"Olivie-sama! With those injuries, you can't…"
"Please, I must do this while I am still able. I have to use the Cradle to seal him away. My bloodline shall end with me, so no other will be able to move this ship. He will remain forever buried."
"But I have already placed a seal…"
"No, that won't be enough to hold him. I can feel his influence, even now. Those of your clan may fall victim to it and remove the seal. Please, I beseech you and your tribe. Keep this location hidden from the record of history. This will be my final act as Saint Kaiser."
"I… I will obey, my king."
"I thank you. I… pray that… the world… will never have… to face him… again…"
It had taken years for the paperwork to go through, but Yuuno had finally gained the right to excavate the area around where the Cradle of the Saint King had been unearthed. Although the ship was no more, its legacy could still be uncovered.
Perhaps he was being too optimistic, however. His team had been searching for over a month, but they had yet to find anything. Could only the ship have been buried there and nothing more? Yuuno decided to pack it up. While his crew was busy collecting the equipment, he chose to have another quick look around the site. He wandered around the crater, hoping something had been over looked. He reached where the border met the mountains, but nothing had caught his eye. By his team's estimates, where Yuuno currently stood had been where the bow of the ship lay.
As he turned to leave, the ground beneath his feet vibrated. An earthquake? The young archaeologist jumped away as rocks tumbled down the side of the mountain. When the rumbling ceased and the dust cleared, Yuuno found himself staring into the depths of a cavern.
Was this a coincidence or had some sort of higher power intervened? This could be the discovery he was looking for!
Not wanting to get the hopes of his team up, Yuuno decided to venture in on his own. He sent a communication to the others, telling them that he was going to take a look inside a cave, but that they should continue packing the supplies anyways.
Pulling out the flashlight he carried in his pocket, Yuuno slipped into the darkness. He felt the floor go on a downward incline as he ventured deeper into the earth. The cave was no different than the countless others he had traversed. The dank, musty air always smelled the same.
But what he found at the end was what told him he hit the jackpot. A large, metallic door stood before him. On the cave wall next to it, ancient Belkan text was etched into the rock. However, Yuuno could not read any of it, for time had rendered the message illegible. There was one symbol that he would recognise anywhere, though. It was displayed prominently on the door itself. It was the crest of clan Scrya, the tribe Yuuno belonged to.
Yuuno knew his tribe had a long history, but he hadn't imagined it stretched all the way back to the era of the Belkan Kings. What could be beyond this door? How could he open it? He didn't see any sort of mechanism. Would he need to call his demolition team?
Yuuno gently rubbed his hand across the door, wondering what secrets it could hold.
The Crest of Scrya shone and the door parted. Yuuno jerked back as it opened. A wind whipped past as the pressure normalised. Light also flooded out from the door. Yuuno stepped into the well lit area and was amazed at how pristine everything was. There was not even a speck of dirt or dust. No cob webs, and no signs of any decay what so ever. The seal that was placed on it must have been most impressive.
Yuuno's heart began to beat faster. Whatever treasure he was to find would certainly be in a similar condition of perfection. The thought of what knowledge could be obtained made him lick his lips.
However, all that lay before him was a hallway, and at the end stood yet another door. Hoping lightning would strike twice, Yuuno placed his hand on the door. It spilt open in the same manner.
When he saw the contents of the room, the young man's face went from one of expectant glee to one of sheer terror.
"Who the…" Yuuno's instincts screamed at him to run, but his feet remained rooted in place. The capsule before him slowly opened.
"Well, it seems to be my lucky day. Afraid I can't say the same for you, though."
The explosion that followed caused the surrounding forest to burn for three days.
Nanoha hummed a little tune as she peered into the glass window of her oven. The cake she was baking was turning out nicely. Vivio would be home from school shortly. Nanoha was looking forward to decorating the cake with her daughter.
Since the Ace of Aces had to be removed from active duty due to health concerns, she didn't have much to do during the day. She usually found herself baking or cleaning or similar menial tasks to pass the time. Yesterday had been a pie.
It was a simple life, but a peaceful one. All those who were important to her were there, and that's all she needed.
When she heard the ring of her doorbell, she called up a view screen to see who it was. She wasn't expecting anyone. A quick glance at the blonde top was all she needed to see.
"Geeze, that Fate-chan." Nanoha huffed as she quickly ran her hands under the faucet. "I keep telling her that she can just come right in…" She took a towel and wiped her hands as she headed to the door. Fate could join them for cake, too.
Nanoha opened the door with a smile, but she froze when she saw her friend. The towel fluttered to the floor. Fate was in full uniform rather than casual clothes she usually visited in. Her gaze was steady, but her eyes were puffy and red. Streaks adorned her cheeks.
Everyone who donned a uniform knew the signs. This was no casual visit.
"F-Fate-chan, what's wrong?" Nanoha was aware of the answer, but she felt compelled to ask anyways.
"…" Fate had practised this so many times in her car, but the words still didn't come easy. "Nanoha, let's go in and sit down." Nanoha's head slowly began shaking side to side.
