Hayate couldn't help gasping as she watched Mid-Childa draw away beneath them, the green and blue world sparkling with lights. It was odd to see the sun in the distance while she knew it to be nighttime in Cranagan when they had departed.
"We'll live there one day, Zafira," she promised, sinking her hand into his thick ruff. "Isn't it gorgeous?"
"Yes." He tilted his head, looking out the window down the sides of the warship. "It's quite a different ship from the Asura." Zafira perked his ears, giving Hayate some warning that someone was coming from behind.
"It's a new model, this Nibiru," Admiral Leti told them, coming up beside Hayate. The purple-haired woman chuckled. "Lindy told me she was jealous when she came to look, although she does have a nostalgic spot for her Asura."
"Lots of memories, I imagine," Hayate smiled.
"Lots," agreed Leti, when a small polite cough behind them made her wince. "Ah, my apologies for being rude—Hayate, this is your partner for this mission. Gareau?"
A young blonde woman saluted Hayate, snapping her heels together with a click. "Officer Jennifer Gareau, Special Investigations Unit." Then her green eyes twinkled and she said less formally, "I'm pleased to meet you, Officer Yagami."
Lowering her hand from her salute, Hayate grinned back. "I'm Officer Hayate Yagami, and this is…" She trailed off, suddenly remembering that she didn't have Rein with her. It was kind of odd, but Hayate was kind of glad at the same time—it saved her the trouble of having to reluctantly explain that Rein was an Unison Device whenever people looked confused at being only given Rein's name and nothing else. "Who is your partner?"
Gareau blinked, then her puzzled expression cleared over and she lifted her right hand, displaying the band on her ring finger. "This is Intelligent Device Clarent."
"Hello, Clarent. Nice to be working with you."
Hayate giggled, noting that Gareau had her eyes on Zafira now, waiting for her to introduce him. She nudged Zafira with her knee.
With a sigh, Zafira introduced himself. "Guardian Beast, Zafira."
"Nice to meet you, Zafira." Gareau saluted him too, making Hayate beam.
I like her, Zaffy. She's kind.
Hayate could hear the affection in his voice when he replied, Yes, she's kind, like you are.
"I'm sorry to cut the introductions short," Leti said apologetically, indicating all of them to enter the briefing room. "But we're about to enter dimensional space, and I want to go over the mission details again before we arrive on Alzas."
Earlier that morning
Hayate groaned, burying her head deeper into her pillow. Vita grumbled and clung to Hayate tighter, also trying to block out Rein's voice and go back to sleep.
"Mission call!" Rein shouted again, her voice carrying farther than someone so small should be capable of.
"Whose?" Hayate finally slurred out, opening one eye. "Whose call?"
Rein blinked in surprise from where she was sitting on Vita's head, yanking on the red-head's braids to try and get her up.
A few minutes later, all the sleepy residents of the house were gathered in the living room, where Shamal activated the holoscreen.
"Good morning Hayate, everyone." Admiral Leti Lowran nodded at them. "I'm sorry for waking all of you so early, but this is an urgent mission call. Please report in at the TSAB Headquarters in half an hour."
"So, Officer Gareau, how many years have you been in the SIU?" Hayate asked her new partner as they waited for Leti to set the holoscreen.
"Just Jennifer is fine, Hayate?" Gareau paused to make sure that her casual address was alright, and continued when Hayate nodded eagerly. "I've been in the SIU for two years, but this is my first mission away from Mid-Childa." The blonde smiled sheepishly, rubbing her ring with a finger. "Clarent used to belong to my father, so I hope that he'll guide me well."
"Of course, my lord."
Hayate smiled and stroked Zafira's head. "I hope Zafira will do the same for me. He's much wiser than I am."
"Not true, Hayate."
"Of course it's true." She barely restrained herself from saying "Zaffy" aloud, not wanting to embarrass or accidentally demean him in front of a new comrade.
"Alright," Leti said, calling up an image of a three-headed black dog, all of its eyes narrowed into red slits as it snarled at the camera. "This is the Lost Logia we are after, the Hound of Hades. It isn't normally a class of Lost Logia requiring urgent action, but what pushed our hand was the appearance of these units with sightings of the Hound."
