It’s the sound of the city’s newly-installed warning bells ringing just a few streets over that has Kyrie ushering the children inside and locking the door behind her. There’s a rush to get to the curtains and close them, but when that’s done she hides them in the coat closet towards the back of the house. Julio grabs her sleeve, all three of them pleading with their eyes for her to join them, but there’s no more room for her in the cramped space without removing at least a stack of boot and shoe boxes, and there’s no time to not make it obvious.
With no other choice, Kyrie gives them her most confident smile and whispers assurances until Julio at last releases her sleeve. The door cuts off her sight, covering the vision of little Carlo’s tears, Kyle’s self-imposed duty as the oldest, and Julio hiding his face in his arms, but she cannot linger. The warning bells cover multiple streets, and no one knows where exactly the demons will appear.
This wasn’t always. It used to be that members of the Order of the Sword would protect the city. Then, after the Savior destroyed the city, it used to be that Nero would exterminate a large number of demons that caused trouble in the city and intimidate the rest into staying away.
But now, Nero has been gone for just over two weeks, and the still-active Order of the Sword has long grown lazy with Nero keeping the peace and without Credo there to keep them in check.
Even five years later, the memory of Credo is a sharp one, but Kyrie cannot spare as much time for thoughts of the dead as she wishes these days. Not with three children to raise and an entire community to inspire. For all that Sanctus’ actions brought shame upon the Church, the people still keep to their faith in Sparda. The Church looks to her to conduct their hymns and keep the people’s spirits high with her songs. Between that and herding her colorful, rambunctious family into some semblance of order, Kyrie doesn’t have much time for a lot these days.
Of course, that was before the demons started appearing. They come as if drawn by the absence of their primary hunter. Fortuna saw the massacre of dozens before the Order finally responded properly, mobilizing offensive attacks and counter attacks that sometimes prove as futile as they are effective. After that, very few dared venture far from their homes unless they had to, and a system of alarm bells were hastily installed with the intention of warning people away from areas of danger.
A few areas have become completely uninhabitable to humans, and more look to be heading that way by the day. Some days, Kyrie fears if that is to be the fate of her entire home.
She hopes not. She prays to Sparda that it will not be the case.
For now, though, she has a family to see to. Kyrie runs up the stair to her bedroom, feet pounding hard against the wood, and drops to her knees in front of her bed. She pulls out the flat rectangular trunk hidden beneath it. The clasps fly open in her urgency. She fumbles with the key to the padlock, only there to keep the children from getting inside, but manages to get the lock open quickly.
Nero told her about Credo’s demon form, when she asked about it. How beautiful and strong he was, even as his flesh was twisted into something so inhuman. How his faith and his honor manifested into a mighty shield that protected him, until Nero absorbed its power into his arm.
Nero might have held onto her brother’s shield before his arm was taken, but Kyrie is the one who inherited his sword.
Benedicamus is a hefty blade, long and sturdy with a keen edge that could split hairs. Credo often let her sit beside him as he cared for the blade, handling it like it was his own child. She’s kept up that maintenance in her brother’s memory, even if the sword hasn’t seen that much use in years.
Downstairs, there’s a solid thump as if something slammed against the door, startling Kyrie into almost dropping the sword edge-first onto her lap. Screams follow, coming from the outside.
The demons are here.
Her grip tightens. Setting the sword on the bedspread, Kyrie gather up her full-length skirt and passes the hem between her legs, splitting the excess fabric as much as she can and bringing it back around over her hips. She knots the two ends over her belly, forming a passable covering that will protect her modesty and keep the skirt from getting caught on anything. Not like last time, when the hem of her dress caught on the tip of an iron fence post as she ran.
Before she leaves, Kyrie makes sure to grab Benedicamus’ sheath from the trunk as well, strapping it to her waist.
The door is still solid and whole when she gets back to the entrance, calming her worst fears. Kyrie chances a peak through the curtains with her heart in her throat. Pools of blood linger in the street, and across the way, slumped against the wall is a member of the Order, his chest torn open and staining his uniform a deep crimson. Kyrie swallows a whimper of fear when a demon shaped like a poorly-made doll with a large blade for its right leg crawls onto him and seemingly begins to feast.
