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Of Valkyries and Dragons

Chapter Text

It’s not a myth; or at least that’s what Ritsuka said to herself after the end result.

The whirring of the Guardian Heroic Summoning System permeated throughout the room. One would think of this as another usual day for calling on additional Servants to Fujimaru Ritsuka’s arsenal – had it been done on a socially accepted time to be awake.

The clock ticked 2 AM in the morning.

Electricity crackled – none too dangerous – loudly, thus signaling that a Servant was being brought forth. Da Vinci had a wonderful suggestion of rolling a catalyst past the wee hours of midnight, saying something along the lines of “having a better chance of getting a stronger Servant.” Upon noticing the rainbow-colored sparks surging from the machine, Ritsuka braced herself for the upcoming summon. “Well, she isn’t wrong about that,” the lone Master did not want to admit that out loud.

It could only mean one thing: underway was a new Servant – and hopefully an amicable ally.

Lights danced through the walls, and culminated with a bright flash at the center of the system’s core. On the platform, a maiden with knee-length teal hair stood before their midst. Her long fringes covered half her face, but the somber expression could not be hidden. Lavender pupils readjusted its gaze on the orange-haired master. Posture remaining still, her mouth opened. The words freely flowed out.

“Brynhildr. My class is… Lancer. Please do not be kind to me, Master.”

Her tone was barely audible, but Ritsuka still flinched in surprise as she heard the forlorn voice of the summoned Servant. She noticeably felt her heart pound quicker – remembering that name all too well. “You surely get surprised easily, Master,” Emiya, who had volunteered to observe the summoning process, snickered at how nervous the aforementioned girl had looked. He too could not forget such an encounter with that Brynihildr. Mash, her ever-reliable kouhai, patted her tense shoulders.
Realizing that this Brynhildr was not like the one they had dealt with months ago, Ritsuka released a sigh. The Valkyrie tilted her head in confusion.

“A-Ah, sorry, I just recalled something,” a goofy grin plastered on the orange-haired Master.
“…”

A beat passed before things started to get awkward. Fortunately, Ritsuka had already dealt with almost every kind of summoning – from rebellious, hot-blooded knights, to haughty demi-gods. Surely a soft-spoken Valkyrie would pose no problem for her. Reaching for the timid woman’s hand, Ritsuka met those melancholic eyes with a smile from ear to ear.

“Welcome back to Chaldea, Brynhildr.”


“Thanks to you, Master, I’ve had a good time.”

“I told you to blame me for not being a good one.”

“The emotions… fictional backstory… we began from there, and fell in love with you along the way.”

“I don’t need your excuses, just curse me as I am!”

“It pains me to say it, but this is the end for me.”

“How… how can you still smile like that?!”

“Goodbye, Onee-sama.”

Outside the mighty fortress of Chaldea, a snowstorm brewed mercilessly. The fortified walls kept its frost barrage muted, acting as the perfect fodder for those who wanted an uninterrupted sleep. Besides the light rapping of hail at the windowpanes, the interior of the facility remained still and tranquil. Only the faded din of the summoning system rung at a distance. Besides such, nothing could disturb the several slumbering occupants of Chaldea – save for its lone Avenger.

“Why,” she mumbled, grasping the remnants of her ephemeral dream.

She hadn’t expected an answer. She learned never to do so in the first place.

Like the relentless winds outside, the roaring of resentment continued to batter at her blackened heart.

Chapter Text

 

When two people are destined to meet again, it is usually where the two had last left off.

“Bullshit,” Jeanne Alter grumbled, staring at the malfunctioning vending machine. Technology was something the French maiden wanted to avoid, yet her stomach said otherwise. Surely, food was not essential for a Heroic Spirit like her. But having gone 3 days without any good meals, her mood had greatly dampened – save for her already soured attitude as befitting her class. 

True to her nature as an Avenger, she found enough reason to punch through the machine’s glass surface. Shards crashed down; the sound was music to the corrupted saint’s ears. She reached out to take as many processed foods and drinks as she could. Caloric as it may sound, Alter didn’t mind. She wasn’t about to mingle with the other Servants that got their meals from that womanizer’s soup kitchen. Again, they never needed food. Besides, all she needed was to remind herself what good food tasted like; thanks to her memories in her lifetime.

Or at least, with the memories implanted in her.

“I’ll just say one of those pigheaded Berserkers did this,” she hummed to herself, an armful of energy drinks at hand. A jolt of pain twitched at her knuckles, as she tried to readjust her grip. As much as Avengers weren’t stickler to rules, Jeanne Alter rarely did these acts of what she already considered as “pillaging.” She made a mental note to bring a sack like the one that the cold-blooded woman carried around for Christmas. Scowling at her injured hand, she shifted her wrist to accommodate the beverages that threatened to slip out of her grasp. Such only led to a can sliding off her elbow. Muttering a curse under her breath, she eyed the rolling can. “What horrible luck.”

She decided to let it be; following the metal can with calculated steps, careful not to let the remaining goods fall into the same fate as the earlier one. Twenty paces later, her feet stopped a meter across the offending can, which now rested against a pair of turquoise boots.

“I’m sorry, is this yours?”

The Avenger raised an eyebrow at those words. Apologies were never shot at someone like her. She dragged her gaze upwards, scanning the woman in front of her. “Hand that over-“

Metal crashed onto the ground.

Jeanne Alter was already pale to begin with, but her face dried even whiter than ever. Dilated gold pupils met calm lavender ones. It had only been a few moments, but it felt like time stood still for almost an hour. “It couldn’t be.” Another second ticked by, and her breath hitched. She had to do something. She knew she had to run. Yet, the most she could do was move a step back.

“Was this just another cruel joke?”

Unlike the mental dilemma Avenger was having, Brynhildr bent over to slowly scoop the now discarded cans. Quiet clinks rung as she gathered them carefully into her gauntlet-clad arm. Before she could reach for the fourth can – a foot came crashing down to her hand. A muted gasp escaped her lips as she felt the heel connect with the back of her hand. Even behind the protection of her gloves, she felt digging on her skin. “Wh-“

“Why the hell are you here?!”

A whirl of emotions clouded her mind, confusion and frustration being the most prevalent of them all. Besides the haze of resentment that an Avenger had, the situation only fed fuel to her fire. In line with such, an unfamiliar emotion twinged at her chest. No, Jeanne Alter would rather die before admitting that something was bothering her immensely.

To say she resented Brynhildr – or at least her fake – was far too inaccurate.

But she couldn’t put a proper name to her emotions. Her only reply from the Valkyrie was another stifled gasp. Unconsciously, the Avenger had further ground her heel against the taller woman’s knuckles. She backed away, realizing this act itself was uncalled for. “Why isn’t she reacting like in the past?” Before the words could form, Alter felt a strange pang at her stomach. “Kh-?!”

And as if a physical manifestation, an arrow had shot straight through her gut.

“I figured you were the culprit.”

Emiya, with his ever impeccable timing, still had his bow raised at Jeanne Alter. Automatically, her good hand summoned her darkened sword. Dark flames engulfed her palm, eyes no longer at the crouched maiden, but at her new prey. The arrow had dissipated from her wound, but her pierced armor continued to seep out blood.

“Bastard, itching for a rematch from last time?”

The Archer leveled his gaze at Brynhildr, then at Jeanne’s twisted expression. Small drops of red had painted where she stood, yet she ignored such. How easy it was to anger a maiden like her – but it would be no joke escaping unscathed from a battle-hardened Avenger like her.

Still, he knew that Jeanne Alter wasn’t particularly evil – just someone trying to be such.

“Are you really going to fight in front of your woman?”

She evidently flinched, eyeing the Lancer behind her. The way Brynhildr held her injured palm almost let the Avenger’s guard drop. “You did make her a masochist back then, yet I don’t think she has any idea-“

In a blink, the cool metal of her wicked blade sang through the air.

“You should know, swords won’t work on me,” Emiya commented, his right deflecting the slash meant for his neck. “Shut up.” She said between her teeth, golden eyes scorching down at the uninterested Archer. Her shoulders tensed further, her grip stronger. Raising his left arm, he rained down three swords at point blank. Skirting two by a hairline, the Avenger skidded back to where her fallen cans had rested. She swung twice, audible counters of blade for blade to protect herself. Missing their target, the once airborne swords had impaled the ground beneath.

“Watch where the heck you aim these-“ She then sent a sideways glare at the Lancer behind her. “And you, don’t get in the way.”

“You can’t beat me, Jeanne,” being called such only set her anger ablaze. To be called by that name only reminded her of that damned saint. She preferred going under her class’ moniker. Tearing her vision from the unreadable expression on the Lancer, she redirected her attention at the Archer. How she wanted to wipe that grin off this damn womanizer’s face. Damn it all.

As if her mind was read, Archer’s smirk dropped. However, his calculating gaze wasn’t on her, but at the long-haired Valkyrie. There it was, a glazed look in her eyes, and the stifled breathing. He dematerialized his twin daggers. “Looks like I’m at a disadvantage.” He shrugged and turned away. Bewildered, Jeanne Alter fired a bolt, only for him to counter it once more. 

“Seems that her ‘Beloved’ trait is taking effect. I’ll retreat in favor of you, as it won’t be a fair fight.” As if her frustration hasn’t risen to its angering point, she shot out a hand to launch several black spears in his direction. However, Emiya himself had instantly vanished into Spirit-form.

A flurry of curses followed into the now empty corridors.


 

“Avenger?”

“Ta gueule.”

She spat, a trickle of blood flowed from the side of her mouth. Her original task – merely getting some junk food for sustenance – was no longer her concern; as she staggered away from the semi-battlefield-of-a-corridor. It only took a few more steps before Alter felt waves of pain course through both her bloodied side. Kneeling down, with her quickened breaths, she bunched the sides of her cape and pulled onto it protectively.

She refused to give into the throbbing aches racking her torso. Sure, she experienced worse, but the feeling of humiliation left a far more bitter taste on her parched lips. She hated losing, yet to “win” in such a manner was far more demeaning. Occupied in her agonizing thoughts, she failed to notice how her wound was slowly closing up.

She only realized such after a feather-like touch had brushed the top of her cloak’s fur edges.

“What are you-“ Dodging the harsh jerk of her shoulders, Lancer gracefully slid her digits down to the pierced armor of the Avenger. "Please hold still. The wounds might open again."

She knew she had to get away. Heck, the touch was intrusive enough that she wanted to plunge her sword into the other girl’s heart. She felt her grip on her blackened sword tighten. It would only take one swing, one slash of her corrupted blade, to prove her point. To prove that she didn’t need her kindness. And to prove that she was beyond redemption.

Yet she let her once holy sword drop to the ground, disappearing into a darkened mist on impact.

The silent, yet intense gaze that Brynhildr held on her wound could be interpreted in many ways. She knelt with a posture that almost looked like she was pledging herself to something. The tenderness in her grasp only further deepened the beet red cheeks of the Avenger. For her, it felt appropriate to look away, and focus at the healing magic being transmitted through the immaculate fingers of the Valkyrie. She purposely ignored the bruises she caused on the maiden.

Jeanne Alter clearly remembered how she tried to copy Brynhildr’s healing magic, and impose it onto the fake she had created. She recalled how she failed miserably at both of those tasks too.

And yet, here was the real deal, attending to these wounds that she admittedly deserved.

“May I also heal your hand?” After what seemed like forever, the Valkyrie straightened to her full height once more. A brief huff exhaled from her lips, before she matched her gilded gaze to those lilac ones. “You’re asking too much,” she scoffed, and mustered as much of her sapped energy to scowl at the taller girl.

“I want to apologize for my unruly behavior earlier,” she continued. “How the heck was that even considered unru- ah.” Jeanne Alter caught herself, remembering how her fight with Archer broke out. She knew all too well, at how unbridled the Lancer could be when in her maddened state. No one could stop Brynhildr, in the presence of her so-called Beloved.

“Whatever, I still would’ve won.”

“And that’s why I want to apologize, because I stole your victory.” Steel cold eyes locked back at those firey golden ones. She did not wait for a barbed reply, and traced a small rune onto the black gauntlets of the white-haired girl. There was a silent intimacy – which again, Alter would never admit – in how Brynhildr once again conjured her healing spells upon the tiny bruises.

“Okay, that’s enough.” She tried to detach herself from the Lancer; something that she hesitated since the start.

Yet try as she might, Brynhildr’s grasp increased tenfold. It was uncharacteristic for the Lancer to display such strength, but she used it as needed. And a situation of tending to an uncooperative Servant seemed like a reasonable situation. She wouldn’t be heralded as the head of Valkyries, had she not had at least some physical prowess to show off. After another excruciatingly long minute, the runes faded. A barely audible sigh came from the long-haired woman. She gave a light squeeze, and seeing the Avenger’s lack of reaction, she backed away.

Her tongue felt caught, unable to speak. She couldn’t explain the bubbly, yet irritatingly warm feeling that settled around her neck. There was that familiarity between them, yet Jeanne Alter knew Brynhildr couldn’t feel it. For one, only she remembered it all. Only she could recall the torturous feeling of being both so near, yet distant from the Valkyrie.

“I don’t understand you.”

Staying quiet, she glanced back at the reddening face of the Avenger. Danger was never something Brynhildr could accurately sense – especially when she herself exuded enough to force the Iron-Wrought Hero to retreat. But she probably chose to ignore the death glare being shot at her. Feeling her cheeks, Jeanne Alter turned away, mumbling muted curses.

“You protected me earlier, like any dutiful knight.”  Probably what she least expected to hear. “But you will need further healing.”

“You’re so insistent. Do you really want to get beheaded?”

However, she only felt a nudge on her stiffened shoulders. Her golden eyes widened at both the contact, and speed of how Brynhildr had gathered the once discarded drinks. She blinked twice, before noting the knitted eyebrows on the Lancer’s features. “She’s really intent on repaying me… after I did that to her?”

“Can I at least help you bring these back?”

“Were you really this dense or what,” Jeanne Alter unconsciously mouthed out. “You’re just like her, yet...” She shook her head, waving a dismissive hand. No words came as she finally found the strength to walk away from all this. Confused, she stared at the Avenger’s retreating figure.

“Return them to the machine,” she sent one last gaze at the Valkyrie. “You shouldn’t meddle any more with the affairs of a cursed witch.”

Chapter Text

“The kitchen is that way.”

The clock ticked three in the afternoon. It was far too early for Master and select Servants to be back from Ember Gathering, and too late for other Servants to bother leaving their rooms for the day. So for Jeanne Alter, she had least expected someone to actually drop by hers. Then again, no matter the time of the day, the Dragon Witch’s room was never the most popular place in Chaldea.

The last time someone visited, Ritsuka had to resummon them from the Throne of Heroes.

“There were some extra portions from lunch.”

“I can see that.”

Jeanne Alter just stared down. Or rather, up – as their height difference had other plans for the Avenger. Brynhildr shifted uneasily in place. Her hands were occupied with a tray that had two dishes covered with aluminum foil. She eyed the trays none-too-trustingly, but conceded when a familiar waft of roasted meat filled the doorway. It smelled nice.

“Did you cook that?” Through crossed arms, she raised her index finger at the plate.

“I requested for help from Tamamo-No-Mae and Emiya, but-“

“Hah, aren’t you aware that too many cooks spoil the broth?” Lancer closed her eyes. Great going. Jeanne mentally slapped herself. Not even 5 minutes into interaction, but that same disgusting feeling rose to her chest. Futile her attempt was to shut those thoughts down, Avenger could not deny that she was interested in tasting the Valkyrie’s cooking. Yet hearing that man’s name was enough to dampen her mood. 

