to one knee. Setsuna's blade knocked away the attempt to cut open her calves, but Tsukuyomi's attack had been a feint; her response did nothing to slow Tsukuyomi's spring.

She went from kneeling to airborne in a flash, using her thighs to catch Setsuna's head in a vice. Setsuna had only time for her face to redden and eyes to widen in shock before the Shinmei swordsman rotated into a back flip.

"Shinmei-ryū Ukigumo: Sakura Sanka!"

The speed and force behind the attack was enough to send them into two full rotations before Setsuna's back crashed into and shattered the stair steps. Tsukuyomi's release at the last instant let her roll away in a controlled fall, but Setsuna was too stunned by the impact to her head to act.

Her back screamed at her from her harsh landing and the broken concrete jabbing her shoulder blades and spine. She found herself regretting having used the same technique on her teacher. It hurt like hell. And he would have seen her—despite her circumstances, her blush refused to disappear.

She looked to the sky in a daze. The lights of the city drowned out the stars. And just below an adjacent building's rooftop was an ofuda, pierced through by a shuriken.

Reinforced glass will break as easily as the normal kind if one used enough force, Naruto's shoulders politely informed him as healing flesh pushed the shards out of his body.

Chigusa. That was her name. He wanted to [PIERCE THEM INTO HER WRETCHED FLESH]! The events of the day and the image of the collapsed Konoka flashed behind the red-eyed boy's eyelids with every blink and his chest heaved without ever getting enough air to drive out the burning that swelled within his torso.

If he could have he would have rushed outside again to confront her again. But he doubted that whatever hit him would let him just leave.

Naruto leapt away as soon as he and the red thing landed despite the pain in his shoulders, vaulting over a counter to place it between him and it. The other simply stood up, showing no sign of being inconvenienced from the glass or cracked tiles underfoot despite its lack of footwear.

He paled as he got a good look at his opponent, his murderous urges replaced entirely by a familiar and deep-seated horror. Weren't both of the sorceress's demons supposed to be outside?!

The demon was huge—so large that his horns nearly brushed against the ceiling. The desks of the large office didn't even reach his knees. A fanged mouth snarled at him as though repulsed by Naruto's existence; unnatural yellow light shone out of narrowed eyes. His wild and spiky hair started just behind his horns and gleamed like metal; the rest of his body was covered in short crimson fur interspaced with spines at his joints. The skin beneath was only a lighter shade of the same.

His form mimicked that of a human, though no face had ever been that sharp and bestial. His fists were larger than Naruto's head, his arms thick and bulging with muscles. A long tail lashed about behind him, its riled swishing knocking aside chairs and desks as if they were no heavier than paper. His body was crossed with countless scars visible even through his fur; even one of his horns was broken to a mere stump.

Massive wings, each fully as large as the rest of him, beat restlessly as the red demon glared at him. "A mere child… to think Amagasaki needed me to save her from you! Pathetic, but nothing more than I would expect from a human." He sneered as he took a step towards Naruto.

His deep voice bit out every word with a growl, power and confidence that projected from him in an almost palpable aura. The very feel of violence spiraled around him, and Naruto couldn't stop the shiver of fear that ran down his spine at looking upon a demon in the flesh.

Yet… even as he approached him and his bloodlust weighed down the air, Naruto's foremost thought was amazement at how little the demon resembled his own. Neither in body nor in spirit did he even approach what Naruto lived with. He was intimidating, but wasn't remotely near the level of terror needed to make Naruto freeze up. Naruto's lips spread in a soundless snarl.

His hand slipped into his yukata to the bandoleer of gear strapped across his chest. The resulting handful of kunai shot towards the demon as a blur, but the monster's only reaction was to pull his left wing out of the way.

Naruto's eyes spread wide in disbelief. The kunai had sunk less than two inches into the demon's chest—by the looks of it, he doubted they had even gone through the whole muscle!

His enemy stared at the wounds on his chest as though they surprised him, his massive hand ripping them out of his torso without delicacy. "You actually managed to hurt me with simple knives? I am impressed, mortal. But now I—"

It was rude to interrupt someone while they were talking; Naruto didn't particularly care. He jumped past the arm reaching for him and, with all the strength he could muster, slammed his fist into the demon's stomach.

The impact sounded like the crash of rock upon rock, and the raw power behind Naruto's blow sent the red demon flying to the far end of the room into the wall—and through it, chunks of wood and concrete spraying outward from the new hole.

Beside the hole, the kunai that missed was visible only by the ring, both blade and hilt pierced through the cinder blocks in the walls.

The dust billowing out from the new opening was enough to obscure his view. Naruto silently hopped over the now-broken counter with shuriken in hand. He didn't think that would be enough to take care of a demon. The broken cinder block that slammed into his former position told him he'd made a good decision—although when he had to drop to the floor to avoid a second block hurtling at his chest, he realized that moving might not have made a real difference.

The dust blew away from the demon's body as he walked through the hole. He didn't duck into it, instead just taking a step that tore the opening to his size. The wall creaked before exploding outwards with a mighty flex of his wings.

He stared intently at Naruto, paying no heed to the wall he had destroyed. "'Impressed' was far too mild a word," the demon said softly. Even without volume his voice was deep enough to vibrate the loose rubble. He stood tall despite Naruto's blow to the stomach. "I've not met such as you in a long time. The memory of this fight and your coming death will surely entertain me for many years to come."

Red coiled around the demon's hand as he focused the entirety of his attention on Naruto. "Know now the name of your destroyer: I am RUBICANTE! He Who Grows Red! Destroyer of Thrones, Duke of Mundus Prīmigenius, Red Faced Terror of the Malebranche!"

"I am the Grand Exarch of the one you call Ryōmen Sukuna no Kami. I have toppled kingdoms and stolen enough lives to build a cathedral of bones. I have burned cities and salted the earth behind me." The red swirled outwards, thickening and dulling until the demon held a machete-like sword of iron that dwarfed Setsuna's nodachi. "I am Rubicante, and I will adorn my cathedra with your skull!"

Naruto snorted at the list of titles and deeds. For all the power that raged about him, Rubicante seemed altogether… human-like, despite his inhumanity. He wasn't Other. Fear crept around the corners of his consciousness, but the terror Naruto had felt at the thought of fighting a demon was gone. It was hard to be genuinely scared of something he just threw through a wall.

This wasn't an impossible fight at all. Hell, the two demons outside were most likely dead already! The red drained from his eyes as the fear ebbed. A hot rush of excitement filled its place.