She has seen demons, ever since Sanctus’ plot five years ago. But the reality of them and their cruelty never fails to horrify her.
Hands shaking, Kyrie turns away from the sight, blinking away the tears that want to sting her eyes. One side of the visible street is devoid of anything but more blood and corpses and feasting demons, but the other-
Kyrie feels her heart skip, blood turning to ice in her veins. Another of the doll-like demons is bouncing around, drawing ever closer to the shivering, petrified form of a young woman.
The front door bangs open with enough force to partially bounce back. Kyrie leaps down the front stairs, landing awkwardly in her short heels. It must be providence that she manages to not roll or break her ankles, still able to sprint towards the demon on feet that move before she can think better of it. Her pulse pounding in her ears almost manages to drown out the scream of defiance that tears from her throat.
The demon whirls around as if startled, the blade of its right arm swinging wide. If Kyrie were any faster, it might have caught her in the stomach. She throws herself into a lunge before it can swing again, Benedicamus biting deep into the demon’s head. Dozens of dark, thorny beetles crawl out from the hole, evaporating into the air as the demon goes limp on her brother’s blade.
The urge to retch and gag is almost overpowering. Kyrie has to hold her breath as she pushes the body off Benedicamus with her foot. Moving away, she grabs the young woman by the arm and hauls her up like she weighs little more than Carlo. “Come! We must run!”
She offers no protest, nodding shakily and scrambling like a newborn foal until her feet are under her. Behind them, the demons devouring the dead give a beastial shriek and shamble after them. Kyrie manages to keep her head long enough to throw a piece of rubble at her door to push it closed before they’re running away, praying that her children will be safe when she returns.
They duck quickly into an alleyway on the next street, and then down another side-street, hoping to shake their pursuers. The demons, however, are faster and more nimble than Kyrie gave them credit for at first glance. They easily keep pace with the two, and every passing second makes it all the more clear that they will be overtaken eventually.
To prevent this, Kyrie drags the young woman down a set of stone stairs. Over a decade’s worth of memories of Nero dragging her and Credo along to explore Fortuna’s underground tells her that this is one of the many entrances to the old tunnels below the city.
It’s not a great spot to escape into, but it will form a bottleneck the demons will have trouble squeezing through, and Kyrie is fairly certain that this entrance is the one leads straight to the ruined cathedral courtyard. It’s their best shot if they want to survive this encounter.
The grate is locked, rusted by rain and disuse, but there is a trick to opening these doors. The shambling of the demons is getting closer. Quickly, Kyrie sheaths Benedicamus part-way and grabs ahold of the rusty bars.
“Help me lift this,” she tells the girl. Together they heft the gate up and out of its foundation enough that Kyrie can walk her corner back enough to create space for a single person to slip through.
“Go on, go through,” Kyrie tells the girl, who looks at her like she’s crazy.
“Are you kidding?” She hisses back, green eyes made wide by distress and anxiety. “I’m not leaving you! Those things will tear you apart!”
The grinding of metal on cement causes Kyrie’s teeth to grit. “It’s okay,” she rushes to reassure. “I’m not asking you to leave me, I’m- Duck!”
The glint of a swinging blade catches Kyrie’s eye just in time to grab the girl and pull her down, both of them avoiding losing their heads by inches. The top section of the gate tumbles back, severed from the rest by sharp steel. The clang echoes loudly throughout the tunnel, but Kyrie has more pressing concerns to worry about than property damage.
The stairwell is just deep and narrow enough that the demons can’t swarm them from above or in front, but that doesn’t mean they can’t reach them. Her hand flies to Benedicamus’ hilt and draws him into a diagonal rising slash just the way Nero helped her practice, her other hand pulling the sheath back to get the blade out faster. The demon’s sack-like body rips open across the chest, spilling out more beetles that disappear like vapor.
It’s too cramped, she realizes when Benedicamus’ edge strikes brick. Vibrations jar her wrist and arm bones unpleasantly, and the familiar aching soreness of her shoulders makes itself known, ready to turn into searing pain at any moment. Demons writhe and sway above them, the railing and their own bulk the only things stopping them from tumbling down into the stairwell. She can’t swing without threatening to hit her charge, either. Thinking quickly, Kyrie steps backwards and bodily shoves the old gate over.