“—Indeed, which is why I made it myself.” And when she reopened them, she faced an unusual sight of Jeanne Alter rubbing the back of her neck. When pit against the most terrifying of enemies, Alter was the type to look them in the eye – as if ready to imprint in their final memory her twisted face. But now, there were no traces of that bloodthirsty Servant. Rather, golden orbs darted left and right, as if checking if any hidden cameras were about.

“Are you really sure about this?” She stole a glance, until the flag-bearer felt the need to look sideways again. “Don’t you prefer having meals with goody-two shoes like Rulers and your Saber?” She spat out those class names, as they were among the top three Servants she could never get along with. The third class was obvious.

“I… have never conversed with the Servants that you speak of.” Paired with those downcast eyes, the teal-haired maiden almost looked like a grade schooler who failed to make any friends on her first of school. Seeing that this conversation might get them nowhere – and not because the sight was only a tad bit painful to her – Jeanne Alter stepped aside to let the taller woman in.


Similar to most rooms in Chaldea, there were the basic amenities of a side desk and single bed. A sizable window rested next to the bed, and it was noticeably warm in the room. Such was due to the windows of the Dragon Witch's quarters being sealed shut. “It gets noisy during snowstorms,” she shrugged nonchalantly. Unlike other rooms, a low round table sat comfortably at the center of the room. Brynhildr knew she heard the word for it earlier, when she overheard some of the Japanese Servants talk about certain rooms having it.

“Ko… kotetsu?”

To which, an amused smirk painted itself on Jeanne Alter’s face. “It’s kotatsu. Ko-ta-tsu.” She began to draw the Hiragana for the word; feeling a sense of pride at being knowledgeable in something outside setting things on fire. To her surprise, a tiny giggle escaped Brynhildr’s mouth. Jeanne Alter stopped stock still at the sound of such.

“You aren’t as intimidating as many people say.”

And that was enough for Avenger to point her wicked blade against the Lancer’s chin.

“Listen,” she scowled – a complete 180 to the mood earlier. “I didn’t enjoy your remark earlier, which is why I corrected it in a way only I know how.” She inched the tip closer, enough to rest the tip on the Valkyrie’s neck. “And if you think you’re already on my good side, guess again.” She chewed on each word, desperately trying to put on the front she had always used. How close it was to crashing into bits with one mispronounced word from that accursed Valkyrie.

Another drawn-out silence fell upon them. Until Jeanne Alter’s stomach growled out loud.

A blood curdling scream erupted from her room. Surely, Chaldea stilled for a good 30 seconds before normalcy returned.

“Y-Y-You didn’t hear a-anything!” The Avenger curled into a ball, covering her ears – which is something the Lancer should honestly be doing given how shrill her cries were. Her blackened sword once more disappeared as a black mist, unable to be kept materialized because of her plight. “S-Stupid Gilles!” She continued to ruffle her hair in embarrassment, hoping that the earth beneath them would just cave in and swallow her whole. And maybe even Brynhildr to eliminate all witnesses.

The sound of silverware clinking against the kotatsu’s surface was enough to snap Jeanne Alter from her tantrum.

“What are you-“

“Preparations for the meal.” A calm reply, yet lavender eyes refused to look at her right away. There was an unreadable expression on Brynhildr’s face, yet it wasn’t a glum one. She continued to arrange the cutlery, and proceeded to unwrap the dishes she brought in. Instantly, the fragrance of seasoned beef and buttered corn permeated through the room. Tray set aside, and arrangements finished, the Lancer gave a sideways glance to the white haired girl.

Their gazes locked, if only for a moment; yet she felt horrible to enjoy such. Brynhildr crouched over to Alter’s side. Has it always been unbearable hot in her room?

“Are you alright?” A question that opened so many possible toxic replies for Jeanne Alter.

Her answer was a nod.

“I—”

“I—”

They both caught each other, but Brynhildr relented and motioned for Avenger to continue.

“I guess you want to know what you just heard.”

“A stomach growl,” before she could get interrupted, Lancer followed up, “that only humans do.”

Living humans,” growled Avenger. It was no secret to her at this point, so she may as well come clean. Receiving a nod of understanding from the taller girl, she took in a deep breath. “Gilles – the creepy ass Caster – misused the Grail…” she braced herself to remain jaded as she continued. “To create me.”

The air felt thick, almost electric. Jeanne Alter felt dizzy, as if she had punched herself in the gut. She felt a hint of bile climb up her track, but she ignored it. Now wasn’t the time to be sentimental over a sob story like hers. Yet she couldn’t stop the tremble in her shoulders, nor the way her throat refused to utter any brutal retort to quell the silence. 

Once again, it all started with that same intimate gesture. To Brynhildr, it must have been just a normal hand-to-hand touch. Lancer could have passed it off as the same thing she did when she healed her other day.

Yet for Jeanne Alter, she felt hopelessly miserable to miss this kind of warmth.

As her voice steadied, she relayed how imperfections were not unusual when summoning a Servant through unorthodox ways.

Gilles de Rais, as a proud retainer of Jeanne d’Arc in her life time, had a certain degree of familiarity with the Maid of Orleans. He had a bare bones of her personality. Yet, he mixed together his own ideals of what his holy maiden should be. Everyone heralded Jeanne as an angel, yet Gilles wanted her to be as human as possible. A human girl that could feel even the most base of needs, and the most painful of tortures. He wanted his sacred maiden to be human – as human as he himself claims to be.

In terms of carnal pangs, such as food, Avenger did not need the physical sustenance herself; as she was granted the vessel of a Servant. However, the pains of starvation still racked her in the form of irritation and frustration. Inflicted wounds still ached like the ones she got from defending France centuries ago. Worst of all, the emotional stabs from being betrayed, and eventually burnt alive would forever leave a bitter taste of resentment in her lips.

And everytime I try to recall it, everytime I look back, my face forms a distorted smile.

Another silence enveloped the room, save for the deep inhales Alter took. As if out of breath, she let the situation sink in. I’m an idiot.

She had literally laid bare one of her greatest secrets; something many Heroic Spirits would claim as their fall from grace. Yet here she was, letting her vulnerabilities show to the Lancer whom she knew had no recollection of what she meant to her. Still, no words came from the silent Valkyrie.

I’m stupid for thinking she’d understand. If her fake couldn’t, what more for the real—

“Shall we eat, then?”

Jeanne Alter blinked once, then twice. The question registered in a click, but she felt a flicker of fire grate her senses.  “Is that all you have to say?!”

“Yes.”

“I’ll burn you ali—“

“Because I want to hear more about you,” her thumb locked with the white haired one’s, and the latter shifted slightly at the sudden action. “I want to learn about you, Avenger.”

“These are,” she coughed into her free hand, happy to have an excuse to look away for the nth time, “Stories you would rather not hear.”

“Stories I’d prefer to hear from you, yourself.” Brynhildr countered quietly. Surprises after surprise, Jeanne Alter herself had many questions to ask – from wondering how talkative Brynhildr really was, to how crazy this Valkyrie is for wanting to be involved with a Servant like her.

“You’ve been through a lot, and I would like to listen…” she flitted her gaze between their entwined hands, and to those scorching golden orbs. “If you may allow me to.”

A small scoff escaped the corrupted saint’s lips. Yet, it wasn’t done out of malice; but rather her definition of a sigh of relief. “Hah, even though I told you to ignore me.” If anything, she felt a giant weight on her shoulders suddenly dissipate. There was an indescribable feeling sweeping her senses, but for once, she wasn’t unwilling to accept it.

“To meddle with an accursed witch like me isn't some thing you should do.” She finally steeled her senses to hold her gaze against those lilac eyes. “But if you insist…”

It will consume us both in flames. She wanted to finish, yet felt there wasn’t a need to.

At this point, Lancer had slowly straightened up, without letting go of Avenger’s hand. This effectively forced Jeanne Alter to stand as well, but the arm that guided her to the table was a gentle one. She ignored the sweet smell that the food invited, and the slight pangs that attempted to dampen her mood. Nothing compared to being in this silent intimacy with the Valkyrie. Despite Brynhildr’s iron grip on her, it felt comparable to receiving a warm hug from a friend.

Her first friend.

Chapter Text

A gust of cold air wisped by. Despite how chaotic things had gotten in the Singularity, the night seemed so calm and tranquil. No doubt that beyond the walls of Uruk, there was incessant fighting against those otherworldly creatures. But now, a moment’s reprieve was granted to the members of Ritsuka Fujimaru’s party. As much as the Master had protested, it was Merlin’s idea that the Chaldean Embassy take at least a 24-hour rest from their duties. Aside from the due recovery, he had also prepared a feast for the team to partake in.

The Mage of Flowers would chime how the best cooks of Avalon had taught him to cook these legendary meals. Most of the Servants summoned groaned – knowing full well that Merlin was the only resident of the said Garden. Merlin would claim that these authentic recipes would put any chef to shame. He continued to boast such, avoiding the death glares that Raikou and Emiya sent him. Nevertheless, maybe by a stroke of luck, the food was very much palatable, if not decent.

“Her meals are far better.”

“You called for me?”

With the festivities now at a minimum, Jeanne Alter raised her head to the source of that question. The witch was aimlessly flipping through a book at hand. “Yeah, sit here,” she scooted to the right, leaving enough space for the Valkyrie to sit comfortably next to her.


Earlier in the evening, Avenger found herself slipping through the joyous Servants that were celebrating their upcoming victory. She weaved her way through the rather packed dining room; like a shadow lurking behind the bright merriment. She eventually found her target: Amakusa Shirou and Edmond Dantes having a conversation with the Valkyrie.

“Ah Rule- Oh, my apologies, Avenger,” the King of the Cavern sneered as the corrupted saint approached them. A vein throbbed at Alter’s temple, but she blocked out the mockeries Dantes flung at her. The former priest tried to chastise the Count, but he was of no help. Yet, she could care less. She only had one goal.

“You. Meet me at the rooftop later.”

Eyes widening by a fraction, Brynhildr tilted her head in slight confusion, “… Me?”

The blackened saint barked in reply, “W-Who else do you think I’d invite, other than you?!” Turning her heel, Jeanne Alter bounded for the stairs, blatantly ignoring the laugh of the other Avenger behind her. She didn’t even pick up the stares other Servants had on her, as her outburst was heard by a few.

Unbeknownst to her, a pair of lilac eyes softened at the prospect of this personal invitation.


Finally seated, Brynhildr couldn’t help but wonder what Alter could want of her. She didn’t have to ponder long, as the answer was the tome being nudged at her arm. “Here, read this.” Lancer carefully took the offered item, and noted its rather shoddy state. Though had she not taken a firm hold, Jeanne Alter would have dropped the book as she retracted her hand.

Fingers brushing – whether accidental or with intent – was really going to be the end of the Dragon Witch.

Coughing into her gauntlet-clad hand, Alter spoke. “First thing’s first uh,” she cleared her throat for the second or 35th time. “I’m sorry for losing my cool back there.” Even after the several months of interaction, Avenger always found it difficult to keep her gaze affixed to the Lancer’s. Avenger eyed how the Valkyrie gingerly set the book onto her lap. “There’s nothing to apologize for,” she offered a small smile to show that no harm had been done.

“We sure say sorry for the weirdest things, huh,” mused the Dragon Witch, scratching the back of her head. “Back then, you apologized over those cans that I dropped.”

“I do think back on it at times, but I hope you have not run into any trouble for that.”

“Trust me, even I can take a hint with a few arrows up my ribs.” Alter unconsciously clutched onto the area where she was struck. Brynhildr’s gaze followed the Avenger’s hand until it settled just below the girl’s ribs. But then she shook her head, letting her short white hair dash against her cheeks at the motion. “You better not apologize now.” She knew Lancer was watching her.

Another silence ensued them, save for the book’s pages struggling to flip against Brynhildr’s rested hand. The cobblestone ledge they sat on felt as cool as the wind enveloping the streets of Babylonia. The moon started to peek out from the clouds that once covered it, thus pouring out its pale light onto the open rooftop. A breeze once more graced the area, which prompted the Lancer to shift in place. It was getting chilly.

“You cold?” When purple eyes searched for her golden ones, Jeanne Alter found the lines on the cracked flooring more interesting. Brynhildr shook her head, her teal hair reflecting the milky rays of the moonlight. Avenger unconsciously moved away, fearing that the agonizing warmth in her body would spread to the other woman.

And that’s when the Dragon Witch realized: with stolen glances, she could see the shadows of light goosebumps along Brynhildr’s thighs.

“Liar. You’re not used to the cold.” The taller girl flinched at being caught, clasping her hands together to regulate the warmth. She started mumbling something under her breath, but Alter ignored such, and continued to stare at her. It wasn’t long before the shorter girl sighed and undid the chains strapped onto her shoulders.

“You can take this—“

A scorching blue flame burst from the Lancer’s hands, catching the other girl by complete surprise. Despite being a user of fire herself, she instinctively reeled away from the Valkyrie. Too much and she would faced a plummet of 50 feet below. Nothing was supporting their backs on the ledge that they were on.

“Avenger?” There was a questioning tone, but it was natural to be surprised at the sight of a shocked Dragon Witch. Light blue runes danced against her long gauntlets.

She clenched her teeth, having a million possible curses to mutter. Instead, she found something tamer to scoff out, “Don’t do that, Br—I mean, Lancer!”

“I was just warming myself momentarily with these flames,” she slowly pressed the blue flames onto the stony surface of their ledge, and it warmed instantly. The runes apparently transferred the heat from the fire bolt, and onto the solid exterior. “I think this is a more efficient way, and it warms us both.”

“Don’t freaking conjure fire as if no one’s around!”

“Alter, don’t you do that yourself?”

“Shut up. I was going to lend you my cloak!”

Jeanne Alter’s left her mouth agape at what she had just said. Brynhildr herself was just struck dumb, facing the equally stunned Avenger. “Stupid! She’ll really see through you at this rate.”

“Wh-whatever,” she grumbled, and attempted to reaffix the metallic buckles of her cape.

“Attempted” was the important word, as a frigid blast of wind smacked straight at her. One second her cloak was draped on her shoulder; the next second, it was snagged onto a tree branch 50 feet below.

“…”

“…”

Jeanne Alter wanted to scream, but she bit it back. Avenger pinched her nose to help hold down the urge to burst out. “I have the worst luck there is.”

“We are both the same, as we share Rank E Luck.“

“Can you not be so clinical about data—wait, how did you know that?”

Alter took her time scanning Brynhildr’s face. From the way her lips tugged once more to a smile, to how she carefully selected her next words. “It matters not, but I think this comes as more important?” She punctuated her point by raising the forgotten book.

Semi-relieved at the change of topic, Jeanne Alter released a sigh she didn’t know she held. “I hate to admit, but I’ve never seen a single German story during my time alive.” There was no visible reaction on Brynhildr, who was blankly staring at the cover.

“Nibelungenlied?” She read its title effortlessly.

 “Yeah. Just like that, but I want you to read a specific page for me.”

Scooting a little closer – much to both her chagrin and delight – Avenger turned page after page, as quickly as possible. Lancer kept a firm hold on the book’s cover, yet she noted how many of the pages were littered with underlines and scribbled notes at the margins. The tome wasn’t particularly old, but it looked very much read. Besides the frayed pages, the spine was also well-bent from usage. Despite her observations, Brynhildr noted better at how Jeanne Alter was impatiently tapping at a particular text. “Found it, now read,” she poked onto the worn-out page.