"I'm Uzumaki Naruto. I'm the guy who's going to break your face so badly that I'll take center stage in your nightmares until the day you die!"

"Septendecim spīritūs lūcis; Sagitta Magica, Seriēs Lūcis!"

Some manner of summoned beast took Negi's magic arrows to the chest and faded away before it had even fully arrived. But Chigusa was hardly slowed and had another ofuda right at hand.

She began an incantation, red once more forming into symbols on the paper attached to Konoka. It had been the same since their first clash—Chigusa would cast spells using Konoka's power and toss out an ofuda to counter him whenever he tried to act. Her magical chanting was slow, but those paper seals of hers more than made up for that flaw.

The paper crumbled to launch a storm of thorns at him. A stream of snapping sounds marked their impact onto the stone, Negi having already scrambled away from the danger zone.

There had been no time for him to cast the lengthy spell required to fully restore his shield, and the makeshift barrier he hsf gotmrf was marred by more cracks than he could count. Chigusa's attack had forced Negi to keep moving, or risk his only protection being torn apart

"Flāns exarmātiō!"

The Wind Flower spell blew past the dueling Shinmei warriors to splash harmlessly off of Chigusa's new shield. Those ofuda were just unfair. She responded with a jet of flame that flew too fast for him to escape from; he hid his face behind his elbow and sacrificed protection from his sides and back to reinforce his forward shielding.

The crackling of burning fire filled Negi's ears and heat seared his skin, but his barrier survived, if only barely.

"Rastel Maskil Magister! Trēsvīgintī spīritūs fulgurālēs, fulgurantia per caelī inimīcum īnflīgentēs! Sagitta Magica, Seriēs Fulgurālis!"

Negi rushed the spell out as quickly as he could, directing the arrows to split into two groups: the larger struck and destroyed the rising boulders that had just pulled themselves from the ground, while the smaller crashed into Chigusa's shield. Blue-white lightning popped along the outer barrier of her shield. But even the thunder did nothing to muffle the continuous ring of crashing swords.

And Negi noticed something

He focused, forcing himself to see past the physical into the realm of magic, and saw the world fade into darkness.

Standing beside Konoka's sun, a torch formed lashes of blue that lashed out at him like spider legs. Negi dove to the ground to avoid them, wincing at the impact. He hadn't expected to skin his knees and hand, but it was rather difficult to move without seeing the ground. He needed to act quickly.

Negi focused on the torchlight that was Chigusa. Strands of the sun wove into her hand before being cast out from the onmyōji's hand. More importantly, he could see the tethers connecting Chigusa and Konoka, and how the light was dimmed into something Chigusa could handle. The light she then funneled into the outermost layers of barriers protecting her—the angular barriers.

Negi returned his sight to the real world with satisfaction. That was why his own attacks were so easily endured when her barrier should have already been damaged. Her shield was shaped like a wedge directed at him, meaning that instead of blocking his attacks she was deflecting them, splitting the magic at the point of the shield only for the two halves of the spell to slide along the edges with much reduced power.

He'd have to remember that trick.

"Flans saltatio pulverea!" Negi snapped out the spell with a shortened vocal component, sacrificing power for speed to blow apart the sliding pillars of green fire his enemy had sent his way. But his action bought him no more time as Chigusa finished casting her Konoka-powered spell.

A dark purple cloud coalesced out of nothingness meters above him. Negi ran straight ahead to escape from its shadow, accompanied by the sound of his barrier shattering like glass at the strike of an amethyst bolt of lightning. But although its last gasps of power had protected him from the witch's electricity, his fragments of shield gave him no such defense against the black rain that followed.

Negi had already reached the edge of the cloud's radius and escaped before more than a handful of raindrops splattered onto him. But even that little was enough to elicit a gasp of pain. Holes dotted his clothing where it had hit and burnt through, and he could feel thick red welts, like wasp stings, swelling where his skin had been touched. Chamo yelped and flung himself off Negi, a patch of red covering a large portion of the tiny ermine's body.

Frustration and fear struggled to rise above each other. He had underestimated her earlier spell and this was the price. But her next spell would almost certainly be enough to crush him, and from everything he'd seen of her Negi was very much worried that 'crush' was a word that would be applied as literally as possible.

He needed to buy more time! But Asuna had that demon to deal with, and the crashing sounds from inside the building told him that Naruto was also too busy to help out. That Tsukuyomi certainly wouldn't let Setsuna have a moment to give him, and Konoka was—

Oh. That was it.

"Amagasaki-san!" Negi called out in a loud voice. "Tell me, what is it that you mean to do with Konoka-san? You've gone through an awful lot of effort if all you wanted was a magic battery!"

Steel crashed into steel in such rapid succession that it sounded like the lengthy tolling of some distorted bell.

Tsukuyomi's blades were a blur as the bespectacled girl tried to endure Setsuna's renewed assault. Setsuna's eyes cut into the still-smiling Tsukuyomi's, neither swordsman daring to let their attention stray from one another. The byproduct of their chi-enhanced attacks rent deep grooves into the cement, turning the ground a hazard in and of itself.

Setsuna kept the pressure on her as she layered rapid-fire blows on the girl, relying on short, controlled movements to keep Tsukuyomi at a distance. But the girl's defense was nearly as strong as her offense when she actually dedicated herself to it, and the swift spinning and frequent reversions in the grip of her weapons had let her keep standing despite the speed and force of Setsuna's assault.

Her advance began to slow down, the fatigue from her rush and swift assault weighing down on her arms. Tsukuyomi's grin widened as she used the resulting opening in Setsuna's offense to thrust her wakizashi at her neck.

She dodged to her right to attack Tsukuyomi from the side. Had she telegraphed her move, or had Tsukuyomi already begun to understand her movements? Regardless, Tsukuyomi had been ready for the move, forcing Setsuna to move right into the path of Tsukuyomi's slash.

Pain exploded through her torso as the short blade dug between her lower ribs. Had she not jumped back as soon as she saw Tsukuyomi's trap it would have crippled her ability to keep standing.

"Maybe I couldn't take first blood," giggled Tsukuyomi as she raised her katana, "But that's fine. There'll be a lot more before the end."

Setsuna's stomach flipped at the sight of Tsukuyomi sliding the bloody metal between her lips, painting it red like some manner of demented lipstick. It was the most horrifying thing she'd ever seen.

"That was the most horrifying thing I've ever seen."

