Ch 4 - 'Cause We Needed Even More Problems, Pt.1

A/N: So, you know how I said VAAPPR was ahead of schedule… Well, Shion got raided by bandits before the Grimm showed up. A whole tribe of bandits… I think you all know where this is going…

Just a reminder: parentheses without a name means that a scene change occurred, but the perspective is still following the character of the last perspective. I don't do it often, but it does happen.

Lastly, there's an omake at the end of this chapter. It's canon to the story, and I really like how it came out, so I hope you don't skip it.

Disclaimer: I don't own Dark Souls or RWBY. Dark Souls belongs to From Software and RWBY belongs to RoosterTeeth. I only own my OCs.

(Jaune)

"Do you believe in destiny?"

"Yes."

An arrow pierced flesh.

A woman gasped as she died.

"PYRHAAAAAA!"

Jaune jerked awake, sitting upright and breathing heavily, the nightmare already fading from memory beyond the snippets of it being on that tower, and the woman in the sleeping bag next to him having died in front of him as he was helpless to stop it. He looked at Pyrrha's red hair as she slept, verifying she was still there, watching the gentle rise and fall of her chest. Just a dream. Just a dream, he told himself as he calmed his breathing. Pyrrha's alive. Vyliria saved her. His eyes flicked to the now dead campfire they'd made at the clearing they'd chosen to spend the night in. The Irithyllian had a sleeping bag, but tended to prefer to sit in her particular manner by the fire regardless. Except now she wasn't there. And a quick glance around the camp showed Penny was missing too.

Now wide awake, he quietly left the sleeping bag, standing up and silently drawing the blade of Crocea Mors, scanning the surroundings. Just as he was about to start waking the rest of his friends, he heard the familiar whistling of a sharp weapon through air, repeating near constantly, though the lack of a clash of metal or the sound of flesh being split made him conclude a lack of actual combat. He left the campsite, following the sound, noting the dozens of blue fireflies flitting about as they had every night for the past few weeks in Mistral. When he saw the source of the noises, he ducked partially behind a tree, watching as he felt like he was intruding on something he shouldn't have.

Vyliria Avalon was a blur of motion, the Moonlight Greatsword swinging through the night as she battled imaginary foes, occasionally leaving split-second trails of teal as an afterimage as it swung. She blocked two blows from the front, sweeping around to slice through a nonexistent opponent coming from behind, before returning to the front and unleashing a wave of lunar magic. She spun, embers washing down her arms as she did, her legendary blade replaced with her Black Knight glaive, slamming it down on the ground before slicing to the right. She jumped forwards, bringing the polearm with her, before ducking low to swing the weapon in a 360 degree arc, shifting her grip and ending the attack with a savage thrust. Her head twisted slightly to the left, and a hand thrust out to cast a black flame to intercept another false adversary. She ran forwards, Moonlight Greatsword coming to hand once more, dropping and using her parrying dagger to anchor herself for a wide swing at leg level. She followed that with a transition to a flip overhead, clearing well over eight feet of height as her Izalith Staff came to hand and blasted a bark bead at a target on the ground that wasn't there. She landed, the staff already dispersing as she swung several times with the greatsword one-handed, and followed with some rapid strikes from her parrying dagger, before transitioning to her sellsword twinblades to carve through multiple conjured opponents at once. Jaune watched mutely as she fought like a woman possessed for several more minutes, before she finally came to a stop, panting from exertion.

Just before Jaune would have made his presence known, he paused as she visibly tensed, fists shaking from anger. "Still not good enough," he heard her murmur to herself. "I… I need to keep my promise. I can't fail them all again. I can't." She settled into a stance with the Moonlight Greatsword once more. "Once more, from the first," she said, and she followed up with launching into another battle that only existed within her mind.

"She's been doing this almost every night since we left. All night long, as soon as you're all asleep to minutes before you all start to wake. I occasionally help her train, and she's helped me improve my hand-to-hand combat skills." Jaune jerked in surprise as he looked to see Penny standing next to him, but managed to keep quiet as the gynoid spoke in a whisper. "The night we 'convinced' Vyliria to take a break, I managed to convince her to just spend the night relaxing, and we talked about her past and caught some fireflies." She smiled to herself. "It was fun. But almost every night is her training like this, determined to better herself to keep her promise. I wish I could help her, and I don't mean with more training, but… she really cares about us, doesn't she?"