"Gadget drones," Leti said, showing them satellite images of rod-shaped devices on a snowy landscape and on a desert dune. "They contain Anti-Magic Fields, making them a problem for lower mage-ranked local police forces. Combined with a Lost Logia, even one like the Hound, makes them potentially a dimensional threat."
"How powerful is the Lost Logia?" Signum asked, staring at the image of the black hound.
"Nowhere close to the Book of Darkness, fortunately," Leti assured them. "However, ever since Nanoha's accident, we've been keeping a wary eye out for these Gadget Drones, and when Intelligence picked up these pictures we wanted to move in with caution. That's why we're troubling all of you for this mission."
"I'll go," Vita said fiercely, her hands clenching upon the mention of Nanoha's name. Hayate put a hand on Vita's shoulder, rubbing softly.
"Of course all of us will help," Hayate said, glancing at her Wolkenritter to be sure. "It's just the one Lost Logia right? And all of us are ranked highly enough to be able to handle the Gadget Drones, if we're careful." Even knowing it, the memory of the grievously, nearly fatally injured Nanoha-chan made Hayate shudder.
"The problem," Leti sighed, changing the screen to a space map, "is that we're picking up energy readings of the Hound on two very distant planets. One is Administered Planet #6, Alzas, and the other is Un-Administered Planet #70, Hemmon. We need to raid both locations at the same time, to prevent whoever has the Lost Logia from moving it."
"We'll have to split up," Signum finished for her. "I'll go with Zafira to Hemmon, Vita and Shamal—"
"Actually," Hayate interrupted, "I'd rather Vita and Shamal went with you, Signum." She looked at Rein beside her and smiled. "And take Rein too."
"If there's a fight, I want the three of you to keep each other safe," Hayate argued. "Shamal can heal you and teleport you out if there's serious trouble." She smiled and put a hand on Zafira's strong back. "And Zaffy's a Guardian Beast—I'll be perfectly defended, since all of my spells are attack spells."
"At least take Rein with you," Shamal tried.
"Admiral Leti said that it won't be a powerful Lost Logia, but in case there's a fight I'd feel better if Rein was with you."
"If it makes you feel any better," Leti offered to the Wolkenritter, "I can assign the SIU officer to Hayate's team. I was going to assign her to the second team, but if it's the three—sorry Rein, four—of you together, an additional person may disrupt your teamwork. Officer Gareau is an A-rank, and a very good fighter."
"Good fighter is still nothing on us," Vita grumbled, crossing her arms and frowning. "Any of us would give our lives to protect Hayate!"
Hayate winced. "Hopefully, this won't be a mission that will turn to that. And even if it does!—I don't want any of you to do that anyways."
"…this is the cave where we've been picking up energy readings." Leti showed a three-dimensional hologram of a mountainside, indicating a cave in the snow-covered cliffs.
"Officers Hayate, Jennifer and Zafira, your mission is to infiltrate the cave, investigate for signs of the Lost Logia, and seal it if possible. Eliminating as many Gadget Drones as possible is a secondary objective. We don't want to leave them to trouble the locals, although the native dragon-summoners have shown an ability to defeat the drones themselves." Leti looked at both of them, as Zafira was slightly out of sight on the floor. "If the situation becomes critical, then I do have authorization to use an Arc-en-Ciel on the Lost Logia."
Hayate gasped, and her embarrassment at reacting so strongly was overshadowed by her fear. "But there are towns inside the 100 km radius!"
"We're issuing pre-cautionary evacuation notices to those towns," Leti told her, but she also looked weary. "Even so, it will definitely cause accidental casualties and devastate the environment. It's our last resort."
"We'll find a way," Hayate swore, nodding determinedly.
Jennifer brightened, clearly affected by Hayate's optimism. "Don't worry Admiral, we'll do it. Right, Clarent?"
"Yes, my lord!"
"Be careful, all of you," Hayate tried to smile encouragingly as she hugged her knights goodbye at the ship port.
"Don't worry, Mistress," Signum said assuringly, clasping Laevantein in one armoured fist. "We won't fail you."