Tsukuyomi laughed at her with her bloodstained lips. "Really, Senpai? That's kind of cute, you know."

Setsuna tried to decapitate her.

But the psychopath had chosen the same moment to attack. Her opponent dashed forwards, leaning so far forwards that her torso was nearly parallel to the ground and leaving Setsuna's blade to sweep harmlessly through the air above her.

She was force to make a controlled fall over Tsukuyomi; her position wouldn't permit her the leap she would need to avoid the blades scissoring at her legs. She tried to land on her to keep the smaller girl still for a moment, but Tsukuyomi slipped away before she could. Setsuna managed to land a strike on her foot that forced the other girl to the ground.

Surprisingly, her sword actually bit into the heel of the shoe this time, although it didn't pierce all the way through.

That must have been why her shoes had been so hard earlier—she reinforced them with chi. It was certainly more sensible than having shoes made of iron. The idle thought drifted harmlessly along the outer edge of her awareness.

With Tsukuyomi prone and facing the wrong way, Setsuna used her momentum to roll to her feet, swinging her nodachi upwards to send her body into spin in a variation of Tsukuyomi's earlier assault. Chi built up along her shoulders and the width of Yūnagi as she brought the blade down with devastating force at the conclusion of her second rotation.

Setsuna almost missed Tsukuyomi's toothy grin as the girl flipped over.

"Shinmei-ryū Secret Technique: Zandaigumoken!"

"Hyakuretsu Ōkazan!"

The power of her technique meant nothing in face of the Sword of a Hundred Flaming Cherry Blossoms. Had her instincts not screamed the moment Tsukuyomi started to roll over, Setsuna wouldn't have been able to grab her protective sutra in time.

The fistful of paper tore apart as they layered barriers over her, barriers nearly torn apart by her closeness to storm of pink shards, and shattering entirely upon the impact of Tsukuyomi's wakizashi. The force of the attack threw Setsuna down the flight of stairs, although she easily landed on her feet.

Her breath was ragged as she forced herself to inhale properly rather than gasp for air like her lungs wanted her to. Setsuna glared up at the girl who had spun to her feet. Regardless of the strength of Setsuna's attack, she was nowhere near skilled enough to land the blow without being shredded by the hundreds of razor-sharp slivers produced by the technique. She was grudgingly impressed with Tsukuyomi for pulling off the Hyakuretsu Ōkazan from the ground.

"Wow. I mean, just wow! That was amazing, Setsuna-Senpai!" Despite her giggling Tsukuyomi looked far more serious than she had at the beginning of their fight. Her dress was covered in tears from near-misses and the bursts of energy released in their clashes, and her skirt was in danger of falling apart. Her pantyhose had suffered enough to split open in a number of places, revealing more of her long, toned, smooth legs. And of course, her earlier cut on Tsukuyomi's arm painted much of her left side in crimson.

That blood seeped down to coat her hand, holding a twisted and ruined wakizashi. "If I hadn't pulled that off you would have definitely finished me off." Her lips contorted into what could hesitantly be called a smile. Setsuna saw genuine happiness there, but her grin held something else that Setsuna didn't want to think about.

Tsukuyomi's eyes darkened with need. "I would have died. I don't remember ever being nearly dead. And despite being forced to defend yourself, you all but destroyed my sword. This is exciting. I don't think I've ever had this much fun before!"

Setsuna ignored the shudder that ran down her spine at Tsukuyomi's… sensual tone. "I don't need your complements. You know I have the advantage now."

"Yup. That's also a part of the fun!"

Setsuna scowled. "I'm not here to play with you. If you leave now I won't hurt you. Go do something that will let you keep your limbs, like making tea or playing with dolls or putting on some damned panties!"

Tsukuyomi blushed and brought her hands to her cheeks, ignoring the blades on each side of her head. "O-oh my! Teeheehee… you saw?"

"You grabbed my head with your thighs! I couldn't not see!"

"Teehee… You're so naughty, Senpai!"

A vein twitched in Setsuna's forehead. "Pay attention to what I'm saying if you're going to talk while we fight!"

"Amagasaki-san! Tell me, what is it that you mean to do with Konoka-san? You've gone through an awful lot of effort if all you wanted was a living magic battery!"

Setsuna's attention flickered away from Tsukuyomi when Negi called out his question. She couldn't afford to not to pay notice if it was about Ojō-sama.

The description made her eyes narrow in fury, but her sensei had the right of it. Situational awareness had forced her to take note of the magic crackling through the air, and that kidnapper sorceress was definitely not using her own power.

"Hm? So you want to know? I've half a mind not to tell you, but I'm a nice person. It would be tragic if you had to live your entire life wondering about today and never knowing why it happened."

Turning her gaze away was a mistake, one Tsukuyomi immediately took advantage of. She kept hold of her wakizashi, but once she realized it was only slowing her down she tossed it aside, a realization Setsuna helped along by scoring a cut on her uninjured arm.

"With Konoka-ōjosama's power, the Honganji Faction will have enough strength to force the council of the Kyoto Magic Association to pass our laws and policies. Plenty at the Association would flock to us for the power at our command—be it from awe, fear, greed, or force."

Despite being reduced to a single weapon Tsukuyomi was still faster than her and was smaller in both blade and body. Setsuna's greater reach forced the other Shinmei swordsman back each time Tsukuyomi tried to advance.

Words ran through her head, bypassing her ears entirely. :Nē-san! Make sure you pay attention. Aniki's distracting that Chigusa lady, so get ready to go in there and save Konoka-nēsan!:

The unexpected and unfamiliar sensation of telepathy gave Setsuna a brief dizziness—whatever reply she might have given was swallowed up in fending off Tsukuyomi's renewed assault. :S-sorry, Nē-san.:

"The Elder could throw any of our plans into ruin, but with Ōjo-sama under our control he wouldn't dare to take action against us. Particularly once he and the Association learn that Konoka-ōjosama was with us of her own 'free' will."

"'Free will'? Surely you don't think that Konoka-san would ever want to join you?"

Chigusa Amagasaki's mocking laughter grated painfully in Setsuna's ears as she worked to drive back Tsukuyomi.

The demon had no concern for whatever got in the way of his sword. Desks, chairs, pillars, walls—all were ripped apart without slowing Rubicante's swing. The offices they left behind had been reduced to unrecognizable debris.

