Standard disclaimer, unchanged from previous.

Admiral Lindy's voice came through. "What to say here... As always, they're quite amazing in many respects..."

"From the numerical calculations alone, it's kind of scary. To put things in perspective, we're looking at Harry's 100, Nanoha's 65, Fate's 60, and now this Hayate's 70. That's pretty much twice the power of the Asura's entire crew combined. And then the Wolkenritter, whom answer to Hayate, on top of that. They might actually be able to do it... Chrono-kun, we're on standby here! Ten minutes until it reaches critical mass!"

"It's a very risky plan that relies on all of our powers, but it's worth trying!"

Hayate took up the lead. "The defence program's barrier is composed of four layers of physical and magical protection. First, we have to destroy that."

Fate took up the thread, turning to Shamal. "Once we break through the barriers, we'll need you to expose the core while we deal with the main body."

"Then, by combining all our transference magic, teleport it in front of the Asura!"

"And then we just have to fire the Arc-en-ciel." Admiral Lindy added.

"If everything goes to plan, we have the best possible method." Amy added.

"It's time to fight for the present, and change the future!" Chrono rallied.

"Two minutes until it goes berserk." Amy briefed the team.

"Umm... Nanoha-chan, Fate-chan, Harry-kun... Shamal?"

"You want me to heal them, right? Klarer Wind, time to do what you do best!"


"Tranquil Breeze, carry forth a blessing of healing!" A shimmer of spring-green magic washed over the three, easing their collective aches, pain, scratches and bruises. "I am Shamal, the Knight of the Lake, and this is the Ring of Breezes, Klarer Wind. Curative spells are our speciality."

"This is amazing. Thank you very much, Shamal-san!" nanoha was effusive with her thanks.

"Much 'ppreciated." Harry said. What he didn't say was that he wasn't convinced that their plan would go off all that smoothly.

Yuuno, Arf, and Zafira were bunched up together. "We're the ones who'll support you. We'll be sure to stop that annoying barricade in front of it." "Yeah." "That's right."

Plumes of darkness rose from the sea.

"It begins."

"The Tome of the Night Sky... and the program that made it known as the 'cursed Book of Darkness...' The darkness of the Book of Darkness."

The black energy fell away, to reveal a monstrosity. Six limbed, chitinous, with a wide collection of mismatched fangs displayed in an eternally gaping maw, and a figurehead maiden that caterwauled like a banshee. And a great many tentacles.

"Chain Bind." "Struggle Bind." Each Arf's and Yuuno's spells cut through several tentacles. "Restriction, Steel Yoke." Zafira's carved a vast swath. He smirked.

"Your timing better match mine, Takamachi Nanoha."

"You too, Vita-chan!"

"I'm Vita, the Iron Hammer Knight, with the Iron Count, Graf Eisen!"

A cartridge was loaded. "=Giant form.="

"Roaring Smash!" As Vita brought the hammer down, the first of the four barriers fell to her blow.

"Takamachi Nanoha and Raging Heart Excelion, on our way."

"=Load Cartridge.= One, two, three cartridges loaded.

"Excelion Buster!"

"=Barrel Shot.=" Again, a colourless blast of magic. "Break... Shoot!" And boom went the second Barrier.

"Next are Signum, Potter-sama, and Testarossa-san." Shamal said.

And then Signum combined her sheath with her sword, and Harry groaned. "A sword, a whip, and a bow? Talk about overlap. At least I still have my magic."

"Storm Falcon!" The third Barrier fell.

"Harry and Hallow, doing our part. Hammer of the Wizard! Malleus Maleficorum!" "=Siegebreaker="

A blast of silver light, and the fourth and final Barrier fell. 'And that felt too easy...'

"Fate Testarossa and Bardiche Zanber going now!" Another three-cartridge load. "Strike through it, Thunder Blade!" "=Zeus Zanber="

And the program was cleaved in twain. From the ocean depths, more tentacles arose, and began to charge up for a firestorm.

"I am the guarding shield beast, Zafira. I won't let you fire anything!" A myriad of white spikes, skewering each and every tentacle.

"Hayate-chan!" Shamal called.

"Approach from the beyond, mistletoe branches, and become spears of the silver moon! Pierce it!" A cluster of white appeared near the program. "Stone spears, Misteltein!" With a white glimmer, seven spears of light penetrated the body of the program, and where they touched, the program began to petrify.

Then, from the petrified regions, new mass burst forth.

Harry snorted. "Of course it wouldn't be that easy."

"What is that thing?" Arf exclaimed.

"This is certainly turning into something incredible..." Shamal agreed.

