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.
'Where are we going?' Haruna wanted to ask as she was led by Jai around Mahora.
What amazed her the most was that there were times when she felt...lighter somehow; that she was almost gliding as they moved along.
'Maybe has to do with his gravity magic,' she thought, recalling how he had pinned the ermine Chamo to the floor earlier.
Despite the oddness, and possible danger, of their trek, Haruna found that she was enjoying herself. They moved quickly but flowingly, one moment pausing in front of a candy stall to avoid a patrol of wizards, and then the next dancing through one of Mahora's majestic floor fountains; once through the central plaza and its archways of light, then across a bridge with a reflection of the moon in the water beneath.
Through it all, not once did she feel tired or truly afraid. The sensation was nothing short of magical, and was only heightened by all the sights and sounds of the festival around them that it was almost intoxicating.
She looked at Jai and saw a genuine smile on his face, though he would intermittently furrow his brow or dart his eyes around for some reason.
Eventually, they reached the top of a hill a ways away from the revelry, with a small clearing that had a view over a good part of the Mahora campus. It took Haruna a moment to realize they were up so high, as she was hardly out of breath.
"Should be far away enough from the World Tree, and from any patrols," Jai mumbled, before addressing Paru, "Did you have a good time?" he asked, motioning her to sit at a nearby bench.
She only nodded in response, and sat down. She could see most of the academy grounds, with the World Tree far in the distance; she surmised they were somewhere at the opposite end of the Mahora campus.
"Somehow it didn't feel as if we've traveled this far," she said to herself, lost in reverie.
A scratching sound from behind roused her from her thoughts. She turned to see a small dog finish drawing a circular inscription on the ground with its nose.
"And it's done," Jai said, grinning at Paru. "Did you forget why we're here?"
In fact, she did for a moment. After a while, Haruna answered, "Uh, to make a Pactio, correct? Is that what this is for? And who exactly is this...Shih Tzu?" She found the animal quite cute.
"You met Negi's ermine familiar earlier. This is my familiar, Sengay, and he's a Lhasa Apso, not a Shih Tzu. She made an honest mistake, boy," Jai said, directing the last sentence towards the familiar, who sneezed in response before disappearing into the trees.
"He doesn't talk, does he?"
"No, but he doesn't have to."
"Okay...so, what now?"
Jai merely beckoned her to approach. "Stand here," he said, so that they both stood opposite each other within the inscription, with her facing the overhang.
Everything became eerily quiet all of a sudden; even the noises of the festival died down. Paru noticed that her heart was beating quickly. 'W-what's going on?'
He was looking straight at her. "Do you trust me?" He asked.
Paru steeled herself for what might happen, but like Jai said before, getting hit by a punch was different from knowing it was coming. Paru merely closed her eyes in response and stood silently.
Seconds passed. The wind was cold on her face, and for a moment, she almost felt silly for standing like this, but Jai's last question fortified her resolve.
Then, to her astonishment, she felt him draw close and place a gentle kiss on her lips.
Her eyelids darted open; his remained closed. At the same time, the Mahora Imagination, the academy's famous light, water, and fire-magic circle extravaganza, began in the distance. Behind Jai, she could see the myriad of colors blaze in majestic splendor. She also noticed their magic circle started to glow, faintly at first, then becoming brighter as a few small shapes spun around both her and Jai.
'Pactio.' It was the most perfect moment she could ever imagine.
Jai soon ended the kiss, and the light from their circle slowly faded. The festival fireworks still illuminated the distance. He then swiftly moved to catch her as her knees gave way, and once more sat her down on the bench. This time, he sat beside her.
Paru again looked at him, and noticed he was blushing fiercely. "So you do get embarrassed too, huh?" She guessed that she was just as crimson as him.
"You remember my analogy with the punches earlier," he replied, out of breath. "Besides, you don't know how difficult it was to make everything perfect from the time Negi left up to this point."
"You used your foreseeing all this time? And your gravity magic too, I bet."
Jai nodded. "I don't think I've concentrated that much for that long before for two people. I couldn't tell you about the last step for a Pactio without ruining the experience for you somehow. Over a hundred possible outcomes during that flight around Mahora, and we fortunately ended up getting the best of everything." He sounded a little proud of himself, but at the same time exhausted. "I'm sorry, that really wore me out. Also had to summon Sengay for this to work."
"I gotcha," Haruna pulled him towards her, so that his head rested on her lap.
Though unsettled at first, Jai soon grew comfortable as they watched the Mahora Imagination roll on.
"Oh, here," He handed Paru what looked like a tarot card of sorts. It had her name in cursive, and a picture of her in a stylish outfit and holding a sketchpad while a set of mechanical pencils hovered around her in a circle. "You could say it's the proof of our contract. With it, you could use your magical artifacts, and I could summon you to my side when needed; we could also communicate telepathically no matter how far apart we are as long as you have it with you."
Haruna was still on a high from the Pactio, and although this sent her elation through the roof, she decided that she indeed had enough for one day. "We can try this out tomorrow," she said, pocketing the card and continuing to stare out into the distance, idly drawing circles in Jai's hair with her fingers. The show was reaching its climax, and they both watched in wonderment as lights seemed to fill the entire Mahora night sky.
And then, after the last ember flickered out, cheers and shouts emanated from the revelers below, and the usual festival atmosphere came back alive.
"Beautiful," Jai whispered.
"It was," Paru replied.
"And the magical fireworks were nice too," he stated, smiling up at her.
She smiled back and playfully swatted his arm. "D'aww, so corny."
After a pause, she asked, "Will you be staying here at Mahora from now?"
He sighed. "I can't say that I won't be leaving every now and then, but I do plan to spend most of the immediate future in Tokyo, which I am sure you are happy to hear."
"Then, instead of acting like pen pals, we could just use these cards to communicate, right? Not that the old method wasn't nice, but this is just way cooler."
"Not to mention more convenient," he concurred. "Still, it was really enjoyable to receive your letters. They would really brighten up my day."
"Well, we could write to each other too, once in a while."
Another pause, then Paru asked again, "One more thing, when we met at the arcade back in Kyoto, did you know that this would happen?"
Jai took a moment to reply, but didn't directly answer her question at once. "I've been to many countries around the world, and met many people. I've probably seen over a million possible futures in all that time, even a few in which I die, but you know what?"
"I only ever share a Pactio with one special person."
Haruna's heart melted all over again and she couldn't help but lean in for another kiss.
In an acropolis high in the Himalayas, the queen giggled quietly. Her husband was on his way home from an expedition in the Kalahari Desert, which pleased her, but it was her son who was currently the main source of her delight.
'He just had his first kiss, his Pactio,' she communicated telepathically with her husband, 'he is just so cute!'
The explorer-mage was in similar spirits. "Snooping in on Jai again?"
'Jai knows, and he's used to it anyway! Besides, consider this a mother's moment, if you will.'
"Then I should have a word with him and maybe a drink when he visits, as a father's moment."
They both shared a laugh.
'Jai has become so independent, so strong, but the hardest is yet to come for him still.'
She could see her husband grin in her mind's eye. "That may be, but with that special girl, and his friends with him, I believe he will see it all through just fine."