The force behind Rubicante's blade was insane. Naruto didn't even try to block it with the small weapons in his possession, forced instead to rely on his reflexes and agility to evade the blows. But although the red demon wasn't as fast as he was strong, he was still far quicker than he had any right to be.

Naruto sorely regretted his lack of training, for the exact opposite reason as in his fight with Setsuna. While there he couldn't defend himself against her skill and speed, with Rubicante he was unable to move from evasion into an offense. Speed and reflexes only went so far.

Obviously, the answer was to cheat. But it would have been nice for foul play to be an option rather than the only direction available.

"Stay still, mortal! Stand up and die with honor!"

Naruto clung to the side of one of the floor-to-ceiling columns interspaced throughout the large room. "I'd like to keep my head for a while longer, thank you."

A roar of frustration accompanied Rubicante's next strike, forcing Naruto to leap away from his perch. He reached up and tagged the ceiling with his fingers, clinging to it and sending his body to arc upwards into the tiles. Rubicante's follow-up blow tore through the air above where Naruto would have landed had it not been for that maneuver.

He scurried aside to avoid the upwards swing that was Rubicante's response. The frustrated beating of the demon's wings demolished the pillar he had just cut in half as he advanced with blow after furious blow.

Naruto rolled backwards along the ceiling before dropping, leaping to his right as soon as he hit the ground to dodge the chunk of ceiling Rubicante tore down. He rushed the demon's exposed side, but Rubicante was faster than he had anticipated. A great red wing beat his arm aside, opening a chance for Rubicante's tail to lash into his chest.

The force was enough to hurl him through the air and into a desk that shattered under his shoulders.

Although his back wanted him to avoid further motion, Naruto forced himself to grab half of the desk and throw it at the crimson demon.

Rubicante easily batted it aside, but couldn't avoid the shuriken hidden in its shadow. The tiny metal weapons sunk into his hip and legs, though no deeper than the kunai had earlier.

"May Twin-Faced Sukuna damn you, mortal! Your weapons do no more than sting—I can't tell if you're a warrior or an insect."

"I'm a ninja, and your freakishly-faced god can go choke himself on his tongues."

"You—that is blasphemy!" A new and righteous rage darkened his features. "You dare blaspheme?! Your mockery of our duel was already enough to deserve retribution, but this—no amount of your suffering will ever be enough to make up this affront to my god. But I assure you, I will try."

Rubicante unleashed a bestial roar as he lunged at Naruto. But his distraction had let Naruto return to his feet and gave him the moment needed to reach into his backpack. But despite his reflexes he wasn't so quick that he would be able to avoid the unexpected lunge from the demon, and instead of a smoke bomb he pulled out the first thing in his hand. He didn't waste time unsheathing the tantō as he brought it to meet the crimson demon's attack.

The sheath shattered completely while chakra-forged steel bent with a screech from the staggering strength behind Rubicante's blow. The strike numbed Naruto's hands while leaving his arms to burn with pain. He staggered back, his deformed weapon clattering to the floor. Now within arm's reach, Rubicante reached out with one huge hand to take hold of Naruto.

Or he tried to. Rubicante's hand went right through Naruto's bunshin, dispelling it. Naruto grinned from his position behind the demon and pulled hard on the wires in his hand.

The shuriken he had thrown, each with a wire looped through the hole in the middle, ripped across the curves of Rubicante's legs as they were dragged out of his skin from behind.

Rubicante gave an agonized bellow and spun around, fury alighting in his eyes at the sight of Naruto kneeling alongside the bloodied shuriken, painted a dark red from the demon's fluids. "Miserable rat! I engage you in even combat and you descend to such soul trickery? I will drag your wretched soul before the Great Ryōmen Sukuna and offer you as a sacrifice to be devoured for his revitalization. You will suffer this pain a hundred by a hundred times over!"

He rushed at Naruto without heed to the blood pouring from the gashes in his legs that by all rights should have severed his tendons. His machete cleaved through air and stone in a flurry of strikes that Naruto only barely managed to avoid—the counters and pillars he used in his movements weren't so lucky.

When Naruto's maneuvering managed to get him some distance from his attacker, Rubicante paused. Naruto's sense of danger screamed at him when the giant demon lifted his empty hand.

He leapt into the air only moments before a red lance materialized into existence and launched from his enemy's hand at such speed that it sounded like the air was screaming. But he had leapt to get distance from his enemy, which with that ranged attack had become a hindrance. Naruto had only the barest of warnings—a hint of scarlet coalescing around Rubicante's hand—by which to dodge the next two spears.

Naruto's breath came heavily from all the effort he had to put into evading the red beast. He wasn't tired though, not by a long shot. Still… he would give up a lot to have an effective distance attack right then.

"Tricky bastard… where'd you get a move like that?" he asked, buying time until he could think of a way to approach without becoming a new stain on the floor. He was fortunate that the demon had forced them into this building—it was the perfect setting to take advantage of his mobility across the floor and ceiling.

"Oh?" Rubicante's face took on some unpleasant combination of sneer and smirk. "Have you nothing with which to reply to my Cinnabaris Lancea? A pity. I expected more from you, Uzumaki."

"That's a horrible name. What does that even mean?" There it was…

"I should have expected that a blaspheming peasant wouldn't know of the languages of faith. You may know it as the Vermillion Lance, and it—"

Naruto dashed into motion, cutting Rubicante's speech short. His ears ached as screeching Vermillion Lances pierced into the floor only hairsbreadths behind him as he circled his enemy, but he wouldn't have to worry about them for long.

As soon as he got into position, Naruto knelt before jumping with as much force as he could muster. He slipped through the hole Rubicante had ripped from the ceiling to land on his side on the next floor.

Naruto had time for a single breath before he had to fling himself to the side. The blade of Rubicante's giant sword appeared as it cut upwards through the floor, leaving a gash over his stomach. Naruto kept rolling despite the screaming protests of his belly, certain that the demon had been able to hear the sound of his movements—and from the red spears that pierced completely through this floor and into the next, he was right.

He sprang to his feet and jumped once more, clinging to the ceiling with his chakra. Naruto kept still and silent as Rubicante tore up the floor from below, filling the room with the sound of chopped wood and metal beams. He smiled and had to hide a chuckle at the demon's useless sword-waving—then winced, as his silent laughter sent new streaks of pain through his torso. But less than there had been before.

Rubicante realized soon enough the futility of his actions. Naruto wasn't certain how he had expected Rubicante to get to his floor, but he certainly didn't think the red demon would just jump. The floor below Naruto exploded like a wall tackled by Godzilla as Rubicante burst through the floor, sending sawdust and pieces of ceiling flying across the room.

