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Isekaitis: RWBY Volume 1

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Welcome to Remnant

            “AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH SSSSSHHHHHIIIIIIITTTTT” I tumbled through the air from above the treetops, crashing into branches, breaking them off so that a cloud of debris followed my decent. Eventually I reached the branches that wouldn’t break from the impact of my underweight body, the bruises began piling up, my body tensing up with pain didn’t help my couscous attempt to ragdoll like I had heard one should do when falling. Finally, I reached the ground. “AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHH!” I landed right on a boulder the size of my body with a loud crack, about six feet in diameter, my left arm taking the full force of the impact. Various parts of my body began to feel wet. I became dizzy but flexed my eyebrows and focused my eyes, I wasn’t about to let the hellish pain knock me out in the middle of some god forsaken forest. Forest? I tried to turn over and sit up to gauge my surroundings, instinctually I moved my arms to help me prop myself up. Big mistake, my broken left arm served up another round of pain, I couldn’t even scream this time, my body begging me to lose consciousness. I gently held my broken arm in place and used only my pelvis to bring myself to a sitting position atop this once gray and now gray-with-red-pooka-dots rock. The green grass was thick and moist, it must’ve just rained, the trees resembled pinewood but much taller than I had ever seen in pictures, they towered over me, making me feel small. Swiveling my head around it was the same in all directions, more trees every which way. There shouldn’t have been trees here. I thought hard to retrace my steps. I was doing math homework in my home late after school, geometry. My parents were yelling about something that didn’t matter. I couldn’t focus on my work. I grabbed my backpack. Went for a walk. A walk in a desert. Right outside our neighborhood there were biking trails leading through the Arizona desert. Near a landmark cactus that looked like a dancing man that someone put a hat on years ago was my secret spot. I lit a joint and… I resisted the urge to hit my own head out of frustration, stupid brain can remember shit. I began to feel pins and needles all over my body prompting me to inspect myself, parts of my white smash-bros t-shirt and gray sweatpants were torn and becoming red, none of the cuts were deep but they were plentiful. No wonder I can’t think straight, I’m losing blood, right?  I reasoned. At least I landed on my arm and not my nuts. I tried to cheer myself up with some humor. I scooted off the rock and stood up and pushed my unkempt brown hair out of my eyes. I pulled my smartphone out of my pocket careful not to let my broken arm swing. Still intact, but no service, and only 22 percent battery, I shut it all the way down to conserve and put it away. I look around and in the trees above me for my backpack, no such luck. I take full inventory, right pocket has my phone and earphones, left has my keys, wallet and lighter. I take out the lighter and stare at it, fuck, am I really gonna do this? I find one of the twelve cuts on my body and ignite the lighter, I hold it to the cut. “AHHHH!” I scream out in pain again and pull it away, I’m probably not even doing it right, I think and put the lighter away. I take a deep breath and start thinking, coming up with a plan to get back home. I look up at the sky and see that the sun is low in the sky, sunset will be soon. I fell from the sky, but I have no idea where from, and how to get back there. I recalled being told I should stay still when lost so that its easier for search parties to find me, but they would be looking in the Arizona desert not wherever this is. Maybe Washington State or Oregon? The size of the trees and the moisture in the air seemed to suggest somewhere like that, but how would I have gotten there? I’m honestly leaning towards some rip in the space-time continuum bullshit. I’m not familiar with astronomy so waiting until night fell to locate myself wouldn’t help. Right now, I’d narrowed myself down to, like, one fourth of the United States, assuming I still am in the US. I shook my head. I need to pick a direction and walk. I turned around. “AHHH!” I fell back on my ass. In front of me was a werewolf-bear-thing, fur as black as the abyss and wearing a red and white bone mask, it radiated terror and I radiated fear. My mouth hanged open and I was paralyzed, it towered over me, intimidation. I sat there for a solid minute until I was over the shock and could think again. The bear in front of me wasn’t hostile for the moment, it’s bone mask almost looked handmade, so maybe it was trained? I didn’t think bears could be trained, and are black bears THAT black? Upon further observation the bear didn’t seem to be even aware of me, it was just sniffing the air on its hind legs. Eventually it seemed to have caught on to something and began walking on all fours in the direction that was behind me. “Hey!” I yelled after it, it continued on its way. If its hunting but doesn’t notice me maybe I can mooch off its hunt and get some food, I can cook it with the lighter. I thought.

            I followed it for some time until the sky turned orange, I shambled along exhaustion crippling me, until I spotted the edge of the forest ahead of me. The bear picked up its pace so I picked up mine, when the bear reached the edge of the forest it broke off in a sprint, I tried to follow suit but my body wouldn’t let me, I leaned on a tree at the forest edge almost falling over. “hey.” I said half-heartedly.

            “Ursa! Ursa! Get a huntsman!” I heard a male voice, I tried to pinpoint the sound, squinting I saw a town some distance in front of me, the voice coming from a wooden watchtower in front of it, a wood wall surrounded the town, the roofs poking above it were made of wood as well.

“Looks like a Minecraft village.” I mutter to myself, then I started walking towards the town, happy to have found civilization. BANG. The sound of the gunshot walking me up a little. At the town’s gate the ursa (?) fell into a heap and dissolved into black dust revealing a very intimidating looking man, dark brown skin and black hair in a ponytail. He wore brown and black leather and carried red gun that resembled a flintlock, after looking satisfied he left. So long bear friend. I stumbled my way towards the town, when I made it to the entrance the guard on the watchtower said.

“Hey, that screaming in the forest you?”

“Uhh…” I cough. “Yeah, haha.” I laughed nervously. Embarrassing.

“There’s a clinic, sixth building down this main street.” He noted my injuries.

            “Thanks.” I finally looked at him, a bit taken aback, he had dark brown skin and hair to match, but also had rabbit ears on his head. I blinked hard. “Thank you.” I shake my head and continue through the town.

As I walked down the street, I noticed more and more people with some animal part attached to them, tails, ears, tusks, some even had fins on their arms like they were a Zora from Zelda. Other than the people, the town also struck me as odd because of how ancient it looked in style, wood buildings, merchant stands straight out of some medieval video game, I could almost hear Belethor from Skyrim telling me everything is for sale. The people also carried swords around with them, despite guns existing, although some of the swords did look cool though, passing a blacksmith shop I saw a straight sword whose blade was a red and blue swirl, fancy. It was getting dark, so I picked up the pace. I finally reached the clinic, a low-to-the-ground building that looked more like a log cabin with a sign on the door that just read ‘Clinic’ and walked inside a bell ringing as I entered, the floors were wood as expected, but they were very clean and polished in stark contrast to the outside. There was a tall and burly man sitting at a brown welcome desk reading a book, black skin, shaved head, except for his cat ears which retained their fur. The clinic was fairly full, there were six white wood chairs lining the wall on either side of the entrance door, and four of them were occupied, all with animal traits. Looking further into the clinic I saw a man in a white coat wearing the doctor earphones… Stethoscope, no? around his neck with fox or cat ears, I couldn’t tell, talking to a distraught looking old woman, who shortly left through the door behind me, she had cat ears too but one was cut in half, top part missing, the doctor seemingly disappeared.

            “What-er ya in fer.” Said the burly man at the front desk, deep and slightly sleepy voice.

            I jumped a little bit at him speaking. “Broken arm and t-twelve cuts.”

            He looked up from his book slightly amused, I noticed he was wearing a similar outfit to the huntsman that killed the bear. “Don’t have an active aura huh?” He looked at me up and down. “Well sit down.” He gestured at a seat to my left, the one closest to the door was occupied, by another man with animal ears and eyes that had cat pupils. I opted for the seat one away from the man.

            Once I sat, I mumbled to myself at a volume they couldn’t hear. “So did the furies win in this timeline?” I chuckled to myself.

            All heads in the clinic turned towards me. “Care to run that by me again?” The burly man at the desk closed and put down his book, sitting up to address me.

            “Oh, uhm, sorry, I was sure you couldn’t hear me.” I squirmed a bit in my chair.

            “Oh, you thought we couldn’t hear you; you think these are just for show.” He pointed to the ears on top of his head, his voice angry. “I assure you they’re far from useless.”

            “Oh, but, I thought they uhh… but you have…” I gestured to my human ears, ears which he also possessed.

            “Oh, that’s rich!” He started getting loud. “Your one of those that think the Faunus should cut off their tails and ears, and use these” he gestured to his own human ears. “useless chunks of meat.”

            “Wait, what? I…” I tried to look for an out.

            “What’s going on here? Keep it down, I have patients that need their quiet.” The doctor appeared; he didn’t have animal ears, but he did have strange spots on his face that were bigger than traditional freckles that were darker than the other parts of his already dark skin.

            “This kid’s just one of the anti-faunus, didn’t think there were any left in this town.” He scoffed and folded his arms in disgust.

            The doctor looked down and clenched his fists, all of his skin turned a bright red, then blue, then back to brown. I jumped at each color change. “Get out of my clinic, I won’t have you treating my employees or clients with disrespect.”

            My eyes widened in panic. “No! Wait! Please! I didn’t mean anything by it, please fix my arm, I don’t want it to get infected!”

            “Don’t make me ask you again.” He warned.

            “Please, I have money, I’m a paying customer.” I walked towards him and fumbled to get my wallet open with one hand, I had four hundred dollars cash, most from my part time job at the grocery store, some was dirty though. I showed it to him. “Please!”

            “Do you take me for a fool?! I only accept Lien. Not whatever this paper trash is.”

            “Its American! I’m not sure what the exchange rate is but American is usually pretty good about that!” I plead.

            “Do you think us dumb as animals!” He was furious. “There is no American, all the kingdoms agreed on Lien, what you have holds no value!”

            “What are you talking about?!?”

            “Throw him out.” He nodded to the burly man, having enough.

            “Common kid, don’t make this hard.”

            “Wait!” The doctor was walking away deeper into the clinic.

            “Welp.” The burly man grabbed my good arm that was holding my wallet and money and dragged me out of the store. He threw me on the dirt outside the building, it was already nightfall, and it had started lightly raining. Falling down jostled my broken arm making me cry out in pain. I dropped my money everywhere but held on to my wallet.

            I sat up as fast as I could. “At least tell me where the nearest clinic is.”

            “Kid, you’re looking at the only one for miles, good luck.” He slammed the door.

            I looked around at the twenties, fives and fifties strewn about, getting ruined in the quickly developing mud. I looked up to the night sky to ask for answers to all the questions I had. What I saw above me was a moon, much bigger than the one I was used to, and it was shattered, what looked like a third of it was broken. I sat there on my knees, mouth agape in shock. Then I wept.

Chapter Text

I picked myself up after a minute or two and shambled away from the clinic, ignoring the eyes that were on me after the commotion. After a while of walking I happened to glance to my left and spotted a small alley that was covered from the increasingly intense rain by the roofs on either side, I sat down within the alley and leaned my head back for a moment, reflecting. I then looked at my wallet that I was still clutching in my good hand and started to look through it, I left the money on the ground where I was thrown. There is no American the doctor’s words raddled inside of my head, that in combination with the broken moon I came to the conclusion that this isn’t Earth. I looked at my driver’s license that I had gotten for my sixteenth birthday last week using the light from a streetlamp, one that glowed with a white light, surprisingly modern in contrast to the more old time-y looking buildings. I read down the information that the driver’s license provided, my name, blue eyes, brown hair, Caucasian, five foot nine inches, birthplace: Las Vegas Nevada, male. If America doesn’t exist here, then neither does Nevada or Arizona I thought. I closed my eyes for a while, unable to fall asleep because of the stinging from my arm and cuts.

“Hello, child.” I opened my eyes and looked at the entrance to the alleyway, there stood a woman, very elderly in look but she stood up tall and straight she wore a red cloak with a hood that shadowed her eyes, she also had long dark red hair, her voice was calm and soothing, she walked towards me. “And who might you be?”

“Uhhh, I…”

“Your name child.” Despite the impatient nature of the question she didn’t seem impatient.

I thought. This is a new world, with no ties to my own, it’s time to start anew. I threw my wallet and driver’s license deep into the alley “Artorias.” I lied. “Artorias of the Abyss.”

“Well Artorias, you appear to be injured. Take my hand.” She outstretched her old and wrinkled hand, and I took it in my own. She pulled me up, I grimaced in pain. I then followed her from a few paces behind out of the alley then out of the city, there was a dirt road leading out towards some hills away from the forest from which I spawned. “Please try to keep up won’t you.”

“Sorry.” I had been slowly falling behind. Eventually we got off the road and onto a dirt path that lead into another forest. I hesitated.

“What do you have to lose?” She postulated. I silently agreed and followed her into the forest, the trees were like those in the other forest.

Seeing the grass around the trees a second time made me question it. Wait, don’t trees yoink all the nutrients preventing grass from growing around it? And wouldn’t the shade be a problem too?

“We’re here.” She said.

I looked up from my feet to see a large cottage with lots of colorful flowers growing around it. Gray tilled roof, tan brick walls and white window borders. The door to it had a large stained-glass window on it, depicting a purple and yellow man with antlers shaking hands.

“Your home?” I asked.

She nodded. “For most of my long life. Well, come on.” She was already at the door; she had opened it gesturing me to come it. I did. Inside the house was beautiful, she had comfortable looking chairs around a fireplace, and an ornate rug covering the hard-wood floor in the middle of the chairs and fireplace, and atop it was a glass coffee table. She snapped her fingers and the fireplace and various candles lit up. “Please, sit.” She gestured, I did, still clutching my broken arm. “Now let’s take care of those injuries… you don’t have an active aura yes?”

“What do you mean?” I recalled the burly man mentioning that.

She stayed silent for a moment. Standing in front of the chair of which I sat, judging me from under her hood. Then she pulls back her hood, letting her long red hair out of her cloak, she stared into my soul with green eyes that seemed to see everything, her wrinkled face in a scowl, despite her apparent age her mannerisms seemed youthful, she had her hands on her hips in a way that reminded me of some girls from school. Then she stepped forward, placing one hand on my cheek and the other on my chest and closed her eyes. I tried to back away but there was nowhere to go. “For it is in passing that we achieve immortality, through this we become a paragon of virtue and glory to rise above all, infinite in distance and unbound by death. I release your soul, and by my shoulder, protect thee.”

“My arm still hurts.” I mumble, having hoped what she was doing was a magic healing spell.

“I knew it.” She said quietly as she backed away, her face a mixture of serious and concerned. “Aura is a manifestation of the soul, the flame of potential that resides in all that lives. Where are you from?” She asked firmly

“I… uhm… I” My eyes widen, and I grab the cloth of my pants, I start breathing heavily, I can’t meet her eyes.

“Be honest with me child.” It wasn’t a suggestion.

“I was born in Las Vegas, Nevada, but I have lived in Ph-Phoenix, Arizona for most of my life.” I stammered out.

“What kingdom?”

“I… don’t…” I look up at her, her arms are crossed and the look on her face is stone. “No kingdom,” I shake my head. “both of those places are in a country, the United States of America.”

“What planet?”

Here it is. “Earth.”

She sighs and walks to my left side. She kneels and touches my broken arm, as she does her eyes become surrounded by pink flame, my arm begins to feel better almost immediately. “You are currently in Remnant, upon the continent Anima, the settlement I found you in is called Lilium.”

“I’m not even on Earth anymore…” I look away from her.

“I’m sure you have many questions; I am willing to answer all of them in time. For now…” She stands up. “Get some rest. You should be able to move your arm around now but don’t put any strain on it. Upstairs, first room on your left, there will be a bathroom within, shower, I will have clothes out for you by the time you’re done.”

“Why are you helping me?” I stand up slowly, feeling exhausted.

“Curiosity. Now clean yourself.” She gestured to the classic-looking staircase then folded her arms.

The bathroom looked surprisingly modern, white color scheme, there were two bars of soap, one had the word ‘body’ on it, and the other ‘hair’. As I undressed, I noticed that the cuts all over my body had mostly healed, I also noticed that my clothes were filthy and beyond repair. I stepped in the shower and closed the sliding black glass door. It took me a while to turn on the shower, but the time spent was pleasant, the familiarity of the look and feel of the material on my bare feet gave me comfort. When I finally turned on the shower, I heard the door of the bathroom open, luckily the shower’s glass door was opaque, I heard the woman put some clothes on the sink and take mine.

“Mind if I destroy these filthy things?”

“No, I don’t.” Suddenly there was a burst of yellow and orange light, she then left.

After I was done with my shower, I grabbed a towel that was on a hook attached to the door and dried myself. I then looked to the clothes provided, they were blue and purple striped pajamas. Under the clothes was a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste, I sighed a loud sigh of relief, the swords and old guns made me worried about the hygiene advancements of this society, but this plus the shower and regular looking toilet gave me immense comfort. I then went into the room I was provided and collapsed face-first in the big comfortable bed. I fell asleep almost immediately.

I woke up to my left arm throbbing. I pushed myself up with my right arm and as I did something heavy fell off my back. It looked like the same kind of outfit the huntsman and the burly man from the clinic wore, but heavily favoring a mix of blue and black leather rather than a mix of black and brown. The pants and shirt/sleeveless-vest thing formed all one piece, with two belts keeping the thing together, it took me a while to put it on. It felt surprisingly comfortable and breathable for leather because the inside was lined with a soft material. In addition to the loose bodysuit there was a trench coat that went down to my knees and a pair of leather boots and gloves. The outfit was heavier than I was used to, I then put on the gloves, tucking the ends of them into the sleeves of the trench coat. I walked down the stairs. The woman was sitting in a chair facing a dead fireplace.

“You’re awake.” She states as she stands up. “Oh, and here.” She tossed me a black cloth scarf. “Cover your face, chances are rumors have spread about your slip-up at the clinic. Let’s go.” She then started to make her way towards the front door, putting her hood on.

“Uhh… Wait.” I halfheartedly reached out my hand after her.

“We’re just going to run some errands child; you interrupted my shopping yesterday.”

“No… I was just going to ask for your name.”

She turns around and softly smiles. “My name is Clare Summer.”

We made our way into Lilium, the ground was still slightly wet from last night’s rain, making me thankful for the boots, I instinctually kept re-pulling up my scarf over my nose whenever I felt it slip slightly. I followed Clare from a few paces behind. “So, what are we doing first?”

“We are getting you a scroll. It’s similar to the device that was in your pocket yesterday, except it will actually work in this world.”

“Oh…” I rubbed the back of my head. “Did you look through my phone?”

She stopped walking. “Yes, and I’m sorry, I could see how much you loved your family and friends… I would love to help you get back to your home, but I have no idea where we would even start, so for now I think its best you plan to be stuck here, emotionally and physically.” She says and then continues to walk.

“Yeah, I know… Although all the stories are fictional, there are many stories about a character being sent to another world, and they never get to go back. So, although it may be dumb, I’m preparing myself to take the same emotional path those characters take.”

“It’s not dumb to protect yourself.” She says flatly.

As we walked, I looked around, noticing again all the people with animal body parts. “So, the people with animal parts are called Faunus?” I ask, keeping my voice low, some of them gave me a glance, hearing me despite my efforts.

“I take it they don’t exist on Earth?” She glances over her shoulder at me and I shake my head. “Yeah, they’re called Faunus, and the ones with multiple different animal body parts are called Chimera Faunus, but they have aura all the same.”

I felt the shame burning my face. Before long we made it to a modern looking building with a small blue globe hologram above a blue neon sign that read ‘Mistral P.S.’, the globe depicted a very different set of land masses then I was comfortable with. The white and blue plastic-looking building stuck out like a sore thumb next to the more classic looking buildings that make up the rest of Lilium. Inside the walls were lined with P.O. boxes that instead of having keyholes, had slots for thick cards to go in, reminding me of hotel doors. There wasn’t a line, so we walked right up to the front desk. No one maned it until Clare pressed a button that was on the desk, a green hologram then flickered to life.

“Welcome to the Mistral Postal Service located in Lilium, how may I help you?” The hologram woman asked.

“My grandson has foolishly broken his scroll; I would like to get him a replacement.”

“Will you be the verified sponsor for this replacement?”

“Yes, my name is Clare Summer.” She reached into her cloak and pulled out a white rectangle with rounded edges and a yellow triangle in the center, as she places it on the desk a ring of light surrounds it.

The hologram lady appears to type something in on a not visible keyboard. “And your grandson’s name.”

“Artorias Abyss.” I cringed at the sound of my chosen new name, naming myself after a badass video game character didn’t feel as cool as I thought it would.

The hologram types some more. “I’m afraid I don’t have any of your grandson’s information, either this is an error and I can contact the appropriate channels to rectify this, or you can create a brand new profile, but that will involve a fee of ten thousand Lien, and will also mean starting over, all previous licenses and otherwise will not be valid anymore, and will have to be re-applied for.”

I flinch at the amount, hoping it’s more like Japanese yen where it would be like one hundred bucks American, even then though…

Clare didn’t even bat an eyelash. “New profile.” She then continued to give the hologram my information as it asked for it. “How old are you again?” Clare glanced towards me.

“I turned sixteen a week ago.” I responded.

After providing all the information the hologram said. “Now if you could please pay the appropriate amount.” Then a rectangle box popped out from the desk, Clare threw four plastic cards into it and the box disappeared. “And that’s it, your scroll should appear shortly. Thank you for choosing Mistral Postal Service.” The hologram then disappeared.

After a moment, on the desk a rectangle chunk of it slid out of the way revealed a scroll that looked like Clare’s. Clare gestured to it after picking up her own. “It both serves as your identification and communication device.”

I picked it up and instinctively pressed the triangle in the center, the scroll extended itself revealing a transparent glass screen with my information displayed on it. “Thank you.” I said softly. I struggled to find a pocket on my new outfit for a minute until I discovered one inside the trench coat.

Chapter Text

“I’m assuming you’ve never held a sword before.” Clare was standing in the middle of her backyard, in a dirt floor arena of sorts. It was a big circle surrounded by beautiful flowers and other plant life. She wasn’t wearing he cloak I had gotten used to seeing, instead it was leather huntsman armor with a red and black color scheme, not dissimilar to mine that I was given, but fitted differently to accommodate her bust and she didn’t have a trench coat, revealing her toned arms.

I walked towards her. “I played Beat Saber at an arcade once.”

She rolled her eyes and put her hands on her hips. “Please try to take this seriously, I don’t think you appreciate how much harder life for you will be without an aura, or semblance.”

“What’s that?”

“A semblance is a unique manifestation of the soul, whereas aura is pretty standard, most people just use it as a protective shield of sorts, or push it against the ground to jump high or dodge and attack, others use it for spiritual ritual purposes, but a semblance is a unique power that is meant to protect oneself. You will have to adapt to many different types of semblances if you are to win the many battles you will fight. Even if some semblances are similar, they will have subtle differences you will have to account for, and some people’s auras are stronger than others, allowing them to protect themselves and use their semblance for longer, you will need to outlast them. Without a semblance or aura, you are going to have to work harder than anyone if you are going to survive in this world.”

“What’s yours, is it that healing and eye glow-y thing that you did to fix my arm?”

“My semblance can detect a person’s aura level as well as what their semblance is just by looking at them, that’s how I knew you didn’t have one, even if a person’s aura or semblance isn’t unlocked I can still tell what it is. It comes in handy when facing multiple opponents, allowing me to gather information quickly and act accordingly, information gathering is the most important aspect of fighting. You will need to learn how to do this as well, identify the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents as soon as possible and use that information to come up with strategies. At first, it will take a lot of concentration to gather information, to the point where you won’t even be able to act on it, but eventually you will be able to do this on instinct. Also, it should be noted that aura can gradually heal wounds, you don’t have this luxury, you can’t afford to take hits, people can even learn to reinforce their weapons with aura, making them more deadly.”

“You know this isn’t very encouraging?”

“I’m not trying to encourage you; I’m trying to make you afraid.”

“Well that explains why I’m scared.” I grab my arm, which is still sore. “But that doesn’t explain how you healed my arm.”

“That is a long story I’d rather not tell to just anyone.” Suddenly she manifested a sword and a gun out of thin air that appeared to be made of black metal with bloodred highlights, she tossed them to me, I was caught off guard by their weight, the sword was a traditional longsword, the blade was about four and a half feet long, despite this the handle only accommodated for one hand. The gun looked like a classic flintlock pistol on the outside, but had some modern touches, a magazine was peeking out of the handle. “Now, are you ready to get started?”

“Isn’t this sword a little long for my height-“

“You best get used to it. Now let’s start with the basics.” She folded he arms and took an authoritative stance.

We practiced until sunset, I was exhausted, sweating and breathing heavily. The training wasn’t even that complicated, she just had me swing the sword around wildly, getting me used to its weight, she didn’t give me much direction, just pushing me on when I wanted to stop. “Hey look… I’m not out of shape… but” I paused to breath. “This is a lot more exercise than I’m used to, this sword is fucking heavy, isn’t it more for two hands?”

“No, people with an active aura are naturally stronger than people without. Their muscles are denser, so even if a huntsman or huntress may seem thin and weak, that just means their aura is strong. You need to adjust to this, work harder than anyone to make up the difference, I will help expedite this process, of you getting into shape, with my magic, But ultimately, what you get out of this depends on what you put in.”

“And what do I get out of this?” I looked at her.

“Frankly,” She looked down. “Your options are rather limited in this world, its too late to go through an education system and get a regular job through that, but I can provide training, for you to become a huntsman. Definitely not ideal considering your… condition, but I can see in your eyes that you are a fighter, I can see you will excel as a huntsman.” She shrugged and gestured with her hands, smiling. “And if you want to talk money, being a huntsman is very profitable, I was able to retire rather early.”

“Can you teach me magic even if I don’t have an aura? To help close the distance?”

“No… magic is not something that can be taught, and not something I want to talk about right now.”

“Ahh, so no shooting fire out of my hands?”

She laughed.

So, I trained, and trained. I desired to live, and not be dependent on Clare. I desired to pull my own weight. I trained most of my waking hours, even if Clare was off doing things on her own and couldn’t supervise me, I trained. After a few weeks Clare asked me: “Why are you training this hard?”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“Don’t dodge the question.” She stopped streaming power towards me, her eyes ceased having the pink fire around them, as well as the pink stream of energy.

My muscles suddenly felt extremely sore, forcing me to stop and lower my weapon.

“Isn’t it a little early for backstory time?”

“Not even my granddaughter trains as hard as you have been, and training is her life.”

“Oh, you have a granddaughter? Will I ever get to meet her?”

“Dodging.”

I sighed. “My… parents… weren’t perfect. I love them don’t get me wrong, they just… Whenever they got drunk or angry, they would say I was a leach, a parasite, mooching off their money. Although they did love me, they resented having me, I was an accident, and raising a kid costs a lot of money as I’m sure you know, buying my scroll… They were poor to begin with, so feeding me, clothing me, buying school supplies… I got a worker permit and started working when I was fourteen, but it still wasn’t enough, they still saw me as a burden. I’m not sure how it works in Remnant, but on earth, you don’t really have a choice to move out of your parent home until you’re sixteen, and even then, it’s a pain-in-the-ass legal process because the natural age of adulthood is eighteen. I’ve spent most of my life, waiting to be independent, I felt helpless, for sixteen years I just waited, unable to take action… But now… Now I can act, I can work hard, I’m done waiting.”

“I see… well then, time is of the essence I suppose.” She continued sending power to me so I could continue to push myself until the sun went down.

Over meals we would have regular conversations, we talked a lot more than my parents ever talked to me. She would walk me through some of the nuances of Remnant, the four continents, the weird technology levels and disparity of the four kingdoms.

“So Atlus has straight up automail?”

“If this ‘automail’ is prosthetic limbs, yes.”

“Wow, not being able to reference Earth media is going to take some getting used to, I love making pop culture references.”

Time past, I got stronger. Eventually the sword Clare gave me felt weightless. Me and Clare began sparing, she would summon different types of weapons, rotating between them and teaching me how fight against them. I even learned how to shoot weapons out of her hands on instinct. She would blindfold me, trained me to know where she was and how she was striking based on her foot movements. “People will always move their feet while striking and defending, take advantage of this.”

After a year had passed. We bonded a lot, I started to view her as a second mother. We joked over dinner, she taught me her philosophy, she raised me to thrive in this new world, and I finally beat Clare in a sparring match, or so I thought.

“Now, its time you learn about magic.”

Chapter Text

She outstretched her hand and shot a fire ball at me; I quickly flicked the leaver for ice dust on my gun and shot the ground creating a wall of ice. The ice instantly melted creating a cloud of mist that obscured my view of Clare.

“What did I tell you about defensive dust usage?”

She had told me to limit my dust usage, not get used to having it, because without my gun to activate it, I don’t have an aura to activate it on my own. If I get disarmed, I can’t use it, so it shouldn’t be my defense, only to make my offence more formidable. “Who says its defensive?” I heard her shift her foot slightly at my taunt. I switched to gravity dust and shot her and followed it up with another ice bullet. When the gravity dust hit her the mist was drawn to her body covering her in a layer of water, the ice bullet then froze it, freezing her solid. She broke free almost immediately, but I was already there with the barrel of my gun in front of her eyes, but my body was already spinning reading her dodge to my left, I struck her with my sword but she maintained poise with her aura so I pushed her away with a fire bullet. She slid backwards still standing.

“Not bad Artorias.” She slid her right foot forward. I flipped my sword so that the blade was coming out of the pinky side of my grip, assuming a defensive stance, and switching both the gravity and fire dust on at once. She slid her forward foot back quickly sending a torrent of ice towards me, I shot to my left, the combination of the fire and gravity explosion giving me momentum to dodge. Then I shot behind me to approach quickly. Vines grew out of the ground in front of her. I then shot at the ground, propelling myself in the air above them. My sword grip allowing me to slice her face and stomp on her shoulder at the same time, hitting the pressure point causing her to fall to the ground. I landed behind her and turned around quickly, stomping my right foot towards her to make noise, then I quickly swung as hard as I could to a space to my right, a space Clare rolled into to dodge where she thought I was striking. My mighty swing broke her aura finally, then I backed off. “And that is the match, very good for your first bout against a maiden.”

“Wait, you said you had a granddaughter?”

“Its time you learned, lets go inside the house and sit.”

I followed her into the house, with a skip in my step, very proud of myself. Then Clare collapsed to the ground with a loud thud. “Clare!” I rushed to her side, she was passed out, some saliva started coming out of the side of her mouth, saliva mixed with blood. I put the back of my hand against her forehead, she had a fever, and she was sweating, she never broke a sweat when training me. I picked her up and carried her to her room, I laid her on her bed then quickly ran downstairs to the kitchen to get her a glass of water, panicked thoughts filled my mind. I ran back to her room and placed the glass on her ornate wood nightstand, I grabbed her desk chair and placed it beside her bed, sitting in it hunched over. I didn’t know what to do, I’m not a doctor, I recited her symptoms in my head over and over, the blood saliva gave me worry. After a few minutes her pink aura flickered back to life and the gasped. “Clare!” I stood up quickly and got the glass of water in front of her face, panic on my face.

“Thank you, child.” She sat up, back to the backboard of her bed, and drank, she had visible trouble swallowing, and grimaced as though the water was gross.

“Is there something wrong with the water?”

“No, it’s not, its me.”

“What happened? What is this?”

“I’m sick Artorias, I have been for a long time.”

“It’s cancer isn’t it?”

She nodded. “I was diagnosed before we met.”

“How long do you have?” I started tearing up.

“Not long. My magical abilities have slowed it’s development but won’t stop the inevitable.”

“Your aura can’t heal this? Yours is powerful right?”

She shook her head. “Aura cannot protect from itself, cancer is apart of you, and by extension your aura.” She sighed. “I need to tell you everything, now.”

I sat forward. “Is your time that short? I think you should rest for now and tell me later.”

“No, I’m working with estimates here, I’m not going to risk leaving you with nothing.”

I was taken aback. She proceeded to tell me about the four maidens, how she was the summer maiden, one of six people on the planet capable of preforming feats of magic. How a man currently known as Ozpin created the four maidens, and how the Grimm had a master named Salem, and that the all of them were immortal, Ozpin through reincarnation, how the maiden powers were passed down through the same method, and Salem’s traditional immortality. “Why did Ozpin create the maidens?”

“It’s hard to say the original reason, but now? They are keys, keys to the relics.” She proceeded to explain to me that there were four powerful artifacts that represented the four gifts to humanity from the gods, Destruction, Knowledge, Creation, and Choice. She told me of how they were kept in vaults within the four schools she had told me about before.

“Why are you telling me all of this.”

“Because, I have a gift for you.” She looked at a spot on her wall. “Break through the wall there.”

“Uhh… What?”

“Just do it.”

“Destruction of property isn’t really my thing.”

“Please.” I drew my sword and started digging through the drywall, it didn’t take long for me to find, what looked to be, a cello case. I looked at Clare. “Well, take it out.” I did and placed it on the floor.

“It’s combo locked.”

“The left one is 1234, and the right one is 0987.” I opened the case to find a sword. The handle and hilt looked to be silver and ornate, a perfect ‘Y’. The sword looked brand new in some respects and ancient in others. The handle was meant for one hand and was in perfect and polished condition, but the top part of the ‘Y’ was dull and scratched. The blade was the same length as the sword Clare gave to me on the first day on training. Both edges and the tip were bright and sharp steel, but the center of the blade was so beat up and old it looked more like stone than metal. There was also white gauze around the blade near the hilt, seemingly to allow for one to rest the sword on one’s shoulder without hurting themselves. “That, is the Relic of Destruction.”

I stood up quickly and stepped away from it. “Excuse?”

“There was a time where I didn’t trust Ozpin, well now…” She seemed to backpedal. “I still don’t, not entirely.”

“He doesn’t know you have this?”

“He knows I’m living here, and he does check in every few years, but he doesn’t know about this. How could he.” She gestured with her hands. “Without me he can’t open the pocket dimension in Vacuo to check on it, not to mention he doesn’t have a reason to.”

“You said you had a gift for me. Is this really it? You’re trusting me with this?”

“Yes, I was thinking about giving it to my granddaughter, but… You need it more. Not to mention she’s more of a spear person. Take it in your hand.” I hesitated I picked it up with a shaky hand, it weighed exactly the same as my first sword that she kindly gave me.

“Is this really mine? Or do you want me to give it back to Ozpin?”

“Fuck no, don’t let Oz take it.” She rolled her eyes. “In fact, come here.” I stepped towards her still tenderly holding the sword in my hand. She then placed her hands over mine. Her eyes glowed with pink fire like they did when she preformed magic. Pink and white waves of fire emanated from her hands, filling the room with bright light. Her aura shimmered and she breathed hard. “I sacrificed some magic, as long as you live, you and you alone can wield the sword.”

“What?”

“It is bonded to you now. You can call it back to you when it is lost. Give it a try.” I placed it on the bed and thought about recalling it and it shot back up into my palm at a surprising speed. “You should know. The sword is dormant right now. Do not, and I repeat do not! Awaken the blade until you are confident you can kill anyone who tries to take it from you, do know make it known you possess the power of the gods. Especially not to Ozpin, there is no guaranty, he may not deem it worthy to use his dwindling magic to separate you and the sword, but he may. He probably won’t kill you for it though, not his style. Also, the sword looks different now than it used to, Oz won’t recognize it.”

I shuffled my feet in place. I got teary eyed. “Thank you, Clare.”

“Please, I've told you call me grandma.” She smiled at me. I hugged her, she hugged me back.

For the next month, she taught me how to take advantage of the new ability she gave me. Throwing the sword and recalling it, eventually learning to fully controlling it telekinetically. I picked it up rather quickly, probably because of my training giving me an understanding of all kinds of abilities, Clare taught me how to deal with telekinetics, so I inferred how to use those very powers properly. Sparing time was over though. Clare was getting weaker and weaker, eventually, she would just sit in her bed all day, only getting up to shower every couple of days. I would bring her food. I tried to keep up my training without her, but my heart wasn’t in it anymore. Eventually I just stayed at her bedside, her final gift to me resting on my lap.

“Thank you for this past year.” She said to me in a raspy voice.

“I should be thanking you.” I thought back to the past year, she had provided me with what I’d always wanted, skill. I hadn’t necessarily always wanted combat skill, I just wanted to learn a trade of my own, my parents never encouraged me to develop my talents, but Clare did.

“No, I am so happy… that I could have one last student, but your journey is not done yet. Attend Beacon academy in Vale, meet Ozpin, befriend him but don’t trust him ok?” I nodded. Then she was gone. A ball of pink fire came out of her body, her maiden powers, the ball slipped out of the window. She was thinking of me in her final moments, so the power would go to someone random. I felt a tinge of guilt that it wouldn’t go to someone like her granddaughter that she mentioned a few times. I had wanted to meet her family at one point, but now if I had I would have to tell them this news.

I buried her in the middle of the arena where she would train me in her backyard, a cross wouldn’t have much meaning in this world, so I opted to use the first sword she gave me, and drape the cloak she wore when she met me over it. For the next four days I would eat sleep and sit in front of her grave, the woman that gave me everything. The scarf she gave me covering my face up to my eyes to catch my tears as I sat. I had never had to deal with death before.

During the twilight of the fourth day, I faintly heard a voice from outside the house. “Grandma! I’m here with some big news!” I clutched my knees close to my chest, the blue-black leather knees touching my chin, but not really registering the words being spoken. “You left the door unlocked!?” I vaguely heard her footsteps walking around the house. “Hello again?” She half-heartedly said. I then heard her open the door to the backyard. “Hello?” I felt her eyes on me, but I didn’t move. She gasped and ran up next to me, recognizing what the dirt mound and sword in the ground meant. She fell to her knees and wept. I looked over at her not turning my head. She had the same red hair and green eyes as Clare, she wore her hair in a ponytail, she also wore gold armor that looked almost Greek in origin, she also wore a gold crown. On her back was a golden shield and red short spear. She had a red sash around her waist, and a red messenger style bag that was pretty stuffed, she probably planed on visiting Clare for a while.

“I am… so… sorry.” I said through tears. We both sat there for a long time.

Chapter Text

            “Who was she to you?” The girl asked, she had removed her red sash and was wiping her tears with it.

            “Everything.”

            “How did she die?”

            “Sickness.”

            “Was she happy?”

            “Yes…”

            “I guess that’s all that matters. She would want us to be strong, to keep moving forward.”

            “Do you believe in destiny?”

            She seemed caught off guard. “I don’t really know.” She paused. “We should go inside.” She stood up. “It’s getting dark, I’m sure the Grimm can smell us from miles away.” I didn’t move. “Please get up.”

            “I haven’t run into Grimm for the past four days I’ve sat here; I don’t see why that would change now.” As if I had jinxed us, three ursa followed by a Nuckelavee emerged from the forest behind the backyard.

            “I knew it.” Her shield and short spear moved into her hands and she took a defensive stance, her face looked determined. The ursa approached slowly, seemingly focused on the girl. “Get up please!” They got closer, the horse beast elongated its arm towards the girl, she dodged and cut it with her spear at the same time. “Get up! Get behind me!” She elongated her spear. “Get out of the way please!” The three ursa stood around me, ignoring me and facing the girl. “What’s happening?” She lowered her shield and spear a little.

            “HHHHUUUURRRRRAAAAAA!!!!” I stood up violently, unclipping my sword from my back with my mind and quickly spun it around me, shredding the ursa and Nuckelavee like they were in a blender.

            “Wha-“

            “Please, just leave me be.” I slumped my shoulders and let the sword fall to the ground.

            “Well, I’m not going to travel in the dark, I’m going to go to the room I usually stay in.”

            “Very well.” I snapped the sword back on my back and I walked past her; she looked a bit nervous. I walked through the house and out the front door.

            “Where are you going?!”

            “To work.”

            I made my way back to Lilium in the dark, using the flashlight function on my scroll to light the way. When I got to the town, I saw the same guy on top of the watchtower, I called to him. “Where can a huntsman find some work around here?”

            “The request board is right across from the clinic. Good luck finding a job in your wheelhouse kid, the only ones left are for unique Grimm.”

            “Perfect.” I walked into the town and made my way to the board, there were only two requests left, one from a month ago, one from two. I tapped the ‘accept’ button, then checked the ‘I’m sure’. The screen asked me to place my scroll to the screen and I obliged. A small hologram of a map of the area with two blips on it appeared. Two unique Grimm are about to die.

            I found the first Grimm in a couple hours walk away from the town; it was in a cave. Its shape was humanoid and nine feet tall, a fat looking body with extremely thin limbs that had a sword looking protrusion from the hand. On the sword was the Grimm’s mask, weird place, but the Grimm was headless, so the obvious place was out. I walked up to it calmly, I took out my scroll and took a selfie with it, then another one as my sword ripped it to shreds. I made my way to the second Grimm, another cave, this one bigger. The Grimm was surrounded by swords and guns, it made me feel sad and a little guilty that so many poor souls lost their lives to this thing, and I was about to kill it with ease. This one looked like a massive centipede, it crawled on the walls and ceiling of the cave absent mindedly. I took another selfie.

            I went to turn them in. The board gave me the address of the people who requested the kills. I followed my scroll’s gps to the house, it was rather big, but still wood and bland, though the doorknobs were nice. I knocked on the door. Twice. Thrice. Finally, the door opened to reveal a guy in his pajamas, probably in his thirties, brown skin and hair as well as cat ears.

            “And who the fuck is you?” he sounded as tired as he looked.

            “A huntsman here for his payday.”

            “At five in the morning?” I held up the scroll and showed him the four pictures. “Wait what?”

            “So, are you gonna pay me or what?”

            He leaned inside his house and grabbed some glasses, he took my scroll from my hand and looked at the pictures more closely. “You gotta be shitting me!” He looked ridiculously happy. “I’ve been waiting so long for those fiends to die; they’ve killed my employees and slowed my trading to a crawl.” I raised my eyebrows. “Ahh yes of course.”

            He paid me marked of the jobs as completed by Artorias Abyss and I left, I went back to the board, no new jobs. I made my way back to the entrance of the town and asked the guard: “Where is the closest town with a request board?”

            I made my way to the next town, cleared out all the unique Grimm requests, rinse and repeat. I made my way slowly across Anima, staying at inns, sometimes the bigger towns would restrict jobs to only people with huntsman licenses, by the time I had made it to these big cities however I had already made a name for myself. I just had to go to the requesters house and show them how many requests I’d completed, and they would hire me.

           

            I sat in the lobby of an inn, eating a meal. I had just gotten back from killing a trio of nevermore, they tested my range of control of the sword, I couldn’t get to them while they were in the air so I had to bait them down with my gun, because of that the job was barely profitable, it was kind of my fault though for insisting on buying only the highest quality dust, but the better dust was easier on the gun, gets it less clogged and requiring less cleaning.

            “Here you go.” The cute waitress put a drink in front of me, alcoholic.

            “I didn’t order this.”

            “It’s from a man upstairs, light red eyes, cross neckless, black hair, said you wouldn’t settle for anything less than top shelf. Friends in high places?” She smiled and walked off.

            I took my drink and walked upstairs, seemed like a VIP area, there was a bodyguard, large white man with a shaved head, in front of the entrance, the tables were nicer than downstairs, and they were all empty but one. The bodyguard put a hand up in front of me.

            “He’s with me.” The man with black hair said in a gravelly voice, he was holding a drink too. I walked in trying to be stoic, but the worst case scenario kept popping into my head, all the tables were pushed away from the center of the room, except for the table the man sat at, he sat right in the center of the room with his feet on the table, menacingly. This was a huntsman. There was a sword on his back that seemed to fold into itself, it had gun barrels parallel to the blade, as well as gears on the hilt, it did a lot more than unfold. I stayed a distance from the table, swirling my drink in my hand. “Artorias of the Abyss, quite the edgy name, pick it yourself?”

            “So, you know my name, but don’t know I’m underage?” I gestured with my drink, his eyes widened, I moved my scarf down and drank it, his eyebrows furrowed.

            “Well that’s a surprise, you’re too young to drink?” I nodded. “For your age you’ve made quite a name for yourself in the last month and a half. Forty-nine unique kills, and many more regulars. That’s more than one per day. You’ve been taking a lot of jobs, taking them from other huntsman.” He glanced up at me from his drink with raised eyebrows. “You know why I have called you here.”

            “I do now. Are that many people pissed at me?”

            “Maybe. Are you ready to get started?”

            “Are you?” I unclipped my sword, already analyzing his every move.

            He hopped on top of the table and drew his sword, southpaw, it unfolded. I threw the glass to the side and drew my pistol. “Yes.” He answered.

            He leapt at me, I jerked my pistol up slightly to bait him into a block, he blocked, and I sidestepped. I seemed to trip on nothing but I regained my balance before I could fall, but not before he was already attacking me, he was fast, I threw my sword to intercept him but he knocked it away, it landed behind him, but that bought me time to move away.

            “Throwing away your weapon? Not a great plan kid.” I moved slowly to the right, trying to put the table between me and him, his taunt gave me time to look at his weapon more, it had diagonal lines going through the blade at regular intervals, I imaged how they would work and came to the conclusion that he could transform it into a scythe, might have to deal with range. “What? Not going to approach kid?”

            “With what approach tools?” I gestured with my hands.

            “Hmmm” He grinned slightly, then charged towards me. I shot at him and summoned my sword at the same time, he blocked the fire bullet, but my sword went point first into his back, the impact rippled through his red aura and pushed him forward. Aura not broken, of course it’s not that easy. I put away my gun. As he fell forwards towards me I punched him in the face, it hurt my hand more than it hurt him, but the extra stun allowed me to grab his left wrist and get my sword to my left hand and the point to his neck. “Not bad kid, telekinesis semblance?”

            “Not exactly.” He smiled and pushed a leaver on his sword, turning it into a scythe and passing to his right hand behind his back, the action was so quick I had no choice but to jump back. My shoulder bumped into a leg of a chair that was on top of one of the tables that were against the wall, the chair leg cracked and broke, the top part of the chair falling on top of me. I tried to get my sword back in my right hand and unholster my gun, but I was too slow. The man’s scythe was already swinging, I sent my sword to intercept it, but I was slightly too late, the tip of the scythe got in my arm, my sword holding the rest back. Blood leaked out of my arm. “Damnit.”

            The man pulled his scythe back to himself, turned it back into a sword, then folded it up and clipped it to his back. I raised my eyebrows at him and recalled my sword back to my right hand. “You…” He squinted his eyes. “I knew it, you’re a hunter.”

            “What?”

            “Get over here kid, sit down, let’s get that wound patched up.” He walked over to the center table and reached into a black leather satchel, he pulled out some gauze.

            “Excuse?”

            “Kid,” He held up both of his hands in a surrender gesture. “I’m not here to kill you, I just wanna talk. Although I’m sure some people are upset about your job stealing, I’m in the camp of those bitches need to grow a spine and take multiple requests at once.” I put away my sword and approached, snagging the gauze out of his hand. “You may want this.” He reached into his white jacket, I took a step back, he rolled his eyes and produced a flask. I took it and poured a little on my wound and wrapped it up with the gauze. “Your tough kid… sit down.” He gestured to a chair and sat down himself. I obliged.

            “Is everything ok up here?” The cute waitress poked her head in the room.

            “If you could get me another drink. That’d be great.” He lifted his glass.

            “Me too and make it a double.” I say. The man shot me a dirty look; he can’t say I’m underage without condemning himself. I grin at him.

            “Well, I guess I should introduce myself.” His facial expression softened. “The name’s Qrow.”

            “Charmed.” I said as sarcastically as I muster. “Do you always buy people a drink before trying to kill them?” We pause as the waitress came back without drinks, she put them down on the table, and as soon as she left Qrow grabbed mine and drank it in one go. I smiled.

            “No, I don’t, but I had to see for myself, you’re a hunter.”

            “What do you mean? I’m not a licensed huntsman.”

            “Not huntsman, hunter, important distinction. Back when humanity was all one people, united, before the kingdoms, back when fighting Grimm was more common than fighting other people, back before we learned to use dust, the old hunters developed a method to fight the Grimm.” I leaned forward. “The Grimm, a lot of people say they are drawn to negative emotions, sadness, anger, but that’s not strictly accurate, emotions aren’t tangible in it of themselves. The Grimm are drawn to the specific ripples these emotions make in a person’s aura, active or not. The old hunters learned to sever their connection to their aura, and their semblance.” He paused at that word. “This allowed them to be ignored by the Grimm, and slay them without being touched, but the method for doing this was lost to time, not having an aura puts you at a distinct disadvantage when fighting other people.”

            “Yeah, I know.” He was taken aback.

            “Then why, and more importantly, how did you do this to yourself?”

            “I was just born this way, nothing extra or fancy, sorry, I can’t help you. I simply was born without an aura, or semblance, I don’t know why.”

            “Why’d you say sorry?”

            “Your semblance, I can see why it wouldn’t be… desirable.”

            “Hmf…” He downed his drink and looked down. “You’re one observant kid.” He stood up and made his way to the entrance. He looked back at me. “Be careful kid, there’s a reason why there aren’t any hunters anymore. Catch you later.”

            He was going easy on me.

Chapter Text

            It became time for me to make my way to Vale, Clare requested that I attend Beacon. The entrance exams for Haven became a topic that I overheard being talked about more and more, so I assumed it was the same for Vale. Attending one of the four schools was a dream of many people, most of which were vastly underqualified and wouldn’t even be allowed to take the entrance exams, and most that snaked their way through would die before taking a single class. I had a few big problems to solve, I never attended novice or intermediate combat school, and I don’t have a semblance. They require a semblance to be listed, and although it’s not impossible to get in without one, they understand that some people are just late bloomers and will still accept if you have other remarkable skills, it’s still a lot harder to get in without one. I concluded that I needed to kill more unique Grimm, a high and confirmable kill count would surly boost my chances. Before now I would avoid taking jobs that paid too high, I was paranoid that they could be traps laid out by Salem, Clare may have stressed distrust of Ozpin, she didn’t have to stress how imperative it was for someone like Salem to not get her hands on the Relic of Destruction. Eventually though, more and more of the unique Grimm requests would seem more suspect, both the difficulty level and reward money skyrocketed, eventually I had no choice but to take one of these jobs. I made sure my armor was patched up from Qrow’s cut, and I had all the dust I needed, and set out. The job I took was suspiciously close too. When I got to the location, I found an abandoned and decrepit house at the edge of a forest. Two stories, wood, half of the roof was caved in and part of the wall on the first floor was broken as well. I walked towards the broken wall.