She can’t spare a second to glance at the young woman, already preparing for the next demon to wander down. “Go! I’ll follow!”
“Fine!” the young woman snaps, before finally going into the tunnel. “But I’m coming back for you! With help!”
The next demon steals Kyrie’s attention before she can reply, it’s massive blade-leg kicking up at her. There’s no possible way she could successfully block that, not with her passing skill, forcing Kyrie to throw herself against the opposite wall. It slams into the brick overhead and briefly becomes stuck, sending a shower of red dust over her hair and into her eyes. She coughs, unable to breathe, and brings Benedicamus to block in front of her just in time to stop the return swing from cleaving her in half.
She flies backwards, landing hard on the concrete with a yelp. Benedicamus flies from her hand on impact, clattering against the wall. Kyrie scrambles away, trying to put some distance between her and the demons that surge forward, seeing their opening. It’s only the narrow width of the doorway that prevents them from descending upon her.
Lungs burning in her chest, hazel eyes cast around for her brother’s sword and finds it less than a foot away. Desperation pushes her to lunge for it and claw her way up the wall until she’s back on unsteady feet.
Her pursuers are still stuck trying to wriggle their bladed appendages through the tiny opening, more often than not ripping into each other. Behind her, the footsteps of the young woman have gone silent. Kyrie doesn’t know if she has been given enough time to get away, but she can’t turn and run now. Not when one of the demons succeeds in squeezing into the corridor.
Kyrie backs away on knees that want to collapse out from under her, hands shaking around her brother’s sword. Primal terror grips her entire body, worse than anything she’s ever experienced. Tears sting her eyes, knowing there’s no room for her to properly swing Benedicamus’ blade effectively, not without hitting brick or metal pipe. Like this, in what just might be the final seconds of her life, Kyrie has never felt more alone.
The sack-like demon swings its leg back, and Kyrie does the only thing she can think of - she squeezes her eyes shut like a frightened child and cries out for help.
Benedicamus’ hilt burns. A flash of blinding white fills the corridor, even through the covering of her eyelids. The demons screech as if outraged. The sword’s weight changes, becoming heavier in the front. The glow dies down somewhat, and Kyrie opens her eyes.
In her hands is a lance, longer than the Red Queen by half of her length again. The haft is dark and smooth, capped by a golden point at the bottom. An enormous golden blade that probably makes up half of its total length forms the spearhead and part of the haft, somewhat halberd-esque in the bottom half of its shape, with wing-like designs that swoop down to flank part of the haft like a guard. Part of the metal is colored a dark purple, almost black, with cracks of gold like lightning peaking through. Around it is an aura of purest white; an aura that suffuses her as well, she realizes, feeling its power refracting through her being. Heat and Light surrounds her, like standing in the core of the sun and not being burned.
It is a beautiful weapon, Kyrie thinks, awed, and powerful. Is… this really Benedicamus?
The demon from before jitters back into motion. Kyrie readies the lance, more confident now that she doesn’t have to worry about swinging her weapon. As if sensing her intent, the aura’s glow intensifies. It attempts to twist into a shape, no, into multiple shapes, but it can’t seem to reach the final step. When it can’t, the aura sweeps through her veins like sunbeams sweep after a cloud’s shadow and attempts to bring her into the flow.
Silently, Kyrie gives into its urging and allows the aura to guide her, pushing her will into the glow. The light solidifies into several golden spears - miniatures of the lancehead - that float before her. She touches them with her will again and the spear fly towards the demon, impaling it and sending it toppling to the ground, where it disperses into crawling bugs and scraps of cloth.
The process repeats, a demon entering the tunnel and Kyrie summoning more spears to cut them down, until finally no more approach her. Cautious, she peeks out of the tunnel to examine the stairwell, finding nothing. Ascending the stairs, she examines the tunnel and, again, finds nothing.
Relief swells in her chest, causing a few haggard, almost manic giggles to escape. She hadn’t thought she was going to make it, but here she is. The young woman should be almost to the courtyard by now, and from there she will be able to gather some members of the Order to come for Kyrie.
Unable to restrain her curiosity, Kyrie turns her gaze once more to Benedicamus’ new form. The aura’s heat has gentled to an almost hearthfire comfort. It pulses like a heartbeat, a living thing bound in gold and dark purple and black. And the way the white surged through her…
Is this… alive?