Metal screeched as it tore, tiles shattered and lumber groaned and splintered. The crash of rubble raining onto the ground boomed through the room, but beat of Rubicante's wings against the air drowned it out. The demon hovered in place above his hole with anger marring his face.

Then Naruto hit him on the forehead with a smoke bomb.

Rubicante coughed from the black smoke that almost instantly enveloped everything within ten feet, and Naruto heard the crunch as he landed on the debris-strewn wooden floor.

"Do you think your tricks will protect you? You cannot hide from me, Uzumaki!"

On the floor once more, Naruto had half-removed his backpack, one hand digging into the pouches, when the screaming red bolt shot out of the cloud and buried itself into the wall by his head. He pulled the bag back over his shoulders as he leapt away from a trio of Cinnabaris Lancea.

With a great roar the red demon-priest beat his wings, the resulting winds more than strong enough to disperse the obscuring smoke. Rubicante opened his eyes to glare at Naruto, who just threw another smoke bomb at him.

Rubicante screamed in frustrated rage. "Did you not see me dispel your ebon fog? Stay still so I can rip off your head for the inconveniences you have visited upon me this eve!"

Once more Rubicante blew away Naruto's smoke—but Naruto had completed his preparations. The demon found not the one enemy he expected, but six.

Naruto and his bunshin flashed identical grins. "So, whose head did you want again? You only get to pick once, you know."

Rubicante's flat face told him that the scarlet monster hadn't appreciated his humor, and to be honest Naruto regretted saying it. Damn it, why was witty banter so difficult?

Once more the massive mountain-cleaver that was supposed to be a sword lashed out with a speed something its size shouldn't possess. The Narutos split apart, leaving only one of the illusory copies to fade away at the demon's swipe.

With a growl Rubicante spun, his tail lashing out to bash into another Uzumaki with enough force to snap his spine—if he had been real. A Lancea Cinnabaris tore open another of the little wretch's imitations while he flung his sword into the far wall, another two copies dispelled at its touch.

Fury surged through every part of Rubicante's mind. This Uzumaki's dishonorable tricks and incessant evasion were offenses he could not forgive. He dashed across the room to smash the cretin into the wall. A sneer crossed his face as his hand passed through the illusion's chest to rip out a large chunk of the building's side.

"Your copies are gone, Uzumaki," Rubicante extolled with no small amount of relish as he pulled his blade out of the wall. "Surely you've come to realize your deceptions will amount to nothing? You have strength. Wield it! I'll not tolerate further insult from you."

He grinned as his words had a visible effect on his opponent. Uzumaki's eyes narrowed and his jaw took a determined cast, and in only a moment weapons resembling small scythes were in his hands. His opponent set himself in a ready stance, daring Rubicante to take the first move.

He did.

His sword thrust forth at the end of his charge and Rubicante readied his response to Uzumaki's counter—and then his sword went straight through him. As did his arm.

Rubicante experienced an instant of blinding fury before a foot struck his back, right between his wings.

Once more, the force behind the filth's unguarded strike was enough to send Rubicante through the air—but as he rolled to bring his wings to bear he felt a constricting sensation around the fragile limbs.

The next moment was one of pain.

The walls shook from the force of Rubicante's roar. He collapsed onto the ground, sharp agony screaming at him as his wings bled. The force of Uzumaki's attack had pulled tight the metal wires looped around his wings. Were he less hardy, the razor-thin wire would have sheared off his wings entirely.

But Rubicante was not weak. He bled, yes, and the wires cut deeply into the softer skin of his wings—but he was not crippled. No, if anything were to cripple him, it would the uncontrollable storm of hate that overtook him at this latest of the rat's tricks.

The air boiled with his anger as he rose to his feet. The wires fell apart, which relieved some of the pain in his wings but only made his fury grow. The floor blackened under his footsteps as he advanced on Uzumaki.

"You… I shall visit upon you such wrath that you will beg for me to kill you."

He rushed forwards faster than he ever had before. The rat struck the flat of the blade to his side, only to take Rubicante's heavy kick in the stomach. Uzumaki soared across the room, and had only just crashed into the wall when his fist, like a great red mace, bashed him through it.

The force tossed Naruto across the full length of the room, staining the carpet with drops of blood. Rubicante took hold of the wall and tore it out, carelessly tossing a mass of masonry larger than his own body behind him as he walked through the hole.

The room shook as it impacted and broke through the floor he had earlier damaged. The supports of the room below, already shattered or cut in half over their match, collapsed completely. The roar of the building crashing down resounded like melodious song into his ears as wood crunched and stone ground together, only to be met by the deeper sound of the dying structure's walls tearing apart.

Dust rose from the destruction and rushed through the opening he had made, but it meant nothing to Rubicante. He briefly looked up. A part of the ceiling in this section of the building had been brought down with the collapse of the other. The stars shone with distant apathy, uncaring of the struggles of beings such as he. But they still held power and still held secrets. The days to come promised to be auspicious indeed.

His gaze returned to the human boy. Uzumaki knelt, forced to use his arms to keep even that lowly position. His mouth and lips were stained red, as was his Japanese robe. Uzumaki had pulled it open to remove some manner of bandolier, which Rubicante noted had been cut open. Uzumaki's stomach had crimson blood painted unevenly across it—much seemed to have been absorbed by his clothes, but even so… Rubicante couldn't see a wound at all.

Then he felt… it was faint, but it was there. So faint that if he hadn't been scrutinizing Uzumaki he would have missed it.

"Hmph. It has been a long time since I last saw a human possessed of youki. How many generations?"

Uzumaki swallowed as he looked up and across the room at Rubicante. "W-what?"

Rubicante's eyes narrowed. His earlier act of destruction had eased no small part of his anger, and the sight of the boy crushed to the floor did his heart well, but his ignorance stoked the embers of his impatience. "Do not act coy, Uzumaki. I can feel your regeneration. How many generations has it been since your family's dirty blood mixed with the purity of demonkind? No half-demon would have so little of the power as you, nor their child… no, I doubt even five generations would leave even a newly spawned human with such weak youki."

Although considering how little there was, that Uzumaki was capable of such regeneration was nothing short of remarkable. Had he been more pure, he would have become potent indeed—Rubicante imagined he must be strongly specialized in regeneration to manage with so little.

Rubicante had not the vaguest conception of how deeply flawed his assumptions were.

