Alternate storyline that starts during the Kyoto fieldtrip. While Negi and Asuna are away, someone challenges Haruna to the card videogame...ParuOC POSSIBLE SPOILERS! Character piece. First of its kind, I guess, and a bit experimental.
Haruna's dorm room was having a typically loud evening...which wasn't all that surprising, considering Konoka and Kazumi, as well as Nodoka and Haruna, were there. Yue was technically out of the room at the moment, but only to buy snacks.
"One day after the school trip. It was a miracle the hot topic was contained for this long..." Kazumi wondered, tapping a pencil on her chin.
"I know...maybe because Paru wasn't the source this time...but, hey, I just had, really had to tell someone about something that romantic, right?" Konoka giggled.
Haruna waved them off. "Aw, c'mon guys...it got really out of hand earlier..."
The class was given a day off after the field trip. Mid-afternoon, the cheerleaders, the sports group, the twins, and the Library Exploration Group, sans Nodoka, were at one of Mahora's multipurpose halls, having a magic card game tournament of their own.
"Those new Kansai cards work really great!" Fuka wailed as Yue deftly bested her in a match. "It's too bad we weren't able to visit that arcade you guys went to in Kyoto."
"There were some good players there," Konoka informed her, "like this kid who challenged Negi-kun and won using a cool fireball strategy...and another guy who...oh it was just too cute! It was like something out of a shoujo manga or romance book!" She was all giddy and excited at this point.
The other girls began crowding around her in anticipation of something big. "What guy? What happened, Konoka? Spill!"
"Okay, okay! It's like this..." And so the story was out.
Quite conveniently, Haruna had gone to get drinks for everybody, having lost a match against Sakurako.
"Oh darn! This is some pain in the head losing streak..." she complained, having bought several canned sodas, a few cans of coffee, and a tetra pack of something called 'Pomegranate-Honey Fizz'.
"Paru! Could use some help with those?" Kazumi Asakura, classmate and photojournalist for the Mahora paper, approached.
"If it's not too much to ask, yeah," Haruna replied, waiting for the other girl to get a beverage of her own before handing her an overstuffed paper bag. "My luck hasn't been going very well lately and it's costing me all my bets."
Kazumi laughed. "Well too bad for you. Me, my fortune says I'd be rewarded today if I help others in need. How carrying these could possibly help me, though, I wonder..."
The walk back was short, and soon both of them were met with excited trills and shrieks ahead.
"Hello...? Something seems to be happening over there..." Kazumi noted, though also noticing that her companion, the infamous rumormonger of 3-A, looked a little apprehensive.
The reporter hollered as they rounded a corner into sight of the others. "Well now you're all in a clamor. What's up?"
Almost immediately, she was bombarded with rapid, almost incomprehensible, accounts of what happened from more than several jabbering mouths. Being the seasoned reporter, however, she was able to discern the gist even before Haruna could get a word in.
"Ohohohoho!!! My fortune was indeed right!" she gleefully exclaimed, whipping out a voice recorder. "So...let's have the details, hm?"
Everybody started screaming again, it was hard to tell who was saying what.
"A tall, dark and mysterious teenage guy! A prince like Negi-kun! He's gotta be! He already gave Paru a token of true love! They've been having an illicit relationship since! I've heard they've gone all the way already! It has to be a secret or else she'll be suspended...no, expelled!"
With each 'detail', Haruna went from dumbfounded, to stunned, to shocked, to irked, to furious, to "What the heck are you all talking about?!?!" that shut everyone up.
Kazumi broke the lull in chatter. "Well now, it seems the guilty party has something to say. Care to confess already?"
Haruna was suddenly flustered. "W-what's to confess? He's not a prince, definitely, and we haven't even talked since that time, and..."
"What? Why not?!" Konoka blurted in surprise.
"That's because he didn't write any phone number! All the contact info I have is a mailing address – not even email!" Haruna seemed more disappointed now than embarrassed.