"As I thought, average attacks like these won't work!"Amy's news was never more unwelcome. "It'll just regenerate where the damage was inflicted!"

"But the attacks are getting through to it!" "We're not giving up on this plan!"

"Let's do this, Durandal." Chrono and his staff of freezing made their debut. "=Okay, boss.=" "Permafrost, construct a frozen coffin and deliver eternal sleep unto this beast." The sea around the program froze, and frost began to creep up it's extremities. "Freeze!" "=Eternal coffin.="

The frost accelerated. Just when everyone thought it might have worked... The program broke free, and became even uglier. And it began to grow in size, and gain extra appendages.

Harry growled. "Primal fire that consumes all. Incendius Diabolus!" "=Fiendfyre.="

A roaring lion, composed entirely of flames, charged down the grotesque being. But as it charged, it swelled to an enormous size, until it was on par with the rogue program. The ocean around the firey beast began to boil. Unfortunately it wasn't destroying the program, it didn't have enough power for that, but it was consuming it as quickly as the program could regenerate.

"Let's do our thing now, Fate-chan, Hayate-chan, Harry-kun!"

"=Starlight Breaker=" "Everything, right now!"

"Lightning Flash! Plasma Zanber!"

"I'm so sorry." Hayate murmured. "Good night." Her gaze firmed. "Resound, Horn of Judgement! Ragnarock!"

Harry prepared what he hoped would be his final blow, even as the fiendfyre lion continued to savage the off balance fiend. "Patronus Maxima!"

Four simultaneous cries of "BREAKER!"

Maelstroms of yellow, pink, cyan, and silver magic all struck the defence program together. As the beams tapered off, a coruscating beam of red and blue light pierced the sky, quickly followed by rings of light of all colours and no colour.

"Main core, show yourself." Shamal focused. "I've... Got it!"

Shamal, Yuuno, and Arf co-operated to engage a gigantic 'Long Distance Transfer'

"Arc-en-ciel, barrel expansion! Firing Lock System, open. Confirm firing lock, and reposition the ship to a safe position! Start the preparations!"

The ugliest SOB off Earth appeared in front of the Asura.

"Arc-en-ciel... Fire!" Everyone awaited the result with baited breath. "All objects in the firing zone have been completely atomised. Reincarnation reactions... Non-existent! Good work everyone, the situation has been taken care of!"

A cacophony of cheers, even as Harry dispelled the fiendfyre beast that had served him well.

"And just the clean-up to go. But... For now, you should all return to the Asura and take a well deserved rest."

And Hayate fainted.

Harry had been assigned to watch Hayate's bed. He understood why, on an intellectual level, at least after the conversation with Chrono, on behalf of the Book of- the Tome of the Night Sky's admin program. Her concern over the automatic repair function restoring the defence program protocols certainly was a distressing thought.

Especially once the admin program explained that the resurgence of the defense program could result in a return of Hayate's core being consumed. She was advocating her own destruction. Her assurances that the Wolkenritter would remain could at least ease Hayate's distress. The admin asked only that two casters ensure that she 'returned to the night sky'. Harry had offered, being both the most powerful of the three waking top-rank mages, and emotionally divorced from the situation, but both the Admin, and Nanoha and Fate, insisted they be the ones to do it. The Admin program, 'Reinforce', insisted that Nanoha and Fate had been the ones to clear the veil from her eyes, to let her hear Hayate's words, so, even though Harry had the power, it was more the emotional connection.

And Harry had been tasked with keeping Hayate from 'undue emotional distress.' To Harry, it sounded exactly like the lines Dumbledore used to use to justify Harry's lock up at Durzkaban. So while Harry understood his assignment, he didn't give a rat's ass about seeing it kept to. Instead, Harry intended, if Hayate woke in time, to apparate her there himself. He hadn't demonstrated that trick personally yet, so they wouldn't be expecting it.

"=Are you certain this is a good idea, mi'lord?="

"I would've liked to say goodbye to my parents, to Sirius, to Remus and Tonks... Reinforce is one of the closest things Hayate has to a family."

"=I understand mi'lord.="

"=Ready to set.=" "=Stand by.="

"Yes... I was in your care too, if only for a short while."

"=Don't worry.=" "=Take a good journey.="


A double *Crack* of side-along apparition. Harry and Hayate, his arm around her waist, hers over his shoulder, Harry taking most of her weight.

"Reinforce! Everyone!"

Vita made as to close with Hayate, but Reinforce snapped out at her to stay put.

"Reinforce, stop! You don't have to destroy yourself! I'll suppress it! It'll be fine! you don't have to do this!"

"Mistress Hayate... It's fine."

"No, it's not! It's not fine at all!"

