Well, here we go. After a good deal of revision and help from the good people on the AnimeSuki forum, my first published story on .
Comments and criticisms are welcome and appreciated, its the only way I can learn what's done right and what's done wrong.
I don't own anything related to the Nanoha franchise or other referenced works.
- Story Start -
He could feel the searing heat all around him. It was a stifling conflagration that ate away at the air, attempting to steal life from his lungs almost nearly at the same pace as he could draw it in. Beneath his battered and bleeding form lay the thankfully unconscious forms of two people close to his heart. Though at the rate that the oxygen was being devoured in the immediate area and from the wounds that had rendered then ignorant of the world, they were likely not to survive for very long.
With a pained groan, he struggled to his feet whilst being careful not to move either of the two. Debris and craters littered the area, the bodies of the unfortunate few caught in the initial assault lay among them. A more popular place would have probably been painted red with the blood of the dead. Fortunately museums rarely attracted large crowds.
The sounds of battle rang out quite clearly as the rogue machines continued their wholesale slaughter, checked only be the combat mages actually able to withstand or penetrate their AMF. The number who could do so was not small, but they were still outnumbered by the mechanical assailants ten fold. Familiar beams of pink and yellow flashed in the distance. The massive battleships that had been commandeered by them loomed ominously in the lower atmosphere as they poured out reinforcements of all shapes and sizes.
- Scene Break - 4 hours prior to attack -
It had been a slow day at the Infinity Library. Usually there would be clerks running back and forth with piles of tomes and papers, hurrying to complete their tasks to meet the considerable demand for information. Requests from all branches of the TSAB would pour in and the clerks would then make use of the powerful search algorithms constructed by the Head Librarian, one Yuuno Scrya, to pull the information requested and have it sent off in digital format. This system also kept internal foot traffic to a a relative minimum as higher ups, researchers, and investigators no longer had to come to the library in person to get what they needed.
This day, there were far fewer requests than normal and it gave all present a chance to breath a little easier. Such was usually not the case for Yuuno. Even if the requests handled by his subordinates slowed down, the ones for sensitive information often did not. Special requests for information involving certain subjects and cases had to be handled by him as Head Librarian as no one else had a high enough pay-grade to have access.
Unfortunately, such a status also kept him locked up when heavy workloads came in. The aftermath of the Scaglietti Incident certainly hadn't helped. Processing the remains of the Cradle and cataloguing everything had kept Yuuno unable to do much more than take breaks to use the restroom, eat, and sleep. Not to mention the absurd amount of information acquired from Jail's, albeit illegal, research. Yuuno was fairly certain that he would forget what natural sunlight felt like at the pace he was going.
The situation certainly hadn't helped his already miserable social life. The only contact he'd had with with his friends in the past few months had been through work, leaving no chance to catch up. He hadn't actually spoken to Nanoha since the Scagliettit Incident. Fate had been nearly all business in the few times she'd called in to request information. Yuuno knew they were busy, but he still felt a little used. It was as if all he was good for was sitting back and acting as a glorified search engine.
Ever since he'd started at the Infinity Library, contact with everyone had declined sharply. The only semi-regular visitor he'd had was Hayate, occasionally accompanied by either Signum or Vita. For reasons he could only wonder at and secretly dream of, the Mistress of the Book of the Night Sky preferred to get her information from him in person. It was something he was glad for.
Since perhaps about a month after the Cradle's destruction, Hayate had occasionally brought along little Vivio when coming in to request more mundane information, stating that her 'mamas' were on assignment or otherwise unable to watch over the girl. While never actually able to join them when they asked him to join them for lunch, he was glad for the company. It was the only thing that kept him sane these days. Hayate could see that he was being worked to the bone, Yuuno could tell, but there was little she could do in her position without getting one or both of them fired.
This day however, Yuuno's dismal lot changed for the better when the large doors to his office opened with a groan. Looking up from the ancient tome in his hands, he was nearly bowled over as a blonde rocket ran around his desk and leaped into his lap whilst shouting his name. The book went flying as he moved to catch the catch the smaller person and not send both of them crashing to the ground.