In a blink, the teal-haired Valkyrie knew what word was being asked of her, “Isn’t this my name?”

Indeed, her finger pointed clearly at the word: Brünhilde.

“Yeah, I know!” She caught herself, stopping herself from letting her fury get the better of her. What irritated her wasn’t Brynhildr’s questions, but at how embarrassing it felt to be under that violet gaze. “I-I just want to know how to pronounce it properly,” she added, albeit softly.

“Avenger,” there was a noticeable pause in the Lancer. She purposely did so, but the reaction in Jeanne Alter’s eyes were gone in a split second after hearing her class name. “There’s always a German dictionary you can consult back in Chaldea.”

“That’s stu—I know that.” she half-spat. “Just stop asking already and read,” she groaned.

Why wasn’t her Avenger passive kicking in, nor her temper boiling as readily? Had another Servant asked all these questions, they would only receive answers in the form of the words “La Grondement Du Haine.” Had she known that she would be bombarded with queries like this, Avenger would have just told Lancer to call it a night, and hope that she would forget of these transpired events. Yet here, Jeanne Alter was self-regulating herself. Was it because she, and probably for the first time, asked a favor from someone? Or was it because of that certain someone?

Little did they know, both Saint and Valkyrie had those questions playing in their heads.

“I will refrain from asking off-tangent inquiries,” Brynhildr flitted her eyes from the page, then to the hunched figure of the Dragon Witch. “Except for this last one,” she pursed her lips before dealing the final question.

“Did the Grail not endow you to read other languages?”

The sound of breaking glass ripped through the floor underneath. Jeanne Alter felt her heart stop for a moment.

“I a-already told you!” As if the darting eyes, and her clenched teeth didn’t give her away even more, “Since Gilles made me, I have some defect-“

A light fingertip met with the Avenger’s lips. She hadn’t realized that Brynhildr had reached out to silence her. “I don’t think that explains the tiny footnotes all over,” removing her digit from a now reddening face, Brynhildr furthered her point by running through the pages, and stopping so often at the pages containing large notes written in French. “And most of them are on verses wherein I am mentioned.”

“It’s a b-borrowed book in Chaldea, s-so it’s bound to have been someone else’s doing!” She wanted to deny it, but her voice quivered beyond comprehension. “I’m sure you can read fine, if you were able to write all these notes. I myself can read them as well,” she calmly replied.

“And then?! It could be another French Servant all along.”

Brynhildr finally shut the book.

“I’m sure the other French servants have no interest in such an old tale,” there was almost a somber tone in her voice, but Jeanne Alter still picked it up; despite the blood already clouding her senses. “And your penmanship is distinct, as a country maiden.” She meant no offense in that, but the Dragon Witch could care less.

“It… could be Ruler’s handwriting,” she had no other option but to blame it on her twin. As the haze of embarrassment at being caught was wearing off, she was ready for the Valkyrie’s possible rebut. That was, at least until a gentle hand found its way on the crown of her head. Rhythmic strokes tenderly graced her snow-bleach hair. Long, iron-clad digits smoothened her white curls with such great care. And with her hand grounding her in place, Avenger had no choice but to stare right back at those kind lavender eyes.

“I’m asking you to be honest with me, Jeanne.”

Surely it wasn’t well-lit out in the night, but the moon provided enough to allow Brynhildr to see those golden orbs widen in surprise. The barbs she planned to fire never left her tongue. It felt foreign – yet familiar – to hear that name. Even when she was summoned in Chaldea, she never once uttered her own name to her Master, and neither did Ritsuka say it: mostly out of fear in angering the corrupted saint. “Why did you read this book?”

“You—“ instead of a finger, Brynhildr readjusted her palm to brush against the side bangs that framed the shorter girl’s face. This effectively allowed her to cup the girl’s cheek, an action that only sent the witch’s heart ablaze. “Please use my name.”

Jeanne Alter shook her head, effectively wiggling the taller girl’s hand away from her. “I never called you by your name before,” she knew that the current Brynhildr had no idea what she was talking about. “I wasn’t certain if it was right for me back then.”

She wasn’t even sure what she wanted to hear, but the Lancer always seemed to know what she needed to say.

“I know you’ve been through a lot,” for a second, Avenger thought that they were on the same wavelength. “Is she referring to those counterfeit spirits?”  However, even if she knew it couldn’t be possible, it felt comforting to hear these words from the real one. “But I would be honored to hear you say my name, Jeanne.”

A small puff of white exhaled from both their lips. Being this close, it only serviced to further warm her cheeks. “Bryn…” she leveled her gaze at the Valkyrie, noting that she wasn’t the only one red to the ears. “I just wanted to know more about you too,” a breath, before she took the plunge to say it.

“Brynhildr.”

“I missed you.”

Chapter Text

“Reindeer-san!” a chirpy voice rung through the corridors of Chaldea. Since she couldn’t find the person in question, the small Santa thought it would be best to call out her endearing nickname to Master as she padded through the halls. At times she would stop, approach the nearest person, and ask: “Hello! Have you seen Reindeer-san anywhere?” Most of the Servants had to do a double-take.

Figures, it was not everyday that Chaldea’s resident walking-time-bomb had shrunk into the body of a 9-year old.

Besides the array of bemused faces, many of these Servants would either apologize for not knowing, or help the lost child find their Master. Some would go as far as escorting the girl to Ritsuka’s room. Unfortunately, she would likely not be in there due to the increasing number of missions.

 So Jeanne d’Arc Alter Santa Lily found a better hang-out place: her older self’s room.


“You’re such a brat, do you want me to burn you?!”

“Bleeh! You can’t do anything about it, onee-chan~!”

They had gotten into another argument – yet this was as violent as it could get. The younger Servant stuck out her tongue, fingers pulling at her own mouth’s sides to make her look even more disfigured. Jeanne Alter was obviously irritated; given how they literally shared the same face. Truly, it was suicide for anyone to do such a stunt towards the Dragon Witch. But Lily knew she could get away scot-free, a feat that was only possible thanks to the room's frequent visitor.

“You two truly bond like sisters,” a silent comment from Brynhildr, who was busy peeling tangerines on the room’s kotatsu.

The smaller Lancer had a wide smile on her face. “See? Even Bryn-nee agrees that we get along so well!” She had specifically requested the Valkyrie if she could call her that – as pronouncing “–hildr” proved difficult for her. To which, the Lancer allowed such.

“Oh there you are, Lily.” A familiar voice entered the room. The original Jeanne d’Arc scooped up the little girl who was busy punching her older form’s side. As much as that was literally playing with fire, Jeanne Alter had to bide it out. The last thing she wanted to do was lash out in the presence of Brynhildr, again.

“I thought I told you not to bother Alter-chan too much,” chided the self-proclaimed eldest of the three. Santa Lily pouted, crossing her arms as she was being shifted onto Ruler’s back. “I wanted to play with Reindeer-san, but she was on a quest!” The blonde giggled at how attached the young Lancer was to their Master, nevertheless she had to explain how Ritsuka was training to be a better magus for everyone. She also made Lily promise to be a good girl and wait patiently for Master’s return. “Your Jeanne-neechan will play with you for now, okay?” and the two smiled at each other, almost mirroring one another due to their similar facial features.

“Can you now leave?” Alter tiredly requested. She was too drained to shout as she usually would if someone else intruded her room.

In reply, Jeanne chuckled. “Alright. Lily, let’s go to the play area for now.” She gave a sideways glance to her alternate form. “Let’s give some space for Alter-chan and her girl friend.” Jeanne Alter choked.

“I-I’ll burn you harder than France did!” she screeched as her ‘sisters’ exited the room. Avenger didn’t miss the knowing grin on the Ruler’s face as the door shut.

“Perhaps she meant about my being a girl, and your friend?” queried Brynhildr. After making sure that the two were not by the door, Jeanne Alter sank back into the kotatsu. “Don’t think too hard of it, Lancer,” she rested her chin on the table’s surface. She felt like a puddle ready to melt from the stress.

“Isn’t it a nice change of pace?” The flag bearer bit her lip at the question. Surely it’s been awhile since she had been sent to a quest or mission. This was mostly due to other Servants being more fit and versatile for the job; rather than possessing just raw offensive power which she boasted of.

Not being in a Singularity reminded her of nothing but uselessness.

Then again, having all this free time allowed her to spend it with a certain someone.

Pushing those thoughts out, Alter changed the topic. “And how is having a “family” of spitting images of yourself any better?” She had a point though, it wasn’t every day siblings of different ages looked exactly like each other.

”Also, why’d you let the kid call you that?” Alter raised an eyebrow as she met those lilac orbs. “Hmm?” Lancer stopped paring the fruit, now affixing her gaze back at those golden irises. Jeanne Alter was able to hold eye-contact for a good 5 seconds, before rolling her head towards the side – still an accomplishment.

“I think it’s a flattering nickname,” Brynhildr passed one of the already peeled tangerines to the slumped girl. She didn’t double check for any loose skin on the fruit, and immediately popped it in her mouth. “I know that you Valkyries are strict about naming schemes and what not,” drawled the Avenger as she munched on the sweet taste. Brynhildr watched as she chewed, whilst Alter felt self-conscious of such. “I see you have read the Nibelungenlied from start to finish.” Jeanne Alter chocked again.

Once she had recovered from her coughing fit, Alter racked her brains for a decent, non-off-putting reply. “It was interesting, I’ll give it that.” Ever since their initial reading session in Babylonia, she had used most of her spare time flipping through the book from cover-to-cover. During slow days, she would call Brynhildr to her room, and they would be silently at it for hours. At times, the Lancer would interject if there were unclear lines in the prose, or to clarify some inconsistencies laden in the novel.

At this point, there was no use in hiding her act of wanting to know everything about the Valkyrie. It still felt surreal to her on what was really driving her to do so. However, it probably had something to do with the glint in Brynhildr’s eyes whenever she would be invited to her room, or the way the Lancer softly smiled as she patiently explains her past to her.

“Still, I know even she might one day get tired of me.”

So until that time comes, Jeanne Alter knew she had to make these moments count.

“Indeed, our clan is very rigid regarding titles and names.” Brynhildr picked up at where their conversation had paused. “But I think the child requested politely, and there seems to be no harm in being called such,” she let a small smile paint on her face, and continued peeling a second tangerine. “Yeah but,” Jeanne Alter started, but the Lancer interrupted her mid-sentence.

“And I know someone who similarly has trouble saying my name.”

Thankfully, the kotatsu was bolted to the floor. Had it not been, Jeanne Alter would have capsized it with a table flip.

“I-I get it…” she had such a resigned tone in her voice. She never knew Brynhildr would pull such a witty comeback at her. The Nibelungenlied did not prepare her to see this side of the Lancer.

“Joking aside, most Valkyries prefer to have honorifics in their names,” she lightly patted Jeanne Alter’s shoulder to help smooth out the poor girl’s frayed nerves. She tried to offer the already peeled orange, but Alter just groaned. “Well, I guess there are some accuracies in the book, then,” mumbled the Avenger. Brynhildr had not stopped stroking her shoulder, which was really a selfish indulgence to her.

“I mean, you used “Onee-sama” a lot back then.”

Her hand stilled, and a terrifying change in Brynhildr’s eyes crossed Jeanne Alter’s vision.

“Where did you learn that from?” Those words were carefully phrased, yet the tension suddenly set in the room. Those once kind purples were now darkened in scrutiny. Alter mentally back-pedaled; her heart threatened to leap from her throat. "I never told you such, nor does the Nibelungenlied make mention of that," her voiced dripped with a chill that only spelled danger. There was something in the now icy features of the Valkyrie that paralyzed the French maiden on the spot.  Gone was the warm smile on her features. If anything, her gaze seemed so cold that she feared that even her flames cannot melt such.

"Shit, she thinks I asked someone else."

It was their silent agreement that they were only to ask each other, and no one else, regarding their respective pasts. Credible source material - which was far and beyond rare - was the only alternative. But to ask other Servants on this topic would be tantamount to breaking their promise: something Jeanne Alter had no intention to be a cause of misunderstandings.

Seeing that Brynhildr had a firm hold on her shoulder, the Dragon Witch took a deep breath. There was no escape. She had wondered when she should come clean regarding the Counterfeit Servants. Most of Chaldea had chosen to ignore the events that transpired there, especially the men that had been involved. Many would just pass it off as a tall-tale, or even just use it for comedic banter or story-telling. Obviously, these Servants conversed of it away from the midst of the battle-hardened Avenger. The last thing they needed was her unloading hellfire for their unchoice words.

However, for Jeanne Alter, it was the incident that kept her grounded. It was what gave her that fleeting hope that she wasn’t a fake. As much as she hated that Emiya was the one that said it: she was truly a Heroic Spirit by her own merit. Her being able to connect with other fellow Spirits was proof enough of it. Her desire to accomplish more than she did in Orleans was evidence of her deserving a Saint Graph.

And now, if she really wanted to uphold that title as one, she had to be honest to Brynhildr – even if it was her fake that made her realize her capabilities to be a Servant.

“Will you hear me out?”


“Do you hate me now?” Was the question that marked the end of Jeanne Alter’s story.

There was an unreadable expression on the Lancer face. Disgust? Repulsion? It was more of a mix between shock and worry. Surely, if one had found out that they were forced to become a masochist due to a girl’s misguided wish, they would not be happy. They would not take it lightly, especially someone like Brynhildr – who had a rather deep history regarding love and desires. Alter was ready for a shove, or maybe even a slap. She braced herself to accept whatever punishment was going to befall her. She caught her right hand, which was instinctively about to summon her blackened La Pucelle in defense to whatever Brynhildr might do to her. She was angry at herself, but mostly scared of ruining the genuine friendship she was having.

And yet, nothing painful came forth. No words were punctuated between them. Only the sound of cloth rustling against each other could be heard. Before Jeanne Alter knew it, Brynhildr was holding her in a warm embrace.

“What…?” The question could not form, for even the Avenger found this turn of events as far from likely. A blush threatened to spill at her pale face, yet she knew the Lancer could not see such as she tucked her head on the shoulder she had stroked earlier.

The former saint heard her own heart beating erratically – but what was this other rapid pulse against her own?

“I actually already knew of your involvement with the fabricated Servants.”

Jeanne Alter felt an urge to push Brynhildr away.

“T-Then you were testing me?!” Was all she was able to say, as Lancer’s hold only increased tenfold at her attempt to break free. Her body trembled in both humiliation and frustration. A warm hand tried to soothe Jeanne Alter, but it did little to calm her down. She hated being played the fool, and being kept in the dark only reminded her of bitter times. The feelings of betrayal suddenly surged through her: memories of her being sold out, others about her fate after being tormented by the people she had sworn to protect, and lastly that of being burnt to death – never knowing what sin she had committed.

“Do you remember the first time I entered your room?”

Jeanne Alter tensed up, as she felt Brynhildr grasp her shoulders and look her straight in the eye. “I said I only wanted to hear these stories from you, and you alone.” She squeezed her shoulder, as if coaxing the maiden to relax further.

“But, even these stories can’t be pleasant to hear,” Jeanne Alter reasoned out, unexpectedly keeping her gaze fixed to Brynhildr. “I-If you already knew of the horrible things I did, then why did you bother staying friends with me?”

“You finally called me your friend.”

“Brynhildr, you’re seriously going to mention that now?” The shorter girl tried to pry off the other girl’s hands, but to no avail. She held onto the Dragon Witch with a tenacious grip that gave a sense of possession. Alter knew that the heat in her face had long settled, and no doubt even her neck was red from the blood concentrated in there. The silence permeated, up until the taller girl spoke once more.

