There was no loud thud or crash or anything when the body slummed onto the concrete pavement. No billowing of dust as the body landed. Not even the obligatory curse or last words from the man. Just a simple, short, undramatic fall, faced down on the ground.
Compared to the desperate battle before, it was almost an anti-climax. To think after all those flashy moves and falling buildings around, all it took was a simple stone to the back of his head to take him down. Sure, the stone had been guided by magic, but it was still a stone picked from the ruins, chosen for size and weight rather than magical qualities. Perhaps he should just placed his luck on stones in the future... then again, that was what he was already doing.
A quick check for the body's pulse. Good, it was still there, faint but still present. He only wanted what he came for. Lives were not what he wanted.
The ruined buildings around would be restored to normalcy once he released the barrier around it. People would throng the streets again to do their night shopping, oblivious to the battle fought and the chaos around them previously. Nothing would have affected them, except for one unconscious man slumped face down in the middle of the street. For now... his eyes fell onto the bracelet around the fainted's wrist. It was sliver in color, adorned with a single rectangular emerald at the top. It looked pretty, just like any jewelery should be. Yet, just a few moments ago, it had been a gauntlet, punching air waves at him, creating holes and destroying houses everywhere around him.
Well, he had just survived another one for tonight and the prize of the battle would be his...
Everyone makes their moves. His move. Her move. It all adds up.
The sky was dark, saved for the occasional streak of lightning that illuminated the deserted land. She was in the air, surrounded by the booming of thunder and enemies. Thousands of them; each one with a weapon held in their hands, some of them familiar, others not.
It was now or never. A bright glowing circle of magical symbols appeared from below her. Orbs of electrical energy gathered around her, readying the upcoming attack. The lead enemy raised its weapon and gave a roar into the air. The roar was picked up by the rest, increasing the cacophony around her.
Now would be a good time.
'Get Set', Bardiche's robotic voice announced, the spell was ready. Just in time too. The lead enemy had started to lead the charge. The wall of opponents closed in upon her. Slowly and deliberately, but picking up speed. She tightened her grip around Bardiche's metallic staff and swung it towards the lead. "Photon Lancer!" she shouted as the multiple electrical orbs flew towards the enemies, leaving behind a trail of light, before releasing the powerful electrical charges within.
Bodies fell lifelessly to the ground as the balls of electricity claimed their targets.
Despite taking much casualties, the enemies still proceed undaunted. Shouts and roars still revert in the air. Not enough. She desperately prepared another blitz of electricity. What could possibly stop these mindless souls? She could just make out some of the shouts through the chaos if she strained her ears. They were shouting... "LET'S BE FRIENDS!"
Fate Testarossa snapped out of her daydream. Her pencil was still held in her hand in the middle of copying something from the board. Whatever she had been trying to copy was no longer there. Not even the teacher was present. Her grip on the pencil loosen, allowing it to roll off her hand and continued rolling to a dramatic suicide drop from the edge of the desk.
Instead, she was surrounded by her friends, their bags already packed, slung behind their back and looking at her with a mix of amusement and concern. There was no one else in the classroom save for them. Since when did she zoned out when she was doing the mental magical training? Judging from her half copied notes in front of her, probably half an hour ago...
"Fate-chan, you must have tired out last night during training," Nanoha spoke first, "Do you want to rest for today instead?" She would have known what they did, they had ran battle stimulations after battle stimulations aboard the Asura to polish on their fighting expertises.
"Aaahh... no! I'm fine...", Fate tried to blink the last remnants of sleep away from her eyes as she started to return her stationaries to her bag. In addition to the battle stimulations ran the day before, there was also a mission briefing conducted at the headquarters. In a few days time, Nanoha and she would be involved in yet another mission for the bureau. It was no time to be daydreaming-
To tell the truth, something else in her mind had been bothering her. Actually, not so much of bothering but rather, gently nagging her conscience.
Admiral Lindy had asked Fate to consider her adoption again.
Fate bent down to pick up the fallen pencil from the ground. To her dismay, the lead had broke from the impact. She had taken so long to get it to the perfect mix of sharpness and bluntness to write with. She would have to start all over again.
In her mind, the blond child had pondered about the big question and her answer. She had always avoided answering Admiral Lindy her question. It was not that she disliked her, in fact, she loved her. So far, Admiral Lindy had showered her all the love worthy of her own flesh and blood.
She had loved Chrono. She had loved Admiral Lindy. She had loved everyone. Living together under one roof in Terra, they were almost one big family along with the rest of the crew of Asura.