Jaune swallowed, turning around to go back to camp, and Penny followed, though just before he did, he saw Vyliria call forth a straight sword he hadn't seen her use before. The weapon appeared to be entirely stone, with some strange runes on the blade, the hilt wrapped with leather that looked ancient, and some strange manner of segmented stone tendrils randomly extending from the pommel. As they headed back to the camp, Jaune heard fire burst to life.

"Yeah," he agreed, electing to keep silent on his nightmare. "She does."

(Ren)

With the bite of a lance yet the speed of a sparrow,

The maidens of the Lord smote them with their Lighting Arrows!

The sacred chime of Filianore rang and an electric projectile was conjured around it, Jaune aiming the miracle before letting the bolt fly. Ren idly observed as Pyrrha continued to ensure Jaune finally had the miracle ready to use on demand, having spent the past few days working on it. When he asked Pyrrha one morning a few days ago, he refused to explain why, but his girlfriend had been happy to finally give him a ranged option in combat.

"Alright Vyl, we're ready!" Nora called out. Ren turned, devoting the whole of his mind back to the task at hand. Vyliria had spent several weeks working on utilizing her darksign to sense the souls around her, and considering that they only had to reposition once she blindfolded herself, it was an easy task for Nora, Penny, and himself to help her with.

The Irithyllian, not facing him, gave a nod, and her darksign flared into visibility through her armor. Ren fought off the urge to cringe when he saw the burning circle, and chastised himself for even thinking to do so. As requested, he activated his semblance, Tranquility, to mask his emotions in order to see if that had an effect on Vyliria's "soul sense" or "soul sight," as she was currently dubbing it. Vyliria slowly turned in place, before stopping, and raising a hand to point. "Pyrrha," she said, slightly shifting her arm, "Jaune," she added. She turned further, having to take slightly longer since she didn't know the general location of the rest. But sure enough, before the fourth second passed since she called out the position of their team leader, she pointed to his partner, speaking Nora's name aloud as she did. Another three seconds passed. "Penny," she said, "your soul is a bit more… I suppose distinctive would be the best term to describe it, but I can pinpoint it with relative ease and recognize it even faster." Well over half a minute passed after that, before Vyliria finally sighed, removed her blindfold, and said, "Alright, it would appear that Ren's semblance also masks him to anyone attuned to the souls of nearby individuals."

"Well, that's good to know," Ren replied, deactivating Tranquility as he did so, "though I apologize that I can't see any real use for that information."

"Well," Vyliria responded as everyone came back together again, "On the hypothetical spectrum, since your semblance cloaks you from Grimm, it's possible that Grimm aren't attracted to negative emotions, strictly speaking. It's possible that they can simply sense souls, and are drawn to them most strongly when they resonate with negative emotion. And on the practical side, in the unlikely event we encounter hostile undead who can use their darksigns like this, you could hide us for a short time."

"True," Ren conceded, noting Jaune and Pyrrha finishing their training session. "Shall we head off for the next town then?"

"I don't see why not. Let's get to packing up camp, then."

()

"So, the next town is…" Jaune trailed off, gazing at the map he had in front of him with increased scrutiny. He took long enough for that pause that Ren was beginning to become concerned that they were lost, but the grin that suddenly broke out on Jaune's face belied said concerns. "Shion! Oh man, my family and I used to go there all the time!"

"Jaune," Pyrrha questioned, "didn't you mention having a multitude of sisters?"

He rubbed the back of his head, and mumbled, "I have seven…"

Vyliria suddenly blurted out, "Gwyndamn, your mother must have wide hips!" There was a pause as everyone stopped walking and stared at her. "I… I said that out loud, didn't I?" At the continued stares, she added, "Fuck. My apologies."