“Then tell me, why was I among your counterfeit Spirits?”

At this point, Jeanne Alter remembered what Mash had speculated regarding the fake Brynhildr’s existence, despite her army being comprised of 6 other men. Even the rather socially inept Shielder was able to deduce Alter’s desire to have an honest friend who was of the same gender as her. She still feebly denies this, mind you. But this answer was far from sufficient at this time around. The circumstances have drastically changed, and the desire to being friends seemed like a shallow way of describing her advances to the Valkyrie for the past months. Expectant violet eyes had urged her to finally give an answer.

“I honestly had no intention to summon a counterfeit version of you back then.“

Jeanne Alter dragged her golden eyes back at Brynhildr’s downcast ones. Lancer’s grip considerably slackened at those words. As if a bucket of cold water was dumped at her, she averted her lilac eyes from Alter’s serious ones. It hurt, no doubt. But those were only the beginning of her honest feelings.

“Because your fake could never replace what I have now.”

Avenger had tipped the Valkyrie’s chin to face her once more. It felt foreign; to be so vocal and honest about her feelings. Being bitter and angry were emotions she was more in tune to. Never did she ever imagine herself to be concerned for anyone. Nevertheless, she has only the Lancer to blame for all these changes happening to her – changes that she honestly doesn’t mind by now.

“Do you really mean it, Jeanne?”  

There was a hint of disbelief in her voice. But Jeanne Alter chose to ignore such, as she saw dusts of pink on Brynhildr’s cheeks. How she wanted to brush her knuckles on her face, but even Jeanne Alter had to stop herself. She settled for reaching out the other girl’s blue gauntlet-clad hand. “Damn, there’s no way her fake could make such a beautiful face.”

“Yeah,” a masterful response to hide the intensity of what she felt.

No more words were needed between them. From the way Lancer’s smile had once more graced her lips, to the sudden wave of bashfulness that consumed the Avenger; they had a mutual understanding of how their friendship stood. Both girls had returned back to their positions on the kotatsu. Jeanne Alter noted how warm the room was, and she knew it wasn’t because of its lack of ventilation.

“Jeanne?”

“Hmm?” The Avenger turned her head to the direction of the teal-haired girl. “What is it?”

“It's kind of hard to move around,” mumbled the Lancer, as she was trying to readjust her sitting position. When the white-haired one scrunched her eyebrows in question, Brynhildr raised her right hand: which was interlinked with Alter’s left.

“You’re still holding my hand.”

Chapter Text

“Why do you look so happy? He’s not the only one who came.”

“…”

“I really don’t want to announce myself because it’s dumb, but I am the Dragon Witch, Jeanne d’Arc and...”

“…”

“Come on, you come up front too. Sheesh, if nobody made you do it, you would never say a word.”

“... Yes, I have come to assist as a representative of the Scandinavian Valkyries.”

“Well then, shall we begin the final battle, Brynhildr?”


One blink, then another. As I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, I wondered when I passed out. Judging from how dark the room was, it has to be past midnight. There was another snowstorm brewing outdoors, despite how it toned down earlier in the day. Although the room is pretty insulated, it’s going to be another chilly night. Great.

“At least you’re not burning in unquenchable flames.”

I stare half-awake at the lone source of light: underneath the door. Some muted footsteps can be heard from the corridors. This only meant that there were people insane enough to still be awake.

Do I count as one? Blame that flashback for waking me up oh-so-elegantly.

Then again, Chaldea practically just saved the world from mass destruction a little while back. Nothing new for them, to be honest. Master isn’t as incompetent as she always claims to be, and having a kickass Servant like me should already prove more than enough for Goetia to shit his pants.

And as a reward for defeating those disgusting demon pillars, can they give the damn after-party a break already?

A sigh. I’m already at the 5th floor of the compound, yet I can still vaguely hear sounds of men jeering over some drinking contest of sorts. Honestly, it’s gotten to a point where the level of celebration is uncalled for. People need to sleep, damnit. Fine, Servants don’t have to, but would it kill for them to lower the volume down there?

Even though it’s steak burning o’ clock for those party-whores, I’ll let it slide. I'm not about to brave the cold outside, yet. I decide to refocus on something else while my back refuses to leave the bed. The ceiling seems so unfamiliar to me, even though most of Chaldea’s rooms practically have the same layout. Then again, I had better things to do than notice the patterns on the ceiling. Despite being in my peripheries whenever I read the Nibelungenlied, I paid little to no attention to the blank, white boards above.

Either ways, I shouldn’t be surprised at how different Brynhildr’s ceiling is to mine. I roll to my right side, facing the shut door. Her bed is actually rather cold, come to think about it.

Ah crap.

My face connects with the pillow. It’s very hard to think, knowing that I had accidentally slept on her bed for God-knows how long.

I rubbed the heat off my cheeks – how come they never go away, despite my not being angry at all? Pressing them to the bed covers, I can feel a great temperature difference. I needed to redirect my attention again; thinking of Brynhildr isn’t good for my heart.

When was the last time I had the luxury to think back about all these complicated feelings? Probably between the events after Orleans, and just before I came to wreck havoc with those counterfeits. Then again, those times were spent completely alone, drowning in resentment and agony. No spitting-imaged “siblings,” no Master to follow, and most certainly no Valkyries to mess up my feelings over and over.

I now realize how limited my circle of acquaintances are – which is probably why I’m even crashing in Brynhildr’s room in the first place.

Given, my quarters is located at the corner of the 3rd floor. You’d think I’d be shielded from the blasted party on-going at ground level, but the room directly overlooks the wide function hall. And what made it fan-freaking-tastic was Chaldea deciding to hold their celebrations down there. The amount of exposure I had was pretty much like getting that delusional pink-haired lizard to use her Noble Phantasm smack at my ears.

Had I gone to my accursed “twin,” she would allow me to stay at her place. Her room was on the other side of the same floor, which made it viable. Then again, I used my better judgement when I overheard Kira-Kira talk to that perverted musician about a French sleepover being held in Jeanne d’Arc’s room later. The last thing I needed was an extra source of noise; especially with people whom I tried to kill in my past summoning.

Santa Lily was out of the question, as she stayed with the other children Servants. I wasn’t about to sacrifice myself to a bunch of 9-year old gremlins. Besides, “kids” and “quiet” are never in the same sentence; unless the phrase “are not” is between them.

On one hand, Master is just too accommodating to all her Servants. There’s no doubt she would let me in her room. On the other hand, I doubt I’d be the only one there. For sure, she has at least 5 different Servants who have made their permanent residence in her quarters.

“Even her harem of admirers is worse than the ones fabricated.” I cringed slightly.

And here I am: in a simple black shirt and shorts, sprawled and awaiting for the room’s true occupant. Newer Servants got the upper floors, which matches chronologically to when they were summoned. I guess this is one saving grace for me, since that means our rooms would be naturally far away from each other.

“You’re relieved? How dishonest.”

Brynhildr said she’d buy food from the cafeteria. I did bring some energy drinks with me to barter one peaceful night’s rest in her place. Despite such, she still insisted to get more food to accommodate me. Then again, maybe she just doesn’t like cheap, sugary drinks. No surprise since Valkyries preferred high-class stuff, right?

“She’s taking her time, though,” I mumbled, still wondering how I even fell asleep right away after just talking to her about the food-arrangements. And for one, I was seated on the chair – which I now refocus my attention to. It has to be at least 5 meters from this bed.

Which only meant one thing: she carried me here.

Needless to say, I had another mouthful of pillow to gag myself. I then eyed the side table, where my rejected goods sat. I just needed a distraction. Though, these weren’t even stolen, yet she probably assumed the worst in me since the incident. “Yeah you can’t be righteous, you fake.” Shut up. Not the distraction I asked for.

“All you do is make everyone’s lives worse.” Shut up!

I can’t go back to sleep at this point – not until these thoughts subside and leave me be.

It’s a small price to pay, for intense firepower, really. When you come to think about it, Servants exist for combat. To hell with psychological stability and whatnot. We were made for the sole purpose to fight, so why should I complain about having nightmares and paranoia every so often? I mused at the idea, and reached for one of my cans to take a sip. The caffeine instantly perks my senses once more, thoughts getting garbled, even just a little. If remembering each atrocity done to me helps boost my strengths, then I wouldn’t mind. I shouldn’t mind.

“You’re just bitter about getting this power the easy way. Compared to your original, you’re nothing but a whimsical desire of a maniac.” Another sip.

I set down the can to the side-desk. Honestly, these thoughts are making me dizzy. A yawn escapes me, quite contrary to the sugar running down my throat. There is a sandwich sitting on the same tablel, but I have to stretch a bit to reach it. Easing the blanket off me, I briefly wondered if I had brought that in; as I knew this sandwich wasn't here earlier when I entered.

Then my chest runs cold as a hand grasps my waist.

I tense up; the urge to scream is high, but I bite my tongue. I crane my neck to the source of my plight, only to see Brynhildr’s sleeping figure next to me.

“…” That explains the food.

Again, I wondered how long I was out until she came back. Rather, when did she come back? Was I this exhausted that even my senses weren’t acute enough to detect her presence?

“No, you’ve just grown so soft for her. This is so unlike of an Avenger.”

Shaking my head, I take a moment to scan her face. It’s hard to miss the way her lips move slowly in her sleep. I experimentally shift my torso farther away, and her grip only intensified. There’s a small part of me that wants to get out of this situation – as it seems all too similar to how her fake latched onto me.

A larger portion, however, says to just wait and watch.

Either way, by the time I had fully readjusted to face her, my nose had already bumped onto her chin. The bed wasn’t particularly cramped, but having two women isn’t going to make it any wider.  Though, with how her forearms are already locked on my back, I can estimate that there’s now enough space for a kid to lie down on the far side.

It’s supposed to be a cold night – but why am I on fire now?

I don’t have much time to think too deep, as I hear her mumble something more coherently. There’s also a noticeable shiver in her hands and shoulders. Something warm hits my forehead. I jerk my head upwards.

“S-Sigurd…” she croaks all too painfully.

To say that Brynhildr was an emotionless girl was far from true. She claims to be one, even going as far as telling Master to use her as only a mere tool. If those tears streaming down her made it any more obvious, she’s just good at hiding her feelings in front of others.

”And you’re no different from her. You only want to be a mere tool that is useful for something.”

They continue rolling down her cheeks, and I wince as another tear wets my own. I try to move my hand to wipe them away, but her iron grip only strengthens. Any further movement just immobilizes all my efforts. She has an arm draped across mine, which honestly would hurt if I struggled to move it.

“Sigurd… where are you?” the pain in her voice is unmistakable. My teeth are gritted; upset at how powerless I am to help the person whom I can actually call a friend.

“You sure that she’s still a friend?”

Mentally jabbing myself for even questioning that, I forcefully drag myself upwards until I am at eye-level to her. The creases in her nose and brows only push me to do what’s on my mind – despite how much I’m burning up right now.

I lean in, pressing my lips onto her damp cheeks.

I can’t even imagine the face I am making, but I continue. There was some effect, much to my relief. “Y-You’re here?” were the words she mumbled next. Her shaking had stopped, and her grip had loosened considerably. I can now reach up to properly wipe those tears away. There’s no handkerchief nearby, so the blanket’s edges should do.

“My dearest...”

By the time she had said these, my hand has already been retracted from her face. The corners of her eyes are still red and puffy, but at least the tears have stopped. She continues with hushed mutters of his name, as her arms slacken and effectively release me.

Now I can quietly slip away from her room. I can explain that I preferred my place after all. She can’t blame me, since I already did all I can for her. Better yet, she doesn’t need to know what I’ve done; else it put me even more on the spot. I can just tell all these to her by the time sunrise hits. I’ll have lots of time to make excuses.

… Is what I’d plan, if only I didn’t hear another choked plea as I broke all contacts points from her.

“I don’t want to be alone…”

It’s my turn to pull her closer to me, coaxing her head to lean on my chest. It’s so infuriatingly warm, and I exhale a breath I didn’t know I was holding in. “I’m not going anywhere,” I don’t know if that’s the reply she wants to hear.

Maybe it is, just not from someone like me.

I know she can hear my heart beating fast, but I just want her to know that no one’s leaving her.

Not anymore.

My chin now rests on the crown of her head. I couldn’t pinpoint her scent, but it was a strange mix of fresh fruit and burnt flowers. Her breathing has somewhat stabilized, and her murmurs have been reduced to only that man’s name. I can feel my face twist into a scowl.

I never liked him, despite never meeting the guy. But the mere fact of what he did to her in their past lives was enough to stoke flames of anger in me. For him to forget her completely – be it on purpose or not – is something inexcusable.

“And does it make you better since you remember her counterfeit?”

My jaw starts to ache from having it gritted for some time. I distract myself further by running my fingers through her hair. Questions swim in my mind. How does she even keep this straight and maintained? Did she always have such beautiful hair back then? Why did she even believe in that idiot dragon slayer?

Belief. That accursed, intolerable mistake of many humans. Even she fell for something as stupid as that. She trusted in him to return that day, to still be faithful to her as always. And what does she get? A complete 180, and memories of their time together wiped out. While she still remained loyal, he takes the easier life of living in pure ignorance.

Belief is really nothing more than evil.

“And you held onto the belief, hoping she would remember you.”

I bite the inside of my cheeks. But realization does hit me: how did she even know of my involvement with those fake Heroic Spirits? We were so caught up in the moment back then that the question slipped past me. Again, the creeping sensation of my blackened thoughts haunt me - much more than I would want.

“Rumors, hearsay, slander. Name it, she didn’t keep the promise of confidentiality eitherways.”

I screw my eyes shut. The idea plays in my head; still I don’t want to doubt her. I have no valid reason to.

“Yet.”

“Jeanne?”

I feel a slight movement below my neck. It’s strange how I’m not pushing her off, despite Brynhildr’s nose being deeply buried between my breasts. 

“You awake?” I finally bent over to see drowsy lilac eyes back at me. My arm relaxes around her, which gives her the choice to initiate the pushing away. She doesn’t move, and I can feel my palms sweat a bit.

“Well, that’s expected,” mumbling, I reeled back a bit further, just to give her ample breathing room. If only for a moment, I could’ve sworn that she looked hurt when I did so. “M-my arms ache a bit,” I flex and twist my left arm to prove my point. This also gives me an excuse to finally look away from her.

It’s upsetting my stomach to see those red wells underneath her eyes.

“May I have a drink?”

A sense of deja vu creeps up to me. I usually get a glass of water after having a sickening nightmare as well. Seeing that the side table only has caloric drinks and food, I might as well be the one to fetch the glass myself; as I always do when alone.

Before my feet can hit the floor, I feel Brynhildr tug my sleeve.

Well shit, I can’t really leave her if she looks like she’s about to cry again.

“Then you better make do with this,” I extend my hand to offer her my half-consumed energy drink. Our fingers brush over each other once more. It never gets old, and I can’t really get used to how her hand lingers over mine.

The stranger thing is how she doesn’t let go of me; and effectively drags my hand along, as she brings the can up to her lips. I sigh, hoping that the warmth on my chest fizzles out.

When she’s done, I take my hand back, along with the now lighter can. “Thank you,” she says, yet it’s odd to see her duck her face, now of all times. A small noise of approval escapes my throat in reply to her thanks. I take time to adjust back to my side of the bed again, before laying down. She follows suit.

I set the can aside, mentally ignoring the implications of having two people share the same drink.