It was only a formality in fact, this adoption. To make their lives now, official.
So what exactly was holding her back? Making her stutter and delay over her decision?
"Ah! It's okay, it's okay...", Fate snapped out of her pencil-looking daze to return the broken stationary to her bag, "Maybe I'm just a little tired from yesterday's training." she admitted.
"It's okay," Nanoha knitted her eyebrows and clenched her small, delicate fists with a look of determination, "Let us be ready." There was a slight glint of light from Raising Heart as if it too was agreeing with her master.
At the side, Arisa stretched herself to invigorate herself. After a sigh of contentment, she turned towards the two magical girls, "Do you know what date it is tomorrow?" she asked with barely concealed anticipation of their reply.
Without waiting for a reply, Arisa grinned and answered her own question. "It's our first summer holiday together with everyone! Let us plan our programme for the holiday! I want to go to the beach again!"
At the side, Suzuka, the traditionally quiet one nodded quietly in agreement with her trademark gentle smile on her face.
Oh darn. With their frequent missions and trainings, Fate had completely forgotten all about it. In the news of their upcoming mission, it would also be very difficult to spend their summer together. From Nanoha's growing look of realization, she too had understood the implications.
"Sorry, Arisa-chan," Nanoha tried to find the words to say, "Actually..."
Arisa swiftly raised a hand towards Nanoha's face, cutting of the apology before she could continued. With a flick of her long, tan hair, she continued with a grand voice.
"I know, I know," she reassured with confidence in her voice, nodding smugly with confidence, "Don't worry! there will be time for other plans, but when it is summer, you MUST go to the beach!"
"Aaahh..! The beach! Where, we play in the waters and split watermelons blind folded!" Arisa continued, savoring the memories that came with each experience, "Then we can barbecue some fish and play with sparklers at night!"
Nanoha laughed uncomfortably at Arisa's enthusiasm in contrast to Suzuka's bright smile. With Arisa on the roll, it would be impossible to stop her. Not really understanding this summer beach tradition, Fate found her thoughts drifting away.
From what Arisa was expounding, this beach sounded lovely and she would love to go along with everyone. Despite their frequent and occasionally dangerous missions and magic trainings, compared to the type of life she previously had prior to meeting Nanoha, these peaceful, gentle days when she could afford to listen to friends give long-winded speeches were too good to be true.
Perhaps that was why she could not answer Admiral Lindy and make her, mother. It was too good to be true. A freak accident could easily tear their ties apart and hurt them both. She could become a burden to Admiral Lindy.
It was Arisa this time, giving Fate a mock glare, "If you don't understand, please listen to me!" Then with a cough of authority, she continued with her tales of the beach with growing enthusiasm. Her large, bright eyes shone with intense excitement and anticipation.
Nanoha looked to her in concern, surely she would have suspected something by now. Although she always looked so happy and outward looking, Nanoha was really good at reading the feelings of others, especially since having fought through thick and thin together so many things, they shared an unspoken form of understanding of each other. It was not exactly telepathy, but it came close.
"What is wro..." Nanoha started, then with a pause of consideration, decided against what she had wanted to say. If Fate had wanted her worries known, she would have already mentioned it. She probably knew, but did not want to ask yet. She would wait patiently until Fate was ready to confine with her.
"Of course there is Hayate-chan who would find going to the beach trickier, but then there is the summer festival where we can dress in kimonos and play at the fairs, catching all those goldfishes and eating candied apples..." Arisa was lost in her own soliloquy of a fun-filled summer with everyone.
As the girl went on, Nanoha started to twiddle her fingers in anxiety and embarrassment. Suzuka, ever the understanding one must have seen it since she said.
"Arisa-chan, I think Nanoha had something to say..."
Arisa put her speech on hold as she looked to her friend in question, "Nanoha-chan?"
"Actually..." Nanoha looked to the ground in embarrassment, "the bureau already had something for us..."
Arisa and Suzuka were two of the few non-magic wielders who actually knew of their true abilities and the existence of the bureau they worked for, having accidentally witnessed it before during their dramatic battle with the Tome of Darkness. In a way, Fate was glad that they knew. The knowledge sort of drew them closer as friends even if they would never understand the full magnitude of it.
Now they looked absolutely crestfallen by Nanoha's admission. There was a gasp of shock and disappointment from both their friends. Fate too looked to the ground to avoid looking at her friends.
It was bad enough for them to burst their friends hopes of spending their first summer together. It was worse when Fate admitted to herself in her heart, that she had totally forgotten that this was to be their first summer together.