"You bastard—"

"Oh? You dislike it? How absurd. You should be proud of your blood—it raises you above the filth that have come to rule this planet." Rubicante paused before correcting himself. "You should be proud of your blood while you still have it. Your slight increase in worth does nothing to change that I will kill you."

Uzumaki's eyes flashed red. Only further proof of his heritage. "Take it back."


The demon child screamed in rage and burst into movement. With a speed that belied his earlier injuries he struck at Rubicante with dagger in hand. Unable to dodge, Rubicante instead sacrificed his left arm to keep the knife from piercing his chest.

He grimaced at the flush of pain consuming his forearm. It sunk much deeper than it had when Uzumaki had thrown it.

Rubicante's tail swung around to beat Uzumaki away, but the boy dove to the floor. He barely touched the ground before leaping into the air. Rubicante used his damaged arm to protect his torso from the boy's kick, but the force of the blow still knocked him into the air.

He tried to right himself with his wings, but a vice-like grip on his tail didn't permit him to. The boy swung him around by his tail, pulling Rubicante over his shoulders to slam him into the floor and up again, breaking him halfway through the ceiling before Uzumaki tried to further manhandle him.

'Tried' being the operative word—digging his claws into the surface, he lifted his tail off the ground entirely, easily lifting Uzumaki's weight, before slamming it back down. The muffled cry from below told him that Uzumaki didn't much appreciate having his face smashed into the floor. He would inflict far worse for the disgrace Uzumaki had made of this battle. Swung like a toy! Rubicante would swing him by his entrails.

A shrug of his powerful arms was enough to tear him free of his confines, the simple material insufficient to harm his superior body. Stone and roof fell onto Uzumaki when Rubicante landed just a foot shy of smashing the boy's face underfoot. With preternatural agility Uzumaki flipped to his feet in the small distance between them, thrusting his fist into Rubicante's stomach with the action.

He was forced back by the disproportionately powerful strike, but the space he could have used to bring his blade to bear was taken as the demon child leapt at him. He smashed the hilt upwards, but the boy only used the motion to push himself onto the ceiling where he immediately bounced down like a tightly wound spring.

Uzumaki's foot struck the top of his head, but even that force wasn't enough to damage Rubicante's horned skull. His tail had only just begun its thrust when he realized that Uzumaki made no motion to jump. Instead he toppled over—but as though attached, his foot continued to cling to Rubicante's scalp.

Uzumaki curled into a flip and Rubicante found his face unceremoniously bashed into the floor.

Rubicante rose even quicker than Uzumaki did, but the demon child only rose enough to cartwheel around his vertical swing and kip up behind him.

Rubicante had not forgotten his earlier humiliation, and his wings beat backwards to strike Uzumaki before his opponent could attack his back again. He spun about to backhand the boy before the dazed demon child realized what happened.

Uzumaki spun from the blow and dropped like a sack upon landing four meters away. He had little opportunity to respond before Rubicante grabbed his leg and threw him into the wall, and through it.

The boy screamed out as his body burst through the stone barrier, contorting through the air to crash onto the pavement. Uzumaki hit the ground with enough force to send him skidding and rolling backwards, further tearing his clothing and skin.

He had managed only to push himself up to his hands and knees when Rubicante's sword swung down into his back.

Author's note:

I've been getting some complaints. A number of people seem to think that my Naruto isn't strong enough. Allow me to say this: every single character in this story is more powerful (and sometimes more insane) than their canon counterparts, or will be once things start to spice up. Even the bear and monkey. And, yes, even Takane the Stripper Girl. Does this mean she'll be able to keep her clothes?

Spoilers: No.

Do you think I'm being too descriptive? This is actually a lot smaller than it was, and looking through big-name successful stories (both fanfiction and otherwise) I'm concerned that I may be trying too hard to make you visualize what I do. Please give me your opinion over this so I can improve my future fight scenes.

Yūnagi: Translating to "Evening Calm", Yūnagi is the name of Setsuna's nodachi, given to her as a gift by its previous user Eishun. The guardless, unornamented style of the hilt and sheath is called "shirasaya", which is typically used for a sword that is being put in storage or otherwise not meant to be put to work (hence the lack of a guard protecting the hands from the blade). As most Japanese swords are able to be disassembled, one would move the blade from a normal mounting to the shirasaya and back again as needed. The traditional, familiar handle & guard of the katana ("koshirae") is made from lacquered wood, and leaving the blade in that mounting can eventually result in it getting damaged from gathered moisture. Shirasaya isn't meant for swords seeing use in combat… but then again, Yūnagi isn't exactly a normal sword and Setsuna isn't exactly a normal combatant.

Kansai-ben: The Kansai regional dialect. Most notably (as this is story is in English), the aforementioned "-han" in place of "-san" as an honorific. Interestingly, in the same translation I've read Chigusa using both (Ofuda-san and Tsukuyomi-han), but as I'm not sure if that was a translation error I'm going to use the Kansai-ben term.

Ōjo /Ojō: I could have sworn I discussed this earlier, but it isn't in any of my author's notes—although I do mention that I discussed it, I apparently actually haven't. Maybe I accidentally deleted that segment?

Oujo is used for an actual princess, whereas ojou can be more broadly applied (but typically is used for a child born into wealth or power). The actual translation is "lord's daughter" and "daughter" (someone else's, obviously), and with the "-sama" you so often see tacked on at the end they become very respectful terms of address. Konoka is, with a bit of a stretch, an ōjo-sama, but ojō-sama is more appropriate for the current state of the Konoe family (a subject for later).

Harisen: A paper fan used in straight man/idiot comedy routines to beat the idiot. Normally much smaller than the Ensis Exorcizans

Magic-Activation Item: A.K.A. channeling tool, focusing instrument, casting device, etc. These are objects that, due to inherent magical properties or ritual preparation, are suited to channel outwards the magic that a mage gathers from the world. The quality of the object and its relationship to the spell being cast can influence its effectiveness and its baseline function. The best are attuned to a single user and will be sub-par in the hands of another unless they are re-attuned, which is a difficult process. It is easier, however, when the new user is of the same blood as the previous, and over time an item can become more powerful for such users as it adjusts more perfectly to that bloodline over generations. Demons and magical creatures often have their own bodies as magic-activation items, and unfortunately are sometimes hunted down to make more powerful or specialized devices from their flesh.