The book landed nearby with a dull 'thud', accompanied by mirthful laughter from the second figure who had entered the room, "I think that you'd have developed a sixth sense for detecting Vivio-Rockets by now, Yuuno." Said figure was revealed to be Hayate, clad in her TSAB uniform and wearing her ever present grin.
"Sorry, I've been too busy to tune my radar lately." he replied with a bit of humor in his tired voice.
Hayate seemed both amused and irritated at his reply, "Well, I've got something that should perk you up a bit. At very least it'll get you out of the office. And don't worry about work, I finally managed to convince some of our collective bosses that you more than deserved a break." she finished with a confident smirk before giving a knowing look at Vivio. Said girl jumped off of Yuuno's lap and began rummaging around her pockets before pulling out three pieces of paper with a smile and presenting them to the librarian.
"We're going to the museum! They've got a new display up about the Saint Kaiser." It seemed that anything to do with history, particularly the Saint Kaiser, would get Vivio's near undivided attention.
Letting out an exaggerated sigh of defeat, Yuuno surrendered to the duo, "All right, let me get my coat."
"Yay!" exclaimed the little blonde girl before running over to Hayate, who bent down to give a high-five.
As Yuuno rummaged around the mess that was his office to get to his coat hangar, Hayate took notice at just how worn down the man seemed. It was as if his spirit was slowly burning itself out, like a lamp without oil. She would have continued her train of thought on her friend's health but it was interrupted when he tapped her on the shoulder, "You okay? You zoned out for a sec." inquired Yuuno.
"No, no, I'm good. Shall we?" That was all it took for Vivio to grab both adult's hands and drag them out of the office humming happily, Yuuno barely managing to lock the door behind him.
- Scene Break - 3 hours prior to attack -
It hadn't taken the trio long to arrive at the nearest transportation facility thanks to Hayate's decision to drive rather than rely on the TSAB HQ's mass transit system to get them there. From the facility, it was a quick jump to a Mid-Childan branch where a taxi was hailed. The whole time, Vivio couldn't seem to contain her excitement. Whether that was from the fact that they would soon be at a repository of historical artifacts, that she was on an outing with 'Mr. Yuuno' and 'Auntie-Hayate', or a combination of both seemed to matter little to the adults, so long as she was happy.
Arriving at the museum only took a few minutes of suffering the midday lunchtime congestion. As Yuuno paid the driver, much to Hayate's mock annoyance, the sky seemed to darken ever so slightly as clouds began to come in from the east.
The museum certainly served as a much needed break for the Head Librarian, even if most of the time was spent running around and trying to keep an eye on Vivio. It was still the most alive he'd felt in ages.
He took great pleasure in explaining things to both Hayate and Vivio about the various historical artifacts, more than a few of which had been discovered by himself on the digs he no longer had time for. Yuuno talked in great detail about the Crown of the Kaiser, an intricate piece of magical gold work that had been passed down through generations. From there they saw the Armor of Invincibility, a legendary suit of armor said to bestow upon the wearer said invincibility and only ever worn by one legendary fighter who served the Kaiser alongside his best friend, a mage of great power if not horribly violent at times.
As Yuuno regaled them with his knowledge of the past, Hayate felt a little pleased with herself. It wasn't much, but at least he seemed to have a little more spring in his step as the three walked through the numerous and extraordinary exhibits. Still, she wanted to know exactly what was troubling her longtime friend. She wanted to help, even if a little. She was fairly certain by now that it stemmed from lac of contact with his friends. Humans were social animals after all.
Deciding that it was good a time as any, Hayate claimed that they should take a short break and perhaps get something cold and sweet. Vivio's eyes lit up at the prospect of ice cream, but managed to reign in her joy.
- Scene Break - 1 hour to attack -
The line at the museum's food court was short and it did not take long for the three of them to obtain their frozen snacks. Sitting at a nearby table and noting that Vivio was far more interested in ice cream than anything else, Hayate decided to set foot into a possible minefield, "Yuuno, are you alright?" She spoke in the same tone she used whenever Vita or Zwei would wake up in the middle of the night with nightmares.