"I'd rather you failed, and came back safely," Hayate sniffed, throwing herself into Signum's arms. She didn't worry about hurting herself on Signum's sword, since Hayate knew that Signum would never let her get hurt.
"Watch over Hayate!" Vita instructed Zafira tearfully, and the blue wolf growled his assent.
"We'll keep each other safe," Hayate promised, waving goodbye before turning to board the warship Nibiru with Zafira trotting at her side.
"I hope we're the ones who find the Hound of Hades," Jennifer said to Hayate as they ate a quick lunch in the galley. "I'd hate for us to have come all this way only for it to be a false lead. It's my first Lost Logia case."
"I hope we find it too," Hayate replied, setting a dish aside for Zafira. Her knight had chosen to wander off somewhere earlier, and she hoped that he would make it here before they had to depart. "I know that Signum, Vita, Rein and Shamal can take care of themselves, but I'd still hate for them to fight the Hound—you never know, with Lost Logia."
"I forgot," Gareau apologized, looking appalled at herself, "that your friends are on the other search team."
"It's alright, I understand your excitement…" Hayate sighed, poking her pasta around her plate. "They're my family. But even if they were my friends, I'd still worry."
Swallowing, Jennifer leaned in close. "Hayate?"
Quietly, Jennifer confided quickly, "I, um…I really hope that it's not us. I mean, I don't want your friends—sorry, your family—to have to fight, but I'm…well…" She flinched. "Uh, nervous."
Hayate understood, so she said aloud, "I'm scared. Lost Logias can do a lot of damage, and…" The kindest, sweetest smile lit up her face, and her silver hair fell into her earnest red eyes as Reinforce gazed fondly down on Hayate. "…and sometimes you lose the people you love to them."
Jennifer paled slightly—her fellow officer wasn't that much older than Hayate. Then she smiled wanly and raised her water glass. "Well, I'm lucky enough to have a partner who has experience facing Lost Logia!"
"Two partners," Hayate smiled, and they clinked glasses.
"Admiral Lowran says that it's time," Zafira commented from the door, and both of them glanced at him. He was in his human form, already in his Barrier Jacket. And oh, very interesting…Hayate watched a small blush rush over Jennifer's face with merry interest.
"Who—ah, Zafira?" Jennifer coughed, picking up her glass hastily to take another drink, hiding her face—and incidentally, the sight of the muscular, sleeve-less Zafira. "We'll be right there."
"Zafira, eat something," Hayate said quickly, pushing the plate over to him. She grabbed Jennifer's wrist and tugged her up, grinning. "The two of us will go on ahead and make sure the teleport's ready."
"So, Jennifer-san," Hayate asked innocently as they walked together down to the teleport bay, "Do you have a boyfriend? Girlfriend?" The blonde looked a bit young to be married, not much older than Hayate at 16 years, but it could still be possible.
Jennifer gave her a half-dirty, half-embarrassed look—she clearly knew what Hayate was fishing for. Hayate just gave her a wide grin in response. "No, no boyfriend…" She coughed fakely, jamming her hands into her pockets. "Um, how about you, Hayate?"
"Nope," Hayate said cheerfully. Then she waited.
They were all the way at the teleport bay before Jennifer asked casually, "How about Zafira? Or your other knights?"
"None, that I know of," Hayate answered, hiding her smile. Truthfully, she was shipping Zaffy with Arf, but it was still fun to see what could happen with others.
"Oh, I see," Jennifer tried for a politely non-chalant response, but her redding ears gave her away, particularly when she turned and nearly ran into Zafira, who had just entered.
"Great, we're all here!" Rubbing her hands, Hayate called out her Barrier Jacket. She adjusted her hat, watching Jennifer call up a golden and emerald Jacket and twirl Clarent, who had transformed into a long two-handed sword.
"Teleport ready in ten seconds," Admiral Leti's voice came over the intercom. As the countdown started, they heard her say softly, "Good luck."
A barrage of rocks slammed through the gadgets racing up on Hayate's left, allowing her to fly back and catch her breath. "Thanks," she gasped at Jennifer, who had just swung Clarent in an arc and cut down two more gadgets.
