So I'm pretty sure that Weiss and Yonah only ever actually speak to one another when she's trying to get them to go investigate the mansion. I thought that was a bit odd, and so I decided to try and give the two of them a little bit of character development together. I hope it turned out well, and I hope you enjoy.
This fic takes place shortly after the Shaman Fish quest.
Why in the world did humans need to sleep so much? It was absolutely maddening!
Even Nier, who Weiss soon realized tended to push himself beyond his limits, beyond what most would call the bounds of sanity, tended to drop off into nodding, snoring oblivion for hours at a time every night. If he didn't, he tended to become even more incoherent and bad tempered than he normally was. This, as a result, tended to leave Weiss to his own devices.
Being left to his own devices was impossibly, horrendously dull. Especially when all the other humans in this wretched little cluster of a village seemed to share the same sleeping habits. There was no reason for them to do so, without a night to follow the day and signal that it was time to sleep. They did anyway, out of some remnant of habit.
Thus, when the village bedded down, usually there was nothing for Weiss to do but float about and think. He'd done plenty of thinking while trapped in the barrier between Hansel and Gretel.
He couldn't remember what he'd been thinking about, anymore, but he knew that he had been. Deep, wise, powerful thoughts, before Nier had come along and bludgeoned them out of him.
It was nice to float around a bit, though. He couldn't really feel, as humans felt, but it felt good to open his covers a bit, let the wind ruffle his pages, get a few good creaks and cracks out of his spine. He could pass the time by counting the blades of grass in the ten feet or so around Nier's house, or identifying where the rocks and bricks that made the buildings might have originated from, or classifying the fish that swam through the river, determining how they'd evolved in the centuries since he'd been asleep.
It was hardly intellectually stimulating, but it was something.
"Your name is Weiss, right?"
"It is Grimoire Weiss." He pointedly corrected the human before he even bothered to look up from his fluttering around the pond and identify them. "In fact, your father's insistence on pointlessly abbreviating my proper title is maddening."
"I'm sorry." Yonah even sounded it as she sat down in the grass on the bank. She smoothed out her dress, apparently so as to try and keep it clean, before she looked up at him and smiled. "Dad can be kind of stubborn sometimes. But he never wants to upset anyone."
"I know that I have only known your father a few short days, but I find that very difficult to believe. Unintentional or no, he has a very great gift for upsetting people."
Weiss realized then that this was the first time he'd spoken with Yonah, despite knowing Nier several days now. Yonah, the driving force in damn near everything Nier did, and Weiss found himself honestly surprised to see her out of bed and moving about. He'd come to think of Yonah, not as a person, but as some strange organic extension to the bed Nier made her stay in at all hours of the day, prone to fits of horrendous pain and whose legs were just for show.
And yet, here she was. Presumably, she must have walked, and if the Black Scrawl was still plaguing her, its sigils had retreated beneath her nightgown.
Weiss floated closer and circled thoughtfully around Yonah. She, in turn, stared up at him curiously, but did not comment. Instead, she seemed to be waiting politely for him to finish whatever he was doing. Obviously, she took after her absent mother.
"You seem to have recovered well from your earlier troubles, Yonah. Perhaps there is something to pain medicine made out of fish."
"Yes, I'm feeling a lot better. Whatever you and Dad did really helped me."
"All the same, are you quite certain you should be out of bed? I have no doubt that your father would disapprove, were he awake to be aware of it."
Yonah shrugged, looking guilty. "I know he would. That's…why I wait until he's asleep, to go on walks like this." She darted an anxious gaze up at him. "You won't tell him, will you? I never go far, and I really don't want him to worry, and Devola says it's good for me to get some exercise. And I just…I can't stand laying in that bed all day, being sick. I do it, for Dad, because he tries so hard to make me better, but…I'm not going to get hurt taking a little walk. Am I?"
He realized that she was asking him. While Weiss' extensive library of knowledge included various medical facts about humans, the Black Scrawl was unknown to him. Which was, of course, the point of this entire exercise with Nier, wasn't it?
He found that he could not admit this gap in his knowledge to such a trusting child, however. Let her think he had all the answers, if it gave her comfort.
"No, it won't matter," he said, as he continued to float and bob around her. "At least, it wouldn't do you any good to add atrophied legs to your list of problems."
Yonah actually giggled. "No, I guess not."
"Though I doubt your rather tremendous oaf of a father has considered as much."