            A pink stick flew out of the opening towards my face, in instinct I turned around and swung my sword. The pick stick struck the back of my head harmlessly and shattered like glass as I suspected, but I was more interested in what my sword struck. A pink and white ornate umbrella, held by a short girl that couldn’t have been older than me, her hair was long, the right side of it pink, left was brown. Her skin was pale. Her eyes looked surprised, their color matching her hair. Her clothes had a white and pink color scheme with brown/black pants as the exception. She smiled and backflipped away from me, opening her umbrella and resting it on her shoulder. I noted that my strike didn’t damage the umbrella at all, it was a weapon and should be treated as such.

            “Who are you?”

            I’m Neopolitan Torchwick, nice to meet you. She signed and bowed, when the signed she took her hand off her umbrella, but it remained balanced on her shoulder, I took note of her balance. She signed in American Sign Language, or so it seemed, I had thought I was speaking English this whole time, but it’s not called that, it’s probably Remnant Sign Language.

            I clipped my sword to my back. Nice to meet you Neo, Are you deaf? I signed.

            She seemed impressed. Mute, you can talk. She smiled. You ready to fight?

            I shot her, she held her umbrella in front of her and spun it to block and diffuse the fire. I approached and swung my sword horizontally, she quickly limbo-ed under it. She tried to strike me, but I blocked. Parry, parry, block, parry, block, block, counter, gun, gun, counter, dodge, dodge, strike, adjust, evade. She was extremely quick and so was I, neither of us could land a hit on each other. My stamina started to give out, so I switched to controlling the sword with my mind, tipping my hand but allowing me to keep up the barrage. She didn’t let up, finally I saw an opportunity, she quickly thrusted the umbrella next to my face and as expected when she missed she tried to pull it back quickly, too quickly for me to grab with my hands, but I was able to sneak my sword to where the umbrella fabric gave way to the handle, and lodge the blade there preventing her from pulling it back. I saw her try to press the button that opens the umbrella to escape but I had already grabbed the umbrella. As I pulled it from her, she had a shocked expression on her face, I smiled as I shot her, as I predicted her form shattered into glass. I heard a shoe hitting metal, I turned around to see her foot against my floating blade that I sent to protect my back. She backflipped a couple of times away from me, a pouty look on her face, cute. I flicked her umbrella open and closed rapidly and spun my sword around myself as a taunt. I started inspecting the umbrella, I found that there was a sword hidden in the handle that could be revealed by twisting and pulling the curved part of the handle. I looked at Neo with a why didn’t you use this? face. I heard a sound coming from the woods, lots of rustling like something clumsy was going towards us, I glanced at Neo, and her me.

            “I’m not giving this back to you, you lost it fair and square.” I smiled and spun it on my finger by the curved handle end. “If it’s a Grimm I can kill it no problem.”

            “I’m not a fucking Grimm, Swordie.” A man in a black bowler and bright orange hair that covered his right eye, emerged from the forest. He wore a professional white jacket and a gray ascot. As he emerged, he lit a cigar, his hand also holding a black cane with a white curved handle. He seemed to notice both of us sweating and Neo’s umbrella in my hand. He puffed his cigar and rolled his eyes. “Neo, I have told you specifically not to fight new hires.”

            You specifically said ‘new grunts’ you never said anything about huntsman.

            He looked at me. “Common Swordie.” He nodded at Neo. I hesitated. “See Neo? You are awful at first impressions.” He puffed his cigar, glancing up at the sky.

            Like you’re much better, putting a gun in a shop keep’s face and robbing them wouldn’t leave the best first impression I would think. She pouted again.

            “Hey! When I rob people, I do so charismatically.” He emphasized the last word.

            I laughed and tossed Neo her umbrella, and reclipped my sword to my back. “What’s your name dude?”

            “Roman Torchwick.” He bowed. “I see you have been acquainted with my daughter.” Neo smiled and twirled her umbrella. “And I have come with a job for you.”

            “I hope it’s killing Grimm, if not I don’t really want a part of it.”

            He rubbed the brim of his hat. “Oh, are you one of those noble hero types, disappointing.”

            “Not exactly,” I shrugged. “I’ve done my fair share of crimes when I was younger, I get it, you gotta do what you gotta do to survive.” He smiled. “I just don’t have a taste for killing people, not to mention I’m not very good at it.”

            “Oh, no,” He wafted his hand. “You’re an expert in killing Grimm, I wouldn’t hire you for this job if you weren’t.”

            “Well if it’s just killing Grimm, why didn’t you just have your request lead me to where the Grimm is rather than this abandoned house?”

            “Well, it’s not that simple Swordie. This is a big job, that I have deduced only one of your skill can complete. Can you kill an entire city of Grimm?”

            “Tell me more.”

            He glanced down. “There is a perfect place for a base of operations for me, an underground city. It is filled to the brim”-he rubbed the brim of his hat-“with subterranean Grimm. Are you ready to double your kill count?” He glared at me from under his hat.

            “Sure, but still doesn’t explain why you didn’t just post a request.”

            “Because its right outside of Vale, currently there is no way to make a request across countries, not to mention… I think only you can do this.”

            “Well as luck would have it, I’m headed to Vale already.” I smiled.

            “Nice, shall you name your price?”

            “You have many connections, don’t you?” He nodded. “Get me admitted to Beacon academy, that is my price.”

            His serious persona faded. “Wait, how old are you?” He sounded shocked.

            “Doesn’t really matter now does it.” I shrug.

            He scoffed. “A long as you get the job done, I guess it doesn’t really matter.” He puffed on his cigar. “Are you cool with heading out now? It will be a long trip; do you have anyone who you want to tell you’re leaving.”

            “No, I don’t.”

            “Well then, follow me.” He spun his cane on his finger. Neo followed him into the forest with a skip in her step, and I did the same.

            As we walked through the forest, I found myself walking beside Neo. So, who taught you how to fight like that?

            “My… Grandmother…” I couldn’t keep myself from looking down, my chin touching the scarf she gave me.

            She’s gone, isn’t she? I’m sorry.

            “Where did you learn to fight? That quirk- ehh semblance of yours is quite something too, if I wasn’t trained in the specific way I had you would have wrecked me.” I forced a smile.

            She manifested a white sign with a wood handle that read ‘Thanks!’ with her semblance, then it shattered into glass quickly after. Roman taught me the basics, but my real skill comes from my experience, I love fighting, and I fight whoever I can to get better. What’s your semblance exactly? You were doing some cool tricks with your sword.

            “That’s something else, something kind of private.” I rub the back of my neck. “But if we are going to be working together you should know; I actually don’t have a semblance.” Roman glanced over his shoulder at us.

            Don’t worry, Roman’s a late bloomer too. Roman scoffed and turned forward again.

            “It’s not just that.” I chuckled. “I don’t even have an aura either.”

            Neo looked surprised. If you can’t activate your aura on your own, there are people who can do it for you.

            “Nah, it’s not that simple, it’s not that it’s not active, it’s not there at all. I don’t have a soul, at least not one like yours.” Her pink and brown irises seemed to get small, she looked away from me. “Hey, don’t be like that, how do you think I’ve killed so many Grimm.” She looked back to me, surprised.

            They think you’re one of them, don’t they?

            “That’s my best guess, but I honestly don’t really know for sure.”

            “You’re one interesting kid, you know that Swordie.” Roman smiled. “I’m glad you know RSL, not a lot of people do, it makes Neo feel pretty lonely sometimes.”

            Don’t tell him that. She pouted.

            “There’s only so many white signs she can make before her aura is shot, and if she’s on the job it’s not worth the aura at all… We’re here.” We made it to a clearing in the forest, in the center was a Bullhead, an aerial vehicle from vale, gray and black color scheme, rotating jet engines on the ends of its small wings.

            “Wow, nice.”

            “Ever ride in one of these before?” I shook my head. “Well you’re in for a treat, its rather fun.”

            As I sat down the engines roared to life, not loud enough to require earphones to block it out but we ended up needing to use sign language to talk. I looked out the window for a bit, getting butterflies in my stomach as we ascended above the treetops.

            So, who’s the pilot I signed

            One of the mutts from the white fang. Roman seemed disgusted.

            You don’t seem to happy about that, why are you even working with them? I had heard of the white fang, their ambitions were noble, and a lot of their actions were understandable, burning down and stealing from businesses that discriminated against the Faunus just made sense. Although, they also killed people, assassinations of political figures that encouraged discrimination, but there were rumors that it wasn’t just that, especially in Vale, there were rumors about Adam Taurus, the leader of the Vale branch.

            Me and the Vale branch work for the same boss, or should I say me and Adam work for the same boss, and as much as I hate it, I’m under contract you could say.     Neo frowned and glanced down. I prefer to be transparent with the people I hire, I have found trust breeds loyalty. I was hired to steal from dust shops all over Vale, I’ve become rather infamous, I trust that if anyone asks you will be discrete about who’s employing you.

            Of course. I smiled. I signed lower to get her attention.  Hey Neo! She perked up. Wanna spar? There’s barely any turbulence. She smiled.

Chapter Text

            “Look, you can’t come with, you can check to see if the job is done afterwards but you’ll just attract the Grimm and ruin my mojo.” We were inside the sewers of a failed expansion of Vale, I was about to open a metal door that lead to the underground city. I lifted my scroll flashlight to see Neo’s response.

            Mojo? She was soundlessly giggling.

            I gave her an exasperated look. “I’m being serious here.” We had only known each other for a couple of days but I would already consider her a friend, we really hit if off.

            Fine, fine. Go kick some ass. She created a sign that said, ‘Go team!’

            I rolled my eyes. “I WILL be fine, so even if I’m in there for hours, don’t’ worry, you’ll just attract Grimm.”

            You really think I can’t keep my cool? She smiled.

            “Good point. See you on the other side.”

            I entered the city, I appeared to be in a basement. A couple of small bat Grimm flew towards the closed door, smacking into it at full speed and killing themselves. Disgusting creatures. I walked up a couple sets of stairs and into a lobby of what looked like an apocalyptic looking apartment building, there were three Grimm scratching at the glass entrance door, it was pretty broken, the dog Grimm were weak though, and kept cutting themselves on the glass. After dusting them I cut open the door too. I turned up the intensity of the flashlight and shone it around, the city looked like something out of a post-apocalyptic video game, the buildings decaying and decrepit. Unlike the buildings above ground, these kept their color, the sun not around to damage them. I saw some more Grimm bats resting, I chopped them up. Gun in one hand and my scroll in the other and my mind wrapped around the Relic of Destruction, I walked deeper into the city. I became suspicious of the lack of Grimm, until I saw the pile. A four-legged massive dragon Grimm with horns to match was curled up, it could be mistaken as asleep, Grimm don’t sleep, it just looked… bored. Around it was hundreds of Grimm matching its expression and action. I shredded the smaller Grimm before they could emote, but the dragon was massive, at least fifteen times my height, so it had time to scream in pain as I drilled my weapon through it. I put away my sword and gun. I thought about how many people these Grimm had killed, only for me, some alien to this world, deliver justice with just a thought. I laughed, and laughed, thinking about what Salem would think of me. The Grimm mother, what a fool. When Clare had told me about her and then gave me this sword, I had thought for a second that she would ask me to kill her, I thought about it again. I knew I would have to kill a person one day, every day that past that inevitable truth kept closing in, and when that day came what would separate me form the Grimm? I would just be another soulless monster. As I looked around me, I realized that monsters didn’t do this, they didn’t destroy this city, a woman did, looking upon this scene, looking upon all the lives that could have been saved, this city of dead, I resolved myself, I was ok with killing people. I sighed a loud sigh, what a shitty place to have a revelation. I placed my hand on my head, it was shaking, I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. It wasn’t anger or a sense of justice that brought me to this resolution, it was the fact that I had the power to do it, all I had to do was awaken the blade and I could commit genocide with a thought, no, I still wasn’t ready for that. I then walked around the city killing stray Grimm trying to talk myself out of the revelation, Salem is immortal anyway so could I even kill her? Or was it like the ‘don’t age but can be killed elf’ immortality or more god-like in nature. Currently I had the potential to be the most powerful person on the planet in terms of raw destructive capabilities, did having that power naturally make it my responsibility to use it to destroy the most powerful villain? Or is that arrogant? Just because I have the responsibility to not use my power for awful evil doesn’t necessarily mean I have the responsibility to use it for good, and what was the line? I was currently helping a criminal and I hadn’t even stopped to consider the moral implications.

            In my moping I found something, a church. I went inside, a lot of skeletons were inside, and well as bored looking Grimm. After slaying them I inspected some of the murals, still mostly intact. The walls and ceiling had a lot of generic spiritual imagery. Something I found interesting was the mural that was on the floor, I hadn’t thought churches put murals on floors. It depicted a man colored gray, with streams of colorful energy going into him from keeling people that were detailed wearing hunter outfits, and surrounding them were Grimm, but they were bowing too. I shook my head, I had enough of this place, I texted Neo that I was done.

            You seem different.

            “I just had some time to sort some things out, since I came to this world, I hadn’t had much time to think, about what I should do with my life, killing Grimm isn’t exactly satisfying for me anymore you know?”

            She stopped walking. Since you came to this world?

            I turned to her. “Oh right, I wasn’t born on Remnant. To be clear, I don’t know why or how I got here.”

            Well that’s weird. She continued walking.

            “I’d say stressful. I haven’t given myself much time to sort my thoughts until now, I was so concerned with acting, that I didn’t think about my actions. When grandma started training me after I got here, I had a lot of selfish shit bouncing around in my head, ideas about how independent I should be mostly, but not relying on other people also can exclude you from helping them.” I thought briefly about Qrow, his semblance probably makes it hard for him to form relationships.

            Your grandmother… but…

            “Clare wasn’t biologically related to me, but she was my grandmother, she saved my life and took me in when I had no home to go to, when I was all alone.”

            Roman isn’t my biological father. I stopped walking. He took me in when my parents abandoned me, they found out I was mute, so they threw me away. Her hands were shaking as she was signing. Roman worked for my father, he found out what they did, and he took me in. My father fired him and tarnished his reputation, that is why we are criminals now.

            “It’s worth it though, isn’t it? Exchanging morality for family.”

            Roman isn’t my father by blood, but he is my real father. He has prepared me to live in this world, as a true parent should. She looked determined.

            I nodded. We reached the sewer exit.

           

            “Neo! Swordie! You’re back! How’d it go?”

            Neo created a sign that read ‘Perfect!’

            “Went off without a hitch.” I said.

            “Nice.” He closed his eyes and sighed. “Thanks, Swordie, Cinder gave me a rather impossible task prepping that area for storing all this dust.’ He gestured to the gray shipping containers that filled the gray warehouse we stood in with his cane. “You kind of saved my ass there. Alright, I’ll go through the necessary channels to get you admitted to Beacon. Still have more than a couple months till entrance exams, I’ll get them to you by then. In the meantime, do you want to do some more minor jobs for me, for Lien this time.” He smiled and tipped his hat, he briefly glanced at Neo.

            “Yeah sure! Got any more packs of Grimm for me to kill. I’m always up for sticking it to Salem.”

            “Salem?” Roman Said. Neo also gave me a weird look.

            “Uhh… Is that not common knowledge?”

            What do you mean?

            “Salem is like the Grimm’s mother, although most Grimm come about naturally, she makes a lot herself. She’s basically like an evil witch from a fairy tale.” I made a mental note, me possessing the Relic of Destruction was obviously something I should keep to myself, but I realized that maybe the maidens and other relics should be put in the same category.

            Neo looked at me and then to Roman. Roman looked down, he looked troubled. “If that’s true… That’s an interesting tid-bit of info Swordie. Well I don’t have any Grimm for you to kill right now, are you cool with collecting debts?”

            “Sounds good my guy.” Neo raised an eyebrow at my word choice.

            “Alright, I’ll text you a few addresses. Neo go with him, you two seem to work well together.”

            For the next two months me and Neo would do odd jobs for Roman, collecting debts, killing ‘domesticated’ Grimm captured by some bandit tribes that they would release on small settlements, can’t extort people if they’re dead, but notably we were doing jobs for Roman. Despite my expectations we never worked with the White Fang or robbed a single dust shop. Neo started to think it was weird too, Neo had helped rob a couple of dust shops before but since I joined the party we hadn’t been asked too. Eventually I just told him that I was comfortable with robbing dust shops, just not killing people. He got silent, uncharacteristically non-hyperverbal, then just told me to take a day off.

            I looked it up, no dust shop owners have been killed, that’s not it. We were eating frozen yogurt at one of the outdoor tables outside of the shop, Fro’Go. Neo took a bite of her froyo, guess the flavor.

            I took a sip of my personally spiked pumpkin pie milkshake. “I don’t like this, he’s been acting off too, way more quiet than normal.”

            You shouldn’t worry about it; I agree it’s worth worrying about, but you have entrance exams coming up Art.

            “Shit, you right. It’s been a year since I’ve attended school. If there is a history test, I’m for sure going to bomb it, do you know if math is the same here?” I said jokingly.

            I’m not much of an academic, I only went to school for a few years when I was younger, the school systems aren’t too prepared to teach people who are mute or deaf, only one teacher knew sign language, and that was the sign language teacher.

            “Wow, for real? On Earth, at least in the U.S. there are the ‘no child left behind laws’, the schools legally cannot…uhh…not provide complete and good education to anyone, with few exceptions.”

            It’s not a big deal, fighting is my passion anyway, I don’t think I’d like school, even Beacon, in fact I think I would hate it, I would hate being apart from Roman. Although, having access to so many sparring partners would be nice.

            “Awww I’m hurt.” I feigned emotional pain. “Am I not enough for you?”

            I’m so not going to miss you.

 

            “Hey, oh Swordie’ s here, good, I need to talk to you both. Come downstairs.” Roman peeked his head into Neo’s room. I had my own apartment here in Vale but I would spend most days we weren’t on a mission hanging out with Neo, we were playing video games, using the touch screen on my scroll as a controller sucked compared to the ones on Earth but I was still kicking her ass. It was a few days before I would go to Beacon, I wanted to spend as much time with her as I could.

            “Soaring Ninja WINS!” The game spoke. Neo pouted.

            “Ok.” I acknowledged. Roman was already making his way downstairs, so we were lagging a few paces behind. His house was very nice but Roman seemed to be a minimalist, he had a few expensive paintings on the walls but that was all the decorations he had. He seemed to favor deep reds and blacks for his furniture and curtains. I bought a lot of used furniture to save money, so the contrast was jarring.

            “Please, sit down.” He gestured to the kitchen table, nice square wood one. We sat.

            What’s this about?

            He pulled out a suitcase and placed it on the table, he opened it, he grabbed a tan folder out of it and slid it to me. “These papers will get you into Beacon kid, you earned it. I put down your semblance as ‘Weapon Bonding’ to excuse that weird shit you can do with your sword.”

            “Thank you Roman, this means a lot to me.”

            He wasn’t done. He produced another folder. He slid it to Neo. We both stood up and backed up quickly, like the second folder was a bomb. What is this? Neo signed.

            “Roman, what’s going on?”

            “Neo, you’re going to Beacon with Swordie.”

            No, I don’t want to.

            “I wasn’t asking.” Roman struggled to get his words out.

            “Roman, Neo’s told me herself that she would hate going to school, hate being away from you! Did you think about what she would want before doing this?”

            “Artorias!” I backed off. He sat down, he put his face in his hands. “I found out who Cinder is working for.”

            Who? Roman didn’t see her sign.

            I slammed my hand on the table. “Your daughter is asking you a question.” He looked up, I expected him to look pissed, he just looked scared. He was so confident when I first him, he knew he was the boss, he walked around with such command and charisma, an unbreakable facade. Now, what I saw before me was a scared father. It was chilling.

            Who, dad?

            “Salem.”

            “Excuse?!”

            Neo looked shocked. The Grimm mother?

            “Neo, Cinder wants you to start working directly for her, and I cannot abide that. Not to mention relations with the White Fang have grown… Volatile.”

            I don’t want to leave you dad. She looked to be on the verge of tears. You always believed in doing whatever it took to survive, you’ve always thought ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’. Art told me that Salem is immortal, if anything working with Cinder is the safer option in the long run-

            “They’ll have you start killing people, and with how much you like fighting-“ He cut himself off, that was not a worry of his he should have voiced. “I’m am already trapped in this nightmare, but you can still get out of it. Do you not understand the gravity of this? I lie, cheat and steal to survive but there is still a line I won’t cross, I’m not going to damn you to survive. I am your father for fucks sake, and I will do everything in my power to keep you safe, even if you hate me for it.”

            I… Her hands fell, she looked defeated.

            “She’s got you on a leash, and you don’t want that same leash on your daughter.” I said.

            “Cinder has taken in a couple of kids of her own, not so different from me and Neo’s situation, Emerald and Mercury. She has turned those kids into monsters. They are the kind of people to kill and brag about it. I really don’t want you to be within her grasp.” He paused, we stood in silence for a while.

            Okay

Chapter Text

           “Ohhh I can’t believe my baby sister is going to Beacon with me!” God, I wished that blond bimbo would shut up. Neo was sleeping on my shoulder and this idiot was going to wake her up. I met Neo at the pickup area earlier this morning, her eyes were red and puffy, she had probably been crying all night. As much as she probably wanted it, Roman wasn’t able to see her off. I went over to hug her and she immediately fell asleep in my arms, luckily the porters had already loaded up our luggage. I looked past the bimbo and her little-red-riding-hood-looking sister, there was a news broadcast running, it was talking about Roman as well as a peaceful Faunus rights march that the white fang fucked up. It was hard to believe that just a day ago one of the most wanted criminals in Vale was my boss, I didn’t have an opinion of his line of work, after all I wasn’t much better, but I fiercely respected him as a father. I looked down at Neo, I hoped she was ok, but I knew she wasn’t. A hologram of a blond woman with a purple cape popped up interrupting the news broadcast.

            “Blah blah blah … prestigious academy… blah blah blah.” That’s all I heard, but the speech playing meant that we were nearing the school.

            “Neo wake up… wake up. We’re here.”

            Her heterochrome eyes blinked to life, Carry me. She groggily signed then grabbed my arm.

            “No, we’re at school now, get up.” She reluctantly stood up and stretched, it was only about an hour ride, so she probably only got one of those naps that just make you more tired. As we walked off the ship a blond guy pushed past us and proceeded to barf in a trash can. “Hey dude, you all right?”

            He stopped hurling to breath. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine, just a little motio-“ Right back to barfing.

            We grabbed our bags from the pickup station, I couldn’t help but notice that a girl with white hair and a fancy dress was ordering some porters to put her luggage in wheelable carts, their uniforms had a snowflake symbol on them, private porters. Great, good to know we have a snobby rich girl attending. Neo and I walked into the courtyard of the school and stopped to admire it, it was obscenely large, a massive gray and black tower in the middle with a few other large buildings surrounding it, one of them read ‘cafeteria’ above the door. A couple of finely dressed adults were ushering kids into the center tower, they were probably professors. I looked around, the other students had some pretty cool weapons, Little Red had a giant scythe she was cuddling as she talked to the bimbo, it looked like it was also a gun.

            Daaaaaammmmnnnn Neo manually spelled out. Lots of cool weapons.

            “Hey, are you ok?”

            She looked down. No, but we have a big day ahead of us, I can’t let what’s happened bother me forever. Might as well have it stop bothering me now.

            “Ok… Just don’t bottle this stuff up forever, talk to me sometimes ok? You aren’t alone.”

            I know.

            “OOOOOO! You two have some cool looking weapons, and I love your hair! What your names!” We turned around to face the origin of the voice, an orange haired girl with a white top and a pink skirt, she had a grenade launcher strapped to her back. “Why isn’t your gun apart of your sword? Or is it your sword should be apart of the gun?” She looked confused, rubbing her chin.

            “NORA!” A guy with black hair with a pink streak wearing a green outfit walked over to us. “Please don’t run off like that.” He was breathing hard like he had just sprinted here.

            “Ren look! This girl’s weapon is an umbrella!” She turned back to us. “So, what kind of gun is in your umbrella?”

            It has a sword in it, not a gun.

            The girls face contorted into a myriad of different expressions, “You know, doing that isn’t going to help you understand sign language. She said it isn’t a gun, it’s a sword.” I said.

            “OOOOHHHH, I think a grenade launcher would really bring the whole thing together though!” Neo raised an eyebrow. Ren had the most ‘I’m sorry’ look on his face I had ever seen.

            Neo started signing. “She says it’s nice to meet you, my name is Neopolitan, and this is my best friend Artorias.” I translated; Neo gestured to me at that last part.

            “Nice to meet you Neopolitan, Artorias” Ren bowed to each of us.

            “I love your hair! Have you ever thought about braiding it! It would look just like an ice cream swirl! MMMM” Nora rubbed her stomach. “Well, it was nice meeting you! Orientation is about to start! Let’s go.” She dragged Ren towards the tower.

            We heard an explosion to our left and saw Little Red and Rich Girl arguing as the smoke around them cleared. “This is too chaotic, let’s just go inside.” I shook my head. Neo nodded her head in fierce agreement.

            The had us give our bags to more porters before we headed into the tower, they tried to take our weapons too, but I refused. “Hey, look kid, it’s just a precaution.” The porter looked tired, and very tired of taking shit from kids.

            “I’m sorry, you can take my gun if you want, but the sword stays with me.”

            I’ll just wait by the door and let you sort this out. Neo walked towards the door.

            “What’s going on over here? I will not stand for a ruckus on this very important day! In this very important… Location!” A professor with green spiky hair, fogged over glasses and a thermos in his hand appeared. He talked very quickly.

            “The kid refuses to give me his sword.”

            “Child, although your weapon may be very important to you, you must understand that the safety of our students is our number one priority… Unless we are sending them on very dangerous missions, or launching them off cliffs.” He sipped from his thermos quickly and comically.

            “Hey man you can try and take it if you want.” I drew it and quickly stabbed it into the ground, I stepped away from it and gave the professor a ‘go ahead’ facial expression and gesture.

            “Oh, well that was rather easy.” He stepped towards the sword and grabbed its handle. “AHHH.” He screamed in pain and stumbled away from it. “It burns, but…” He sounded more curious than angry. He inspected his hand, it had no burns on it, it looked completely fine.

            “It’s bound to me; it simply can’t be taken from me.”

            “Hmmm, most curious.” He looked deep in thought. “Very well Mr… aaa”

            “Abyss, Artorias Abyss.”

            “Yes, of course, Mr. Abyss! I’ve read your file, Weapon Binding! What an interesting semblance! You cannot unbind this weapon from you?”

            “No, it is not within my power.”

            “Hmmm how interesting, it appears we have no choice Mr. Abyss! You may take your weapon with you but know we will be watching you!” He took another quick gulp of his thermos.

            “I promise I won’t do anything crazy.” I called my sword back with my mind and clipped it back onto my back.

            “How interesting… See to it that you don’t! Have a good day Mr. Abyss, and good luck!” He sped away, superspeed semblance huh?

            I met Neo at the entrance to the tower, when we walked inside, we couldn’t help but notice how crowded it was. Too many people. Neo signed.

            “Agreed.”

            There was a stage in the room that everyone suddenly turned to face. The woman that gave the speech as a hologram on the ship stepped on stage accompanied by a man with gray-white hair, small glasses, with a black cane with a gray clockwork handle. The man stepped to the microphone. “I’ll… Keep this brief.” He started, pushing up his glasses. “You have traveled here today in search of knowledge, to hone your craft and acquire new skills, and when you have finished, you plan to dedicate your life to the protection of the people, but I look amongst you, and all I see is wasted energy, in need of purpose… direction. You assume knowledge will free you of this, but your time at this school will prove that knowledge can only carry you so far. It is up to you… to take the first step.” He seemed to look at me with those last words.

            The purple caped lady stepped to the mic and explained that we will be sleeping in the ballroom tonight and will be assigned dorms after initiation tomorrow. That was ominous. Neo signed.

            “I know right.”

            In the ball room there was a lot of noise, the guys half of the room had a lot of men that made me feel nervous, other than Ren and the guy that was throwing up all of the guys were monstrous in height and stature, I couldn’t help but notice a group of burly guys making rude remarks towards a frail looking dog Faunus that was present. Neo and I set up the sleeping bags they gave us in the center of the room against the wall, we were already in our pajamas, they gave us back our stuff and assigned us lockers to put them in for now, Neo and I packed light so all of our stuff fit easily, including my sword. Other people had trouble though, Rich Girl in particular, it was entertaining to watch her bitch about it. It’s only 5 minutes until they force the lights off, you can make it. Neo noticed me squirming.

            “I know but still, they made it so that the bedtime and wakeup time is exactly eight hours apart, but after it gets quiet and I get comfortable it still takes me like an hour to actually fall asleep.” I sighed. “Sorry, I’m just a stickler about getting my full eight hours.”

            “Well that’s a surprise, seeing as you stormed off in the middle of the night to kill two unique Grimm.”

            I looked up to find a girl in red pajamas standing in front of us. “As I live and breathe, Clare’s granddaughter.”

            “Hello again. I suppose I should tell you my name, seeing as you ran off before I could introduce myself. I’m Pyrrha.” She sounded way too friendly.

            Nice to meet you I’m Neopolitan, but you can call me Neo, how do you two know each other? Neo seemed apprehensive.

            Pyrrha sat on the ground cross legged in front of us. “Pleasure to meet you Neo, Artorias here is what you could call my adopted cousin.”

            “How do you know my name?”

            “I read grandmother’s diary.”

            “Imma be real with you chief, that’s kinda messed up.”

            “She had a note on the cover that said I could.”

            “Oh.” I looked down.

            So how did you two meet?

            “I was going to visit grandmother, but when I arrived, I found out she had already died, Artorias was sitting by her grave.” She looked down.

            “Clare told me you lived in Argus, why did you decide to come here instead of Haven?”

            “In her diary, grandmother left me a message telling me to come here. I can’t think of why, she went to school in Vacuo, but I trust her judgement, she always seems to be right.”

            Neo seemed to have a realization. I know where I’ve seen you before! You’re on the box of Pumpkin Pete’s!

            “That I am, after I won the Mistral Regional Tournaments for the third year in a row, they offered the opportunity to me. Sadly, the cereal isn’t very good for you, and honestly the taste is pretty appalling.”

            “You made that a fourth year in a row too as I recall, Clare trained you well.”

            “As she did you. You slayed that Nuckelavee in record time.”

            “Sad, I could only train with her for a year, I would have liked to meet her sooner.”

            “Well you didn’t have much of a choice, man without a soul. They should write a book about you, you’ve trained harder than most to get where you are, I respect that.”

            I glared at her with intense eyes. “That’s a secret, and if you could keep it that way I would be grateful.”

            “Ok kids, lights out!” Goodwitch called to us from the ballroom entrance, slowly all the candles and electric lanterns slowly started turning off.

            “Well good night you two and good luck tomorrow!” Pyrrha smiled and left.

            You never told me you had a family. Neo signed.

            “I really didn’t think I would see her again…” I mumbled. “I didn’t think I did until she called me her cousin.” I answered.

            A girl with a black bow on her head, probably there to hide Faunus ears, blew out her candelabra and the last light was gone. Time for sleep.

           

            “I wish they would tell us how they were assigning teams; I would like to be able to make a plan to team with you.” I pulled my sword out of my locker with my mind and clipped it to my back, all the students were getting ready in the locker room.

            Me too, the probability I end up on a team where no one knows sign language is astronomically high. Neo checked to make sure her umbrella was working.

            Vomit boy flew past us and got stuck to a wall by a red spear. “I’m sorry!” I heard Pyrrha call.

            “Well Pyrrha knows it, she could be a good backup.”

            Still no, a lot of people are really used to having verbal communication on the battlefield, you and I have been fighting together for a while, so we have adjusted to not having it.

            I looked over at Pyrrha, she was standing next to Rich Girl with a mix of concern and confusion. Rich Girl had a hand over her mouth and a shocked expression. With eyebrows raised I started walking towards the duo. “I’m going to go see what that was.” I told Neo, she nodded.

            Pyrrha had a hand on the girl’s shoulder and looked like she was trying to get her attention. Rich Girl suddenly shook her head violently then ran off. Pyrrha then noticed my presence. “Hello.” She said nervously and gave a halfhearted wave.

            “What was that about?” I asked.

            “I don’t really know, he” -she gestured to Vomit Boy- “was flirting with her, she wasn’t being receptive and seemed a little annoyed, but then it was like a switch flipped in her and she seemed traumatized all of the sudden.”

            “That sounds really odd, he wasn’t like sexually harassing her or anything right?”

            “No, just comedically bad flirting.”

            “Maybe he said something that triggered a bad memory.”

 

            We stood on metal squares atop Beacon Cliff overlooking the emerald forest. Ozpin and Goodwitch explained to us how we will be assigned teams, their explanation ended with Goodwitch saying: “If you are not ready for this level of combat, go home now, if you don’t and you are not ready you will die, this is your final warning”, I wasn’t backing down, it seemed everyone else shared my sentiment. I looked over at Neo with a ‘float to me with your umbrella look’ she seemed to get it. Fucking landing strategy, if I didn’t like having gravity dust loaded up in my gun I would probably die right here, they definitely didn’t consider that people without an aura would be taking this exam based on the warning, but I knew that going in. I readied myself, Neo two squares to my left got launched. I closed my eyes and told myself to breathe. 3… 2… 1… Launch! I was soaring through the air, I pulled my legs into my chest and shot in front of me with gravity and fire to slow my speed enough for part two, I shot a custom gravity bullet at a tree and the device stuck itself, I pushed a button and veins of purple on my gun began to show and glow, I held onto the gun with both hands using every fiber of muscle I could muster, the gun pulled me towards the gravity device stuck to the tree. Finally I touched the tree, I turned off and ripped off the device, I put it in my coat pocket, no sense in wasting it, my regular bullets consumed the dust but these kind of devices wouldn’t, they would last forever as long as you took care of them. I sat on a tree branch below me and waited, I heard explosions and trees breaking off in the distance, as well as what I thought was Pyrrha yelling “I’m sorry!”. Soon enough I saw Neo floating down close to me, she created a white sign that read ‘Yay!’, I jumped down the tree and made it to her.

 ==================================================

            “Our first pair has formed.” Said Glynda Goodwitch, examining her tablet. “Artorias Abyss and Neopolitan Torchwick. Hmmm, I have a bad feeling about admitting her, with her family history and all. Artorias too, he claimed he had a semblance on his transcripts but according to our sensors he doesn’t emit any aura at all.”

            “Glinda please, we have the opportunity to give kids a second chance at life, who she was or who her parents were has no bearing on her aptitude. If she so desires, she can be a huntress. As for Artorias… If he hasn’t unlocked his aura yet and passes this test than he deserves to be a huntsman more than anyone, but, as I have told you there are… other reasons someone may not have an aura, and if those reasons are the case then we must know.” Ozpin inspected is tablet.

 ==================================================

            I threw my sword into a bush; black smoke came out of it. “Damn, I’m not used to them actually approaching me.” I recalled it back, so satisfying, never gets old.

            Neo stabbed an ursa to death then sheathed her sword into her umbrella. It’s not you… Damn I’m rusty on fighting Grimm I’ve gotten so used to you handling the monsters, but now we have no choice.

            “Hey, don’t be down on yourself, ever since our first fight I haven’t beat you, I just caught you by surprise, your dueling skills far exceed mine.”

            Damn right. Neo smiled smugly.

            I looked at the compass app on my scroll, “Were still heading north right?”

            She looked at hers as well. Shit, mine says we’ve been heading west, the reception’s so trash here.

            “Wait, it doesn’t just use the gyroscope?”

            Scrolls don’t have… whatever you just said, they use the towers.

            “You gotta be cucking me, do you know which direction the sun rises and sets on this planet? We could use that.” She shook her head no. We heard a gunshot, a few actually. “Let’s try following the sounds.”

            We followed the gunshots but before we got to their origin we ran into a couple of tall guys, one wielded a large mace that appeared to have an explosion dust core, he wore black armor and had orange hair, the other wielded a pair of daggers and had a light green mohawk, he had on a green hoodie with the sleeves cut off. These were some of the boys that were making fun of the Faunus in the great hall before bed.

            I decided it was best to be nice. “Hey, I’m Artorias that this here’s Neo.”

            “Cardin.” Said the taller one with the mace.

            “Russel Thrush.” Said the other.

            “Well… should we make our way towards the relics together?” Maybe these guys had a different scroll provider with better reception here, me and Neo both used ‘Scrolls Unlimited’.

            “Whatever, just don’t get in my way.” Said Cardin, he started walking away.

            “Uhm, sure.” Said the other, only slightly nicer, but he looked at the top of both of our heads then our waists, weird.

            They were being super quiet so me and Neo used sign language. I don’t like the big one, and the other was obviously checking to see if we were Faunus.

            I did the sign for Faunus a couple of times before responding just to practice it. Yeah, I don’t really have a horse in the race so it’s not like I’m going to stop them from being racist, but it still makes me uncomfortable. I responded.

            I hate white fang, especially the Vale branch, but seeing a Faunus being abused still makes me mad.

            Eventually we heard some commotion, gunshots and the shrieking of a nevermore. We all started to pick up the pace. “Shit, I can handle a nevermore on my own but when it’s getting agro-ed to other people I become less sure.” I mumbled.

            “Oh, don’t worry, I can handle it pipsqueak.” Cardin said. You gotta be shitting me, I’m only five foot nine. “You just stay back and watch.” Neo sighed, already done with this guy. Then Cardin turned around and winked at her. “Don’t worry I’ll protect you.”

            Neo rolled her eyes and signed Like I need your protection dipshit. I stared daggers into him, he was gonna catch this dust if he didn’t cut that out.

            He scoffed. “Fine be that way then.” He continued looking forward.

            We ran into a clearing in the forest, there was an old and overgrown ornate stone platform with a half a broken wall around it and small shiny new pillars with chess pieces atop them. “Well there’s the relics.” I gestured.

            “But where did the nevermore screech come from?” Russel asked, he seemed kind of nervous.

            Neo pointed in a direction, in the distance I could make out a team consisting of Little Red, Blond Bimbo, Black Bow, and Rich Girl shooting at a massive nevermore from atop an ancient stone tower. It makes me slightly jealous, without an aura I can’t jump high enough to get to a place like that. Closer to us there was a team fighting a deathstalker, consisting of Vomit Boy, Pyrrha, Ren and Nora, they seemed to be doing fine. We then heard the roars of a lot of Grimm coming from inside the forest.

            “What should we do?” Russel shakily asked. “Should we go help the others or…”

            “No.” I said in a commanding tone. “Pyrrha’s team can handle whatever’s thrown at them, we should worry more about the Grimm that are being attracted to this commotion.” As if on que Grimm of all shapes and sizes began emerging from the forest. The smaller, less mature Grimm rushed us while the bigger ones approached us slowly and with more caution. I sent my sword out to deal with the little ones as I laid out the game plan. “Cardin! You take the east. Russel, the west. Me and Neo will take the south. If any Grimm slips past your guard, don’t pursue just let me know,” I called my sword back to me and caught it. “I’ll take care of it, we can’t let any get past and distract the other teams-“

            “Hey who the fuck you think you are giving orders to me!” Cardin leveled his mace at me. “If anyone here should be belting out orders it’s me!”

            “Cardin!” Russel warned.

            I threw my sword past Cardin and into the head of a young Beowulf. I walked over to my sword to retrieve it manually for dramatic effect and to get in Cardin’s face. “Someone who just saved your life, you could at least show a little appreciation and respect to the one here that’s best at killing Grimm.”

            “Get the fuck out of my face!” Cardin swung his mace at me, catching me off guard, I didn’t expect him to attack me when he knew we were being watched by the faculty, he was quick, too quick for a weapon of that size, strength semblance perhaps, but before I could complete my thought his mace struck my chest, not super hard actually, anyone with aura would have just been pushed back and someone like me would probably just get a nasty bruise. That’s what would have been, but the area he struck was also where my gravity dust device was stored.

            A sphere of purple energy expanded from my chest then rapidly imploded. Boom…BBBBBBAAAAAAVVVVVVWWWWW!!!!!! All of us flew back, the other three’s aura’s tanking the hit, but I was not so fortunate. I landed on the ground on my back, my head getting whiplash, my ears were ringing, I started coughing up blood almost immediately into my scarf. I tried my best to get up, but I couldn’t, broken ribs I figured. I looked around, trying my best to focus my vision, Russel was back on his feet, trying desperately to fend off Grimm from both the south and west, he was actually doing alright. Cardin got to his feet quickly and readied himself to fight the Grimm coming from the east, but Neo had murder in her eyes. She drew her sword and charged at Cardin, her sword impacted his neck, the impact visibly rippled through his orange aura. Cardin turned to fight her, being forced to take his eyes off the incoming Grimm, Neo had tunnel vision, both of her eyes now glowed pink rather than the usual heterochromia they displayed, she was going to beat his ass. I sent my sword out to deal with the incoming Grimm to protect Neo, they seemed to have gotten feistier with the negative emotions everyone was emitting now. I strained my head to look over at Pyrrha’s battlefield to see if they were coming to help. Pyrrha seemed to be fine, she seemed to have just done a superhero landing, but the rest of her team was down for the count or looked exhausted, the death stalker was nowhere to be seen. I tried to call her name, but I just coughed up more blood. I then made the mistake of looking past her to the nevermore fight, Rich Girl had just encased the nevermore’s tail in ice, getting it stuck in place, but the massive bird was wriggling and writing, screaming in pain, too much for it to have just been the ice. The nevermore’s claws got bigger, some of the feathers on its wings grew that white armor, a large number of spikes sprouted from its spine, its entire body got bigger and it broke out of the ice, it’s face mask grew to encompass it’s beak, it evolved into an alpha. It started flying towards us, towards Neo, the other two teams were feeling too positive, Pyrrha’s was still high off of their victory over the deathstalker, the other was doing well up until the bird broke free, and their disappointment from that was nothing compared to Neo’s desire for blood, it wasn’t enough to keep the birds attention. There seemed to be no more Grimm coming out from the forest, Russel was sitting on the ground exhausted, his aura flickering. Neo and Cardin were still fighting, Cardin’s aura was running low and he looked scared but was still unaware of the nevermore, Neo hadn’t broken a sweat, focused on beating down his aura. I called my sword back to my hand, I needed a plan, they were going to die, only I could do something about the danger in front of me, Pyrrha was shooting at it but it didn’t flinch, and even if she could reach it with her spear it probably would break through its now much tougher feathers. I needed to do something.

 

So, what will you do?

 

            I heard a voice, I looked around for it, despite them saying they wouldn’t interfere maybe a teacher had come to step in. I then saw a figure of fire, sitting in a plain white room, it smiled.

 

You know who I am. Now, are you just going to lay there and do nothing, death awaits them if that is your decision. Will you destroy the enemy in front of you or will you perish like a sick dog?

 

            I could hear the crazed excitement it felt. I breathed in deeply the coughed up some blood, I mustered the energy to speak. “Ok…” I wheezed. “Lend me your power just this once, I just need a little help… just this once, do not reveal yourself ok?”

 

Ok, I will lend you a small fraction of my power, deal?

 

            I nodded slowly. “Yes… please.” My chest stopped hurting.

 ==================================================

            “In response so Neo, Cardin’s, and Russel’s extreme negative emotions the nevermore has evolved into an alpha.” Glynda was shaking, with both worry and anger. “The two students that died today perished from small ursa, as tragic as they were, I can accept those, but not this, I’m going to help them.” Glynda was about to use one of the launching pads.

            “No Glynda! Look…” Glynda walked over to Ozpin and looked at his tablet. It showed Artorias standing up, surrounded by green-black fire and energy, his eyes had changed color from blue to an electric green. He started running at full speed towards the nevermore. “These extremely dangerous tests we conduct… We don’t conduct them to see what these students are like when they are just going through the motions, slaying ursa and beowolves that these students have no doubt practiced their skills on a thousand times.” Artorias stopped running, he crouched, the green energy concentrating at his legs. He leaped into the air at blinding speed, shattering the ground that he pushed off, a massive dust cloud in his wake. “We conduct these tests to see what these students are like at their limits, and beyond… What they are like when they are putting everything forwarded, bearing their whole selves to the people of Remnant to protect them.” Artorias became a fiery green-black comet, he flew into the alpha nevermore’s mouth, shattering its beak to make his own entrance. “We are here to push these students… to this.” The alpha nevermore exploded into a massive cloud of green and black flame and energy.

Chapter Text

            My eyes snapped open. I was standing in a white room, all white, no ceiling no floor no walls, all white as far as the eye could see. Except for in front of me, there was a humanoid figure, it was composed of green and black fire, it was sitting cross legged, its elbow resting on its leg and his head resting in its hand.

            “Good! You’re finally awake!” It seemed to straighten up a little, and it had a big toothy grin. “I thought you might have been dead for a second there.”

            I sat down to match it. “Who… are you?”

            “Good question! I am your servant and your master. I am that sword you have been carrying around. I am all things that crave destruction, that includes you.” It pointed a fiery finger at me. “I am the Grimm and their slayers. I am War, Famine, Death and Conquest. I am wrath. I am a being created by the god of darkness to be the god of destruction!” It raised it’s hands in the air like it was praising the non-existent sky. “I am meant to aid humanity in its pursuit of destruction. My name is Lunas.”

            “Well I suppose I should thank you for killing that nevermore for me.”

            “Oh, I’m flattered but there’s no need for that. You did me a favor. I have existed for many thousands of years, but very few people have had the resolve to use my power, Ozpin has had me in his possession for sooooo long, but he’s always been too scared to use me. Out of the four relics, I have been used the least by far. To be honest I’m a little jealous.” It placed it’s hand on its chest and looked up and to the left. “Jinn gets all the attention, she is way less intimidating for you humans, you just ask a question and she just tells you a nice story for twenty-five minutes.”

            “So why did you call me here.”

            “Oh, I didn’t call you here, this kinda thing happens the first time anyone uses a relic, it’s usually used as an opportunity for the relic’s persona to get to know it wielder as well as give them the rundown on how to use its power. For me though, it’s a little different,” It smiled wide. “Well…you have to understand how you humans work. Instinct and thought are two sides of the same coin, the ability to think must be learned… but instinct… I am unique among the relics, destruction is an instinct for you humans, I don’t have to teach you a thing, you already know how to use me. Making choices, gaining knowledge, creating, humans aren’t born knowing how to do these things, at least not how to do them right, but you humans are born to destroy. I can see though; I am not the only one here that is unique among their brethren.” It pointed at my chest. “You don’t belong here, do you? You don’t have a semblance of magic in you.”

            I looked down. “Man, why you gotta call me out like that.”

            “You don’t know how you got here do you? Do you want to know?” My head snapped up. “Sorry, but giving out knowledge isn’t exactly my forte, I’m sure you understand.” It smiled wide. “But if you really want to know, I suggest seeking out my sister Jinn, she can answer your question.”

            “She should be in a pocket dimension under Haven academy.” I rubbed my chin trying to recall exactly what Clare told me.

            “There is another matter we need to talk about.” It interrupted my thought. “Not one I’ve ever had to address before. Clare’s decision.” My eyebrows furrowed. “Our fates are intertwined until you die, for as long as you live my power will be wielded by you and you alone. Do not disappoint me.” Its face became serious. “I have been wielded by fourteen different people, and all of them were weak, spineless fools. I understand that you are not ready to fully embrace me. You are still young; I can wait for you to be ready for me but understand that you must become ready eventually, preferably soon. War is coming, I can feel it. Steel yourself.” It stood up, it waved its arm and I became engulfed in fire.

 

            My eyes fluttered open. I was in a nurse’s office, there were four beds, the rest were empty, the bed I was laying was all white. The walls and floor of the room were also white, everything looked super clean. There was a wood stand with a white tablecloth next to me, atop it were a couple baskets of flowers. I sat up, no pain, but my whole body was incredibly sore, I was exhausted, I wanted to go back to sleep. I still held the Relic of Destruction in my hand, my grip was tight, I let go of the sword, my hand was red and had imprints of the handle’s design on it. I looked to my right; Neo was sleeping in a chair up against the wall. “Neo!” I whisper-yelled.

            Her eyes snapped open, she saw me and instantly tackled me in a hug. She pulled herself back. Are you feeling ok?

            “Yeah, I’m fine, just super sore.” I stretched my arms. Neo, then slapped me in the face. “Hey…” I rubbed my cheek.

            I’m glad you’re ok, when you hit the ground I…I... She sat back down. What the fuck were you thinking, and what the fuck was that?

            “Well I was thinking ‘imma bouta wreck this bird’.”

            And what the fuck was that?

            “I was getting there, it’s just… It’s a long story ok… Can you make sure no one else is here?” Neo got up and checked around the office, it was empty. “Humanity was created by two gods, light and dark, and when they did, they gave you four gifts, Knowledge, Creation, Choice and Destruction. These are not just metaphorical; each one exists in a physical form. Can you guess what my sword is?”

            Her eyes widened. Destruction.

            “That’s right, right now there is a seal on the sword that I don’t even understand that has altered its appearance somehow. By the way this is a secret to everyone. Any questions?”

            Not really, it’s kind of self-explanatory, and not that hard to believe after seeing what you did. She smiled a little bit then hugged me again.

            “Well then now it’s my turn. I kinda blacked out when I ‘sploaded the bird. You said I fell?”

            She nodded. After the alpha nevermore exploded, we were all pretty hype, then you started falling, it was obvious you had passed out, Pyrrha and I started running to catch you but you cratered the ground before we could reach you. You seemed uninjured though, I grabbed a chess piece and a Jaune and Pyrrha carried you back. You’ve been out for a couple of days, the nurse said she couldn’t find anything wrong with you. You have already missed the first couple of days of class.

            “Groan, make up work is going to suck. Anything else?”

            They put people into teams, except us, not all of the students made it out of the emerald forest and based on the chess piece I grabbed we were the odd people out, they said a few transfer students come in throughout the year and we will get a full team then, Ozpin named you the team leader. Those flowers you got there, she pointed Team RWBY and team JNPR dropped them off. Also, you got a ‘B’ on that test.

            “A ‘B’! That’s some horse shit!” I pouted. “So, who are these two teams?” I gestured to the flowers.

            Better than me, I got a ‘C’, they said I was lucky not to get worse. Jaune, Ren, Pyrrha and Nora make up team JNPR, Jaune is the leader.

            “Pyrrha isn’t the leader? This Jaune guy must be pretty nice to have beat her out.”

            Neo smiled wide. Yeah, hard NO. Pyrrha definitely should have been the leader. Team RWBY isn’t much better off, their leader Ruby, the one in the red hood, she skipped two grades to come to Beacon early.

            “We should worry more about ourselves though, this school gives me the impression that our curriculum won’t be modified to accommodate our lack of teammates.” I rubbed my chin.