The others were crowded in once more. "No phone? So he's like...traditional or something?"
"Maybe he's living in some remote area without those kinds of technology."
"Or maybe he's living in an ancient castle with no modern appliances!"
"Yep, sounds like a prince to me!"
The veins on Haruna's temples popped out again. "WILL YOU ALL CUT THAT OUT?!?"
Konoka laughed, recalling what had happened. "Out of hand? I'd say that's what happens to rumors you start, Paru. Anyway, it's too bad you weren't there, Nodoka; it was just so hilarious!"
"I-I guess. The other time, I was off somewhere else too, so I didn't get to see him..." the librarian replied.
"What bugs me," Kazumi remarked, toying with her recorder, "was that we were all together at the Shrine in Kyoto and nobody said a word about all this."
"We sorta...forgot about it, okay?" Konoka pointed out, "Plus there was that incident when you all got turned to st-" she was suddenly halted by serious glances from both the librarian and the journalist.
"Turned to what?" Haruna asked; she was not fully aware of the events of that night, nor of the existence of magic...she and Yue, actually, though the latter did know a little more.
"Turned to stupid idiots. We did get pretty drunk at the welcoming party, right Nodoka?" Kazumi quickly answered, clapping the librarian on the back.
"That's right. And you guys were telling me to drink up even when you were all full yourselves," Nodoka replied, trying to sound as convincing as possible. She barely pulled it off.
"Oh yeah...the night was pretty much a blur and I can't recall it very well. Must've overdone it a little huh?" Haruna shrugged.
Just then, Yue entered, already sipping on some chocolate soda. "Here's everyone's drinks...and there's something else for you, Paru...came in just this evening." She was holding up a white envelope.
"A letter!" Konoka shrieked. "Maybe it's finally from him, Paru!"
"I dunno..." Kazumi said, taking the envelope and examining it, "it's written in hand, and this is very neat handwriting. Most guys, especially those who play videogames, usually have terrible penmanship."
Yue took the parcel back and handed it to Haruna. "C'mon Kazumi, that's not always the case."
Haruna just stared at the letter, still in Yue's hand. Her name was written on the front, 'Haruna Saotome' in clean script, as if a brush had been used to imprint it. As Kazumi said, it was hard to tell whether it was really written by Jai; remembering his features, he didn't seem like the kind of person who would be fussy about something as trivial as handwriting. Though his hands were exceptionally dexterous back when he was playing the videogame...
"Eh? Paru? Don't you want it?" Yue asked, now waving the letter in front of her friend's face.
"W-ha...give me that!" Flustered, the other girl snatched the envelope. Instead of opening it right away, she simply turned it over in her hands.
"You seem to be somewhat timid today, huh Paru?" Kazumi noted, "You're acting like Nodoka when Negi's around..." Both Haruna and Nodoka colored at the statement, the librarian more so.
Konoka remarked, giggling, "You know, she was like that too back in Kyoto, after that guy had left."
"Who's the one with the 'love-reek' now, Paru?" Yue teased.
That finally got Haruna's attention. "D-hwa? Me, reeking?! I'm not..."
"You do kinda smell like candy almonds right now," Yue added, taking another sip of her drink.
Konoka looked more excited than any of them. "It's pretty obvious; you just won't admit it. Now will you open that letter already? I want to see what he wrote!"
"Uh," Nodoka stammered, "I guess we should just let Paru read it by herself if she..."
"It's all right, Nodoka," Haruna said briskly, "I don't mind...besides, you also want to know what's in it, right?" Her tone was a mix of exasperation and acquiescence...and a bit of mischief.
She carefully tore open the envelope, took out the one sheet of white paper that was inside, and began to read, with the others peering over her shoulder.
First of all I would like to ask for forgiveness for not being able to contact you sooner; the moment I arrived at Tokyo yesterday, I didn't even have the time to get settled down as pressing matters required me to leave again post-haste. Perhaps by the time you read this, I've already left Japan en-route to London, England. I am afraid the nature of my trip cannot be revealed at the moment; I do hope you will understand.