"But!" Arisa cried in indignation.
"Sorry!" Nanoha and Fate bowed low at the same time in apology.
"We only knew of it yesterday and we forgot to tell you about it until now!" Nanoha said.
Arisa did not reply, instead the hot-headed girl puffed her cheeks and looked away in silent protest. Suzuka was much more understanding even though there was still intense disappointment reflected in her eyes.
"It's okay," she said in her gentle voice, "Please tell us about it."
Nanoha looked to Fate and nodded in agreement before they started telling their friends about what they will be doing soon.
It was after their usual magical training when they received the information regarding their new mission. There had been a series of reports of stolen magical devices recently across Terra, concentrated in the region of western Eurasia. Investigators sent to investigate these incidents had also found themselves disarmed in the process.
At least, it had been determined that the culprit had been another mage of unknown origins, one who wields a local form of magic different from the Mid-Childa or Velka systems they were used to. As it would be too much a waste of resources to send an entire fleet against a single 'robber', the Time Space Administration Bureau had decided to send their local operatives into the region to subdue the threat.
Admiral Lindy of the Asura who had made her home on Terra became the obvious choice to head the operation.
Due to Hayate's regular visits to the hospital for physiotherapy, she would not be involved directly in the mission. Instead, she would be on standby instead, along with the rest of her Velka knights, should their immediate assistance be required.
Thus, they would be leaving Japan for their destination soon, leaving their friends behind, unable to enjoy their first summer together...
At this point, they apologized once again.
Both their friends had been listening intently, even though Arisa tried to pretend otherwise.
"Won't it be dangerous?" Suzuka finally asked in concern.
"Not really..." Nanoha laughed sheepishly, "We have faced worse..."
Obviously, she was referring to their past run-ins with the Velka Knights before they became allies. To think that that had only just occurred slightly more than half a year ago. So many other things had occurred since then. The missions, the trainings, the occasional mock battles that will assured the destruction of another training room.
All those outings with friends and...
They really lived like a family, didn't they? Yet, Fate was not really family... despite everyone's common wishes, not yet.
Everyone was watching her again, even Arisa who was still trying to maintain her pretense of the cold front. The unspoken question hung in the air, they could see that something was bothering her.
"It's really nothing, don't worry." Fate waved her hands before her to reassure her friends.
"Well then," Suzuka said, "Where will you be going for this mission?"
Nanoha touched her temple and tried to recall for a while, finally she admitted sheepishly, "It is this city on that large island in Europe. Starts with ロン... I can't really remember..." she looked towards Fate for support.
Arisa suddenly blurted out, betraying her thoughts. Realizing that, the stubborn girl pouted with an angry blush and looked away again, determined to maintain her silent stand despite her obvious interest in the subject.
"Yes, London! Thank you, Arisa-chan!" Nanoha cheerfully thanked her friend, "We should be back once the mission is completed." her voice softened somewhat in uncertainty, "At least, Admiral Lindy said that it should not be difficult..."
If Admiral Lindy said so, then it should not be that difficult or dangerous. Fate placed her absolute trust in her commander, she would never be wrong.
"Okay," Suzuka replied, "We'll wait for you then. Right, Arisa?" The calmer girl deliberately emphasized the last part towards the protester.
Arisa gave a huff in protest, adjusted her bag and started to walk out of the classroom. Staring at the ground and mumbling to herself as she walked, she seemed almost deep in thought.
"Arisa-chan..." Fate tried to speak but was ignored. It felt bad, yet she felt that she could not speak up against the cold shoulder since she too was at fault.
"She will be alright," Suzuka assured the worried looking magical girl with a hand to her shoulder, "Once I get through with her." the dark-haired girl added as an afterthought. She could tell that her tomboyish friend was plotting something, she could almost feel the cogs moving in her head. Knowing her character, Arisa would never let the matter rest until she was satisfied.
In an unspoken agreement, the remaining girls started their last walk out of the school for that term. As they walked, except for the unusually silent Arisa ahead, they chatted about simple things, things like the best cake in town or the previous dodge ball game they had during physical education. Normal things that girls of their age should be talking about, topics of normal life.
Outside, the fiery sun shone mercilessly on them as if to imprint the memories of a hot summer on them, but nothing could possibly spoil these peaceful days of their life. As Admiral Lindy had said, the mission could be over before they knew it.
What could possibly go wrong?
It was night, though it was not exactly dark or stormy. That would make silent movement too difficult and too wet. Neither was the moon full, it was only around three quarters full, not the most impressive type of moon for nocturnal activities.
