The sense is real: the contenders for Hayate’s affection are getting send-offs one by one, according to the “countdown playback” character of the week: some said that Hata had claimed Hinagiku was “out” after Hinagiku week (I am not sure when and where he said that, but whatever), Athena sort of admitted defeat to Ayumu in the Athena-Sakuya week, and now it is Ayumu’s turn in the Ayumu-Isumi week…
It seems sad, but unless this series is heading for a “harem” ending which nobody really wants, there would be only one winner and many losers. Yet as I have suggested before, a character is not necessarily defined by whether she ends up winning or not: she could be equally admirable if she managed to handle the defeat nicely.
And this is exactly what Ayumu was able to do in this chapter.
One might wonder what exactly is happening in the fandom. One week ago people were hyping the “Ayumu end” because the last chapter ended with Hayate and Ayumu running away from the Yakuza, holding hands. One week later the ship is declared deader than dead by Hata himself on his BS (unlike Hinagiku, this time I am quite sure I read the message). It kind of just proves that people should stop overreacting about shipping, especially when the ship tease comes at the end of a chapter.
Just imagine it going totally nuts when they see Hayate and Ayumu kissing in this chapter…
So, what exactly went wrong between Hayate and Ayumu in this chapter? Why would one of the most resilient, patient and sometimes downright sweet ships suddenly hit the iceberg and head straight into the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean? In this “what-if?” scenario, Ayumu received the most satisfying answer she could possibly ask for – Hayate said that he loved her – so why would a moment of triumph lead her to surrender?
The first thing to note – which was pointed out by Ayumu herself – is that it was all too easy: Ayumu found Hayate, ran away from the Yakuza with him, took him to the Christmas party, offered him to stay over at her house… and then Hayate confessed to her. The result of this “what-if?” scenario is clear: if Ayumu was the one who found Hayate one year ago, Hayate would confess that he loved her. Wait, what?
Just a few chapters ago, Ayumu noticed that she could not see her reflection in Hayate’s eyes. According to Athena’s interpretation of relationships, it means that he did not love her. It means that whether Hayate loved her depends on whether Ayumu found him on Christmas Eve one year ago. Let us not forget that unlike Nagi, Ayumu actually had known Hayate before that Christmas Eve. If Hayate’s feelings for her turns out to depend on only one single decisive night, what does this say about his “love” for her?
Hayate’s words to her made it quite clear that his “love” for her was because she saved him on the darkest day of his life. While we can argue whether this is more “gratefulness” than “love”, there is no doubt that Hayate never loved Ayumu for the kindness she showed him before this night. Hayate did not love her for who she was before this night or for who she would be after this night. In the end, it was during Hayate’s confession to her in this “what-if?” scenario that made Ayumu realise that Hayate never considered her anything other than a friend. This is so ironic.
The only good thing that came out from the irony is that, while the scenario of Ayumu finding Hayate on that Christmas Eve was not real, her feelings for him were real. Destiny might have made it not possible for Hayate to love her, but she had still been loving him. Even destiny itself was not able to stop Ayumu from loving Hayate, so we may finally understand just why Athena admitted defeat to Ayumu regarding the strength of bond with Hayate.
Yet Ayumu decided to admit defeat to destiny now, because at the end of the day, she was not the one who met him on the last Christmas Eve. She didn’t hate him; she just accepted the fact that he never loved her back, and it was not remotely her fault. She respected him for his (lack of) true feelings and cheered him on. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the most wonderful expression of unrequited love. Ayumu’s feelings for Hayate were definitely not meaningless.
I don’t know if I should feel a bit sorry for Hayate. This is not the first time he had a ship sunk in his face when he was expecting it to sail (somewhat), and all he could do was to share a goodbye kiss with the girl while his heart was breaking into pieces. The real pain was that the girls did have real feelings for him; it was just that they realised that Hayate did not have / no longer had the same feelings for them, so they quitted. Hayate could not do anything about it because of the… circumstances.
I may have said it before: Hayate did have a rather twisted view about love. Yet after his break-ups with Athena and Ayumu, we might be more sympathetic to him should he choose to pretend being oblivious about love. Even one break-up in this manner could be too much to bear for the heart, let alone two. If you want to count Ruka as well, then there were three. Man, this guy might want a break…
Yet it was Ayumu’s love that cheered him on and woke him up from limbo. He made it just in time into the castle as Hisui was happily tearing the place down because… well, because she was crazy, I suppose. In any case, Hayate had about 15 minutes to save Nagi from her limbo. Fortunately Isumi arrived to stale Hisui (and to get her revenge, no doubt), so Hayate went through the building until he found… Maria.
You know, the fandom has been busy recycling theories on a “Maria end”. In all fairness, I do see the point. Maria was one of the few girls Hayate really found attractive, Isumi suggested in the previous chapter that Maria had a strong bond with Hayate, and if we were to say that Hayate loved Nagi because she saved him, the very same logic should apply to Maria as well. In any case, if we were to buy the theory that “Hinagiku end”, “Athena end” and “Ayumu end” have been shot down one by one, then we indeed have only the two main heroines standing.
Then again, the next character to have her “countdown playback” is Maria, so a part of me is quite eager to see if the “Maria end” would be the next one to get shot, or if she was mighty enough to avoid the established pattern.