"Who… Who was it?" Panic seeped into her voice. "What happened? It's nothing serious, right?"
Fate bit her bottom lip. Nanoha was a girl who loved her friends dearly. She was a girl who had never really experienced the loss of a loved one. Fate knew the news would shatter her.
"Let's sit down, Nanoha." Fate repeated.
"No, no! Fate-chan, tell me what…"
"Please." Fate put her hands on the other girl's shoulders. She stared into her eyes and lightly pushed her into the house when Nanoha remained motionless. Fate gently pulled the brunette down onto the couch.
"Nanoha, there was an… accident." Fate swallowed. This was hard on her too, damn it. Experience had taught her it was best to make the wound quick and clean, but… "I'm so sorry, Nanoha. It's… It's Yuuno. He's gone."
"W… What are you talking about Fate-chan?" Nanoha smiled shakily. "It's not nice to joke about things like that."
"I'm not joking, Nanoha. There was an explosion and Yuuno was underground at the time…"
"No! It's a mistake! It must be!" Nanoha's voice was hot with insistence. "There's no way something like that would happen to Yuuno-kun! He would protect himself with a barrier or teleport away!"
"The entire area was turned to rubble. Scans showed no signs of life."
Nanoha shot to her feet, frantic. "I'll go call him right now! I'll call Yuuno-kun and you'll see he's ok! You'll see…"
Fate grabbed her friend's hand and pulled her into a hug. "I'm sorry, Nanoha. I'm so sorry."
"No, no, no." Her voice broke into sobs. "This can't be happening! Not Yuuno-kun!"
Fate allowed Nanoha's tears to soak her uniform. Fate didn't want to believe the news either. That the gentle, kind man she had known for over a decade could suddenly not be there anymore was unthinkable.
"I'm ho…" Vivio stopped dead as she saw her mamas holding each other on the couch. "Fate-mama, what's wrong? Why is Nanoha-mama crying?"
"Come here, Vivio." Fate gestured. She used her one arm to pull her god child to her. "It's… about Yuuno."
"Did something happen to Yuuno-san?" The child was quite fond of the family friend. She would always visit him at the library and be amazed at all he could teach her.
"You… You won't be able to see him anymore." Fate decided on the words.
It was easy for a ten year old of Vivio's intelligence to connect the dots. Those mismatched eyes began to water. "You… You mean he died?"
"I'm afraid that's what it means…" Fate silently held the other girls in a three way hug as they cried. She held back her own tears for their sake. She needed to be strong for them.
In their grief they failed to notice the smell of burnt cake that wafted into the room. The oven detected this and shut itself off.
The church was flooded with a sea of black. Nanoha felt so awkward in her white uniform. She sat up front with her family who had made the trip to Mid Childa for the service. Momoko held her youngest daughter's hand as they sent off the young man they had first known as a pet ferret. Alisa and Suzuka were also there, shedding tears for their lost friend.
Nanoha was happy for the support, but her heart felt as empty as the casket she stared at. They hadn't even tried to recover Yuuno's body. There was too much debris. Too much to search through. He was buried, but far deeper than six feet. Not only had Nanoha been robbed of a close friend, but she was also robbed of the chance to see his face one last time.
Knight Carim presided over the service herself. She was one of the many people the librarian had helped out on several occasions.
Soon, it was Chrono's turn to speak. Originally, Nanoha had been offered that role. She had been Yuuno's longest friend, but she just wasn't up to it.
"Uh, let me start by thanking you all for coming." The admiral said. "By seeing how many of you are here, it stands testament to just how much Yuuno has done. He was a skilful mage, even when I first met him. He was a valuable player in resolving several cases at the time, and from there he became the head librarian at the Infinity Library."
"No matter what unreasonable task I gave him, or how many times I insulted the little ferret-changeling, he would always do his job. Sure, he'd complain my ears off, but he always came through. Usually in half the time I gave him, too. I bet he did that just to spite me." Chrono attempted to smile, but cleared his throat to cover his failure to do so. "That's the sort of person Yuuno was. Kind and reliable, never turning away a person in need."
"His thirst for knowledge has led to many discoveries that have made everyday living easier for all. His time may have been cut short, but he died doing what he loved. His legacy will always live on. We must keep him alive in our hearts and not let grief overcome us. That's what Yuuno would have wanted."
Nanoha stared blankly as the coffin was lowered into the ground. None of it felt real. Not her mother's shoulder against her ear, not Vivio's hand in hers, and certainly not the tombstone with Yuuno's name etched on it. Part of her expected him to suddenly pop up and reveal that he was ok. Part of her expected to wake up any moment and receive a call from him.
But with each passing moment, that seemed less and less likely. Yuuno wasn't one to make others worry. If he was ok, he'd find a way to tell everyone as soon as he could.
Nanoha had never been to a funeral before. She had no idea what she was supposed to do.
All she could do was cry.
Nanoha now found herself sitting in a small board room. With her were Fate, Chrono, Carim, Inspector Verossa, an elderly man Nanoha didn't recognise, and a man in a suit who was apparently Yuuno's attorney.