            “Hey Neo! Are you still in here?” Ruby called out as she walked in the room flanked by Vomit Boy, he was probably Jaune based on context, and Pyrrha. They were all wearing school uniforms that didn’t look good, I don’t like standardized uniforms, black and red color scheme, I’m more of a blue guy. Ruby was still wearing her red hood though, so they would probably still let me wear my scarf. Her eyes grew wide with shock at seeing me up.

            “Oh, he’s awake!” Jaune exclaimed.

            “Thank goodness.” Added Pyrrha.

            “WIKKA!” Ruby shot her arms in the air. “The way to our next class passes by here so we thought we would stop by! Now that you’re awake I can ask you how you did that!”

            “That is a great question.” I responded.

            They all stared at me expectantly. “Sooooo, was it your semblance or something?”

            “Perhaps.” I winked. “Shhhhh, a magician never reveals his secrets.”

            “Fine then keep your secrets.” Jaune folded his arms and looked indignant.

            “Well we should move on to class, it starts in five minutes.” Pyrrha put her hands on the other two’s shoulders. She noticed I was tired.

            A while after they had left Ozpin, flanked by Glynda, entered the room. Ozpin had a coffee mug in his hand that smelled like chocolate, I suddenly realized I was hungry, very. “A moment of your time Mr. Abyss?”

            “We would like to have a word with you,” Glynda looked at Neo. “Privately.”

            Neo got up; her semblance flickered around her clothes charging her attire from what she normally wears to a school uniform. “No.” I said firmly. “Anything you say to me you can say in front of Neo.”

            Ozpin studied me with timeless eyes for a moment, immortal eyes, if he didn’t already know my sword was the relic it was going to be hard to keep a secret from this guy, he’s had thousands of years to hone every skill under the sun including detective work I was sure. “Very well. Miss Torchwick you may stay if you would like. You don’t have a class right now do you?” She shook her head and sat down, her clothes turning back.

            “Let’s just cut to the chase,” Glynda started scrolling through a tablet. “On your transcript you claimed to have a semblance, Weapon Binding, as you put it. I assume this was to explain how your weapon could not be pried from your hands and how you could control it telekinetically, but we can plainly detect you do not have an active aura, and therefore could not have a semblance.”

            “You’re right on the money. I don’t have an aura. So, what do you plan to do with this information?”

            Ozpin cleared his throat. “Mr. Abyss, we would like you to explain what you mean when you say you don’t have an aura, considering your obvious skill we find it incredibly odd that you haven’t gone through any aura training, or simply had someone unlock it for you, there are some experts that can do that, why Miss Nikos did so for Mr. Arc in the emerald forest.”

            “I was simply born this way Professor, nothing exiting or interesting. I was born without a semblance of magic in me.”

            Ozpin leaned forward. “Interesting choice of words young man. I would also then like to know how you defeated the alpha nevermore, without a powerful aura or semblance, a feat like that is almost unexplainable.”

            “That is a very private matter Professor. Even if you kick me out over it, I will not divulge that information.” Neo seemed to jump in her seat over my words.

            “Young man, I know the importance of keeping secrets more than any man, woman, or child on this planet. I will respect your decision. However, we will be removing the semblance you listed from your transcripts and making note that you do not have an aura.” I started to protest but he cut me off. “I suggest you stop keeping that a secret from your other classmates as well, the people around you assuming you have an aura can be very dangerous, and lead into problems further down the road.” He tuned to Neo. “I’m guessing you already knew all of this young lady.” She nodded. “Good, communication and honesty between teammates is very important. You two are close, you have known each other for quite a long time I imagine.”

            “We have actually only known each other for a few months, but we are very close, and have fought together the whole time we have known each other.”

            “Good, you will need that experience, despite lacking two teammates I will still expect you to participate and excel in all of the team activities in the coming semester, we will not lower our expectations for your team. At the end of the semester we will be holding a mini tournament of sorts, you will be fighting other students, prepare yourselves, and don’t let me down.” Ozpin turned to leave.

            “Neopolitan, I trust that you will explain to him everything he missed from orientation.” Glynda glared at Neo, a permanent scowl on her face.

            Yes, of course. Glynda then nodded and followed Ozpin out the door.

 ========================================================= 

            Ozpin and Glynda entered his office, the ticking of the clockwork making a deep and soothing rhythm, muffled by the glass walls, floor, and ceiling. Ozpin walked to his desk and place his mug on the coaster, Glynda remained near the elevator. “Do you think that his sword is the Relic of Destruction?”

            Ozpin paused for a moment. “I am still unsure, although the handle is a carbon copy the blade looks very different, and there is the matter of how he could have gotten his hands on it. Miss Nikos and Mr. Abyss seem to know each other, it’s possible that he knew Clare. Clare taking it and deciding to gift it to him for whatever reason is a possibility but seems like a bit of a stretch.” He finally sat in his desk chair. “But now that the summer maiden is unknown, we have no way to check to see if it is still there. I think that coming to a conclusion now is a bit hasty.”

            “The power he exhibited though; does it not look like what the Relic of Destruction could do? And if it’s not the Relic then what is it?”

            “I have never seen this Relic being used, so I do not know. As for what it could be. Many early kingdoms attempted to recreate the relics though their own power, all their efforts failed catastrophically, but we cannot rule out the possibility that a partially successful attempt may have happened and slipped through my watch.”

 =========================================================

            “The dorms are co-ed?! Ozpin is a fucking dumbass.” The room was pretty plain, neither Neo or I brought any decorations. The beds had plain red sheets, there were four in the room but two of them had already been pushed to the side, there were large chests at the foot of our beds for storing our stuff, there were two doors, one for the bathroom and one for the entrance. My happiness that the showers weren’t communal knew no bounds. There were two desks, we wouldn’t have to share. I started unpacking my stuff, which consisted of toiletries, clothes, and large amounts of fire, gravity and ice dust. I had ordered extra blankets to be delivered to my school provided P.O. box, but they wouldn’t get here for a few days. I sighed. “Damnit I gotta make another gravity hook, fuckn’ Cardin. My flask got dented too.”

            Tomorrow at nine we have weapon shop class. Neo offered.

            “Nice! What classes are we taking?”

            Let’s see. Neo produced a piece of paper from her pink duffle bag and handed it to me.

            I read it aloud. “History with Oobleck, combat theory with Port, weapons shop with Mulberry, sparing with Goodwitch, dust science with Peach, and… sensitivity training? What the hell is that?”

            It’s meant to train us to help people traumatized by Grimm attacks.

            “But where the hell is math? I like math!”

            Neo gave me a funny look. This is a combat school.

            “I mean… you’re right… but still!”

            We heard giggling. “Are you settling in ok?” Pyrrha was leaning on the doorway.

            “Oh, yeah I am just a little stressed you know… Oz told me that despite our lack of teammates and my lack of aura to boot he still expects us to excel in the team mini tournament at the end of the semester. He also made it clear on my transcripts that I don’t have an aura and suggested I don’t keep it a secret too.”

            “You shouldn’t lie about your abilities, that can cause a lot of problems, what if your teammates construct a plan that requires you to aura jump, what then?”

            “I know that, that’s the reason I told Neo about it as soon as we met, but this is different, I don’t want the students or faculty to treat me different because of this. I could just use… but no, I’m not ready yet to control it.”

            “I’m not exactly sure what you mean, but the power you displayed in the emerald forest was quite explosive, if you can’t moderate it yet the only way you will learn how to is through using it, if you can only operate at one hundred percent trying to limit yourself to one suddenly, isn’t going to work, you have to take baby steps.”

            “Wait, how much do you know?”

            “I know you came from another world; I’m assuming this weird power you possess is something exclusive to that world, am I wrong?”

            I looked down. “Why are you trying to help me?”

            “Because we are family Artorias, don’t think that because you were separated from your birth parents that you no longer have a family. I am here after all.”

            I gestured to Neo, but before I could speak, she interrupted me. No, do not think that I am enough. She looked pained. When it was just me and Roman, I felt lonely, then when you came in the picture that loneliness went away, but now that I’m separated from dad that loneliness is back again. Don’t push away your family. You know through me that blood relation doesn’t matter.

            “Neo…” I said.

            “She’s right Artorias, I am your cousin, we have the same grandma after all.”

            “…thank you.”

            “Don’t worry about it, good night you two.” She left and closed the door behind her.

            “I’m sorry Neo, I didn’t mean to upset you.”

            She sniffled. No, don’t dwell on it, just go to sleep, you look tired.

 

            After a little while I got into a good routine, Neo and I would sit together in our classes, only Oobleck and Goodwitch knew sign so I had to translate in our other classes, Oobleck seemed to not like me, after all I practically lied to his face about having a semblance, Goodwitch seemed to share in his distaste. Neo and I would spar on the roof of the dorm at night before bed, then repeat. Part of that routine was eating in the cafeteria.

            We were eating in the cafeteria, I was sitting next to Jaune, Pyrrha was sitting next to him, and Neo was across from me sitting next to Ruby. Nora was telling a story about her and Ren’s battle with some Grimm. I noticed that Jaune wasn’t eating, he was just picking at his food. “Dude, don’t let your loss against Cardin get you down.” I said.

            Jaune sighed, Pyrrha chimed in. “Jaune, are you ok?”

            He seemed to pop out of a trance. “Huh? Oh, yeah, fine.”

            “It’s just that, you seem a little, not fine.” Ruby observed, Neo nodded in agreement.

            “Guys, I’m fine. Seriously, look.” Jaune gave the fakest smile known to man.

            We noticed some commotion; Cardin’s crowd of friends were heckling a Faunus girl with rabbit ears. Violet? “Jaune, Cardin has been picking on you since the first week of school.” Pyrrha pointed out.

            “Dude, you should’ve done what Neo did, on the first day of school she kicked his ass and now his group doesn’t even go near her.” I offered. “It’s the rule of the school, you got to beat the shit out of the biggest kid in the yard to show you mean business.” I tapped my fists together.

            “Art, I’m pretty sure that only applies to prison.”

            “Neo has proved otherwise.” I high fived Neo.

            “Guys, its fine, he just likes to mess around, practical jokes.” Jaune tried to defuse. Neo made a face that blatantly disagreed with him.

            “He’s a bully.” Ruby said firmly.

            “Neo says; ‘hey, don’t hold back, just say it, he’s a stupid fuckwad bag of dicks.’” I translated.

            Yang suddenly was behind Ruby, holding her ears. Ruby said softly: “Ow, my baby ears.”

            “Guys, it’s fine, name one time he’s ‘bullied’ me.” Jaune said.

            Pyrrha proceeded to rattle off a plethora of examples, the others chiming in from time to time.

            “Ok, I gotta give it to ‘em the rocket locker one was pretty good.”

            Pyrrha stared daggers into me. “Whose side are you on?” I held up my hands in surrender.

            “I didn’t land that far from the school.” Jaune, trying to defuse again.

            “Jaune, if you ever need help you can just ask.”

            Nora jumped up. “OOHH! WE’LL BREAK HIS LEGS!”

            I rubbed my chin, nodding. “Very mafia, I like it. Neo, wanna weigh in? This is more your field of expertise.” Neo was looking off at something intently, I couldn’t see what because team RWBY was in the way.

            “Guy’s really, it’s fine. Besides, it’s not like he’s just a jerk to me, he’s a jerk to everybody.”

            “Ow that hurts!” Violet (?) had her ears being pulled on by Cardin. It had escalated.

            Both of Neo’s eyes suddenly turned a glowing pink. “OOoooo, I know that look,” I started softly chanting; “Beat his ass, beat his ass.”

            “Wait Neo, stop.” Pyrrha reached out her hand but she was too far from Neo, too late to stop her.

            “Uhh, what’s going on.” Jaune nervously asked. Neo, wrote something on a napkin, picked up a knife, tied the napkin to the knife handle, she started walking over to the area that was serving Boston cream pie, it was called something else here on Remnant, but I could never adjust.

            “Oh, you guys don’t know, Neo is a bit of a sadist. Wanna try and guess what she’s going to do? I’m thinking the knife will go in his hand and the Boston cream pie down his shirt.”

            “Uhh wait what.” Weiss stopped filing her nails, she wasn’t paying attention.

            “Art stop her.” Pyrrha whisper yelled, “He deserves it but she’s going to get in trouble.”

            “It’s too late for that now.” I said making my voice deeper for dramatic effect. “And if no one stopped Cardin from pulling on Violet’s ears then no one will see her.”

            “Actually, I think her name is Velvet.” Jaune managed to get out. He was shaking.

            “Whatever, just watch.” Everyone turned their heads and nonchalantly as they could to watch Neo unleash her fury. Although they were apprehensive, they still wanted to see justice served.

            “Please stop…” Velvet begged; she didn’t want a fight.

            As Neo approached, she was out of Cardin’s line of sight, but not his friends, they tried to get his attention to warn him but to no avail. One on Cardin’s hands was resting on the table, Neo stabbed the knife through his hand sticking it to the table, “AAAHHHH!!!!” He didn’t put his aura up, perfect surprise attack. Blood started pouring, Cardin released his grip on Velvet to go for his hand, but Neo interrupted him by smashing a plate full of pie in his face, the plate shattering. She then grabbed a nearby bottle of hot sauce and squeezed it directly onto his hand wound. More screams.

            The entire cafeteria seemed to say “Oh.” All at once.

            Cardin pulled his hand free and hastily wiped off his face. “WHO!” He turned to Neo. “You again! You bitch!” He swung at her, but her form just shattered into glass shards, her semblance.

            To our group’s surprise, except for me, Neo was already back in her seat, using her semblance she changed her hair to black with twin tails and her eyes to blue. So, how’d I do?

            I thought for a moment. “Hmmm, seven out of ten.” She pouted. “Fine eight, bonus for the hot sauce, that was creative.” She smiled, satisfied. We noticed Cardin and his friends leaving the cafeteria, probably to patch up his hand. “Can we get an ‘F’ in the chat for Cardin?” I giggled. Neo turned her hair and eyes back to normal.

            “THAT WAS AWSOME!” Nora stood up and ran over to neo to hug her. The rest of the group was still recovering.

            Really, it was nothing. Neo tried to be humble. Nora released her from her clutches and went back to her seat.

            “Uhh… What did… you write on the napkin?” Ruby asked.

            “She wrote ‘don’t fuck with Jaune, or else.’,” I translated. “Nice. Good game. GG too easy.”

            “You really didn’t have to do that…” Jaune looked down. “I need to be able to solve my own problems.”

            “Dude that’s not how this works, we’re your friends.”

            “He’s right, we are a team Jaune, and as a team we will shoulder each other’s burdens, that’s what being on a team means.” Pyrrha place a hand on his shoulder.

            “Wait, are we seriously not going to address Neo randomly stabbing a guy in the middle of dinner.” Weiss chimed in.

            “Guys, if I’m not strong enough to solve my problems then I don’t deserve to have them solved.” Jaune said.

            “Dude…” I said.

            “You guys just don’t get it…” Jaune got up and walked off.

            “Jaune!” Pyrrha called out.

            “You should probably go after him.” Ruby suggested. Pyrrha did so.

            Nora slid down the table to fill the empty space dragging Ren along with her. “WWWeeelpp, I wanna talk more about what Neo did.”

            “Finally.” Weiss agreed.

            “What she did was white knighting.” We all looked towards the usually quiet Blake. “You, a human, went and solved a Faunus’ problem for them.”

            “No, that’s not what that was,” I argued. “She’s had it in for Cardin since he broke my ribs, and she found out he was bullying Jaune so… Ok she says your half right, I stand corrected.”

            “I think I’m with Blake,” Ruby softly said. “Stepping in like that can sometimes make the victim feel bad, Velvet’s a second year, she wasn’t fighting back because she chose not to.”

            “Neo says: ‘I just saw a person that needed stabbing, so I did it.’”

            “That’s pretty metal.” Yang commented.

            “You know what, I respect Neo’s guts, there’s a lot of people in this world I’d like to stab, and I never have, but Neo had the resolve to take action.” Weiss shared her opinion.

            “The problem I see here is that the time wasn’t taken to attempt a peaceful solution.” Ren shared. “If that peaceful solution was attempted but failed, then I would have seen no problem in what Neo did.”

            “That was a lot of blood too…” Ruby said, looking down.

            “I’ve seen more,” Nora said. “Neo- huh? Where’d she go?” She started frantically looking around. We all looked at where Neo was sitting, she was gone.

            “Damnit you guys…” I got up and left to go look for her.

            I first checked our dorm room, wasn’t there, on the way out I bumped into Pyrrha.

            “I still haven’t found Jaune.” She said, the worry apparent.

            “Neo ran off too, I have a couple places of interest to look, I’ll text you if I run into Jaune.”

            She nodded, we ran in opposite directions, I looked through the cracks on Neo’s locker, her weapon was gone, I deducted that she would probably be practicing on the roof. I grabbed my sword.

            I opened the door to the roof, the sun was setting over Vale, it was beautiful, three figures were watching it, Neo was sitting cross-legged, to her right stood Goodwitch, to her right was Jaune, he was a bit hunched over. I texted Pyrrha. Goodwitch seemed to notice my presence, she said something to Neo and Jaune then walked towards the door, as she passed me, she stopped.

            “Jaune told me you encouraged Neo’s violent behavior.” She glared at me from the corner of her eye, her voice was intense and carried power. “As the leader of a team you should be keeping your teammates in check.”

            “She makes her own choices, as her friend, the only responsibility I have is to inform her of consequences that she may not be aware of, I will not control her choices.” I returned her glare.

            “It is different now that you are a leader, your inability to see that is just one more reason you shouldn’t be at this school.” She closed her eyes, she looked frustrated. “The only reason you have not been kicked out yet is because Professor Ozpin requested otherwise.” My eyes widened with intensity and I looked slightly towards her. “Regardless how you lost your aura, you not having one is reason enough alone to kick you out, not to mention you lied about it. It’s become obvious that your performance in the emerald forest was nothing more than a fluke, your grades are barely above average.” She looked towards me. “You haven’t participated in sparring yet this semester, that changes tomorrow, if you refuse to fight tomorrow, I will get the other teachers to vote you out.” I started shaking with anger. “Have a good night Mr. Abyss, you have a big day tomorrow.” She left the roof, Pyrrha entered shortly after.

            “Was that Goodwitch?” She asked.

            “Yeah…” I said.

            Neo stood up and turned to us, Jaune turned to us as well. “I’m sorry for running off.” Jaune seemed ashamed, Neo nodded in agreement.

            “Just please be transparent, tell us what’s wrong.” I requested.

            “Please Jaune, you too Neo.” Pyrrha asked.

            Neo walked over to me and hugged me; I hugged her back. Pyrrha and Jaune seemed to be taken aback. She stepped back and signed. I was just so sure I was doing something that everyone would like, that would make them like me more… but it was just the opposite.

            “Don’t dwell on it, Neo.” I said.

            “Jaune?” Pyrrha asked.

            “It’s just… How do you guys do it?! How are you all so confident and strong? All of you are so skilled and have amazing semblances, and I only found out what aura is in the emerald forest! I’m not like you guys, I don’t belong here.”

            Pyrrha was about to say something but I interrupted. “I don’t have an aura! Much less a semblance!”

            “What?”

            “I was born… without an aura… I’ve been at a disadvantage ever since I got here, but I’m still here, I deserve to be here because of the work I put in to get where I am, not because of some natural skill. It doesn’t matter how much skill you have or power you were born with, it’s about the work you put in.”

            Jaune looked down and turned around. “I haven’t put in the work to deserve to be here…”

            “Then start!” Pyrrha interrupted. “Art and Neo train up here where we are standing every night, we can do the same.”

            “You really think I need help?”

            “That’s not what I-”

            “I don’t want help! I don’t want to be the damsel in distress I want to be the hero! I’m tired of being the lovable idiot stuck in the tree while his friends fight for their lives! If I can’t do this on my own, then what good am I?” After Jaune said that Neo walked up and slapped him, hard. He was shocked.

            “Thank you, Neo.” I said I folded my arms. “Get that macho bullshit out of your head.” He was taken aback. “The best fighter in the word in her age group, a girl with more real combat experience than most, and a guy without an aura that has killed more than five hundred Grimm, seventy seven of which were unique, are all offering to train you and you are really going to turn them down? Are you really going to turn Pyrrha down?”

            We all stood in silence for a while. He started to get teary-eyed. He wiped away the tears and smiled a little bit. “No, I guess not.”

            “Well let’s get started, you two go get your gear!” I told Jaune and Pyrrha, Neo and I already had ours. They left the roof together.

So, what’s the plan?

            I held my head and collapsed to one knee. “Wow, really? Now’s not a great time.” I shakily said. Neo leaned to look at my face.

            You ok?

Dude, I specifically waited until the people that don’t know about me left, it’s the perfect time.

            “Yeah but she can’t hear you so it’s still weird.” Neo gave me a scared look.

            “Are you sure about that?” Lunas said. Neo jumped back. I pulled the sword off my back and threw it on the ground. “Hey! Don’t be so rough with me.” The sword’s handle pulsed green as it spoke. “Oh, and I don’t know sign language, so you’ll have to translate… and nice to meet you Neo.”

            Neo’s eyes were wide. “Neo says ‘excuse me?’”

            “I am Lunas, the god of destruction, I’m the persona of your friend’s sword.”

            “She says hi. Are you sure this is the best idea?”

            “It’s fine, it’s probably best to discuss your plans and how my abilities work with your teammate too.”

            “Fine then.” I sat on the ground, Neo did the same, still weirded out.

            “Ok so first, Cardin heard what you said about you not having an aura.”

            “What?!”

            “His room is right below us and he already had opened is window to eavesdrop on Jaune and Goodwitch’s convo, but he’s gone now so don’t worry. I can sense people with hostile intentions around me.”

            “Well shit then.”

            “That’s not the point though, the point is that Cardin will be the one to volunteer to fight you tomorrow, or he will volunteer to fight first knowing that Goodwitch will force you into the ring.”

            “Neo says she thinks I can take him no problem. Thanks for the vote of confidence Neo.”

            “I wouldn’t be so sure, you still haven’t fought anyone trying to kill you, and Cardin has plausible deniability if he ‘accidently’ does so. Not to mention most people, when fighting people with an aura, have different goals then when aura is broken. Cardin is going to be using strategies you haven’t had to deal with before. You’ve gotten way too used to Neo’s specific fighting style, one that focused on evasion, speed, and redirecting momentum. Cardin on the other hand is like an armored tank, not to mention Neo is waaayyy shorter than Cardin.” Neo pouted. “That can really throw you off.”

            “Hey, give me some credit, you weren’t around when Clare was training me for this.”

            “As true as that may be you could only train for a year, a quality year since you had Clare help you boost your stamina to train you for longer and enhance muscle growth, but only a year, nonetheless. You will need to use me if you want to win tomorrow, or better yet, completely destroy him.”

            “I thought you said you were willing to wait for me to be ready for your power, and I’m still not ready.”

            “That’s not what I mean, I’m not asking you to break the seal. Think of my power like a faucet that is turned on full blast, and the seal as a cap on that faucet, despite the seal being strong the flow of power is stronger, some is still going to leak out, especially now because of how we metaphorically cracked it in the emerald forest.”

            “Why didn’t you tell me this in the white room, you said so yourself that it was an opportunity to tell a relic’s wielder how the power worked.”

            “Well… At the time I really didn’t know how the seal on me worked.”

            “What?!”

            “Hey! I didn’t really have a reason to interact with the seal until the bird went psycho.”

            “Ok, whatever just get to the point.”

            “The point. You can use the power that is leaking through the seal. This is good in a couple of ways, it will help you keep up with the other students, and help you get used to the feel of my power, you getting mentally and morally ready for my power is all well and good but it won’t matter if you accidently blow up the planet.”

            “What is your investment for this? Why do you even want to help me stay in school.”

            “Because, Beacon academy is going to be ground zero for the coming conflict, I told you I felt war coming. Oh, shhhh, I think I hear your friends coming.” He wasn’t wrong, we heard footsteps. “I’m out T T Y L.” I stood up and clipped the sword back to my back with my mind.

            We for sure need to talk about this further.

            “Yeah, we do.” I said. Pyrrha and Jaune entered, they seemed happy. I turned to them. “By the way guys, for future sessions we might want to reserve the sparring room.”

            The next morning, I told Neo about my conversation with Lunas in the white room. Neo didn’t seem very fazed by it, she’s pretty unflappable.

            Sparring class was upon us, the classroom was a stage with bleacher-like seats surrounding it in a half circle. Sparring class had about three times the regular number of students, ninety in contrast to the usually thirty-ish in my other classes. As we took our seats, I could feel Goodwitch’s eyes on me, she was standing in the center of the stage.

            I leaned over to Neo. “Wish me luck.”

            She created a white sign that read ‘Go team AN!’.

            “Class has started, do we have any volunteers for first match?” Goodwitch started. I raised my hand and walked to the stage. “I see you have made your choice Mr. Abyss, good luck.” She said to me. “Any volunteers to be his opponent?” She offered to the class.

            “I will!” Cardin raised his hand, still bandaged since yesterday.

            “Even with your injury? Very well.”

            I stood at one edge of the stage and Cardin at the other. I drew my sword with my right hand, and extended my left forward, my palm up, l closed my eyes. I began to imagine the faucet above my hand, with water leaking out of it into my palm.

            “Hey, his aura meter isn’t working.” I heard a student call.

            “No, it’s working fine.” Said Goodwitch.

            “What is he doing?” said another student. I drowned them out with focus.

            I could feel more and more water pouring into my hand, eventually it started overflowing. I heard Cardin running towards me.

            SNAP! The water splashed out of my hand.

            “EEERRGGG!” I opened my eyes, I looked intensely at my target, a torrent of green and black fire had engulfed Cardin, the fire dispersed, his aura pulsed. “Nice try Arty but it going to take more than that to-“

            SNAP! More fire.

            “Still not-“

            SNAP! SNAP! SNAP! SNAP! SNAP! Water splashed everywhere in my mind’s eye.

            “STOP! ARTORIAS!” Goodwitch shouted. According to the display above the stage Cardin’s aura was almost gone, one more snap and I would have burned him. “That is enough.”

            “Is she right Cardin? Is that enough?” I asked my kneeling opponent, my fingers still pressed together ready for another snap. He looked up to me, his eyes said he was done.

            “Leave the stage Mr. Abyss.”

            “RRRRAAAAAHHH!” I snapped my fingers to the side, hitting the wall to my left with a ball of green-black flame. What I had just done didn’t feel good, it felt awful. I walked past Goodwitch on my way back to the stands. “Don’t ever force me to do that again.” I said to her as I passed.

            I sat back down next to Neo. Hey, you alright?

            “That just wasn’t as enjoyable as I thought it would be, I tried to revel in it but… he was just… defenseless. That victory didn’t feel earned.”

            “I don’t think so,” Pyrrha was sitting behind me, she put her hand on my shoulder. “I think that was really impressive.”

            “Thanks for the positivity Pyrrha… a big part of me thinks you’re right but… on an instinctual level, it just felt wrong.”

Chapter Text

R

            Ruby started to have nightmares. It wasn’t long after her mother had died, and Qrow left, when she would wake up screaming it was always Yang who would comfort her.

            It was one of these rough nights when Yang barged into Ruby’s room, but rather than comforting the young Ruby, Yang’s words were those of excitement and fanaticism. “Ruby! Ruby! I found something! Something that might lead us to Raven!” Yang shook her awake.

            Ruby, barely old enough to comprehend, rubbed her eyes. “What? Yangy? What’s going on Yangy?”

            “Dad’s gone right now; this might be our only chance! Get up! We need to go!”

            “Ok.” The two young girls got ready, Ruby was wearing her red hood that her mother gave to her and Yang got the red wagon out of the worn-down storage shed. Yang had Ruby sit in the wagon. Dark clouds were gathering, Yang didn’t care, she was determined to find out what this clue meant. Yang held the map in front of her, it had a picture of raven paper clipped to it and a location circled, Yang wasn’t the best at reading maps, but she was going to try her best.

            They set out Yang pulling the wagon and Ruby sitting up observing wrapped in a blanket, not really sure what was happening. They walked for a long time, Yang looking at the map periodically with her flashlight. Eventually they had arrived, it was an abandoned log cabin, severely damaged. Ruby had already fallen asleep; Yang woke her up. “Ruby! Were here!” After hours of walking they were finally there, at the spot circled on the map. Yang was about ready to collapse but her determination kept her standing.

            Ruby rubbed her eyes. “Are we here? Did we find aunt Raven?”

            Yang wiped her face, it was sprinkling, rain would come soon. “I don’t know but I think I found a clue.”

            Yang started excitedly walking towards the cabin in the marsh, not waiting for Ruby to catch up. Then the two girls felt eyes on them, one by one the glowing red eyes of the Grimm emerged from the fog and foliage, the Grimm were older, so they approached the two girls slower, waiting for their fellow beowolves to surround them and secure their prey. Yang and Ruby were frozen in fear, Yang too tired to even cry for help, Ruby to scared. Then a beowolf finally pounced onto Yang.

            “NO!” Ruby screamed. A bright silver light emanated from her eyes, vaporizing the Grimm in her line of sight. Yang fell to her knees and wept, Ruby held her face and writhed in pain, crying out. As though he had apparated out of thin air, Qrow dispatched the remaining Grimm with his scythe, picked up both of the girls and ran. Yang frozen in shock and Ruby screamed “EYES HURT! EYES HURT!” while rubbing her face into Qrow’s shoulder.

            “I know, I know pipsqueak. Hang in there my girl, I’m going to get you home safe.” Qrow whispered.

            Tai had met them halfway home and Qrow handed him Yang. “What happened? Why were they out there?” Tai asked.

            “I don’t know, but Tai… Ruby’s like Summer.”

            “You mean…”

            “Yeah, Yang would be dead if not.”

            Tai looked like he was going to throw up. “Yang! What were you doing out there?”

            Yang sobbed. “I just wanted to find mom, I’m sorry, so sorry.” She cried into her father’s shoulder.

            “It’s ok, I understand…”

 

            “Ruby! Hurry up, you don’t want to be late on your first day, do you?” Tai called.

            Ruby was staring at her eyes in the mirror recalling that night, so much of it was fuzzy but not that feeling, the feeling of a thousand suns passing through her eyes. She thought that maybe it was her semblance or something, that she would be able to call upon it again after training. That thought made her even more exited to go to Signal Academy, intermediate combat school. Just in time too, Qrow said that this would be his last year teaching. “Coming dad!” She called and ran downstairs.

            Yang met her at the bottom and hugged her. “I’m so excited to go to school with my baby sister! Too bad its only two years, then I’m off to beacon.”

            “Air… please.” Ruby begged.

            Tai handed the two girls brown paper lunch bags and kissed them both on the head as he hugged them. “Are you sure you have everything? Yang, you have Ember Celica?”

            “Yep!”

            Ruby pouted. “I wish I had my own weapon…”

            “Ruby, don’t be impatient, you’ll design your own by the end of the year.” Tai chastised.

            “Welp! Off we go! Wish us luck!” Yang called as she dragged Ruby out the front door.

            The first day of classes came and went, just a bunch of syllabi being handed out explaining the classes. Her last day of the class was sparring, Qrow was the instructor, Ruby resisted the urge to tackle him in a hug until class was over, she waited until all the other students had left the stands and grabbed Qrow’s arm who was standing on the stage. “UNNNCCCLLLeeEEE QQQRRROOOWWW!!! Hi. Ohhhh I can’t wait to be taught by you! The scythe master!”

            Qrow lifted the arm Ruby was clinging to, comedically lifting Ruby off the ground. “Oh, have you already decided on your weapon pipsqueak? Wanna wield a scythe like your uncle Qrow?”

            “Absolutely! I wanna learn how to fight just like you!”

            “A good thing to aspire towards, you’re looking at the best huntsman to have ever hunted!” Qrow ruffled her hair and let her down.

            “I also have another thing to ask…” Ruby said, her tone different.

            “Shoot kiddo.”

            “I know were not meant to do aura training until our second year but, I was thinking this morning about that night in the woods, when Yang and I were looking for Raven.” Qrow seemed to get nervous. “I want to be able to do that again, my semblance seems really cool and I want to master it as soon as possible.”

            “Kid, I’m willing to give you aura training early but you should know that what you did in the woods that day, wasn’t your semblance.”

            “It wasn’t?”

            “No, it’s something incredibly dangerous, something your mom could do. Do you remember how your eyes hurt back then?” Ruby nodded. “I want you to promise me that you won’t try to do it again, it can put you in grave danger. I didn’t think you’d remember much of that day… can you promise me that you will keep that power a secret?”

            Ruby nodded, she understood. Although, despite how her eyes hurt back then and Qrow’s warning she craved doing it again.

            “Still have something on your mind?” Qrow asked.

            Ruby pouted. “Yangy is hanging out with her friends, she said that she can’t walk home with me.” She looked up at her uncle trying to make herself look as cute as possible. “Can you walk me home?”

            Qrow smiled softly. “Of course, kiddo.” He ruffled her hair.

            Qrow had Ruby help him clean up his desk then they walked back to Tai’s house. Ruby insisted on holding Qrow’s hand for the whole walk. Eventually the got to a fork in the path. “Qrow, will you come with me to visit mommy?” Ruby requested, tugging on his hand.

            Qrow grimaced, but he couldn’t say no to Ruby, he left that to Tai. “Absolutely.” They walked to the cliff where her grave was.

            Her grave, did not have her body underneath, as there was none left. Regardless, this is where she would have wanted to be buried. Qrow hadn’t visited in many years, something was different about the grave. Ruby ran up to it then dropped to her knees and put her hands together. The grave wasn’t nearly as polished and solid as the last time he saw it, it had scratches and chips all over it, unnatural ones. Ruby told her mother about her day aloud, Qrow silently asked her for some good luck in training her daughter. Qrow silently cursed Ozpin for making him quit teaching at such an important time, but he got it, there were signs of an old player becoming active again that had to be investigated. Qrow looked to Ruby once she had finished. “Why… When did she get all scratched up like this?” He tentatively asked.

            Ruby sighed. “I used to be mad. At mother. For leaving me.” She struggled to get out. Qrow understood, he looked to the horizon. “Uncle Qrow? Can you do the aura unlocking thing?”

            Qrow grunted.

            “Can you do it now? I want to do it in front of mommy.”

            Qrow smiled. “That’s a great idea kiddo.” Qrow faced her and knelt down. “I need to hold your face.” Ruby stepped forward. Qrow held her face in both hands, his light red aura shimmered as he spoke.

We achieve immortality though our willpower, our desire to transcend time. Through this our strength will become known to all, living or dead. This pillar of hope we give is alpha and omega. For this, I free your soul, and by my wings allow it to fly. Severing its worldly tether, allowing it to pass through the void, empty, and become wind.

            Ruby’s red aura shimmered to life. She began to cry and hugged Qrow.

 

            It was the night after Ruby’s encounter with Roman Torchwick, and her offer to attend Beacon. Ruby heard some voices coming from the kitchen that she thought she recognized, it woke her up. She checked her scroll, past midnight. Ruby snuck her was past Yang’s room, she was still sleeping. Ruby used her semblance to move from cover to cover, hoping the resulting rose petals wouldn’t be seen in the dark. She slowly stepped down the stairs and froze. It was Qrow talking to her dad, Ruby resisted to urge to tackle Qrow in a hug and yell at him for leaving her. Ruby listened.

            “-Beacon. I can’t believe Oz, he just had to find out about her silver eyes.” It was Qrow.

            “Qrow, are you really going to pass the blame onto him? You trained her.” Tai.

            “Damnit Tai, we both know this isn’t because of her skills, and I only trained her for one year.” Qrow scoffed. “I can’t believe you are mad at me.”

            Ruby drew closer so that she could see their faces. Tai looked a lot more furious than his voice let on.

            “Have you not seen the footage? What the hell did you teach her, and I’m not just talking about combat.”

            “What are you talking about?” Qrow put down his drink.

            Tai whipped out his scroll, touched it a few times, then tossed it to him. “She’s smiling Qrow, and laughing as she’s caving men’s heads in. Some of them won’t leave the hospital for a year or two. Some will need physical therapy.”

            “Tai…” Qrow sighed. “Common, she was exited she was stopping a robbery, she probably just assumed they had auras when they didn’t.”

            “They did have auras Qrow.” Tai said gravely.

            “What?”

            “You’ve been gone for a year, and in that year, you have missed something very important. She’s become a scary fucking kid.” Ruby flinched.

            “You’re talking about your own daughter here.” Qrow sounded angry.

            Tai shook his head. “I should have never let you train her.”

            “Tai, are you serious? She’s skilled ok, and a little excitable. We also both know that the reports that she’s a klepto are false. You’re talking about her like she’s one of those pre-dentists that tortures cats.

            “This isn’t a joke Qrow.” Tai hissed. “She goes overboard in sparing all the time, casually using her tier four semblance on kids with barely developed auras. Smiling as she uses real people as combo dummies. You never taught her that violence is a necessary evil, to never be used as an indulgence, and now she loves hurting people. She has no friends, and no social skills to speak of either. Why? Because the other kids are scared of her, and they are justified. She already has the eyes of a killer Qrow, your eyes. You taught her to be who she now is.”

            Qrow stood up. “I ask again if you are seriously pining this on me? You’re the one that shut down after Sum-sum died and left Yang, a fucking child, to pick up the pieces. I wanted to be here, for all three of you, you’re the one who insisted I stayed away, using my guilt against me. I can’t believe you have the gall to bitch about consequences that are yours alone to bear. Not to mention you play favorites, I know you favor Yang and it showed clear as day when I was training Ruby. You had every opportunity to be the perfect father to Ruby and you fucked it up.” Qrow hissed.

            “Don’t bring up Summer.” Tai warned.

            “Is that not what all this is about? You cursed Raven for tossing you a baby through a portal because it meant that you had a responsibility now, then you got Summer to fall in love with you so that you didn’t have to deal with it. And now-“

            “You resent me for marrying Summer, for taking her away from you.”

            Qrow grabbed the collar of Tai’s shirt. “Don’t you fucking dare Tai. This is about you treating Ruby like a second-class daughter. You’re lucky she’s going to beacon right now, otherwise I would adopt her right now to get her away from you.” Qrow pushed him away.

            “Get her away from me? Like I’m the dangerous one to be around.”

            “You know I’ve looked and looked. I even talked to a kid born without an aura a while back to see if he knew a way. I’ve tried to find that semblance. I’ve put in the effort Tai, you haven’t.”

            “You don’t know that; some mistakes can’t be fixed.” Tai looked down. “I can’t go back in time and tell myself to handle my grief differently as much as I would like to.”

            “Yeah, but now, to use your own words, have raised a killer. I hope you’re proud of yourself.”

            Tai shook his head. “And now Oz has taken an interest in her, god fucking damnit, she’s going to turn out just like you.”

            “And is that really so bad? Yes, I have blood on my hands, but Oz’s war is a righteous one. It’s not like Oz won’t give her a chance to say no.”

            “Do I really need to remind you? That Oz’s war, you, your semblance. Killed Summer.”

            Qrow clenched his teeth and fists, he squeezed his eyes shut. “And you reminding me of that is what caused Ruby to grow into what she is. A depressed and angry little girl. I could have been there for her if you had just let me, been the father figure you weren’t willing to be.” Qrow turned into a bird and flew out the window.

 

W

            “I’m going to join the military.” Winter said at the dinner table, after mustering the courage. The table was expensive, antique, and ornate, and had a white tablecloth to match. The dish Winter was poking at was expensive as well, she hated it, she hated the Schnee way of pompous arrogance, when she was younger she didn’t see, it was all normal for her, but after going to intermediate combat school for two years, after learning about the real world. The chandelier above her head, the designer curtains covering the floor-to-ceiling windows, the massive dining hall, the massive table capable of seating twelve despite there only being three of them, all built on what was basically slavery, she hated every bit of it. So, despite the consequences, she wanted to join the military, the consequences to both herself and the offspring her parents would no doubt create to replace her, she chose.

            “Excuse me?” Jacques Schnee said, looking up from his scroll, he was still in his white suit, on the job.

            “I’m going to join the military.” Winter repeated, tensing up.

            “Well that’s preposterous!” Her mother said.

            “You are still two years off from attending Atlas academy. If you even go.” Jacques made his words sound like a threat.

            “Not so, the general has approved my request to attend this coming semester, he has recognized my skill.”

            “Ironwood…” Jacques growled. He stood up from his chair and walked to the corner of the room, he dialed his scroll. “Ironwood, what is the meaning of this?... She just did…Do you understand the trouble you have just caused me; I’ve just lost my heiress because of your toxic influence… Her decision my ass, you encouraged her, I should have never allowed her to go to combat school… Fuck you.” He hung up. He walked back over to the table. “If you do this you are no longer the heiress to the Schnee Dust company.”

            “I know.” Winter got up from the table and walked away.

            Jacques and his wife sat in silence for a while, their attention slowly turned to the group of pills next to his wife’s drink, one of which was birth control. “You stop taking that now yes? We can’t afford to waste any time; we are already approaching our forties.”

            “I understand.” She responded.

            Winter went off to the academy, leaving her parents behind.

            A few months after that conversation it was confirmed that the Schnee’s were to give birth to a new heir. They were to create something that they could both be proud of, something that wouldn’t dishonor the Schnee family name that Jacques had claimed.

            After a volatile and difficult pregnancy cycle the day of birth finally came. They did a home birth at the mother’s request; doctors were hired privately to handle the birth. Jacques and Winter stood outside the door, waiting, nine hours. Eventually a doctor invited them in, they heard the sounds of a baby crying, success. The baby was heathy if not a bit light. “Have you decided on a name?” Winter asked.

            “Yes,” answered the mother, “your baby sister will be Weiss, like the snow.” The mother smiled. “Would you like to hold her?” She offered Winter.

            “No, she will not be allowed interaction.” Jacques said.

            “You can’t be serious.” Winter and her mother said in unison.

            Jacques thought for a while. He turned to Winter. “You cannot fill her head with dreams of glory through combat, she must become my heir.”

            “Fine.” Winter said, she then held her sister.

            The joy in that moment was tainted, births were meant to be happy. This wasn’t a birth, this was a human transmutation, a conscious effort to create a perfect heir, a perfect thing, an object of pressure and expectations.

            Winter looked at the newborn that was in her arms and felt nothing but guilt, her desire for freedom exceeded her desire to spare this infant a life of pain, in that moment she felt incredibly selfish, and now there was nothing she could do to repay her sister for her sacrifice.

            Her mother smiled. “Look at my little snow angel.”

 

            Weiss’s education began at an early age, she learned the alphabet before she should have been able, she learned how to add before she learned how to walk. Most people would peg her as a prodigy but that wouldn’t be accurate, she was educated in some form or another for most of her waking hours. Against her father’s wishes, Winter would read Weiss storybooks about heroes and villains, and tell her stories of the missions that she took during her time at beacon. Weiss’s mother took care of the young Schnee, giving her motherly affection and attention and praise whenever she wasn’t learning. Weiss’s early life was very busy, as was the fate of the heiress.

            When Weiss was nearing four years of age, she would get explorative, she would desire to see the whole Schnee mansion. Her mother took her all over. One day their first stop would be Jacques office, that day was the first day Weiss acknowledged the nickname her mother gave her, “I’m a snow angel mum.” was the phrase she repeated that morning. They arrived at Jacques’ office. Normally this kind of intrusion would infuriate him, but this was his heir, this would be her office one day.

            Her mother sat down on the guest’s couch and struck up conversation with her husband but kept getting interrupted by Weiss. “I’m a snow angel mum.” She would say as she lifted her white shirt, her mother kept pulling it back down though.

            “Don’t be inappropriate.” She said. “You’re a Schnee.”

            “Hmm.” This caught Jacques’ attention, he approached the young Schnee and lifted her shirt. “What is this?” He said seething with rage.

            “What?” She moved to look at Weiss’s back. She gasped with horror.

            Jacques picked up Weiss and sat her on the coffee table, he went to his desk and grabbed an ornate ceremonial silver knife from one of the many drawers, as well as a small glass vial of fire dust that he used to light cigars. “What are you doing?”

            “What needs to be done.” He approached Weiss knife in hand.

            “No, don’t hurt her!” She ran towards her daughter to protect her.

            Jacques slapped her, hard, she fell to the ground. “This pain is on your hands, not mine, harlot.” He growled.

            He lifted Weiss’s shirt from her back and cut off the pair of white feathery wings that had grown there. Weiss shrieked and writhed, trying to escape her father. He held her in place as he poured powdered fire dust on the wounds, but before he could activate it himself, a white energy flowed over Weiss, her aura activated and activated the fire dust with it. The smell of burning flesh permeated the room as the fire overtook her back. She continued to scream.

            “You did this… You ruined our perfect heir, she was smart, resourceful, dedicated. You threw it all down the drain when you cheated on me, and with a monster no less.” Jacques approached his wife, eyes wide and intense with anger and sadness. “Was it worth it? Sexual pleasure in exchange for ruining your daughter’s life.”

            His wife picked herself off the floor using the couch as leverage. “I didn’t cheat on you I swear! I don’t know how this happened.”

            “You have the audacity to deny it!” Jacques punched his wife to the ground. “You whore.” He hissed. He hit her again, preventing her from getting up, and again, again.

            “Daddy stop…” A soft voice called. Weiss crawled along the coffee table and used a glyph as a ramp down to the floor where her bloodied mother lay. “Mommy hurts… Mommy hurts.” She said, tears streaming down her face as she touched her mother’s face.

            Jacques grimaced; tears started streaming down his face as well. His eyes shook, unsure what expression to take on with so many emotions flowing through him. He fell to his knees. “AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!” The scream of anguish echoed through the Schnee mansion.

 

            Within the next month the Schnee mother became pregnant again, this time through artificial insemination to prevent any more tragedies. It wasn’t until after the son Whitley was born that a DNA test was done to confirm Weiss’s heritage, Jacques was the father, her Faunus trait caused by a recessive gene surfacing from Jacques’ own bloodline.

            Jacques kept Weiss’s condition under wraps and hired a trusted doctor to preform surgeries to permanently remove the angel wings from her back. Nothing worked, they would always grow back. The repetitive surgeries and burns left Weiss’s back scared to a horrific degree. Every time the wings would grow back the doctor would cut them off, they called it a ‘haircut’ around anyone else, no one else was allowed to know, the only three being the mother, father and doctor.

            Weiss’s mother stopped seeing Weiss, she would avoid her. Intensive education efforts were moved to Whitley. Weiss became closed off, refusing to speak to anyone, and when she did it was always hostile. Winter noticed this and stepped in, she started living at home again for a time, she gave Weiss her weapon, the rapier Myrtenaster. Winter was still unaware of what happened to cause her parents to become scarce, nobody talked. What Winter was aware of was the occasional face bruise Weiss would have, not caused by their training.

            “Why don’t you use your aura to protect yourself, or at least heal it?” Winter would ask, prompting Weiss to run away, locking herself in her room or a nearby bathroom.

            As Weiss grew older, she learned how to properly cut off her wings herself. She would do so in her own bathroom and would burn the wings with fire dust on the balcony, letting the ashes fly away in the wind, as wings should.

            Weiss was constantly told she was a monster by both her mother and father whenever they met, usually over dinner, and she believed them. Whenever Jacques would come home furious about the White Fang ruining his business, he would take it out on her. Weiss became an angry person, often going overboard when training with Winter, publicly she was still the heiress to the company, her parents not wanting people to ask why she wasn’t, Whitley continued to be groomed, taunting his sister like she was a failure, unaware of the real reason.

            Weiss made the mistake of leaving her door unlocked on one of the days she was meant to cut off her wings. It was a ritual for her. She felt wrong about cutting off an appendage, but at the same time she knew she had to get rid of what made her a monster, no better than the people who had killed her father’s colleagues and even relatives. Despite knowing this she would stand shirtless in front of a large ornate mirror in her room before cutting them off. She felt them, she liked how they felt, like pillows but with structure underneath, the bones within feeling solid, like steel beams holding her together, that’s what she felt. What she knew was that they were weights, dead weights, holding her down, preventing her from being who she wanted to be, at least who she thought she wanted to be, a perfect Schnee. Every time she did this the conflicting ideals would cause her to collapse onto the hard, cold floor and weep. This time Winter heard her sobs and entered her room. She was shocked at what she saw.

            Weiss stood and began to panic, she shrieked and kept saying “no, no, no, no…”. She shuffled in place and held her face, unsure where to run. Feathers began to shed. Winter approached her, tears streaming down her face, finally understanding why her sister was the way she was, guilt overtaking her. Winter hugged Weiss tightly, they were surrounded by feathers.

            “I’ll get you out of here.” Winter said.

            Their training changed, they no longer just did combat, Winter also taught her how to create a façade, and adapt that façade to whatever situation was at hand. She also taught her how to hide her wings so that she didn’t have to cut them as often, by wrapping gauze around her waist and upper chest to keep them in place. Now that Winter knew, they were able to talk about it, Weiss became happier for it. There was a place she didn’t have to hide, in the sparring room with her sister.

           

            As Weiss picked at her food she stared at the two empty seats in front of her, she wanted so badly for them to be filled, one of them at least, her mother probably wouldn’t care about her announcement, but she still wanted to tell her in person. She looked to her right, sitting next to her was Whitley, eating his food with a bright smile like he didn’t have a care in the world, and to his right was her father sitting at the head of the table.

            Weiss cleared her throat, Whitley looked to her, her father continued to look at his scroll. “I got accepted into Beacon, I will be going this semester.”

            Her brother gave a begrudging nod that had just a twinge of approval, being forced to acknowledge that that was a good achievement, despite it not being a part of the Schnee status quo, despite Winter’s best efforts. “As difficult of an achievement as that is, I still find your and Winter’s violent tendencies to be barbaric, along with those disgusting semblances you share.” He went back to his food.

            Jacques looked up from his scroll. “And pray tell how you managed that?” He sneered. “You haven’t even been to combat school.”

            “Winter has been training me and got General Ironwood to arrange it with Professor Ozpin.”

            Jacques’ eyes flashed with anger, then he sighed. “I’ll have to have a little chat with Winter later…” He muttered. “As much as I hate this decision this may be for the best, a smooth way to make Whitley the heir in the eyes of the public without causing too much of a fuss.” He thought aloud then turned to Whitley. “I want you to prepare a speech, we will be holding a press conference after your sister goes off to school.”

            Whitley smiled an evil smile. “Looks like I won dearest sister. How do you feel?”