"No problem…" Jennifer stumbled, jumping awkwardly over the ruins of a gadget that had nearly tripped her. Zafira was immediately there, punching the large drone away, tearing his fist free and leaping for another.
"There's a barrier around this cave!" Zafira shouted to Hayate as he tore into his opponent.
"I can't call the Nibiru!" Jennifer yelled in addition.
"We'll just have to break the barrier, or beat the one creating it! Cover me for a few seconds!" Hayate shouted, then swung her staff up. "Approach from beyond, mistletoe branches, and become spears of the silver moon. Pierce it! Misteltein!"
Silver spears fired into the midst of the gadgets, although only five of her seven light-spears struck something and petrified it. Hayate flew up as another set of drones rushed her, firing into the spot where she had been.
"Maybe a wider range spell?" Jennifer suggested as she rolled to a stop by Hayate. "Clarent!"
"Luftmesser!" With a powerful swing, Jennifer unleashed wind blades at the drones pursuing Hayate, then spun around and launched the rest at the ones targeting her.
"Do you see the Hound?" She yelled up at Hayate, who had the better point of view.
"Nothing!" Hayate flew higher above the fight, keeping an eye on where her allies were. "Frigid Dagger!" She didn't pause to watch her ice daggers hail down on the enemy, swooping down to snatch Jennifer out of harm's way when a ring of Gadgets surrounded her.
"Thanks!" Jennifer shouted, pointing with Clarent's tip at a cluster of drones. "Drop me there!" Hayate hesitated.
"Alright, here you go!" Hayate yelled, tossing Jennifer at the Gadgets while also chanting, "Panzer Hindernis!"
A white shield covered her partner as the blonde barrelled into the Gadgets, whipping her sword around her. Wires and metal plates rained around her as she cut through the horde, Clarent's golden blade gleaming with light.
"Are they just a distraction?" Jennifer called, turning to look at Hayate.
Something moved in the shadows behind her.
Instead of wasting her breath, Hayate screamed, "PANZER SCHILD!"
She had been fast enough—her ivory triangle shield rose behind Jennifer, spreading large enough to nearly touch the tips of the hanging stalactites in the black cavern roof. Jennifer spun, her terrified face relaxing when she saw the comforting glow of Hayate's shield.
A black head punched through the white energy, and all Hayate saw were a flash of red eyes before a dark maw opened and crunched down on Officer Jennifer Gareau, the woman's scream drowned in the blood that sprayed from her throat and chest. The Hound rammed the rest of its body through Hayate's shield, its other two heads whipping around to roar at Hayate, saliva dripping from huge black fangs.
"NO!" Hayate barely dodged shots from the Gadgets, diving down towards the snarling Hound. "MISTELTEIN!"
She hoped that she could fire her attack before she was hit—Hayate saw her silver spears shoot past her, but she also saw a row of teeth snapping up to meet her—
A blur of blue knocked her out of the way, sending Hayate smashing into the stone wall. Coughing, Hayate struggled to rise. "Zafira!"
Zafira had changed into his wolf form, conserving mana that he was using to increase the strength of his attacks upon the Hound, driving the Lost Logia back. His back was bloody but so were his teeth, bloody with the enemy's blood. "Hayate, run!"
To her despair, her spears didn't look like they had made any impact on the Hound—one of its heads was shaking off a layer of rock as if she'd just put a thin shell on its skin. Hayate readied her staff again, calling up a rune beneath her feet. She was horribly inaccurate with this spell but in this small space she couldn't miss… "Hræsvelgr!"
One, two, three magic bolts soared towards the Hound—then Hayate screamed as something blasted her out of the air from behind, sending her tumbling to the ground. From the corner of her eye, she watched breathlessly as a row of drones charged their beams up again for a second shot.
Two lupine screams filled the cave; the Hound wailed from where Zafira's attack sliced through his chest, and her knight howled, collapsing on top of Hayate, his fur singed and saturated with blood.
"Zafira!" Hayate cried, feeling the warm drips of his blood falling onto her cheek. "Panzer—ah!"