"You're one to talk," Nora hastily grasped the situation and changed the subject of attention, "Even when you were in your combat armor in Beacon your hips were still obvious. Like, especially with how your height emphasizes it, childbearing is almost an understatement!" Vyliria stiffened, looking down at said hips even now, and while Ren begrudgingly acknowledged Nora as correct, he also cleared his throat to let her know she'd taken things too far in the other direction. "And, uh, also that actually explains a lot on Jaune's part!"

"Wait! What's that supposed to mean?" Jaune shot back.

"Did you do anything interesting there?" Ren then changed the subject completely.

"Oh, tons of stuff!" Jaune said, forgetting what previously happened as they resumed walking. He started gesturing at spots on the map near Shion as Penny bounded over and both Pyrrha and the gynoid looked over his shoulders. "Over here's a hiking trail, and over here is where we went camping all the time. I got my own tent, because I was special." A beat, and then, "Also, so my sisters would stop braiding my hair…"

"Didn't like the look?" Nora questioned as she barely held in laughter, and Ren himself felt a smirk creep onto his face.

"Yeaaah, they just kept doing pigtails, but I personally think that I'm more of a warrior's wolf tail kind of guy."

"Isn't that just a ponytail?" Penny inquired.

Jaune shrugged. "I stand by what I said."

"Well, I think your hair is lovely the way it is," Pyrrha commented as she wrapped her arm in his. Jaune flushed, and Nora started snickering.

"Right," Vyliria teased, "when we get to Shion, I'll make sure to get you two your own room in the inn." She outright cackled with laughter as Pyrrha became mortified at the insinuation.

"Aw, come on, Vyl, why do you always have to kill the mood?" Jaune complained.

The Irithyllian merely raised one hand and called black flames to it. "Because I'm an edgy bitch," she responded, sounding completely serious. There was a silence that lasted about three seconds before the entire group burst out laughing, the unkindled included.

That laughter stopped as soon as they crested a hill and saw Shion in the distance. Because Shion was on fire, and as the wind shifted directions, the scent of dust, fire, and blood reached Ren's nose. He bit down a brief flash of the memory of a screeching Grimm and the clopping of cloven hooves, and gazed more intently at what he was seeing. Even from this distance, if Grimm were attacking the village, they'd have seen some sign of them, even if it was merely nevermores or other airborne Grimm circling overhead. That meant that there was only one culprit for the current crisis.

Nora reached the same conclusion he did, and spoke first, her fists clenching. "Bandits…"

Jaune folded up the map, hastily stuffing it away, eyes hardening as the tactician took in the situation. "Vyliria, Penny, you're faster than us, go ahead; we'll catch up. Priority one is protecting the civilians."

"Right," the both said, before the Irithyllian followed up with, "Obviously I'll stop to protect people first, but do I have permission to go after their leader if the opportunity presents itself? That would throw the raiders in disarray and make our task easier." At Jaune's nod, she turned, but stopped after jogging a few steps, grabbing Penny's elbow. "Are you all prepared to kill the bandits?" she asked the group. "I… recognize that your morals on that differ from mine, but these brigands aren't above murder themselves, have likely caused the death of entire villages before, and if they escape they'll almost certainly kill more people in the future."

Ren and Nora looked to Jaune as he hesitated, before he took in a breath and said, "If we have to, we'll do what it takes to protect the villagers. Now go." Vyliria and Penny took off like a pair of rockets, one with the tireless efficiency of a machine, and the other with the endurance of an animate corpse. Pyrrha gave a concerned look towards Jaune, but he started to run forwards before she could say anything. "Come on, we have people to save!"

Ren and Nora were right behind them.

(Penny)

Vyliria split off to another part of the town as Penny used her thermal vision, intending to determine where the largest concentration of people were, with the reasoning that was where the villagers were fleeing towards. Whether or not the town square being that location was a coincidence or by design was something the gynoid could figure out later. As she went down a street towards the town square a mother clutching a crying infant burst out of a door, followed seconds later by a bandit splashed in blood, his sword coated in the liquid as he ripped it out of the corpse of what was likely the woman's husband, laughing all the while. Penny felt anger boiling within her as she realized that that child wouldn't have a father because of this person, and the chime of Caitha she'd been given rang as she intoned,

With the bite of a lance yet the speed of a sparrow,

The maidens of the Lord smote them with their Lighting Arrows!