"Eh?" His response was short and full of confusion.
"It just seems like whenever I see you lately, you seem less... lively. Like you're wasting away in front of me." It was far more direct than she wanted to be, but Yuuno would have just tried to deflect the question if she didn't prod a little forcefully.
Setting down his cup of ice cream, Yuuno sighed deeply. It was a sound that one might expect from an old man rather than someone in their early twenties. He was debating within himself whether or not to entrust Hayate with something so personal, something that he felt was rather selfish as well. He couldn't find any decent reason not to tell her. Fear was one reason, but fear of being rejected by one of the few remaining friends who stayed in contact with him didn't seem quite applicable with Hayate. She was, in a sense, a mother of five individuals who each had their own problems to deal with and she'd been with them through thick and thin.
"...I don't think so." he finally answered hesitantly, "I feel... used."
That was not an answer Hayate had been expecting, her eyes widening slightly as Yuuno continued, "After I took over the Infinity LIbrary, I saw everyone less and less. It was something I expected, especially after I started work on the Infinite Search Algorithm. But after that... It was just work. The few times I talked with anyone, it was for information requests or Logia analysis."
Hayate nodded, letting Yuuno continue, "Its gotten to the point where the only contact I have with anyone is through those requests. Even when I can find time to call anyone, it ends up being turned into work." The woman flinched imperceptibly, knowing that she was guilty as well for such treatment, "I haven't even spoken to Nanoha since the Scaglietti Incident." he finished, trying to sound as blase about it as possible. He wasn't very successful.
"I know it must be hard for you, but you know that you are a very dear friend to all of us. If it weren't for you, I'm almost certain that a lot of us wouldn't be here today." Supplied Hayate gently. It was true, afterall. Nanoha wouldn't have learned magic, Fate would likely have been arrested or worse, and Hayate herself probably wouldn't even be alive. "And... for what its worth, I am sorry that we haven't been able to keep in touch as much. Though I can't fathom why Nanoha has made herself into such a... non-entity in your life." she admitted quietly.
"Thank you, Hayate. I mean it." offered Yuuno with a small smile, which Hayate returned. Meanwhile, Vivio, who had finished her ice cream looked on in confusion.
Though he had admitted part of his worry to the young woman, there was more to it than that. A portion of it stemming from being a part of the Scrya clan. The Scrya clan was after one thing in all their exploits: the facts. For something to be proven fact, you needed proof. Proof was something very difficult to obtain, and it was proof that Yuuno felt he lacked. Had he truly proven his worth to his friends? Perhaps he hadn't and that was why they'd drifted apart from him with such apparent ease in his eyes.
He'd taught Nanoha magic, assisted in Fate's trial, helped to stop the rampaging defense program, and all other sorts of other little things for everyone since then. Was he allowed to be saddened by his supposed failure or did he have to try harder to become something in their eyes?
- Scene Break - Zero Hour -
Though the mood had become somewhat melancholy after their ice cream break, Vivio's enthusiasm for history was not to be curbed and both adults soon found themselves enjoying themselves more as time went on.
The clouds from earlier had blown in and now filled the sky with billows of white fluff that the youngest of the three was determined to find all manner of shapes in as they left the museum.
That was when everything went to Hell.
Static tainted messages popped up all over the place, revealing the maddened face of Jail Scaglietti. Before Hayate could open up communications to TSAB HQ, Jail spoke, "Greetings people of Mid-Childa! If you are seeing this, then obviously I have failed in my conquest." It was said in a mocking, slightly drunken tone, as if he'd recorded this in the height of madness or a state of delirium. Hayate bit back a curse as the line was dead, indicating some kind of interference around HQ. Jail continued, "Since I have apparently failed in my goals using the Cradle, I'll go for a more traditional approach. War."
The cloudy sky lit up as the massive forms of battleships de-cloaked in the upper atmosphere, their guns raining down death. No one had any time to react or put up their defenses. All Yuuno could do was hurl himself between Hayate and Vivio and pray.
The world became sound and fire and pain, rendering their world black.