Nero has told her about artifacts like that before - the souls of powerful demons who become weapons when they are defeated. The demons even remain somewhat sentient within their new forms. The devil hunter, Dante, apparently used some of them when he helped save Fortuna. After visiting Dante’s shop a few years ago, Nero came back with stories of a pair of twin swords still capable of holding conversations. That Credo could have taken one as his beloved weapon leaves her feeling uncomfortable, but... Benedicamus has never harmed her before.
If it is alive, does it recognize her? If so, perhaps she could connect with it in some way…?
Kyrie presses her forehead to the spear’s haft, once more feeling the ways in which its aura seems to hum like ripples on the water’s surface. There is a moment of uncertainty, not sure of how to go about this. In the end, she settles for simply calling to it with all her heart. Hello?
The aura vibrates, shifting from tiny waves to crystalline fractals that blend and refract feelings and impressions like rays of sunlight. A comfortable weight seems to drape around her shoulders like an embrace, and the way it echoes back her call is… heartbreakingly familiar.
“Credo,” she gasps, breath stuttering in her throat. The shaft pulses against her forehead with a strong, gentle warmth like an agreement, and the brother-shaped wound on her heart begins to bleed anew.
She can’t help it. After everything - the demons, the terror and the thought of being forced to leave her children and Nero and her people forever, this is too much. Kyrie just collapses to her knees, uncaring of the painful scrape of skin on concrete, and sobs.
The young woman appears with several soldiers some time later, long after Benedicamus has returned its - to his original form. The absence of warmth leaves her strangely cold despite being so close to summer. Part of her wants the aura to come back, to feel her brother’s presence again, but another part is glad for the solitude. She wonders if that makes her a bad sister.
The soldiers escort her back home after they scold her for being so reckless. They remind her repeatedly that she’s lucky to be alive, and that her only injuries are some scrapes on her knees and elbows. Along the way, she learns that the young woman she saved is named Laura, and that Laura is very upset that Kyrie didn’t follow like she said she would.
The Order cleans up the half-eaten bodies lining the street while Kyrie retrieves her children, who are distinctly not in the coat closet where she left them. Part of her is angry about that, but the rest is too overwhelmed with equal parts relief and guilt to think about scolding them.
Restlessness prevents sleep from taking her, long after Laura has been sent home and the children have been comforted, fed and put to sleep for the night. Weariness calls to her, pulling her body to the mattress, but her mind will not settle.
Over and over again, the events from earlier play out in her mind. The warning bells, the demons, Laura, Benedicamus. The feeling of commanding such strong energy. The flood of power in her veins. Seeing a young woman in need of help, and feeling her body just moving on its own.
It’s obvious that she will get no more sleep tonight. Never one to laze about needlessly, Kyrie pulls herself from the comfort of her blankets. A quick peek says that the children are all asleep, Carlo more restfully than the others. She contemplates seeing if sleeping in either Nero’s or Nico’s rooms would sooth her, but quickly tosses the thought aside out of embarrassment.
With nothing left to turn to, Kyrie does what she always does when unrest steals her peace - she uncovers the humble shrine to Sparda in her closet and prays for guidance.
The altar is tiny compared to some that she has seen. It’s little more than a small table with a statuette of her God surrounded by two candles and a small book of prayers, but it is hers. She tries not to let Nero see it, knowing how much more awkward he’s become about it since discovering that he is a descendant of Sparda himself. Nero has never been comfortable with faith, but he doesn’t disparage hers when it brings her peace.
Kneeling before the altar, she lights the candles and folds her hands over her heart. Saying the opening prayers is meditative in their familiarity and helps her bring her mind into a semblance of order to say what she needs to say. As she’s been reluctant to part from him all day, Benedicamus lays by her left side, where Credo always sat when they attended service together. It’s a poor substitute for her brother truly being here, she knows, but she finds she cannot help the sentimentality of it.
Looking upon the face of her God, Kyrie contemplates her words carefully.
“My Savior,” she says, the statuette’s face one of infinite patience. The words want to fail her, lumping in her throat and trying to choke her silent. Even so, she must press on. “I… I don’t know what to do. I’ve never enjoyed the idea of fighting, like Nero or Credo. I’ve always been content to remain out of the way and care for Fortuna in my own way. It’s what I’m good at. It’s always been enough. But now, today, I raised a blade with the intent to kill, and I saved the life of someone I have never met before.”