Most of the time the verbal component is nothing more than a word or two, as Chigusa showed in her fight against Negi. However, one can take the time to vocalize a request of the ofuda and the spirit within to greater effect. Due to how ritualized this branch of onmyōdo is, such a plea should have at least a minimal poetic form to it. Chigusa's took the form of a single, lengthy Chōka (some 5-7 sets of syllables ending with a 5-7-7).


Ofuda-han, call forth

The tides to save us

From our irate enemies!

(offscreen stuff…)


Oh great Ofuda-han!

Reduce all mankind

To ashes: Kyōraku


Yes, Chigusa sucks at poetry (she, not me. Really. I'm not lying. At all) This was way too straightforward, but that's still enough for a spirit. It's outstandingly short for this kind of poem, but we don't hear the rest that Chigusa used during the chase (there were some that didn't have visible effects, couldn't be made out by our heroes, or that weren't related to her pursuers).

Her "final" ofuda would have been thrown out with an entire haiku of its own as it was intended to erase their memory of the last week or so, which Chigusa considered too tangential from the purposes of her other ofuda (stop and delay; memory erasing is more proactive) to include it in the poem.

Due to their already existing contract, summoning her demons doesn't require more than invoking their names. She just likes talking.

Do note that in Japanese, most poetry is based off of the count of characters in the word rather than syllables as used in English haiku/tanka/etc—a vowel with a macron is two characters, and the "-n" also has its own character. As I'm bastardizing Japanese in with my English, I'm using both methods. Also, Japanese poetry, like their music, doesn't usually involve rhymes.

Enki and Yuuki: Enki, the bear, is Chigusa's Zenki; Yuuki, the monkey, is her Goki. The words "Zenki" and "Goki" reference a pair of demons that once assaulted the founder of Shugendō (basically a mash of Taoism, Buddhism, Shinto, and older shamanism into one religion), En no Gyōja. He instead taught them and they abandoned their previous names for these, representing that they walked in front of and behind him (protection and obedience). They and their 3 children have a lot of different roles in Japanese symbolism.

A ritual of the Ainu people (the original natives of Japan) serves to release a god trapped in the flesh of the bear to let it go back to the realm of the gods. They raise a bear cub as though a god in their household, and after 2-3 years they take it outside and shoot it full of arrows. Then they cook and eat it to send the god on its way. Hence Enki's arrows—they aren't actually a normal part of his summoning and exist solely while in Mundus Vetus. These are intended to allow it to attack creatures that a dangerous to attack.

The monkey shikigami coming from Yuuki's fur is a reference to Son Goku (Japanese Son Wukong), would could make monkeys out of his hair (which is frankly the least impressive thing his hairs could do, but Yuuki isn't even near that sort of power).

Sutra: In Buddhism (which uses the word differently than Hinduism does), a sutra is one of the records of the discourses of Guatama Buddha or one of his disciples, which serves as a part of what we would call the "scriptures" of Buddhism, although that isn't entirely accurate. Apart from these, a number of texts which aren't actually sutra are labeled as sutra anyways. A fair portion of traditional Japanese magic is based on reciting segments of these sutra or lifting passages from one of the other mythic texts from Japan. Although the segment itself doesn't always directly apply to the situation, reinterpretation is an important part of the spell process; as this is somewhat lengthy, it provides an additional reason to put sutras into writing.

Gothic Lolita: Tsukuyomi actually goes for the Sweet Lolita/AmaLoli look, but Setsuna doesn't actually know much about lolita fashion. It should be noted that Tsukuyomi is just really creepy, and Setsuna's thoughts here do not reflect either her nor my own opinion of lolita fashion in general.

In short, as you doubtless already know plenty about it, lolita fashion focuses on looking cute, elegant, innocent, and doll-like, but isn't actually intended to be sexualized (although it is often misunderstood and misportrayed as such—if you want that, you'd have to look into Ero Lolita). Despite the name, it doesn't have anything to do with lolicon… although I wonder why the hell they stuck with the name, in that case.

Rubicante: The name translates to "Red-Faced Terror" and he bears the title "He Who Grows Red". The meaning of this title will be shown in the next chapter (the others should be immediately obvious). He's got a more important role this time around than being Fate's idiotic familiar—and, he's a religious fanatic! The thing with sealing gods away—even demon gods—is that they have an unfortunate tendency to have followers.

Malebranche: The Malebranche originate from Dante's Inferno and are a force of 12 powerful demons who guard the eighth layer of Hell, Malebolge. This is not their role in this story, but they are all dukes of realms within the Primordial World.

Mundus Prīmigenius: Just as Mundus Magicus is the Magic World and Mundus Vetus is the Old World, the realm of demons possesses a name of its own, chosen by its denizens. It isn't its real name, but no human would ever be able to pronounce that—even most demons would be unable to. Mundus Prīmigenius is means thus: the Primordial World.

Cathedra: The root Latin word from which "cathedral" evolved, it means "throne". Cathedral was once an adjective (cathedral church), but has evolved into a noun. Cathedrals are named such because of the bishop's cathedra inside. Chairs were once associated with teachers, and a bishop is supposed to teach his people about the faith. It's rather ironic that the Destroyer of Thrones has a throne of his own, isn't it?

Kyōraku Daimonji-yaki: "Daimonji-yaki" means "burning of the character 'large'" (). During the Obon festival (or just Bon, as you prefer), a festival for the deceased, people in Kyoto set up huge bonfires in the mountains, signifying the time when the spirits of the visiting dead leave the land of the living (these fires are called "Okuribi", or "send-off fire"). The bonfires form three kanji and two shapes, the first-lit and most famous of which is the Daimonji (the name of , and also the first kanji in the word Daimonji). Some of you may be more familiar with the final part of the festival, where everyone sets floating lanterns ron the river.

This symbolic connection to death makes the magical fire Chigusa almost caught Setsuna in especially lethal, and even if she had suffered only minor burns she would have been in severe risk of dying. If I haven't made it clear yet, Chigusa is sort of a bitch.

One of the meanings of "Kyōraku" is "capital", referring more specifically to Kyoto itself as the former capital of Japan.

Zankūsen: "Air-Splitting Flash" or "Sundering Air Flash" are a couple different translations for it (although I'm thinking of the first). It lets the user cut through the air, forming a space behind the blade that is physically a vacuum, although formed and filled with chi, that they launch with the swing of their weapon. Going by variations in name and method, such sword-waves are common within weapon-using, chi-awakened martial arts.

Mea virga (redde)!

"My staff!" ("Return, my staff!")