            “You won when you were born.” She said to him, he was still unaware of the reason Weiss said that. Despite not having finished her meal she stood. “I’m going to go tell mother the news.”

            “Tell her hello for me, if she’s sober enough that is.” He sneered.

            “I need to make a couple of calls…” Jacques stood and left the dining hall as well.

            Weiss made her way to the garden, it was a greenhouse of sorts, but its machines had been turned off long ago. She found her mother sitting in a rocking chair in the center of the large building, with a glass of wine in her hand and a few bottles on the floor next to her. Weiss approached, her white heels clicking on the stone ground, the sound echoed through the building. Her mother was alerted to her presence. “Did you know that it was thirteen years ago that I had stopped tending to the plants here?” Her mother said, voice calm with little slur despite how much she had drank. “After I had stopped your sister suggested I hire a gardener to keep it alive, she thought that once you were older that you would enjoy tending to the plants.”

            Weiss looked around, all the pots and beds had dead and decayed plants in them, gray and lifeless. “I guess we’ll never know…” Weiss whispered.

            “I refused; I like how the plants look now, now they actually represent the Schnee name… Your father admitted to me after Whitley was born, that he only married me to get his hands on the family name.” Weiss flinched. “His façade shattered after we found out what you were.”

            “I’m sorry…”

            Her mother scoffed. “What have you come to talk to me about? You haven’t stepped foot in this garden in ages.”

            “I will be attending Beacon academy in the coming semester, it starts in just a week, I wasn’t sure how many chances we would get to talk between now and then… so…” Weiss held her hands together and looked down.

            Her mother gave a soft laugh. “I would ask why you aren’t attending Atlas, but I already know the answer… Our little birdy is finally leaving the nest.” She took a large drink. “Has Winter been training you despite your father’s orders?”

            “Yes.”

            “So that’s how you got that eye scar… I was wondering…” She reached into her pocket and produced a card, she tossed it over her shoulder to Weiss, it clattered on the floor.

            Weiss picked it up, it was a credit card. “Why are you giving this to me?”

            ‘Don’t ask stupid questions!” She snapped. “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Don’t say I never gave you anything… Don’t tell your father I gave you that either, he’ll shut it down.”

            “Thanks mom…”

            “That’s ‘thank you mother’, please don’t tarnish our image, for now, at least publicly it’s still good, considering…” She paused. “I’m assuming your father is already setting up a press conference to announce that Whitley is the heir, he’ll probably have that brat give a stupid speech too… ‘Thank you, I will be sure to live up to the Schnee family name!’” She mocked. “What a load of shit.” She took another drink. “Remember to get your ‘haircut’ while you’re gone, if that gets out your life will become hell too, not just Jacques’”

            “I know… I should get going now…”

            Her mother scoffed. Weiss left, and traveled to her room.

            Weiss dialed her scroll, her sister answered. “Hello Weiss, how did it go?” Winter’s face was stone, but Weiss could see the concern behind it.

            “Better than I expected, father turned it into a way to announce Whitley as the heir. By the way you don’t have to make that bank account for me, mother gave me her credit card.”

            Winter seemed surprised. “Well that is most unexpected…Well… Good luck out there, I apologize I cannot be there to see you off, you did get the tickets from Ironwood yes?”

            “Yes sister, I’ll be fine.”

            “As you know, Beacon is hosting the festival in the coming year, and Ironwood has expressed a desire to attend with his students, which is unusual, but that means that there is a chance I will be able to see you perform in person. Hopefully you will learn how to summon by then.”

            “Assuming I qualify…”

            “You must!” Winter recomposed herself. “Ironwood and Ozpin have done you a great favor, do not let them down, do not let me down, I didn’t train you behind fathers back just for you to fail…” Winter sighed. “It’s getting late, you should start going to bed earlier, get your sleep schedule in line to get used to having early morning classes.”

            Weiss took off her white bell-sleeved bolero, and threw it to the side, her wings became visible.

            “They’ve gotten big, are they growing back faster than before?”

            “Yes, I think so.” Weiss reached to her back and touched them.

            Winter turned the call to audio only. “You need to be careful; you should probably cut them off the day before you leave.” Weiss could hear the cringe in Winter’s voice.

            “Yes… of course…” Weiss sadly looked over to her rapier case.

            “You really need to be on top of it too, you’ll be living with your teammates, sleeping in the same room.”

            “I know!” Weiss snapped.

            “Don-!“ Winter started, then sighed. “I know you know; I’m just worried about what will happen if your secret gets out.”

            “You’re worried about the family’s reputation.” Weiss said with a cold bite.

            “No, you know that’s… I’m not worried about that… I’m worried about you. You know how… people like you are treated.”

            “You mean monsters…”

            “Stop saying that, you are NOT-“ Weiss hung up.

            She walked towards the large window in her room that was also the door to her balcony, she flung them open and walked outside. She felt the cold air on her exposed shoulders, the dress she wore being sleeveless, in this time of year the nights in Atlas were much longer than the days, the sun’s warmth had long left. She liked the view, most people wouldn’t, but she had the eyes of an avian, despite the city being a ways from where she stood she could still see the lights, and she was still entranced by the buildings that floated with gravity dust even after all this time. She reached to her back and undid the wrapping that imprisoned her wings, the servants left after dinner with very few exceptions, like Klein, but he would be serving father now, she didn’t worry about being seen. Her wings extended, her backless dress allowing them to be free, the breeze that hit them, how it moved between her feathers, it was an incredible feeling. She heard footsteps, she was prepared to run out of sight but when she looked down to the courtyard below, she only saw her brother, he enjoyed taking a walk before bed, she stared at him with contempt. Whitley then turned, he looked up at his sister, eyes drawn to the faint light coming from the lamp in her room. His eyes widened in shock at what he saw, Weiss’s wings fluttered, then she turned and walked back into her room.

            The day before her flight to Vale Weiss preformed her ritual, she cut off her wings and cauterized the wound, at this point she had used her weapon more on herself than any Grimm, the only one she had fought being a Geist Grimm that had possessed a decorative suit of armor. She threw her wings into a metal basin, she then showered to clean the wound. She got dressed for the day, then carried her bowl towards the balcony, but before she got there, there was a knock on the door.

            “I remembered to ‘cut my hair’ don’t worry.” She said in a biting tone.

            “Actually… it’s me.” It was Whitley.

            Weiss placed the bowl on her bed and walked to her bedroom door, she opened it, then started angrily walking back to the metal bowl that contained her wings.

            Whitley saw what was in the bowl, “Wait! Stop…”

            Weiss paused. “Whatever you’re here to talk about just spit it out, I’m busy.” Weiss continued with her ritual, grabbing her weapon on the way to the balcony. Her and her brother silently stepped onto the balcony. Weiss not caring about the look of horror on her brother’s face, used Myrtenaster to set her wings aflame.

            “Weiss, I didn’t know what you were…” He started; his voice shaky. “I thought that you weren’t the heiress because of some mistake you made, or that you weren’t talented enough. I’m sorry.”

            “It doesn’t matter now… Your attitude towards me had no bearing on the events that have transpired. Nothing would have changed if you knew.” Weiss said. They both stared at the fire. “We both know that there is no room for monsters in the Schnee household.”

            Whitley nodded.

 

            Weiss hired some Schnee delivery men to act as private porters for her first day at beacon. She didn’t bring that much personal stuff, but she had brought copious amounts of the highest quality dust with her, Winter had told her that the dust the school provided was shite. With the private porters she was free to do what she thought was important, she scouted out the competition, she brought out a small journal, like her personal journal in form but blue instead of the white volumes. Weiss stood in the courtyard in front of the main tower and looked around at her fellow students, a few caught her eye. She hadn’t learned to read people from experience, she had instead read thousands of pages in books on the subject, no replacement, but it still allowed her to pick out the people who were serious about this, even if their outwards demeanor said otherwise. Take the blond guy with motion sickness compared to the blue-eyed guy with the sword that was a couple sizes too big, both of them had swords that looked to be of an older make, both of their clothing styles were of equal merit. Vomit boy had white thick armor as well as a shield, obviously favoring heavy defense, she wrote as she thought, on the other hand Big Sword Guy wore blue and black leather and had a gun as his offhand weapon, the sword’s handle design obviously indicated that he wielded it with one hand, he favored speed offence and range, a delightful combination if he was strong enough, he must be strong to wield that sword one-handed, although his relatively short (Weiss wasn’t one to talk) and relatively thin stature said otherwise. Looking on the surface level Vomit boy was clearly the better rival, taller, weapon more practical, the other guy’s sword was much too tall for his height, there’s no way he could use it properly, but Vomit Boy’s eyes told a different story, they were those of an infant, wide and innocent. The Big Swordie, his eyes had a fire behind them, his, as well as the girl’s with the mismatched hair standing next to him had immense resolve, they had eyes that wouldn’t bluff, if they threatened you, they could back it up tenfold, if they weren’t so young she would say they were killers. The Swordie and the girl with mismatched hair started talking to another boy-girl duo, the girl had orange hair and wielded a rocket launcher, it looked heavy, another physically strong specimen, or they had powerful aura’s, or perhaps even a strength semblance, she wrote as she brainstormed, the boy had a pink streak in his hair, she couldn’t see his weapon, both of their eyes matched as well, though this time there was sadness behind them as well as drive, justice.

            Weiss heard a big crash, her attention turned to the source, a girl that was most definitely younger than her appeared to have tripped and fell onto her luggage carts, the porters seemed to start panicking. Weiss stormed over, there was dust in those cases, dangerous. “You,” Weiss address the young girl, she had black hair with hints of red, as well as a black dress not dissimilar too her own, as well as silver eyes, they were shy and timid eyes. “Get up!” The girl did, holding the section of her head that she hit with one hand, and leaning on a suitcase with the other. Weiss quickly grabbed it. “Do you have any idea how dangerous what you just did was?!” Weiss opened the suitcase and started inspecting the vials of powdered dust, she took one out that appeared to be cracked. “Well respond!” She shoved the vial in the girl’s face showcasing the crack. “Do you see this, this is fire dust, just because it’s not explosion dust yet doesn’t mean it can make a mean blast.” The young girl looked scared and nervous, like she’d never been yelled at before. Weiss shook the vial in the girl’s face, accidently introducing some dust in the air.

            “I’m sorry ok.” The girl said in a squeaky voice. Then she started sniffling, then sneezed, her aura pulsed, and the fire dust exploded. Their aura’s rippled tanking the blast but Weiss dropped the vial and it rolled away.

            “This is what I was warning you about!”

            “I said I was sorry!”

            “An apology isn’t enough anymore, if that had been explosion dust it likely would have busted the other vials and then where would we be! Are you not aware of how dangerous dust can be? How did you get into Beacon without knowing this, and…” Weiss looked the girl up and down. “how old are you anyway? Aren’t you a little young to attend one of the big four academies? This is a place for true huntresses, not for clumsy children. You should go back home before you get hurt, I hear people have actually died taking the first test.”

            “Not a chance…” The girl muttered.

            “What? If you could speak clearly that would be great.”

            “I apologized, you bratty princess!”

            “And I said that an apology wasn’t good enough. Are you that dull? You are nothing more than a dimwitted child.”

            “Child? Child! You aren’t that grown up yourself with that prissy haircut!” The girl pointed at Weiss.

            Weiss flinched. “Is this what you call an apology? Insulting my appearance.”

            “I thought you said an apology isn’t enough, and true huntress? There’s no way someone with your attitude could ever hope to become a true huntress.” The girl then seemed to retract her hand a bit, struggling to keep up her tough act.

            Weiss turned away from the girl to hide her face, she placed a hand on the hilt of her weapon. “Go ahead, say that again, I dare you.”

            “I guess the rumors are true…” Both girls turn to find a black-haired girl wearing a bow that matched, she was holding the vial of fire dust that had rolled away in her hand. “You’re Weiss Schnee, heiress to the Schnee Dust Company, the largest producers of energy propellant in the world. You seem to be just as arrogant as your father, tell me do you hold the same prejudices?”
            Weiss’s eyes widen with anger, she snatched the vial from the bow girl’s hand. “Ex-heiress actually, keep up.” She placed the vial back in its case then closed it up. She placed the case back on the luggage cart. “I won’t forget this slight.” Weiss stormed off towards the tower. She heard the porters chase after her, but she didn’t dare look back, she noticed where the school’s porters were taking the kid’s luggage and just pointed. She made her way there too, it looked like they were taking weapons. Except Swordie’s apparently.

 

            It was the next day, the students were in the locker room getting ready for the next test, Weiss struggled to get her weapon out of her locker without everything else falling out, it was packed full. She closed her locker and looked at her reflection in the shiny metal, distorted but clear enough for her to notice her bell-sleeved bolero, her jacket, was crooked. She straitened it, resisting the urge to itch her scarred back, after only a couple of days her wings were already growing back, the growth both slightly hurting and itching. Weiss figured that her aura being active more often was speeding up the healing process causing them to start growing back sooner. Weiss looked towards the other students, Swordie and his girlfriend were having a conversation, Weiss raised her eyebrows, the girl was using sign language, expressing her desire to end up on a team with him.

            That prompted Weiss to think about teams too, she looked around at the other students, those two wouldn’t be too bad, she knew sign language so that wasn’t a deterrent, but they would still need a fourth. Her eyes settled on a girl with deep red hair, she saw her talking to Swordie the night before but didn’t recognize her without the armor, it was Pyrrha Nikos, a world class fighter would be absolutely perfect. Weiss approached her. “Correct me if I’m wrong but you are Pyrrha Nikos correct?”

            Pyrrha blinked hard, then put on a smile. “That I am.”

            Is she like me? Weiss thought, then stopped, that’s ridiculous. “Have you given much thought on who you would like to be on a team with? I’m sure everyone must be eager to unite with such a strong well-known individual such as yourself.”

            Pyrrha’s face turned slightly disappointed, she had been asked that question many times today. “Yes, I am planning on being on a team with my cousin and his girlfriend.” She gestured to Swordie.

            Holy shit this is fucking perfect, the no doubt best fighter in my year, her cousin who was probably of similar skill if they’re related, and a girl with the eyes of a killer. “Well, I think that us four would make a great team, based on your cousin’s look I already pegged him as one of my choices, and him being related to you just confirms his skill. You are a world-renowned fighter, and I was personally trained by one of Atlas military’s best, we would be quite the formidable group.”

            “Well that sounds grand. Although I wouldn’t put Artorias on that high of a pedestal, he is still great though.” This girl seems too nice for her own good.

            “You know who else is great? Me, Jaune Arc, the names short sweet, rolls off the tongue, ladies love it.” Jaune forced his way into the conversation.

            “Nice to meet you Jaune.” Pyrrha said in a polite tone.

            Jaune rudely brushed her to the side. “Yeah, so Weiss Schnee, I couldn’t help but overhear your fondness of me the other day.” Jaune placed himself in Weiss’s line of sight.

            Weiss sighed, yesterday Ruby’s sister Yang approached Weiss in an attempt to make up, Yang dragging her sister along. Weiss sarcastically had said something about gossiping about cute boys and gestured to Jaune. “You have got to be kidding me…” Weiss said.

            “Don’t worry, no need to be embarrassed. So, been hearing some rumors about teams.” He sung the word ‘teams’, he talked not just with his hands but his whole body. “I was thinkn’ you and me would make a good one, what do you say?”

            “Well, her and I have already decided on a team.” Pyrrha said.

            “Are you sure you don’t want to be on team Jaune, hot stuff, the winning team?” Jaune asked Pyrrha.

            Weiss put herself between Pyrrha and Jaune. “Jaune, is it? Do you have any idea who you are talking to?”

            “Not in the slightest snow angel.”

            Weiss’s eyes widened, she started shaking, she covered her mouth with a hand and backed away from the conversation. She could barely hear Pyrrha introduce herself as background noise. Weiss barely held her tears in, her back started burning with pain.

            Pyrrha seemed to complement Jaune, then Jaune turned to Weiss. “Sounds like Pyrrha… Hey are you ok?” Weiss was frozen where she stood. Jaune tried to put a hand on her shoulder, his face one of genuine concern. “Did, I say something wrong.”

            “Get away from me!” Weiss stepped back. “Pyrrha help…” She whimpered. Jaune then flew out of sight.

            “I’m sorry!” She called. He attention was drawn back to Weiss. “What happened?”

            Weiss didn’t respond, she couldn’t.

            “He was just flirting with you…” Pyrrha said, her voice gave away that she knew this was something much more serious.

            Artorias approached them, drawn by the commotion. Weiss shook her head back and forth then ran off.

            Weiss ran to the bathrooms, they were individual with locks, thank goodness. She chose one and locked herself in. The tears immediately started flowing, she took off her jacket and threw it to the ground. She looked at herself in the mirror, she turned her body to look at her back, a mass of scar tissue, the stumps of her new wings were already visible. “No, he didn’t… Its fine, everything is fine…” Her tears betrayed her words.

            “Hey… Wait what’s her name?”

            “Weiss Schnee.” Pyrrha said, the other voice was probably Artorias.

            “Weiss. Are you ok in there? What happened?”

            “I’m fine!” She screamed; the tears could be heard in her voice.

            “Ok Neo, not everyone is as straightforward as you, someone saying they’re fine doesn’t always mean that…”

            “Weiss,” Pyrrha called, cutting off her cousin. “Here’s what I want you to do, I want you to breath in for four seconds, hold it for seven, and breath out for eight.”

            “What’s that supposed to do? Ow!” Artorias mumbled.

            “Weiss. Listen to my voice. One. Two. Three. Four. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight…” Pyrrha continued to count.

            Weiss breathed, she breathed. After a few minutes the picked up her jacket and put it back on. She washed her face in the sink, luckily, she didn’t wear makeup. She dried herself with the coarse paper towels. She stared intently at herself in the mirror, she chastised herself for allowing her façade to be broken so easily. She slapped herself. “Get your shit together Weiss.” She whispered to herself. She breathed. She opened the door and stepped out.

            The three students on the other side backed away, Artorias was the first to speak. “Yo, you good?”

            The short girl, Neo rolled her eyes and signed, that’s his way of asking if you’re ok.

            Weiss took a shaky breath. “I’m fine, we need to go to Beacon Cliff.” She walked away, not waiting up. She shook her head, thinking that she just blew her chance of teaming up with those three. Her back still hurt.

 

            After Weiss has touched down in the Emerald Forest she fell to her knees, getting launched in the air like that. She shook her head. It was incredible, the feeling of the wind rushing past her face, her back started to ache again. She held herself. For so long she tried to convince herself that she didn’t want this, she didn’t want to fly. Now she couldn’t deny it anymore. She started hyperventilating again, no, she started counting like Pyrrha had done. She counted; her breathing slowed. Eventually she stood, she brushed off the blades of grass that had stuck to her.

            When she looked forward, a red blur was rushing towards her, she drew her weapon. The red blur slowed and out of a cloud of rose petals Ruby apparated. Their eyes met. Weiss turned and walked away. “Wait! Come back.” The child called. “We’re supposed to be teammates.”

            “No, I will not accept this. I will not be paired with a simple-minded child.” Weiss muttered as she walked, her entire body was tense. She wasn’t even sure which direction she was walking in, she just needed to get away from that child.

            “Gah, uh… stupid uh” Weiss looked up to find Jaune stuck in a tree via Pyrrha’s spear. Jaune waved. “Hey, Weiss…” He sounded timid. “I hate to be a bother but… could ya help me down?”

            Weiss continued walking. “No, I will not stoop lower, if I am to be perfect my teammates must be nothing less. I need someone reliable to help me become the perfect Schnee.” She made herself angrier, entertaining thoughts of how much time she had already lost. Pyrrha and Neo were probably already taken. Weiss heard growling, she turned to the source with murder in her eyes. A Gargantuan appeared, this one was about seventeen feet tall, a humanoid grim that stood on two round hooves, its legs were short comparatively but were similar to a human’s in structure. Its head resembled an octopus, tentacles protruded like hair, streaks of white that came from the creature’s mask acting as white and red highlights. Its arms were humanoid as well, but rather than hands there were masses of tentacles. “Have people really died taking this exam? If this is what they were killed by, they must have been pathetic.” Weiss’s eyes flashed with intensity, glyphs surrounded both of her arms, she activated the ice dust in her sword, the glyphs pulling it to her right hand, she touched the ground and a blue glyph appeared, the grass around her became covered in frost. “Ozpin should have released some nevermore if he wanted this to be a challenge.” She glared at the beast. “You’ve caught me in a bad mood.” Weiss flung both of her arms forward, ice engulfed the Gargantuan, it was a mass of ice now. The beast fell over and shattered.

            “Weiss! Look out!” Ruby shouted. Weiss turned, a beowolf jumped at her, Ruby sliced the Grimm in two. Rose petals emanated from Ruby’s body.

            “I had that under control!” Weiss shouted, but her eyes betrayed her, she messed up, got tunnel vision, her sister would have been disappointed.

            Ruby had her back turned to Weiss; she then stabbed her massive scythe into the ground. “Look, I really don’t wanna team with you either, but we have to, we have to work together. What’s worse? Teaming up with me or disobeying Ozpin on your first day.”

            Before Weiss could answer the rest of the beowolf pack emerged from the foliage, they were surrounded, the two girls instinctually stood back to back. “Don’t let me down.”

            They fought together slaughtering the pack that was drawn to them. Not without mistakes, the last three Grimm were grouped together so Weiss thought it optimal to use some fire dust to dust them, but Ruby had been too excitable for her own good, using her speed, Petal Speed was the name of her semblance, she came in from the left and jumped over the Grimm, dragging her scythe below her slicing all three Grimm in two with one attack. Weiss was too late to stop her dust activation, so she shot the dust off to her left to prevent it from hitting Ruby. The fire burned a tree, then the fire began to spread, too fast for Weiss to put it out with her ice dust. “What was that?” Ruby exclaimed.

            “That was you throwing off my aim, you attacked out of turn!” Weiss frustrated that she had wasted dust. “You need to call out what you are doing!”

            “You didn’t call out what you were doing either! And who goes by snow angel and then uses flame attacks, that was totally out of character!”

            Weiss stepped away from Ruby, her face a mix of shock and panic, she looked away from her. “Don’t ever FUCKING call me that again.” She hissed.

            Ruby looked shocked and then guilty. “I…” Ruby was at a loss of words, the sound of a tree falling brought her back to reality. “We need to get out of here, we need to get out of this fire.” Weiss wordlessly started walking away from the scene.

            They walked in silence for a while, Ruby a few paces behind the tense Schnee. Ruby fidgeting with her fingers rapidly looking at and away from Weiss. Eventually Weiss did speak. “I can combine my glyphs with different kinds of dust to produce different effects, so I use all kinds of dust to develop a versatile, all powerful, and perfect fighting style.”

            “Ok…” Ruby closed some of the distance. “By the way do you know where we’re going?”

            Weiss stopped. “We are going to the… forest temple.” Weiss tried to sound confident.

            “And which way is that?”

            "North.”

            “And which way is north?”

            Weiss turned to Ruby. “Don’t criticize me, it’s not like you know either.”

            “Well at least I’m not pretending like I do, aren’t you supposed to be the smart one here, miss heiress.”

            “Ex- heiress, stop calling me names and grow up, you really are a child.”

            “Stop calling me that! Stop treating me like a kid!”

            “Then stop playing the part.”

            “And you need to admit you’re wrong sometimes!”

            “What’s that supposed to mean?”

            “It means that you are a big stupid jerk and I hate you!”

            “Just get moving. It’s in our best interest if we want to pass.”

            “Ahh, ‘just get moving.’ Hurry up, ‘call out your attacks’ Wahh” Ruby mocked. “Why are you so bossy?”

            “I’m not bossy, there you go with your immature name calling again.” Weiss got up in Ruby’s face.

            “You’re not so mature yourself, letting what a ‘child’ says get you mad.” Ruby pointed. “Stop acting like you’re perfect!”

            Weiss growled. “I’m not perfect, I was born imperfect, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t try to be! You being my teammate is only going to make that harder!” Weiss shook. “I have to at least try…”

            There was gunfire, close. Both turned in the direction of origin. There was also a feminine scream the echoed through the forest, the origin of which was less certain. “Let’s follow the gunfire, they need our help.”

            Weiss grimaced but decided to follow Ruby.

 

            “Oh, now that’s an aura jump.” Yang said, her, Weiss, Blake and Ruby watched as Artorias jumped to face the alpha nevermore. Weiss couldn’t help but be disappointed that the plan didn’t work, she had used up too much ice dust previously and didn’t have enough to properly trap the nevermore. Weiss looked at Ruby, she looked disappointed too, it was her plan. “Holy crap!” Their faces became bathed in green light as the alpha nevermore exploded into green and black fire.

            “Well I guess…” Blake started, then her eyes widened. “He’s passed out, he overused his semblance.” They all started running towards the clearing, Weiss made a bridge of glyphs to cross the gap between them and the tower. Artorias was in free fall. Pyrrha and Neo sprinted towards where Art would land, but he hit the ground before they could get to him. The four girls reached where the rest of Pyrrha’s group was standing.

            “Holy shit…” The orange hair girl said. They all walked towards the crater.

            Neo was kneeling on the ground next to Art, her face covered in tears, she tried to scream but nothing came out. Pyrrha was standing next to her, tense, and with a shocked look on her face. Blake then rushed to them, sliding to a halt next to Art’s body, small blades of green and black flames emitted from his body. “Did he overuse his semblance? What is it?” Blake asked, very calm.

            Neo shook her head. Pyrrha spoke. “He…” She swallowed. “I don’t know.”

            “Is anyone a healer?!” Blake asked. Everyone shook their heads. “Damnit…” She touched his face. “His aura is completely shot, it’s like it’s not even there. He should be dead.”

            Ruby fell to her knees. “This is my fault…” She murmured.

            Weiss disagreed. “No… I didn’t conserve my ice dust, the fault is min-“

            “Blame isn’t going to help anyone.” Blake forced Art’s eyes open and inspected his pupils.

            “They’re supposed to be blue…” Pyrrha muttered.

            “It’s faint but he’s still breathing, his heartbeat is slow… Vomit Boy, Pyrrha you carry him.” Blake ordered.

            Weiss was jealous of her calm demeanor; she had broken down so many times this day. She sighed, she looked at Ruby. I guess you’re right. She thought. Weiss wasn’t the one that took charge here, Winter told her to make sure to be the leader, but Weiss decided that wouldn’t be right.

            “Chocolate-Strawberry.” Blake continued. “Grab a chess piece, you still need to pass this test, he’ll be fine.”

 

            “Let’s worry about unpacking tomorrow, we have classes in the morning…” Weiss suggested, looking at her large stack of silver suitcases that were piled in the corner of the room. Weiss worried though, this dorm room was a bit small for four people, she was jealous of Neo and Art getting one all to themselves, and if they were dating, they were probably doing all sorts of degenerate stuff too. Weiss shook her head, degenerate thoughts… Neo could probably do better looks wise- stop thinking! Weiss was tired, she opened a suitcase.

            “Yes, that’s probably for the best… hmm…” Blake opened a leather suitcase of her own that contained only books, it seemed like the picking process was intense for her.

            “Yeah… tomorrow…” Ruby was already laying in her bed, bundled up like a burrito. She seemed tired.

            Weiss produced some pajamas and toiletries, she looked between Ruby and Blake, why the hell did they make the child the leader? She thought. She approached the bathroom.

            “You know we’re all girls here? You can get dressed in front of us.” Yang said.

            Oh, for fucks sake, out of all my habits she had to question it is this one. Weiss thought. “No, I don’t think I will.” She walked to the bathroom.

            “Some people just need more privacy than others Yang.” Thanks Blake. “Especially people that are more… sheltered.” Fuck you Blake.

            Weiss rolled her eyes. She inspected the lock on the bathroom door, there was a button on the doorknob on the bathroom side, and there was a hole on the other, can be unlocked by inserting a small stick. Not secure enough for cutting off her wings, but for getting dressed it will do. She stepped in and did so. As she brushed her teeth, she started to get anxious, what if there’s not a good place. She started counting. If worst comes to worst, I’ll just have to bring a bucket of water in the woods or something. She sighed. She hated that she had to plan her whole fucking life around something so morbid. She had a thought. She unlocked the door, then placed a negative glyph on the handle, she tried opening the door, it wouldn’t budge. This could work. She stepped back into the dorm, it was dark. Oh yeah, I must pretend I can’t see in the dark either. Ruby and Yang appeared to be asleep, Blake was reading a book… was it not as dark as she thought? Sometimes she couldn’t even tell, she didn’t really know what ‘dark’ was to people. The moon was big today, that was probably enough. She felt Blake’s eyes on her as she got into her bed, despite being in a room with three other people, she felt incredibly lonely.

 

            A couple of days went by, Weiss had experienced four of her classes so far, that left two more to get used to, and one teacher she hadn’t met yet. Combat Theory with Port would start today. Her schedule was already cramped if she were to study as much as she wanted to. She was looking over notes as she walked to class, the rest of her team was a few paces ahead of her, she could also feel Ruby’s eyes as she looked back to her occasionally. She also tried her best to block out the background noise to limited success, she could hear Art bitching to Neo about how uncomfortable the uniforms were, and how in reality Neo was still in her pajamas and only looked like she was wearing her uniform because of her semblance. She could hear Yang make puns and Ruby grimace in disgust and sarcastic laughter. She missed silence; it didn’t help that she could hear better than most too, not quite the level of Faunus with ears as their prominent trait but still better, which was so illogical to her, real birds had worse hearing than humans but avian Faunus had better? Maybe it was additive? Just made her feel like more of a monster. They walked into class, she examined the seats, sitting in the back so that all the noise was in front of her seemed optimal, Art and Neo seemed to agree. Suddenly there was a tug on her arm. “Common Weiss! Let’s all sit together as a team!” Ruby beamed at Weiss.

            “I’d really-“

            “Weiss, as our team leader I order you to enjoy class with us!” Ruby said with fake authority and a smile.

            Weiss was forced to sit between Yang and Ruby at the front row, not optimal. Port started his lecture, he told a story about the first Grimm he had killed, Weiss tried to take notes, but Yang and Ruby were passing notes to each other and giggling. To many distractions, Weiss eventually conceded defeat and settled on just reading notes from some other classes. Eventually she unconsciously picked out a part of Port’s lecture that interested her. “A true huntsman must be honorable.” She was a liar. “A true huntsman should be dependable.” She was prone to panic attacks. “A true huntsman must be strategic,” She overused her ice dust. “well educated,” Intensive education efforts were moved to Whitley. “and wise! So, who among you believes themselves to be the embodiment of these traits?” No one raised their hands; the classroom was silent. “No one? Well, that is not entirely unexpected, the reason you are here is because you all believe that you must better yourselves, and if your lack of confidence is what’s driving you towards that goal who am I to tell you that you are wrong? Though some of you are closer to being true huntsman and huntresses than you realize, Artorias!”

            “What’s up?”

            “According to your transcripts…” Port cleared his throat. “You have killed seventy-seven unique Grimm and hundreds of regulars, yes?” The class murmured.

            Wait what!? Weiss thought.

            “Uhh… Yeah? What about it?” Art responded.

            “Well, I was hoping you could impart some of your wisdom onto your fellow classmates. Please grab your weapon and face your opponent.” Port gestured to a large cage off to the side of the classroom.

            Art got up from his chair, he rubbed his hands together, it was his first day of school, so he wasn’t as jaded as the rest of them already were. “Well then let’s obtain this grain.” He clapped his hands together and shot finger guns at Port.

            “We will wait here for you to retrieve your weapon, don’t keep us waiting for long.” Port said.

            “Nah, I’ll be fine, sounds like just a boarbatusk right?” Art snatched the keys to the cage off Port’s belt.

            Port seemed confused. “Well if you think you’ll be alright.”

            Art opened the cage and the boar tried to run out, but Art grabbed one of its tusks. “Ara ara where do you think you’re going?” He lifted the boar off the ground and strode to the center of the classroom. “This class, is a boarbatusk, a rather young one, they can grow up to three times the size of this one here.” The boar he was holding was as tall as him, it wasn’t squirming. “Now, the thing with these guys is that their body armor is hella thick with a few capital ‘C’s.” He turned the boar around to show us it’s back, he gestured to the white armor. “So, the key to defeating these guys is to get their underbellies exposed where there is no armor. The best way to do this is to have your back up against a wall, then bait out their rolling attack, you’ll know it when you see it, then dodge out of the way at the last minute, causing the boar to slam into the wall, stunning it for long enough to where you can reach their belly. Any questions?” The class was stumped, confused by the boar being docile. “No, well then I’ll show you the fun way of killing boar.” He put the boar on it’s back and stepped on its belly, then he pulled as hard as he could on both of the boar’s tusks, until he ripped the boar’s head off. He turned to Port as he nonchalantly throwed the boar’s head off to the side. “Anything else?”

            Port looked shocked as well, then he composed himself. “That was very insightful Mr. Abyss, we are in the presence of a true hunter, you may return to your seat.”

            Art nodded and returned to his seat.

            Weiss looked at her paper, she had written down everything he said word for word, she looked at Ruby’s paper, it had an insulting drawing of Port, Ruby showed the drawing to Yang who giggled. “Ruby, were you seriously not paying attention?!” Weiss whispered yelled. Port cleared his throat to encourage silence, Ruby looked guilty.

            “I’m afraid that’s all I meant to cover today. Be sure to cover the assigned readings, and… stay vigilant! Class dismissed.”

            Weiss pushed her way past Ruby and stormed out of the classroom. Furious.

            “Weiss! Weiss get back here.” Weiss turned back to find Yang storming towards her, Weiss kept walking. “Oh no you don’t we’re gonna have a talk.” Yang grabbed Weiss’s shoulder and turned her around. “What’s your problem with my sister.”

            “My problem?”

            “Yes, your problem, she only trying to be nice.”

            “Her trying to be nice is part of the problem, she isn’t taking any of this seriously. She’s supposed to be a leader but has thus far displayed zero leadership qualities, in the forest, she came up with a solid plan to defeat the nevermore, but what did she do when it failed? She broke down, a real leader would have got back up and came up with another plan. Ozpin made a mistake.”

            “Lemme guess, you think you should’ve been the leader? Your highness.”

            “I… No! Blake should have been the leader, she was the one to take charge when Art almost died, she’s a leader. You don’t get how serious this is do you, you realize that two people died during that exam, and Art, someone you know, he almost fucking died. If he did die, he wouldn’t have gotten up in front of the class today. Can you imagine how class would have went today, do you realize that whole lecture you would hear Neo’s sobs? There are only two people on their team for a reason! Your sister isn’t a leader, and through her leadership this team will be nothing more than a mess, we stand no chance of qualifying for the tournament, or worse, we die under her direction. I des- I need a better team.”

            “You don’t have the right to criticize my sister, you have no idea how hard she’s worked to get where she is, what hardships she’s had to endure! You have no idea what pain she’s hiding behind that cheery attitude that you hate. I almost got her killed because of my stubbornness and she hasn’t been the same since, her mom died-“

            “And my father beat me when he was angry!” Yang’s eyes went wide, and she took a step back. “Don’t play that card! We all go through shit that stays with us for our whole lives, but that’s no excuse to bring everyone else down with you!” Weiss stormed off; tears threatened to fall.

            “Weiss!”

            Weiss shook her head trying to clear it, but she couldn’t, she’s never been good at clearing out negativity. She needed air. She walked up the stairs to the roof of the school. She found Port standing, looking out at the afternoon sun. She walked up to him and stood next to him. “The view is quite beautiful isn’t it?” He commented.

            “Yes… It is…”

            “I’ve only known you for a couple hours, but I can still tell you are feeling down. The teachers of this school are not just here to impart knowledge but wisdom as well, you can come to us for advice on all matters, not just academic. You can confess to me your strife!” He turned to her, positivity emanating from his voice.

            “I… I want to switch teams…”

            “And who’s team would you like to be on?”

            “Art and Neo’s.”

            “Artorias is certainly a good ally to have, he is a true hunter, and Neo, that girl intimidates even me. I can see why you would want to be on their team, but I think the more important question is: why do you not want to be on your team?”

            “Because…” Weiss interlocked her fingers and gripped tightly, her knuckles went white. “Because… I want to be the perfect huntress, and I feel like I can’t accomplish that goal with the team I have been assigned.”

            “Why do you think that?”

            “Our leader, Ruby, she isn’t taking her role seriously, and therefore… I don’t respect her; I can’t follow someone like her into battle. I don’t want her to bring me down with her.”

            “Do you think you should be the leader?”

            “No!” Weiss raised her voice; Port raised an eyebrow. Weiss recomposed herself. “I’m… I wouldn’t be a great leader either, I’m not even a good teammate.”

            “And how would changing teams change that?”

            “What do you mean?”

            “You said you aren’t a good teammate. Now what would happen if you switched teams? You claim that Ruby’s inaptitude will bring her teammates down, can’t the same be said about you?”

            “You’re saying I would bring Art and Neo down…”

            “If you are a bad teammate as you say then yes. So, this is my proposal: when you can honestly tell me that you are the perfect teammate, you can ask me to switch teams again, and I will make the arrangements with Ozpin. Until then, learn to work with your team, and become the best teammate you can. Savor what you have.” Port walked away leaving Weiss to ponder.

            Weiss stood there until the sun went down, the moon came up to greet her, it’s soft light remining her of the nights that she would step out onto her balcony and let her wings free. She started to walk back to her dorm. Eventually she got to the dorm building, on her way to her dorm she passed the door to the roof, it was open, she heard a voice on the other side. She snuck a peek of what was through the doorway. Art and Neo were sitting, they were having a conversation, their weapons on the floor beside them. They smiled as they discussed, Art laughed at a joke Neo made. They looked so happy. Weiss backed away from the door. She started walking down the hallway. “I would only bring them down.” She whispered to herself.

            She got to her dorm, she opened the door soundlessly, Blake was in her bed reading a book, it looked like smut, the other two were asleep. Weiss grabbed some pajamas and went into the bathroom. Her back was itching, she took off her shirt and looked at it, her wings looked deformed, disgusting, when they were this early in the regrowth cycle, she sighed.

 

            “Do we have any other volunteers?” Goodwitch asked the large class.

            “I would.” Weiss raised her hand and stood up.

            “Miss Schnee, you have fought during every sparring class thus far, I think you should give someone else a turn.” Weiss sat down. “Mr. Abyss, you have been rather docile, perhaps you should spar today?”

            He grimaced, “I’d really rather not though.”

            Neo then stood up and signed. I’ll do it.

            “Well it seems you have escaped this time Mr. Abyss. Who would you like to fight Neopolitan?” She was the only person Goodwitch called by their first name, Weiss thought it was weird.

            Neo thought for a second then pointed at Weiss. Schnee she signed.

            “Well Miss Schnee it seems you have gotten your wish. Please come to the stage.”

            Weiss and Neo faced each other on the stage. Neo smiled; Weiss’s face was intense. Weiss glanced at the large display, their aura meters filled, Neo’s took considerably longer to fill. Shit. Weiss thought. Neo opened her umbrella and rested it on her shoulder as she bowed. Weiss got into her stance, she continuously rotated through her dust so she could pick at a moment notice. Her eyes narrowed.

            “Begin.” Goodwitch called.

            The girls just stood there, sizing each other up, a moment later Neo’s aura meter dropped, unprompted. Weiss’s eyes darted around, Neo was just standing on the other side of the stage, slowly twirling her umbrella.

            “Omae wa mou shindeiru.” Art called from the stands.

            What? Weiss thought.

            “Shhh.” Goodwitch scolded.

            Neo walked towards Weiss, slowly, Neo beckoned Weiss to come closer with a hand gesture. Weiss concentrated, she picked her dust, activated a glyph, and charged Neo. She stabbed Myrtenaster into Neo’s chest, only for her form to shatter into glass shards, Weiss’s eyes widened. She felt something hit her side, the pressure points right above the hip, then more quick strikes along her back, on her neck, the back of her head, her chest, her knees. Suddenly Weiss was on the floor, unsure of what just happened.

            “And that’s the match.” Goodwitch said. “Good job Neo, I must say, quite the breakout performance. I look forward to seeing you apply for the tournament.”

            Weiss picked herself up, shame burning on her face, she saw Neo go back to her seat with a skip in her step. What the hell just happened? She’s unrivaled… Weiss thought. She gritted her teeth. She needed to train more.

            Art mouthed ‘sorry’.

            Weiss sat in silence until the end of class, as soon as she was dismissed she rushed to the bathroom, locked the door behind her, she threw off her jacket, she undid her bindings, she spread her wings, she shook them a little bit. Two feathers fell off, in the spots Neo hit. Shit. That was way too close, she needed to cut them off.

            Weiss called in sick the next day, her teammates had classes back to back, plenty of time. She performed her ritual. She cried, as she always did. She took her shower, she threw her wings in a large paper bag, she covered the top with paper shreds. She went to the roof of the dorm. She placed the bag in the center. She leveled Myrtenaster at the bag, tears streamed down her face, she stood there for a while, not wanting to do what she was about to do.

            “So, what’s in the bag?” Weiss jumped. Art was standing right next to her looking at the bag. “Based on your face I imagine it’s something kinda serious.”

            “What are you doing up here?” Weiss hissed.

            “I come up here to clear my head…” He pulled out a flask for alcohol. He drank. “Why do you come up here?”

            “I… No, why would I tell you anything!”

            Art sat down on the floor, crossing his legs. “It smells like blood.”

            “Shut up!” Weiss’s eyes shook, she was still crying.

            Art stared at his flask. “You know… I know a thing or two about keeping things bottled up. I’m willing to help…”

            “You…”

            “How bout this? A secret for a secret, you tell me what’s in the bag, and I’ll tell you a secret of mine. How does that sound?” Weiss stayed silent. “I guess I’ll go first…” He drank. “Do you know why I don’t have an aura?”

            “No…”

            “It’s because I’m not like you, I’m not from Remnant.” He paused. “I’m from another planet, it’s called Earth, and it’s a lot different compared to here, there’s no aura or semblances, but there’s no Grimm either, I guess that’s the trade off.” He drank. “I don’t know how I got here, or why I’m here, I’m just here now… I wonder a lot if my parents and friends are still looking for me, if they have continued to care over this year and a half.” He chuckled. “Actually, for all I know I’ve been gone for five minutes… All I know is that I don’t know shit…”

            “Artorias…”

            He chuckled again. “You know, Artorias isn’t my real name, it’s the name of a fucking video game character. Ha.”

            Weiss sat down. “I guess I owe you a secret…” Weiss sighed. She took a deep breath in, she reached for the bag and pulled out the paper, she pushed the bag towards Art. “Whenever they get about this big, I cut them off.”

            “You know you really shouldn’t be doing this.”

            “And you shouldn’t be drinking.”

            “Touché.” Art chuckled. “I am wondering why you cut them off though.”

            “My family… There are no monsters allowed in my family.”

            “Who knows?”

            “Just my immediate family, and a doctor, he’s the one my dad hired to get these permanently removed, it didn’t work though, they would always grow back… What about you?”

            “Pyrrha and Neo.”

            Weiss smiled a sad smile. “Neo… Your girlfriend really kicked my ass last class.”

            “She’s… not my girlfriend…”

            “Why not? Based on your interactions…”

            “I do love her… It’s just… When I came into this world, it was in a blink of an eye, unprompted, unexpected, no time to prepare, it just happened. One second I was there, the next I was here. For all I know it will happen again…”

            Weiss put the paper back in the bag. She stood up; Art then did the same. She lit the bag on fire. They stared at the fire. “I want to keep them… So badly… but I can’t.”

            “Why not?”

            “My father will ruin my life…”

            “Who cares? I say do what you want… On Earth there’s no Faunus either, just a bunch of humans running around, it’s boring. Over here there’s people with gills and cat ears and, of course, wings. I knew people who would kill to have a pair of wings, to fly. Savor what you have, there is always someone jealous of it.” Weiss began to cry again. “I’m sorry, I think I’ll go now.” He turned and left.

            “Thank you…” She whispered.

            Weiss walked back to her dorm, when she opened the door, she found Ruby getting out a book from Blake’s collection. Ruby turned. “Oh, hey Weiss…” She started off cheery but noticed the dried tears on her face. “Weiss? Are you ok?”

            Weiss walked to Ruby, Ruby flinched. Weiss hugged her. “I’m sorry, I’m really sorry…”

            “What are you sorry for?”

            “I treated you so badly, I’ve been awful to you and you’ve been so nice. I’m thankful that someone so positive is in my life.” Weiss hugged her tighter.

            Ruby tentatively hugged her back. “It’s fine. Are you ok?”

            “I’m fine, just really tired…” Weiss let go of Ruby.

            “Uhh… Weiss?” Ruby showed Weiss her hand, it was red. Weiss ran into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. “Weiss! If your back is cut, we need to go to the nurse’s office!”

            “No, its fine!” Damnit. She was careless, worrying about her time limit, she threw off her jacket, it had blood stained on the back. She didn’t properly cauterize the wound.

            “Are you sure? It was going through your coat, it’s kinda a lot.”

            “Please, just forget about it. Forget it ever happened! I’m begging you!” Please say yes, please say yes.

            “Well ok, I guess, but I need to wash my hands now.”

            “No!” Weiss yelled, but it was too late, Ruby open the door.

            “Weiss?” Ruby immediately started crying at what she saw, in the mirror Weiss’s back, her scared and damaged back was clearly visible.

            “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no…” Weiss jumped in the shower closing the curtain behind her. She sat down and pulled her knees close to her chest. She couldn’t think straight. Why the hell did I tell Art, this all was a colossal mistake, what did she see, what did she see, what did she see?

            “Weiss? What’s going on with you? You can tell me…”

            “What did you see?!”

            “What?”

            “What. Did. You. See?”

            “Your back… It’s cut up and burned really badly, how did this happen Weiss, that’s not normal.”

            Of course, it’s not normal, it’s the back of a monster. “The correct answer is nothing! You saw nothing!”

            Ruby sniffled. “You… you can talk to me about it, when you’re ready.”

            “I know Ruby… I know…”

 

            Weiss was sitting at her desk studying, Yang was sitting at the other desk cleaning her gauntlets, Weiss wished she wouldn’t do that here, they had a class for that. Blake was laying on her bed reading aloud to Ruby and Neo who were leaning on her shoulders, their massive height difference made the scene adorable to Weiss and reminded her of when Winter would read to her when she was younger. Then there was a knock on their door, moment of truth time. Goodwitch walked into the room, she looked at Neo. “Neopolitan, leave.” Neo got up and left, Blake put her book away and Ruby sat up. Goodwitch cleared her throat. “I have finished talking with Cardin and his team, as well as relaying the punishment, it’s the same for them as it is for you, team RWBY is on house arrest for one week.”

            “Our whole team? Not just Ruby?” Yang asked.

            “Yes, your whole team, you all are responsible for each other, you are all one entity and will be treated as such.”

            “Damnit Ruby…” Weiss commented.

            “He started it ok?!” Ruby’s eyes grew wet.

            “It doesn’t matter who started it.” Goodwitch continued. “We can’t have unsupervised fights between students.” Goodwitch left.

            “Why did you even fight him Ruby?” Weiss chastised.

            “I just…” Ruby looked for an out. “I just couldn’t help it ok.” Ruby looked to be on the verge of tears.

            “It’s ok Ruby, you did nothing wrong.” Yang hugged her sister. “Can’t you see that Ruby is sorry Weiss?”

            Weiss scoffed. “You doting on her like this is why she still acts so recklessly. You can’t keep treating her like a baby, she’s not one.”

            Yang growled. “First of all-“

            Ruby cut her off. “Weiss I’m sorry, don’t blame Yang for how I acted. It’s my fault, I knew better, and I still didn’t restrain myself.”

            “Ruby, do you know how bad this looks? You have damaged our standing with the teachers and have just made it harder for us to qualify for the tournament.”

            Ruby started crying. Yang hugger her again. “It’s ok, don’t cry. I’m proud you tried to hold back, that’s more than I could do.”

            Weiss groaned and stormed out of the room, maybe she could talk to Ozpin to get this rectified. I will not stand for this! Weiss wasn’t watching where she was going and bumped into someone, she fell backwards, it was like hitting a brick wall. “Watch where you’re going.” Weiss looked up. “Cardin.” She growled.

            “Oh, it’s you. You wanna fight me too?” He said.

            “Fortunately for you, I don’t engage in uncivilized behaviors like Ruby does. Although I have to ask why you would pick a fight with a child?” Weiss picked herself up.

            He started walking past her. “Wow, you really do think you’re hot stuff huh? Get your ego in check, you may be a Schnee but you’re still damaged goods.” Cardin traced his finger over his left eye, mirroring Weiss’s eye scar. Weiss’s eyes widened.

            “Ruby no!” Yang yelled.

            There was a gunshot, Cardin dodged out of the way of a fire blast. “What the fuck?”

            Ruby was in the hallway wielding Yang’s gauntlets. Tears were in her eyes. “Didn’t I tell you ‘if you make fun of Weiss’s scar again, you’d pay for it’?”

            “Ruby?” Weiss asked.

            “What’s going on over here?” Port was turning the corner of the hallway.

            Weiss used a glyph to speed to Ruby and grabbed her. “Petal Speed us out of here!” Ruby turned herself and Weiss into a cloud of red and white rose petals and ran away. The went to the roof of the dorm, Ruby released her semblance and they both spilled on the ground. Weiss quickly picked herself up. “Ruby! Do you want to be expelled? Openly shooting at another student.” Weiss scoffed.

            “I’m sorry…” Ruby picked herself up off the ground and sniffled.

            “Ruby… Did you get in that fight over me?”

            “I’m sorry… I know I shouldn’t let myself get angry so easily… but I just couldn’t hold back… Because…” She fell to her knees and held her face. “I just can’t get it out of my head! Every time I look at you, I see it! I can’t let people call you ‘damaged goods’!”

            Ruby… Weiss knelt and hugged her. Tears were in her eyes too. “Thank you…” She then giggled through tears. “You’re still so childish sometimes, but I’m glad I have someone like you looking out for me.” Weiss couldn’t show how bad she really felt.

 

            “The Vytal Festival! This is absolutely wonderful!” Weiss exclaimed.

            “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile this much Weiss…” Ruby said.

            “How could you not smile? Common Ruby!” Weiss grabbed Ruby’s arm and dragged her along, “This is a festival dedicated to the cultures of the world, there’s going to be dances and parades, not to mention the tournament. The level of planning and coordination that goes into an event like this is just marvelous, I want to see it all.” Weiss said as they walked. “How the city comes alive!”

            “Way to make a good thing sound boring.” Yang said. “And why are we spending our afternoon visiting the stupid docks?”

