By Ken Akamatsu. Released in Japan as "Mahou Sensei Negima!" by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Del Rey.
Despite a minor battle in the middle of the volume, which is more of a reminder to Negi and his allies that they aren't quite invincible yet, this is very much a catch up with the plot volume. Not much happens except little bits of revelation that slowly move the story forward, and setups for the next volume, which begins another huge arc.
That said, even if this volume isn't the best, there's still several moments that make me grin. The biggest has to be Setsuna and Konoka finally getting a Pactio. Setsuna's feelings for Konoka started off as being crippling to her, but after the Kyoto arc in Volume 6 mostly turned into a running gag for several books. After getting her ass kicked by Tsukuyomi, however, Setsuna is once again starting to doubt herself and her abilities, and thinking it would be best if she gave up on being happy and worked on getting better at the sword.
Konoka, of course, sees Setsuna angsting and immediately knows what's going on. She's a terrific contrast to the swordsman, being fairly simple and light-hearted, and simply deciding after seeing what's going on in the magical world to get as good as she possibly can. And she wants Setsuna by her side as her knight and protector. How can Setsuna possibly say no? So they decide to pactio... which Konoka gives a bit more 'oomph' to than we're used to. This is the volume where I went from describing their relationship as "well, it's mostly yuri tease and one-sided crush' to 'OK, no, they're as close as this type of manga will get to being a couple'. It's great to see.
As for the rest of the volume, there's another of the 'stupid perverse fanservice' chapters that Akamatsu throws in every 12 chapters or so to pacify the audience that doesn't care about shonen fighting mangas. What's more, we now finally reunite Yue with the rest of the gang, though she still doesn't have her memories, and her fellow Knights regard Negi and company with suspicion. We also can see Negi's fallibility here - earlier, he notes 2 badges in one place that are meant to be Yue and Anya. But when Yue then shows up where he is, it doesn't occur to him to wonder why there's an extra badge. Negi, you've been infiltrated!
Said infiltrator drops the disguise briefly here, and we see how the ability not only makes the person disguised act and think like the person they're replacing, but can also influence the original's thoughts. Shiori, Fate's mole, is starting to be affected by Negi's basic shonen hero purity and niceness, and worries what might happen if she falls for him while disguised.
And then there's Kurt Godel. He's an absolute jerk, but so over-the-top about it that you know there must be more to him than that. He kicks Negi and Asuna's ass, and is clearly trying to bait Negi - in fact, it almost reads like he's trying to get Negi to kill him, which would be very odd indeed. And then he invites them all to a grand ball to discuss things, where everyone will be perfectly safe, of course. At least it allows the girls to dress up.
And then we get the last big revelation, which is from Natsumi of all people, who sees that the Magical World is actually laid over an alternate Mars from a different dimension. Most of the cast think that this is cool to hear about but utterly irrelevant, but Negi and Setsuna both realize what it also means - Chao's descriptions of where she came from take on a whole new meaning. Akamatsu hasn't quite hit One Piece levels of 'you should have been paying attention' back references, but he does very well for himself.
I could go on at length, but you get the idea. For a breather volume, this is just packed with plot and characterization. Good thing, too, as this is the last breather volume to date. Starting with 29, we go into the Magic World finale, and it's still running in Japan. Sadly, due to the Del Rey/Kodansha/Random House shuffle, it may be a long time before we see Volume 29 here in the States. In fact, Negima may be finished in Japan before we do. Which is a shame, as it's a bestseller, and better than it sounds.