A huge paw had come down on her legs, dragging her out from underneath Zafira's body. The Hound of Hades roared, his heads slamming down towards her. Hayate wedged her staff into the left head's mouth, making it yelp, but cried out when its right head bit into her shoulder. The middle head hovered, then struck.
Zafira bellowed, leaping on the middle head and raking its cheek with his claws; his teeth sunk into the Hound's throat, biting deep and holding.
Hayate felt herself get flung away as the two other heads changed targets, ripping at her knight. "Zafira!" She scrambled for her staff, working through all the spells she knew to come up with one that would save him.
She heard his strangled cry. "STEEL YOKE!"
White spikes shot out of the ground everywhere, piercing through gadgets and impaling the Hound through the stomach and paws. It howled, all three jaws opening as it writhed in place. A limp bundle of fur hit the stone ground, motionless.
Hayate forgot about spells. She forgot about the Gadgets, the Hound.
All the white in his fur was stained poppy red. Everywhere else was matted with drying blood, and crunching shifts under Hayate's trembling hands showed her where he had broken bones. His head lay cold and still in her lap, his eyes closed but for a thin line of white showing beneath his lids.
He wasn't moving.
Not a bit. He was as still as a field in the dead of winter, as the limp forms of her knights once upon a time on a rooftop at night.
Zafira, one of her Wolkenritter, her loyal knights. Her family. Dead, his pale tongue hanging limply from his cracked jaw.
Her guardian beast. He died saving her.
Dimly, Hayate heard the Hound tear itself free of the spikes, lumbering towards her with a growing growl. She heard the whirrs of Gadget Drones flying closer, their weapons armed. She didn't care, but Zafira had died for her.
Hayate lifted one hand, her whisper broken and hoarse. "Diabolic…Emission."
All she heard was silence as her black energy built into an enormous sphere above her head, then silence as it imploded…then shrieking as the black ring exploded outwards, obliterating everything around them.
Finish the mission.
Hayate didn't care about the mission.
It's your duty.
What did that matter anymore?
Your knights knew their duty.
…And how could she shame them, by refusing hers?
Hayate gently set Zafira's head on the ground. She picked up her staff, and the Tome of the Night Sky from the blood-trodden ground. The white on her Barrier Jacket was also red-stained. She walked towards the shadows, her boots crunching over the ruins of the drones, their husks snapping under her feet.
The Hound was curled up against the wall, its heads lolling to the ground. Hayate walked right up to it, staring emotionlessly down at the panting beast, its wide red eyes staring upwards into hers.
"Yami no Sho," the Hound rumbled, the sound coming out like a whimper. "The Book of Darkness."
She didn't bother to correct it.
"Wait." The Lost Logia gasped. Its middle head shifted, and a red tongue flicked out, licking her shoe. "Please. Mercy."
Hayate raised her staff.
"Please." The Hound snuffed, its red eyes beseeching in its ink-black faces. "Save me. Like you saved the Book."
Reinforce hadn't been evil. Lost Logia weren't all evil.
The beast whined, inching forward on its stomach. "Please."
She had saved Reinforce.
Hayate lowered her eyes, and her gaze fell on Zafira's body. The Hound surged up, hissing, its jaws opened wide and lunging for her.
"Resound, horn of judgement," Hayate said, staring into the Hound's eyes. She felt no fear as time stretched for her, giving her all the time in the world as the Hound's fangs approached.
Three pillars of light burst from the sigil in front of her, exploding through each of the Hound's heads.
Hayate saw nothing but white.
White and screaming.
Then the light faded away. Hayate turned, but stopped when she felt something clink against her boot. A set of red crystals lay on the ground where one of the Hound's heads had been. And by it's other head, another crystal. And another.
She had seen these before.
"Relics," Hayate whispered, staring. Lost Logias inside a Lost Logia. No wonder the Hound had been far more dangerous than anything they had expected. And because of that…because of that…
She shuffled back and sat down, pulling Zafira's head back into her lap. And she laid her cheek against his cold one and started crying.
He had been willing to risk everything for her. For her whole life, Zafira had watched out for her, his protective, careful eyes making sure that she was safe. He had carried her around on his back when her legs gave out on her, he had licked the tears off her face when the pain was too much…he loved her. She had been his Master, but he had loved her anyways.