            “They smell like fish.” Ruby complained, holding her nose.

            “I heard that the Vacuo students will be arriving by boat today, I want to see the festival from the very beginning to the end.” Weiss said, they arrived at a place where they could see the docks, she finally unhanded Ruby. “And… As… A representative of Beacon! I feel that it is my solemn duty to welcome them to this fine kingdom.”

            “She wants to spy on them to get the upper hand in the tournament.” Blake observed.

            “Shhh… You can’t prove that.”

            “Woah…” Ruby looked down the street and saw a dust shop that had been robbed, yellow tape and police officers were abound. The four girls approached. “What happened here?” Ruby asked one of the officers.

            “Dust robbery, second shop to be hit this week…” The officer in sunglasses shook his head, he seemed legitimately frustrated.

            “That’s terrible,” Yang said then smirked. “I’m sure this takes you back down memory lane huh Ruby?”

            “They left all the money again.” Another officer said.

            “It just doesn’t make a lick of sense… Who needs that much dust, and mostly explosion dust at that.” The officer in sunglasses said.

            “I donno, an army?”

            “You thinkn’ the White Fang?”

            “Yeah I’m thinkn’ we don’t get paid enough.”

            Weiss clenched her fists, digging her nails into her palm. “Let’s just go Ruby…” Weiss started walking away, the other girls followed.

            “The White Fang? We talked about them in Oobleck’s right?” Yang said.

            “Oh, that was the class where Blake insulted Cardin and Art yelled ‘Obliterated!’ right?” Ruby said, she cupped her hands around her mouth as she said ‘obliterated’.

            “Peaceful turned terrorist, that kinda sucks.”

            “Can we not talk about this subject?” Weiss asked. Yang seemed to have a moment of realization, then guilt.

            “What’s your problem?” Blake then asked.

            Yang shook her head. Weiss responded. “I’d just rather not give those monsters the attention that they want.” She mumbled.

            “What do you mean by monsters?”

            “Blake, just drop this.” Weiss sighed, releasing her hands.

            “Weiss…” Ruby ran up to Weiss and grabbed her hand, she had broken skin with her grip.

            “I’m a Schnee Blake, you should know how this subject makes me feel.”

            “No, I want to know what you mean by monsters.” Blake crossed her arms. Yang’s head shaking grew more feverish.

            “Guys, this is probably not even the White Fang, it’s probably that Torchwick guy I ran into a while back.” Ruby tried to change the subject.

            “Neo’s dad, right? You think we could ask her about it?” Yang suggested, Blake flinched. “Ehh, Art did say not to ask about that though…”

            “That still doesn’t change what Weiss just said.” Blake countered.

            Suddenly a blond man with a monkey tail to match jumped over their whole group. “Hey! That guy dined and dashed! Somebody, stop that Faunus.” Someone called.

            The blond waved as he ran away and yelled. “Just put it on my tab ‘kay, I’ll pay you back after I win the tournament!”

            “Well, Weiss, you wanted to see the competition, and there it goes.” Yang said.

            “He dined and dashed right? I say we catch him like heroes!” Ruby said. Then Ruby activated her semblance closing the distance in an instant. The rest of team RWBY tried to keep up using Weiss’s glyphs, Ruby and the blond turned a corner and a loud thud was heard. When they caught up Ruby was down on the ground rubbing her head. “Wow, it’s like I ran into a brick wall.”

            “Damnit, he got away…” Weiss grumbled. “I at least wanted to see Ruby fight him.”

            “Hey are you ok?” A girl with orange hair outstretched a hand to the fallen Ruby. “I apologize for being crashed into by you.”

            “Ruby! I’m sorry.” Weiss spun around and offered Ruby her hand as well.

            Ruby grabbed onto both girl’s hands and pulled herself up. “Thanks…” Ruby was still rubbing her head.

            “Who… are you?” Yang asked the new girl.

            “Salutations! My name is Penny, it’s a pleasure to meet you! You are all students of Beacon correct? Please be my friends!”

            “What’s this girl’s deal?” Weiss whisper asked Ruby.

            “I don’t know help me!” Ruby whispered back.

            “My name is Penny, it’s a pleasure to meet you! You are all students of Beacon correct? Please be my friends!” Penny repeated.

            “Hey, did you hit your head or something?” Yang asked, Blake elbowed her.

            Penny leaned in close to Ruby. “Do you not wish to?”

            “Let’s bail.” Whispered Yang.

            “Uhm no, I mean, sure, you’re just really close.” Ruby tried to back away.

            Weiss, Yang and Blake eventually stopped running. “Sorry Ruby… she’s gonna be mad at us later.” Yang mumbled.

            “I feel bad for bailing on her like that.” Weiss said.

            “Can we get an ‘F’ in the chat for Ruby?” Yang jokingly said.

            “You don’t even know what that means do you?” Weiss then sighed. “I do wish we could have caught that degenerate though.”

            “Degenerate?” Blake mumbled, angry.

            “I just hope he’s really here for the tournament, and not to join up with the…” Weiss trails off.

            “Isn’t that jumping to conclusions?” Blake criticized.

            “Blake, let’s not.” Yang said harshly, they then stood in silence.

            “Thanks for bailing on me you guys!” Ruby approached the group, tailed by Penny.

            “Sorry Ruby.” Yang and Weiss said almost in unison.

            “Hey guys, what are you up to?” Penny asked and waved.

            “Uhh… Penny, right?” Weiss asked.

            “Weiss, she’s here for the tournament, she’s from Atlas too so I thought you might want to meet her.” Ruby said, gesturing her arms between to two of them.

            “You’re here for the tournament?

            “I’m combat ready!” Penny gave a salute.

            “Forgive me but you hardly look the part.”

            “Says the girl wearing a dress.” Blake commented.

            Weiss scoffed. “It’s a combat skirt.”

            Ruby slid next to Weiss. “Yeah!” Weiss held out her hand for a high five and Ruby obliged.

            Weiss then approached Penny. “Wait a minute, if you’re here for the tournament, do you know that monkey tailed deviant guy?” Weiss then produced a notebook, prepared to take notes on the competition.

            “The who? I only know of the other Atlas students, and the only Faunus is female.”

            “Stop saying that!” Blake yelled.

            “Huh?” Weiss turned.

            “Stop calling him a deviant, stop calling him a monster, he’s a person!”

            Weiss’s eyes narrowed. “I’m just being accurate; I believe in precision of language. He’s a thief.”

            “Stop it!”

            “He’s already a confirmed criminal, for all we know he’s here to join up with the Vale branch of the White Fang.”

            “You, ignorant little brat!” Blake stormed off.

            “Don’t talk to me like that! I am your teammate. I’ve made an effort to be nicer, you should do the same.” Weiss followed Blake.

            The argument erupted, Ruby said goodbye to Penny, and they made their way back to the dorms, the argument following them. As they walked through the halls they passed by Art, Neo, Pyrrha and Jaune who were going to do their training. As they passed Art leaned in to ask Ruby. “What’s this about?”

            “They are arguing about the White Fang.” Ruby pouted.

            He narrowed his eyes, glancing at the arguing pair. “Text me if it escalates.”

            “Wait why?” Yang asked.

            “Trust me.” He continued walking.

            They arrived in their room, Weiss and Blake sat on the edges of their beds, not skipping a beat. Ruby closed the door behind them, the sisters stood next to each other, tense, and observed.

            “That is the problem!” Blake shouted.

            “You realize that you are defending an organization that hates the world.” Weiss retorted. “The Faunus of the White Fang are pure evil!”

            Blake stood. “There’s no such thing as pure evil! Why do you think they hate humans so much? It’s because of people like Cardin, people like you, that force the White Fang to take such drastic measures.”

            “People. Like. Me?” Weiss stood. “How fucking dare you pin anything those monsters do on me?”

            “You’re discriminatory.”

            “I’m justified you bitch! I have my reasons to hate the White Fang! More reasons than anyone!”

            “Weiss calm down…” Yang touched Weiss’s shoulder.

            Weiss hit her hand away. “No, I’m not going to fucking calm down! I hate the White Fang because they have made my personal life a living hell, Blake! They’ve been at war with my father’s company-“

            “The same company that used slave labor for generations, and to this day they pay Faunus half as much for the same job.”

            “I am not my father’s company, yet I’ve had to deal with the consequences of their violence for as long as I can remember. You are blaming the victim for a crime Blake, what the fuck is wrong with you!? Every day my father would come home furious, and that made for a very. Difficult. Childhood.”

            “Weiss… please.” Ruby tried to approach.

            “No, I hate the White Fang because every time they would kill a family member, a colleague, steal a train car of dust, rob a dust shop. Every time those monsters did something heinous, those were all extra beat-.”

            “Well maybe we were just tired of being pushed around!” Blake screamed.

            The three other girls took a step back from her, tears started pouring down Weiss’s face.

            “Blake?” Asked Ruby.

            Blake tried to run for the door, but a negative glyph appeared on the handle, slamming it shut. Blake tried to pull the door open, but it wouldn’t budge. Ruby pulled out her scroll and frantically typed. “You…” Weiss’s face a mixture of pain and anger. “You have no right to run away from this!” Weiss approached Blake, Blake put her back to the door and slid down, she covered her face. Weiss grabbed her bow off her head, revealing the cat ears that they hid. “You Blake, my own teammate, my friend, you…” Weiss’s eyes shook with anger. “You help them with their violence… You…”

            “Blake, tell us the truth. Are you with the White Fang?” Yang asked.

            “Not… anymore.”

            “Anymore! For how long? How many times have your actions made my father mad, have caused him to beat me? How many of my family members have you killed?” Weiss questioned.

            “I... killed… Killed… stop… please.”

            “It’s your fault my life is hell! You people made me who I am! Not the other way around!” Weiss fell to her knees.

            “Weiss… please.” Ruby tried to hug Weiss from behind, as soon as her hand touched her wing through her clothes Weiss ran off to the bathroom, she locked herself in. “Weiss!” Ruby ran to the bathroom door. She pulled on it, but it wouldn’t budge. Weiss’s sobs were very audible.

            Blake held her head. “Every train car… extra beat…” The negative glyph on the dorm door was released, Blake shot up and went for it. When she opened the door, Art was on the other side. Art looked at Blake, he acknowledged her cat ears, “I was just leaving.” She tried to push past him.

            He grabbed her shoulder and pushed her back into the room. He entered, with a snap a torrent of green and black flame blocked the doorway. Ruby nervously pointed at the bathroom. “You all have your weapons, where is hers?” He spoke in a tone more serious than any of them had heard before, his sarcastic and jovial façade was nowhere to be found.

            Ruby’s eyes widened. “She took it with her…”

            Art walked up to the bathroom door. “Weiss!”

            “No, not you, anyone but you… Go away!” Weiss sobbed.

            “Weiss, I want you to stop doing what you are about to do.”

            “No! Fuck you! AHHHHHHHHH!” She screamed.

            “Damnit. Weiss, stop!”

            “AHHHHHHHHH!” Another scream of intense pain.

            “Damnit… It’s done…” Art looked down.

            “What is?” Ruby asked.

            Art looked back to the three other girls, their faces those of horror, bathed in green light, his face was pained. He turned back to the bathroom door. “Weiss, you need to stop this, you need to be honest.”

            “No, I don’t!”

            “Weiss, you need to think about what will cause you more pain, keeping your secret or telling it.”

            “You have no room to talk! No one even knows your real name! You don’t have room to talk about keeping secrets.”

            “There is a difference Weiss, my pain comes from the truth itself, yours comes from the secret being kept. Your life would be better if you told your teammates, your friends.”

            “No, it wouldn’t, they can’t know why I’m a monster! Just go away! Telling you anything was a mistake!”

            “Yeah, your right.” Art said somberly, he walked towards the dorm room door, the torrent of flame blocking it dissipated.

            As he walked out of the room, he snapped his fingers again, the door to the bathroom was engulfed in flames. Art left.

            The three girls looked at the bathroom, the door was turned to ash in an instant. On the other side, Weiss Schnee was sitting down, her back was to her teammates, her bloodied back, and two dismembered white feathery wings were on the floor behind her.

 

B

            I always thought I had nothing, ever since I was born, but despite that, humans still found things that they could take from me. First it was my parents, then my happiness, then my hope, then my freedom, then my eyes, then my empathy, then my people. Do you want to know why you taking yourself away from me hurt me more than all those others? When you were in my life, I finally thought I had something, I had your love, your touch, your faith, you. You gave me a tantalizing taste of life, then you took it from me, that taste you gave me has caused me more pain then anything the humans have ever done to me. You made me think that this story would have a happy ending, only to crash reality back down on my head, unfortunately, the real world isn’t the same as a fairy tale. My rose has wilted Blake, and you only have yourself to blame.

 

You had the power to stop it, I was born a beast, you could have made me a person.

 

You killed me instead.

 

Since you’ve left, his more violent tendencies have been left unchecked, I think you were the one thing keeping him from the edge. He’s slaughtering people.

Its… Its my fault, this is my responsibility, my consequences I have to face… I have run and run and run. Enough is enough, I must put an end to this sad story. Beacon, I need a hiding place after this is done, from all the factions, can you make the arrangements?

Yes, I see… I’m… so sorry. I’ll make the arrangements for your admission.

Thank you uncle Tukson.

 

            “You… you Blake… this is what you wanted…” Adam asked.

            “No… I wanted us to live happily ever after…” Blake removed her blade from his back, he fell to his knees, the red grass welcoming him.

            “This… you’re in the right… aren’t you?” He looked at her with his glassy scarred blind eyes.

            “I don’t want to be…” Blake removed her Grimm mask, revealing a dejected face underneath.

            “Promise me something… that I will be the last of our people… you hurt…”

            “I… promise…”

            “Thank you… I think this is what I want… if I could choose who would kill me… it would be you.” Adam took his last breath.

            Blake knelt and touched his face, she could feel his aura fade, his body became cold. Her scream permeated the forest.

 

            “Oh my gods…” Yang was in shock.

            “Weiss!” Ruby ran to her and hugged her, not caring about the blood.

            “You… you all know…” Weiss froze.

            “We need to get her help! Yang! We have to get her to the nurse!” Ruby tried to pick up Weiss but couldn’t. “Common Weiss.” Weiss didn’t move. “Yang!”

            Yang seemed to compose herself. Ruby took off her cloak and wrapped it around Weiss’s back. Yang scooped up Weiss, the three of them left the dorm room.

            Blake stood in the middle of the room, she slowly comprehended what she saw. She walked into the bathroom in a trance, she knelt down and touched Weiss’s dismembered wings, “They… won’t grow back… will they?” Blake asked herself It’s been done… Tears soundlessly rolled down her face. “I did this to her…” Blake got up and made her way to her bed. She lifted the mattress, underneath was Wilt and Blush, Adam’s weapon. She cradled it. “I’m sorry Adam… I broke my promise… Adam… I’m sorry… so…” She hyperventilated. “DAMNIT!”

            “Blake, what’s going on here? What happened?” Ren and Nora were in the dorm room.

            “What happened to the bathroom door.” Nora walked to it. She gasped when she saw what was on the floor inside. “Blake…”

            “Blake…” Ren went to the shivering Blake’s side and knelt to her level; he touched her shoulder. “Calm… Release.”

            It was like Blake could suddenly breath again. She could speak. “Nurse’s office…” She swallowed. “Go to the nurse’s office.”

            Ren and Nora looked at each other. “I’ll go, you take care of Blake.” Nora said, Ren nodded, she left.

            “Blake… I need you to breath. In for four, hold for seven, out for eight.” Blake nodded, they breathed together for a while. When Blake was ready Ren helped her to her feet and had her sit on her bed, Ren pulled a desk chair over to sit across from her. “I want you to tell me what happened from your perspective, Nora will get Weiss’s. You were having an argument about the White Fang yes?” Ren acknowledged Blake’s cat ears. “I have suspected you were a Faunus.”

            Blake nodded.

            “Start from the beginning.”

            Blake breathed in, she held Wilt and Blush closer. “We were in town, there was a dust robbery that happened… the officers there mentioned that it might be the White Fang, Weiss made some comments about them… I didn’t like her comments… We argued…” Blake couldn’t continue.

            “Those are Weiss’s wings in the bathroom, aren’t they?”

            Blake nodded. “I promised I wouldn’t hurt another Faunus… I promised…”

            “Who cut them off?”

            “It’s my fault… Weiss… she… did… that…to… herself…”

            Ren nodded. “I think I get the picture; I’m going to leave you be. Try to rest. Realize, this isn’t your fault, you couldn’t have known. Don’t take responsibility for this.” Ren got up, he walked to the pile of ash the used to be the bathroom door, he pinched some in his hand and rubbed it, dust didn’t do this. “Art…” He mumbled. He left the dorm room.

            Blake laid back in her bed, “I’m stronger than this…” She mumbled. She repeated it to herself until she fell asleep, it wasn’t for long, she awoke to some arguing in the halls.

            “You really handled that wrong, you shouldn’t have done that.” It was Ren.

            “Yeah, I know, do you have a point?” It was Art.

            “If you acknowledge it was wrong why did you do it?”

            “To me the ends justified the means,” He sighed. “It’s late… we should discuss this tomorrow.”

            “Yes… I agree… we should do it as a full group, address everything.”

            “Well that’s ominous, good night Ren.”

            “Thank the gods you both are chill, I thought I would have to break up an argument.” Yang.

            “Well, it just depends on the subject Neo, I am… selectively chill.”

            “Well good night you two, don’t do anything nasty in there on your own.”

            “Neo don’t wink!”

            Yang entered the dorm room, Blake sat up in her bed against the wall, pulling her knees to her chest, sill cradling Adam’s weapon. “Hey Blake…” Yang sat on the edge of Blake’s bed. “Are you doing ok?”

            “No, no I’m not Yang… I promised I wouldn’t hurt another Faunus and look at what I have done! She won’t ever be the same, she won’t be herself anymore.”

            “Blake.” Yang put her hand on Blake’s knee. “She’s going to be fine. Art told me they will grow back in a month or two. Nothing that can’t be healed.”

            “They’ll… grow back?”

            Yang nodded. Blake sighed a sigh of relief. “Weiss herself on the other hand doesn’t seem to be doing so well, she hasn’t moved or spoken since we’ve found out. Rubes will be staying with her tonight in the office.” Yang glanced at the bathroom. “I think I’m going to clean that up… damn forgot to get on Art’s case about burning down the whole damn door rather than just melting the handle or something.” Yang swept up the ashes, then tenderly picked up Weiss’s wings to throw them away. “I wonder how often she has done this to herself… when do Faunus traits usually grow in?”

            “By age four, sometimes they are there since birth… I’m surprised that they’ll grow back, she probably has some lizard in her somewhere.”

            “Are lizard Faunus known for that or something?”

            “Yeah.”

            “I’ll go… throw these away… damn it feels wrong to say that.” Yang threw the wings into a bag. “This is so messed up.” Yang left with the garbage bag then promptly came back. “Hey, if you don’t mind me asking… What’s that sword?”

            Blake tensed up. “I’m not ready to talk about that yet…” Blake got up and put the sword back under her mattress.

            “Alright then… By the way Goodwitch is having us take the day off tomorrow to discuss this as a group.”

            “Uhh… what?” Blake’s head snapped to Yang’s direction. “And what do you mean by ‘us’”

            “Team RWBY, team AN and team JNPR. This is kind of a big deal…”

            “Yeah, you’re right… Gosh.” Blake sat down again, already exhausted again.

            “Yeah, hey… I wanna ask about you being in the White Fang.”

            “Yang-“ Blake started, then reconsidered her approach. “Yang, can you keep secrets?”

            “Of course.” Yang sat down next to her friend. She placed a hand on her shoulder.

            “My dad… he was the leader of the White Fang back when it was peaceful, then he left when they decided that peace wasn’t going to work. I stayed… for a while. Eventually I had enough, I left… and… I made a hard decision… and now I’m a traitor. I’m attending Beacon not to become a huntress, but to hide.” She sighed heavily.

            “Ok… We ahh, we need to get some sleep.” Yang looked at Blake’s cat ears. “You know, they’re actually pretty cute.”

            Blake couldn’t comprehend what she just heard. Yang got into pajamas; Blake opted to go right to bed in her day clothes.

 

            “Ruby, please.” Ozpin requested. They were standing in team RWBY’s dorm room, originally all three teams in question were there waiting for the meeting to start but as soon as Ozpin arrived, he requested everyone but Blake and Weiss to leave. Ruby didn’t want to leave Weiss’s side.

            “But still… we need to ask Weiss.” Ruby suggested. She stood and faced Weiss, who was bundled in a thick blanket sitting on her bed, she was shivering despite it being warm in the room, Ruby gently grabbed her hands and pulled them off her face, she looked so distraught. “Weiss… What do you want?”

            “Don’t look at me…” Weiss looked down and pressed her head under Ruby’s neck.

            “No Weiss,” Ruby grabbed Weiss’s face and held it in front of hers. “Do you want me to stay?”

            “I’m a monster.”

            “Ruby, leave.” Ozpin asked again.

            “Fine.” Ruby’s tone was harsh, she made her way to the door. “Weiss, call for me if you need me.” She left.

            Ozpin waited before he spoke. “Neither of you are allowed to hide your Faunus traits while on campus.”

            “What?” Blake protested.

            He held his hand up, cutting her off, he walked to where Weiss was sitting. Ozpin knelt in front of Weiss, “Do you respect my judgement?” he asked softly.

            Weiss took a while to answer. “Yes.” Blake wouldn’t have been able to hear it if not for her cat ears.

            “Do you know why I don’t ask for a student’s race on their application, every other entity does, why don’t I?” Weiss didn’t respond. “Because it doesn’t matter. Whether you are human or Faunus, you have aura all the same, you have a soul. You are not a monster, you are not some Grimm, you are you, a valuable member of team RWBY. Ruby is your best friend; did she stop being that when she found out about your wings? She will be there for you if you let her, she cares deeply for you, and nothing will stop her.” Ozpin stood, he walked to Blake. “Blake, I was already well aware of why you enrolled in my school, to hide from the White Fang. I also know exactly why they have labeled you a traitor. Although… who you killed doesn’t matter to me.” He paused to gauge Blake’s reaction; Blake tried to look away. “My question to you is this; do you desire to become a huntress?”

            Blake thought. She answered. “There is too much evil in this world to ignore it… that’s what I want, to fight evil… and if being a huntress is the way to do that then yes.”

            Ozpin nodded. “Then you are welcome at my school.” Ozpin then looked between the two of them. He seemed to think. “Ruby, come back inside.” Ruby swung the door open and went right back to Weiss’s side.

            “You knew I was right outside the door?”

            Ozpin nodded. “I just hope I was quiet enough for you to not hear anything.” Ruby nodded. “Blake, do you know how to properly take care of Faunus wings?”

            Blake was taken aback by the question. “Yes?”

            “Good, Weiss was never taught how to take care of them, and I know the two of you are at odds right now, so I would like you to teach Ruby how to take care of Weiss’s wings.”

            “Oh.” Blake had never really thought about that, how to clean her ears properly was something that she was taught at a young age. Suddenly Blake was energized. “Wings are actually pretty intensive maintenance wise; your current body soaps and shampoos won’t work.” Blake was speaking quickly. “It would also probably be best to cover them while you shower and clean them separately, a lot of minerals introduced by conventional water filters can sometimes-“

            “Blake.” Ozpin interrupted.

            “Oh, sorry, yes?”

            “I also need you to think about modifying Weiss’s clothes or buying new ones, I’m not asking her to show off her back scars. Those don’t need to be shown off, her wings do, make the arrangements. Her current wardrobe doesn’t exactly accommodate my requests, yes?” Ozpin took out a black scroll and typed on it. “I do try to be practical you know…”

            After a moment Glynda followed by Yang, JNPR and team AN filled the room, Glynda spoke. “You all are excused from classed today, but I expect all of you to be back in full swing tomorrow. Weiss included.” Glynda nodded to the girl in question. Weiss leaned on Ruby more.

            “I expect all of you to sort out any strife between each other in a civil manor.” Ozpin requested. “Now, we must take our leave.” As Glynda and he left he shot Art a glance.

            The ten of them were silent for a while. Blake was the first to speak. “Yang?”

            “Yeah?”

            “We need to buy Weiss new clothes… will you go into town with me.”

            “Sure, but uh… why does she need new clothes?”

            “Ozpin doesn’t want either of us to hide our Faunus traits, and her current clothes don’t exactly accommodate her wings.”

            “Oh, well ok then.”

            Art then walked up to Blake, he pulled his wallet out of his pocket, produced some Lien, a lot, he tossed it onto Blake’s lap. “Use this to buy the clothes.” He walked towards the door.

            Blake gingerly picked up the large amount. “What’s this?”

            “An admission of guilt.” Art’s exit was stopped by Neo grabbing his arm. They shared a look, Neo then pushed him away, turned around and crossed her arms. He left.

            “What was that about?” Nora broke the silence.

            “Last night he acknowledged that he handled the situation poorly, he probably just feels bad.” Ren suggested.

            “Neo wanna weigh in?”

            No. Neo signed, she sat down at the desk.

            “Hey, can we rewind for a sec?” Everyone turned to Jaune. “What exactly, uh… happened?”

            “We were in the sparring room last night. All we know is that Art got a text and left early, and Neo followed shortly after.” Pyrrha added.

            Yang was the first to speak. “Ruby, cover Weiss’s ears.” Ruby nodded and did so. “Weiss and Blake were having an argument about the White Fang, it got heated… Turns out Blake used to be a member, and Weiss got really emotional. She ran into the bathroom, and cut off her own wings, which we didn’t know she had.” Yang paused, looks of horror were on Jaune and Pyrrha’s faces. “They will grow back!” Yang corrected. “In like about a month…”

            “So, Weiss… a Schnee… is a Faunus?” Pyrrha asked.

            Ain’t that ironic? Neo signed.

            “Well Yang and I should get shopping.” Blake got up and grabbed Yang’s arm. “Let’s go.”

            Yang waited until they were a few hallways away to speak. “Why’d you leave like that?”

            “I just needed some air…” Blake unhanded Yang.

            “Do you still feel bad.”

            “No shit Yang!”

            Yang gave a sympathetic look. “Ok…You know this isn’t on you right? This is because of her family and stuff, the SDC.”

            “I know, but I still contributed to the problem… I… out of all the people in our friend group, should have been the one to help her. Instead, Art found out before any of us, and he only made things worse.” Blake looked at the money.

            “Right…” They walked in silence until they reached the city. Yang grew more restless by the minute. “Ok! Enough of this silence and gloom, shopping is supposed to be a fun activity! Talk, where can an avian Faunus find some sick duds?”

            “Uh… I was just going to go to my usual place. It’s not like there are a lot of other options, not a lot of clothing stores carry Faunus clothing, and when they do its usually stuff for people with tails, wings are a really rare trait.”

            “Way to bring down the mood again.” Yang crossed her arms.

            “Here, it should be right around this corner.” They turned and saw the store; Vale Designs was written on it in stylish white font.

            “Not a very creative name.” Yang disapproved.

            “As long as they have what we want.” Blake led the way inside. They pushed past the glass doors, then the second doors, a rush of air conditioning blasted them as well as the smell of fabric. The store was bigger on the inside than the outside led on, there were two floors, escalators leading up and down.

            “A’ight imma level with you cheif-“

            “Wait a second… do you train with Art and them sometimes just so that he can teach you his weird slang?” Blake interrupted.

            Yang looked guilty with a smile. Then she giggled. “Yass queen,” Yang then snapped her fingers. “That’s beside the point, my point was that I’ve never been clothes shopping before, at least not at a place this nice, you’re going to have to take the lead on this one.”

            “Blake! It’s been quite a long time since you have stepped foot in my store…” A tiger Faunus with a thick accent approached them. He was dressed to the nines; he wore that suit and blue tie with confidence. He bowed. “Tell me, how are things since you…” He glanced at Yang.

            “Its fine Salvador, Yang here is with me, and she knows my history, some of it at least.” Blake gestured to Yang.

            “A pleasure to meet you Yang.” He bowed to her as well. “It’s good to see that Blake is making new friends, while a great many of us view what Blake did as reprehensible, there are still quite a few who see her as a savior and would like to see her happy in her exile.”

            “Uh… of course! The pleasure is mine… to uh, make her happy.” Yang managed to respond.

            “Now, what may I help you with?”

            Blake answered. “One of our teammates is an avian Faunus, but she was hiding her wings until recently, so her existing wardrobe doesn’t exactly accommodate her trait.”

            “Oh, I see,” He got visibly exited. “Well we have quite the avian section… we are still trying to come up with a better name now that we have introduced bat accommodations.” He beckoned us to follow him. “Here you see we have all manner of dresses, tunics, blouses, tops and jackets, although if you are interested in backless dresses you can find those in the general section, the flightless are still quite fond of those.”

            “None of those please, our friend has quite the birthmark she would like to hide if possible.” Yang said, trying to sound high society.

            “First though I must know your budget, here we pride ourselves in providing clothes for all price ranges, I don’t want to suggest something that is above your pay grade, you are still students yes?”

            “Yeah… how much did he give you?” Yang asked.

            Blake pulled the notes out of her pocket, a stack of grays, she counted them, seven, should be plenty, but there was a red at the bottom of the stack. “Uh… I don’t think he meant to give us this one.”

            Yang’s eyes widened. “I haven’t even seen that note in person.”

            “That’s quite the budget, going all out for your teammate? Oh, that warms my heart.” Salvador commented.

            “Well, no use wasting it!” Yang got excited and went for the notes.

            “No Yang, I’m going to call him.” Blake pulled the notes out of Yang’s reach and dialed her scroll.

            Art picked up. “Sup Selina Kyle what do ya need?” His speech sounded slow, was he… drunk?

            “It’s Blake.”

            “I stand by what I called you.”

            “How much Lien did you mean to give us?”

            “I… think I gave you seven grays and a red… is that not it?”

            “Really?”

            “Yeah, it that not enough? Give me the receipt when you get back and I’ll cover the rest.”

            “Uh… how much did you think this was going to cost.”

            He got frustrated. “Look, I don’t know how much Lien is worth! That’s why I let Neo handle the finances! Call her, don’t get piss-y at me, I tried ok?” He hung up.

            Blake went to call Neo, Yang stopped her. “You’re going to voice call Neo?” She asked sarcastically.

            “Right.” Blake texted her. So, does Art not understand money at all or something?

            “You know what, you take care of that, I’ll start looking. Show me the light Salvador!”

            “My pleasure.” He said.

            Neo was quick to respond. If he gave you too little just give me the receipt and I’ll take it out of his allowance.

            Allowance?

            He’s a dum dum. I keep him on a tight leash.

            He gave us a red.

            If he gave you only one that’s fine, have fun. If he gave you two tho show him some mercy and give it back. He’s a dum dum but he’s my dum dum, don’t hurt him too bad.

            Blake put away her scroll. “She said it’s fine!” She called to Yang.

            “Really! Oh, this is gonna be good!” Yang laughed.

            Yang was making a conscious effort to lighten up Blake’s mood and it was slowly working, they tried on clothes, Salvador explained how avian tops worked. “You see here, the holes are actually very big,” he undid the velcroe flaps. “Faunus wings can actually get quite big, so we make the velcroe, or buttons, whichever she prefers, very adjustable. It unfortunately doesn’t look to great depending on how they are adjusted, but luckily she has wings that will cover up the wrinkles!” Blake was happy that Weiss wasn’t going to bare the SDC logo on her clothes anymore. Every time Blake had a positive thought like that, she brought herself back down to earth, she already blew it. Blake secretly wanted to be on a team with another Faunus, or a whole team of Faunus if fate allowed. She knew of a lot of ways that could have ended badly though, but this was one she hadn’t considered. She was clothes shopping in an avian section for a Schnee, it was surreal. As they shopped, they would continue to send pictures to Ruby, and Neo, the resident fashionista, for approval. They left the store with bags of clothes, outfits for all occasions, including a couple of pieces for themselves.

            Yang tried to conversate on their way back. “The funny thing is that your ears are like the same shape and color as your bow, so I keep forgetting that they aren’t your bow.”

            Blake huffed.

            “Oh, sorry…” Yang readjusted the bag on her shoulder. “Was that insensitive? I don’t really know what is or isn’t. I’ve never had a Faunus friend before.”

            “You’re still my friend?” Blake stopped walking.

            “Uhh… Yeah…” Yang then got serious. “Don’t do that.”

            “Do what?”

            “This.”

            “What do you mean ‘this’?”

            “Being ‘Blakey’.”

            “What?”

            “I have tried so hard to get you to open up this semester, don’t go closing yourself off again, I refuse to let this semester of hard work just go down the drain.”

            Blake continued walking.

            “Sorry, that’s not going to work. Frankly it’s not up to you, you will open up to me whether you like it or not. It’s not up to you whether we’re friends… First things first.”

            Blake glanced at Yang.

            “What’d you dooooo, what’d ya doooohohohooo?”

            “What do you mean?”

            “Why were you kicked out of the White Fang?”

            “You don’t want to know.”

            “I’m pretty sure I do hoo hoo!”

            “You will regret knowing.”

            “Yeah, no.”

            “Really? Fine, just not here, remind me when we’re alone. Just remember that you asked for it.” Blake rubbed her tiny fangs together, her own way of gritting her teeth. If she wants to push this, she’ll get what she wants, proof that I should close myself off. She thought.

            Eventually they made their way back to the dorm, as they approached, they saw Neo exiting. “Hey Neo!” Yang said cheerfully, Neo turned to them.

            Blake dropped the bags. “No! Put those back!” Blake was gone for a few hours and already it happened, something that she had tried to stop from happening all semester. She had to be constantly vigilant, Neo’s illusions made that difficult, but she had been successful until this day. In Neo’s arms, were thousands of pages of the most degenerate smut Blake owned. Neo grinned maniacally. Blake dashed for Neo, but Neo’s form just shattered into glass and she was gone. “Damnit!”

            Yang laughed. “Blake, we should check on Weiss, you can get those back later.”

            “Fine.” Blake angerly picked up the bags she dropped. They walked into the dorm room. Blake noticed the missing spots on her bookshelves. Ruby was laying in Weiss’s bed looking very uncomfortable, half of her body was off the bed and she was contorted in an odd way. The reason why was a bit jarring; Weiss had wrapped herself around Ruby, she was sleeping soundlessly, and Ruby was playing on her scroll and had earbuds in. “Ruby, why didn’t you stop Neo?”

            “Shhh,” Ruby shushed, she took out an earbud. “Weiss hasn’t slept this well since I’ve known her. I didn’t stop Neo because Weiss has a death grip on me, she took advantage of my helplessness.”

            “Ohh!” Blake’s eyes widened.

            “Wait, what do you mean oh?” Yang asked as she set down the bags.

            “I’ll uhh, I’ll tell you later.”

            “Anyway,” Yang took the bags out of Blake’s hands. “We need to talk.” She grabbed Blake’s arm and dragged her out of the room.

            “Ok… Bye… I guess.” Ruby said halfheartedly with a wave to match.

            Yang dragged Blake away and then onto the roof. “Let go of me.”

            Yang unhanded her. “Sorry I’m just really impatient at this point. Though, before we get to the White Fang stuff, I gotta know what you meant by ‘ohh’.”

            “Uhh…” Blake looked uncomfortable. “Well… Avian Faunus are known to… uhh… imprint on… certain… people.”

            Yang raised her eyebrows. “What does that mean?”

            Blake cleared her throat. “Let’s just say I hope Ruby swings that way. Otherwise that rejection is going to be brutal.”

            Yang’s eyes widened. “No freaking way!” She then laughed. “Well, I may but I can’t speak for Rubes. Anyway, onto the main event.”

            Blake looked away, “Right.” She sighed. “Do you know about Adam Taurus?”

            “He’s the leader of the Vale branch that went missing right?”

            “Yeah, well he didn’t go missing.” Blake started walking away. “I’ll let you process that on your own, I’m going to get my books back.”

            “He didn’t… Wait Blake!” Yang called.

            Blake was already gone. As she walked to Neo’s room, she tried to clear her thoughts. Blake knew that she did the right thing, what was best for the Faunus, she didn’t have a single doubt about that, although she was sure some people would assume she did, a lot of people thought that killing people wasn’t easy. It was. That didn’t make it less hard for other reasons though, she used to love Adam, despite the five-year age gap that a lot of people judged them for Blake really felt like they were made for each other. Although, that Adam that she loved had died long before she plunged Gambol Shroud in his back.

            Blake made it to Neo’s dorm, she violently pushed the door open. Art was sleeping in his bed and Neo was looking at her scroll, from the back Blake could tell she was reading an e-book, she had already scanned them into the app that gives the user the e-book version if they verify the purchase of the physical book. Neo smiled at Blake and signed. Do what you must, for I have already won. She then pointed to the stack of physical books.

            “I hate you.” Blake gathered up her books. She accepted defeat.

            How did the shopping turn out?

            “Fine… by the way… what’s up with Art? He sounded weird on the phone.”

            He’s just feeling guilty, he found out about a month ago you know. He should have told Ozpin right way, and he knows that. Hindsight is 20/20 right?

            “Hindsight is 20/20 huh? There is a lot of that going around huh? I… I’m sorry I left in a rush, how did the conversation between the rest of you go?”

            Not super great but not bad either, luckily, we have no racists in our friend group, Art and I technically come close because we hate the White Fang. Neo gave Blake a look. But we know what you did, so we don’t have a problem with you at all.

            “You… How did you find out?” Blake was shocked and started whisper yelling.

            You know my dad is Roman right? He sent me off to school and cut ties with me for a reason, after you killed Adam his relationship with the White Fang got strained, everything suddenly got a lot more dangerous. You’re lucky I don’t hate this school; I’d probably blame you if I did. Don’t get me wrong though, killing Adam was still a good move. He was out of control.

            “Do you know why Roman was even helping the White Fang with the dust robberies?”

            Kinda, but I’m not going to tell you. Roman is my dad after all, I’m not going to snitch on my own father, especially after all he’s done for me, and Art. Neo looked at Art with a sad expression.

            “Fair…” Blake gathered up her books. “I’m actually kind of glad to know I’m not the only ex-criminal at this school.”

            I doubt us three are the only ones either, a lot of people try to attend Beacon to start a new life. It’s well known that this is the only huntsman academy that doesn’t do a background check… well they do it just doesn’t affect your chance of admittance. Not to mention… even criminals are people, they have their reasons for doing what they do, especially Art. He only started working for my dad because he was out of options and at the end of his rope, he’s a very good person, way more virtuous than me. He probably only worked for Roman for as long as he did because of his crush on me. In that sense I feel bad.

            “Wait, you two aren’t dating?”

            Nope.

            “Do you not like him back?” Blake was suddenly a lot more interested in the conversation, one of her weaknesses was a juicy love story.

            I do, a lot, I probably love him more than he likes me. She looked at the sleeping swordsman longingly. But like most things with Art, he doesn’t want to take the next step out of fear. He’s good at tempering his fear, he knows that a sword possesses no power unless the hand that wields it has courage, but that doesn’t mean that the fear isn’t there.

            “He’s afraid of commitment?”

            No. Not that. I probably shouldn’t say anything more. It’s not my place.

            “Oh, ok.” Blake’s ears drooped out of disappointment.

            Neo smiled. Ok, that’s adorable.

            Blake blushed. “What?”

            Your ears drooping. Disappointed you didn’t get our full tragic love story? Neo smiled sadistically.

            Blake grabbed one of her books and gestured with it. She started gathering up her books then reconsidered “Actually, I’ll just leave these here for now… I don’t feel like going back to my dorm yet. See you later Neo.”

            Neo shrugged and waved.

            As Blake walked, she suddenly realized how tired she was, not getting much sleep last night in combination with the mood swings the pace of the day brought made for a tiresome cocktail. She enjoyed shopping, finding out about Weiss’s crush, and talking to Neo about her and Art’s love. She didn’t like seeing Salvador again, she likes him, and he has always been very nice to her, but seeing him brought up memories, he also manufactured the White Fang’s signature Grimm masks. She also didn’t like telling Yang what she did, she knew Yang would reject her after that, most people don’t like being friends with a killer. Neo wining also didn’t help, going back and forth between such positives and negatives was making her frustrated in a way Blake wasn’t used to, she liked routine.

            Blake made her way to the library, quiet, it also had these study cubicles that she could hide in. The library was massive, two floors, it had a lot of computers for typing out work, laptops and personal computers were getting cheaper every day but very few students had one, Art was the exception, they were still too expensive for students. They had plenty of books too, no smut but plenty of young adult romance that would do for now, Blake really only liked smut because, the good ones at least, explored more mature and heavy themes, the author knowing that their audience was adults allowed for that. There was still something appealing about the more lighthearted stories to her, lighthearted is just what she needed after this day. She picked a random romance novel off the shelf and picked a cubical.

            She began reading, she got pretty far before getting interrupted, later than she expected but still sooner than she wanted. “Hey, I recognize you! I saw you with your friends at the docks just yesterday.” Blake glanced at the origin of the voice, a blond male looking over the wall of the cubical, the same one that dined and dashed the previous night. “I didn’t know you were a Faunus! Your bow was covering your ears.” He gestured to his head. He then walked over to the entrance of the cubical. His choice of clothing made it very clear he was from Vacuo.

            Blake sighed. “Go away.”

            “Oh… uh… sorry for bothering you I guess, it just that there are only like three Faunus in this school and I kinda wanna make it a point to meet you all.”

            “Five now.”

            “Oh, nice! The more the merrier right? Sun WuKong.” He extended his hand.

            “Blake.” She didn’t shake his hand, nor did she look at him. “Why do you care about meeting all the Faunus?”

            He retracted his hand awkwardly. “Well… I’ve heard a couple of weird things… I’ve heard that you guys attempt to hide your Faunus traits whenever possible, I mean, you were covering your ears with your bow yesterday. I was kinda wondering why? It just seems like a really weird thing to do.”

            “I take it you haven’t met team CRDL.”

            “Who.”

            Blake sighed. “Some racists attend Beacon, and we would rather not draw attention to ourselves.”

            “Oh…” Sun seemed genuinely surprised. “I guess I’m just not used to that, there isn’t really any of that in Vacuo.”

            “So, I’ve heard.”

            “Well, it was nice meeting you Blake!” he sounded cheerful. “But I gotta ask before I go, who’s this mysterious fourth and fifth Faunus? Velvet sounded confident when she said that there was only three of you.”

            “Well she doesn’t know I’m a Faunus, I was only requested recently by Ozpin to stop hiding my ears so I’m the fourth, as for the fifth? Everyone will find out soon enough.”

            “Oh, that sounds like a good story, I have to hear this.”

            “No, I don’t think so.”

            “Aww, why not.” He pouted.

            “I don’t know the full story yet myself, not to mention it’s not mine to tell.”

            “Well, you said everyone will find out in time, right? I guess I’ll just have to wait with everyone else for the big reveal.” He smiled.

            “There you are!” Another boy approached, he was tall and had blue hair. “Do you have to run off like that all the time? You were out late yesterday too!”

            “Dining and dashing.” Blake commented.

            “Oh, hey.” The new guy’s demeanor completely changed when he noticed Blake, then suddenly went back to what it was before when he realized what she said. “Wait, you dined and dashed again? Your kleptomania is going to get us in some serious trouble one day, if your arrested we’re out of the tournament.”

            “Well Blake, I guess I should introduce you to my friend and teammate Neptune.” Sun said, completely ignoring what Neptune said. “Neptune this is Blake.”

            “We will, talk about this later.” Neptune hissed. Then his demeanor changed again as he shifted his attention to Blake. “So, Blake, how’s your day been?”

            Is this what he calls flirting? Blake thought. “Awful.”

            “Well I could make it better. Wanna hang out?”

            “No.” Blake said firmly.

            “Smoooooth, like sandpaper.” Sun commented.

            “Alright, imma head out.” Blake got up and silently scolded herself, it was like Art’s many catchphrases were a contagious disease. Blake moved he way past the two boys. Blake didn’t look back, but she appreciated that they didn’t say anything other than…

            “Well, uhh, catch you later Blake.” Sun called.

            That blond was not very impressive compared to her blond. My blond? Blake shook the thought out of her head, but the pit in her stomach it created remained.

            Blake put the book back as she left and then thought about what to do. Now that her ears were out in the open, she would probably draw attention from Velvet or the racists, and that was the last thing she wanted, she had enough talking for one day. She also acknowledged her own need to sort her thoughts. A lot of people assumed that she bottled up her emotions, even to the point of being a mental disorder, but that wasn’t strictly true. She kept her emotions to herself but that didn’t mean that she pushed them aside and didn’t deal with them, she did deal with them. She just needed some quiet to do so, and maybe some accompanying physical activity to vent any frustrations, and that was on the menu today. That always worked right? I can deal in silence, alone, yeah. She made her way to the locker room and grabbed her weapon, then went to check if the sparring room was empty, it was, classes ended for the day not too long ago. She decided some aura training was in order, he combat prowess was unmatched by most, she even matched Adam in skill, who was Sienna’s pride and joy. Despite this she still felt leagues behind her other classmates, she had a tier one semblance, Shadow Clones. She wasn’t the only one in the school with one, Velvet was a prime example, but the synergy it has with her weapon might as well make it tier three. Blake made a shadow clone and stepped away from it, inspecting, then tried to make a second one. Concentrating as hard as she could until beads of sweat rand down from her forehead, she could see her hands double, the second clone almost taking from. Then she relented, the first clone disappeared, she was already breathing hard, she checked her scroll for her aura level, thirteen percent. “Gods damn it.” she muttered. It was time for sword training until her aura recharged. She recalled the memory of Artorias being outed as aura-less, she actually felt good about it, like she wasn’t at the bottom of the totem pole, then Artorias proceeded to shoot fire out of his hands, utterly disrespecting Cardin, who had a tier three strength semblance. Over the coming summer break Beacon was requiring students to go to a summer camp of sorts to do some intensive aura training in the woods. She didn’t want to wait until then to start improving. After alternating between sword drills and aura a few times she heard a snap, she instinctually dodged, thinking that is was Art conjuring fire as some kind of joke, but when she turned, she found Velvet instead. She had shot a picture of Blake with her weapon. “Don’t sneak up on me like that.” Blake practically growled.

            “Sorry.” Velvet stuck her head out from behind her camera with a smile. “I just wanted to grab a picture of your sword while I could.” Velvet’s accent reminded Blake of home, not great. “Also…” Velvet’s rabbit ears drooped a bit. “I wanted to talk to you.”

            “Yeah…” Blake went back to her drills.

            “Why did you hide who you were?”

            “That’s a dumb question, next.” Blake huffed.

            “Why did you stop?”

            Blake paused for a moment. “Ozpin ordered it… and… it was the right thing to do.”

            “Did you stop because of Weiss?”

            “Yeah…”

            “I was getting a refill of my insulin at the nurses office last night.”

            Blake stopped dead in her tracks. “Why are you talking to me about that? That is Weiss’s story to tell, not mine, you should talk to her about it, not me. You might want to talk to her even if you don’t have questions, she might appreciate it.” Blake got a little heated.

            Velvet shuffled her feet. “Because, you should be the one to do that, you’re her teammate.”

            “What are you getting at?” Blake clipped her weapon to her back.

            “I want to help you help her.”

            “I will, I know that I have to help her. I just wouldn’t be much help right now, I’m in a bad mood. I will help her after I think about how to, it’s a delicate situation, and I’m not sure if you heard, but I’m partially responsible for her maiming herself. It will take her some time to be open to any help from me anyway.” Blake was rambling.

            “Oh, I shouldn’t have assumed…”

            Blake breathed. Get your shit together Blake, don’t be weak. “Don’t worry about it… I have just decided that I’m not going to rush the situation, we still have a few weeks until her wings even become visible.”

            “There is something else I want to do though. I want to make a ‘Weiss protection squad’!” Velvet beamed.

            “A what?” Blake folded her arms.

            “I don’t want her to face a single instance of discrimination, she’s had it rough as is, so I want to make an organized effort to make sure she doesn’t have a reason to feel bad about who she is.”

            Blake thought for a moment, she was right, if some of the bad characters in this school discriminated against her for her trait, she might be prone to cutting off her wings again. She did it almost as a stress reliever last night. That happening again would be awful. “You know what, you’re right, but… let’s do that tomorrow, it is getting late.” Blake didn’t really want to go back to her dorm, but she knew she had to eventually. If Yang wanted to confront her further about what she did then so be it. She had already been practically disowned by her whole race; she could handle anything Yang threw at her. I can handle being hated, I have before. Blake thought, denying the pit in her stomach.

            “Sounds good, I think this could be really important for her.” Velvet then left.

            Blake remained for a moment and did some closing breathing exercises. She then went back to the locker room to put away her weapon, running into Neo, Pyrrha and Jaune who were getting ready for their late-night training.

            “Hey Blake!” Jaune waved cheerfully, he glanced at her cat ears, still not used to them yet.

            “Do you want to join us? We’re down a man today, Art’s feeling sick.” Pyrrha said.

            “No thanks…”

            By the way, Yang has been looking for you, I ran into her when putting back your books. Neo signed.

            “Yeah, I know.” Blake put her sword away.

            “Well ok… I hope you have a good night Blake.” Pyrrha wished, reading Blake’s aura of negativity.

            God damnit Yang! Blake thought. Aura. “Good night.” Blake walked back to the dorm.

            When she arrived, she found Ruby and Weiss sitting on Weiss’s bed, they were in their pajamas and Ruby was brushing Weiss’s hair. Yang was absent. The window was open. “Blake!” Ruby exclaimed, she paused. Both her and Weiss looked at Blake, Weiss’s eyes looked very sad. “Yang’s been looking everywhere for you! What happened?”

            “I’d rather not talk about it…” Blake looked away from them, she then threw on some pajamas, she noted the stack of smut on the desk. Blake was very aware of their eyes following her. Blake grabbed a book and sat on her bed.

            “Are… you ok?” Weiss asked, much to Blake’s surprise.

            Blake looked at her. “I…” Blake cleared her throat. “Should be asking you that.”

            Ruby halfheartedly continued her brushing, Weiss looked down. “I’ll be fine… It’s just… a lot is different now… I just need some time to adjust.”

            Suddenly there was a cry of a bird, Blake flinched. A big bird flew through the open window, an eagle, Blake jumped out of her bed in shock.

            Then, in the blink of an eye, the eagle turned into Yang, who stumbled forward. “Damn, I gotta stick these landings better.” Yang turned to Ruby. “I still…” Yang noticed Blake. “Blake!” Yang tackled Blake in a hug. “Don’t run off like that! I was worried sick! You can’t just… damnit!”