"Hey." Yonah went from amused to serious in a blink, although her voice was gentle even as she chastised him. "Don't talk about Dad like that. I know he can seem a bit strict, but…it's only because he loves me, and because I make him worry."
He could see the love she felt for her father shining in her eyes, a reflection of what he saw in Nier's every time he spoke of her. It was a strange, powerful, sight to behold, that somehow communicated the quintessential essence of humanity and emotion in the form of a tiny ten year old girl.
Weiss spun away from Yonah so he didn't have to see it.
"Yes, well," he said, hoping she didn't notice how his voice wavered for a minute. "In just a little while longer, you both can be at ease. I am the key to eradicating your sickness, and your father would tear down the gates of Hell themselves to retrieve them. Between you and I, much as I am loathe to admit…I'm starting to realize we make a good team."
"I think so, too," Yonah said. "And I'm really glad you're with him, Weiss – sorry, Grimoire Weiss. It's nice that he has someone else to talk to."
Weiss let himself preen a bit – it felt good to be addressed by his proper title. Honestly, he'd gone so long without hearing it that he'd started to forget what it sounded like. She might have smiled as she said his proper name as though it was funny, but at least she'd said it.
"Still, I don't really see what difference being let out of bed will make. It doesn't seem as though there's much else to do in such a backward place as this."
"Yeah. It's kind of a small town. I've heard there are other places that are bigger, with more people. But, I don't mind. I like it here. Even just…taking a walk and talking to people. Playing with some of the other kids here. Making some more friends. Going to school. They're all little things, maybe, but…they're things I wish I could do, and I can't."
He looked back just in time to see her smile. The sight of it made something stir in the murky fog that his memories had been reduced to. Weiss thought that if he still had a heart, it would ache at the sight of that sunny smile.
Damned if he could remember why. But he thought he understood Nier a little better, there and then.
He also thought that Nier didn't understand Yonah as much as he thought. Maybe such was the case with all parents. He wouldn't know.
"Pah! School," is what he said aloud, fluttering his pages for emphasis. "You have a library that would make Alexandria's own seem little more than a hovel. For a bright girl such as yourself, that is all the schooling you require."
"That's really nice of you to say. But a lot of the books are old, and they're in a language we can't read. We can't learn that much from them. We still keep them around, though. Maybe one day, we'll figure it out." Her voice turned wistful. "And even some of the ones we can understand have really hard words, and I don't want to bother Popola by always asking her what they mean. Some of the pictures look so cool. I really wish I knew what they were all talking about."
Perhaps he didn't have all the answers, yet. Perhaps he didn't even have all of his memories. But Nier hadn't knocked everything out of his pages. Maybe there was something he could do to ease this girl's pain after all.
"Yonah, are you feeling well enough to take a slightly longer walk today?"
She looked surprised at his question, but nodded. "Yeah. I'm really feeling good. Thanks to you and Dad."
The two days spent fishing up that Shaman Fish had not been wasted, then. That was something. Indeed, as Weiss searched her face, he found her color good and her skin clear. It was now or never, probably.
"Then we shall take a slightly longer walk. Up to the library, in fact. I have a theory I wish to test."
"Okay!" Yonah got to her feet, brushing dirt from her knees. "I'd love to help."
And together, book and girl, they headed off for the library. There was almost no one around, at this time of day, so there was thankfully no one to shuffle Yonah off back home. Yonah seemed to feel no need to fill the silence. She was probably used to silence. In that, they were very much alike.
He had briefly feared that the door would be locked, but the door swung open as easily as if it were the busiest time of day. The hinges creaked sonorously in the vastness of the old building, eliminating any chance of this being a stealthy endeavor. If anyone else would still be awake at this time of day, it would be Popola, up in her office, doing whatever it was she was always doing to keep this little backwater running smoothly.
Yonah didn't seem to fear discovery, however. "Come in," she said, looking back at Weiss with a smile.
He did, bobbing along after her through the air, and she set to work showing him where everything was. The Dewey Decimal system had not survived the last millennium, but it seemed that Yonah was a frequent enough guest to know her way around, more or less. There were, indeed, books of every size and description within the library. And indeed, only a handful of them were written in the language he'd seen around the village. The others were written in languages that tickled at the back of his mind, telling him that he should know them and could learn them, but which were long lost to the people here.
"This one," he said, nodding to a book at random that Yonah could reach. She obligingly slid it off the shelves and opened it, right there on the library floor, to a random page. Then she stepped back to let Weiss hover over it.