A single figure fleeted across the rooftops of the town. He was not leaping in bounds or anything. Instead, he was seated quite uncomfortably on a decently long staff which ended with a knob at the end, flying just slightly above the concrete jungle to avoid been seen while still maintaining a decent speed.
It was really quite easy, wasn't it?
Not really. He knew he was talented, at least the Professor said so. But he was still young, there was still much for him to learn. He was most surprised to have survived so far.
He did not win all the time, of course. Especially now that each hit was also getting harder as most of the mages had taken a more defensive stand such as traveling in groups. Most of the time, it was luck, plenty of those on him and none of them on his targets that allowed him to last for so long. The mage with the magical artifact he defeated just now had been alone, probably too confident of his ability to defend himself. There were times when he knew he could not win, he had turned tail only to regret it once he reached home.
He needed those magical items, whatever they call them. No, she needed those. He must get as many of those as possible before the time ran out. The stone must be created.
The time the doctors predicted had past without a hitch. That only meant that the ticking time bomb had been delayed for an indefinite amount of time. Maybe days, maybe months, maybe years.
Until that time come, her life would shutter between those two places, a couple of weeks each, slowly but surely wasting. Until the stone could save her.
At least, he hoped that book and the Professor was right.
According to the Professor, they need more of those magical artifacts before the stone could be done. Draw out the biggest potential from the magical items, the Professor had said. Use your spells to force it, she said. When enough magical artifacts were collected together and alchemized, the stone could be formed.
That he certainly did, and whatever those magical artifacts were, they were powerful weapons. From punching airwaves to shooting magical beams, as before, he was lucky to survive and even luckier that the school covered healing spells just recently.
They did not work for her though. He should know; he tried. Magic just did not make the cut here; he needed more if he wanted to do anything those weak-willed doctors could not.
Just the other day he encountered a mage with two familiars beside him. Given the advanced age of the mage in mind, he did not pose too much a problem and was easily rendered unconscious. He was about to collect the target for the day when the two familiars attacked. He had never seen familiars like them before, humanoid with animal features such as protruding cat ears and tails that betrayed their origins.
They were extremely strong too. One would engage in close combat while the other attacked from afar. After the third kick, he knew he could not win and had to flee. In the end, he had knocked out a mage, accidentally destroyed his home by releasing the barrier too hastily without restoring things to its original state and suffered numerous bruises and burns all around him. Yet, he got nothing. That day particularly hurt a lot.
First thing the next day, he would go to the Professor at the campus to hand over the item, spell containers she had called them. Not that he really cared, he only need the stone the Professor promised to help create with all these things.
He directed the staff to turn and lower itself to the level of one of the many windows at the apartment. Crouching slightly, he allowed himself inside the room before he landed.
Despite the empty house, he paused out of habit to make sure he did not wake anyone. Then he leaned the staff quietly against the wall and started to sense for all those security and shielding wards the professor had helped to place along his home. Satisfied that there had been no unwarranted entries, he opened his drawer and took out a little box with multiple seals on it.
Unlocking all of them using a tiny wand he drawn from one of the numerous pockets of his robe, he placed the prize for the night inside, the silver bracelet before re-sealing them. It should prevent other magically-inclined people from sensing the presence of the artifact.
With the deed done, he finally let himself down on his bed, exhausted from the battle just now. It would only be a matter of time before his victims called in the authorities to get him, whoever those authorities were.
For now, he would just like to rest.
Once he received his next target from the professor the next day, it would be another hectic night again but he was getting used to it.
What could possibly go wrong?
It was quite different flying in the air with magic and flying in the air from within an airplane. Flying via magic only felt like running without support; you might be in midair but it just did not felt that different from on land.
Within the airplane, one could actually feel like being in the air. A mixture of awe for what mankind had achieved and terror for what the only thing that was keeping you in the air was a lot of metal, rubber and scientific theories.
Luckily for Admiral Lindy, what the girls were mostly feeling now were more awe than terror. Both Fate and Nanoha were watching the passing clouds below from the small window of the plane with wonder in their eyes. The disappointment from not seeing their friends send them off had all but disappeared from their eyes.
You would have thought that being frequently on board the Asura or the TSAB headquarters would condition the girls to be used to technical flight. Apparently not.
To think that after hours of flight, the girls were still looking at the clouds, comparing their shapes with each other. Chrono and Amy had already fell asleep, Amy's head leaning on Chrono's shoulder while a thin strain of drool trailed from her mouth to his shirt. Arf, in her human form was also curled up in her own seat, mumbling about dinner and wagging her tail vigorously underneath the blanket provided.
