Same note as yesterday – skip if read

Hey all. To those who don't read it or didn't see, the business I work for is going insolvent. This is gong to cause some short-term chaos, but will change things for the better long-term. There's a more detailed post on my p a tr eon for free, but you don't need to read it. Basics here:

1) Company is going insolvent. I'm going to be involved in lots of meetings and stuff for the next while. Might take 2-3 months. I don't know as have never been involved in this before. This may cause sporadic or short updates, typically on weekday fics.

2) I will be OKAY so please don't worry or feel you need to rush to support me. I've wanted to quit for a while but had too much loyalty to staff to leave them. I want to commit to full-time writing, so I'll be happy once this is concluded.

3) I'll do my best to keep updates going as usual but if you see me absent for a day, please assume it's me being called to meetings with accountants and insolvency agency. I won't always be available to post a notice on my profile but just assume it's the reason.

Cover Art: Solace o'Autumn

Chapter 25

Sailing wasn't so bad once Jaune got his sea legs under him. After a day or so of throwing up, things got easier, the weather evening out and the open sea providing a relaxing view as far as the eye could see. Though he heard the occasional calls and voices of sea life, including a domestic argument amidst a pod of whales, he chose to stay quiet and not invite any more viral appearances online. One instance of entertaining dolphins with music was enough for him currently.

He did, however, listen in on what almost felt like "reports" from various fish. Most of them weren't as coherent or measured as the dolphins, being little more than statements and sharp sounds, but it was interesting to see the differences in vernacular. A shoal of tiny fish was the worst, with Jaune having to cover his ears as thousands of voices spoke at the same time, somehow in unison as they swam and dodged predators like a singular hivemind. The voices of those predators were drowned out by it but given the absolute buffet on offer he doubted they were unhappy.

The presence of fish did mean the absence of Grimm, however. Though Grimm didn't hunt fish from what he knew, fish didn't like them. Intelligent fish like dolphins saw them as enemies, while simpler fish like sardines simply saw them as big and dangerous, and thus best avoided. He wasn't sure what sharks thought – and didn't really want to swim with any to find out – but the fact that there were fish, meant there weren't Grimm. The sailors held to the same opinions, call it superstition or just observation, and were relaxed whenever large shoals were about.

A day or two later, the landmass that was Anima appeared on the horizon, still half a day out but close enough to see the peaks and greenery in the distance. As they drew closer, more ships dotted the waters, fishing, offering tours, transporting goods and such. The birds appeared too, closer to the shore hunting fish or indulging in all the tasty food dropped by people.

"It's a game to them, I think," a seagull that had come down to perch on the railing above Jaune's head said to another, younger one. "No one quite knows why they like to do it, but maybe they find it fun."

"And they give us food for it?"

"Sure. Watch!"

The seagull launched down and dive-bombed a woman holding a plastic plate with some fries and vegetables on it. She yelped and panicked, dropping several of them on the deck. The two gulls darted in to devour them as the woman scampered away.

"See? I told you."

"Wow. Why do they make us do that, though?"

"I guess it must be fun for them."

"Can't we just ask?"

"Nah. They shoo you away if you do. Playing hard to get, I guess. You have to impress them by flapping your wings near their head."


Jaune rolled his eyes and turned away, not feeling the need to intervene and educate Argus' population of seagulls. Talking to animals was interesting for sure, but it only opened a can of worms once you realised they had their own cultures. Plus, it was hard to eat certain foods now. Burgers and the like were fine since they no longer looked like animals, but if someone served up a roast chicken that still had its shape, then Jaune wasn't sure he'd be able to eat it. Some people ate dolphin, too. Knowing how intelligent they were, the thought made him sick.

Once the ramp was down, Jaune waited until the impatient were off before climbing down himself with a few suitcases. He spotted Pyrrha almost immediately by her bright red hair, then Saphron a little further away waving at him. Neither had noticed the other, forcing him to choose between them. Or, more realistically, to motion Pyrrha over while heading toward Saphron.

Pyrrha threw her arms around his shoulders halfway. "You're back!"