Weiss floated over the open book, staring fixedly at the words laid out before him. After a few seconds to get a grip on things, he began to read – haltingly, a little uncertainly, but he picked out the meaning of the words as he went, and they seemed to make sense as he said them.
" 'He guessed as well as he could, and crawled along the floor for a good way, 'til suddenly his hand met what felt like a tiny ring of cold metal lying on the floor of the tunnel. It was a turning point in his career, but he did not know it. He put the ring in his pocket without thinking; certainly, it did not seem of any particular use at the moment'…"
"Weiss, you're amazing!" Yonah cried, and he looked up at her and saw that even if his efforts had been unsteady, she was still suitably impressed. That was enough to make up for the interruption. "Is that really what it says?" She knelt down to peer at the pages herself, as though to follow his example.
"Of course that's really what it says. I am Grimoire Weiss – why shouldn't lesser tomes offer up their secrets before me?"
She giggled. "I guess it makes sense. You're a book, so of course you can understand other books. I'm sorry I interrupted you. I was just so excited! Can you keep reading, Weiss? Pretty please?"
"I suppose it will pass the time," Weiss admitted. It would also give him a chance to perfect his mastery of this strange, dead language – practice made perfect, after all, and anything he could recall to patch the holes in his memory would help him and Nier in their quest. "But not here. We should return to your home. That way, you'll be ready to scamper off into bed before your father wakes up."
That, and Weiss really didn't want to push Yonah's health. It wasn't his to push, even for the sake of occupying himself. The walk to the library had seemed longer with her than it had in the past with Nier, in a way he hadn't appreciated until they'd set out. Pain medicine or not, he wasn't sure if such a sick girl should be taking such long walks with no one around but him. Better to steer her home now, so that she might rest and recover any damage that might have been done.
He didn't want Yonah's life on his conscience. He'd seen what that did to Nier.
"Good thinking." Yonah straightened off, brushed herself down from the everpresent dust in the library, and tucked the book under one arm.
Together, book and girl with one book extra, they set off back the way they had come. A few people were out and about now, early risers getting started opening their businesses or cleaning up their houses. They all very pointedly did not look at Yonah and Weiss as they passed by. Plausible deniability was a powerful thing.
Weiss' instincts turned out to have been good. Yonah was panting by the time they reached Nier's house on the outskirts of the village. When she sat down heavily on the grass, Weiss suggested she move to the little bridge by the door, so as to avoid any wayward insects. Yonah complied, resting her chin in her hands and looking up at Weiss with eyes only half-open.
"Can you read to me, Weiss?" she asked again. "Just for a little bit? Then I'll go back inside, I promise."
Weiss wavered, tempted to tell her to go back to bed, and they'd continue this secret rendezvous tomorrow after everyone had gone to sleep. In the end, however, and against his better judgment, he agreed. He knew that he and Nier would not stay in the village for long, not while there were still Sealed Verses to recover and mindless, menial jobs to be done for pocket change. And while they were away, Yonah would be left here, with her illness and book she's already read and one she couldn't read at all.
She would be looked after, but it still seemed like a sad fate, and so Weiss took pity on her. "All right," he said softly. "Just for a while."
She smiled that painfully sunny smile again, an expression that shined even through her tiredness. Then she opened the book to the first page, setting it down on the steps and holding it open with her fingers. Weiss floated over, settled down on the deck beside her, and began to read. He doubted she would have cared what they'd brought home, but the fact that it turned out to be some kind of children's story was a small mercy.
He soon found that the sheer act of reading aloud was really rather enjoyable, and practicing his knowledge of the language the book was written in was just the mental stimulation he'd been seeking, during these quiet hours. As a result, Weiss only realized that Yonah had fallen asleep when she stopped turning pages for him. Sure enough, when he looked up at her face, her eyes were closed, and her breathing deep and steady. She was swaying where she sat, probably about to fall over.
Weiss sighed, then, suddenly feeling tired in a way he hadn't since waking up. There was really only one thing to do, however, and that was to go and wake up Nier. He could hardly move Yonah inside on his own, and if she was asleep, it was because she needed to be asleep.
Weiss received a very nasty surprise when he floated through the door, however, and that was Nier, sitting at the table and very much awake. The fact that the table was in the corner next to the door meant that Weiss actually went a few feet past him before he caught sight of Nier in the corner of his eye, and the resultant shock caused him to let out a most undignified squawk of alarm that he struggled to conceal as a coughing fit.