Now a vulnerable supplicant, Kyrie bears her heart to her God. “But the soldiers were right. I could have gotten myself killed. I could have led Laura into a trap. I left Carlo, Julio and Kyle all alone, and after everything they’ve lost, they could have lost me as well.”
Her breath hiccups around an aborted sob. More tears sting at her eyes, even after crying long and hard enough to make her eyes sore earlier. “My Savior, I-I cannot lie to you. Even if I were sure to p-perish… I think I would do it again. I would throw my life a-away if it meant that someone else could live, when I have a family to care for and a city who relies on my voice to stay strong. I - Does that make me a b-bad person?”
Her body trembles. Indecision wars in her heart and it hurts. “Even if it doesn’t, what do I do? Should I remain as I am and help in my own way, or should I try to become something more and risk making things worse?”
There is a storm within her heart, made of so many emotions than pull her in different directions and yet lead her to no conclusions. She came here to throw herself upon her God’s judgement and seek his guidance in the absence of those who have always supported her, yet the statuette is as silent as ever. Kyrie is just a choir girl - a singer by trade and choice. She wants so badly for someone to tell her what to do, but-
Something slides into place through the frustration and the helplessness. Gradually, the tears slow to a crawl, and Kyrie lifts her eyes from where they’d fallen to the statuette’s waiting, stoic face. His expression has not changed, but the air feels… anticipating.
“... You can’t tell me, can you?” Her face tightens in pained resignation, lips pursing. “This... this is something I have to decide to do on my own.”
Can she really sit back, watching as her people die one soul at a time, knowing that she now has the power to change things? Nero will return, eventually, but can she really bring herself to do nothing in the meantime?
The answer is visceral in its immediacy. No. No, she cannot.
Phantom power surges through her veins on the butterfly wings of memory, alongside her capture by Agnus and Sanctus, watching Credo die from inside the False Savior, Nero screaming for her not to come into the garage, and then being unable to do more than cry and hold him as he bled in her arms. Every time she was made helpless by her own inaction, her own weakness, contrasted sharply by the one time she acted and did something good.
Benedicamus’ hilt heats gently at her touch. Taking him, she plants the butt of his sheath against the floorboards and presses her forehead to the white leather of his hilt.
“You told me once that there is no shame in asking for help,” she whispers to her brother’s spirit within the blade. “So, please, will you help me? I can’t do this on my own.”
Light like white feathers briefly surrounds her, and that’s all the sign Kyrie needs.
Vague memories of Credo’s initiation ceremony into the Order come to mind. It was well over a decade ago, so her recollection of the event is faded, but one of the vows has always remained crystal clear.
“Stand now, my brother, and fight by my side,” she recites, feeling the sunbeam glow fractal as if surprised and then coalesce, brighter than before. “Our enemies shall fall as we uprise to claim our fate. Now and forever, we stand together, and through our strength, we will make a better day tomorrow.”
It’s extraordinary, that such a simple thing would calm her fears. In their absence, Kyrie solidifies her decision and inscribes it upon her heart, so that she may never falter again.
(Kyrie doesn’t know if she’s just imagining it, but the air seems to hum with approval. It could be echoes of Credo’s presence brushing against her soul, or the attention of her god watching over her.
She would like to believe it’s both.)
It takes half a day to finish scrubbing the red paint off the metal plating, and two days for the dyes to finish setting and drying. As she waits, she practices turning Benedicamus into his spear form and summoning its powerful light and spectral spears. The effort exhausts her, but only after several hours have passed, and Credo’s spirit guides her the rest of the way. Kyle looks after Julio and Carlo, and Laura stubbornly volunteers to look after them all when Kyrie is busy with her preparations.
When everything is done, she sews the cloth and the loose leather back into place and puts it on for the first time.
It’s strange to see herself in the Order’s armor. Credo commissioned this set to be made for Kyrie just in case she ever needed it, as the Order of the Sword’s mission had always been the eradication of demon kind. She’s never worn it after the final fitting, always uncomfortable with the violence it represented in her mind. Now, years later and with her heart set, Kyrie can’t help but be grateful for her brother’s foresight.