"My client has left his will in the form of a video." He said. "I shall play it for you now." The attorney pressed a button and a screen appeared.
"Ah… are we recording now? Oh, ok."
Nanoha choked on something when she heard the familiar voice and saw his face on screen. Fate gave Nanoha's hand a supportive squeeze.
"So… uh…" Yuuno squirmed on screen. "Well… I guess if you're watching this, that means I'm dead… Uh…" He scratched his cheek. "I hope Chrono hasn't been insulting me too much."
Chrono let out a brief snort.
"Man, this is weirder than I thought it would be…" Yuuno went on. "I suppose I'll just get to the point. The distribution of my assets. First, I leave all the patents under my name to the entire Scrya clan. Please use the royalties to further your own research."
The old man in the room bowed his head solemnly. Nanoha would learn later that he was the chief of the tribe.
"I leave half of the money in my bank account in the care of the Saint Church." The recording continued. "Please distribute it to various charities as you see fit."
This time it was Carim and Verossa who bowed.
"And the other half of my money I leave to my best friends Nanoha Takamachi, Fate Testarossa Harlaown, and Chrono Harlaown. Please divide it evenly amongst yourselves. It's not much, but I hope it will help ensure that you and your children have bright futures."
Nanoha didn't care about money. She wanted to have him back.
"And… well, that's about it, really. I don't have much stuff to give away. I'll leave it up to the Bureau to find a replacement for me at the library. All that's left is to say goodbye… So, uh… goodbye." Yuuno paused and looked around awkwardly. "I also want to say that, uh, Na…" His mouth shut and his head shook. "No, forget it. That doesn't matter now. I hope everyone else has long and happy lives. I wouldn't want to see you again any time soon. Bye."
The video winked off. The attorney then rose and passed out several cheques. He then led the Scrya leader out of the room to discuss the necessary paperwork. The others also prepared to leave, but Nanoha remained seated. She didn't even spare a glance at the paper before her. She was fixated on the spot where Yuuno's face disappeared.
"Nanoha, we should go." Fate said. Nanoha shook her head.
"I just want to sit here a bit…"
"Ok then. How about I go get you something to drink?" Fate exited the room to see her brother waiting for her.
"As expected, she's not handling this very well…" He uttered.
"… All I can think to do is be there for her and give her time…" Fate sighed.
"And how are you holding up, Fate?"
"I… I have to be fine." She said. "I need to be Nanoha's strength right now."
"That doesn't mean you have to hold it all in." He pulled his sister into a hug. Fate buried her face into his shirt and let the tears fall.
"It's not fair." She sobbed. "Why did Yuuno have to die? His job was supposed to be safer than ours! He was so kind and gentle. He didn't do anything to deserve this!"
Chrono hugged her tighter and cursed to himself as his eyes fogged over. 'You damn ferret. Why did you have to go and die on us?'
When Fate finally returned to the room with a glass of water, Nanoha was now staring at the table and the slip of paper on it.
"This… is a lot of money, isn't it?" The brunette muttered as Fate set down the glass. "And this is only a sixth of it… I had no idea Yuuno-kun had so much money…"
"Several artefacts he discovered were reverse engineered into commercial products." Fate explained as she took the seat next to her. "So he was paid royalties. There's also the money he got for consultations, guest lectures, appearing in documentaries, and his regular salary. Yuuno was a minimalist, so it piled up."
"I see… There sure were a lot of people today. I was so surprised." Nanoha went on. "Did you see them, Fate-chan? There was a famous actress, and a young billionaire… So many people that I didn't know… I didn't know at all…"
"I didn't know at all, Fate-chan!" Nanoha snapped. "Yuuno-kun had such a life and I didn't even know about it! Even though we've known each other for so long, I… I used to be so busy with work… but even when I went on leave I still didn't… The last time I spoke to him was… The last time I saw him was… Huh?" Nanoha stared down at her hands, a squiggle of a smile on her face. "Huh? I… I can't remember. Why? Why can't I remember the last time I saw him?" The waterworks started pouring again.
"Nanoha, stop it!" Fate pulled her friend into a fierce embrace. "Don't do this to yourself!"
"I didn't know!" Nanoha sobbed. "I didn't know him at all! I don't know anything about Yuuno-kun! I've known him for so long, so I thought I knew, but I didn't! I… I was such a horrible friend!"
"Don't say that Nanoha." Fate begged. "It's not true!"
"It's too late!" The other girl continued to sob. "There are so many things I want to talk to him about, but I can't! He's… He's… dead! Yuuno-kun is dead!"
At the moment, that single truth was her entire world.
The shadow of a man loomed over the city below. He studied the area from his perch atop a skyscraper.
"This world is so nice." He mused. "It's going to be so much fun destroying it."
So I decided to give writing an epic storyline a shot. To be honest, as a character, I think Nanoha has reached her end in terms of development. I think only something really drastic could get any more out of her. That's why I'm taking a page out of Tomino's book. I hope this chapter invokes feelings of sadness in you, cuz that's the point.
... Or I guess you could just be happy that I got rid of the ferret :/