"Why in the world are you just…sitting there?"
"I was keeping an ear out for my daughter," Nier said, looking back at him levelly. Weiss felt himself wilt a bit under the big man's gaze. It couldn't have been clearer that their little illicit outing had been discovered.
Nier said nothing, however. He simply got to his feet, went to the door, and stepped carefully outside. Following him, Weiss saw that Yonah had indeed slumped to the ground, but that she was still sleeping soundly. Nier bent down and very carefully picked the little girl up in his arms, settling her on his back, carrying her as though she weighed nothing. Yonah mumbled something Weiss didn't catch, and she seemed to wake up just enough to wrap her arms around Nier's neck, and bury her face in his shoulder. Even deep in slumber, she knew her father's presence, and knew that it meant warmth, love, and safety.
Weiss saw Nier smile, and it transformed him, soothed the battle scars and harsh lines and age that normally made him such a fearsome figure. There and then, he was just her loving father. For a moment, the world was only him and his daughter. It was like looking through a window, or examining a painting. However close you got, you were always outside.
When Nier entered the house again, Weiss followed him. He waited on the ground floor, however, while Nier took Yonah upstairs and tucked her back into bed. It was only a few minutes before he came back down again.
"All right," said Weiss, before his companion could start in on him. "I understand that what I did was foolish, and needlessly reckless with her. In my own defense, I have had far less experience with this Black Scrawl and its effects on the human body than you have. However, using your daughter to further my knowledge and pass the time with was…out of line. I apologize."
He saw the mental battle raging on Nier's face to say those two small words, and was surprised at the result.
"Yeah. It was just to the library, and you were with her in case something happened. Even if you're just a book, you can still yell for help."
This time, Weiss didn't bother to protest this assessment. He'd thought the very same thing himself. All his power, fueled by the blood of Shades, probably couldn't have done much to get Yonah to help if she'd had another fit.
"And…she likes to read," Nier went on. "I know that. She's read most of the storybooks in the library. She still wants me to read them to her, but she knows them better than I do, after all this time. And she's always been curious about the other books. You made her happy, Weiss, and…that's all that matters. Thank you."
He saw then that Nier's wasn't only concerned that Weiss had potentially endangered his daughter. Indeed, the problem was also that Weiss had trespassed upon Nier's role as a father. Weiss realized that he had, and felt uncomfortable stirrings of shame.
Yet Nier was obviously struggling to put away such jealous feelings, because to him, Yonah's happiness really was all that mattered. If there was anyone or anything that could make her happier than her father, Weiss saw that Nier would accept it, and be glad for it, even as his heart broke.
Weiss, in turn, thought that Nier still didn't understand his daughter very well at all. Maybe you got used to seeing all that love in another person's eyes when they looked at you. Weiss wasn't, however, and so he'd seen just from her smile that there was nothing Yonah loved more than her father.
But it wasn't his place to say such things, or try to explain them if Nier didn't want to listen.
"She is a good child," is what he said out loud. "You have raised her well."
"Thanks." He saw the man smile, a flicker that was there and gone like a shadow over water. "I've done my best."
"One day very soon, your efforts will pay off."
"I know." Nier took a deep, shuddering breath, as though pulling himself together, and then he nodded. When he spoke, his voice was steady and strong again. "I know that, Weiss. And until that day comes, I'll keep fighting."
"Listen, I've slept long enough. Let's go grab some breakfast in the marketplace."
"And see if anyone needs a kitten rescued from a tree in the meantime?"
Nier scowled. Weiss had never been happier to see it.
"If someone needs a kitten rescued from a tree, we'll rescue a kitten from a damn tree," he said sternly. He walked over to the door, grabbed his sword, and buckled it on to his back. "And I hope you're not sick of the library, yet. I think we need to talk to Popola."
"Of course. The quest awaits, after all. Lead the way."
Nier did, and Weiss followed him out into the endless sunshine, as the village awoke around them.
For reference, I was using The Dark Id's theory on Weiss and languages - that Weiss does actually know all these dead languages and such, but isn't quite sure, what with having his memory gone and all these weird future dialects that have turned up in the last millennium. Thus, while he can understand what he's hearing or reading, it takes him a bit to get up to speed and be sure of himself. With Nier, he wants to be absolutely certain he's word perfect. With Yonah, he trusts that she's a little more easily impressed.