            Blake could barely breathe. “Yang, what the hell?”

            “Oh, sorry.” Yang released her. “Why did you disappear like that?”

            “I just needed some time… But that’s besides the point! What the hell was that?!”

            “Oh yeah, Yang can turn into a bird.” Ruby chimed in. Weiss gave a pained smile.

            “Since when?”

            “Since… ever?” Yang said.

            “I’m with you Blake, I just found out a couple hours ago.” Weiss chimed in.

            “Look, Blake.” Yang grabbed her shoulders. “We can’t keep this up, we need to be honest with each other.” Yang guided slash forced Blake to sit on the ground. “Weiss, Rubes, you sit down too.”

            They all sat on the floor in a circle. “What’s going on Yang?” Ruby asked.

            “We need to tell each other… everything.” Yang answered.

Y

            Weiss was the first to tell her story, in full. It took a long time, and Weiss had to take frequent breaks to recompose herself, Ruby comforting her the whole journey.

            They sat in silence for a while, until Yang spoke. “I think… That’s the saddest story I’ve ever heard.”

            “I’m here for you Weiss.” Ruby said, hugging her tighter.

            Blake was staring at the floor. “Me… too.”

            Weiss nodded.

            “Weiss, you are not alone, you have us.” Yang said. “But now… we need to move. Let’s go clockwise, Ruby, you’re next.”

            Ruby, nodded. “I don’t really have a lot of secrets, you guys already know that my mother died, I don’t… really… know how. I really only have two secrets that I keep.” Ruby let go of Weiss and breathed in a big breath. “My semblance… isn’t tier two.”

            “Petal Speed?” Weiss asked.

            Yang was unphased, she already knew this.

            “What do you mean? You don’t just turn into rose petals?” Blake asked.

            “That’s just what it looks like, my individuality manifesting in an otherwise regular speed semblance. It’s not tier two, its tier four.” Ruby answered.

            Yang recalled how the tier system worked. It wasn’t dissimilar to earthquakes, in that every point up is ten times the intensity on the previous point. Meaning that a tier five semblance, the max, was ten thousand times more powerful than a tier one semblance. A semblance can start out as any tier, but through extensive training, can evolve, increasing its tier. Based on what Ruby as shown, her semblance appeared to be tier two, but that was a lie.

            “Why would you keep something like that?” Weiss asked.

            “Because… people feel… uncomfortable around me when they realize how fast I really am.” Ruby became tense.

            “When Ruby was at Signal.” Yang continued for her sister. “A lot of people accused her of being bad, just because she is capable of being bad. Teachers and students alike. Whenever a teacher misplaced something, they would accuse her of stealing it. Students would accuse her of groping people of whatever.”

            Ruby hung her head. “I’m… not a bad person.”

            “Wait, how fast are you?” Weiss asked.

            “Blake, your weapon is in your locker, right?” Ruby asked.

            “Yeah.” Blake answered.

            “What’s the code.”

            “34743.” Blake answered.

            Suddenly Ruby was holding Blake’s weapon, rose petals were emanating from her. Ruby tenderly placed the weapon on the floor in front of them. Yang smiled, proud of her sister.

            “Whoa.” Weiss said.

            “No way.” Blake agreed.

            “Going that fast does a number on my aura though.” Ruby showed her aura meter on her scroll, thirty seven percent. “So uhh, as for my other secret. Uhh, even I don’t really know much about it, but when I was younger, there was this one time I vaporized some Grimm with my eyes.” Ruby continued.

            “You what?” Weiss asked.

            “I vaporized some Grimm with my eyeballs, and that’s pretty much the whole story.”

            “You don’t know anything more?”

            “Nope.” Ruby replied. “That’s really all I have in the way of secrets; I can tell some embarrassing stories about Yang though if you want.” Ruby smiled.

            “Oh no you don’t.” Yang smiled. “Now, onto Blake.”

            “Right…” Blake said. She glanced at Yang; Yang nodded. Blake sighed. “I… If you hate me for this, I don’t blame you, but promise me this won’t leave this room.”

            Everyone nodded.

            Blake breathed in. “Here goes…” Blake pressed her hands together. “Do you guys know who Adam Taurus is?” Weiss looked down, Ruby nodded. “Well, we used to be lovers.”

            “You what?!” Weiss snapped.

            “Weiss, let her finish, telling this is hard for her too.” Yang was blindsided by the lovers part, but now understood the scope of what had happened, and why Blake was so closed off.

            “Umm… Have you ever met someone and thought, they are the embodiment of ‘this word’?” Blake asked.

            “No really.” Ruby offered.

            “Well… let me give an example. Ruby, I think of you as purity. Weiss, you’re defiance. Yang, you’re strength. When I met Adam, I thought he was justice, but over time he changed, he cycled through a lot of different words, freedom, vengeance. But in time, he became spite, pure spite, and that’s when I left the White Fang. After I left though, he got worse, it wasn’t long before he became another word, Wrath. I knew it had to end, one way or another, and I knew that it was my responsibility, he… was my responsibility. So… I… Killed him.”

            Weiss’s mouth was agape. Ruby was in shock as well. Yang thought for a moment. “That sword under your bed, it’s his, isn’t it?” Yang asked.

            Blake nodded. “When I killed him, I promised him that he would be the last one of us that I hurt… I’m so sorry Weiss.” Blake was staring at the floor; a couple of tears fell upon the carpet. Yang pulled Blake’s head to herself, embracing her. Yang understood the gravity of her choice, Adam was an out of control killer, Blake no doubt saved countless lives. She made the greatest sacrifice to do so.

            “You…” Weiss sighed. “You don’t have to apologize to me for anything. You are in the right.”

            Yang could feel Blake flinch in her arms, she unhanded her. Blake rubbed her face. Blake nodded. “He said the same thing…” Blake sighed. “I hate crying.”

            The sat in silence for a bit, giving themselves time to process.

            “Welp, I guess it’s my turn.” Yang started. “So…” Yang cleared her throat. “My mom left me not long after I was born, and then I became obsessed with finding her. I almost got Ruby killed trying to look for her, the only reason we’re alive is because of Rubes’ eye lasers ex machina. No long after that, I got a visit from my mom, my dad didn’t know about it. My mom has a teleportation semblance, making secret visits easy. We had to keep them a secret from my dad cus he didn’t want my mom to be a bad influence, see, she’s the queen of a bandit tribe.”

            “A bandit tribe?” Blake asked.

            “Yeah, the Branwen tribe in Mistral. Anyway, my mom can turn into a bird, I don’t know why, but I guess I kinda inherited the ability.”

            “So, you can just turn into a bird at will? Does it use your aura, like a semblance?” Weiss asked.

            “Nope, I can just turn into one, no drawbacks, it’s pretty cool.” Yang smiled widely. “So, onto the next part of my story. My dad trained me in combat, he’s a brawler, his semblance is like the opposite of mine… in a way. It’s like a combo counter in a video game, but the higher the combo the stronger he gets. Anyway, that’s beside the point.” Yang shook her head. “My weapon of choice, is not actually my gauntlets, I actually prefer swords, that’s what my mom trained me to use, specifically she taught me to use a kodachi.”

            “You like swords?” Weiss asked. “I never would have guessed that.”

            “Why don’t you use them if you prefer them, I would love to do sword training with you.”’ Blake said and cleared her throat.

            “I don’t want my dad to find out about my mom training me, so yeah.” Yang shrugged. “My mom cares about me, but she’s not exactly a good person.”

            “This was good.” Ruby said. “I think we needed this.”

            They all nodded.

            “Guys, its midnight, we should really get to bed. We have classes tomorrow.” Weiss said.

            “Are you sure you’re up for it Weiss? How’s…?” Blake asked.

            “I’m fine, don’t dote on me.”

            “Nope!” Ruby said, then squeezed Weiss. “You are just too precious not to dote on!” Ruby beamed, rubbing her face on Weiss’s. Weiss rolled her eyes and produced a slight smile.

            Yang stood up, then helped Blake to her feet. “No more hiding Blake.”

            Blake nodded.

 

            Weiss flapped her small wings nervously. “I don’t see why we need this.”

            “Ditto,” Artorias agreed, Weiss shuffled, Yang was well aware that they weren’t entirely back on friendly terms. “I can literally recall my sword back to my hand, I don’t need hand to hand training.”

            “Well too bad, Goodwitch’s orders.” Pyrrha folded her arms.

            They were standing in a clearing in a part of the Emerald forest that was extremely far away from the school, the ‘intensive aura training summer camp’ was well under way. Goodwitch and Oobleck had put the students in teams of four, trying to pair them up with non-teammates to teach each other their fighting styles to make each of them more well-rounded. Yang was about to teach them hand to hand.

            “Well, prove it, throw your sword and recall it.” Yang folded her arms.

            “Uh… ok.” Art shrugged then pulled his sword off his back, and threw it, pretty far. He held out his hand and his sword started moving to it.

            “Vibe check!” Yang shouted, reeled back and punched Art in the face, he fell backwards and tumbled. His sword fell to the ground.

            “Yo, what the fuck?” Art was on his hands and knees holding his face. He groaned.

            “Yang!” Pyrrha scolded.

            Weiss giggled.

            Yang walked over and offered her hand to him. “You can’t recall it right away, it takes time, and during that time, you will need to be able to block a punch.”

            He took her hand and pulled himself up, the thin boy was a lot stronger than he should have been without an aura, Yang was hoping she would be able to find out why today. He recalled his sword back to his hand, the handle glowed a faint green and a couple tongues of fire emitted from his broken nose, it healed. He clipped his sword back to his back. “Point taken.” He muttered. Yang realized a while ago that his sword was the source of his power, he was like a battery and the sword was the charger. Yang was curious to see what he could do, or not do, when he was out of power.

            “Throw your weapons to the side, I don’t want you instinctively grabbing them.” Yang requested. Pyrrha used her semblance to place her and Weiss’s away, Art just threw his again. “Alright, I wanna see what you can do. Weiss, punch me.” Yang took a fighting stance.

            “Uhm… ok.” Weiss tried to copy Yang’s stance. Yang thought it was adorable when Weiss’s wings flapped out of nervousness, and that went double for Blake’s ears. Weiss threw her punch.

            It was pathetic, Yang dodged it with no effort and punched her back. “Really?”

            “Oww…” Weiss rubbed her shoulder.

            “Alright, now you.”

            Art cracked his knuckles. “Fair warning, I have had hand to hand training, I just don’t like it. My hands hurt if I punch an aura.” He took a stance rather different from Yang’s, but she recognized it as Vacuan. Yang decided that she would block his punch. He threw his punch, Yang blocked with her arm, but his punch was ridiculously strong, she slid back a way, digging her feet into the dirt to remain standing. Art looked surprised; he inspected his hands. “I wasn’t using…”

            “That was great, how are you so strong?” Yang laughed. “Aren’t you supposed to be the weak aura-less one?” She walked back to the group.

            “I… don’t know… I shouldn’t be strong… not without…” He then fell to his knees. “Ahhh.” He grimaced in pain. He held his chest, over his heart. Tongues of fire appeared over his chest. He pulled his hand away, sparkling green ooze was leaking through his clothes, he looked at his hand which had some on it. “God fucking damnit. Really?”

            Weiss and Yang looked at each other, confusion on their faces. “Are you ok?” Yang asked.

            “Art?” Pyrrha asked.

            “I’ll be fine, I just need to clean this.” He struggled to stand, then limped away, calling his sword to his back on his way out.

            “That was… weird?” Weiss noted.

            “He’ll be fine… Probably.” Pyrrha said. “He just… operates differently than us. I think.”

            “Ok, well, let’s just move on.” Yang suggested. “Pyrrha, you next.”

            The three of them sparred for a bit, Yang taught them the basics, Pyrrha didn’t know a thing about hand to hand either. She could recall her weapons too, so she was similar to Art in that sense. Neither of them seemed to like it, Yang didn’t blame them, their semblances weren’t exactly made for it either. Then it was time for Weiss to be the teacher, Yang grabbed the training sword that was provided, she chose a katana, similar enough to what she knew. Pyrrha just adjusted the length of her spear to be more sword-like. How Goodwitch divided up the students wasn’t perfect, evidenced by all three of them knowing swordplay, all four if Art was still present.

            “Ok Yang, I’ve been looking forward to seeing what you can do.” Weiss smiled; her wings fluttered. She took her combat stance. This was just turning into a glorified sparing session.

            Yang drew the sword, basic steel, decent balance, about seventy centimeters. She held it one handed and took the stance her mother taught her, she was no doubt rusty, but she still remembered the basics. Yang smiled. Pyrrha made her shield float and sat on it like a chair, and took out a protein bar, ready to spectate. “Do you know how to sword fight Yang?” she asked.

            “Yeah, kinda.” Yang didn’t take her eyes off Weiss.

            Weiss used a glyph to charge Yang, Yang parried the strike returning with one of her own. They exchanged a very quick series of blows; Weiss was surprised by Yang’s proficiency. Yang’s form was refined if not rusty, she slid her feet around with a smoothness and grace uncharacteristic of her nature, but her frenetic style of fighting still surfaced when she used her semblance to strike. Eventually though Weiss got the better of her, Yang’s rustiness became evident when she accidently defaulted back to her brawler’s stance after an exchange, Weiss took advantage of that and twisted Yang’s sword out of her hand. “Old habits die hard I guess.” Weiss commented and ruffled her feathers, she still wasn’t used to her wings being out, Yang noticed they were messing with her balance. “Although that was really fantastic, really didn’t expect that from you.”

            “Me neither.” Pyrrha said.

            “Yes, yes, I do enjoy complements.” Yang smiled. “Just know that you only won because I’m rusty.”

            “Oh really? Want to go again?” Weiss said. “I don’t want my victory to be subject to question.”

            Yang liked seeing Weiss like this, a balance between who she really was and who she was pretending to be before. Her façade slowly fading and also mixing with her true self, it was beautiful to see. Also, Ruby having a best friend, or ‘super bestie’, made Yang happy too. They started sparring again.

            Eventually Goodwitch made her way to their group. She, and the second-year chaperons’, team CFVY, were walking around and giving advice when needed. The second- and third-year classes were at their own camp elsewhere, team CFVY was here rather than there because they were the top of their class. “Miss Nikos, I noticed you haven’t participated in a while, are you too tired to continue?” She scolded.

            Yang and Weiss stopped. Pyrrha stood up. “I’m sorry. I uhm… just wanted to observe for now, opponent analysis is a skill too, just as swordplay is.”

            “I am well aware of that…” Goodwitch turned to Yang. “I didn’t know you knew swordplay.”

            Yang scratched the back of her head. “Yeah, I uhm, took a while to settle on Ember Celica. I tried a lot of different stuff.” She lied.

            “I see…” Goodwitch paused. “Where is Mr. Abyss? He is supposed to be training with you yes?”

            “He got injured.” Pyrrha provided. She took out her scroll and looked at it. “He’s with Neo back at the Big House One.”

            “Could he not just regenerate? He has that ability.”

            “We don’t know, his powers are super weird.” Weiss folded her arms and huffed.

            Goodwitch shot her a glance. “Very well, I’ll leave you be, although I suggest you move onto Pyrrha teaching you how to handle a spear. It’s almost time for you all to make dinner.”

 

            “Curry huh? I was like ninety percent sure that this was the training camp arc of an anime before, and now I’m one hundred percent sure.” Art and Neo were standing over a pot, Art seemed all better, but Yang had her doubts. He looked over at Ren, who was cooking solo but had Nora hovering over him drooling. “Chef Ren-sey, how’s it look to you?”

            “Perfect…” Ren muttered as he put in some… ingredients… Yang had no idea what they were. Ren was the resident master cook of the group; he was giving them all advice.

            “And now we add the kakusareta aji.” Art said.

            “You mean this… pudding?” Blake held up a small bowl of something.

            “It’s not called that, or whatever Art said, but yes, if you want your curry to be exactly like mine. Remember though that cooking is an art, it won’t truly be your meal if you just do exactly as I do.” Ren advised.

            “Well, we want it to taste good, so I think we’ll stick to the script.” Blake then did as Ren did. Weiss was hovering over Blake, not drooling like Nora, but very curious if her wing’s movements were anything to go by. She had no cooking experience. Her and Blake showing off their Faunus traits now made their moods a million times easier to read.

            Yang took her turn, Ruby and her were playing chess on her scroll. Jaune and Pyrrha were on the next picnic bench over, the shadow of the tarp shade tent only covered half of their faces, they were talking about the training they did that day. Pyrrha was consoling him, he made a fool of himself, as usual.

            “The Faunus cooking for the humans, the natural order at work.” Cardin commented as he walked by with some ingredients in hand. All conversation stopped. Weiss’s eyes couldn’t decide between anger and shame. The seated stood up and Ruby made her way to Weiss’s side. “What, you got a problem?”

            Yang growled and Blake hissed.

            Art then laughed loudly. “You dumb bastard.”

            “What fire boy, you want some?”

            “The person behind you seems to.” He pointed.

            There was a sound of a gun cocking, the weapon was pressed into the back of Cardin’s head, a small pistol. “Oh, you think I’m scared of a tiny gun, my aura is better than that.” Cardin said, not realizing who he was speaking to.

            “You should be, given what my semblance is.” It was the leader of team CVFY, Coco Adel, semblance: Hype, supercharges dust to devastating effect. Cardin’s eyes widened as he realized who was speaking. “Not to mention this cart is a top of the line explosion, energy, and light dust fusion that is quite rare, an expensive gift from Neopolitan. She made me promise to only use it on you, and I’ve always wanted to see what my semblance could do to dust this good. So, go ahead, make my fucking day.”

            “You wouldn’t dare, expelling you would be the least they’d do.”

            “Do you really think I’m bluffing?” Coco giggled. Cardin sighed. “Now fuck off.”

            Cardin walked away.

            Coco put her backup gun in her thigh holster. “You kids ok?” Neo then gave her a look. “Fine, kids, and ‘person who is the same age as me despite being a first year’.” Coco jested. Neo nodded.

            “Thanks Coco.” Blake said.

            “Don’t sweat it, you guys should probably get back to cooking. It’s probably starting to burn.” Coco waved and walked away.

            “Adel.” Yang said it as someone would say ‘adieu’. She also bowed. “That was unexpected.” Yang commented, she, Jaune and Pyrrha sat back down, Ruby remained by Weiss’s side.

            “You guys need to stir or else you will ruin it.” Ren urged.

            “Oh right!” Weiss grabbed the ladle and started stirring, she seemed desperate to move on.

            “Velvet did say she would form a ‘Weiss protection squad.’” Blake commented. “How did you find out about that Neo?”

            I overheard them one time. Neo signed then smiled, then went right back to helping Art with the food.

            “She totally wanted to see what Coco could do with dust that good, you little sadist.” Nora said cheerfully. Neo grinned mischievously.

            “We are losing heat; we need more wood.” Ren said. “I hate cooking under natural fire.” He mumbled.

            “You hate something? No way! Lie Ren hates something!” Ruby exclaimed.

            “I don’t hate a lot of things, but there are a few…”

            “I’ll handle it.” Art snapped and the fires under their pots turned green and black, the handle of his sword glowing a faint green again.

            “Are you feeling better Art?” Yang asked, out of curiosity, not concern.

            “I’m fine, just a fluke.” He smiled as he lied.

            “Yang, it’s your turn.” Ruby whined, she sat back down without Yang noticing. Yang was pretty social but even this group was a little big for her liking, she hated not contributing to a conversation for such long stretches in order to give everyone their turn to talk. “How did your training go, you never really said?” Ruby asked, Ruby talked about her day, but Yang hadn’t reciprocated yet.

            “Fine.” Yang then sighed. “Actually, it felt really weird using a sword again.”

            Ruby nodded. “How long has it been?”

            “A year and a half.”

            “She really hasn’t visited you in that long?”

            “I would have told you if she did.” Yang said, a little snappy. “…Sorry.”

            “It’s ok, I haven’t seen Qrow in a while either.”

            Yang was tempted to bush off that comparison as not the same, but she knew better. Ruby always connected with Qrow more than Tai, and Tai never really connected with Ruby that well. Although Tai didn’t know that they knew, they knew that the lack of contact between Qrow and Ruby was per his request, Qrow wasn’t exactly the best influence, but that decision just strained Tai’s and Ruby’s relationship more. Not to mention that Qrow was Ruby’s only teacher, she arguably had it worse, Yang still connected with Tai on that, not to mention humor too. “Did Qrow even say what he was going to do after teaching?”

            “No…” Ruby looked down. “I miss Uncle Qrow.”

            “I think we are done.” Ren announced.

            “Really?” Art taste tested his and Neo’s. He nodded. “Not bad.”

            Blake did the same, then offered some to Weiss too. “I’ve never had curry before so I wouldn’t really know.” She said.

            The cooks served their masterpieces, Nora was served last and had a massive bowl rather than a plate, whatever was left of the curry after serving everyone else went to her. Nora drooled. “I’M SO HUNGRY.” She announced.

            Art and Neo began. “The food here is so similar, yet so different…” He mumbled.

            “How does it compare?” Pyrrha asked.

            “The curry back home.” Art seemed to try to stop himself, his voice was quieter than usual, but everyone could still hear him. Except Nora who was distracted by wolfing down her food and Ren who was equally distracted trying to stop her from choking, the mealy routine for them. Art continued. “Well I shouldn’t say home, its Indian… or Japanese… no Indian in origin, and even this one we have here is definitely Japanese style, being more of a thick stew than a pure curry.” Art then retracted his words. “Sorry, I just learned a lot of random curry facts from this ahh, the point is that its thicker than the stuff back home.” Art shook his head.

            Pyrrha softly smiled, and Neo placed her hand on his. It was an incredibly strange interaction. Jaune just shrugged it off and the rest of Yang’s team didn’t even notice. Yang looked to Ruby and Weiss who were sitting together. “Wait, Weiss.” Ruby said. “Are you scared of trying it?” Weiss shook her head. “Blaaaake, Weiss is insulting your cooking.” Ruby teased, Blake smiled breifly.

            “No, I’m not! I’m just… Fine!” Weiss then took a big spoonful. “Ahhh! Spicc- Spicy!” Weiss fanned her mouth. Her wings vibrated. Yang and Blake giggled; Ruby put a glass of water in front of Weiss’s face.

            “Spicy, really Weiss?” Yang asked, not even flinching as she ate a couple of bites to prove it. “This is actually really good Blake.”

            “Thanks, but its Ren’s recipe. Not my credit to take.”

            “Just take the complement, and eat, you can’t tell me you’re not hungry.” Yang smiled.

            They ate for a while with minimal conversation, the day’s activities had been rough. Nora finished before the rest of them despite her larger amount. How was that girl still fit? Yang asked herself.

            “Ok, now for the all-natural hot springs sign ups! First come first serve.” Coco’s voice permeated the eating tent, behind her was a large white board with three places for team names.

            Team RWBY nodded at each other, then Ruby blipped in and out of existence. Suddenly all three of their team names were on the board.

            “Welp, that’s that then.” Coco said cheerfully. There was a couple of people saying ‘bullshit’ or ‘how the hell?’. “You will all get your chance, don’t be pussies.”

            They all high fived each other.

           

            “Yang, are you ok?” Blake approached Yang, she had taken longer than everyone else to get in her swimsuit, distracted.

            Yang looked to Blake, gods damn she looked good in that black bikini, but that wasn’t what was distracting her. “I just, feel kinda weird right now.”

            Blake tilted her head urging her to go on.

            She sighed. “Just, using a sword again stirred up some memories that I can’t seem to shake.”

            “Bad ones?”

            “That’s the thing. I’ve have never been able to decide if my mother’s visits were a good or bad thing.” Yang scooped up her towel and adjusted her yellow bikini top. Wow we are loyal to our favorite colors, Blake must hate that her aura is purple. She thought. She then shook her head to refocus, it’s like her mind wanted to brush this aside, but her team made a promise. “I don’t know if it’s the right thing to love my own mom or not.”

            “Last time I spoke to my parents was when they left the Fang, I was twelve. I heard what you said to Ruby about her not visiting you in a year and a half.” Blake sighed. “I was going to try to relate to you to give you advice, but I just realized I’m the same as your mom in this metaphor. No doubt my parents are a million times more pissed at me then you are at your mom. You should probably ask them for advice on how to cope.”

            “But why haven’t you talked to them yet? You left the Fang.”

            “Because they hate me. At least I think they do.” Blake grimaced. “Your mother started visiting you less and less the older you got, didn’t she?”

            “Yeah… how did you guess?”

            “Because she probably thinks the older you get, the wiser and mature you get, the more you’re likely to hate her. To decide that you should hate her. You are already on the fence right now, aren’t you?”

            “Damn Blake, you see right through me.”

            “Sorry.” Blake stepped back; her ears did the cute thing.

            “No, that was a complement. You give really good advice.” Yang sighed and stretched. “You know what? I’ll sulk about this on my own time, now it is time to try out these hot springs!” Yang shouted. Blake smiled and nodded and walked out of the girl’s locker room and to the springs. Yang’s expression turned sour as soon as Blake turned around. Yang looked out the small and blurry window that was right below where the ceiling met the roof, there was a black bird Yang could see twitching on a tree branch outside. She had seen that bird a couple of times that day, or maybe it wasn’t the same bird, but Yang could never be sure.

            The natural hot springs were separated by gender by a large wooden wall between the two pools, but still open air. The pools were very large, enough so that twelve of one gender would probably be fine in one. Neo was floating face up wearing an appropriately colored one-piece, Pyrrha took the same route, but now her hair was down, a rare sight. Weiss’s suit was the one Blake and Yang got for her; it was a one-piece that covered her back but had slits for her wings to come out. Ruby and Nora had bikini tops, but the bottoms had a skirt-like thing Yang didn’t get. She never had to concern herself with fashion, her natural and dazzling good looks took care of all that for her. Weiss was sitting in the pool and Ruby was behind her feeling up her wings, Weiss was blushing as Ruby mumbled how soft they were. Yang was pretty sure this was more than regular contact for Weiss but Ruby probably didn’t think anything of it. Yang smiled at the humor of it. Pyrrha was sitting at the edge splashing her feet and Nora was swimming underneath, coming up on the unsuspecting Neo. Nora pulled Neo under like a shark with her pray, Neo floundered, Pyrrha giggled, Neo did a raving reversal and dunked Nora instead then they were all giggling. “Come on in Yang, the water’s nice.” Blake beckoned. Life was good.

            They heard the three boys talking about something signifying that they were on their way in, it was hard to discern what they were talking about. This prompted Nora to splash above the surface, dramatically whipping her hair prompting the other girls to shield themselves from the splashes. Nora stomped flat-footed up to the wall the separated the boys and the girls, she posed dramatically as she sized up the wall.

            “What are you doing?” Blake dared to ask.

            “Beyond this wall… beyond this messily ten centimeters of wood… is REN! In a swimsuit!” Nora quieted herself just enough as to not alert the boys.

            Pyrrha facepalmed. “Oh, my gods… Nora, you have already seen him shirtless. This isn’t new. Hell, I’ve seen him shirtless.”

            “Oh, but you misunderstand my dear Pyrrha, a man’s swimsuit is a lot heavier than a woman’s, so when it gets soaking wet, and when they step out of the pool, it sticks to their body, and THEN. You can see the outlin-“

            “Shhhhh!!” Yang dashed to Ruby and covered her hears.

            “Nora, you’re so bad.” Weiss said. Pyrrha was shaking her head.

            Nora turned to face the group, of which she had their unwavering attention. Nora dramatically pointed at Pyrrha. “You! Do you not have even the smallest desire to see… to preview! What you will be working with?”

            Pyrrha’s entire face lit up, beat red.

            “You too Neo!” Nora pointed at the mute.

            Neo rolled her eyes. I’ve already seen him naked.

            Yang was not prepared to cover her sister’s eyes too; Ruby saw the signs and knew what they meant. “What?” Ruby whispered yelled.

            Neo raised an eyebrow. Are you for real Nora? Pyrrha I get, but you have known Ren for ages, right?

            “Neo! No way!” Nora leapt into the pool in front of Neo, making a splash. “Tell me everything.”

            Neo grinned, then frowned. Well-. It’s kinda an awkward story.

            “I think that’s kinda the point.” Nora said. All parties were engrossed at this point, and Ruby speed away from Yang’s grip.

            Neo uncharacteristically grimaced. Well, I was getting impatient with him to… I wanted him to make a move, but he wasn’t. So… while he was in the shower, I snuck in with him.

            “Neo.” Blake breathed in shock, then nodded to encourage continuation.

            Well then it got sad. We both sat down in the shower and he told me why he doesn’t want a relationship. And no, I won’t tell you, that is very VERY private. She manually spelled out the second ‘very’.

            Weiss looked down.

            “Ok, I get the gloom, but you have to tell us the more erotic stuff!” Nora pleaded; Blake nodded, eyes hungry for more. “Like did he get all shy and embarrassed? And SITTING in the same bathtub, holy shit.” Ruby swayed side to side looking uncomfortable but also curious. Yang was torn between perversion and protecting her little sister. He hesitation cost her.

            Neo grinned, back from gloom. He REALLY looked like he wanted it, like woah. I was the ice cream and he needed sugar. Neo then flicked up her finger a couple of times in a gesture that was not an official sign. Like right away.

            “I was the ice cream and he needed sugar,” Blake quoted. “I need to right that down.”

            “Ok, we now need to carry stopwatches on us at all times so we can time their reaction times and compare!” Nora beamed. Neo nodded feverishly.

            “You are all awful.” Ruby said, her face white and stone like she had seen a ghost.

            “Pyrrha!” Weiss whisper yelled and hopped out of the pool; he wings vibrated to shake off the water, she trudged towards Pyrrha.

            Pyrrha had been looking through a crack in the wall, she looked back to the group with immense guilt. Then her eyes widened, and she quickly went back to looking.

            “What?” Yang asked.

            They are talking about the dance. Pyrrha sloppy signed.

            Then all the girls were up against the wall listening in.

            “- to the dance?” Ren asked. “If you’re bad at dancing I can teach you.” They were all sitting in a loose circle, relaxed. Art still stood out on the only one without any muscle, it was so weird to Yang, he was so skinny.

            “Na… it’s just that I don’t really do well in crowds, I get kinda claustrophobic.” Art shook his head. “But yeah, I also don’t know how to dance.”

            “Knew it. I can also teach you some of my moves, growing up with seven sisters did come with a few perks.” Jaune said, he wiggled his arms.

            “Mmmm, but now that we are on the subject of you.” Art sneered. “Ren and I already have dates lined up if I do decide to go, but you on the other hand…” He trailed off.

            “Who are you going to ask?” Ren asked.

            Art did a violent double take out of confusion.

            “I was thinking I would ask…” Jaune cringed. “Weiss?” Art had a shocked expression on his face.

            “Good choice.” Ren nodded in approval. Pyrrha slouched.

            “Y-Y-Y-You…” Art struggled for words.

            “She’s so smart and talented, I mean have you heard her sing?” Jaune praised, Weiss looked uncomfortable.

            “You dumb bastard on so many, many accounts.” Art seethed.

            “He’s allowed to like who he likes Art.” Ren mediated.

            “First of all, NO. Second of all, Weiss doesn’t even swing that way. Third-“

            “Wait, what do you mean Weiss doesn’t swing that way?” Jaune whined.

            “Ok, lemme back up, where I’m from, being gay is frowned upon, but through that, I have helped a few friends, ‘come out of the closet’ as they call it. Meaning, publicly making their sexuality known, it’s a big event because it’s frowned upon, so I’ve seen the subtle signs and know what they look like.”

            “What are you getting at?” Ren asked.

            “Weiss one hundred percent has the hots for Ruby.”

            Weiss yelped and covered her face, she ran backwards and fell back into the pool, Making a splash. “Weiss!” Ruby whisper yelled and went after her, not exactly news to the rest of them. The other girls turned back to the boys.

            “They really shouldn’t, or should I say Nora, shouldn’t really be splashing around like that, these pools are really shallow.” Ren said.

            “Hmm, so I guess she would say no.” Jaune said in defeat.

            “Dude, you are missing the obvious option.” Art said.

            “So, my remaining options are Blake and Yang.” He held up two fingers and looked at them with disappointment. Pyrrha seemed to shrink.

            Art splashed him. “Oh my God dude.” He held his own face.

            “What?” Jaune whined.

            “Ok, let me walk you through this slowly.”

            “Ok, why can’t ask out either of those two?”

            Ren sighed. “You fail to see what is right in front of you, now I see the problem.”

            “What?”

            “Ok, let’s start with Yang. She, similarly, to Weiss with Ruby. Undresses Blake with her eyes constantly.” Art said.

            “Oh, heh heh.” Yang feigned a giggle. She looked over to Blake from the corner of her eye, Blake couldn’t look at her. “Well then, at least Ruby didn’t hear that other part.” Yang mumbled. Yang looked to Ruby and Weiss, Weiss was covering her face and looking away from Ruby by turning in circles.

            “Ok so then I’m out of options.” Jaune sighed.

            Ren and Art looked at each other in shock. They both started violently splashing Jaune with water.

            “Stop! Stop!” He begged.

            “Ok Jaune, not liking Pyrrha romantically is at least acceptable, not every guy wants a girlfriend who can bench-press him, I know I’m in the minority.” Ren stood up and gestured to himself, Nora started bouncing and beaming. “But not even seeing her as an option is unacceptable.”

            “Pyrrha?” Jaune hung his head in shame. “She is insanely out of my league. Not even league, it’s like we aren’t even playing the same game.”

            “And the literal angel from the north isn’t, or the actual neko, I knew people who would kill to even see a real life catgirl, much less one as hot as Blake.” Art said.

            “This is different. Pyrrha is like… Flawless, and I’m just oozing with flaws. She’s the invincible girl and I’m the lovable idiot. The comic relief doesn’t get the princess.”

            “Sokka begs to differ, and dude, can we take an honest look out ourselves? All of us are way out of our league even being friends with the literal supermodels on the other side of that wall!” Art pointed. “Have you seen how out of my league Neo is? Like, like- Ok, imma level with you, I’ve seen Neo naked and like holy shit oh my fucking god.” Neo and Nora shared a look.

            “Yeah, well, you and she aren’t dating right?” Jaune quipped. “How is that any different from me and Pyrrha.”

            “It is the same.” Art said to Jaune’s surprise. “The reason we aren’t dating is because of my personal hang-ups and nothing more. It’s no different than you and Pyrrha, the only, only reason you two aren’t already shagging every night is because you are a dumbass.” Pyrrha turned very red.

            “Ok, that’s enough Art.” Ren said.

            “You don’t go breaking my cousin’s heart ok?” Art coughed.

            “Art,” Ren sighed. “See.” Ren gestured to Art’s chest where his heart is. A sparkling green fluid started leaking from a small abyssal back hole in his chest. “I told you its emotions based.” Ren ran out of the pool and grabbed a towel, then wrapped it around Art’s weird wound, who was now kneeling in pain. The girls that were still looking exchanged surprised looks.

            Jaune approached. “Sorry, that was my bad.”

            “Nah,” Art dismissed, waving his hand. “If I’m being honest, I was projecting, I still would have said the same stuff to you, but it wouldn’t have been so emotionally charged.”

            “Want me to message Neo?” Ren said.

            “Nah, not this time. She’s having fun with the girls right now.” Art sat down and was breathing heavily. Neo looked like her mind was racing. “The point is though, ask Pyrrha out, sooner than later.” Jaune nodded.

            “And my point is that you need to tell Neo every time this happens, not every third or so time.” Ren countered. Neo’s eyes widened.

            “It’s not getting worse though, right?” Jaune asked.

            “I don’t think so, the hole isn’t getting bigger or anything.” Ren said, disapprovingly, he obviously wanted to make this public, it was bizarre, and it was affecting his fighting as Yang recalled. “Let’s just take a breather and meditate on what we have learned from this conversation, I think we can all agree it was very enlightening.” Ren said as he sat in the water.

            Jaune giggled. “Yeah, you could say that.”

            “Actually Art, I have a question of the perverted variety for you.” Ren requested.

            “Shoot.”

            “Does the carpet match the drapes?”

            Art winked.

            The girls stepped away from the wall. “Ok, there’s a lot to unpack there.” Nora observed.

            “Weiss look at me, you’re fine. Everything is good, calm down.” Ruby begged.

            “No, no, no.” Weiss disagreed, still holding her face. “This is awful.”

            “Its fine, he was just joking, don’t get all embarrassed.” Ruby pulled Weiss’s hands off her face.

            Weiss’s face made it clear he wasn’t joking. “He-“ Weiss looked down, she looked on the verge of tears. This was it.

            Ruby’s eyes widened with realization. Then narrowed with anger. “No, you aren’t going to be sad! I won’t allow it!” Ruby grabbed Weiss’s face and kissed her.

            Weiss was in shock, he wings became completely still, her whole body stone.

            “WOOO! Go Ruby!” Yang cheered as her arms shot in the air.

            “Where’s my scroll!” Pyrrha panicked. “I need to take a picture!”

            Don’t be too hasty, this could still turn out badly. Neo cautioned.

            Ruby let go of Weiss. Both of them were shocked at what they did. Then Weiss tackled Ruby into the water and kissed her violently.

            I stand… Wildly corrected.

            “You know what, I know I should be happy, but I’m kinda pissed.” Nora put her hands on her hips. “Weiss and Ruby of all people beat all three of us.” Nora looked to both Pyrrha and Neo.

            Pyrrha then laughed uncontrollably. A rare sight. Prompting Nora to laugh to, and Neo to do her silent giggle.

            “Wait, Blake, where are you going?” Yang saw Blake grabbing a towel and walking towards the exit.

            “I… I think I’m just done for the day. I’m tired.” Blake said.

            “Blake?” Yang tried again; Blake walked out.

            “Well that was weird.” Nora observed.

            Ruby then gasped, she pushed Weiss out from on top of her. “Air!” She begged.

            “Oh my gods I’m so sorry! I just got carried away!” Weiss grabbed Ruby’s hand.

            “I’m going to go after Blake.” Yang said, she grabbed a towel and started drying herself.

            Pyrrha gasped for air and got herself together. “What do you think has her down? You know her better than the rest of us.”

            “I’m about to find out.” Yang walked out.

            Yang dried off and put on her regular clothes and stepped outside, it was nighttime, and Blake was nowhere to be seen. Yang thought that she was probably going to grab a book from their team tent before running off to read on her own. Yang walked. She then sensed movement, she looked to her right. A raven just landed on a tree branch. Yang growled, turned into a bird and attacked the raven, her much larger size as an eagle allowing her to push it to the ground in a choke hold. The bird then turned into a human, forcing Yang off. Yang’s mom, Raven, rubbed her neck. “Is that really how you greet your mother after all this time?” She spoke.

            Yang turned back into a human. “You were being annoying, watching me all day.”

            “So, you did notice me? Good. Here I thought you lost your observational skills.”

            “I wasn’t gonna strike up a conversation with you when I was in the middle of training with my friends.” Yang folded her arms and huffed.

            “You disappointed me; you should have kicked your avian friend’s ass. You were sloppy.”

            “That sounds like a you problem, you haven’t trained me in a year and a half.”

            “And you haven’t practiced. Why did you stop?”

            “You know why, dad isn’t stupid, he will notice that I’m using your distinct fighting style.”

            Raven huffed. “You give your father too much credit.”

            “Can you please just tell me why you’re here? I have a feeling that you aren’t going to train me right now.”

            “Can’t a mom just check up on her daughter?” Raven asked sarcastically.

            “She can, but you’re not. Now can we get on with it, I need to find Blake and rub her ears until she feels better, she likes that.”

            “Well, you’re wrong. I am just here to check on you. I’ve been… busy lately, and I’m sorry for that.” Raven looked off into the distance.

            “Huh, and by ‘busy’ do you mean killing people? Raiding innocent villages?”

            “Yes and no. Things have just been more complicated around the tribe. We’ve recently had a brand-new target painted on our back, and we have lost a lot of people.”

            “Are you serious? Is that what this is about?”

            “What do you mean?” Raven raised her eyebrows. “Oh… yeah, no. I’m not going to ask you to join the tribe. As much as I want you to, I know you aren’t just going to abandon your sister, no matter what I say. I’m not dumb enough to waste my breath.”

            “Good.” Yang relaxed herself. She twiddled her thumbs. “How have you been?”

            Raven smiled. “Thank you for asking, but if I’m being honest, not great. We’ve had to move the camp a lot more often lately.” She shook her head. “Such a pain in the ass.” She paused. “How… has school been?”

            “It’s been fine, sparring is as fun as ever. If I act stupid enough Weiss practically writes my papers for me out of frustration.”

            “You mentioned a ‘Blake’ who likes her ears to be rubbed, what’s all that about?” Raven smiled.

            “Oh, one of our teammates is a cat Faunus, and through some ahh forceful experimentation, I found out she really likes her ears rubbed.”

            “Oh, my gods Yang…” Raven facepalmed. “How is your team? As I’m sure you know, our team fell apart, yours's doing any better?”

            “Tentative yes. Ruby and Weiss just started dating, but Blake found out that I think she’s unreasonably sexy. So, there might be some awkwardness for a while.”

            Raven laughed. “That’s good to hear. I uhh… I should probably get going though. I have been gone for a whole day.”

            “Ok…” Yang shuffled her feet. Then she hugged her mom. “I do love you.”

            Raven hugged her back. “I love you too.”

            The let go of each other and Raven drew her sword, she sliced it through the air, creating a red portal. “Bye.” Yang said.

            “By the way, you’re being watched.” Raven disappeared.

            Yang took a fighting stance and looked around.

            “It’s just me.” Blake came out of the shadows.

            “Let me guess, you heard everything.” Yang said, exasperated.

            “Yeah, pretty much… so that’s your mom huh?”

            “Yeah.” Yang sighed. “You seem kinda down all of the sudden, what’s up?”

            “I thought about some of the stuff that was said… at the springs.”

            “Blake, I know you’re straight. You don’t have to worry about me coming on to you or anything.” Yang waved her hand dismissively.

            Blake’s ears drooped. “Yeah, right. That’s… Thank you.”

            Yang then smiled. “Watch, I’ll prove it to you.” Yang walked over and hugged her; Blake tentatively hugged her back. “Notice how I’m not grabbing your ass even though I want to, I have self-control.” Yang proudly announced.

            Blake giggled and stepped away from Yang. “We should get back to the tent, it’s getting late.”

            The tent was a small blue one, just enough room for them to all sleep in their sleeping bags comfortably, except for Weiss, sleeping bags were not comfortable for Weiss. Speak of the devil, it wasn’t long after Blake and Yang got into their pajamas that the remaining two members of their team entered the tent. “So, the lovebirds have returned, quite the first date huh?” Yang announced.

            They both shuffled their feet. Ruby broke the silence. “We actually talked about that, and uhm…”

            “We both don’t really know what we would even want out a relationship yet, so we’re going to put off dating.” Weiss finished.

            Yang was disappointed. Blake spoke. “That is surprisingly mature of you.”

            “Hey, what do you mean surprising?” Weiss put her hands on her hips and her wings flapped.

            Ruby giggled. “Yang, why do you look sad?”

            “Because my little sisters first relationship didn’t even last an hour!” Yang pretended to faint; her tone overdramatic. Yang then got up and shook Weiss’s shoulders. “How could you break my little sister’s heart?”

            “Believe it or not it was actually Neo who talked some sense into us. She told us that unless we have our personal issues completely together, being a couple will only amplify them.” Weiss explained calmly.

            Blake’s eyes widened. “Oh yeah! I have to write that down!” Blake grabbed a notebook meant for school notes.

            “What?” Ruby asked.

            “Only the most erotic line I have ever heard, or uhh, saw signed? The most erotic line I have ever laid eyes on outside of a book! I was the ice cream and he needed sugar.” Blake mumbled as she wrote.

            Weiss facepalmed. “I thought the boys were supposed to be the perverted ones, my sister never bothered to warn me about perverted girls. You are awful.”

            “Well considering which way you swing she probably should’ve.” Yang jested.

            Ruby and Weiss blushed. “You stop that!” Weiss pleaded.

 

            It was the next day, team RWBY stood together, team JNPR and AN not too far away. They were going to do aura practice now, not allowed to use weapons. Yang looked at the other two teams. Art was sitting on the grass looking bored, nothing for him to do, while Neo used her semblance to create flash cards for a memory matching game that they were playing, guess that counts? Team JNPR were focused on Jaune, getting him to practice using his aura, he was so far behind.

            “First, I think we should make it clear what our semblances are and what we can do.” Ruby took charge, then sat down, beckoning her team to follow suit. “You guys already know about mine, so let’s go alphabetically, Weiss, you first.”

            “Wait, if we’re going alphabetically shouldn’t I go first?” Blake asked.

            “I mean our team name. the ‘W’ comes after the ‘R’ so Weiss is next.” Ruby pouted.

            Weiss cleared her throat and began. “The name of my semblance is Summoner’s Glyphs. As it stands my semblance is only tier three for now, but it is hereditary, and as such I know its true potential can reach tier five, as all inheritable semblances are. Currently I can only make my positive and negative glyphs and combine them with dust to achieve different effects. Eventually though, I will be able to summon my fallen foes to fight for me.” Weiss talked like she was reading off a script.

            “You’re tier five? Badass.” Yang said. Weiss looked proud, but there was sadness there too.

            Blake’s ears drooped, she looked ashamed. “I guess I’ll go… My semblance is Shadow Clone. I can create a clone of myself.”

            The rest of the team looked at her expectantly for more info. Yang saw how uncomfortable Blake looked and decided to move on before someone could ask ‘that’s it?’ and embarrass her. “My semblance is called Revenge. I can absorb force and send it back out. I use it to augment my physical abilities, make myself faster and stronger. Tier three. Also, my hair glows and my eyes turn red when I use it, cool right?”

            “Oh, so yours has a mutation side effect like Neo’s?” Weiss asked.

            “Kinda, Neo’s is permanent, mines temporary, but yeah pretty much.”

            “Hey, don’t leave me out! I have a mutation side effect too!” Ruby said and touched the red strands of her hair to show them off.

            “Your hair isn’t dyed?” Weiss asked.

            “Nope!”

            Yang thought. “I think I’ll take Blake.”

            Ruby nodded. “Yang and I’s semblances have a pretty linear progression, so we don’t really need to take time to experiment or push them, I’ll help Weiss one on one.”

            “Uhm ok?” Weiss and Blake said in unison.

            Yang helped Blake to her feet. “Let’s get started.”

            “I actually don’t think my semblance can go anywhere, I’ve tried and tried but I feel like I’ve hit a wall.” Blake said.

            “Well, what are you trying to do?”

            “I want to be able to make multiple clones, but every time I try my aura gets shot almost immediately.”

            “Well that’s probably just the wrong angle, you’re probably just meant to do something else, how does your clone work?”

            “It looks just like me, and takes the position I was in, and because we cannot occupy the same space, when I make one, I can make it push me into a direction.”

            Yang thought for a moment. “Have you tried making it move?”

            “What do you mean?”

            “Make one.” Blake did and stepped away from it. Yang approached the standing clone. Yang then held up her hand. “Make it high five me.”

            “I don’t think I can.”

            “Just try it.”

            Blake looked intensely at her clone’s hand; her aura pulsed a couple of times. Blake then, blinked hard and folded her arms. “I can’t.”

            “Well not with that attitude.” Yang joked.

            Blake pouted; her ears did the thing.

            Gods fucking damnit, why do you have to be straight? I guess I do have a ‘neko fetish’ as Art put it once. Yang silently asked. “Try again for me?”

            Blake did, then her aura broke after a minute of concentration. “I hate being stuck like this.” Yang gave her a look of sympathy. “Why don’t we move on to yours Yang?”

            “Sure, I guess. There’s not really much to say though.”

            “Well, explain how your semblance works.”

            “When I am hit, or I hit. Pretty much whenever I am met with a force, I can absorb that and dish it back out.”

            “Can you like… shoot that energy out?” Blake’s question seemed off. The way she asked it…

            “Nah.”

            “Well then, let’s try it… Uhh… do you want me to hit you?”

            “Kinky.” Yang couldn’t stop herself from saying.

            Blake shook her head. “Now I want to hit you.” Blake almost smiled. Blake always seemed more relaxed when it was just her and Yang.

            They trained for the rest of the day but didn’t make a lot of progress.

           

            Now they sat around a campfire at night, the stars above were beautiful, uninterrupted. They sat in their respective pairs on logs and talking. Jaune was talking to Pyrrha but seemed off, probably because of the boy’s talk at the hot springs. Nora was telling Ren about a reoccurring dream. Blake was sitting next to her, a little close but Yang didn’t mind, she was used to people using her for warmth. Art and Neo were sitting next to Weiss and Ruby.

            Art was showing Ruby a type of cookie from his… hometown? Where was Art from anyway? “Ok, it took a while to find the right frosting to recreate the exact taste, but I think I’ve come pretty close.” He used a small butter knife to spread it on a thin chocolate cookie, then place another cookie on top, sandwiching the cream. “I present to you, an Oreo! Fun fact, some scientist dudes tested rats to see if they would choose these or addictive drugs. The rats choose these.” Art handed Ruby the cookie. “Now, if our resident cookie expert would.”

            Ruby took a bite of the cookie and her eyes widened. “That is awesome!” She said with a full mouth.

            “Well, have at it.” He handed her the ingredients. Rather than making the cookies individually though, Ruby just used the cookies like chips and the cream like dip.

            “Hey, Blake?” Yang asked.

            Blake scooted away a bit. “Sorry…”

            “No.” Yang closed the distance. “I just wanted to know if you’re feeling alright? You’ve been quiet. I know that that’s your thing, but I don’t want you to be quiet around me, I want you to speak whatever you are thinking.” Yang wanted to keep up those fleeting moments where Blake would be more relaxed around her.

            “I-” Blake sighed, she lowered her voice. “I’d just rather not bring down the mood.”

            Yang grabbed her hand and stood. “Then let’s get out of earshot.” Yang started dragging Blake away.

            “Yang?” Weiss asked.

            “We’re just going to have a girl talk.” Yang waved. She dragged Blake until they were deep into the tree line. “Ok, spill.”

            Blake rubbed her arm. “I just… I… feel… happy…” Blake didn’t continue.

            “I’m sensing a ‘but’.”

            Blake plopped on the ground; she hugged her knees to her chest. “I don’t think I deserve it.”

            Wow, I am getting a lot of mileage out of that promise of transparency. Blake would not tell me this otherwise. Yang knelt down on her knees and hugged her, pulling her in close. “I thought you were the brains of the group.”