"I am. Ha. Nice to see you, too." He trudged on toward Saphron. "Hey sis. I have some gifts in here but they're heavy—" Pyrrha took a suitcase in each hand and lifted them. "Never mind. How is Adrian?"


"Ouch. How are you and Terra?"

Saphron smiled sarcastically. "Not sleeping." Jaune laughed. Saphron seemed to be eyeing Pyrrha, but not in a bad way, more curious than anything. "Your friend is welcome to come back with us. How was the trip here?"

"Peaceful. That's about the most you can ask for on the open water."

"Hmmm. You know, I saw an interesting news story a few weeks back about an attack on the Schnee gala..." Jaune winced. "I was thinking of sending it to mom but held off since I knew my baby brother would call me to tell me he was okay."


"But you know what? He never did. Just carried on like I'd never find out." Saphron laughed breezily. "Imagine that!"

"Y—Yeah. Um. Sorry...?"

"Oh, you'll be sorry. Especially once mom finds out."

"Saph, please, it's not like I knew it'd happen!"

"But you could have called to tell us."

"It was a crisis situation. I panicked."

"For a whole month after?"

"I... uh..." This would be a great time for his Charisma score to kick in and solve the problem for him. No such luck, unfortunately. "H—How about I make it up to you?"

"Is that an apology or a bribe not to tell mom?"


"Hmmmm. We'll see." Saphron sighed. "Though I'm not sure what you can offer me—"

"I'll babysit Adrian for the night while you and Terra go out."

Saphron whirled on him. "DEAL!" His hand was grabbed and shaken by both of hers. "I mean, what does mom have to know? Secret between siblings, eh? Adrian's bedtime is at eight and he needs feeding formula regularly."

Jaune peeled her hands off his. "How about you explain all that to me later. Before you and Terra go out and abandon me with the little monster. And after Pyrrha has left so she doesn't feel roped into helping."

"I'll help!"

"Or, you know, never mind. Pyrrha, you don't have to."

"No. It's fine. I love children."

"Everyone loves children until they have one," said Saphron. "Trust me, children are sweetest when at a distance. Preferably several homes over. Have you babysat before?"


"Hmmm. I suppose Terra and I can talk with you before we decide. I know you know Jaune but we don't really know you." Saphron paused, then added, "Beyond your reputation, I mean. Everyone knows you."

Pyrrha laughed awkwardly. "That's fine, Miss Saphron."

"Just call me Saphron. Sheesh. And I suppose it wouldn't hurt to have someone help my baby brother out." Saphron leaned down and whispered something to Pyrrha, which made her gasp and drop the suitcases. Pyrrha's hands flew to her face, which rapidly turned red.

"Whatever she just said," Jaune drawled, "Ignore it."

Saphron giggled. "All I told her was that it would be good practice for when she has a baby of her own. Maybe it'll be good practice for the both of you, especially how to work together and raise a child."

"Just because I'm too stupid to see the angle doesn't mean I'm not aware you're teasing us," Jaune said, sighing. "But whatever, sure. Just make sure you tell us what to do in emergencies before you go drag Terra to a love hotel."

"We don't need love hotels anymore. We have our bedroom. And the living room. And the kitchen. And the bathroom. And the hallway."

Jaune gagged. "Please stop."

Pyrrha just kept blushing.


Terra was as thrilled as Saphron to have the promise of an evening to themselves. The teething issue must have been worse than he imagined. Sure enough, even Adrian was in a bad mood, scowling petulantly at Jaune when he greeted him and waved his hand before his eyes. The baby scowled, yawned, and snuggled back against Terra's bosom.

"He's just tired," she said, "which will probably make your evening a lot easier. He's been waking up at all hours because of the pain."

"Is there anything we can do for him?"

"No. It's normal and it doesn't hurt him that much, he's just young and cries at any discomfort. We're hoping he's through the worst of it. The last week and a half has been rough."

Saphron was busy writing down a long list of emergency numbers and instructions for them, from feeding times to bedtime to just about everything else they might need. Various bottles of formula and sippy-cups has been stood out on the kitchen side to make it easier for them, along with some lien for takeout.