Kyrie is surprised that it still fits despite having been designed for her teenage self. The armor is a mixture hardened leather dyed navy blue and thick cloth dyed dark orange, fitted to her frame so as to still be mobile as she’s protected. She’s allowed some parts to remain its customary white - the shortened cloth draping from her waist, the hemmed cuffs of her sleeves and the metal plating on her shoulders, knees, elbows and boots - but most of it has been altered in some way.
This was once an Order uniform, after all. For all that Kyrie remains steadfast in her faith, she can no longer bring herself to wear their colors anymore. Not after what Sanctus did.
The sight of herself in her mirror causes her spine to straighten reflexively. With her brother’s - with her sword strapped to her hip, she looks like a knight out of the fairy tails the matron at the orphanage used to read to them.
She’s not sure if she feels like one, though. Perhaps after she’s had some time to grow into it, this will stop feeling like she’s playing pretend. Does she even want it to?
When she makes her way back down to the entrance, Julio, Kyle and Carlo are waiting for her.
Kyrie crouches down in front of them, concerned. Deeper in the house, she can hear Laura busily working in the kitchen to make breakfast. “What’s wrong? Have you come to see me off?”
Kyle bites his lip and tolerates a scared-faced Carlo clinging to his back. They celebrated his twelfth birthday just a few months ago, but with the way he holds himself now one could mistake him for being younger than Julio. “You’ll come back, won’t you, Ms. Kyrie?” His hands shake as he signs his question. The trauma of the Savior’s attack left the poor boy mute, unable to put into words what he experienced that day. In all the years he’s stayed with them, Kyrie has never once heard him speak. “You’ll be safe?”
Julio sniffles quietly. “You won’t leave us like Nero and Nico did, right?”
Her heart weeps inside her chest. “Oh, my boys...,” she whispers. Kyrie’s arms open wide in invitation. They hesitate for the barest second before tumbling into her embrace, clinging to her with the fierceness only unmoored children are capable of.
“Nero and Nico will come back. I will, too,” she promises them, her words fueled not just by faith but by experience. Then her tone shifts and her eyebrow raises teasingly. “And unlike them, I will be back before sundown. We’ll be sure to remind them of that when they return, huh?”
The boys give weak chuckles, Carlo even responding with a quiet, “Yeah!” Even so, anxiety lingers in the scrunch of their foreheads and the way their shallow smiles crumble into frowns. She must leave soon, but it would be remiss of her to leave when her children were so distressed.
She draws back just enough to look them in the eyes. “Would you like to pray with me before I go?”
She waits until their clasped hands rise in prayer to raise her own and recite her words. They are simple, creating a commonly used prayer, but they have helped keep her strong all these years. In saying them now, she hopes that they will help comfort her children as well.
“As I go to my duty,
Be with me today, my Savior,
Be the patience when I’m frustrated.
Be the endurance when I am tired.
Be the wisdom when I am uncertain.
Be the inspiration when I’m out of ideas.
Be the peacemaker when I feel hurt.
Be the comforter when I feel overwhelmed.
Be the energy when I am weary.
Be the guide when I am confused.
Be the forgiver when I get it wrong.
Be with me Savior, today.”
Afterwards, Kyrie sits them down at the dining room table, presses a kiss to each of their heads, whispers her goodbyes, and turns her feet towards the city outside before she can let herself be pulled back to the promise of comfort and safety.
Kyrie is not a fighter. She’d much rather sing to the people of Fortuna to ease their spirits, and take care of her family with Nero and Nico. It’s what soothes and fulfills the gentle, nurturing nature that beats inside her heart.
But three days ago, gentle, kindly Kyrie accomplished more in terms of protecting the people of Fortuna than the diminished Order of the Sword has in months. All because she had the will to try and save just one person who needed someone to help her. It’s an act that Kyrie has done countless times in her choir given new, solemn context.
She is not a fighter. Such violent bloodshed is anathema to her, but Kyrie finds she can content herself with thoughts of her city’s people for now.
At least until Nero returns. By then, she thinks it will be good to set her sword down once more, even if just for a time.
No one ever said that Kyrie could not both sing and fight for the people of Fortuna.