Two of the projectiles forced the bandit to abort the pursuit of the mother and her baby, and as he turned with a growl towards Penny, Floating Array whirled out, her own blades clashing with his, wrenching it from his hands and then battering his aura into submission while knocking him to the ground. She hesitated for half a second, recalling a corpse gushing black fluid from around the dagger sunk into its back and heart, and in the span that time the bandit drew a pistol and aimed it not at her, but at the mother who'd frozen in fear shortly after Penny's arrival. The gynoid's eyes widened, and four of her blades plunged down before the bandit could pull the trigger. There was a quartet of squelches as the bandit gasped, dropping the weapon and looking in surprise at the blades that murdered him, before he went slack and stopped breathing.

Penny stared at the corpse for a second, her thoughts grinding to a halt, before footsteps alerted her to the mother dashing past her and coming to her knees at her husband's corpse, still holding her child with one arm as she shook the body, crying out, "Evan? Evan?! EVAN, PLEASE!"

Penny swallowed, even though she didn't have to. "Ma'am," she hesitantly began, "I'm sorry, but he's gone. Please follow me to the town square, my friends are on the way to help and that's where the rest of Shion appears to be evacuating towards." The woman sobbed hysterically, not moving. "Please, ma'am, to protect your child." That got a response from the mother, who still lamented, but rose to shaky feet and followed Penny as she resumed going down the street.

They arrived to a scene of chaos, a lone huntsman using a pulse rifle to fire ionized lightning dust rounds at one of the half dozen bandits charging him down; the only person standing between the attackers and over two hundred innocent people. He had black boots with gray soles that rose halfway to his kneecaps, pants that were gray up to a yellow line halfway up his thighs, whereupon they sharply transitioned to black. His gray belt was mostly empty, but a few spare clips of ammunition still rested upon it. Gray armor protected his upper chest, and a white plate covered the front of his wounded abdomen, a black T-shirt with gray sleeves visible underneath. The sleeves and neck ended with a yellow stripe, and a few inches of skin showed on his arms before he was again covered by black past-the-elbow gloves, with gray armor plating on the wrists and the backs of his hands. His skin was fair, his eyes were brown, and his short, randomly spiked hair and eyebrows were a much duller shade of the same color, almost bordering on gray.

Even as Penny closed towards him, he hosed down one bandit, dropping his aura before riddling him with holes, and as the next one reached him, he pressed a button on his rifle, which shifted to a bo-staff with enlarged, blocky ends, both crackling with electricity. He blocked a cut from an axe, pushing it aside and spinning his weapon, landing a pair of blows on the bandit before using the staff as a support to push his feet off the ground, foot lashing out to kick the bandit in the face and shatter her aura, coming to the ground and leveling his staff, firing a round through her neck. He turned his head to the right, as another bandit with a rifle with a bayonet closed in on him, but before he could strike, a green laser courtesy of Penny drilled through his aura, and then his legs. He dropped to the floor screaming in pain, before the huntsman finished him off by breaking his skull with his staff. He caught the spiked club of the fourth assailant on the shaft of his weapon, wrenching to the side to break the brigand's guard, before jabbing one end of the staff into his face, spinning it around to strike him again, before he was forced to roll out of the way of a shotgun blast from the fifth bandit.

Penny used her blades to break the haft of the warhammer of the final bandit, blades spinning to cut his aura down to nothing before she lunged forwards and landed a synthetically enhanced punch to his face, knocking him out cold. She heard the huntsman cry out, turning around to see the fifth bandit pump her shotgun as her target began to bleed from a wound in his stomach, the fourth bandit running in to take advantage of the opportunity. Before he could, one of Penny's swords shot forwards, stabbing through what was left of his aura and into his chest, and when it was pulled out he dropped to the floor and started coughing up blood. Even as the swords moved, Penny was already calling out another prayer.

The wyrmkin flew against the armies of the Lords.

Into a cloud of greatarrows and a forest of swords,

Yet even as the everlasting dragons flew down and drew near,

The warriors of Gwyn threw forth their Great Lightning Spears!