“Thank you, Jeanne,” she repeats.

“What for?” I scoff, rolling to my side, against her direction. She can’t see my reddening cheeks that way.

“You comforted me when I was having a nightmare, correct?” I steal a glance over my shoulder, and almost crack my neck at how fast I turn to face away again. She’s staring right back at me, eyes glued to my back. “Is that so? You’re mistaken,” I cough. “You just happened to roll in my direction and I was actually going to put a blanket on you since it’s cold and—“

I feel her chest press on my rigid back. Her fingers now find its place on my shoulder blades. I tense up, almost like earlier; and it doesn’t help how she’s tracing random patterns on it.

“You have really softened, Jeanne d’Arc Alter.”

“I actually get recurring nightmares about… him.” It’s maddening at how she whispers those words to my ears. I have to really thank how our height difference causes such. “It usually replays the time when he had already forgotten about me. By then, he’s married to Kriemhild, and I feel utterly helpless seeing him like that.”

By now, Brynhildr has pulled me against her body; forcing me to rest onto her. I notice the hitch in her voice, and how her breathing has slowed against my nape. Her hands traversed down to lightly stroke my side.

This was normal between friends, right?

“Why do you still think about him now?” I accidentally voiced out. There was a stilted gasp behind me, and I knew I had fired a bullet. I had to continue.

“I mean, you’re given this second chance in life. Why waste your tears over the past? Why beat yourself over his short-comings? Why blame yourself on things beyond your control?”

And Brynhildr recites a line, which I feel she has already memorized time and time again.

“This is the shape of the feelings that pour forth from my heart. Even if I die, even if I have died, it will absolutely never disappear."

I bite my lip. It’s a lonely declaration she’s made. Before everything, she has always been immensely loyal to him, and him alone. She’s willing to sacrifice her afterlife all for that one man who couldn’t even recall what she meant to him. He’s not even here in Chaldea, but the amount of reverence she holds for the man is beyond anything, and everything.

“Even yourself.”

I never really had a place for her. At most, I was just the Master to her deranged, fabricated form. I let this reality sink in, ignoring how her weight had doubled against my shoulders.

I’m an idiot for being complacent – we were really nothing more than friends.

The possessive wrap of her arms on my waist is the only thing I note. “So Sigurd has always been the one for you, huh,” I steel my voice, unaware that it’s cracking at the sides. I don't even know where this sharp pain in my chest is coming from.

“It's strange, but the feelings are there. That I know for sure.”

For a second, I can feel something blur my vision. I pass it off as drowsiness.

“However,” her warm breath brushes my nape. Her hands now rest themselves on my stomach. This is doing nothing to ease the butterflies in it.

“I don’t think these feelings are still directed to him anymore.”

“…”

“Jeanne?” She quietly calls. I hadn’t realized how much time had past. Was she awaiting some sort of reply? Honestly, I can’t even register her words properly. I was under the assumption she would never change her views on that man, or about that so-called love she shares for him. She was the Valkyrie that gave it all for her Beloved. She would never let those feelings for him die. Or at least that’s what the Nibelungenlied has taught me of her.

How much more of Brynhildr did I really not know of?

By the time the questions stopped pouring in, I dared to turn and face her for real. Thankfully – or not – she had fallen asleep once more, even though I left her hanging a while back. Tentatively, I run a finger along the side of her face. Those fading red circles barely ruined her already pretty face.

I probably can’t say that out loud.

The chatter outdoors had already disappeared, and footsteps of people returning to their rooms rung through the corridors. As much as Servants didn’t need rest, it now feels taxing to stay awake.

“Is she really still your friend?”

Ah, so that’s why that question kept bugging me.

I chug down the remaining energy drink, effectively drowning any more of my doubts. I let my lips linger longer, the taste not just being carbonated drink. Staring at the now empty can at hand, I exhale a sigh of relief.

So that’s what these feelings are.

I did say that I was going to pull a blanket over her earlier, and so I do. My hand finds its place on Brynhildr’s back, securing the sheet in place. But I know, the night was only going to get colder. I invite myself deeper into her embrace. If anything, at least this warmth might last us for now.

I replay the words she had said. Despite the heavy eyes, my lips twitch upwards.

How nice it would be, if those feelings were for me.

Chapter Text

The sound of a wall crashing down echoed throughout Chaldea.

An emergency siren rung. Quickened footsteps of both workers and concerned Servants rushed to the source of the noise. A gaping hole – large enough for the average human to pass through – could be seen. Dust had kicked up, thanks to the fallen debris; which only meant that the event was still fresh.

“Oh ho~ someone probably used their Noble Phantasm here,” Oda Nobunaga piped, grinning at the demolished wall. “Would’ve been cooler of it was like a bomb!” Two fingers clamped onto her cheek, causing the Demon King to screech. “You almost sound like the culprit, but even an idiot like you wouldn’t dare do such a stunt in that room,” Okita muttered, dragging the warlord away. “Ow—Souji, you don’t need to be so cruel to meeee—“

Jeanne d’Arc sweat dropped at the sight of the Sakura Saber and Demon Archer. She then readjusted her attention to the scene before her. The Ruler was headed to her own quarters, when she heard the commotion at the other end of the hall. What a coincidence that since she was within the same floor, and that the occurrence was quite recent, her class could be of great help to spot for clues.

Then again, she didn’t even need to be a Ruler to have a gist of what had happened. She scanned the damaged, white walls of her Alter’s room. The saint also noted how there were cinders of blue flames in the vicinity; remnants of runes on the destroyed surface.

“Ah, so that’s how it is,” she giggled a bit.


“Brynhildr—“

Two strong hands clamped down on Jeanne Alter’s good wrist. She was still dizzy at how fast they had ascended two flights of stairs, and being shoved head-first into the Valkyrie’s room was an experience in itself. She hadn’t had time to recover, as Brynhildr had crushed her against the nearest wall. The Lancer towered before her, metal-clad gauntlets digging right at the Avenger’s skin. “Shit, and I just got these clothes.” Had she worn her own gauntlets – no, her battle armor – Alter would not have had to worry about getting injured. She wouldn’t be this injured.

Currently, her left arm had a searing burn, and her right was held captive by the taller girl’s vice grip.

“Calm down!” Her Self-Restoration passive was kicking in, but could only heal so much when its owner was in a frenzied state. Despite her plea, Brynhildr was in no state to listen. She was forced to stare up at dilated lilac eyes. Even air started becoming an issue, as the Lancer was breathing far too deeply and wildly.

“Y-You, why do you have those clothes?” As much as it sounded like an accusation, Jeanne Alter had to strain her hearing to decipher those exact words. She was in a navy long coat, which had fur accents trimmed around the sleeves and collar. With matching black boots and dress, one would even think that she was pretty. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first thought that came to Lancer’s mind when Avenger showed off her new apparel. 

“It was within my Saint Graph when I woke up today, okay?” With one arm out of commission, she knew that she had to fight with words. Then again, she was never willing to fight someone like Brynhildr; and not due to a disparity in power levels.

“H-How then?!” coupled with her shouts, the Lancer’s runes suddenly engulfed the arm she had pinned down. Alter can barely gasp in pain, but she wasn’t about to give up on explaining her end. With unexpected strength – especially with both arms blotched with burns – she wrenched her captive arm free from Brynhildr’s iron-clad fingers. Before the other girl could react, Avenger ducked down and lunged at the long-haired girl’s waist. The sudden force was enough to tip the Valkyrie backwards, rear connecting to the carpeted floor. Despite the abrupt movements, Alter’s arms refused to loosen from Brynhildr’s slim waist.

As much as it served to restrain the Valkyrie, Jeanne Alter refused to acknowledge her initiative in this embrace.

“Listen to me for once, Brynhildr!”

Both action and words seemed enough to deter the Lancer’s onslaught of accusations. Jeanne Alter felt her body quiver, raw arms screaming from the contact. Her sleeves were all but burnt off; yet at this point, what mattered was the settling of the Valkyrie’s erratic breathing. Brynhildr was still steadying herself from the fall. However, her fixation was more on the girl now leaning against her.

The same flowery scent assailed Jeanne Alter as she buried herself deeper into Brynhildr’s shoulder.  She was effectively seated on the taller girl’s lap, with the latter’s legs comfortably bent underneath. Lancer had only registered the embrace she was in when the Avenger had tightened her grip from behind.

“Can we talk this out? And stop trying to break away.”

“Jeanne, I’m sorry—“

“I told you to stop apologizing for stupid things.”

“Let me at least,” she once more tried to shift Alter off her, but it was only met with more resistance, “You need healing.”

“Talk first, runes later.”

It’s no surprise that the Avenger would want to iron things out, prior to receiving any rune treatment – as these are also used for the Valkyrie’s offensive arsenal.

No idea when she can just turn her fangs against you if something goes wrong.

“Ugh…” On one hand, Jeanne Alter groaned as she shook the thought away. On the other, Brynhildr took it as a sign of discomfort. In response, she tenderly wraps her own arms protectively on the white-haired girl’s shoulders. It wasn’t an unwelcome action, far from it even. But this only served to spike up the Avenger’s already racing heart.

“Shinjuku…”

“Hmm?” Puffs of breath dusted against her cheek as Brynhildr readjusted her legs to cradle the girl better on her lap. Avenger was sure that the Lancer could hear her pulse points through the wrists locked on her back.

“T-That’s where these c-clothes came from.”

“… Were you with Master in that Singularity?”

It was a known fact that four pseudo-singularities had appeared recently. Among these was the crime-riddled streets of Shinjuku. As much as Ritsuka Fujimaru wasn’t required to act on these abnormalities, her sense of justice spoke otherwise. Along with her, several Servants from the Throne were brought forth as her allies.

“I was among the oh-so-lucky Servants summoned to help her correct Shinjuku,” she mumbled, her head now resting on the other girl’s forearm. Rhythmic strokes against the Avenger's tensed back went on as she explained how her memories were pretty fuzzy regarding the incident as a whole. Ironically, she remembers how how Saber Alter was as infuriating as ever. Moriarty was someone she still wanted to burn to bits, recalling how he had fired his blaster at her. Jeanne Alter also mentions at how Hessian Lobo was a true-blue Avenger, someone worthy of the title. “Still, I won't forgive him for chewing me like some rag doll."

Before she could mention the final events of the whole Singularity, which was among the blurriest of them all, she feels a familiar warmth wet her forehead. She doesn’t even need to jerk her head up to check what was happening.

“No, don’t cr—“ Jeanne Alter was aware that her words were never the kindest, so she shuts her mouth. The burn marks sting at the movement, but she chooses to focus on wiping away the tears from the Valkyrie’s eyes.

“You…” Brynhildr took in a deep breath, her voice hitching at her throat. “You went through so much, yet I hurt you because—“

“Shh, it doesn’t matter.”

“But you were injured, and almost died in Shinjuku…” The Lancer’s voice drifts off, as she feels a warm hand cup her cheek.

“We're Servants, remember?" Okay, not the best consolation as the Valkyrie was about to bawl out again. "Look, the pain itself isn’t much.” What felt more painful to her was the sight of those swollen eyes, damp from tears. “I can barely remember where I was even shot or slashed.” She lets go of Brynhildr’s cheek, not knowing which was warmer – her hand, or the Lancer’s face.

“It’s like, I’m summoned here in Chaldea, but there’s another ‘me’ in a similar plane of existence because of Master,” her voice was dripped with irritation. “I mean, I know it was painful, but it’s only the concept of pain I can think of. She was almost me, but not ‘me.’ The Jeanne Alter in Shinjuku was only a part of me in Chaldea, but I—“ she sighed, frustration leaking.

“You probably don’t understand the crap I’m spewing now.”

“I actually do.”

Jeanne Alter lifted her surprised gaze to now calm lilac orbs. She opens her mouth, but seeing that she has done most of the talking, she stays silent and ducks her head once more against Brynhildr’s collar. Seeing the red wells nestled under eyes, coupled with the serene smile, was just too much for the saint.

Brynhildr's hand sneaks to tilt Alter's pale chin upwards, retreating golden eyes now forced at her once more.

She’s looking at me… differently?

“How would you know?” Jeanne Alter quickly spat, scrunching her eyebrows in defiance. She had no time to quell her suspicions, as her attention was directed at how firmly Brynhildr’s fingers were on her jaw.

Despite the Lancer’s feather-like touch, it was one of possession.

“I know it’s useless to ask,” Brynhildr started, and now breaks eye-contact. As uncharacteristic it was of her, what comes next shocks Jeanne Alter to the bone. “Do you remember the counterfeit event?” she whispers all too softly against the Avenger’s ear.

“Yes.” She steels her every nerve, hoping her heart would not give out.

“Well, it’s the same case with me then.” The Valkyrie continues, still not moving any further from Jeanne Alter’s ear. “My memories aren’t too clear of the incident, but I could recall the basics.”

So she didn’t ask anyone…

“I remember it, as it was a summoning that involved Chaldea. I suppose that’s the similarity with how you had an alternate version summoned along with Master in Shinjuku.” Jeanne Alter nodded at the Lancer’s explanation, coaxing her to continue.

“It would be impossible for me to recall my experiences in other Grail Wars, as those are completely unrelated to Chaldea.” Brynhildr had now backed away, noting how beet red the Avenger’s ear had turned. “But I believe the mere fact that Chaldea binds us, I was able to remember faint details of the counterfeit event." She doesn't miss a beat as she gently smiles at Jeanne, face already crimson. "I am sure that it isn’t wholly me, but some parts of it has to be in the ‘me’ of today. Similar to your experience in Shinjuku, she wasn’t the you of right now, but a similar Servant that is connected to ‘you.’”

“I can kind of understand better, but I’m getting dizzy from the usage of the words ‘me’ and ‘you.’” Jeanne Alter comments, staring at the wounds along the arm she used earlier. The Valkyrie’s gaze softens all the more.

“Hey, Brynhildr.”

“Yes, Onee-sama?

“Don’t tease me.” A chuckle from the taller girl.

Jeanne Alter straightens her back, now at eye-level with Brynhildr. “I’m curious, what do you remember from being a counterfeit?”

“Hmm…” The teal-haired maiden takes time to think, but eventually, a small smile finds its way on her face again.

“I do know we had a special room, far from your other followers.” The corrupted saint doesn’t want to guess if it was an honest-to-goodness answer, or if Brynhildr was deliberately mocking her. “I don’t exactly recall what we talked about together. Almost all conversation was a haze to me.” Avenger could have felt her heart sank.

“But I do remember you being a good Master.”

“…” Jeanne Alter once more rests her head against the Valkyrie’s chest, exhaling a deep breath.

“May I now heal your burns?”

“… Do as you wish.”


As the hour ticks by, the two girls sit on the Lancer’s bed in comfortable silence. The adrenaline – or its mana equivalent – coursing through Jeanne Alter earlier had ran out, just shortly after she had given permission to Brynhildr. As much as the pain seared through her battered limbs, it only amplified the relief and warmth in the Valkyrie’s healing runes. Once the wounds had patched into tender, solid flesh, the Avenger speaks up.

“Why did you react so violently earlier?”

“Oh.”

Before the French maiden could retract her words, as she realized how heavy of a session they had, the Valkyrie responded. “It’s… a little strange, no?” Jeanne Alter tilted her head, not fully following.

“I will be honest, it’s been a long time since I felt this way.”

The French maiden ignored how that line could be interpreted in a romantic manner.

“The feelings were intense – almost like a fire inside was burning me up. I wasn’t in full control of myself. It was almost similar to…” She thoughtfully held her own chin, trying to piece her memory together. Her eyebrows perked up when the image of twin blades deflecting Alter's La Pucelle came to mind.