- Scene Break - 30 minutes after attack -
Yuuno had to do something to help, but first he had to get them out of this fire else they would all die of asphyxiation and burns before blood loss. Familiar formulas that had become second nature nearly in his life flashed briefly in his mind, pulling together and shaping the mana within his body. A large, pale green circle lit up the ground beneath himself and his two companions before rising sharply and consuming all three. A few moments later, Yuuno, Hayate, and Vivio reappeared within the museum's interior. The hardened walls standing strong against the initial assault that had torn apart the streets and weaker buildings outside.
Removing his torn overcoat, Yuuno placed it over the bodies of the two females to keep them a little warm from the chill of the museum. His hands glowed briefly as healing magics washed over the two to stabilize their vitals. Nodding that they both seemed like they'd pull through until proper medical attention came, he began gathering more mana. With grim determination and a dangerous gleam in his eyes, he reactivated the teleportation array and vanished.
Calling for reinforcements did not cross his mind, assuming any would even be able to come to his position at all. It had become his lot in life as of late, to support from the sidelines and be called in when all was said and done, if at all.
Standing atop the Central Mid-Childa Museum, battered, bloody, and bruised, with glasses cracked and burns everywhere, Yuuno idly wondered if what he was about to do would be considered insane. Perhaps something inside of him had snapped, or maybe just wanted one chance to show he wasn't so useless as he believed many seemed to see him as. To prove himself worthy. It might have even been something so simple as wanting to put up a fight against something that was hell bent on destroying everything he knew and loved.
Gathering up the considerable amount of mana produced within his Linker Core, Yuuno proceeded to cast the one of the strongest defensive spells in his arsenal. It was a simple spell known by many, but in Yuuno's hands, Round Shield was nothing less than a mighty aegis against some of the most powerful spells known. The spell itself did not take much mana, but that was for one shield. With a cascade of purple hued light, countless shields appeared, blanketing the building with a tall bulwark separating the massive mechanical army from Yuuno. The massive outpouring of magic drew the attention of the machines assaulting the city and a number of them broke off to deal with his now obvious location.
It was often assumed that the mastery of barriers, shields, and binds left one mostly useless in an offensive nature when that mage was by themselves. What many failed to realize was just how brutally effective those spells could be in an offensive role. That was a lesson Yuuno was going to unintentionally teach Mid-Childa this day.
Barriers are an interesting thing when one takes the time to think about it. It was something that the Head Librarian had done on more than a few sleepless nights since the Book of Darkness incident. What exactly was a Barrier? Was it more than something to shield yourself from an attacker or from hostile environs? A very disturbing yes had been the answer he'd found. A barrier did not stop an incoming Starlight Breaker. No, it denied the Breaker's ability to exist beyond the barrier's range of influence. A barrier was a denial against an existing force or property.
That was something that Yuuno had put to grim practice once before and had not done so ever since. Numerous barrier sprung to life as the flying machines began to draw close enough to open fire upon the cathedral-like shield array surrounding the museum. As beams and bullets were stopped dead against his powerful shields, Yuuno bade his barriers, through mathematical command, to inflict themselves upon the machines and crush them flat. In rapid succession, the first dozen airborne craft that came too close were compressed between the young man's barriers.
Those that did not detonate upon rapid compression were smashed into plates no more than three centimeters thick. A rewrite of the barrier's formula launched these formerly hostile foes at those still remaining as though they were chakram. Some were split and others smashed, but most of the remaining machines that had come to assault Yuuno's stronghold were how no more than scrap. But machines learn and flew well beyond the range of the deadly barriers, opting to hurl their ordinance from a safe distance. Explosions rocked the area and fiery plumes lit up the air all around the museum, but still the shields held.
Such distance did not falter the librarian's will. More barriers sprang into existence, setting to specifically programmed tasks as Yuuno directed them via will and motion of hand. Warped lampposts and rebar were twisted into wicked looking spiraled spears. Slabs of broken stone and cracked streets were sheared into lances. As each usable bit of debris was wrought into an impromptu projectile, they were pulled before Yuuno and a hand motion set into action another barrier. This barrier denied the lack of motion in all three axes, imposing upon it tremendous momentum and converting a once motionless object into a deadly comet. Hurled at such tremendous speed that some even glowed red hot from friction before lancing a machine too slow to evade, shredding the victims from the absurd forces placed upon them.