Before the bandit could fire again, she cried out in pain as the miracle smashed into her, sending her flying, her weapon tumbling from her hands as she lost consciousness and her aura fizzled out. With no more assailants present in the town square, Penny approached the huntsman even as he stumbled, grunting as he shifted his staff back into a rifle.

"Not that I don't appreciate the aid, but where the dust did you come from?" he asked in a gruff voice.

"I'm Penny Polendina, and the rest of my friends are on the way to help," she said helpfully, trying to ignore the spreading pools of blood she was responsible for making.

The huntsman noticed the look in her eyes, though, and commented, "Look, kid… Penny, it was either us or them, and if it was us, then all the people behind me would be at their mercy too. The fact that you regret doing it means you're better than they are."

Penny gave a shuddering sigh. "Thank you mister."

"Azul," he said, "Azul Carmon, forget the mister. And thank you for showing up when you did." He coughed, covering his mouth with a hand, and when he drew the limb away, it was bloody. "Shit. My aura was already down. I don't think I can handle another wave."

As if summoned by being mentioned, another mass of bandits came barreling down the street, Penny readying Floating Array as she drew her chime and picked out a spell. Except the bandit's charge was halted as a barrage of lighting arrows and a great soul dreg impacted their front ranks. The attackers hesitated, and that ultimately proved to be their undoing as Jaune, Pyrrha, Nora, and Ren were suddenly among them. Brigands ragdolled as Nora cast wrath of the gods, Magnhild smashing aside opponents like so many twigs, a dark edge crushing a pair of bandits and removing them from the fight, and enemy weapons were being tossed dozens of feet away as Pyrrha's Polarity disarmed her foes before she subdued them. Jaune blocked a swing from a mace, pushing the blunt weapon aside and riposting his foe, kicking her back before dashing forwards and smashing the pommel of Crocea Mors into her head, breaking her aura and knocking her out, before thrusting his sword at another sword wielder charging towards him, even as rounds from StormFlower clipped him. There was a bit of dust being kicked up by the combat and spells, but Penny swore Jaune didn't land that thrust, even as his foe staggered back with a cry of pain as his aura broke.

Jaune seemed to agree, actually blurting aloud, "What the heck? That didn't even hit you!"

"Fucking bastard!" the bandit shouted again, apparently not caring about whether or not Crocea Mors had actually struck him as he lunged at Jaune, only for his sword to be wrapped in a black field and yanked out of his hands courtesy of Polarity, shortly followed by Akoúo̱ slamming into his forehead and sending him to the floor like a sack of bricks. And just like that, the bandits were dealt with, and the villagers were safe. Which made the sounds of magic and arcane explosions in the very near distance much more prominent. The very near distance in fact, two rows of buildings, the latter of which sported a rather large water tower, being the only obstacles to the source of the cacophony. Even more prominent was the rapid crashing of over a dozen bolts of lighting converging at a single target, before a ring that was felt in Penny's very soul was followed by a crackle, and the lighting abruptly stopped. And that could only be coming from one source.

"Vyliria!" Penny called out.

"Pyr! Come on," Jaune called out, "everyone else, protect the villagers!" And though Penny found that it didn't sit well to be waiting while her best friend was apparently in trouble, she recognized that Jaune was right, and could only hope they'd be okay as Jaune and Pyrrha dashed towards the direction of the combat.

()

A/N: So first off, it turns out I am splitting this chapter into two parts.

Going into the chapter itself… Yeah, that's a very different nighttime scene from canon. Originally, I was gonna have Penny be the one who finds Vyliria training herself, but I liked the irony of Jaune being the one to stumble onto the scene much better.

Also, it makes much more sense than in canon. Unless Jaune was supposed to be keeping watch while training with the recording, then all of RNJR would have been asleep in a Grimm filled wilderness at once. Granted, Qrow was watching out for them, but they didn't know that at the time, and even Qrow needed to sleep at some point. But in this timeline, we have two people who are incapable of actually sleeping, so them keeping watch makes sense, which leads to Vyliria training every night.

In case you forgot, our resident unkindled is obsessed with keeping her word when she gives it. Not only did I want a FAtD version of that particular scene, but I also wanted to remind everyone about that. In this case, I killed two hollows with one soul spear. Also, say hi to the Ringed Knight straight sword, aka the Dark Souls Lightsaber.