“Emiya. I felt this way with your fight with Emiya back then.”

Ah.

“When you showed me your new clothes, it is as if a switch flipped over in me. It was unreasonable of me, yet the sensation is almost that of when you stole those cans-"

A pale finger presses against the Valkyrie's lips. "I get it," was the low mumble of the Dragon Witch.

Initially, the former saint had to mentally praise at how the Valkyrie had such a good memory. But the second thought she had seemed more important. She knew she was going to uncharted territory, yet this was the only way to sate her curiosity.

“When you saw me today, did you want to kill me?” Jeanne Alter dared to ask, her gold gaze reflective against lilac ones.

“… Yes.”

It’s no surprise that the Avenger stands, striding towards the door. Any sane person – or Heroic Spirit – would know that this woman was dangerous. But Brynhildr doesn’t take offense; or at least hides the tightening in her chest as Jeanne Alter reaches for the door’s switch.

“Jeanne?”

The Avenger spares a glance to the Lancer.

“I’m sorry for ruining your jacket.” She bows her head low. Before the Alter could reply her spiel regarding apologies, the taller girl follows up.

“It suits you. You looked gorgeous in it.”

That doesn’t stop the Alter from pressing the button. The door slides open, but Jeanne Alter then faces the seated girl. Brynhildr’s eyes widen at the sight before her.

A genuine smile had painted itself on Jeanne Alter’s lips.

“Thank you, Brynhildr.”

Chapter Text

“Alter-onee, you idiot!”

I pinched the bridge of my nose, grumbling a curse. “And if you keep scowling like that, of course she would start avoiding you!” This child is playing with fire, literally.

“Mind your own business, kid,” I spat, my palm engulfing in flames. “And since she isn’t here, you should watch what you say. I won’t hesitate to burn your tongue into cinders.”

I only see Lily shake her head, a smug curve in her lips that tempt me to send her back to the Throne of Heroes. “You’ve lost your edge, Onee. Even your past threats weren’t as half-hearted as this.”

“I’ll give you 10 seconds to get out of my room.”

“Well,” the audible sound of my door opening brings me to focus on her retreating back. “It’s not as fun without Bryn-nee around.” Stepping out of the room, she turns around to give me a wide smile. My blood boils.

“I can see why you like her so much. No surprise if I grow up liking her as well~”

“Damned brat.”


“Alter-chan, you’re an idiot.”

Seeing my mirror image say such gives me a nauseating sense of deja vu. Hearing her own voice was making my gut flop. As much as those words should have no effect on me, especially at how it wasn’t a first, it’s enough for me to sink right back into my kotatsu, drained.

“Eloquent words, Miss Jeanne,” I scoffed. “And since we’re the same person, I assume you’re also talking about yourself?”

Whether it was with that snot-nosed kid, or with my shitty twin, I was never one for conversation. Since I wasn’t able to get back at Lily’s banter, I have half the mind to just let it out on Miss Saint. But it’s not exactly just Santa’s bullcrap that has me riled.

Santa Lily isn’t the Lancer I want to air my complaints to.

“Hmm,” She approached the kotatsu that housed my sore body. “We aren’t exactly the same girl, per se.”

“You’re just saying that to keep up your family fib. Quit it.”

A chuckle from her, “I won’t deny that part. But there are many other unique things in you that I would never claim as my own.” Her warm smile did little to appease me.

It’s not hers that I want to see.

“For one, I know your feelings for her are genuine and yours alone.”


 “You have got to be kidding me.”

Jeanne Alter blankly stared at the blue sky above. Her back didn’t ache, which suggested she had at least landed on a plush roll of grass. The air was hot and arid, almost prompting her to remove her cloak from the heat. Rather, she would have done that, if not for the position she was in.

Brynhildr was pressed face-first on her neck, body making full contact with hers.

“Hooo, blessing this singularity with your ever-holy acts, Saint?”

“Bitch…” Jeanne Alter snarled as she glowered at the Saber towering before them. She readjusted her arms to lightly shake the fallen girl awake. Fortunately, Brynhildr began to regain consciousness and eventually blinked away the daze. She sat up, at a speed enough to surprise both Alters.

“Rise and shine, sleeping beauty,” sneered Artoria Alter.

“Ah—I’m terribly sorry. I didn’t mean to pass out after the rayshift,” she quickly apologized as she straightened herself, backing away from the Avenger. Jeanne Alter mumbled something about not making it a big deal, before glaring once more at the Britain king. “Oi, you seem to have been awake longer. Tell us what you know.”

“No need to get your panties in a knot, assault girl.” Saber Alter yawned. It was always a thing, for Chaldea to miscalculate when rayshifting to a new area. Inaccurate coordinates, and team separation were no big surprises for them. “And of all the Servants to be stuck with, it just had to be Burger King and…”

“Galahad was able to establish a connection port for us in this field,” explained the knight. “She was able to notify me that Master and the others have been safely transported here in Agartha. The only roadblock is that it would take them a day or two to get to our current location.”

“Would it be logical for us to meet them halfway?” suggested the Lancer.

“I already brought that up, but Da Vinci shot it down real quick.” She narrowed her eyes at both girls. “Something to do with making sure we don’t complicate their coordination analyses.”

“For a highly advanced organization, their technology remains shitty as always,” mumbled the Avenger, who was busy dusting the grass off her clothes.

“Says the girl who can’t use a microwave,” jeered the original Alter.  It was no surprise at how seconds later, a ring of fire suddenly crackled underneath the King of Knights’ feet. As a Saber, her magic resistance helped negate the burn damage. She grinned and lunged at the Avenger.

“Since we have time to kill, why don’t we settle things from Shinjuku right now?”

“Hey, this is the second time I can agree with you on that,” laughed the enraged Alter.

“Oho, you remember me that huh? You must really miss getting your pathetic ass saved by me, princess.”

“Try saving me after I rip your spine out and beat you to death with—“

Two strong arms wrenched the Avenger back, her balance almost lost. Jeanne Alter whipped her head around, only to see the Lancer tightly grasping onto her waist. She ignored the knowing smirk that was obviously plastered on the Saber, and affixed her attention at the teal-haired girl.

“Stop…” was the only words that the Valkyrie mumbled.

Jeanne Alter clicked her tongue, dematerializing both her banner and sword. Saber still had her Excalibur at hand, but she as no longer poised for an attack. The air stilled in the wide field that they were on.

“Let go.” Jeanne Alter didn’t mean for her words to come off icy, but it was sufficient enough to make the Valkyrie backpedal a second time from her. A muted apology escaped the Lancer’s lips, but the Avenger chose to ignore such, eyes trained at the blackened King of Knights. “Lancer’s not a woman of much words, but she surely knows how to upset the mood.”  Artoria Alter commented, allowing her sword to dissipate. “Let’s settle this some other time, without distractions,” the king concluded, taking the Avenger’s silence as a ‘yes.’

“Well then,” both girls turned their attention to the Saber. “We can try to get acquainted with the area. At least when we regroup with Master, your sorry hide has something to report to her.”

Something inside Jeanne Alter snapped once more. No doubt, it had to do with Saber Alter’s glare as she spoke down to the Valkyrie. “Get off your high horse, ice bitch. She doesn’t deserve your shit-“

“Do you think I was actually talking to Lancer?” Artoria Alter turned on her heel, proceeding to walk away. “I was referring to you, deadweight peasant.” Avenger does her best to mask the shock that ripples through her. She tries to bark back, only to be silenced once more.

“I can’t even bear to look at you as I speak. You’re barely the mad dog I once knew.”


 

The day went on as normally as one would with two Alters in a party. Eventually, they learned that the town was more of a refuge site. It was a part of a so-called “Resistance,” and prepared for a siege in the nearby City of Ys. The makeshift town itself wasn’t big, and their army barely stood at fifty men. One could see the borders of the aforementioned city from this site, and it obviously looked like a suicide attack for these Resistance members.

“Any particular reason why you’re tailing me like a lost dog?” Artoria cranes her head to narrow down on the Avenger behind her.

“You’re surprisingly diplomatic to spare swine like them,” Jeanne Alter muttered, paying no mind to the earlier question.

“They were practically livestock; if we had shown our true strengths, then we’d end up looking like the villains.” Saber replied, still eyeing the corrupted saint.

“Mind you, I was that same villain that tried to burn France down. Don’t expect me to smile and be all plastic like you earlier.”

“A King needs to establish good airs in whatever place he may be in,” Artoria shrugged. “But pyromaniacs like you are better off staying in the rest place. Having us two patrol the area will only arouse suspicion within the town.”

“You don’t look like much of a king in those rags,” Jeanne Alter quipped, pointing at the black hoodie and shorts that the pony-tailed girl donned. Despite both of them being in their casual outfits, they knew of the intimidation they innately emitted as Alters. People literally stuck to the walls as the duo walked through the makeshift city.

“And you still look the part of a French peasant. What’s with the burnt sleeves?”

“Shut up.” Jeanne Alter rolled them up to half her forearms. “Either ways, we already beat their men into submission. They wouldn’t dare turn on us at this point.” It was true. The villagers were alerted by these foreign women earlier, and they were quick to deploy their men at the forefront. Unfortunately, the most damage these men had done was the dust that dirtied their battle armor.

“Are you comfortable leaving her behind, then?” Jeanne Alter flinched at the words, but eventually cleared her throat as a reply.

“That girl..." she started, darting her eyes back at the other Alter. "She's strong, far stronger than you think. Had she not broken up our fight earlier, you'd have been dead meat. Hell, I'm sure she can even incapacitate someone like me."

"Hah, in one ways or another, I believe she has done that." Avenger promptly chokes at that retort. She eventually recovers, shooting a death glare at the amused Saber. "E-Eitherways, I wanted to ask you about something in private.” Those words, coupled with the Avenger’s rather meek tone, was enough to pique Artoria’s curiosity.

“You’ve gotten this desperate to ask advice from me? Are you still Jeanne d’Arc Alter?”

“I’m already regretting striking up a conversation with you, glutton.”

Jeanne Alter composed herself; still a little irritated, but a bit relieved that Saber’s face had gone serious. As they walked, Jeanne could feel the weight in her shoulders grow heavier. Ultimately, she had the words roll off her tongue.

“Are Alters really supposed to have these emotions?”

“Care to elaborate?”

“I-I mean,” the white-haired one stared at her boots. “Aren’t we supposed to be just full of resentment and hatred?”

“I believe that’s more of an Avenger thing, Saint.”

“Then how about what you said earlier? Being a king and diplomacy and all that bullshit. Are you alright just living as King Arthur’s leftovers or something?” Jeanne Alter knew she was going in circles with her questions, but answers just never seemed to surface.

As she watched the French girl piece more of her words, a thought passed by the Saber. She smirked at the idea. The knight leaned towards her, face indecently close. She observed as the Avenger’s facial features eventually settles for a rather disgusted one.

“What the heck are you doing?”

“Hmm,” the Britain king dares to run a finger down the French saint’s cheek. Not even a beat passes and a blackened blade meets her finger; almost cleanly slicing her digit off.

“If it were her, would you have done that?” Saber poses the question. The other Alter’s jaw clenches, then loosens as she mumbles out her answer.

“You aren’t her.”

“Then in response to your earlier inquiry,” the first Alter crosses her arms, staring back at the Avenger. “Just because you’re an Alter, doesn’t mean you have to live your days agonizing at being ‘another side’ of your past self. We may have been based on our original selves, but we aren’t supposed to be bound by any rules of how to feel or act.” A moment passes before she continues, the other Alter speechless. “I may not be as diplomatic or charismatic as they claim the real Artoria to be, but it doesn’t make myself any less of someone.”

A stunned expression makes its way on the Avenger’s face. Jeanne Alter wants to retort, but she realizes that even a truth as infuriating as that cannot be countered.

“With that,” the shorter of the two stops, and gives a sideways glance to the Avenger. “If you do have feelings for her, then let her know. Your being an Alter of that saint, or even an Avenger, doesn’t invalidate whatever you feel for that Valkyrie.”

The Avenger turns her head, away from Saber. This does little to quell the blush at her face. “You aren’t half-bad when you’re actually giving solicited advice. Maybe you deserve a burger when we return to Chaldea.”

“I’ll look forward to it, mad dog.”

“And don’t ask, but,” Jeanne Alter trailed off, “Thanks for not calling me an idiot.”

Artoria chuckled low, “Don’t give me ideas.”


 

“How was your scouting with Miss Artoria?” a quiet call from the Valkyrie.

Even after several hours, it can barely be called nighttime in the village. The sun was still up, but had taken a sunset-like hue. The only other indication of it being past daytime was how people started unfurling their mats, and the bustling in the streets had grown thin.

“Better than expected,” the former saint replied while closing the door.

“Crap, this better work.”

Given how the three Servants were similar to a thousand-fold of the town’s army force, they were treated with utmost respect – by being presented with the best lodgings available. This was in the form of a two-story compound, having similar amenities of the roost in Shinjuku. There was an ample amount of food in the ground floor, much to a certain king’s pleasure. A beaten-up couch rested next to the food trove, which the Saber claimed for herself.

It was a no-brainer as to who shares the single bedroom at the second floor.

“Did anything happen here?” Jeanne Alter asked as she unlatched her boots. She noted how lilac eyes were on her the whole time. She knew Brynhildr had not heard her question.

“You really do look gorgeous in that outfit.”

“Here goes nothing.”

“Well, take a good look at it now, because I’m not about to wear this coat to sleep.” The Avenger remarked, and threw her fur coat at the nearest chair. “Gods, the room is hot,” she fanned herself with one hand, and combed away her sticky bangs with the other.

She dared to check on Brynhildr. The results were just as she had imagined – pink dusting the Valkyrie’s cheeks and eyes unwaveringly on hers.

“Y-Yes, it is.” Lancer replied. Her breath hitched when she caught herself staring at the Alter’s scantily clad body. She tore her gaze away. The Valkyrie found the tip of her sailor tie more interesting, her fingers playing with the white cloth. Avenger paced back and forth, her footsteps muted by the thundering of her heart.

“Let her know… let her know… what?”

“Brynhildr.”

The mention of her name jolted both girls in their place. Even as she practiced pronouncing it over and over, it never came out perfect when she had to call onto the Valkyrie. “A-About before, umm,” Jeanne Alter looked to the side, out the sunset-tinted window. “I think I may have caused a rift in our… interactions.” She covered her mouth to feign clearing her throat. “Especially when I kind of blew you off after you complimented me back in Chaldea.”

“Please don’t think too much of it!” The Lancer almost tumbles on her words, and Avenger doesn’t miss the raised tone in her voice. “Damn, has the tension always been this high between us?”

“Here’s the thing, I won’t apologize,” Alter steeled her nerves, mentally bracing herself. “The idea of getting murdered by someone close to them isn't a great one, alright? I just got…”

“…” The downcast lilac eyes are almost enough to kill Jeanne Alter.

“I was scared, alright?! There, I said it!” As much as Avenger had squeezed her eyes shut, she knew she wasn’t done. There were so many she still wanted to air out to Brynhildr, and she was only at the tip of the iceberg when it came to her true feelings for her. As an Alter, she was so used – and maybe even happy – at being distant. But now, none of that mattered. She had to be direct; as direct as she is when slaying enemies, aiming at their hearts.

She now only had one heart to target.