"We really appreciate this, Jaune. You too, Pyrrha. Saphron and I haven't had a night to ourselves all week."

"Hey, it's fine. You're letting me stay here rent-free."

It was obvious Terra wanted to say he was covering their rent as Guitar Cutie, but she didn't do so in front of Pyrrha. While there were some things he planned to tell her all about, that didn't involve everything. Pyrrha wasn't going to learn about his crossdressing anytime soon.

"We still appreciate it," she said. "And don't worry, we'll be back before lunch tomorrow and we won't ask you to babysit again. I know you want to go to the travel agents and probably spend some time with your girlfriend here—"

"Terra! Pyrrha isn't like that."

Terra blinked. "Isn't she?"

"No." Jaune wanted to groan. "Stop teasing."

"I didn't even think I was," she said, eyes sliding to Pyrrha. "Are you sure...?"

Pyrrha was bright red.

"Look! You're embarrassing her as well. We're just friends."

"Sure. I—"

"Done!" Saphron slapped the pen down and pushed the paper into Pyrrha's arms, then picked up Adrian and pushed him into Jaune's arms. Finally, she took hold of Terra's collar with one fist and yanked her off her feet. "Okay, we're going out now! Have fun! Use a condom! I'm going to make Terra scream!"


"Sex, darling. I mean we're going to have lots of sex." Saphron yanked Terra out the door, poked her head back in and waved. "Buh-bye now!"

The door slammed shut.

"Well..." said Jaune. "That happened..."

"That most certainly did happen," Pyrrha remarked. "I… I think I like them. I've never met two people less interested in me."

Adrian stirred, opened his eyes, froze as he felt the pain in his jaw, then began to wail.


Contrary to belief, and to what she'd said earlier, Pyrrha Nikos did not like babies.

Not in the slightest.

Children were monsters, she'd long since accepted after becoming famous. Adults could be pains in her butt, but at least they had the common sense not to demand things from her or act stupid. Mostly. Children would demand to hold her weapon, then cry when she had to deny them. They'd throw fits when asked to wait in line and scream when Pyrrha was too tired to continue writing autographs.

Babies were worse, and she had no idea why people liked to make her hold them and pose for photographs. She was an athlete, for crying out loud, not a politician – and why did people even like making politicians hold and kiss babies? It didn't make any sense. Adrian was much like every child she'd ever been forced to hold, instantly enamoured with her red hair, and instantly deciding it was food.

Pyrrha grimaced as her ponytail was yanked into his mouth.

"No," she said, pulling it out. "Naughty."

The baby began to scream.

"Okay, fine. Whatever!"

He went back to sucking on her hair.

Babies were the worst.

But here she was holding a rocking one, and she made sure to fuss and smile and gurgle happy noises whenever Jaune was looking her way. Look at me, I'm maternal, I'm super nice. I'd make an amazing mom.

Pyrrha sighed. "Look," she said, holding the baby up, hair dangling from its slimy mouth. "You don't like me and I don't like you." Adrian's eyes narrowed. "But here's the deal. You help me look good in front of Jaune and I'll feed you sugar when he isn't looking. Okay? You can rot those teeth out."

The baby sucked in another inch of her hair.

"I'm going to take that as a yes." The door opened as Jaune came back in, and Pyrrha instantly pulled Adrian back against her chest like a loving mother. "There, there, it doesn't hurt so bad now, does it?" she crooned. "Good little Adrian."

Jaune looked their way and smiled.

Yes! Worth it!

Adrian gurgled and vomited on her chest.

"..." Pyrrha's eye twitched. "Still worth it..."

"Shit!" cursed Jaune, then realised he'd said that in front of a baby. "Shit! I mean, sh—ugar. Sugar! I'll get some napkins!" He rushed to the kitchen and back with a tea towel, then paused before he could dab it to her chest.

Feeling a little bold – which was impressive given she was covered in vomit – Pyrrha smiled and held Adrian to the side, silently giving Jaune permission to dab at her top. Alas, he was too much of a gentleman and took Adrian from her, handing her the cloth so she could dry herself. Damn. All this vomit and no reward.