And I know that that first scene isn't in the order it is in canon, but it felt better to me when I put the chapter like this.

Also, yes, Vyliria does have hips of an above-average width. Not anything ridiculous, but between her height and the fact that she's relatively lithe, even in heavier armor, they're pronounced. And there's actually logic behind that, as it's a product of her Irithyllian heritage. In DS3, when going through Irithyll, you can see phantoms of Vordt and the Dancer before the Pontiff's rings fully turn them into the bosses you fight in-game. And we can clearly see that they're both very tall and fairly thin. Hips of even slightly above-average width would really stick out on a body-type like that, which in turn means Vyliria has a bit of model-ish figure. Not to mention that it seems like every person on Remnant with an unlocked Aura (except for Port) is physically fit and also good looking.

Moving on to the village of Shion itself, VAAPPR arrived as the raid was in progress, before the Grimm showed up in the aftermath. Penny accidentally kills a bandit to save a just-widowed mother, remembering when she killed Banesaw back in Beacon. She manages to push the emotional turmoil of the action down in order to deal with the task at hand, but I wanted to point out a shift occurring in Penny's character. She's still much the same, but surviving this time around has shattered her naivety, and as much as she tries to stay positive and true to herself, she's much more willing to follow Vyliria's example of accepting the reality of the world. It doesn't mean she doesn't regret killing bandits, or that she's becoming a cold-hearted murderer, just that she's starting to accept that if she wants to be a huntress and save the world, she has to kill to protect the innocent, and not just kill Grimm.

Second big change, the huntsman in the Village survives. Say hello to Azul Carmon (spanish doesn't exist in RWBY, so I used that to go by the color-naming conventions), a guy who doesn't even give his name before he croaks in canon. Essentially, while RT has dictated his appearance, and limited the options I could pick for at least one form of his weapon, he's basically an OC.

Yes. Yes, I just had Jaune do a "phantom range on straight swords" joke. I wanted to get one out there since the prologue of book 1, and I decided to take the opportunity here.

Also, Vyliria's seemed to bite off a bit more than she could chew when she went after the bandit leader. I wonder how that's turning out… oh wait, I already know that. You don't, and need to wait to find out! Damn, I can see why authors love torturing people with cliffhangers. This is satisfying as fuck!

Also, since I know someone is gonna ask this, I'll head it off now. Jaune having a nightmare about the canon timeline is a one-off thing. That being said, small references here and there to the fact that time was so broken in Dark Souls that the world effectively split into hundreds, if not thousands, of separate, disparately intersecting timelines, which would technically mean that some of those timelines ALSO lead to other Remnants, are not entirely off the table. If and when they do happen, they'll have no bearing on the plot at all, but that means that technically EVERY Dark Souls and RWBY xover where Remnant is in the distant future after Dark Souls are all real timelines in this continuity, which is cool to think about.

Omake: Fireflies

A/N: So, I can't help but have gotten inspired by Nuts N' Dolts week. This idea popped into my head from a single line earlier in this chapter, and I decided to run with it. This omake is canon to the story, but sufficiently detached from events that there wasn't really anywhere else I could put it. Enjoy.

(Vyliria)

"But you said you'd stop!"

Vyliria sighed, sending the Moonlight Greatsword back with the rest of her personal armory. "I meant during the day, Penny. And I have been slowing down during the day. But I need to improve. I can't sleep, so I'm just wasting time if I'm not training while the rest of our friends are dreaming." The gynoid glowered at her. Vyliria met her gaze. The wind blew, and fireflies blinked all around them. "I have to do this, Penny. I can't be found wanting again. I won't lose any of you."

"Just tonight then? Please?"

"Just tonight then? Please?" Yorshka asked her. "Just one night away from training? I wish to watch the stars with thee…"

Vyliria knew Penny noticed her fingers twitch, and that a jagged breath entered and left her chest, but was thankful her de-facto partner chose not to comment on it. Her eyes watered, and she forced back the tears. Her shoulders slumped. "Okay."

