You know how the last 2 volumes were just short stories, with relatively little continuity? Because that ends here. The bulk of volume 17 is taken up by a large backstory arc titled THE END OF THE WORLD, which tells the story of 6-year-old Hayate and his First Love that was previously hinted at, as a prelude to the Golden Week arc. After being shamed by his class for a theft he didn't commit, Hayate ran away from his family. After an unknown amount of running, he found himself in a bed of flowers, where he met Athena Tennos, who was immediately compassionate. Athena offered him a job as a butler in the Royal Garden, a mythical magical castle on the ledge of a cliff. She then trained him in a variety of skills—almost everything that present-Hayate can do, he learned from Athena. After a brief argument, she started training him in self-defense.
Then he took a brief leave from the castle, saving one of Izumi's dolls from a dog and discovering new confidence in his ability to fight. Izumi glomped him in thanks, which Athena misinterpreted as Hayate having an intimate relationship with Izumi, and got mad at him. She lectured him in how to be a proper boyfriend, and he then set out to obtain a gift for her. The volume ends there, with the rest in volume 18.
- "Even Though the Law Says 'No', My Yearning to Watch It Won't Go Away"
- "You Are Bound to Meet Most of the People You'll Need in Your Life"
- "The Sweat And Tears Under the Mask Can't Be Revealed, Because I Am a Hero"
- "That's the Machine That Captures Time with Light"
- "THE END OF THE WORLD (1) - The 3,000 Realms That You Desired"
- "THE END OF THE WORLD (2) - The Castle Where God Is Said to Dwell"
- "THE END OF THE WORLD (3) - The Miniature Garden of Amaterasu"
- "THE END OF THE WORLD (4) - A Voice That Reaches the Entire World"
- "THE END OF THE WORLD (5) - A Premonition of the End"
- "THE END OF THE WORLD (6) - The Will for Power"
- "THE END OF THE WORLD (7) - Proof of Love on the Left Hand"
- Chekhov's Gun: Shirozakura, a holy sword that Only the Chosen May Wield, and Kurotsubaki, its antithesis, are briefly mentioned in the Royal Garden. The former ends up being wielded by Hinagiku starting volume 24, while the latter becomes the MacGuffin of Hayate no Gotoku: Can't Take My Eyes Off You.
- Forgotten First Meeting: Hayate and Izumi both seem to remember their encounter outside the Royal Garden, but neither of them recognize each other when they meet again 10 years later.
- Whole Episode Flashback: The entire END OF THE WORLD arc is a flashback to ten years prior.
- Year Inside, Hour Outside. Time is strongly implied to move slower in the Royal Garden, with the clock on the wall that moves slowly, and some of Athena's remarks.