This particular correspondence will not be very long, as I am in a bit of a hurry. Again, my sincerest apologies...I will try to make up for it in the future. My absence from the country shouldn't take more than a few weeks, perhaps one or two months at the worst. In the while, I will write as often as I can find the time.
I hope you are enjoying the manga I gave you. Is it any good?
In any case, your friends are probably peering at this from behind your shoulder, so maybe I should just leave it at that. I hope you and your friends are all doing well...better than I am at least.
Very sincerely yours,
P.S. My mailing address is written at the inside of the envelope. I'd appreciate a word from you soon.
The silence lasted even a few moments after she had finished reading.
And then, the screaming began. Yes, Nodoka included.
"Paru! He's in London! Don't you know what that means?!" Konoka wailed, shaking her friend by the collar.
"That...he's not in...Japan?" Haruna was getting dizzy from all the shaking. For once, she was the one being jostled like Nodoka.
"He's rich!" Kazumi shouted, "Or he's a foreigner...or both! And he'd have to be some sort of VIP, being able to travel to another country at a moment's notice!"
"The penmanship is the same as on the envelope, very neat, and the manner of writing is exceptionally polite," Yue had more than a tinge of excitement to her voice. "Looks like he had a very meticulous upbringing..."
"He's a prince!" Konoka and Kazumi both yelled at the same time.
Yue just shrugged. "Dunno...but he could be like Negi-sensei, hiding his true identity...right, Nodoka?"
For a moment, the librarian blanched, and so did Konoka and Kazumi. Could Yue be referring to their sensei's being a...
"I was joking!" Yue intoned sarcastically, rolling her eyes, "Negi-sensei is supposed to be a 'prince', right?"
"Oh..." the three breathed sighs of relief.
"Isn't he?" Haruna asked, a little more active now that the topic had shifted somewhat.
The others just shrugged in response. While it might have been established to some that Negi was indeed a wizard, whether or not he was really a prince remained, to them all, a mystery still.
"Anyway," Kazumi spoke, breaking the lull in conversation, "I think this'll qualify for tabloid news at least...'Foreign Prince Chooses Local Junior High Mangaka for a Bride'. The public will eat it up!"
"Djwah?!" Haruna spat, "Don't you dare, Asakura! Or your head is mine!" Now she was the one doing the collar-shaking.
"Waaaa! Okay! I won't! I was just kidding!!!" the reporter relented, laughing.
"You're reeking again, Paru..." Yue sniggered.
"You're just so cute, Paru!" Konoka exclaimed, also giggling.
Nodoka just chuckled in the background.
It was almost midnight. Everybody had dozed off a long time ago, but she just couldn't sleep. And classes would resume tomorrow...why'd that letter have to arrive today? Wasn't some peace of mind too much to ask?
But on the other hand, she was actually glad some sort of message arrived in time to inform her of the change in mailing address. Had she written to the previous one, there was a good chance it would've just been sent back.
London...now what business could he possibly have so far away? Could he maybe be a transfer student, or a foreign prodigy like Negi-sensei? But his features were definitely Asian; he couldn't have come from one of those Western countries...
Haruna shook her head of stray thoughts. All the bickering earlier was getting to her, and now she couldn't even concentrate on writing a single letter! The desk lamp glowed faintly, providing just enough light to write by. She was used to working in the dimness, owing to semi-frequent all-nighters to beat monthly deadlines for her manga 'Mahou Shoujo Biblion'.
She sighed and glanced over her desk. Nearby to the right, neatly covered in plastic, was the manga she had received from him. She had read it first thing upon arriving back in their dorm, and it did turn out to be everything she had thought it to be – plenty of fast-paced, nonstop, hot & steamy action not for the straig...er...fainthearted. And she loved every minute of it.
Smiling at the thought, she then set pen to paper. She could only hope that he wouldn't be appalled at her handwriting.