Due to Yuuno's work in the Infinite Library, he could not be part of this mission. Nanoha had looked quite downcast for a moment when that revelation was made known to her. Their relationship had grown so much since they first met. Then again, as fast as it came, the unsuitably depressed look on her disappeared and was replaced by her more common cheerful outlook. It was not as if they could not meet during this period. The Asura would ready to beam them back to the headquarters when the need arises.
"Is this the first time you have taken a plane?" Lindy asked the girls gently.
Fate looked back and nodded slowly, "Yes. It was very different from our flying, this one goes higher," her attention was drawn back by Nanoha's excited squealing of a new cute fluffy bunny cloud.
Lindy gazed upon the two girls. Despite their youth, they were considered two of the three aces within the TSAB, the third been Hayate back in Japan.
For a Terran, Nanoha was exceptionally strong in magic and had the positive attitude to go far in the bureau.
Fate's a good girl. Gentle, innocent, kind... it was hard to imagine that she was originally a clone intended for the destruction of several dimensions. She was always looking out for others without a thought for her own safety. That had been the cause of much worry for Admiral Lindy, especially during missions.
Lindy knew that deep inside Fate, there was a craving for a family, a real one. Yet, after all those abuse that Precia Testarossa hurled onto her, she still regretted not having the ability to save her creator, the one she acknowledged as 'mother'. She did not wish to add to her regrets anymore, denying her heart of what she wanted.
She was always pushing herself so hard without a word of complaint, keeping all those regrets and worries deep in her own heart.
If only Fate would accept her offer, she could be so much a better mother to her.
It has been a week since the mission briefing at the base. Once the plane landed in their destination, they should be welcomed by Graham who should have prepared their lodgings and base for them. It should be a short and quick mission, then they could perhaps enjoy a fun holiday on this foreign land for a while.
Then perhaps, she could ask Fate again.
What could possibly go wrong?
The airplane roared as it landed safely on the grounds of the airport. Soon after, the passengers started to alight from the plane and pass through the customs. Some of them excited at the prospect of arriving, others grumpy from the resulting jet lag.
After a few minutes, a very impatient girl with long tan hair walked out and into the walking area, dragging her luggage behind her, the wheels squeaking in protest of the overtly harsh treatment.
"Hurry up! Their plane should be landing any moment now!"
A purple-haired girl followed closely behind, also dragging another but much larger luggage behind her.
"Arisa-chan, do you think that this is right? We did not tell them that we would be coming along..." Suzuka said as she stopped beside her friend and looked around cautiously.
Arisa beamed widely as she surveyed the scene before her. This had got to be the best plan she had since Nanoha and Fate told them about their holiday-impeding mission.
If their friends cannot join them for the holidays, they would join their friends instead. The English environment should not pose any problem for her for she was, as she would put it across herself, perfect bilingual.
It had took some time to convince Suzuka of the plan but since Suzuka too had wanted to spend the summer holidays together, she was soon swayed. She had also taken the liberty to tell their parents that they would be traveling in a group of friends so everything would be safe.
According to Nanoha, the mission should be over quite quickly, they would be able to enjoy a unique holidays together.
Nothing was going to stop her from her dream holiday with everyone. Nothing.
Her plan would be perfect. After all,
What could possibly go wrong?
For those of you reading this, I thank you for overlooking the lack of mention on romance or the weak summary and reaching the end of chapter 1. As the genre suggests, this is not a romance fic, I am more concerned with the AWESOME part of the Nanoha series, namely pretty explosions and little girls fighting in the name of friendship. Plus there's enough shipping fics to go around without another one joining.
Now, please make yourselves comfortable, grab a drink and enjoy the rest of the story I've got to tell. At the end of it, feel free to leave a remark or two for my self-improvement.
Just for the record, I do not own Nanoha or most of the characters in this fic. I do have an ALTER Fate PVC figure and an intention to get the Nanoha PVC too if that counts as anything.
Well then, on with the story.
Added 23 Apr 08: It has been around one year since I posted this story. People still remember it. Not bad for a gen fic here. I have re-bump this story for an important reason. There is a sequel. Yes, a bloody sequel but not in this section. I'm taking my story for a ride elsewhere. If bumping old stories is not to your liking, my apologies but I think I could use the marketing. This story has been recommended in other forums before, so to my supporters, a big thank you. Prepare for epic crossover sequel.