"Maybe he needs something to chew on," Jaune said, rummaging among the baby's toys until he found a teddy bear. "Here, Adrian. It's your favourite—" The toy was slapped out his hand by the stroppy child. "Okay, I guess it isn't your favourite. What do I do!?"

Have you considered asking me on a date? That might work.

"Have you considered checking online?" she asked, cowardly.

"It just says it's a period they have to get through."

Pyrrha sighed. "Then tonight will be tough. He'll wear himself out eventually." It would be like one of her fights, with her having to outpace this child until he passed out. Pyrrha kept that less-than-charitable comparison to herself. "So, how was Atlas aside from the incident with the Schnee?"

"Oh, it was pretty good. I stayed at Atlas Academy for the next month or so. General Ironwood had me there in case the White Fang appeared again. I got to see how the army works and meet a lot of cool people."

"Any friends?"

"Yeah, there's a girl named Penny. You'd like her." Pyrrha doubted that. "She's overly friendly but a little... uh... simple. Or maybe blunt is better. She's never had friends before and was raised in isolation so she doesn't really understand the friendship thing. That was who I was calling earlier, by the way. She's basically called me every day because she thinks we'll stop being friends otherwise."

He laughed, and Pyrrha joined in, but only because he wanted her to. Inside, she was mentally calculating the risks. This girl obviously wanted Jaune to be a part of her life, and that made her a threat. Competition. Ren and Nora were acceptable because they were apparently into one another – or at least Nora was into Ren. That was fine. People like Weiss and now this Penny were less so.

"But, uh, sometimes she gets the wrong idea. I think she's taking a lot of her ideas on how friendship works by reading the internet, and that hasn't worked out so well. She sent me something earlier that I'm not sure how to deal with."

"Oh? What was it?"

Jaune was silent for a whole minute. "It was a penis."

Pyrrha's mind blanked.

Politely, she asked, "What...?"

"It was a picture of a penis."

Pyrrha's mind blanked again.

"Didn't you saw she was a girl?"


"Then she has...?"



"It wasn't hers," he said, sighing. Adrian was eating Jaune's collar. "It wasn't mine either, obviously. I assume it's just a picture she found online of some random man's junk. When I asked why, she said she read about `dick pics` being a common thing to send via text."

Pyrrha giggled. "What?"

"Yeah, that's Penny for you. Like I said, she bases her actions on stuff she reads online. I'm probably going to have to explain this one to her."

Okay, this girl sounded strange but, for now, non-threatening. Pyrrha would let her live for now. "And what about Weiss?"

"Ah. Weiss and I didn't really talk after the Schnee gala."

"Oh, no!" Oh, yes. "That's terrible—" Perfect. "Well, you shouldn't worry about her, Jaune. If she doesn't want to spend time with you then she isn't worth your time." Inside her head, several smaller versions of Pyrrha were doing backflips. "Your true friends are the ones who will stand by you even when you're in another country."

"Aww. Thanks, Pyrrha." He leaned in to hug her. Pyrrha's stomach did flips as she met him halfway, basking in the smell of his hair as they pressed together. "You're the best."

"Mmm. I am. I— Ow!"

Pyrrha yanked back, tugging her hair out the monster's mouth. Adrian had an evil little glare on his evil little face, like he knew what she'd been up to and was intentionally blocking her. The monster. And after she'd offered a truce, too. Pyrrha glared at him, and Adrian glared right back, then turned into Jaune's chest and gurgled. Jaune smiled and rubbed his back.

He's mocking me! I'm being mocked by a baby!

"Sorry," said Jaune. "He's normally not this much trouble. Poor Adrian, your teeth must really be hurting you. Don't worry, it'll go away soon."

The little monster! Her hair was hurting, yet where were her head rubs? Damn it, why had she agreed to help babysit? Her mom had been right when she called earlier to explain what she'd be doing tonight.

"Pyrrha, darling, there are easier ways to tell a boy you like them..."

Easy for her to say!