A simple spell to bring one's wand or staff back to hand. Because of the connection a mage forms with their casting device, they don't need to have it in hand to use this spell. Because of the seal Chigusa put over his staff the normal spell wasn't enough to bring it back, so he used raw force. It was overkill, to be honest.

Sīs mea pars per centum octōgintā secundās! Ministra Negiī, Cagurazaka Asuna!

"You are a part of me for 180 seconds! The Ministra of Negi, Kagurazaka Asuna!)"

In the previous chapter I discussed the twinned spirits that attach themselves to each half of a Pactio; this is where the resonance between them comes into play. The magister pours magic into the spirit (there are actually two, but they are identical enough that they can be treated as a single individual in multiple bodies… although "individual" is a human concept that doesn't apply to many spirits), where it is stored in a "pool" of magic; the incantation serves as the instructions on what to do with that magic. In the canon Negi vs. Kotaro fight, he just pulled the magic back in after telling it what to do—it isn't a very effective way to go about it, but he didn't know any battle enhancement spells. If there is no magic stored there, either side can tug it straight out of the other partner via the pact-spirit; although considering that the ministra is usually a melee combatant, few magisters ever need to draw on their companion's magic.

Flet ūnā vente, Flāns Saltātiō Pulverea!

"The winds flow together, Windswept Dust Dance!"

The caster creates a single, powerful burst of wind designed to snatch up objects in its path and use their mass for a stronger impact. It normally wouldn't be strong enough to crush a fire of that size (although the sudden force is enough to extinguish lesser flames), but Negi casts it at a level above what an ordinary mage could manage—he even left Setsuna and Asuna unmoved, despite being between him and the fire.

Flāns exarmātiō!

"Wind Flower, disarm weapon!"

The wind variant of one of the two offensive spells mandatory in every school of magic. Despite the force necessary to disarm someone and destroy clothing, the Exarmātiō line of spells are designed with an inherent limitation against causing direct harm to living beings (which is why someone can be blasted with fire, for instance, and not be harmed). Being the first offensive magic taught at the Meldiana Magic Academy, Negi put an extraordinary amount of effort into learning the spell, which combined with a strong natural affinity for wind magic has made the spell second nature to him—so much so that he personalized it to add the dissolves-into-flower petals bit instead of just ripping the clothing off. But he had a cold at the time, and ended making a subconscious connection between the spell and sneezing via Pavlovian conditioning. Although he trained himself out of sneezing when he casts it, he hasn't managed to do so for the reverse.

Ever notice that Negi still disarms people with wind, even after his heavily specializion in lightning magic? This is my explanation for why. Also, this spell is an amazing example of why you should never translate literally. "Blowing disarming" is its literal definition. There is no word for "wind flower" in Latin, although the Greek "anemone" comes close (daughter of the wind) and the flower is sometimes called the windflower. So is a sea anemone is a waterwindflower? I suppose the water currents could take the place of air currents...

Shinmei-ryū Secret Technique: Nitou Zanchikakuken: "Dual Sword Core Cleaving Sword." And by "core", I mean "planet core". "Chikaku" actually means both the earth's core and the earth's crust, depending on the kanji used. So you could call this "Dual Sword World Splitting Blade" and still be right. The user envelops her blades in chi, making their blows sharper, have more force, and the chi extends outwards from the physical blade to give the weapon more reach, as well. The planet-cleaving bit refers to this increased range of attack. And a good metaphor can make "planet core" stand in for the core of just about anything.

Shinmei-ryū Ukigumo: Nyūdōgumo Kara Rakka: "Shinmei School Floating Cloud: Falling Petals from a Thunderhead." This unarmed technique is designed to take advantage of a skilled opponent's ability to block or deflect her attacks. Although each strike aims to strike, the user uses the defensive action to keep up the spinning motion with relatively little loss of speed. Of course, the right type of deflection, bad positioning, or an enemy that dodges the attack can all make the technique a failure. The successful execution of this technique permits the user to redirect their momentum into a number of different forms of attack.

Sagitta Magica

Ah, yes. The trusty Magic Archer has finally made its appearance! I'll explain the spells as a whole and list the actual translations below. The Magic Archer is the other of the two universally taught offensive spells. The magical components of the spell are almost identical regardless of the specific effects of the element or variations in the incantation. As such, it is extremely versatile and a mage with limited knowledge of an element can still pull off some low-tier Magic Archers. It utilizes the symbolic power of prime numbers to gather weak elemental spirits to produce an "arrow" that the magic can give limited guidance to; these can be fired all at once, in a series, or together as a single large projectile better compared to a ballista bolt. Of the elements seen so far, we have Light (possessed of a great deal of raw destructive power, which the wielder can tone down without modifying the spell), Wind (capable of binding; can also be used to increase the knockback of the spell), and Lightning (electricity—speaks for itself)

Interestingly, the word for "arrow" isn't actually in the incantation; however, Latin is a null-subject language (meaning the subject can sometimes be omitted if you know what it is anyways—Japanese is the same) so in transliterating it to English it works more smoothly to include it in the sentence.

Light and wind magic come most naturally to Negi, which is why he can use the shorter incantation with them (wind was forced to be extended because he was using a plain wand, not his staff).

Ūndecim spīritūs āeriālēs, vinculum factī inimīcum captent! Sagitta Magica, Āēr Captūrae!

"11 spirits of wind, become a chain and capture my enemy! Magic Archer, Binding Wind Arrows!"

Septendecim spīritūs lūcis; Sagitta Magica, Seriēs Lūcis!

"17 spirits of light; Magic Archer, Barrage of Seventeen Light Arrows!"

Trēsvīgintī spīritūs fulgurālēs, fulgurantia per caelī inimīcum īnflīgentēs! Sagitta Magica, Seriēs Fulgurālis!

"23 spirits of lightning, flash through the sky and strike my enemy! Sagitta Magica, Barrage of 23 Lightning Arrows!"

Shinmei-ryū Secret Technique: Zandaigumoken: "Great Cloud Fissure Sword." This is another spinning attack, although requiring a blade. Unlike the Nyūdōgumo Kara Rakka, the Zandaigumoken isn't supposed to be a series of attacks; with a little bit of distance between themselves and the enemy, a follower of Shinmei jumps into a spin, holding their sword close to them to reduce air friction and have a tighter, more controlled spin; at the conclusion they extend their sword to strike with a great deal of force—it helps that many use their chi to complete the spin faster.