Hayate died. The Wolkenritter did not. With her dying breath, she gave them to another so they would live on. Chrono Harlaown, just turned 17, is about to receive the most precious gift of his life.

Now he has to survive it.

Life After Hayate

It was the day he turned seventeen.

Chrono didn't celebrate. There was work to be doing. The Shaula was responding, along with other ships, to a developing situation on an administrated world. Chrono waved his arm forward, and mentally cursed the crunch of armored boots on the snow. "Move up!"

A half-dozen other black-longcoated mages followed him forward. He could hear the sounds of combat, somewhere ahead, but the ruins made it difficult to judge distances. Something had rendered most of the battle area blind for teleport or he would already be in the thick of it.

"Contact!" Chrono called, spotting a four-legged robot scuttling ahead of him.

"Stinger Snipe." S2U added. The attack dissipated before making contact, and he remembered a recent conversation with Hayate about the possibility of anti-magilink fields being used in combat against Bureau troops. That those would appear, here, now, when Hayate had called for backup...

Whatever its powers, the drone couldn't manage to deal with the combined fire of the rest of his team. Chrono swept past the smoldering wreck. Hayate. Status?

Holding them for now! Hayate's mental voice came back. Chrono heard the crunch of movement in the snow ahead of himself and brought S2U to a guard position instinctively. A moment later another of the drones flickered into existence in front of him. It raised its arms to attack.

Too slow. "Stinger Ray." S2U announced, and the drone was blasted back by a dozen strikes to its front carapace, cracking its armor and doing fatal damage to its power system. Chrono didn't bother to break stride. Hayate, they can cloak.

No response. Chrono's expression of anger blanked out, and he picked up his pace. He entered a clear space in the ruins and spotted human shapes on the other side through blowing snow, a localized blizzard. Wind spells. Probably Shamal.

Four shapes. Not five. "Shamal! Drop the wind!" He hoped the Wolkenritter would recognize his voice; he didn't have any good way of identifying himself as a friendly. Nobody had realized they'd need to. His team, he noted with some gratification, was only a step behind him.

More drones were in the square, cylindrical things. He heard metal tearing through metal with a shriek and an enraged yell from what could only be Vita, followed by several packet attacks blasting through nearby drones. It wasn't a very smart thing to do, but he advanced at a run.

Signum appeared from the howling blizzard in front of him, her sword coming down in an arc that might have removed his head had she not stopped it. "Harlaown, Hayate is injured." She spared him not another word, turning to strike down another drone, her blade cutting through it with the same screech.

Chrono knelt next to Hayate a moment later. She was badly injured, a wound straight from back to front in her chest, bleeding profusely. He swore softly and tried to stabilize her as best he could, pausing to press the bead in his ear in further. "I have a critical case here! If you drag along a meter of dirt then you can complain about the cleanup once she's safe! Lock on to my signal and teleport!"

"Ten seconds Hayate." He looked up and thrust his Device out at another drone, one of the ones with legs. "Stinger Ray," S2U added. If the drone had anything to add to the conversation, it was never going to get the chance. It went off like a firework.

Rein dropped out of unison and flew over to him as Hayate faded out. He also noted the Book of the Night Sky lying on the ground unattended, and picked it up for safekeeping. Another cry, male, told him that one of his team was injured as well.

"Shamal, drop the blizzard! I need to be able to see." A moment later the Wolkenritter complied. Chrono smiled grimly. There were twenty-five drones, two of them legged models and the rest the cylindrical ones, still active on the field.

"Struggle Bind." The binds wrapped around one of the ones with legs. He wanted that camouflage system intact. "Put the rest in the ground!" Chrono ordered, a task which both his team and the Wolkenritter went to with a will, But they teleported, even the one he'd bound and the ones that were damaged or destroyed. That meant an external source.

"Shaula, Harlaown, they just teleported. You have a track?" Chrono's expression turned incredulous. "What the hell do you mean, you had to shut down everything due to a cyberwarfare attack?"

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Shamal, only a couple of meters away, start to totter. He took two steps and managed to catch her before she fell. Vita, behind him, had burst into tears. And he realized that...

His eyes widened. His pupils shrank. For one endless, hideous moment he was assaulted by emotions that were not his own, anger and despair that would have crushed him beyond recognition. Then he managed to cut it off.

Chrono had felt what the Wolkenritter had felt. That meant he'd connected with the Book in his hand. That meant that Hayate was...

He almost let go of Shamal. Only the certain knowledge she would have fallen face-first into the snow without his arm supporting her kept him from doing it. Even so, he actually let go of S2U, breaking the first rule he'd learned in training about never letting go of your weapon.

Chrono Harlaown, for the first time in his life, wept openly.