Jaune didn't care about tournaments and huntresses. Finally, she'd met someone who wouldn't be impressed by who she was, and then she'd run into the immediate hurdle of realising he wasn't impressed by who she was – ergo, she needed to impress him through other means. So, she had to attract him in the way normal people did.

And she had no idea how normal people worked.

They might as well be aliens!

"Actually," Jaune said, catching her attention, and her eyes. Somehow, he looked even more handsome than before he'd gone to Atlas. It was probably just her heart missing him. "There was something I wanted to tell you tonight, Pyrrha. A secret I was hoping to share with you."

Her heart leapt into her throat. Was this it? Did he feel the same? Was he about to confess to her? Where were her legs? They felt unsteady. Pyrrha forced them to stand straight despite the fact they'd turned to jelly. "Y—Yes...? You can tell me anything, Jaune. Anything at all."

"I've unlocked my Semblance and need your help understanding it."


Pyrrha tried hard not to let her disappointment show.

Maybe it was an intimate Semblance, a bedroom Semblance, and that was why he wanted her to know all about it.

It was not an intimate Semblance.

But it was interesting.

Pyrrha listened for an hour as Jaune explained it, and swallowed her disbelief as he went through the many strange details. He had her hold Adrian at one point and played the guitar, infusing his Semblance into the music for one song and then doing a second without. Despite her disbelief, she could feel the difference between the two songs. There was a meaningful difference.

But that could be explained by normal Semblance terms. Using music to effect people was odd, but believable. Video game logic, growing stronger over time and being given quests to complete with tangible rewards?

Those did not make sense.

"I know it sounds like nonsense but it's very real," he said. "How can I prove it to you?"

That was a good question. How could her future boyfriend prove it?

"Well, why don't you tell me about these quests of yours." She'd never heard of a Semblance directing someone to do something, but she supposed it could be some subconscious part of his mind doing it. Maybe it wasn't the Semblance but his imagination. "What kind of quests do you get?"

"There's some I've already done and some I couldn't possibly do. Surviving the White Fang attack was a quest, but there was a bonus condition to defeat their leader – and there's no way I could achieve that!"

Pyrrha agreed, and she was glad Jaune hadn't been reckless.

"But then there are some that have been so easy I've practically completed them by accident, like earning money to go travelling or learning an instrument. Compare that to one I got recently, and it wants me to become the King of Vale! Like, what? How am I meant to pull that one off?"

"Maybe it means musical king...? Like a king of rock and roll?"

"No, it literally says so I can change laws. I think it means royalty."

"What active quests do you have?" she asked. If she could see him complete one, maybe that would give her an idea. "Are there any you could complete here and now?"

"No." He shook his head. "I'd have to fix the Schnee family, join the Atlas military, become the king of Vale, or lose my virginity. They're all impossible."

Not all of them. Pyrrha opened her mouth to say that, but her nerves got the better of her. "Y—Yes. I suppose so."

"Um. Is there any other way to prove it?"

"How about I show you one of my skills?" he said.

"Oh, the techniques you're given on certain level ups?" Even saying that felt weird, but at least it was a safer topic. "I suppose those would prove they exist at the very least. Semblances can evolve and give new abilities, but I don't think I've ever heard of someone being able to pick and choose what they are before. What can yours do?"

"Well, I can motivate and cause fear with music." He strummed the string, then paused. "I don't think causing intense fear with a baby here is a good idea; he might pass out or be hurt somehow."

Or defecate all over her.

"But I actually wanted to ask your help to track how much my motivational song improves someone's abilities. I know not everyone has stats as I see them, but I figured you'd be a good person to ask since you probably track your performances."

"I do, yes." Pyrrha smiled proudly. "I even have a physio gym that has my saved data for the last few years. I'd be happy to show you it tomorrow and we can test out how much longer I can run, my speed, my strength ratings and more. None of it is an exact science, but if there's a big jump from what I recorded pre-song to after, then it would more than prove that aspect of your semblance, and we might even be able to see by exactly how much it improves it."

"That sounds perfect! There are two more skills. One is that I can call for help and it'll come, but I think I need to be in genuine danger for that. The other, though, is that I can talk to and understand animals."

Talk to animals...?

