Disclaimer: I don't own the worlds in this fic, or anything else portrayed. I did create the villains and story, though. They're not really worth taking, but if you do, just let me know if you would. Maho Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha and Maho Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha A's were produced by Ivory and Seven Arcs.

Chapter 1 – 'Mysterious Play'

00.00, 8th August, Downtown Uminari City. Five years after the Book of Darkness case.

"Hey, are you warm enough..?" The speaker was a girl, maybe fifteen years old. She was wearing jeans and a denim jacket over a black shirt, but despite her yakuza-like appearance her brown eyes were full of worry for her companion.

"I'm fine..." Her companion smiled. "Really." Like her partner, the girl was fifteen and Japanese. Both of them were somewhat rough around the edges, and both clearly needed a good meal and a bath, but second girl didn't have the jacket of the former to cover her cheap T-shirt, and her knee-length skirt was only cotton. She was slightly shorter than her friend, and her hair was dyed a dark red, but that wouldn't last long.

The pair of them were sitting next to each other in the darkness of an alleyway, trying to ignore the stink of the bins at the far end of the cul-de-sac and the cold seeping up from the ground through their think clothes. The girl with the jacket held it open, and the other scooted thankfully inside, snuggling up even as her friend hugged her close.

"What are we going to do..?" The redhead asked. "I... I'm hungry, Kei."

"Ssh, I know. We'll find something in the morning, I promise." The taller girl went silent for a moment, then continued. "You don't have to do this, you know... you could still go home, Miho. I won't blame you..."

"I can't just leave you. Not when it's my fault they... they..." The shorter girl sniffled slightly at the injustice of it. "Besides... I love you, Kei..."

"I know... but it's not your fault. It was going to happen eventually. Even if they hadn't caught us, my parents would have found an excuse eventually." Kei squeezed her girlfriend, comfortingly. "I just can't stand the thought of you suffering through this."

"I'm with you... for that, I can... oh, Kei..." Miho put her arms around Kei's waist, holding her close even as the temperature dropped.

She didn't know how long it was until Kei spoke again, pulling away.

"Miho. Wake up... something's not right." The taller girl stood up, looking around warily. She couldn't say what it was that had set her off, but she'd always been sensitive to unnatural changes in the environment, and her spine was tingling like it had when her aunt had bought that haunted makeneko.

"What's wrong..?" Miho pulled her arms away, standing up and looking around. "It's so cold... it wasn't this cold before..."

Something moved in the corner of her eye, and she span, looking for the source.

"Who's there? Show yourself!" Kei growled, bunching her fists. She whirled as she heard Miho shrieking behind her, then darkness overcame her, the last thing she was aware of being horrendous pain in her chest and the smooth touch of what felt almost like scales...

15.00, 9th June, Yagami residence, Uminari city. One year later.

"Oh, no, that doesn't look right..." Shamal muttered to herself, reaching forward to adjust the flowers on the table. "Hayate-sama, how do you always make this look so easy?" The knight of the lake muttered to herself in German, scowling.

"It looks fine, mistress." Klarer Wind told her, the rings' dulcet tones speaking the same language. "You worry too much."

"Oh, but I can never get it to look right..." Shamal sighed, her blonde hair flopping forward into her eyes. "Maybe Vita was right, and I'll never get it right..."

"Don't be disheartened. Your cooking has improved hugely." Klarer said, trying to make her feel better.

"I suppose I have enough time to practice... but I get so bored and lonely, staying around the house or base all the time. Why can't I ever get a field assignment with the others?" Shamal knew she was whining, but her frustration had gotten to the point where she didn't care. She was a knight as much as any of the others, even if her speciality was healing and support.

"You should go out and clear your mind. We're spending too much time inside." Klarer told her, reproachfully. "Lets buy things for food and check the opening times at the swimming pool. You need to get in the water again."

"You're right... I guess... but remember you can't talk outside." Shamal reminded her armed device, which offered no response.

Pulling her shoes on, Shamal sighed and opened the door before remembering to take her apron off and hang it up. It was completely at odds with her previous existences, but perhaps that was why a part of her enjoyed the feeling of the ties around her neck and waist whenever she wore the domestic garment. It let her housekeeping instincts come out, and after millennia of nothing but war it was a welcome change.

Klarer Wind had been right. Walking helped her to clear her mind, and the frustrations of trying to learn flower arranging and accounting faded in the face of the clean summer breeze. Selecting the ingredients at the supermarket was a thankfully mindless task, and the knight of the lake even found herself humming softly as she checked the quality of the yam she was considering. At first, her yankii appearance had drawn a few stares from other shoppers, back when she'd first started coming here when Hayate was a child, but by now most of them were used to the (they thought) dyed blonde with the friendly eyes and odd dress sense. She spent some time chatting with one of her friends who lived a few doors down, but eventually she made her excuses and walked home.

She was just chopping carrots when she felt it. Something twitching at the edges of her perception, too far away to pinpoint. It distracted her enough that she cut herself with the knife, and she cursed in a most unladylike manner before healing the cut.

The tugging came again, and, frowning, she called on Klarer Wind and donned her armour before stepping outside to rise into the air and check out the source of the disturbance.

As she flew towards the docks district, where she felt certain she'd detected whatever it was, she marvelled again at the efficiency of the Bureau repair teams. The whole district had been wrecked by the battle between Nanoha, Fate and the Book, but it looked as though the battle had never happened.

She slowed down as she came close to where it had happened, but the energy signature that had attracted her attention had already faded. Letting herself descend, she came to rest on top of a building.

"Klarer Wind, scanning mode, please." She kissed her rings before holding her right hand in front of her. The gems rose from their settings, the ropes trailing behind them as they formed the scrying disk. The glow inside faded until she was looking at an image of the surrounding area. There was nothing out of the ordinary... until she saw a man, looking shell-shocked at the entrance to an alleyway, shopping bags at his feet where he'd dropped them.

"Maybe he saw it..." She whispered to herself before flying towards that location, setting herself down out of sight of the road nearby. Dismissing her armour, she walked around the corner to see the man still standing, frozen.

"Hey... are you okay?" She asked, remembering at the last moment to mimic the local accent.

"Wh..?" He mumbled, then looked at her. "Y... yes, I'm fine. Thank you." He stooped to pick up his shopping bags, then looked at her again. "Um... are you real?"

"Yes. That's a strange thing to ask... what happened?" Shamal blinked at him, then realised she was still wearing her apron and house-slippers. No wonder he found her appearance odd.

"I don't know. I was walking with... oh, god..." He stopped, his expression turning to one of horror. "My wife... something came out of the alley and took her... it looked like some kind of demon... oh, god, oh, god..." He dissolved into tears, and Shamal frowned to herself, looking into the alleyway. There was nothing there now, not even the fading traces of a magical working.

"Come on, we should get you to the hospital, and tell the police. I'm sure they'll be able to help." Shamal took her phone from her pocket and dialled a taxi. It wasn't urgent enough to warrant calling the ambulance out, but there wasn't much her magic could do for shock. She knew she'd have to report this back to the Bureau, but for now she hoped that it was something the local authorities could deal with...