Loved her enough to die for her.
She shouldn't have come. No defence skills, long, uncontrolled attacks…she would always cause her defenders to die in her place.
"Hayate? Hayate!" Leti's voice sounded by her ear—the admiral was kneeling next to them, her grey eyes sorrowful. Gently, she said, "Hayate, he's dead."
"Admiral! We have three Relics here, all sealed—but there's no sign of the Hound of Hades."
"Was it even here?" Someone else mumbled.
"It was here." Hayate didn't look up from Zafira's corpse.
She was his Master.
"Hayate? Zafira's dead. You have to—"
She was the Mistress of the Tome of the Night Sky.
Leti touched Hayate's shoulder. "Hayate—"
"Let go!" Hayate shrugged her off and curled around Zafira's head. The Tome floated upward, glowing white and purple-black. Numbly, her lips moved. "I am the Mistress of the Tome of the Night Sky."
It was dark here. She recognized this place.
"Reinforce…help me," Hayate begged into the blackness as she searched through the Tome, looking for the resurrection spells.
She didn't know if Reinforce had heard her. She didn't know if Reinforce was still real, still alive…but she found the spells.
Guardian Program: Zafira
Mana levels: Low
Guardian Program: Resurrect at Default. All memories from previous incarnation will be erased.
Bring him back the way he was.
The way he was.
Mana levels: Low
Divert mana from shapeshifting ability to memories. Maintain all other abilities. Restore all memories.
By order of the Mistress of the Tome of the Night Sky.
Hayate woke to the warm wetness of Zafira tenderly licking her tears away, his throat rumbling in a crooning growl. "Zafira!" Arms wrapped tightly around his neck, Hayate buried her face in his throat, crying into his fur. "I'm so sorry…I had to do it."
"I'm alive," he said in her ear, nuzzling her face. "I remember. That's all I need."
Hayate got up, still sniffling, and she clung onto Zafira as they watched his dead, bloody corpse crumble and vanish into glowing dust.
The Nibiru's crew were staring at them, their faces full of disbelief and amazement, and some with nervous fear. Hayate dropped to her knees beside Jennifer Gareau's body, her eyes tearing up again as she gently picked up the broad ring by the officer's hand and placed it on the blonde's chest.
"She fought amazingly," she said softly to Leti. "Officer Gareau was very brave."
"Hayate…what happened? We can't find the Hound of Hades, only the three Relics."
"The Hound was here. I destroyed it." Hayate rose and walked over to the Relics, picking one up to the gasps of the support crew who had been gingerly working up to touching the Relic with their long safety devices. "It had these Relics inside it. That's why it overpowered us. Killed Jennifer-san and Zafira."
Hayate stared at the Relic in her hand, ignoring the bustle around her as Leti ordered her crew around, cleaning up the scene. She felt Zafira come up underneath her free hand and she thrust her hand into his ruff until she warmed her cold fingers on his neck.
"I won't let Lost Logia hurt people anymore," Hayate promised, watching the red light reflecting off the sides of the Relic. It looked so innocent, so pretty—tragedy bound inside a crystal wrapping.
"One day…never again."
Author's Note: In case it wasn't obvious, this takes place between A's and StrikerS, with Hayate at 16 and newly made an Officer of the Special Investigations Unit. The Gadgets had already been seen during Nanoha's accident.
The inspiration for this fic came when I wanted to write a story where Hayate resurrected one of her Wolkenritter, before they decided to become more human and less like Programs in the third anime season. I wondered what kind of price might that resurrection cause, and how it would affect Hayate. The whole concept of fealty is that while Zafira has a duty towards Hayate as his Mistress, she owes him as well since she's his master—and I wanted to write about both of them doing their duty to each other all the way to death =).
Stuff that I had invented for the story: Admiral Leti's ship Nibiru, Un-Administered World #70, Hemmon, Officer Jennifer Gareau and Clarent, and the Hound of Hades.
For fun, I tried to explain here why Zafira was never in his human form in StrikerS, and also why Hayate had a deeper drive for wanting to find Relics/Lost Logias and for establishing Riot Force 6.
Thanks for reading!