"I've lived a long time, many times over, but in the end, I received a beautiful name and heart from you. The knights will remain by your side, so there is nothing to worry about."

"I'm not talking about being worried or anything-"

"So please, I will depart smiling."

Harry cleared his throat. "I'm just going to say one thing. Reinforce, Nanoha, Fate... Raging Heart and Bardiche too... I'm disappointed in the lot of you. Were you even going to give Hayate the opportunity to say goodbye?"

"I didn't- I didn't want to cause mistress Hayate any more distress."

"You may not have known her for as long, in this form, that is, but it was through you that she gained anything resembling a family at all. People that she could care for, and whom care for her in turn, and you were going to simply disappear? She hasn't had the easiest life to date, and I can empathise, but she still deserves a chance to say goodbye. Would you rather give her a sense of closure, or heartbreak?"

They hung their collective heads, even the gems of the intelligent devices dulling. "Don't grieve for me, mistress Hayate. We might have only been together for a short time, but even for that short time, I was the happiest tome alive." Reinforce held her hand against Hayate's cheek for a moment, then returned to the centre of the sealing ritual, tears running down her cheeks, and a smile on her face.

Harry could feel Hayate's knees growing weaker, even though he was taking most of her weight, so he bobbed down just long enough to pick her up properly, bridal carry style. He promptly refused to put her down until she could be put back in bed.

"Though I leave you now, part of my power will stay with you, and, one day, a part of me will be reborn, and we shall meet again." And reinforce departed into the light.

"Did you mean what you said, Harry-kun? About Reinforce and family?"

"Let me tell you a story. It's not a pretty story, and I won't burden you with all the details. When I was yet a babe, only a little over a year, my parents were killed. Yes. Like you, I am an orphan. Until I turned eleven, I lived with my aunt and her family. I was fed little, and worked like a dog. They hated me, and I hated them. I went away to boarding school at eleven. When I was thirteen, I met one of the two men that were like brothers to my father. When I was almost fourteen, I met my godfather for the first time I could recall. The other of these not-quite-brothers. I only had the one night to get to know my godfather at that time, because he was on the run, an escapee from prison, for a crime he was framed for. He was killed before I turned sixteen, and I only ever spent a couple months with him, but he was the closest thing to a father I've ever known. The other man was like an uncle to me, and he too died before I turned eighteen. My cousin, on my father's side, whom I met at fifteen, married that man. She died the same night he did. That's a mother and father I cannot remember, a father figure I only got a couple months with, and an 'uncle' and a cousin, neither of whom I knew much better. The man I once treated as a brother for seven years? He was plotting my death, along with his family, including my ex-girlfriend, to get their hands on my money. The woman that was as a sister to me? She fled the country the same day I did."
Hayate sobbed gently. Harry continued to speak though. Even an abridged account was a catharsis. "But Reinforce gave you a mother figure, Shamal, a protective older brother, Zafira, an aloof older sister, Signum, and a younger sister in Vita. They care for you as much as you do for them, and they are willing to, and did, give their very lives to keep you smiling. And Reinforce promised to return to you, in some form, so it's not so much 'good bye' as 'see you soon'. I envy you your closeness, yet I am not aggrieved of my own life, for I know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I will see them again in the next life. So I shall live this one to the fullest, and regale them with tales of my exploits whence I finally do. So live, and love, and make the most of the life you have." He gave her a quick kiss on the forehead, entirely platonically, for their mutual grief. "And without the drain of the defence program, your limbs will gain the strength so long denied, and you will be up and about as easily as anyone. You will have your friends, your family, and your health. Do not lock yourself away, but overcome."

She wiped away her tears. "Thank you Harry. I think that's what I needed to hear." She shook herself and turned red. "Not that I find comfort in your loss. I just..."

"Know that you are not alone, and that other people understand what you're going through. Sadness shared is sadness halved."

"What about you? You weren't born in this country, and you have no roots here. Will you return to your own?"

"No! I mean, I swore never to return to the country of my birth. I was thinking of maybe doing something with the TSAB. Nanoha and Fate both have more than enough power to take the same option, and you have more than either of them. Not quite a much as I do, but then again, you have your family to back you up. Now let's put you back in bed. Sooner you heal, the sooner you can be up and about under your own power."

"If you ever need a place to stay, my door will always be open to you."

"I'm two and a bit years older than you, it's hardly appropriate." Harry winked. Then laughed when Hayate flushed. "Besides, I'm rather well off, I could buy an entire housing complex on a whim, and not even dent my finances, if I felt like it.

If I do decide to write a StrikerS Arc, it'll be published as a separate fic. Until then, this is Chronopie, signing out.