That sounded like something off a movie. It was also such a weird ability to have. Most Semblances were based around combat, or was it that most people who unlocked them were combatants? Either way, she'd never heard of an ability like this, and it was just so different from his others.

Even when Semblances evolved new abilities, they usually shared a theme.

"I mean, wow. That's crazy. I guess it'd be not too hard to prove. I wouldn't know for sure if you were really speaking to them unless they followed your orders, though. Unless..." Pyrrha thought for a second. "We have a cat. What if I hid an item in front of it, then you asked it where the item was hidden?"

Jaune grinned. "That should work. They don't always want to help but if I had some cheese to bribe it with, it'd probably agree to help out. I didn't know you had a cat."

"It's my mom's but she sleeps in my room most nights. I think she prefers my bed. The lazy thing just curls up in my clothes and naps all day long."

"Aww. That's cute. That's another idea, though. If I just asked it what you did last night, then it could tell me and that'd be proof as well, right? There's no way I'd have known what you were doing when I was out at sea."

Hmm. That was a good point. But then she'd have to remember. What had she been doing last night? Oh, right. She'd been excited over Jaune coming back and got herself all worked up, then she'd been too excited to sleep before bed and had started thinking about him and all the things they could do together. After that, she... she...

Pyrrha's face burned.

"The cat is a bad idea!"

"It is?" asked Jaune. "Why?"

"He's deaf! Deaf as a bat. I forgot. Hahahahahaha." Pyrrha squirmed on the couch. "M—Maybe we should try it with something else. A bird, maybe? Or we can go test it at a pet store. I just really don't think our cat is going to be able to play along if he can't hear you properly."

Mr Mittens had seen and heard too much. He and Jaune could never meet.

"Uh. Sure. Okay. I... Ow." Jaune flinched. Pyrrha reached out, concerned, but he recovered quickly. "Sorry, it's just. Huh. I got another quest. Right now, in fact. And it's so easy, too. That's weird. Do you want a drink?"

The last question was so random that it threw her for a loop. "What?"

"A drink."

"I'm fine. Why?"

"It's the quest," he explained. "It says... well, I guess I can read the description out to you." He cleared his throat. "Pyrrha Nikos is experiencing a thirst that she cannot quench alone. Help her sate it once and for all."

A bead of sweat ran down the side of Pyrrha's face.

"I'm not sure why you can't sate it on your own but I think we have some orange juice in the fridge if you're thirsty. Do you want me to get you some?"

"No need!" Pyrrha leapt up and made her way to the kitchen. "I just need some nice, cold water." Pyrrha poured some from the cooler, brought the glass to her lips, then closed her eyes and cast it into her face. "All better!"

"Huh." Jaune made a confused sound from the couch. "The quest hasn't been completed."

Pyrrha twitched.

That man – her man – needed to put some points into his Wisdom stat one of these days. Pyrrha sighed and clutched the kitchen side, pressing her face against the cool fridge door. Bless his dumb, handsome face, but his Semblance was more of a threat than Penny and Weiss combined.

"Let's forget about that quest and focus on Adrian, okay?" The monstrous baby was a safe topic. "We can worry about silly Semblances and stupid quests tomorrow, okay? Let's just spend the night together." Pyrrha gulped. "P—Platonically, I mean."

"Well yeah." Jaune looked cluelessly at her. Cluelessly, handsomely, wonderfully, dumbly. "How else would you mean it?"

Everyone had their flaws, and if his was being a bit dense then she could put up with it. To expect perfection from someone was cruel. His Semblance, though. That could be a problem if it worked like he thought it did, because if part of her attraction to him was influenced by his high Charisma stat, then that meant other girls were going to start noticing, and that Jaune was only going to become more and more attractive.

On the one hand, she'd as good as found the perfect guy in terms of "aging gracefully". On the other, she'd found someone who would probably be the definition of DILF if he kept levelling up his Charisma as he grew up. Well, that was fine. Pyrrha had dealt with no small number of competitors in the arena. She was the Invincible Girl, and she'd faced of all challengers.

How much harder could the arena of love be?

Next Chapter: 2nd June

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