“Yeah, I was scared.” She slowly opens her eyes, facing the Lancer. “But… if it can get toned down; I mean the killing aspect, at least," she gulped down the final insecurities lingering in her mind. "Then I don’t dislike the idea of being chased by a woman as yourself.”

“Oh god. Why did I have to say it that way?!”

As much as Jeanne Alter wants to short circuit, the reward was massive: Brynhildr being red to the ears, and her lip bitten in a way that tugged on Alter's already raging heart. Eventually, a lopsided smile makes its way on the corner of Avenger’s lips.

“Are you alright?” she approached their bed, where Brynhildr sat. “You’re red in the face.”

“I could say the same for you, Jeanne,” her lilac eyes flick upwards, observing the Avenger standing before her. The haze in her eyes was evident, and her neck was already as crimson as the rest of her face. These were enough to set Jeanne Alter off.

“I can’t take this anymore.”

“I’m tired of playing games, Brynhildr,” she muttered, her hands taking hold of the Valkyrie’s shoulders. “Just…” she does her best to keep her gaze locked at the Lancer.

“What are we, exactly?”

The Lancer could feel the other girl’s fingers bunch up the white fabric on her shoulders. Save for the Avenger’s deep breathing, even the Valkyrie felt uneasy to break the silence. The Alter’s white bangs covered her eyes, but she knew those golden orbs were searching her thoroughly for an answer.

“You said you wanted to kill me, right?” The Alter spoke, voice trembling. “Aren’t you the girl who wants to kill only those that…” Jeanne was unsure if it was appropriate to use that particular word.

“Resembles Sigurd?” finished the Lancer. She feels the grip on her shoulders increase, and the Alter leans in closer.

“Then, do I look like him? Do I even bear any semblance to a hero that you want to kill? Do you literally see a righteous man in this twisted Dragon Witch?” she almost leveled it as an accusation, but Brynhildr remained silent, almost as if ignoring her onslaught of questions.

“I already came clean on how I felt about being killed by you and shit. Can’t you be honest with me now?”

For the past months of unspoken words and hidden stares, the Avenger was already fed up with trying to make sense of what Brynhildr was to her. For her to stay with an accursed witch, to even spend time with someone as deranged as her; there has to be something that the Valkyrie saw in her.

Her answer comes as slender fingers tilt the shorter girl’s chin upwards.

“I don’t see any mighty hero before me,” she combs away the mussed bangs from Jeanne Alter’s face. “Nor a brave warrior that is not unlike Sigurd,” there’s a familiar wrenching sensation that gnaws at the Avenger’s stomach.  “You are far from them, that I know as much.” The hold on her shoulder slackens, and she wants to break away from the Lancer’s soft touch. However, the Valkyrie’s free hand finds its way on the small of her back, soothing her rigid muscles.

“You are far and above them all, my beloved Jeanne.”

A small smile etches on Brynhildr’s features as she sees Jeanne’s eyes widen. She lets go of her chin, and readjusts to tenderly grasp onto one of the hands resting at her shoulder. There’s a weakening in her knees as realization dawns onto her pale features. The Lancer is not slow to notice such, as she coaxes the shorter girl onto her lap. Violet and gold clashes, with two equally flushed faces.

“You’re…” Alter trailed off, inching herself closer to the inviting flowery scent of the Valkyrie. This gives enough room for the latter to wrap her arms protectively around the former. “You’re crazy for wanting to be with someone as sick as me, you know that?”

“I may be mentally unstable, but that does not mean I’m not serious about us,” Brynhildr replies, sharing the same air between her and the Avenger. Her lips remain parted, and she gives one more reassuring gaze to the Alter. The Valkyrie tilts her head to the side, bringing her face closer to Jeanne. Beating back the blush that threatened to paralyze her, the Alter mimics the Valkyrie and leans in, bridging the gap.

No words, no fireworks, nothing could distract Jeanne Alter’s reverie as Brynhildr’s lips presses against her own.

What lasted a few seconds felt like minutes, even hours for the two – neither wanting to separate. Months of built-up frustration, all devolving into this act of intimacy. Mixed feelings, now finally cleared; a longing warmth settles on them both.

Playful fingertips begin to glide down Jeanne Alter’s waist, a rhythmic massage on her tense sides. Eventually, Brynhildr feels a hand tangled into her scalp, urging the kiss to deepen. Alter is like an unbridled fire: puffs of warm breath tickling her Valkyrie’s cool lips, while diving-in every so often before the Lancer could catch her breath.

A sharp intake of air cuts the Alter’s attempt to claim Brynhildr’s lips for the fifth time. She recoils her neck back, hands still grasping on the spearmaiden’s broad shoulders. Crimson floods her cheeks at the realization of that embarrassing sound escaping her throat. Then again, anyone would have done so if their thigh was squeezed that suddenly.

“Was it too soon?” whispered the Avenger, suddenly feeling the weight of all that had transpired.

The Valkyrie takes her time to respond. Words start to form as she rests her forehead against the Alter’s.

“Are you referring to your forwardness,” their eyes mirror each other, a strange combination of glazed and focused. “Or the kiss?”

“It’s your fault for making it so difficult for me,” Jeanne Alter replies, lips brushing against Brynhildr’s as she speaks. “If I didn’t set the mood right earlier, you’d probably not get what I’m feeling for you, idiot.”

The Avenger stops on her tracks, wanting to retract the word she had used to call her, but is met with a warm, knowing smile. “It was quite a surprise to see you show off that much skin,” then she leans closer to the Avenger, soft lips against the shell of her ear.

“But it’s only for me, right, Onee-sama?”

Never had Jeanne Alter thought she would ever want to be called that again. Added with that seductive tone, it pushed Avenger to sneak in another peck on the Lancer’s full lips.

“Y-Yeah.” She shifts herself off Brynhildr’s lap, already missing the feel of her thighs against her bare ones. “We should probably rest,” comments the Avenger, her back facing the seated Valkyrie. “Do you want the first shift of the bed? I can stay at the chair until—“

Again, a pair of strong arms pull her backwards. Just like earlier, her fall is cushioned; but by something far softer than a knoll of grass. The warm breath at her nape sends a tingle down her spine. The Alter notes how possessive the Valkyrie’s hold is on her waist.

The same quiet intimacy during those healing sessions, their meals, that one night together, all pouring forth at this moment. Warmth pools at her cheeks, yet spread down to her chest as the Lancer tangles a leg to Avenger’s. A sigh escapes Alter, finally relaxing and allowing herself to melt further into Brynhildr’s arms.

“I love you, Jeanne,” a low whisper, before Brynhildr eventually drifts off into a deep slumber.

Jeanne Alter feels her eyes blur again. As much as she wants to pass it off as drowsiness, she acknowledges the tear that rolls down her cheek with a tired smile.

Chapter Text

“Mashuuuuu…” groaned Ritsuka as the side of her face hit the desk. The addressee peered from her glasses, but was more engrossed at the clipboard at hand. “Why am I in-charge of this?” she drawled, tugging onto the Shielder’s jacket.

“Senpai, the sooner you finish going through these requests, the faster we can get those chocolates.”

“To be honest, I’m kind of sick eating the generic choco in the co-op,” pouted the orange-haired girl. “I’d prefer handmade ones from you!”

The side of Mash’s lips curve, but she knew her Master just wanted to compliment her way out of this paperwork. “We’ll make some together, alright?” Although not the answer she expected, Ritsuka stretched her arms, finally ready to work. “Fiiiine. All I gotta do is sign these right?”

“Senpai, you’re the Master of all these Servants. You have to double check if they’re compatible to be put under one roof.”

Given their dire situation ever since the events of Solomon and Pseudo-Singularities, it was no surprise that Chaldea had to cut down on resources and physical establishments. With harsh budget slashes from the new management, Ritsuka and Mash had to improvise on how to live within this measly support. One such way to conserve their already dwindling funds was to lessen overhead resource consumption – in the form of room sharing.

A lot were very much on-board with the idea. Some may not have the best intentions; thus the filtering process.

“Blackbeard sent in five applications!” The Master laughed, as she proceeded to crumple up the Rider’s tickets to rooming with Francis Drake and other unsuspecting pirates.

“Should I approve Moriarty’s request to be placed with Holmes?” Mash made a cross-mark with her fingers, to which Ritsuka signs the papers in approval. The kouhai does a facepalm. “Then why did you ask me, Senpai?” The pony-tailed girl only giggles in return.

“Nobunaga and Okita… yeah they’re pretty much a couple already. Amakusa and Dantes? I guess they’re fine. Ibaraki and Shuten; I hope they won’t be mad if I put Raikou’s room next to theirs.”

“Senpai, I think someone faked Jeanne Alter-san’s application.” Ritsuka raised her eyebrows, receiving the paper being handed to her. The basis of forgery was well-founded, as the real Jeanne d’Arc was known to be illiterate. Yet, written in the form was a clear signature of Jeanne Alter’s name. It was far from the expected chicken-scratch writing that the Ruler counterpart had – but their Master knew better.

“I’ll approve it, I’m sure it’s not fake,” said Ritsuka as she quickly circled and signed the page. “Truth be told, Avenger’s penmanship is pretty good. She really practiced ever since signing the contract back then, after that event.”

Another factor that made the form valid was the preferred roommate’s name written next to the Alter’s.

“Are you sure about this?” Mash looked skeptical at the thought of that same bloodthirsty Servant having a room with a possibly unwilling victim. A steady hand patted Mash on the head; surprised violet eyes reflecting playful orange ones.

“Relax Mash, someone also submitted an application to room with Jeanne Alter,” she explained, holding up another paper that was about to be approved.

“Oh. Who would it be?”


“So you also filed a form?” Jeanne Alter asked as she placed down the cardboard box that housed several of her belongings.

“You did not forget anything else?” Brynhildr kneels down to help unpack the rather few number of items from the box.

“Bryn, don’t dodge the question,” she quips as their hands bump against each other in the fray of unloading the Alter’s books and other trinkets. Coupled with the Avenger’s stern voice, Lancer can’t help but smile as the former calls her through that nickname. “I won’t deny that I submitted one. But I’m curious, how did you know?” was the answer she gives back.

“Master approached me after lunch and told me about it.” She does a gesture to the Valkyrie, mimicking a gun with her fingers. “But she also said that I submitted the form earlier, so I win alright?” she continues and pokes the taller girl’s forehead with her index finger. Brynhildr doesn’t question the Alter on what she means by that; instead she assumes that the “prize” had something to do with picking whose room they get to have.

“Would it not have been better to use your quarters?” she asks, mirroring the Alter’s movement by lightly tapping her nose – to which the Avenger’s cheeks instantly color. “Since your old one already has a kotatsu and other amenities that this room lacks.”

The Alter raises a dismissive hand, trying to hide her reddening face with her free hand. “I didn’t really like the patch-up job they did with the walls in my room. They literally just slapped on a bunch of plywood onto the hole. Haven’t been sleeping well either since the soundproofing was trash.” She notices how the Valkyrie instantly goes silent, guilt written in her eyes. Jeanne Alter mentally jabs herself, noting how she really has a long way to go when it comes to being careful with her words.

"What I mean also is that, this room has far more pleasant memories between us and all," Jeanne Alter takes a second to reminisce the first time they shared a bed together.

Unfortunately, Brynhildr line of memory is at a different plane to that of the Avenger's. "But this is where I also stab-"

Jeanne Alter bridges the distance between them, enough for the latter to forget her next lines. Before any reaction can settle on either of them, the Dragon Witch crushes her lips onto the Lancer. She then takes hold of the Valkyrie’s chin, forcing the taller girl to meet her height as she slips in her tongue. "No bad memories here, alright?" she mumbles with her lips grazing against the Valkyrie's. There’s that ever-present fragrance that lingers on the spearmaiden, which by now, Avenger has eagerly memorized. Besides her scent, the former saint was more than familiar with the tiny sounds Brynhildr makes as she nips her bottom lip every so often.

What suddenly shakes her confidence is how the Lancer’s hand slowly snakes up from underneath her shirt’s hem. Coupled with her tongue rubbing slowly against her own, Jeanne Alter can feel a maddening throb beneath her stomach. Another hand sneaks behind the Avenger, gently cradling her until her back touches the carpeted floor beneath.

By the time her senses refocus, she finds teal hair curtaining over both of them; smooth fingernails rake against her torso. She then feels the other hand sweep away her unkempt bangs back, a contrast to Brynhildr’s neat, immaculate fringe. The same lips that warmed her own were currently being pressed against her forehead, featherlike and mild.

“You really like pushing my hair back,” Alter mutters as she readjusts herself so that the Valkyrie’s face is within her line of sight. As her hands are not bound – much to both her relief and disappointment – Jeanne shoves her hands up until they are combing away Brynhildr’s long, teal locks.

“Payback time…” Avenger trails off, as she effectively cups the Lancer’s cheeks in her now sweaty hands. Brynhildr already looked beautiful, which was an understatement in itself. But nothing compared to the rare sight of her full face, uncovered and up close – which honestly overwhelms Jeanne Alter at how stunning the Valkyrie looks.

And the thought of being this stunning Valkyrie’s girlfriend reduces the Avenger into another blushing mess.   

“I hope you have not popped a blood vessel, Onee-sama,” a light chuckle from the girl on top, her finger drawing lazy circles on the Dragon Witch’s flushed cheeks. “Whose fault is it for being stupidly beautiful?” Jeanne Alter mutters, golden gaze directed away from enticing lilac ones. With her vision averted, she failed to see the uncharacteristic grin that danced on the Lancer’s features.

“I couldn’t quite hear you,” she presses herself even more against the Avenger, lips gracing her now sensitive ear. “What did you say, Jeanne?” Combined with her agonizingly relaxing voice directly assailing her, Avenger could barely bleat out coherent words. The Valkyrie’s curious hands continue their journey underneath her top, her skin overly heated at its wake. Jeanne Alter could’ve sworn she was in control earlier; how did she end up the bottom again?  

“S-someone, awfully touchy today,” Jeanne Alter mumbles. Brynhildr is busy running her palm across the Dragon Witch’s taut stomach. “Hmm, isn’t it natural?” the Lancer comments back, her other hand tracing the contour of Alter’s collarbone. “Afterall, today is a very important day.”

“…What?” The Avenger does her best to sit up, actually dizzy from lying down on the floor for such a long time. She racked her brains, pondering on what today is.

“Birthday? Mine was last month, and Brynhildr… wait she doesn’t have one, right? It’s too soon to be New Years, and it can’t be Christmas since that brat isn’t frolicking around as Santa.”

Her eyes, despite her mind going on haywire, manage to focus on the Lancer’s retreat. Brynhildr picks out a rectangular container that rested on her bed’s side desk. There’s a shiny red ribbon tied around it, which only furthers Jeanne Alter’s confusion.

“Umm,” she stares blankly at the present being handed to her. She sets the gift onto her lap, flitting her gaze between it and the Valkyrie’s puzzled face.

Even the silence doesn’t help Jeanne Alter’s plight of guessing what in 365 days could today be.

“I was slightly worried,” Brynhildr speaks up suddenly, a hand on the top of the tiny decorated box. “That maybe I would not be able to celebrate the day of love with you…”

“… Right, Valentines Day.”

“A-Ah, of course!” A forced laugh, but it doesn’t quell the tension at all. “Time flies fast huh. It’s been almost a year since we met again and all—“

“Jeanne…” Dejected violet eyes clash against her nervous gold ones.

“Y-Yeah?”

“Did you forget about today?” Cold sweat runs down her chest.