By now there were no more foes that he could sense, only see in the distance. The immediate region was clear of the merciless mechanical assailants, but Yuuno's now combat addled mind was searching. Searching for more enemies who would bring death and ruin to this world. Up above, one of the massive battleships emitted a massive and near blinding flash as the Arc en Ciel of a TSAB Navy warship finally managed a killing blow before being struck down itself. The two mortally wounded ships began their uncontrolled descent into the atmosphere, dragging down a second enemy ship and nailing shut their own coffins as the friction chewed them up with blazing jaws.
They would not be consumed so easily. Their mass was far too much to eat all at once. They wound fall upon the land and ravage it far worse than the machines had been able to in the short few hours of the attack. Not even Yuuno's barriers would hold against such an impact, nor could any mage or ship destroy enough in time. Even those that could generate such force would die in the effort or, far more likely, be shot down preparing for such a spell.
A moment of clarity fell over Yuuno's mind as the adrenaline peaked in his system. He was vaguely aware of the approaching figure of one of the Wolkenritter from low altitude, likely Vita, though she was still at a tremendous distance. The increased magical signature from one figure below alerted him to the awakening of Hayate. Still, all around him was clear, even the machines were moving clear as mages scurried to get as many people to safety as possible in the scant few minutes before the trio of wrecked ships fell upon the city. The machines, though fleeing for their mechanical hides as well, took up ever chance to kill anything in their path.
In this heightened state of awareness, Yuuno dropped his shield array and pulled together another bout of teleportation magic whilst sending a brief warning to the incoming Vita. Hayate and Vivio never knew what happened before they found themselves in midair, tossed neatly into the Hammer Knight's surprised arms. Though small in stature, her strength kept her from dropping either of her two sudden passengers.
If was that and a one word warning from the Head Librarian that set her moving at top speed away from the area with her master and young Vivio.
Now. Now Yuuno stood alone. The wind blew his blond hair about as he stood atop the museum's tallest point. As best he knew, the impact of the three derelicts would ruin this land for ages to come and kill so many people from the fallout. Now was for what could be his final sacrifice, one last chance to prove himself. Even if that proving was to himself.
Manipulating his barriers with such complex mathematical structures was no small feat. In fact the demand his brain placed on oxygen was forcing so much blood into his head that his ears and nose began to bleed as small capillaries burst under the pressure. He was pulling in the atmosphere and compressing it in an insanely fast rotation. Compressing it with such force that the sphere before him began to glow white hot. The blazing wrecks were even closer now, far too close. Yuuno idly wondered if time was really slowing down or if it was just his perception. A flash of light burst from the searing ball now held condensed beneath dozens upon dozens of shields and barriers.
It was now or never. Raising the complex spell-work containing his final gambit above his head, there seemed to be no sense of anything beyond what he was doing. There was no sound to his ears. No smell reached his nose. His body felt numb. Tunnel vision became black and white save for the colorful array in his hands. He reinforced the barriers behind the sphere until he could feel his Linker Core screaming in pain from the drainage.
He exhaled and broke the barriers facing the incoming battleships.
For a brief moment, Mid-Childa experienced man made sunrise. Silence followed the blinding flash for only a fraction of a second, then a terrifying roar as nuclear hellfire erupted from the roof of the building. A star had been born, only to be sacrificed ruthlessly as a last ditch weapon conceived by one man. This was not magic, this was a horrendous massacre of physics at the hands of magic. The column of blazing atomic death consumed the derelict ships in one vicious wave, pushing them back before reducing them to their constituent particles and a spray of molten slag in an instant. Hellfire continued beyond into space, devouring another machine commanded battleship and wounding two TSAB ships before beginning to dissipate.
In the dying light of the micro-nova, Yuuno Scrya stood there atop the seared building's rooftop. His arms were scorched, his clothes mostly ash, and wounds burned shut. As darkness filled his eyes, he wondered, had he finally proven himself?