            “What?” Blake’s voice cracked.

            “You’re being stupid if you think that you don’t deserve to have fun with us.”

            “But I-“

            “But nothing, you are my best friend Blake. I don’t care what you were or what you’ve done.” Blake flinched in Yang’s arms. “You deserve to be happy, even that guy from the clothes store thought so.”

            Blake pulled on Yang. “I hate you.” She said.

            “What?” Yang tried to pull away, but Blake just pulled her closer, she nuzzled her head into Yang’s neck. Yang felt her ears twitching.

            “You see me for who I am… and I like that, but it’s also scary.” Blake started to cry. “I hate crying, and I hate needing you. I hate needing to cry and you being the one to help me do that. I hate needing you. I hate being comfortable telling you these things, I don’t want to tell anyone these things.”

            Yang wrapped her arms around her again. “You haven’t put any walls between us, and you don’t like that?”

            Blake nodded. “I tried, I tried scaring you away, but it didn’t work. It’s never not worked before.”

            “I guess I’m just stubborn.” Yang started rubbing Blake’s cat ears.

            Blake let it happen. “I don’t like being so vulnerable around you, I can’t keep up my tough and brooding act around you and I hate it.” Blake sniffled.

            “So you don’t break down crying like this in front of anyone else?”

            Blake shook her head. “I don’t know why; you just say one true thing about myself and I just fall apart.”

            Yang sighed. “I’m sorry…”

            Blake seemed to calm down. “Don’t be…”

            Yang continued to rub Blake’s ears until she started to purr. Blake then fell asleep in Yang’s arms.

            Yang didn’t really know what to make of this. It was like no one’s ever told her that she should be happy before, but that wasn’t true. The clothes guy said he wanted her to be happy, what was different now? Why was it so quick too? She was her usual edgy self then switched to this in what seemed like a heartbeat. Yang found the whole interaction odd. Yang thought she helped her though. Maybe she just processed stuff differently.

            Yang thought to when she would help Ruby through emotional stuff. Yang would just give her some cookies and tell her everything would be ok, and that seemed to work. Cookies weren’t really Blake’s thing though, not to mention it was Yang’s fault for Ruby’s cookie addiction. Yang didn’t feel like Ruby needed her though, she needed Summer and Qrow, Yang was just the substitute. Blake on the other hand needed her. Yang didn’t really know what to make of it. Why her?

            Yang decided that she would be there for Blake.

            Yang knew what it was like to need someone and have them not be there. Summer when she died, Tai when he shut down, Raven when she didn’t visit as often when she got older. Yang was not going to allow Blake to feel that same abandonment.

Chapter Text

            SNAP! Green lightning arced from my hand towards Jaune, who dodged just in time before a pillar of black and green flame erupted. “Yo, it already eleven thirty we should call it quits, you guys have a class at eight, right?” I said while checking my scroll for Jaune’s aura level, low.

            “Common, I was just getting warmed up!” Yang exclaimed as the pounded her fists together, she had been joining Neo, Pyrrha, Jaune and I every once in a while in the sparring classroom during our training sessions, the invitation was extended to others but they didn’t bite.

            “We’ve been going at this for two and a half hours already.” Jaune said, very tired.

            “It’s very important we all get our eight hours of sleep; you guys are going to get like seven max tonight.” I said.

            “He’s right,” Pyrrha said, she hadn’t broken a sweat, but she was looking at Jaune who was breathing heavily with concern. “If we don’t rest properly all of this training will be for nothing, we don’t want to skip a day because we are too tired.”

            “Welp,” I put my scroll away and went for my backpack. “Neo and I are going to grab some froyo as per usual, have a good night you guys.”

            “Good night!” The three others started to leave, Neo and I followed suit waving goodbye out of the door to the outside of the building.

            Jaune is certainly getting better, speed and reaction time is good, as well as instinctual aura shield. Neo signed.

            “I know right? We should really start dedicated aura training soon, getting his semblance unlocked will really help him.” I said as I stretched my arms above my head.

            That’s all well and good but you need to catch up, you’ve been missing too many training sessions and it shows, Jaune will surpass you in no time at this rate.

            “I know, I know, you don’t gotta bust my balls. I’m still a billion times better than him at swordplay and battle awareness.” We finally arrived at the on-campus Fro’Go, it was open until twelve at night on most days despite the student curfew being at nine because the faculty liked getting late night snacks, and there weren’t any other on-campus stores like this to compete. As we approached, we noticed Mr. Port was there.

            “Why hello children! Tell me, how did your training go?” Despite the curfew, most of the teachers, including Goodwitch surprisingly, were cool with us training in the sparing classroom past curfew.

            “Neo says ‘pretty good if I say so myself’ I say we still have a long way to go, Jaune and I are both improving but we are still behind.”

            “That good to hear but I do wish you children didn’t stay up so late.”

            “Well it really do just be like that sometimes. Enjoy your night Professor.”

            “You too, enjoy your treats.” He left.

            We ordered our desserts and sat down to enjoy them. I personally spiked my milkshake; Neo gave me a disapproving frown. We then noticed a trio of students approaching the Fro’Go, two girls and one guy, the shorter girl had green short hair, the other girl looked older and had back hair that slightly covered her left eye, the guy with them was tall and had gray hair, all of them wore the black uniforms of Haven academy in Mistral. The foreign exchange teams that qualified for the Vytal Festival tournament had started arriving at the beginning of the semester, the students arriving early were part of an attempt to have students experience different cultures and encourage unity like all four of the academies were one. “It’s way past curfew you know.” I was in a friendly mood.

            “Like you’re one to talk.” The green haired girl said in a biting tone.

            “Hey, I’m just pulling your leg.” I put up my hands in surrender.

            “Remember Emerald, we are here to spread our culture, if you act like that you will give everyone a bad impression of our home.” The black-haired girl scolded Emerald.

            “You guys are from Haven right-“

            “Yeah.” The gray-haired guy cut me off, his tone was cold.

            “I see we have gotten off on the wrong foot, let’s start over. I’m Artorias and this here’s Neo.” I pointed at Neo who gave a small wave.

            “Charmed, I’m Cinder and these are my two teammates, Emerald and Mercury, and I believe I have heard of you two, Neapolitan Torchwick and Artorias Abyss yes.” The shop keep handed them their froyo and then closed the shutter to the shop, closing time. It took every fiber of my being to hide my shock and realization, and to not attack them immediately, for all I knew this was an insane coincidence. They surely couldn’t be stupid enough to use their real names. I glanced at Neo; her facial expression was too subtle for them to have noticed but I saw that she realized it too.

            “Nice to meet you.” I treaded lightly. “I’m curious about your culture, I’ve been to Anima but I’ve never been to Mistral itself, what’s it like? I’m a bit of a folklore nerd, I’m curious if the common fairy tales are different in your country.” That was a lie, I couldn’t give too shits about folklore.

            “I don’t waste my time with that crap.” Emerald said.

            “Oh common, you gotta at least know the classics, like… the four seasons…” I paused to read their faces. “Or even the girl in the tower…”

            Cinder smiled. “Roman is your father, right?” She spoke to Neo. “I suppose it would make sense he would tell you about us.”

            “Cinder, what are you doing?” Emerald jumped back and drew her weapons, two green guns with small blades attached. Mercury took a fighting stance, he used kicks, good to know.

            “I have to agree with your lacky,” I stood up and drew my sword slowly, Neo stood as well, using the new upgrade she made in weapons shop class to slide her sword out of the top of her umbrella. “You really could have played dumb for longer; Salem must be disappointed.”

            “I don’t have to play dumb.” Cinder closed her eyes and gestured with her hand. “Because if you two blow our cover, Roman will die.”

            Neo and I flinched, Neo’s eyes both turned brown. “And what happens if I kill all three of you right now?”

            “You can’t.” Orange fire surrounded Cinder’s eyes.

            I conceded, I sighed and clipped my sword back on my back. Neo looked at me surprised, what are you doing? We can take them.

            “Not quite. She is one of the six people on this planet capable of preforming feats of magic.” I looked at Cinder. “So Autumn, the deal is we keep quiet and you don’t kill Roman correct.”

            “How do you know I won’t just kill him anyway?” Cinder taunted.

            “A couple reasons, the first is that you still need him, and as for the second…” I surrounded my eyes with green and black fire as a kind of bluff, Emerald and Mercury took a step back, Cinder seemed intrigued. “I can kill all three of you, unfortunately the school would be destroyed along with you, and although that is not ideal, I am willing if pushed. Know that you are marked for death. Let’s go Neo.”

            Wait, what do you mean magic? Neo signed.

            “Oh, right, I should have told you sooner, so in addition to Salem, and… Uhh you guys already know about the other one, right?” I asked the trio of villains, Emerald and Mercury looked really confused and seemed to be in between being defensive and relaxing.

            Cinder had a big grin on her face. “Yes, we know Ozpin’s identity.”

            “Right, in addition to Salem and Ozpin there are four other magic users, those being the four maidens, spring, summer, winter and correct me if I’m wrong-“ I pointed at Cinder. “Fall, the ‘maiden’ part is just a title in this case.” Cinder nodded, she seemed entertained by my slight. I looked at the other two who seemed confused. “Oh, I get it, you aren’t used to people not being intimidated by you, you better learn this lesson now kiddos, there is always a bigger fish. After all you just found one.” I spread my arms wide. “Enjoy your froyo.” Neo pointed at both of her eyes and then at the villains. We walked away, why we were out of earshot I finally spoke. “That was way too close, holy shit.”

            So, she is one of the six most powerful people on the planet and works for the most powerful. Neo signed.

            “Pretty much.” I sighed heavily, then inhaled loudly. “Ok, Imma be real with you, that was pure luck, we could have fucking died! I’m not ready to fight a maiden right now! And we don’t know how skilled her two lackeys are, they could have kicked our asses by themselves! I threatened them too, what if I actually have to fight them one day? I have a pretty high power ceiling, and I think in a movie someone said something like ‘strength invites challenge’ or some shit!”

            Chill TF out ok, we’re fine. You’re ok right?

            “Yeah, you’re right, just” I sighed again. “I need some sleep.”

 

            The next morning, we had sparring class, Pyrrha was finishing up her match, she had requested to fight Cardin’s whole team at once, and she was kicking their asses. At this point maybe we were the bullies. I took a drink. I glared at Cinder and her crew, they were sitting on the far end of the room from us with the other students from Haven, but none of them were sitting right next to them, they felt something was off about them, just not what, they used to sit on our side of the classroom away from the other Haven kids, but today they changed. Pyrrha did an amazing aerial combo on Cardin, ending in her slamming him into the ground. “GEEEEETTTTT dunked on!” I shouted.

            “Please refrain from cheering and or heckling.” Goodwitch said. “Well done Miss Nikos you should have no problem qualifying for the tournament.” Since Vale is hosting the tournament this year their own qualifying tournament is held later to allow for first years to give it a try.

            “Thank you, professor.” Pyrrha said, her hard work rewarded, most of the other students rarely practiced on their own if at all, but Pyrrha had been for hours every night.

            “Alright, now I know that’s a tough act to follow but we have time for one more sparring match, any volunteers?” Goodwitch looked among the crowd of students. “Miss Belladonna,” She called out Blake, like me she had been inactive in sparring class for a while, but unlike me Goodwitch didn’t have a reason not to call her out. “You’ve been rather docile for the past few classes, why don’t you-“

            “I’ll do it.” Mercury raised his hand.

            “Mercury, is it? Very well, let’s find you an opponent.” Goodwitch started scrolling through her tablet.

            “Actually,” He interrupted. “I wanna fight… her.” He pointed at Pyrrha who was just leaving the stage.

            “Me?” Pyrrha seemed surprised, she really shouldn’t be. Her, Weiss and Neo were the best in the class, and unlike those two her demeanor is more friendly, allowing for a match with a skilled opponent without any mind games in the way.

            “I’m afraid Miss Nikos has just finished a match; I recommend you choose another partner.” Goodwitch said.

            Pyrrha seemed like she was about to say something, but I interrupted her. “I’ll -hic- fight ‘em.” I raised my hand. Merc’s face seemed to get angry for a split second but then he put back on his poker face.

            “Well, Mr. Abyss I’m glad to see you have decided to participate again, just try not to go overboard like last time.”

            I winked at Mercury and made my way to the stage. Merc did the same, as our displays showed up on screen a foreign student who wasn’t here last time said. “Hey, his aura isn’t displaying.”

            Goodwitch was about to respond but I interrupted. “Yeah, yeah, I don’t have an aura, la dee da.” I clapped in rhythm to those last words. Merc looked shocked for a moment and took a step back, the rest of the class started whispering among themselves. “Yeah, murmur it up extras.” I glared at the other students.

            Pyrrha sat next to Neo, “Hey is he feeling ok?”

            Neo responded, I’m not sure, he had a kinda stressful day yesterday.

            “Well let’s get started.” Goodwitch touched her tablet a couple of times and the lights in the classroom dimmed except for on the stage.

            Merc took a fighting stance; I unclipped my sword with my mind and spun it around myself a few times before calling it to my hand. We stared at each other for a moment, settling deeper into our stances. “You ready to get started?” he asked.

            “Yeet.” We charged at each other. He started with a right punch, he knew I was expecting kicks, I went low and slid to his side, swinging my sword horizontally. He used the forward momentum from his missed punch to fall forward to the ground, ducking under my swing, he caught himself with his hands, then spun like a break-dancer to kick me. I caught his foot with my hand, his foot gun went off, the bullet passing right through my hand. I threw him away from me the best that I could and stepped back. I checked my hand, bleeding, clean passthrough.

            “You really don’t have an aura…” Merc mumbled, he flipped to his feet, the crowd seemed to share his sentiment.

            Goodwitch started speaking but green and black fire engulfed my hand, when it dissipated the wound was gone. “Who needs one?”

            We charged at each other again, our moves became faster and more frenetic, I rarely landed a hit on him and when I did his aura didn’t even go down that much, and by the next hit it had mostly regenerated. I didn’t let him get any direct hits, but he got a few grapples in, he was strong, when he threw me away, I had to dig my sword into the ground to stop myself from falling out of the ring. I started throwing in punches with my off hand, his defensive strategies started go get riskier. After about a couple minutes of fighting he got a good blow on me, a powerful kick to my back, I guessed his legs were prosthetic. I fell to the ground face first. He pinned me, “Is that all you have?”

            “Nup.” Physical augmentation. I focused power into my feet and pushed on the ground with my toes, sliding myself forward, Merc fell off my back. I got back up and brushed myself off.

            “Nice trick, but I’ve been holding back.” A faint blue glow emanated from his calves, he stuck his foot behind him and shot with his foot gun, propelling himself, towards me, I got ready to dodge but with a couple more bangs and steps he was suddenly behind me, faster than I could blink. He kicked and punched me from all different sides zooming around the stage, he got me down on my back and I saw his heel coming towards me so I dodged again using the swords power, getting some good distance away, giving myself some time to heal too. I had no way of knowing how many more times I could do that. “You’re holding back too; I suggest you stop that.” Another speedy barrage, he got me pinned again. “I’m getting bored.”

            “Well I’m having fun.” I grinned, bad idea. He tossed me up and delivered another speedy barrage of blows before stomping my chest into the ground.

            “Had enough?” He was standing about a foot away, looking very smug, from my laying body.

You wanna have some fun?

            “And that’s the-“ Goodwitch started.

            “Let’s kick his ass!” I stood up at lightning speed, green-black fire and electricity pulsed from my body and surrounded it, Goodwitch used her telekinesis semblance to cover herself and the students in the stands. Time seemed to slow down, I jumped backwards about fifteen feet, the soles of my feet dug into the wall behind me. I jumped off the wall and straight at Mercury, I hit him with my sword a dozen times at insane speed before preforming the same wall jump again, this time sweeping his legs, grabbing them and slamming his body into the ground multiple times. I threw his body into the air, it seemed to slow down when I let go of it. I jumped off the floor and slashed his body on my way to the ceiling, I jumped off the ceiling and did the same, floor, roof, floor, roof, floor, roof, floor, roof, floor, roof, I twisted my body in the air so that my feet impacted his body, slamming him into the ground, cracking the floor. I stepped off his body to deliver a blow with my now flaming sword, his aura was still up, he was powerful. He backflipped off the ground and out of the way of my strike, slower than real time, but it was evident I was slowing down, I did the wall jump again, slamming my fist into his face, not wanting to use my now flaming sword on a strike that may miss, I didn’t know how much energy it would use, I couldn’t turn off the flames. He flew back but quickly got back on his feet this time, I stumbled forward not quite sticking the landing. He jumped and came down on me with a powerful kick that broke the ground where I was standing, would have broken me had I not dodged, I retaliated, we exchanged a flurry of kicks, our attacks canceling each other out. I then got a good strike with my sword on his shoulder, pushing down his now weaker aura to the pressure point, knocking him to his knees, I did it again knocking him on his face. I jumped high above him, I curled up into a cannon ball and spun myself, green lightning arcing around me, building energy, I somehow forced myself downwards. Feet-first I crashed through the thick floor and into the classroom the floor below us. Port now had dust on himself and looked shocked, the students he was teaching looked the same. I checked my feet, Merc wasn’t there. “I missed!” I exclaimed. I jumped back up through the hole I created back on stage, Merc didn’t waste any time going on the offensive, but his aura was running low. We exchanged a few more blows before a force pulled us apart, purple energy surrounded us.

            “That’s enough! The match is over.” Goodwitch was holding her black cattle prod that she used as a catalyst. “Mr. Abyss is the victor.”

            “Wha-“ Mercury looked at the display, his aura was in the red.

            Goodwitch walked over to the hole in the floor, “I apologize Professor Port.” She called through it.

            “No… It’s uhh… Fine, it’s good to see that our students are so energetic.”

            Goodwitch used her semblance to seal the hole and repair the broken parts of the stage and walls. “I thought I told you to not to go overboard.” She walked towards me, Mercury and I slowly got up.

            “Overboard is subjective.” I said.

            “I don’t appreciate your sass, please go back to your seat, both of you.” She looked back to Mercury who looked angry, but as he walked back to his seat that emotion turned into determination, and intrigue. We exchanged a glance, he respected me, I got the impression that was rare. We both sat down.

            “That was the most terrifying thing I have witnessed in my entire life Art.” Jaune said to me.

            “I’m glad to see you’ve figured out physical augmentation, that combined with your fire is quite the power set.” Said Pyrrha.

            Why are your eyes green? Neo asked.

            “That just happens when I use that power right? I thought we have discussed this?”

            Well yeah, but why are they still green now? I rubbed my eyes at her question. There they go, back to blue, weird that they took longer to go back this time.

            “Maybe I pushed it too hard…” I mumbled.

            Goodwitch talked dismissed the class, reminding the students about the upcoming qualifiers.

==============================================================================================================

            Neo started to worry about Artorias, he had started to get more and more quiet, and more and more distant. He started going to bed earlier as well. It had started after he blew up the bird in the emerald forest. He had been very detail oriented and cognizant but since school started, he started to be more forgetful and less focused. She hadn’t seriously asked him how he was doing for a while. She had been so focused on filling the void leaving her father caused by making friends that she hadn’t checked in on him. She had gotten some froyo from the on campus Fro’Go... alone, and was walking back to their dorm room, thinking through approaches in her head about how she was going to handle the problem. She looked in her disposable bowl disapprovingly, incorrect strawberry-chocolate-vanilla ratio, again. She threw the rest away. She was almost to her room, she half hoped that he would already be asleep so she wouldn’t have to deal with it.

            “Hey! Neo!” Pyrrha saw her and approached. She liked Pyrrha, before meeting her she had thought that taking training super seriously was the only way to really get better, but that mentality got squashed like Pyrrha, Neo appreciated her positivity. “I need your help with something.”

            Walk with me. They started walking towards Neo’s dorm room. What’s on your mind?

            “Well uhh…” Pyrrha twiddled her thumbs, she usually talked with such certainty and clarity, something was very wrong. “I… need your help… with… boys.” Oh.

            Neo reached up and put her hand on her shoulder and nodded. I see, but why ask me?

            “Well I figured… because of you and Art and all… that you would… you know.”

            Neo jumped a little at those words then swung open the door to her room and beckoned Pyrrha in. Well we still aren’t together-together, but I think I can still-

            Artorias was passed out on the floor, he appeared to have been sitting in a desk chair and fell out. There was a Beacon school spirit coffee mug on the desk, Neo picked it up and smelled it, alcohol again. “What wrong with him?!” Pyrrha sounded panicked.

            Neo put her finger to her lips, gestured to the mug then picked up Artorias, leaning him on her shoulder. “You are like… mad… stupid strong for your… tallness.” He mumbled. She started leading him to the bathroom.

            Pyrrha hesitantly picked up the mug and sniffed it, then again just to make sure. Her eyes widened. “How long has this been going on? How long has he been drinking?”

            Neo dumped him in the bathtub. He’s drank since I’ve known him.

            “But he’s underage…”

            I really don’t think that’s the point. She turned on the shower, full blast, cold water.

            “OHH Jesus! AHHH Jesus Christ turn that off!!!” He yelled

            “Who’s Jesus Christ?” Asked Pyrrha. She was observing from right outside the bathroom door.

            A religious figure on Earth. Neo stuck her hand in Artorias’ coat pocket and pulled out his flask.

            “Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hhhhhhhh.” He fumbled to turn off the water, he did. “No, No please.” Neo started pouring out his flask into the sink. “NUUUUU.” He slumped, defeated. “I… uhh, get the symbolic value you’re going for, but you know I can just buy more, right?” Neo threw his empty flask at his head. “Oww.” He held his head like a child. Neo was furious.

            “Art, what is this about?” Pyrrha asked.

            “Pyrrha? When did you get here?”

            “Art…”

            “Ok, I admit I may have had… too much.”

            Too much!?! Neo signed, he eyes flared pink.

            “Any at all is too much.” Pyrrha said. “I don’t know what going on with you, what you’re going through, but this is not the right way to handle it.”

            He sat himself on the edge of the bathtub. He held his head. “Fuck my head hurts.”

            Neo closed her eyes and sighed, she grabbed a towel and threw it at Artorias, he barely seemed to register it. She walked out of the bathroom, closing the door behind her. “What’s going on with him?” Pyrrha asked.

            Neo sat down at the edge of her bed, looking down. A lot of stuff, keep in mind I’m going off stuff he’s mumbled while drunk but… A part of him doesn’t think that this world is… real.

            “Wait, what does that mean? What’s going on?” Neo and Pyrrha looked towards the open dorm room door, Ruby was standing there in her pajamas holding a comic book in her hand.

            “Ruby, now may not the best time to be here.” Pyrrha tried to defuse. We heard the shower turn on.

            “No, I smell what’s in here, what’s going on with Art?”

            Neo looked frustrated. Art is an… alcoholic.

            “Oh…” Ruby looked down, she started rubbing her arm. “What do you mean by ‘he doesn’t think this world is real’?”

            “Art isn’t from Remnant.” Pyrrha offered.

            “What? What does that mean?”

            For reasons he doesn’t know, reasons no one knows. Art was taken from his world and put into ours. Art’s world is called Earth, it is very different from Remnant. You ever wonder why he doesn’t have an aura? Why he calls things by seemingly made up names? Why he uses slang that simply doesn’t exist?

            Ruby seemed very shocked. “His world can’t be that different can it? I mean… how is our world so unbelievable to him?”

            Imagine the wildest, out there, and unbelievable fairy tale you have ever heard. That is what our world is like to him. His world doesn’t have, Grimm, aura, dust, Faunus, semblances, Huntsman. The technology here is insane to him as well, holograms, mechs, robotic soldiers, prosthetic limbs.

            They all stood in silence for a long while pondering the new information. “I knew he was from another world, but I didn’t know this. This must be insane for him…” Pyrrha seemed distressed.

            We heard the shower turn off, the bathroom door opened slightly, and an arm appeared. “Hey yo can ya yeet me some pj’s?” The hand beckoned, Ruby looked super confused. Neo grabbed some pajamas out of his truck and tossed them to him.

            “Oh… right, weird slang.” Ruby mumbled.

            “Oh great, Ruby’s here too, now everyone can criticize my unhealthy coping mechanisms.” Art said from within the bathroom. “Damnit, how am I going to dramatically sip from my flask after that comment if it’s empty!”

            “Art, I’m not sure what’s going on, but you need to talk to people about it, relate to people.”

            He sighed, they waited for him to put on his pajamas. He opened the bathroom door, wearing black and purple pajamas, still drying his hair. “I really doubt that would help Ruby.”

            “How do you know that? It doesn’t sound like you’ve tried.”

            “Believe it or not it’s kind of hard to find someone with shared life experiences.” He threw his towel into the hamper. He stumbled a little bit and held his head. “I need some sleep…”

            “After what I just heard it’s not really that hard to believe.”

            His head snapped up. “What did you two tell her?”

            Neo and Pyrrha looked ashamed, eventually Pyrrha gained some resolve. “Nothing that she shouldn’t know, that anyone shouldn’t know.”

            “Artorias…” Ruby seemed stiff. “I have someone in my life who drinks a lot, he has always refused to tell me why, and I am really tired of it, I am tired of secrecy and people keeping things bottled up when there are people around them who want nothing more than to help, just talk to us Art!” She squeezed her eyes shut and made a frustrated expression.

            “Wow, you really want to know why I drink? Why I’m constantly afraid? I drink because it’s the only way to drown out the intrusive thoughts that are always telling me that none of this is real! I’ve talked to a god! I can create torrents of flame by snapping my fingers like Roy fucking Mustang from FullMetal Alchemist! A fucking fictional character! This world has immortal witches, actual monsters! All my friends have a magic fucking forcefield around them and an x-men power to boot, my cousin is literally motherfucking Magneto!”-he gestured to Pyrrha- “And the worst part is that all of you think that this is in any way normal! I go to actual school classes that talk about dust, aura, semblances, people with cat ears, like they are an actual scientifically provable thing that is real! Not to mention all the shit that is the same here as on Earth, why are the days of the week the same, the calendar? Why are we speaking English and not something else? Why is American sign language the same as Remnant sign language? Why do humans look the same? Why are the genres of music called the same? Why I drink, because if I was whisked away back to Earth right now and told people about my time here I would be locked up for being clinically insane, and in all honesty I can’t tell you for sure that I am not already in a strait jacket and a pillow room and the last couple of years of my life has just been a hallucination! I drink because it’s the only method I have found that stops me from thinking about how insane I have to be to think any of this is real.” He sat down on his bed and buried his head in his hands. Neo went over to him and hugged him. Neo vaguely knew that this was how he was feeling but this was the first time he has fully articulated it.

            “Well this certainly explains quite a lot Mr. Abyss.” Ozpin walked to the doorway; he had been eavesdropping out of sight. All eyes turned on him. “I would like to discuss this more with you tomorrow, please come to my office after your sparring class tomorrow.”

            “You fucking cuck!” Artorias eyes turned green and he tried to get up, but Neo held him down. Sparkling green goo started bleeding through his pajama shirt.

            “Please Mr. Abyss, I am on your side, we all are.” Ozpin took a sip from a mug that was in his hand. “Everyone here should be getting to bed, Ruby, Pyrrha, please make your way back to your dorms.” They both left but not without giving looks of pity to Artorias. “Artorias, you are not the first student I have had that had problems with substance usage, and you will not be the last, I can help you if your just let me, and I certainly hope you do let me. Miss Torchwick, please continue to look out for him.” He left.

            Ruby and Pyrrha walked back to their rooms, they were across from each other, their teammates were sticking their heads out of their doors. “We heard yelling, what happened?” Nora asked.

            “Art… he’s in a bad place right now, he’ll get through it, I hope.” Said Pyrrha

            “How bad?” Asked Yang.

            “Think Uncle Qrow at his worst.” Ruby said.

            “That’s a yikes from me dawg.” Yang said, Ruby flinched, now knowing the origin of the phrase.

            “We should really all get some sleep.” Said Ren, always the voice of reason. “We shouldn’t press the issue; we should just be there for him after he talks to Ozpin.”        

Chapter Text

            Give them back! Give them back!

            I can’t! Become stronger and deal with it!    

            I can still hear them… begging for freedom…

            Mercury woke up in a cold sweat, he flung the covers off his dorm bed and sat on the edge. He held his face with one hand.

            “Good, you finally woke up, I don’t gotta deal with your sleep talk anymore.” Emerald spoke. Mercury glared at her; she was sitting on her bed reading a book, romance. “Hope you enjoyed your nap, you slept right through class-“

            “What did you hear?” He asked.

            “You had another dream about your dad, you haven’t had one in a while.” She answered, she then looked up from her book and said with heavy sarcasm: “You can always talk to me about it.” Bitch.

            “Bitch… you need a better attitude, especially for long missions like this.”

            “Take it up with HR, oh wait…” She sneered. “Or you can bitch about it to Cinder.”

            “I’m not petty enough to tell on another kid to their own mommy.”

            She growled. “Fuck off.”

            “Not like I wanted to stay.” Mercury got up and walked out of the dorm, not particularly minding that he was still in sleepwear.

=====================================================================================================================

            I got into the elevator, it was fancier than most, the metal was gray stainless steel with the signature shine, the carpet felt soft even beneath my boots. The only buttons were the basic open/close doors and the call for help one. “Please scan your scroll on the terminal.” The elevator requested. I obliged. “You are not permitted to use this elevator. State your reasoning or get thee gone.”

            Elevator giving me some sass here. “I have an appointment with professor Ozpin.”

            “Confirming… Proceeding to office floor.” The elevator shot up. The ride took quite a long time.

            Can’t say I wasn’t nervous, when Clare had told me not to trust him, she didn’t give me any specifics why, or where the boundary was exactly. “Shit… Shit… Shit…” I mumbled. “For all you know this is just about your… Drinking.” I lied to myself, I slipped up bad mentioning I had spoken to a god.

Do you have a plan? Contingencies?

            “You know the answer is no. I have no idea how to play this.” I responded.

You should have thought this through sooner.

            “And you could have helped sooner yet here we are.”

Why I don’t like my wielders being kids exhibit A:

            I shook my head, clearing it. The elevator dinged; the doors opened behind me requiring me to awkwardly turn around to walk towards the center of the office. Ozpin was standing near the window, taking in the view, cane in one hand mug in the other. Goodwitch was near his desk looking at her tablet, but she stopped when she heard the ding of the elevator.

            “Welcome. If you would please sit down, Artorias Abyss.” Ozpin spoke, he took a sip from his mug, he continued to look out the window that made up the entire wall. There was a simple wooden chair in front of his desk, I sat in it, fidgeting and readjusting so that my sword didn’t cut the chair. “That’s not your real name, is it?”

            “Excuse?” I responded.

            “I do my research on every child that applies to attend my school, both you and miss Torchwick have questionable backgrounds, you aren’t the only ones, but you are an interesting case. A little less than two years ago you didn’t exist.” He looked down at his mug and swirled it.

            “No, that’s not my real name, at least not the one given to me at birth.”

            “What is your real name?” He asked.

            “I…” I thought about lying for a moment, or dodging the question, but I resigned. “Quinton Walter, my friends called me Que.”

            “Past tense? Did something happen to them? I hope they didn’t die.”

            “I did.” I said flatly. “As far as they are concerned anyway.”

            “So, is that how you came to this world, you reincarnated?”

            “No, I’m not like you, I came to the world through unknown means, but certainly not that, this is the body I was born with.”

            Ozpin turned to face me. “How did you come across that information?”

            “Clare told me everything, everything that she could at least.”

            Ozpin walked to his chair and sat in it. “I really don’t think you were ready to learn all of that; you still aren’t.”

            “You’re right, but it was a necessary sacrifice.”

            “You aren’t exactly the type of person I would welcome into my inner circle, the inner circle that I made to fight Salem. You are not the most noble of people, you are unwilling to change, and although you carry a carefree façade, behind your eyes I see a lot of anger.” Ozpin paused. “So normally I wouldn’t ask you ‘what’s your favorite fairy tale?’ but it seems that you already were.”

            “Is asking that question your segway into spilling about the four maidens and the girl in the tower?”

            “Yes, but if Clare hadn’t told you what she had I have a feeling that that question would greatly stump you. Your world is greatly different to ours, or so I’ve heard. I don’t imagine the fairy tales are quite the same, but tell me, what are some of your favorite stories?”

            “Well…” I hadn’t read a lot of books so I could only pull from anime. “FullMetal Alchemist, Avatar: The Last Airbender… and its sequel series Legend of Korra I guess, book two really brings it down. Book three is still god-tier though.”

            He slightly chuckled. “I have seen you smile many times, but this was the first that was genuine. I’m sorry that this has happened to you.” He said, I looked down. “Tell me about your world, describe it’s history, its origin for me.”

            I did, I told him about what I had learned in school, about my world, it’s culture, it’s strife, and its differences.

            “I… can relate Quinton. The wait between my first and second life was long. When it finally happened the world, I had known was gone, the world that remained was very different.”

            “I… don’t want to dwell on it, it is what it is.”

            “But you do dwell on it don’t you? That is why you have this substance abuse problem.”

            “Yes… It takes a lot of effort to keep those thoughts at bay when I’m sober, it’s much easier when I’m not.”

            “I understand Quinton, but this does need to stop. You need to accept the reality that is in front of you, this will only end horribly if you don’t.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “That sword on your back, it’s destructive capabilities are extremely dangerous-“

            “You think I don’t know that?” I snapped.

            “-So it is imperative that it is in the hands of someone sane.” He continued. I started shaking. “Clare bonded that sword to you, you are the wielder of the Relic of Destruction whether we like it or not, don’t let her down.”

            “Please stop talking…” I buried my face in my hands. He stopped. After a few minutes I spoke again. “Just tell me. How do I stop thinking about it, how do I stop asking myself if I’m crazy?”

            “Accept your fate, if you are, then you are really in a strait jacket in a ‘pillow room’ as you put it. Accept that if that is the case you aren’t hurting anyone; you are alone in that room. If this a hallucination, be thankful for it, your brain has given you a life that you can live out, you have friends that you have made, you aren’t lonely, are you?”

            “No, I’m not. Not… really…”

            “Even if this life is a fabrication, it might as well be real, so you should treat it as such.”

            “I… need some time to think…”

            “I’m sorry but there is a couple more things I would like to ask you about.”

            I breathed in a heavy breath, “A change of subject… good.” I sat up straight.

            “The sword on your back, it is the Relic of Destruction yes?”

            “Yes.” He didn’t really know, he played me like a damn fiddle.

            “It looks very different now compared to the last time I saw it, what has happened to it?”

            “Lunas, this is all you buddy.”

            “Hey, Ozpin! We haven’t really talked at all so I guess I should introduce myself. I’m Lunas, the god of destruction, the persona of this sword.” The handle glowed as it spoke. Ozpin didn’t react. “I look different because a magic seal of sorts was placed on me, basically, it allows me to deny the usage of my power to anyone attempting to use me, including this guy. It is a onetime use though, if I give full access to this kid I go back to how I was before, anyone can use me even if I don’t like them, but with what Clare did, until this kid dies no one else can wield me, so we’ve got like two layers of security.”

            “I see… interesting.” Ozpin whispered and pondered. “Additionally, Quinton, do you wish to fight Salem? To help the people of this world?”

            “Yeah, I do. When I first came to this world I was only concerned with survival, so my morality was pushed aside, now that I am not worried about survival my morality is there again, whether I like it or not, I have a lot of guilt now.” I said.

            “Well then, Glynda if you would.” He gestured to Goodwitch.

            Goodwitch pulled a black scroll out of an envelope and handed it to me. “For the record I greatly disagree with this decision.”

            I could infer the significance of this scroll being handed to me. “Me too.” I said.

            “Unfortunately, we don’t have much of a choice, just please don’t make me regret this.” Ozpin said. “That scroll is only to be used to contact other members of this order, understand?”

            “I do.” I looked through the contact list, I settled on a name. “Qrow?”

            “Hmm?”

            “Does he have messy black hair and wields a scythe?”

            “Yes, he does, do you know him.”

            “Yeah, I met him once.” I put the scroll in my pocket and stood.

            “Wait Quinton, we are not done.” I sat back down. “I understand that you avoid school sanctioned social events like the plague but that changes now, you need more social interaction than you are getting.”

            “I train with my friends almost every day.” I protested.

            “That is not enough, you need interactions in a more relaxing environment, where you can just talk to people, not to mention you have missed more of those training sessions than you are letting on because of your drinking.” I cringed. “Which, if I haven’t made it clear allow me to do so, that stops now. On to my point, I am requiring you to attend the school dance that will be taking place next Sunday.”

            “Really?”

            Ozpin smiled. “Please, just spend some time with the friends you have made.”

            “Very well.” I stood up and walked to the elevator.

            “And Quinton.”

            “Yes?” I turned back.

            “Heroes aren’t heroes because they are strong, they are heroes because they don’t let their weaknesses stop them. Remember that.”

            “I will…” I said softly.

====================================================================================================================

            Mercury leaned on the wall next to the elevator to Ozpin’s office, he had asked Neo where to find Artorias, he figure she only told him because Art kicked his ass in sparring class. Mercury waited for him, thinking about how he would approach the subject, chances are the event was traumatizing, and if he approached it wrong, he wouldn’t be able to get a straight answer. The elevator dinged, the man of the hour walked out. Mercury was surprised, he looked extremely sad. “Hey, Art.” He said.

            Artorias turned to him and raised his eyebrows, he then looked around, there was nobody else in the halls, it was in the middle of an hour. “What does Cinder want?”

            “I’m not here for Cinder, I’m here to ask a personal question.”

            Art shrugged. “Walk with me.” Art gestured and started walking down the hall. “What do you want to know my dude?”

            “How… why don’t you have an active aura?”

            “I was just born without one my guy, and before you ask, it’s not just inactive, I straight up just don’t have one.”

            “Ahh, I see.” Good.

            “Is that it?”

            “Yeah, I guess I’ll see you around.”

            “See ya.”

            Mercury turned and walked away in the opposite direction. What he said didn’t sound like a lie, but the whole truth wasn’t there, it wasn’t the whole story. Mercury turned at a corner into another hallway and stopped. “Why are you here?”

            Emerald was leaning on the wall; her eyes were closed like she was bored. “Cinder said that she doesn’t want you walking around on your own, she thinks you’ll do something stupid.”

            “Wow.” Mercury continued to walk down the hall.

            “So, I see you’ve made a new friend, he doesn’t have a semblance either, do you feel some comradery Mr. Daddy Stole My Semblance. What was yours anyway?”

            “Do you have to be such a raging bitch? Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answer too, and I definitely wouldn’t call him a friend, he just got out of a meeting with Ozpin, chances are he has chosen his side, despite working for Roman before coming to school. Also, for the record you really aren’t one to talk about parent issues.”

            Emerald smiled, “You can’t possibly convince me that you don’t see Cinder as a parental figure, at least a little bit. She practically adopted you that day.”

            Mercury chuckled. “Sorry, I just can’t see someone that hot as a mom.” Mercury had a thought, then turned to her and stopped walking; his voice intense. “This is becoming a problem.”

            “What?”

            “You need to realize that Cinder doesn’t give a shit about you, we are expendable pawns, even less than that, Cinder is a pawn herself.”

            “You don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re projecting.” Emerald looked away.

            Mercury huffed then continued walking. “One day I’ll get to say; ‘I told you so’”.

 

            Cinder was at her locker; she was grabbing her bow and a few empty dust carts. She was going into Vale to talk to Roman about infiltrating the tower to hack into it during the dance later this week, she was going to upgrade her bow by doing something fun she had been planning for a while but never had a reason to, giving the bow the ability to fold up into a curved sword. She preferred her glass curved swords that she could basically summon but she didn’t want to use her semblance while undercover just in case, so she settled on her secondary weapon of choice that she rarely used during her nefarious missions. She wasn’t going to upgrade, but now that Artorias was a player? She didn’t want to risk not getting Mercury into the dueling rounds at the tournament. Art was an unknown element, she didn’t even worry about being able to beat any of the students here before he showed up, but he kicked Mercury’s ass.

            “Hey Cinder, how’s your day been?” Her train of thought was interrupted by the man in question.

            Cinder glared at him. “Really?”

            He raised an eyebrow. “What?”

            “There is no one else around, we don’t have to keep up friendly appearances.”

            He put his sword into his locker. “I’m not… keeping up appearances, I was just asking how your day was.”

            Cinder started stringing her bow, it was a ridiculous weight, so despite her powerful aura increasing her strength she still had trouble. “Well that is just illogical.” She said through gritted teeth.

            “Not to me.” He unloaded his gun and put it away. “I’m just treating you as I would anyone else.”

            “And the point of that is? Aren’t you going to kill me one day, as you promised?” She finished stringing her bow and smirked. Like hell this kid is going to kill me. She thought.

            He closed his locker and approached her. “Yeah I am, but that day isn’t here yet.” He leaned on the locker next to hers. “And that doesn’t change anything, it’s not like I actually want to kill you, we’re just two superpowers on a collision course, and I will just happen to win because I’m simply more powerful than you, theoretically at least.” He looked sad.

            Cinder sighed. I do not get this kid.

            “Uhh… so are you going to tell me how your day was?”

            Cinder walked away.

=================================================================================================================

            I walked my way back to my dorm room, thinking intensely about my conversation with Ozpin, and what I was going to do as a result. I opened the door. Neo was sitting on her bed and shot up when I entered. How did it go? She asked. I closed the door behind me, wanting privacy.

            I sat on the edge of the desk. “I think it went well… We talked about my sword too, and although he doesn’t like me having it, he’s not adverse to it either.” I looked down, nervous.

            Well that’s good, I guess. Anything else?

            “He uhh, gave me a lot to think about, concerning my… situation.”

            Neo tilted her head.

            “Neo, I uhh… damnit… this is… uhh. Fuck it, you like it when I’m more direct anyways.” I walked up to her, cupped her face in my hands and kissed her. I closed my eyes, not wanting to see her reaction.

            She grabbed my shoulders violently, I started to pull away figuring it was a bad sign, but suddenly I wasn’t kissing her, she was kissing me. She wrapped her arms around my neck and got more aggressive. She jumped up and wrapped her legs around my waist, pulling in my head with more force. I almost lost my balance but steadied myself.

            The door opened. “Hey Neo, I realized- oh uhh, sorry.” Pyrrha was in the doorway.

            Neo jumped away from me and wiped her mouth. No, it’s fine.

            “Is it though?” I asked. Neo glared at me.

            Pyrrha nervously laughed. “I uhh, just realized I never got to actually ask you for advice yesterday. You know, about uhh…”

            “You were going to ask Neo’s advice on boys?” I inferred.

            “Yeah.” Pyrrha blushed.

            Sit down magnet head. Neo sat on her bed and patted the spot next to her. Neo looked at me. You can stay if you put on headphones.

            “Right.” I said.

            They started talking, I was sitting on my bed practicing my tech skill for the fighting game Neo and I played sometimes on my scroll, my headphones were in but the sound was off.

            “You wanted to start dating since month one?” Pyrrha asked, shocked.

            Yeah, we hit if off right away and spent most waking hours of the day with each other, so we got close a lot sooner than you might expect.

            I stood up, uncomfortable. “Imma head out.”

            “Ok?” Pyrrha asked. Neo tilted her head.

            I answered. “Ozpin is requiring me to go to the dance, and I just remembered I don’t know how to dance, so Imma go learn.” I shot a thumb at the door.

            See ya. Neo waved.

            I waved back with an awkward smile and walked out. I rubbed my temples. That was my first kiss, I felt my chest hurting like I was going to have a heart attack, but it was just that hole that appears in my chest sometimes, I started strapping one of those period pads to my chest to stop it from messing up my clothes. I started kind of freaking out at what I had done. She seemed ok with it? Yeah, she was… maybe? Yeah. It’s fine. I made my way to team JNPR’s dorm and knocked.

            “Nora, we are still having our man to man talk.” Ren spoke.

            I just opened the door and stepped inside.

            “Oh, heya Art, how’s it going?” Jaune asked, he was sitting on his bed and Ren on his across from him.

            I pulled up a desk chair and sat down in it. I buried my face in my hands. “I just made out with Neo.” I said.

            Ren golf clapped. “I am very proud of you.”

            Jaune pouted. “Well, good to know your girl problems are over, my are just beginning.”

            “No, no, no. You are still in the prologue my fellow swordie.” I said, limply pointing at him. “I’m the one who’s problems have just begun.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “That can wait. What are you two talking about?”

            “How Jaune is going to ask Pyrrha out to the dance.” Ren provided.

            Jaune glared at him. “I still haven’t said if I’m going to do it yet.”

            “Oh yes you are.” Ren and I said in unison.

            Jaune sighed. “Just, how do I approach someone that perfect?”

            “Just do it?” I offered; I was far from the expert on romance, but I just reiterated what worked for me. “I mean, I just walked up to Neo, grabbed her face, and kissed her and that worked?” (Ok kids, fourth wall break, Art is terrible at giving advice, do not listen to him.)

            “My dad did say, all women look for is confidence.” He sighed. “But that’s also what Ruby did and her and Weiss aren’t dating.”

            “That’s because they just aren’t ready,” Ren provided. “You and Pyrrha are. Ruby is still two years younger than us, and still hasn’t outgrown her cookie addiction.”

            “Also, it’s not like it’s in question whether or not Pyrrha likes you, she definitely does.” I added.

            “You don’t know that!” Jaune said.

            I rolled my eyes. “I know I shouldn’t be telling you this, but she’s literally talking to Neo right now about how much she likes you.”

            Jaune blushed deeply. He held his head. “Oh my gods.”

            “So yeah, now that that’s sorted.” I moved on and turned to Ren. “Ozpin is requiring me to go to the dance.”

            “Really, that’s odd.” Ren said.

            “And I don’t know how to dance, so you two need to teach me. I’m taking you up on your offer.”

            Jaune perked up, glad for the change of subject. “Oh, now this is a project I can get behind.”

            “We are actually already teaching Pyrrha how to dance, we are planning a team flash mob of sorts where we do a rehearsed dance number in the middle of the dance.” Ren said.

            “That’s sound cool, but please just teach me how to not embarrass myself and Neo. That’s all I care about.”

            We immediately got started, lucky it really wasn’t that much different that fighting, my foot-eye coordination was already good, it wasn’t too hard to get the hang of it. “Art,” Ren shook his head. “You know I love you, but step, step, pivot is NOT rocket science!”

            “But I-“

            “It’s step! Step! Pivot!” Ok, maybe it was harder than I thought.

            We practiced for a while, then there was a knock on the door. “Are you guys done with your ‘man talk’?” It was Nora.

            “Yeah, you can come it, we are just teaching Art how to dance.” Jaune called. I tripped over myself and fell to the ground.

            Nora stepped in and giggled at the sight, she was flanked by Pyrrha and Neo. Jaune immediately looked embarrassed and looked away. I picked myself up off the floor.

            Pyrrha looked pensive as she walked into the room. She slowly approached Jaune. She cleared her throat. “Jaune?” She asked.

            Jaune looked at her.

            Pyrrha seemed to freeze up. Neo then elbowed her. Just fucking do it. She signed.

            “No, I can’t.” Pyrrha then turned around and started to walk away. Nora then picked her up and placed her in front of Jaune.

            Jaune was shivering. Neo poked Pyrrha again. I then flicked the side of Jaune’s head. “Ow!” He flinched.

            “One of you has to.” Ren said. Nora shot him a look, likely calling him a hypocrite in her head.

            “Peer pressure, peer pressure.” I chanted until Neo covered my mouth.

            “Pyrrha, I uhm.” Jaune took a deep breath in. “I would… like to ask you something.”

            Pyrrha’s eyes widened.

            “So, I hear there’s this dance coming up.” For some reason he quoted Sun from when Sun asked out Blake, Blake rejected Sun, so I had no fucking idea why he was copying him. “Sounds uhm pretty… uhm…” He sighed. “But you already know about the dance, uhm yeah, uhm.”

            “Yes!” Pyrrha squeaked out.

            “Really?” Jaune asked.

            “Yes, I would love to go to the dance with you.” Pyrrha said.

            Neo let go of me then did her small rapid clap and smiled. I spoke. “You may now kiss the bride.” Neo punched my side.

====================================================================================================================

            Roman walked out of the cigar shop happy, he had just gotten paid and had already paid his rent, so he was a financially free man. He opened his umbrella to protect him from the Vale rain and began to walk home with his hull. He got out of work late, so it was already nighttime. He breathed in; his broken lungs loved the smell of rain. He walked, then heard the sound of crying, it sounded odd though, not normal crying, it was muffled. He looked around, he saw no one around, then he saw movement in a nearby alley. He walked over to investigate. He found a toddler holding a newspaper over her head, she had brown hair. Roman knelt down to get a better look at her, she looked scared for a moment then recognized him and relaxed, he recognized her too. “Aren’t you... Sann’s kid?” He asked. She blinked hard, then nodded. Sann Asamin was Roman’s boss at the law firm he worked at. “Are you lost?” She was non-responsive. He sighed. “I know where your dad lives, I’ll get you home.”

            Roman approached his boss’s house, it was a lot nicer that Roman’s apartment, he didn’t think he deserved it, he didn’t work hard enough. Roman rang the doorbell, he looked down at the small girl, she grabbed his pantleg with a hand, Roman narrowed his eyes. The door opened. “Roman? The hell are you doing here at this ungodly hour?” He was a tall man with pale skin and brown hair to match his daughter.

            “I found your daughter.” Roman gestured to the girl. “You should have called some of us, we would have gone out looking for her right away.”

            Sann looked at his daughter. His face was stone.

            “So uhh…” Roman felt his stomach sink, he had a bad feeling. He looked down to the girl. “Your home now, go ahead.”

            The girl hesitated, then tried to walk through the door. Her father kicked her, pushing her away, the girl fell to the ground and started tearing up.

            “What the hell?” Roman bent down and helped the girl to her feet. “What the fuck did you do that for?”

            “She’s not welcome back here.” His tone was mono.

            “Why the hell not?” Roman narrowed his eyebrows.

            “She’s mentally retarded.”

            “The hell does that matter?” Roman stepped forward.

            “I’m not going to raise a retarded girl; I’m not going to take care of a kid that’s not going to amount to anything.”

            “What the fuck is wrong with you? She’s your daughter!”

            Sann got angry. “You choose your next words wisely.”

            He did.

            Roman couldn’t hold down a job, he couldn’t keep it a secret who his last employer was, and when they found out Sann would always make up fabrications about how terrible and employee he was. Eventually Roman got a false reputation. The girl and he went hungry many nights, the malnourishment causing the girl’s growth to be stunted.