How many times had she seen those hints of tears welling at her eyes? How many more times was she going to hurt the Valkyrie from her stupid mistakes? She knew she could lie her way out of this; something she has always done to ease away the remorse. But things were different, and she knew that she wouldn’t be able to sleep soundly at the memory of Brynhildr’s crestfallen face.

Oh, how she hated herself to the bone; yet this was the same self that the Lancer entrusted her heart to.

“I did.” Two words, enough to make the silence grow heavier. She notices the Lancer’s fringe covers a good amount of her face, but she knows well enough how heartbreaking it would be if she saw it fully. A stark contrast from earlier.

But she wasn’t about to let any tears fall. Not anymore.

“I don’t have any excuse,” Jeanne Alter continues, voice low and steady. She doesn’t know where these words are coming from, but maybe her heart might be the prime suspect.

“I’ve been a shitty girlfriend, always hurting you with my idiocy. I can’t imagine how excited you must’ve been for today; yet I not only upset your plans, but you as well. It hasn't even been an hour and I've soured up the mood again with my words. I don’t know if my sorry will cut.” No bitterness in her voice, only a mild hint of desperation to make things right again. Jeanne Alter once more searches for any sign of emotion from the Valkyrie, whose face remains passive, save for her blurring eyes.

“You deserve someone better,” is what she almost blurts out.

“I’ll do my best to deserve you, Brynhildr,” instead rolls off her throat. She bows her head low, afraid of seeing the spearmaiden’s reaction.

By the time she raises her head, she hears a hiccup, then another. In a blink, she’s wrapping her arms around the Valkyrie, the latter’s tears freely streaming down. “Oh god, Bryn, I’m really a mess. I’m sor—“ The Dragon Witch is unable to finish, as she feels her embrace reciprocated with the same fervor.

“Hearing that,” she chokes down a sob, burying her head onto Jeanne’s shoulder.  “Makes me happy,” a promising tone of relief from the Valkyrie. The way Brynhildr clings onto Alter’s waist spells both longing and possession – which sends a tingle down Avenger’s spine at the thought. Alter rocks her slowly, an arm draped around like a protective blanket. She brushes her thumb against moist lilac eyes, whispering apologies and promises that the Valkyrie was sure to keep dear to her heart.

When the tears had stopped, and long after Alter’s sleeve has been thoroughly soaked, Brynhildr picks up the forgotten gift that now sat across both of them.

“I’m really glad to be with you, my dearest, my hero,” she once more stretches her hands out to offer the ornately wrapped box. Save for the reddened eyes, the real cherry on top for the Avenger was that ever-warming smile that graced the Lancer’s lips.

“The only time I’m a hero is when Merlin casts his shit on yours truly; so I don’t think that title is really for me,” Jeanne Alter retorts, her own mouth quirking upwards as she gives a muted thanks for the gift.

She lets the ribbon unravel, and lifts the lid. There’s a strong waft of sweet butter and caramel. No surprise to receive chocolate on this day. What caught her attention was how there has to be at least 10 different flavors of bars in the box.

“You’re going to make me fat with this,” Jeanne Alter lets out a low chuckle, and it strangely feels good to do so. Brynhildr feels her heart skip a beat; as the laughter escapes Alter’s lips. “Well, we are Servants, so I don’t think that will be a problem,” remarks the Valkyrie.

“Seriously, there’s so many,” the Alter picks up a white piece, popping it in her mouth. As expected, it’s chewy and sweet to the tongue. “Won’t these spoil?”

“I used ice runes to preserve them,” a soft response. “Display it for eternity, or eat them right away.” The Avenger munches on another bar, quietly in-taking the Lancer’s words.

“On second thought, eating it might destroy your stomach.” Jeanne Alter’s lips comically pucker inwards.

“I’m kidding, Onee-sama.” Jeanne Alter chops her on the head.

“You…” She stammers, but her lips twitch upwards, oddly relieved to hear Brynhildr teasing her.

“It’s but my little punishment for you – since you forgot, and do not have a present,” she reaches out and takes a mint chocolate from the batch. An idea then flashes through the Avenger’s head. She smirks at the brewing thought.

“Oh? Whoever said I didn’t have a gift for you?” Jeanne Alter asks, grabbing a few squares of dark chocolate from the pile. She doesn’t break eye-contact with the Valkyrie as she lifts her own shirt up, purposely exposing her navel – the prime suspect for Brynhildr’s sudden quickened breathing.

“Frozen for eternity huh? Mind you, I’m sure even my flames can do,” as she spoke, the sweets in her hand started to melt underneath a crackling flame, “Something like this.” As she finished, the dark fudge had thoroughly coated her palm. Stray drops of molten chocolate ran down her forearm, to which a pair of violet eyes can’t seem to tear away from.

… At least until the Avenger started spreading the mess of dripping chocolate onto the pale expanse of her stomach.

“Seems that I got into a little trouble with your gift.” The seductive purr in her voice is enough to prompt the spearmaiden to get on all fours. A pair of strong arms brace themselves between the Alter's inviting torso.

“Won’t you clean this up for me, Bryn?”

Chapter Text

“You deserve to burn!”

“See if your god can save you now!”

“Witch!”

Blurs and silhouettes of people flood my rapidly darkening vision. I can feel the water clog my lungs. Ironically, it doesn’t spill; not even to quench the fires consuming me. My once blonde hair now turns ashen grey, not unlike the color my skin is charring into. The ropes that tied my already mangled hands had loosened, yet I no longer have the strength to escape this unending inferno before me. My heart roars in resentment as I scream curses into the sea of blue flames devouring my very being – and hers as well.

Yeah, what an idiotic Valkyrie.

“Hah, why are you here?” I scoff, though my jaw aches just from these few words. This is my punishment, yet why is she also wreathe into this furnace? How ironic, for both our lives to have ended so similarly: in a brutal conflagration for the people we once loved.

But that was for him. She burnt herself for him.

I am not him. I never will be.

“This is what you get for meddling with an accursed witch.” I rumble slowly, my fingers twitch as the fire continues to eat them away. “I told you to avoid me, unless you truly wanted to get burnt again.”

Brynhildr doesn’t reply. It’s twisted that she still smiles at a fake like me. It’s fucked up at how she advances forward to me.

“I am certain you will come to regret your decision; stop before you make the biggest mistake in your life.”

“To be immolated is far from my concern. If you wish to drag me to the very pits of Hell, then I shall gladly accompany you.”

She says this all without a hitch, and steps closer until an arm’s length from me. It reeks of burnt flesh; even my insides hurt at the stench. I could not muster the strength to retort, let alone mock her choice of ruining her second chance in life. The cyan-tinted inferno continues its raging, but I can no longer feel its heat.

I instead focus on the gentle warmth in the embrace she draws me into.


It was a nice change of pace to not wake up drenched in cold sweat. But those thoughts in Jeanne Alter’s head were short-lived as she dragged her dark-lidded eyes to the clock. It easily read “6:19 AM,” giving her a mental headache at the thought of waking up an hour earlier than needed. A strained yawn escapes as she sits up. Disheveled white tresses falls unto her face; blocking a good amount of her already groggy vision.

Craning her head to the other bed’s occupant, she let out an unguarded smile. “Bryn…” She sighed in relief at the thought of the Lancer being, well, just there for her. The Avenger extends a hand and cautiously pats what could be conceived as the Valkyrie’s arm, lightly running her fingertips on the blanketed figure. There’s a slight stir, to which Jeanne Alter retracts her hand as if struck.

“Ah. Did I wake you?” The Dragon Witch whispers. She tries to follow up with an apology, only for giggles to interrupt and heighten her senses.

“Pfff—Onee-chan, you should’ve seen your face!” Lily laughs as she eases the blanket off her body. Before she could let out an ear-ripping scream, the now embarrassed Alter feels a weight thrown on her back.

“Good morning, Jeanne,” a tender voice soothes her pulsing nerves, as she feels two arms wrap around her from behind. Santa Lily is still grinning; burying her face onto her older form’s torso. With the two Lancers doing something similar to a pincer-hug-attack, Jeanne Alter’s mind finally settles.

“Right, we adopted this runt.” She mentally and quite audibly says while pinching her younger self’s cheek. The younger Lancer fights back by squeezing a handful of Alter’s stomach-fat, much to the latter’s discomfort. “Bryn-nee’s been feeding you well, huh? You’re flabby here!” She squeaks as the older of the two gives one final painful tug on the little girl’s cheeks. The two “sisters” now looked alike - with matching reddening cheeks, but for diverging reasons.

“Mind you, you’re going to grow up with this body as well, brat.”

Jeanne Alter Lily massages her swollen cheeks, mumbling, “And when that happens, Bryn-nee will choose me because I look younger and cuter!”

A light knock on the door was what stopped Jeanne Alter from throwing her younger self out the sealed window; A-Ranked Strength giving zero damns. “Lily, it’s time for your training. Jack and Nursery are already here.”

“It’s former Santa!” There’s no hiding the excitement in her voice as she scrambles off the bed. But before her feet could hit the floor, two hands stop her by scooping her up with slight resistance. “Bryn-nee! I’ll be left behind if I don’t go—“

“Better to be late and look well-groomed, than being both tardy and unkempt. Your hair is a mess, and you will need to brush your teeth. Come, I shall help you out.” The taller Lancer leads the now pouting Santa towards the side bathroom. Her frown only deepens as she can vaguely hear the footsteps of her friends get thinner, a sign that she was bound to get a stern talking to from Santa Alter.

What the two Lancers don’t notice is how a pair of golden eyes follow them, at least until the bathroom’s door clicks to a close. When the coast is clear, the older Alter quickly combs away her tousled bangs off her face. She darts to the room’s dresser, eyeing down her reflection in disdain. Pulling out a handkerchief, she dabs it onto her forehead and neck, wiping out any trace sweat and oil. Her nose twitches at the smell of her stale breath, prompting her to swiftly gargle down a mouthful of water from one of the cups sitting on said table.

Needless to say, words from Brynhildr – may it be directed to her, or not – were very much effective on both Jeanne Alters.

Another knock dins from behind the main door. Seeing that neither Lancers would be able to answer it, Avenger makes her way to open the door. Golden eyes reflect back at her, if not with some tinged amusement in them.

“What a creep, how long have you been standing outside?”

“Hmm? I made it quite clear that I have to pick up that spawn of yours,” Artoria Alter slings her oversized bag onto her other shoulder. “And comparably, you actually do look well-rested for once. May it be due to your new family of sorts?”

“Are you trying to complement me, because I’m about to shut the door now.” Jeanne Alter growls, deeply pressing the close button. The door stops with a harsh jerk, as the Rider wedges her foot just in time. Prying the door open once more, the older Santa lets out a scoff. “Hmph, despite your social ineptitude, you have landed yourself quite a woman. I do suggest she gets her eyes checked, lest it cause her any more foolish decisions.”

Automatic doors can’t even be called an enemy to someone like Jeanne Alter. Fully pushing the door open to its widest, she grabs the front of the Rider’s coat, glowering down at her. Artoria merely smirks, meeting Jeanne’s smoldering glare with her icy continence. It’s a good 10 seconds, and with no punches landing, she lets go of the King of Knights.

“I never thought I’d see the day that a mad dog such as you would mellow into something akin to your original self. Keep it up and we’ll have a hard time distinguishing who the real Jeanne d’Arc is.”

“And even if I cut you down, your Saber clones are going to multiply like rabbits in your place. I’m just sparing you since it’d be a waste to bother, and another two Artoria Alters would come to replace your fat ass.”

Language, dear.” Both Alters turn their attention to Brynhildr, with a now dolled-up Jeanne d’Arc Alter Santa Lily toddling next to her. Upon seeing Artoria, the little kid beams at her coach – in the hopes that she would not be punished for taking almost half an hour to get ready. Fortunately, it seems to work, as the older Santa Alter breaks into a rare smile to the tiny Lancer. “Shall we head out, Lily?” She nods happily, taking the fluffy gloved hand of the other Santa. Jeanne Alter rubs her eyes at the sudden 180.

“In case Jeanne and I aren’t back by sunset, you know the room’s passcode, correct?” Brynhildr bends down as she asks the smaller Alter. To which, the latter nods with fervor, already impatient from her supposed “mother’s” last minute reminders. “Yeaaah, I know! I’m responsibable enough already!”

“Yeah, brat. You sure are,” Jeanne Alter mumbles, but feels an elbow prod at her side. Violet orbs give her a pointed look; a silent but powerful move. “D-Don’t overwork yourself, Lily. Just do your best out there. Oh, and don’t poke people’s eyes with your lance, alright?” She hesitantly gives a reassuring squeeze on the shorter Lancer’s shoulder, much to both Jeanne Alters’ surprise. But Lily sees no malice in this rare act of kindness, and only skips away and waves as the door closes before the two older Servants.

“How was that? I sent her off well, right?” Is a question from the Dragon Witch; to which the Valkyrie replies with stinted chuckles. It doesn’t take long for the Avenger to latch her fingertips onto the taller girl’s sides, a barrage of tickles assaulting her unguarded torso. Brynhildr isn’t the only one giggling, as they both tumble over each other, their shared fall cushioned by the carpet beneath.

“Still going to laugh, Bryn?” The Alter’s lips curve into a wicked smile, her digits still ready to deliver another wave of pokes. The room had settled back down, yet the mood remained light. Lancer drags her own fingers up to the Avenger’s cheeks, carefully tracing invisible lines along the Alter’s skin.

“It does feel like we are a family.”

“Mm, yeah. Well, it was more of your idea to adopt the brat; since the kids’ room was getting all cramped up.”

“But you were the one who asked Ritsuka to have Lily transferred here. Sounds more like your plan, my dear.” There’s a small smile dancing at Brynhildr’s face. Jeanne Alter wastes no time in bringing her own against those soft lips, urging those ever-mesmerizing sounds from the Valkyrie’s mouth.

“It’s not that I wanted to look after that runt,” The words are lost as Brynhildr takes control, and catches Jeanne Alter’s lips once more. Her tongue probes with enough strength to urge entrance, sending a thrill down the Avenger’s spine. When they finally break away, a thin strand connects their lips, to which a cherry-red hue settles on both their cheeks.

“You can always be honest with me, Jeanne.” Said girl exhales deeply, finally admitting defeat.

“I-It’s just,” there it goes again, that magnetic pull those lilac eyes have on her. Yet this time, she was more than willing to express how she truly felt. These changes were all thanks to Brynhildr, for sure – though they are not unwelcome ones. “It’s nice to think of having a family of sorts? I-I mean even if it’s not a normal one, it gives me some ease that we have something together.”

There’s a now somber smile etching itself on the Lancer’s features. “Even if it’s just a fake one?”

"I don't care if others think it that way; because I know for sure my love for you is real,” Jeanne Alter cuts in, now taking the initiative to hold onto the other girl’s soft hands. “Yeah, we started things with farces and counterfeits, but I’m past all that.” She grips onto the Lancer’s fingers, almost afraid to let go. Her hand is shaking: yet her beloved Valkyrie steadies it with her other hand.

“I’m damn serious when I say I love you, the real you, and everything about you, Brynhildr.”

Unsaid words, through their gazes, connected. There’s that ever-present intimacy in the way their hands link, no matter the context. The two retreat back to their bed, knowing that they have plenty of time before they have to resume their duties as Heroic Spirits. There was no need to rush; they may not have met in their mortal days, but they have their second chances in life to spend together.

It’s fickle, at how these two should never have met in the first place. But all it took was a wish – a yearning to be loved, in a world that rejected her – and someone to answer this maiden’s prayer.

Perhaps it is the fate of such Dragon Witch and Valkyrie.