Her guard was down because it was Penny. She was distracted by her memories. Despite how prone she knew Penny was to the action, she didn't anticipate a hug at that moment. She had a dozen excuses to offer, but none would change the fact that that moment was the first time a tackle-hug from the copper-haired girl took her from her feet. Her breath left her lungs as her back hit the ground and the girl embracing her landed on top of her. But despite the wound to her pride, despite the violent shiver that went down her spine at the unpleasant memories the physical contact conjured, and despite her arms visibly tensing, her friend's enthusiastic "Hooray!" still brought a smile to her face.

"So if I'm not training, what are we going to do?"

A pair of green eyes blinked in the moonlight. "I did not think that far."

It took a great deal of effort to reign in her laughter, for fear she'd wake their mortal friends. "Have you ever caught fireflies, Penny?"

"Have you?"

"No, Irithyll was too cold for the insects, and such an action was the last thing on my mind after it fell."

"Then let us do it together!" Penny enthused.

"You're lucky I have jars squirreled away along with everything else," Vyliria said, even as she called forth two of said items and used her parrying dagger to punch some air holes into the lids.

Penny was much more rapid in her capture of the arthropods, though every movement she made was as efficient as could be. Vyliria herself was much more methodical, caring more for the novelty of the experience than whether or not she actually secured any of the glowing insects. "Have I told you of the full moon festivals Irithyll had every lunar cycle?"

"No," Penny responded, curious and turning around, fireflies forgotten for the moment.

Vyliria hummed, capping her jar and looking at the dozen and a half insects flashing within. "Every lunar cycle, when the moon was full, the city would rest for a day. A festival was held, bakers made their best wares, performers enacted beautiful dances, and the musicians would craft some of the most beautiful melodies I have ever heard. It had arisen as a tradition from a period that the First Flame was fading, to celebrate another month without the city falling. It stuck after the Fire was Linked in that cycle, becoming ingrained in our culture. I could get away from my family during the festival, and I would stray from the noble quarter of the city to the merchant district. Father would drink so thoroughly he'd pass out entirely, and wouldn't recall the coin I took for myself on those nights. Ironically, it was the safest day of the month in my youth. I would traverse the more populated parts of the city, taking in the sights and sounds, and indulging myself without fear of those around me. At the end of the night… or day… honestly, it was hard to tell with the moon always overhead… I would travel to the lake at the base of the city, and watch young couples exchange blooming green blossoms and profess their affections for one another. I… I used to wish I was one of those maidens, and that a dashing young rouge would sweep me from my feet and whisk me away from my family, to live happily ever after. Of course, I eventually learned the hard way that if you wanted something, that you'd need to fight for it yourself…"

"But you don't," Penny said. "Because we'll fight with you!" Penny blinked. "Against bad guys, I mean. Not that we're going to fight you-"

"It's okay, Penny, I understand. Also, you forgot to close your jar."

The younger girl blinked, looking down at the glass vessel and pouting in dismay when she saw it was empty. "Awwwww…"

"You can have mine," Vyliria stated as she suited actions to words and lightly gave an underhand toss of her jar at the gynoid. Penny caught it, gazing at the fireflies within in wonder. The Irithyllian felt her lips curl upwards, and gazed up at the night sky, and the shattered moon overhead. She recalled a night when it was whole, that she had spent with a sister, gazing at the stars with wonder in her eyes as the crossbreed beside her never seemed to cease questioning what the name of each constellation was. Gods, she missed Yorshka.

"Vyliria?" For a second, when she looked back down, the past and present were superimposed upon each other, and she saw dragonspawn and gynoid both, before she blinked and the image of her sister once again only resided in the recesses of her mind. She took a breath.

"I'm fine, Penny," she lied. "Let's just enjoy tonight."

()

A/N: Dear Gwyn, writing these two always brings a smile to my face. The ending three paragraphs (from "You can have mine," onwards) to that only came to me as I got to it, but it felt like an appropriate spot to end things on. I hope you enjoyed it. And that it also made you sad. Because holy fuck I surprised myself with how bittersweet that was when I wrote it on the fly. It still makes me grin but also feel emotional pain at the same time when I reread it. Talk about Prepare to Cry, am I right?