            Eventually, Roman got desperate. He became a thief. He robbed a convenience store, all he needed was a gun and a ski mask, he got away with it, it was easy, too easy. He started training himself for combat, if he wanted to rob more serious places, he would have to fight off security. Eventually the girl begged him to train her too. She would push herself ridiculously hard, Roman would have to force her to stop training by grounding her, becoming a true parent.

            “You don’t have to push yourself this hard, there’s such thing as overtraining you know?” Roman told her.

            She had unlocked her semblance recently, her right eye had become pink, and pink hair started growing, peaking from her scalp. Mutation side effects not usually caused by the semblance itself, but sometimes the stressful experience that caused some people to unlock theirs, for Neo, as she decided to rename herself, it was a result of a stressful life as a whole. Neo was sweating bullets and breathing hard. She dropped the police baton she was training with and clenched her fists. You told me that I would have to be strong to live in this world, that’s what I intend to do. Become strong. Her gaze was intense.

            Roman Nodded. She wasn’t wrong.

            It was Neo’s first job; they were wearing all black stealth suits. They were about to steal the largest emerald in the world from a museum. Neo was needed for this job, Roman couldn’t disable the security cameras, they were to well secured, so they were going to need Neo’s semblance. Despite this he turned to her. You don’t have to do this, we can pull out right now, find another job to make ends meet. He signed.

            No, I’m going to earn my food. Her eyes narrowed. Roman was still worried; she was just twelve.

            The heist began. They followed the plan to a tee, incapacitating guards and covering cameras along the way. Neo would cloak herself in illusions then climb the wall, see what the room looked like to the camera, then create a two-dimensional image of the scene in front if the camera. Eventually they got to the room in question.

            Roman and Neo smiled. “I can’t wait until some dumb bastard buys this for millions on the black market, this should help us get better jobs too.” He whispered. They infiltrated the display case and got the emerald in a black duffle bag. They were home free.

            “You stop right there.” The heard a voice, a man in a red business suit walked out of the shadows. He looked a little older, but upon closer inspection Roman realized dust was woven into his clothing, this man could fight. “I am the owner of this here museum and I request you put back my emerald now.” The man made the aura around his hand glow.

            “Neo,” Roman hissed. He shoved the bag into her hands. “Leave. Now.”

            Neo shook her head.

            “You think I would just let her do that?” The man asked. He slowly punched the ground and his clothes glowed red, a massive torrent of flame sped towards the thieves, they dodged out of the way then both moved into strike. The man summoned two swords, one ice and one fire dust, he swung them with grace and skill, easily parrying Neo’s strikes with her umbrella, having a slightly harder time against Roman’s assault. Fire and ice flew, Neo got knocked back and gritted her teeth, then used her semblance to create clones to move in on the man, the clones supplementing Roman’s assault allowing him to get good hits in with his cane, finishing with a shot in the man’s face point blank, his aura pulsed wildly before it broke, causing some fire to lash out wildly. Some of the fire hit Neo and Roman, their aura’s protected them from harm but some of their clothes got burned, including what covered their faces. Neo’s aura then broke. The illusions in front of the cameras disappeared and the alarms sounded. The man scooted backwards away from Roman, he smiled. “I have record of your faces now! I know your faces now! There’s no way a girl with such a mutation and a man of your distinct look could hide forever! Do what you must, for I have already won!” He coughed.

            Neo’s eyes flashed bright pink, she pulled out a knife, she dashed towards the man, digging her heel into his chest and kneeling down to press the knife to his throat, she drew some blood and smiled at the resulting expression on the man’s face.

            “Neo! Don’t.” Roman said sternly.

            Neo shook her head and raised the knife high, ready to bring it back down. The man’s eyes widened. He had to die; he knew them.

            “Daughter!”

            Neo’s eyes went brown, her expression softening. Her hands began to tremble. She stepped away from the man.

            Roman approached, picking up the dropped emerald along the way. He handed it to Neo. “Take it and leave, I’ll catch up.” Neo seemed like she had questions, but Roman just shook his head.

            Neo hung her head in shame and left the scene. She got out of the museum and sat down in a tree, she looked at her trembling hands, reflecting on what she almost did. She then heard the rustling of leaves.

            “Neo, we have to go, the cops will be here soon.” Roman said.

            Neo jumped out of the tree to meet him. It was barely visible in the dark but on his black shoes, there was a bloodstain there.

            Roman sighed and placed a hand on Neo’s shoulder. “Neo, once you cross that line, it changes you, you will not be the same person that you were before. There is no going back from that. Until you are an adult, promise me that you won’t even consider making that decision to become a killer.”

            Neo hesitated. She paused for a moment, then nodded.

            “And I hope you choose not to, I chose this life, you were dragged into it. I admit… I do actually enjoy being a thief, the danger is exhilarating, I feel satisfied in my skill after a heist. I hope that you don’t, you can be better than me, so please be.”

 

            Roman decided that he actually really liked the Swordie. It was when the kid said that he didn’t mind crime, because it was just people doing what they had to survive. On the surface level that was a flat sentiment on its own, but behind the kid’s eyes Roman saw that he knew exactly how the world worked, and he accepted it, but still hated it. A kid after his own heart. Also, he hit it off with Neo right away, they were compatible, and Neo really needed a friend. Had they lead a normal life he may have been the overprotective-I’ll-shoot-anyone-who-even-looks-at-my-daughter type, but at this point he didn’t have the luxury to care, Neo needed the kid in her life.

            Roman texted the information of some people late on their ‘loans’, that was on Roman though because he had been so busy with his robbing of dust shops. “Wait, kid.” Roman called, Neo and the kid stopped their exit and looked back. “Neo, go on ahead, I want to talk to Swordie.” Neo just shrugged and walked out of the warehouse.

            Swordie approached. “Hey, if this is a don’t-even-think-about-it dad talk, Imma be real, your daughter is super cute and I’m definitely gonna flirt with her.” The Swordie gave a slight smile and rubbed the back of his head.

            Roman smiled. “I really don’t give a shit about that, Neo is in desperate need of a friend, just be that for her, I don’t care what form it takes.” Swordie raised his eyebrows. “I actually have a request for you… Don’t let her kill anyone.”

            Swordie shrugged. “Well yeah, you can’t extort people if they’re dead.” He said with humor. Then his tone became more serious. “Besides, didn’t I already say I wasn’t going to help you kill anyone?”

            Roman narrowed his eyebrows. “Don’t ever let her kill anyone, ever.” Swordie was taken aback. “I still want her to be able to choose to get out of this life if she wants to, but once she crossed that line, that choice is gone. I know from experience that killing changes you.”

            Swordie nodded. “Ok…”. The kid seemed to take that to heart more than Roman intended, curious.

            “Now get out of here.” Roman gestured with his cane. The kid left.

            Roman sighed. He had a pit in his stomach. The kid mentioned Salem. He had a bad feeling. It was almost seconds after the kid mentioned her name that Roman came to the conclusion that this ‘Salem’ whomever she was, was Cinder’s boss. Not to mention this kid. He didn’t have a semblance or aura, he had heard the stories of The Old Hunters, he never was interested in getting details on those fairy tales before, but he was now. That kid could telekinetically control his sword, it wasn’t dust or a semblance, he could just do it. Magic was real. Roman’s mind raced. He was going to have to do research on this. This could change everything. He wanted to send Neo off to Beacon when she turned seventeen last year, but when he subtly ran the question by her she reacted poorly, very poorly. He had a feeling that he didn’t have the luxury of considering her feelings anymore on that. The kid already wanted to go to Beacon, he could just get some files for Neo too just in case. For all he knew he wouldn’t need them, but just in case…

 

            “There were the gifts, but there were also the tools. The silver eyes wielded by a simple soul. The elements of old, wielded by a complicated mind. One to protect from the abyssal forces of destruction, the other to rain down destruction upon this corpse of a world. You decide which is which.” Roman read the passage aloud, it was a part of the works of an old aura guru, guru Mahayana. Roman was reading in his secret study. When he had his house built, he had the architects make a secret room that he could hide behind a mechanical bookshelf. He originally was going to use the space for planning heists and whatnot, but he decided he didn’t want to shit where he slept. The room went unused until he learned of Salem’s existence, then it became a private study. He became fascinated with the occult.

            His scroll bussed. He took it out to look at it. It was a message from Neo, the Swordie and her were dating, took him long enough, he thought the kid had more balls than this. He then got another message, it was Cinder, he got furious. He closed the book and delicately put it back on the shelf. He left the room.

            He went downstairs and opened the front door to his house, Cinder was there, with a bow slung across her back and a duffle bag in her hands. “What the fuck are you doing at my home?” He hissed.

            “Oh, don’t be like that dear Roman.” Cinder purred. She let herself in. “Are you really going to deny a beautiful woman some company?” She dropped her bag on the floor and then lounged on his living room couch. Roman was fuming. She closed her eyes and smiled. “Fuck, I actually didn’t realize how tired I was today, and this couch is comfy.”

            Fucking hell even Swordie was more mature than this and he’s five years younger. It was times like these that Roman was reminded that Cinder was just a twenty-three-year-old girl, the youngest of Salem’s four horsemen. The only thing that stopped him from being her boss instead was that both her and her boss wielded the elements of old. “The fuck are you doing here Cinder? This is my home.”

            “I’ve actually come to talk, I needed dust too and to upgrade my bow, but I could have gone elsewhere. I actually want to talk to you.”

            Roman sighed. “I’ll get you some dust.” He walked to the garage and opened his dust safe. She could have just gone to the ware-… Right, the dust was moved to Mountain Glenn. He shook his head. He went back to Cinder. “Here.” He dropped a case by her duffel bag. “Sebastian should be free today; he’ll take care of your bow.”

            “And he is?” Cinder lazily asked.

            “I’ll text you his info later.” Roman sighed. Sebastian was the guy that made his and Neo’s weapons, as well as upgraded Swordie’s gun. “Now what do you want?”

            “I found your daughter…” She said, but contrary to Roman’s expectations, it wasn’t said like a threat. “She’s a student at Beacon now.”

            “She’s decided to become a huntress? I can’t say I saw that coming. Was the Swordie with her?” He asked. He started making tea in the kitchen.

            “Yes, Artorias was with her.” Cinder knitted her eyebrows and frowned. Disturbingly out of character. “What do you know about that boy?”

            “Not much honestly. He didn’t even work with me for long, I wish I knew his weaknesses… I would tell you in a heartbeat, he took my daughter from me.” Roman lied.

            Cinder gave a slight chuckle. Cinder was very good at breaking a person’s façade, seeing through their lies, but Roman was simply in another league. “He said that he was more powerful than me.” Cinder said.

            Roman found out about the relics through his research, he guessed that the kid’s weapon was the Relic of Destruction. “He is.” Roman poured two cups of tea and set one down on the living room coffee table. Roman sat down in is signature red chair, when watching TV Swordie and his daughter would take the couch and he would sit in his chair. Roman stopped being mad at Cinder, his curiosity overtook him. Cinder, in this moment, was not flexing her power. It was bizarre. Roman wanted to know why.

            “He said that he would kill me…”

            Roman was taken off guard by that, he didn’t expect it. Now he understood why Cinder was different in this moment. She was not used to not being the strongest person in the room. At least her and Salem were on the same side. “Then he will.”

            Cinder sat up on the couch. She grabbed the tea and blew on it. She sipped it. Cinder nit her eyebrows. “Something about it rubs me the wrong way, I was hoping you could give some insight, that kid is our enemy now.”

            Roman nodded. “Of course, knowledge is the most powerful weapon of them all.” He said, unintentionally quoting some of Oobleck’s work.

            “He doesn’t treat me like an enemy, yes he threatened me, but he wasn’t… hostile. Do you know why that is?”

            “No, I do not, and him threatening to kill you is contrary to his character as I know it.” Roman paused. “If you want to know the answers to your question though, just ask him, and he will tell you.”

            “He will just… tell me?”

            “Yes, that kid may have secrets he keeps, but he never keeps his intentions hidden, the reasons for why he does the things that he does. He is an open book when it comes to that, so just ask him.”

            “He will just tell me what he’s after?” Cinder was confused.

            “Yes, because he doesn’t have to keep that a secret.” Roman sighed. “He has the power of a god in the palm of his hand. Also, there is something stopping him from already killing you, I suggest you ask him.”

            “You said it was out of character for him to threaten me, why is that.”

            “Because he doesn’t believe in killing. If he has decided that you need to be killed, you won’t be able to stop him. He hasn’t made that decision lightly.”

            Cinder finished her tea. “I think I will take my leave.” She stood up.

            “Wait.” Roman requested. “Something doesn’t add up.” Cinder met his intense gaze. “Why did you talk to me about this?”

            “Because you know Artorias-“

            “No, that’s not it, the information I just gave you was vague at best, you could have learned this elsewhere, and you must have known my knowledge was limited.” Roman countered.

            “Don’t take that tone with me Roman…” Cinder warned in her usual tone, but something was off, she was slipping. Roman called her bluff and met her gaze with equal intensity. Cinder caved. She turned away from him. “I’m scared of death Roman… that is all.” She picked up her bag and left. She forgot to talk about the mission later this week.

Chapter Text

            “I’m bored!” I moaned from my spot in the middle of the ballroom, I was laying on the floor. Weiss was walking in my direction. “Entertain me.”

            “If you’re bored then get up and help.” Weiss looked at me.

            “But that would make me more bored.”

            Weiss rolled her eyes. She put two pieces of cloth in front of my face. “Tell me, which of these is better?”

            They were plain white. I squinted. “Is this a trick question? They’re the same.”

            Weiss rolled her eyes. “I don’t even know why I asked.” Weiss walked away. “Ruby, I need to ask you something.”

            “What are you even doing here?” Yang walked past me carrying a massive speaker. She placed it down and the ground shook. “Shouldn’t you be making out with Neo right now instead of hanging out with us?” She teased.

            I sighed. “As much as I would like to, she’s discussing books with Blake, and by books, I mean literal porn.” I sat up. Yang grinned and shot a finger gun at my pun. “And JNPR is rehearsing their dance.”

            “Well then make yourself useful and carry that speaker over here.” Yang pointed.

            I looked at the speaker. “I don’t have my sword with me, I can’t lift that. I’m the weak aura-less one, remember?”

            Yang raised her eyebrows. “Dude, you are probably about as strong as me.”

            “You literally have a complicated strength semblance. Without my sword, that’s a no. With it though, I got you beat… probably…” I slightly smiled.

            Yang narrowed her eyes. She walked over and picked me up.

            “Hey!” The shame of being carried bridal style would surely scar me.

            She dropped me. “When’s the last time you weighed yourself?”

            I got up and rubbed my ass. “Like, not since I uhm ‘moved’ to Remnant.”

            “And your world doesn’t have aura and junk, right? How much did you weigh?”

            “Uh, I think like, oh wait, you guys use metric… divide… sixty kilograms-ish.”

            “Expected for someone without an aura, but just now you weighed at least four times that.” She poked my chest.

            “I… did?”

            “I don’t know what’s going on but your time on Remnant has changed you, even though you don’t have a natural aura.”

            “What does weighing more have to do with it?”

            “I don’t know what’s going on with you, but for people with aura? When you exercise, your muscles tear apart right? Technically speaking, that’s an injury, and what does aura do for owies?”

            “It… heals them?”

            “Yeah, but it heals them in such a way that they don’t grow bigger, but they do grow stronger, and denser. And with that comes weight. I’m proud to say I weigh three hundred kilos.”

            “So, you’re saying my muscles are denser than they used to be?”

            “Dude, look at these pathetic looking things.” She grabbed my arm, I let I go limp, she shook it around and poked it. “Yet you can swing that sword around like it’s a pencil, it’s a few sizes too big to boot. Now pick up that speaker!” Yang pointed dramatically.

            I walked over. “With the knees, not the back.” I mumbled. I prepared myself to put in everything, but the speaker was light, way light, like a cardboard box. “What the fuck? So uhh, where do you want it?”

            “Right there.”

            I put it down, the ground shook. My eyes narrowed. “When the hell did that happen?”

            Yang shrugged. “IDK but you should probably think about incorporating that into your fighting. Super strength is very versatile. I would know.” Yang looked proud. She looked around the ballroom. “This is coming together nice.”

            Ruby sighed. She was sitting down at one of the tables looking down.

            “What’s got you down Rubes? Cookie withdraws?”

            “Want me to make you more homemade off brand Oreos?” I offered.

            “No, it’s just that all this setup feels pointless if Blake isn’t going.”

            Yang was about to say something then Weiss caught her eye. “Weiss! I said. No doilies!”

            “If I don’t get doilies, you don’t get fog machine!”

            I patted Ruby on the head. Ruby turned away from us.

            “Your dance is going to have fog machines.” Neptune and Sun entered.

            “If I have my way.” Yang glared at Weiss.

            “That’s pretty cool.” Neptune shot finger guns.

            “You ladies all exited for dress up?” Sun joined the conversation.

            Ruby scoffed. “Yeah, right.” Said with heavy sarcasm.

            “Fuck yeah dude, Neo’s dressing me up so I know I’ll look good.” I said enthusiastically.

            “He was asking the lovely ladies.” Neptune winked.

            Weiss rolled her eyes.

            “You know they’re gay right?” I said. “Wrong tree dude.”

            Yang smiled perverted-ly. Ruby and Weiss blushed and looked away from each other.

            Neptune’s finger gun went limp. “Uhm right… I knew that.”

            “So… what does Blake think of all this? Is she still being all... ya know… Blake-y.” Sun asked. He had asked Blake to the dance not long ago, but she turned him down, said she wasn’t going.

            “Still not going.” Ruby said. She flicked a square of sample tablecloth away from her.

            “It’s kinda her choice, if she doesn’t want to go, I don’t think you should force her.” I said.

            “Nah, we should definitely force her.” Yang said.

            “Has she even said why she doesn’t want to go?” Weiss asked.

            “She didn’t give me a reason, just said that she didn’t feel like it.” Sun said.

            “Does she just not know how to dance or something? That was my biggest deterrent, we can just get Ren and Jaune to teach her.” I said. Neptune flinched when I mentioned not knowing how to dance.

            “Didn’t you say we shouldn’t force her.” Weiss folded her arms. “Why are you helping?”

            I shrugged. “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

            “You need to learn to stick to your ideals.” Weiss scoffed. I shrugged again.

            “Maybe… but I doubt it. Blake’s dad is the chief of Menagerie, there’s no way she wouldn’t know formal dance, she’s practically royalty.” Yang said.

            “It could be as simple as bumbleby being a better ship than black sun. Do we know for sure she’s straight?” I asked.

            “Ok, you just said a lot of things that didn’t make sense.” Sun said.

            I rolled my eyes. “I’m just pointing out that we don’t know which way she swings, maybe she does want to go, but just isn’t into dudes, so she turned you down.” Sun looked uncomfortable.

            Weiss huffed. “Does everything have to be about sexuality with you? And besides that, we know she’s straight, she told us about an… uhm.. ex-boyfriend she had.”

            Everyone paused. Brainstorming.

            “Why don’t we just ask her why?” Neptune suggested.

            Everyone said a mixture of ‘no’s and ‘not a chance’s.

            “Brain blast.” I slammed my fist into my palm. “She’s bisexual!”

            Weiss rolled her eyes.

            “Comedy comes in threes. I’m serious though, why don’t you just ask her out Yang?”

            Yang scrunched her face up. “Mmm, IDK man.”

            “Minus one for bumbleby.” I muttered. I pulled out my scroll and tapped on it.

            “Wait, are you using our team attack names as ship names?” Ruby asked.

            “Yes I am,” I answered. “Fifty percent of white rose.”

            Weiss facepalmed.

            “You know what? I think I do have a plan.” Yang said, scratching her chin.

            “You gonna share?” Sun asked.

            Yang nodded to herself. “No, I don’t think I will.” Then Yang walked out of the ballroom.

            I sighed. “Now that she’s gone, I have to move the heavy stuff, don’t I?”

            “Yep, now get to it.” Weiss ordered.

            “Yes ma’am…” I got to it.

            “Move those two speakers over there.” She pointed.

            “Hey uhh… Weiss.” Sun said, a little nervous.

            “What do you want?” Weiss said as she inspected her samples of tablecloth.

            “I just wanted to ask… how have you been holding up? Are you doing alright?”

            “I don’t see how that concerns you.” Weiss said with a grimace.

            “Of course, it does!” Sun exclaimed. “Us Faunus have to stick together after all.”

            “Right…”

            “Just let me know if you need anything. Ok?”

            Weiss sighed. “I can take care of myself, and anything that I can’t is being handled by CFVY.”

            “I know, I just wanted to make sure everything was still ok, cus they’re still on their away mission ya know?”

            “Look, Sun. Just because something is very very hard doesn’t mean its unmanageable. I have Ruby and my team to support me when I need it ok?”

            “Ok…”

            “Sun is definitely the earnest type.” I mumbled.

            “I know right?” Neptune heard my comment, he was leaning on a nearby pillar. “When I first met him, I totally thought he was trying to get in my pants. Helping people out like that is something I would do to try and get laid right?” He chuckled. “But no, he’s just genuinely helpful.”

            I hefted a speaker. “People like that are a rare commodity… So, who are you planning on taking to the dance?”

            He looked down. “No one, probably.”

            “You aren’t going?”

            “No, I’m going. Who else is going to spike the punch?” He jested.

            I frowned. Then shook my head to clear it. “So why not ask anyone?”

            He lowered his voice. “Try and keep this on the DL, but uhh, I can’t dance.”

            “Then learn man, Li Ren has been teaching me.” I placed down the speaker with a thud. I would include Jaune, but he is more moral support than actual teacher.

            “Man dude, you’re strong.”

            “I guess…” I looked at my hands again. “But if you are willing to learn how to dance, just ask Ren, he’ll help you.”

            Neptune almost grinned. “Thanks man.” He held out his fist.

            I gave him a fist bump. Sun then called to him. “Hey, yo! Sage wants us to go to a fitting.” Sun was holding his scroll.

            “Nice.” Neptune nodded. “See ya, Art.” They left.

            I moved the other speaker in to place and then sat across from Ruby at her table. “Ruby, don’t pout. Yang has a plan.”

            “Yeah, Yang does.”

            “What, do you?”

            “No, I meant that it’s a ‘Yang’ plan.”

            “Oh, right.” I tapped the table. “Are her plans known for failing?”

            “They’re known for backfiring.”

            “Well, hey. Right now, the issue is out of your hands until Yang’s plan has run its course. So, don’t worry about it. Worry about you and this dance. You know how to dance right?”

            “Yeah, Yang taught me.”

            “And your clothes are all good to go?”

            “Yeah… I gotta wear stupid lady stilts though.”

            I lowered my voice. “Then what about your date?” I subtly pointed at Weiss.

            “Shut up!” She whisper yelled.

            “OwO.”

            She growled, to adorable for it to be intimidating.

            “So, do you two actually not like each other like that or are you just waiting?”

            “Number two.”

            “I see says the blind man.”

            She rolled her eyes.

            “Well, imma head out. I gotta talk with Neo about what I’m gonna wear.” I got up.

            “See ya Art.” Ruby said half-heartedly.

 

            I didn’t find Neo in our dorm so I figured she got caught up in whatever plan Yang hatched, so I went to the team RWBY dorm. Before I had the chance to knock, I overheard the tail end of a conversation.

            “For the last time Neo, blowjobs aren’t vore!” Blake yelled.

            “Oh Christ.” I mumbled before I knocked.

            Yang opened the door. “Hey Art.” She said. Neo then waved, with a grin on her face, she was in troll mode. The whole Ninja’s of love series was open and strewn about Blake’s bed. Blake had her arms folded and was fuming. They were both sitting on her bed with the books.

            “Did your plan backfire or was this already happening?” I asked as I entered.

            “My plan is yet to fall into place. This was the conversation when I got here.”

            “Neo, please show some mercy.”

            Neo rolled her eyes. Fine, blowjobs aren’t vore. She signed.

            “Thank you.” Blake growled.

            “Also, how the fuck did you get on that topic?” I asked.

            Blake sighed. “We were discussing… uhm… literature.”

            “Porn.”

            “And had a disagreement.”

            I giggled. “Well, Yang has a cunning plan to employ and Neo and I need to discuss what I’m wearing, the dance is tomorrow.” Neo nodded and stood up.

            Do you need me for anything else? Neo asked.

            “Wait. What’s going on Yang?” Blake asked.

            “I just wanted to have a talk with you.” Yang answered.

            “This is about getting me to go to the dance isn’t it?” Blake scowled.

            “I have a feeling I know why you don’t want to go.” Yang said. She sat next to Blake on the bed.

            “Let’s go.” I whispered to Neo. We left.

           

            Blake started picking up her books, she spent some time organizing the shelf, stalling. Yang watched her in silence, letting her do her thing. “What is this really about Yang?” Blake finally asked.

            Yang waited for her to put away her books before answering. “I want you to go with Sun to the dance.”

            “No.”

            “Can you give me a reason?”

            “No.” She sat back down.

            “Do you want me to say why I think you won’t go?”

            She looked at Yang with her feline eyes, daring her to guess.

            Yang placed her hand on Blake’s knee. “You do like Sun, don’t you?”

            “I… guess… he’s nice enough… I guess.”

            “He’s a pure guy, right? Earnest. A hero?” Yang probed.

            “Yang…”

            “He’s not Adam.”

            Blake stood up. “I never said he was!”

            “You don’t think he’s Adam?”

            “Of course not!” Blake growled.

            “But you’re afraid you’re wrong.”

            Blake’s face broke. No longer frustrated, now a mix of pain and shock.

            Yang stood up and gently guided Blake back to her seat on her bed. “You didn’t even realize it, did you?”

            “I don’t know what I thought.” She buried her face in her hands.

            Yang rubbed Blake’s back for a bit as they thought in silence.

            “Adam was a hero. He had pure intentions. He was earnest.” Blake finally said, her voice cracking.

            “Sorry if I hit the nail on the head too hard.” Yang said.

            “No, I uhh… I think you needed to point that out to me.” She choked back a sob. “He’s… He’s ruined me, hasn’t he?” She hugged Yang around her waist. “I thought… I thought I was just closed off because I was shy, I’m the edgy one of the group, aren’t I?”

            “You are Blake.” Yang said, rubbing her friend’s hair. “And… you have already opened yourself up to me, haven’t you? How is Sun any different?”

            “I didn’t make our promise of transparency to him, I did to you.” Blake said firmly. “I feel safe around you, I don’t him.”

            “But you can.”

            “No, I can’t. What if… I don’t want to hurt him just because I’m scared.”

            “It’s fine, your fine. Just calm down.”

            “No, I’m not!” Blake got in Yang’s face. “I can’t be in a relationship!”

            “Give me one good reason why.”

            “Do you really think Adam’s life is the only one I’ve taken?”

            “Blake…”

            “I’m a killer Yang.” Her voice broke. “Do you know what I’ve done for the White Fang? Arkoless, Sann, Mourice, Lourance, Maple, Kendal, Shane, Fourese.”

            “I forgive you.”

            “What?”

            Yang hugged Blake. “You still deserve to be loved. I love you, you know, that right? So does Ruby, and so does Weiss. We’re more her family then her own father and mother. Nothing will change that.”

            Blake fell asleep in Yang’s arms.

 

            “So, how did you end up getting Blake to come with you?” I asked Sun as I adjusted my blue and green tie.

            “I didn’t. On my way here she just showed up and wrapped her arm around mine, she hasn’t even said anything.” Sun looked at Blake, she was dancing with Yang. They seemed to finish their dance, then Yang waved to Sun. Sun approached and took Blake’s hand in his.

            I went to the punch bowl and poured myself a cup. I took a sip. Someone spiked it. I frowned in the glass, I thought for a long time.

            “Hey Art!” Ruby waved as she approached. “You hiding by the punch bowl too?”

            “For now, I guess.”

            Ruby started pouring herself a glass.

            “You might not want to do that.” I then signed: Alcohol.

            She sighed. “And who did that?”

            I tossed my cup in the trash.

            “Oh, sorry.”

            “It’s fine. Ozpin… requested… I get back on the straight and narrow.”

            “I wish he would give that talk to my uncle Qrow…”

            “Qrow’s your uncle?”

            “Do you know him?”

            “Yeah… I met him once… He’s the one who drinks a lot, the one you mentioned last week? The one that won’t tell you why?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Do you want to know why?”

            “He told you?” She tilted her head and narrowed her eyes.

            “No, but I think I pieced it together on my own… You don’t know what his semblance is, do you?”

            “No, he never used it around me. I always thought maybe he was just a late bloomer.” The she shook her head.

            “He has used it around you. He has no choice. It’s misfortune. He’s a bad luck charm.”

            “It was you. I overheard him say that he talked to a person without an aura to find answers. It was you.”

            “Yeah. I think he wanted to find a way to rid himself of his semblance.”

            Ruby shook her head. “Let’s change the subject. How are you enjoying the dance?”

            I smiled. “You and your team did a really good job setting it up. Dances were just never my thing.” I looked over at Neo, she was dancing with Pyrrha and Jaune, she looked amazing in her dress, it was pretty normal, pink and brown and went to her knees, but she used her semblance to make it shimmer and shift like it was made of flexible glass. “I just thought it was because I didn’t know how to dance, afraid of embarrassing myself around so many people, but even though I know now I’m still not comfortable, something about being surrounded by people from all sides.”

            “Don’t forget you helped too. I know how you feel though, not to mention,” She stepped uncomfortably, her heels clicking on the ground. “I never learned how to dance in these stupid lady stilts, how does Weiss fight in these?”

            “I can tell you.” Cinder approached us, she wore a simple and elegant black dress. “I fight in heels on occasion; it has a lot to do with balance and calf strength. You can’t put any weight on the ‘stilt’ part, you move entirely with your toes.”

            “Who are you?” Ruby asked.

            Cinder outstretched her hand. “I’m Cinder Fall, a fourth year from Haven, here for the tournament.”

            Ruby shook her hand. “Ruby Rose.”

            “Charmed. You have beautiful eyes.” Cinder smiled.

            “Uhm, thanks!” Ruby said with a smile.

            “Have you been enjoying the dance Cinder? If the answer's yes, Ruby here is one of the people to thank.” I pointed.

            “Well I do like the chosen aesthetic, but I’m afraid I have just arrived from a previous engagement, so whether or not I will have fun is still up in the air.” Cinder glanced at me. “I have yet to take my first dance.” She held out her hand. “Will you do the honors?”

            I took her hand in mine. “It would be my pleasure.” I bowed slightly. “Though I ask that you not get too upset if my footwork is not up to your standard.”

            She waved her hand as she guided me to the dance floor. “Don’t worry yourself. You’ll be fine.”

            I caught Neo’s eye. Want me to step in? She signed.

            I’ll be fine. I signed back. Ruby raised her eyebrow at the exchange.

            The current song encouraged slow dancing so Cinder and I obliged the rhythm. I place my hands on her hips and she wrapped her arms around my neck. I thanked Jesus that Neo wasn’t the jealous type, she knew I would be faithful, not to mention that she knew Cinder was a villain. “See, you’re doing fine.” She purred.

            “Debatable.” I muttered.

            “I talked with Roman recently.” She whispered.

            “I would hope so, you work together right? I’m sure whatever nefarious plan you enacted tonight wouldn’t have gone as smoothly otherwise.” I whispered back.

            Cinder smiled. “Now how did you know about that?”

            “Lucky guess, I don’t think you would pass up a perfect distraction like this dance.”

            “You knew and didn’t try and stop me, you are slaking.”

            “It’s not my job to stop you from doing that, my only responsibility is to win when we finally do battle, I’m not going to seek out a conflict.”

            “Well, your right that my most recent conversation with our orange haired friend was about my actions tonight. I’m referring to our conversation before that.”

            “Do tell.”

            “We talked about you actually.”

            “I’m flattered.”

            “Apparently, you stole his daughter away from him.” She nodded to Neo.

            “Arguable, she makes her own decisions. Fun fact: she’s older than me.”

            “We also talked about your delusion that you can kill me.”

            “Well I can’t stop you from transferring to the next host, if that’s what you are referring to.”

            She chuckled slightly. “I do mean your claim that you can kill me as I am… Roman apparently agrees with you. He thinks you can best me.”

            “I wonder how he figured that out…” I thought aloud.

            “He also told me, that you are an open book, that I can ask you things, and you will answer.”

            I nodded. “I do have my secrets, my private matters. Not my intentions though, I like to make those clear as day, I don’t like leading people on. I think that is what he was referring to.”

            “I want to know why you are nice to me. It just doesn’t make sense to me. All my enemies treat me with hostility, as I do them, although mine is usually a colder brand of hostility. It just makes sense, as we are enemies, why are you different?”

            “Cinder… How many people have you killed?”

            “Too many to count.”

            “When you killed them, how did you see them, as compared to you?”

            “Beneath me, too weak to live in this world, I was the stronger one, so I survived, if they weren’t beneath me, they wouldn’t have lost.”

            “I think that… is wrong.”

            “Do tell.”

            “I haven’t taken a single life yet. You will most likely be my first, and when I do…” I shook my head. “Let me rephrase that. I fear how killing a person will change me.” I paused to gauge her reaction, she had none, she wanted me to continue. “But I also want it to change me. Otherwise, I would be cheating. I don’t want to make it easier on myself by dehumanizing you, talking myself into it by telling myself that you are some archetype villain that needs to go down because I’m the main character. When I kill you, I want to be killing a person, someone with thoughts and desires and fears, who has lived a whole life that I cannot possible hope to fully relate to, because people are that complicated. I want to respect life when I take it.”

            “Hmm… I think I do see. The first person I killed was my father, I was six. Mother had recently passed from disease, and my father tried to take advantage of me. So, I stabbed him, again and again. Long after he was dead it still felt good to drive that kitchen knife into his chest. I think I respect life too, just in a different way. When I take a life, I feel powerful, I respect that power, I know what it cost. I think you will too.”

            “I… I probably will… Cinder… Are you afraid of death?”

            “Yes, I am.”

            I nodded to myself. “I want to say that I am sorry.”

            Cinder’s façade broke for just a moment. “Why do you say that?”

            “I know, that you have your reasons for doing what you do, that you feel as justified as me when I do what I do… I don’t think I have a right to discredit your justifications. So, I am sorry that I will end your life, I really don’t want to, but the path you are on will… You will end up hurting my friends one day, and I can’t abide that.”

            “I understand, I respect you Artorias…” Cinder surprised me by giving me a peck on the cheek. “When we do battle, I expect your best, I want our fight to be something talked about for eons.”

            “Of course.”

            She walked away. She cut into Mercury and Emerald dancing.

            Neo approached me. You alright?

            “Yeah I’m fine. It was just a kind of heavy topic of conversation.”

            Neo kissed me. I would ask for a dance, but it looks like you’re needed elsewhere. She pointed at Ruby, who was sitting on the floor on the other side of the refreshments table looking very depressed.

            “You think I should comfort her?”

            Yeah, seems like no one else is going to do it. She gestured around the ballroom, the rest of team RWBY was occupied keeping the dance together and JNPR was dancing their asses off.

            “Well then.” I hugged Neo then made my way over to Ruby. I sat down next to her; she didn’t seem to notice me. I decided to remain silent while I thought about what I should say. I couldn’t think of a reason why she would be down.

            “Do you ever feel lonely, even though you are surrounded by people?” She finally said.

            “Yes.” I nodded solemnly.

            “I feel like that a lot.”

            “This dance just accentuates that, doesn’t it?”

            “Yeah.”

            “Qrow is the only person you have really connected with, isn’t he?”

            “How did you know?”

            “Your mood worsened considerably after we talked about him.”

            “Right.” She sighed. We sat in silence for a while. “Yang was my dad’s favorite… He says I’ve turned into a scary kid.”

            “I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”

            “Why wouldn’t it be? I don’t want people to fear me.”

            “Well, you are only scary in combat first of all, you are too adorable out of it to be scary.” She blushed. “Also, being scary is extremely useful in combat. It’s an advantage.”

            “I don’t think Grimm know the difference.”

            “Your naïve to think that Grimm are what you should worry about fighting.” She glared at me. “Why do you think they have us fight each other more than any Grimm at this school?” I challenged her glare. “People are who we will be fighting. People are a bigger threat to humanity than any Grimm. You should want to be scarier than the other guy. Fear, or lack thereof is born of conviction, you being scary, is just a testament of your deep seeded convictions.” I thought about my conversation with Cinder, when I talked to her before I fought Mercury, I was terrified. Today though, I wasn’t. After my talk with Ozpin, my convictions changed, they became stone.

Chapter Text

            I got a buzz on the black scroll Ozpin gave to me. I looked at it.

            Oz: There was a breach of security in the CCT level of the tower. We had a meeting about it with Ironwood this morning. Do you have anything to add?

            I thought about how to respond, I didn’t feel ready to fight Cinder yet.

            Que: Nah my dude, sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

            Oz: Very well, have a good day Mr. Walter, and good luck on your field mission. You’ll need it.

            Que: Should I know anything?

            Oz: Then enemy got access to the student’s files, they know you lack an aura if they didn’t already, be careful. We do not know what else they got access to, we are scanning the systems for viruses, but we cannot find anything, we just know they copied some files.

            Que: Anything you want me to do?

            Oz: Focus on your field mission, you may be a part of this order now, but you are still a student, that is your priority. I expect you to put your studies above anything discussed through this scroll.

            Que: Yes professor.

            I sighed and put the scroll away. Neo then got out of the bathroom. “Ready to go?”

            Yep, let’s obtain this grain. She signed.

            We walked past team JNPR’s dorm, I figured I would knock and say good morning. Then there was a scream from across the hall. I knocked in team RWBY’s dorm room door. The door burst open and Neo was tackled by Blake. “Blake!”

            “Protect me Neo!” She screamed, holding onto Neo like her life depended on it. Neo fell on her ass.

            “Blake, I’m a bird, if I’m not scared of you, you shouldn’t be scared of Zwei.” Weiss said standing in the dorm doorway, she fluttered her wings to accentuate her point.

            “Just keep it away from me and my belongings and we won’t have a problem.” Blake said.

            “What are we talking about?” I asked.

            Weiss’s face lit up. “Zwei!”

            “What?

            Ruby walked into view holding a corgi. “The newest member of team RWBY!” She held him up like the lion king.

            “Our dad sent him to us to take care of, he’s taking some Signal kids on a field trip, so he’ll be gone for a while.” Yang said.

            “Are dogs even allowed?” I asked.

            “No!” Blake shouted.

            “You don’t know that!” Weiss said.

            Neo got free of Blake’s grasp. We should be getting to the auditorium; I’m sure Ozpin’s obligatory speech is about to start. She signed.

            “She right.” Yang agreed. “Common girls, Zwei will be here when we get back!” Yang strutted down the hallway.

            Weiss started petting the corgi. “Oh, I’m going to miss you so much, we’re going to be best of friends, I can’t wait to see you again.” Weiss followed Yang. Blake started running down the hall and Neo followed suit.

            Ruby was looking at Zwei and smirking. “You’re totally gonna sneak him with you right?” I said.

            “Perhaps…” She grinned at me. She burst into rosepetals then reappeared with a big backpack on her back.

            “Very subtle…” We started walking do the hall.

            “You… did actual missions before coming here, right?”

            I nodded. “You nervous?”

            “A little, I’m still getting used to this whole team leader thing outside of combat, and now that we will be actually fighting? How do you do it?”

            “What do ya mean?” I tilted my head.

            “Despite it being just the two of you, you are just so clearly the leader.”

            I scowled. “No, not at all.” I said with a little more harshness then I intended.

            “What do you mean?”

            I sighed. “Think about why you think that. I’ll give you a minute.” We walked in silence for a moment. “Ok?” Ruby looked at me for an answer. “Neo is mute.”

            Ruby’s eyes widened and her face wore shame; she covered her eyes with her hand. “I’m so sorry, I can’t believe I had been thinking like that this whole time.”

            “It’s fine, don’t dwell on it.”

            “You’re just her voice when she needs it. When you say stuff, it’s not always you saying it is it?”

            I nodded. “Not everyone knows sign, and even when they do, they aren’t always looking for it, I can count plenty of times where you guys have outright ignored Neo.”

            “I’m sorry…”

            I shook my head. “Look, back to giving you advice, the academy has given you everything you need to be successful, taught you everything you need to know, except one… Do you remember what I told you about fear, about people being afraid of you?”

            She nodded.

            “Well, this isn’t something the teachers will ever talk about, I doubt they want to give any villains-in-the-making like Cardin any ideas. It’s something I learned during my time in Anima. But…” I struggled with how to word it.

            “What?”

            “You and your team… eh… chances are you will be going to some town outside of the kingdom to do some protection work right?”

            She nodded.

            “Well, you and your team… could kill every single person in that town and they would be powerless to stop you.”

            Ruby looked away and her eyes widened.

            “And they know it.”

           

            Ozpin gave his speech then let up pick our missions. Neo and I walked to the board; it was reminiscent of the request boards I became familiar with after Clare died. “Wanna kill a unique Grimm? Like the old days?”

            Neo smiled and nodded. Yeah, that sounds good.

            I typed in our initials on the board and claimed the mission.

            “Hunting a unique Grimm, that seems to be a little below your skill level.” Ozpin apparated.

            “Well… What else are we meant to do?”

            “Good point, the mission types are very boring for first years. So why don’t we make this interesting.” He grinned. “Let’s give you a time limit. Thirty-six hours. If you complete the mission in that time, they you will automatically get an ‘A’”

            Nice. Neo signed.

            “I have full faith in you that you can do this, not to mention, this mission was deemed to be one of the harder ones, so you will have Goodwitch to back you up.”

            “Goodwitch doesn’t like me.”

            “She just doesn’t fully trust you yet Quinton.” Ozpin gestured for us to follow him, we walked through a hall that lacked other people. “There are ties between Roman and our real enemy, that doesn’t exactly paint you, either of you, in the most positive light… You can take this opportunity to gain her trust.” We got to a door and Ozpin turned around and nodded to both of us. “Convince her that you deserve that sword on your back. Prove her wrong, I know you can.” He walked back the way we came and patted me on the shoulder on the way out.

            Neo and I faced the door that Ozpin lead us to. It had a name engraved into a metal strip which was attached to the door, it read ‘Goodwitch’. It was her office. “The other nametags are gold right, why is this one gray?”

            Intimidation? Neo suggested.

            “She wants to be feared, doesn’t she?”

            Yep.

            “Welp, let’s just get this over with.” I knocked on the door.

            She answered, her face was stone. She was wearing a more field-ready leather hunter outfit rather than her school attire. “I suspected that you would choose that mission.” She said. “Let’s get going then, there is no time to waste.” She walked past us. We followed. “I will get a bullhead ready; you gather the supplies you think we will need. I will leave that to your discretion. This is a student led mission.” She turned a corner.

            We walked in a different direction to gather the rations and sleeping bags that the school was providing. We ran into team RWBY there. “Hey guys, where’s JNPR? I kinda wanted to say goodbye.”

            “They won’t be setting out for a couple of days, so they went back to their dorm to rest up.” Weiss answered.

            Oh, well, what about you guys? What mission did you take? Neo asked.

            “We didn’t really know what we wanted so we just chose at random, we’ll be going to a town outside of the kingdom to take care of a pack of Grimm that is getting to close.” Ruby said, glancing at me.

            “Well, good luck to you. We will be taking care of a unique Grimm with Goodwitch.” I said, RWBY cringed together. “So, wish us luck!”

            We exchanged good wishes and went our separate ways.

==================================================================

            Glynda looked at her surroundings, the rubble, smoke, fire, police officers and their yellow tape, the crowds that surrounded her. They were calling her a monster, a demon, a murderer. She looked at her hands, a child’s hands did this, her purple aura swirled around her hands. She cried, the sirens and voices around her became muffled.

            Then, the sound of footsteps cut through the white noise. The crunch of the rubble she created permeated her soul. “Are you ok?”

            Glynda looked up at the man. He couldn’t have been older than her father, her thirty-year-old father, who would never grow any older because of today. The man had white hair and held a cane. He knelt in front of her, to the protest of the police, who still wouldn’t dare come closer.

            He outstretched his hand. “This wasn’t your fault. The world can be cruel, but you don’t have to be.”

            Glynda outstretched her hand, then retracted it.

            “I can help you if you let me. You didn’t do anything wrong; you didn’t know any better… The world shouldn’t be so unforgiving, that’s why I’m not. Let me be here for you.”

            Glynda took the man’s hand.

====================================================================

            Neo and I made our way to the bullhead. Goodwitch stood there, arms crossed, she was already a tall woman, and she was wearing high heels too, making her tower over Neo and myself. She was very intimidating. “You’re late.” She said.

            You didn’t exactly give us a time limit. Neo signed.

            “Ozpin did, now, got those supplies loaded up on the airship.”

            We did. I looked at Glynda, she was just sitting there. I went to the pilot and told him where we would be going, Glynda wasn’t going to. I walked back, Neo was already laying down taking up a few seats, she lazily waved her scroll at me. I grinded and sat down, then booted up Best Of Hunters, the fighting game. We played.

            Neo threw her scroll down. That move is such bullshit.

            I giggled. “Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.”

            You really going to sit there and tell me forward smash killing at thirty percent is ok?

            “Yes, all you need to do is get better at your f-air one combo starters and you should have no problems beating me.”

            “Shouldn’t you children be planning out this mission, rather than wasting your time with pointless games?”

            This is just another day in the office Glynda, we’ve taken down plenty on unique Grimm before, not to mention we are a lot stronger now. Neo signed.

            “The plan is what it has always been, Neo thinks negatively, the Grimm gets attracted, then I kill it. It’ll be way easier now that I am using my sword’s power.”

            “That’s Miss Goodwitch to you Neopolitan. How much have you told her?” Goodwitch asked me.

            “Everything. I will not keep secrets from her.”

            Goodwitch scowled. “That speaks for itself.”

            I raised my eyebrow at her, but she only took off her headset and looked out the window, she didn’t want to talk anymore.

            Eventually we got to our destination, it wasn’t too far, but we had left in the afternoon, so I opted for the bullhead to take us down near a town with an inn. I figured we would just go to bed early and wake up early to take out the Grimm.

            “So, is this why you didn’t bring sleeping bags?” Glynda asked.

            “Well, yeah, it’s only one night.” I said.

            “I didn’t agree to paying for a night in an inn. The school does not give funding for luxuries like this.”

            “Did I ask for funding? Besides, Azraq would be cross with me if we didn’t say hi.”

            We walked into the town and made our way to the inn. It was a three-story wooden building, very dungeons and dragons, made me nostalgic. Neo and I were recognized as soon as we entered. The man was very tall, he was a panther Faunus, but his claws were retractable, so it was hard to tell. He had dark skin and dreadlocks. The man rushed to us and crushed us in a hug. “It’s you kids! It’s been ages. How have you been?” His voice was deep but jovial.

            “Hey, Azraq. We have a lot to catch up on.” I said.

            He let us go. “Of course… Who is this?” He turned his attention to Goodwitch.

            “Miss Goodwitch, the professor supervising them on this mission.” Goodwitch answered flatly.

            He outstretched his hand, she took it. “Nice to meet you.” He then leaned to us. “You really need a supervisor?” he whispered, but Goodwitch still heard him.

            Neo smiled. No, no we don’t.

            “She’s really just here to grade us.” I said. “And be judgmental.” I glanced at Goodwitch; she was emotionless.

            “I’m sure for teachers those are one in the same.” He stood tall. “Let me get you fixed with some dinner. The usual right?” He offered, we nodded. He led us to a table. We sat in the booth, I was next to Neo and Goodwitch was across from us.

            “What is your relationship with that man?” Goodwitch asked.

            “Neo and I were in the area; we were doing some chores for Roman.” Goodwitch’s eyes narrowed at that. “Then some Grimm attacked the village, there weren’t any huntsman or huntresses around. So, Neo and I tuned the Grimm into a fine black mist. Surprisingly, not a lot of people gave a shit, but a few did, like Azraq, since then, if we were doing anything in the area, we would stay at his inn.”

            “What do you mean by chores?”

            “I don’t have any blood on my hands if that is what you mean, other than that, it’s none of your business.”

            We haven’t even talked to Roman since we started school, we are hardly associated anymore. Neo added.

            “I got you guys the usual,” Azraq set our food in front of us. “You didn’t mention what you wanted, so I just got you the special.” He set a plate in front of Goodwitch.

            Neo handed him some Lien. Thank you.

            “Thank you.” I said.

            “Anytime.” He nodded. “So, what brings you into town?”

            “Were on a little field trip for Beacon, there was a unique Grimm reported in the area that we’re gonna kill.” I said.

            “Even you ice cream? I thought only Art was going to Beacon?”

            I changed my mind. Neo signed.

            “Just couldn’t see him go huh?” He teased.

            Neo pouted. It wasn’t that!

            “Sure, sure.” He waved dismissively. “I got you two rooms; I don’t imagine you want to share one with your teacher.”

            Goodwitch scoffed.

            “I’m sensing some bad air.” He whispered to me. “I’ll leave you be.” He left.

            I looked at Goodwitch with distaste. I sighed then began eating. His food was amazing, I was having a very American-esque burger that gave me warm fuzzies. I’m a fast eater so I finished early, I looked over at Neo and she wasn’t even halfway done. I looked at Goodwitch, hadn’t even touched her food.

            “It’s going to get cold you know?” I said.

            “Do you really think I’ll trust any food given by you?” She said.

            “Are you kidding me?”

            “No, I am not kidding you.”

            “What do you think I am?”

            “You are an incredibly suspicious individual.”

            “I’m just a dumb kid, with more power than most. That is all.”

            “You have ties to the enemy.”

            “Sure… like Roman is going to make his daughter do work for Salem, there’s a reason he sent her to Beacon.” I gestured to Neo.

            “Even if that is true, that doesn’t absolve you.”

            I sighed. “I’m not asking you to trust me to do good. Just trust me not to do bad. I’m not denying that my morals are a little shaky and I have no reason to be loyal to Ozpin. But I’m not evil, I would never side with Salem, ya know, the person trying to destroy the world.”

            “Why wouldn’t you want to destroy this world?”

            “I’m one of the idiots that lives in it.”

            Goodwitch sighed. “Very well… I suppose.” She took a bite of her food.

 

            “Rise and shine Glynda!” I yelled as I barged into her room. Glynda’s eyes blinked open and her eyebrows narrowed. She was still under the covers.

            She sat up on her elbow. “Excuse me? And for the last time, that is Miss Goodwitch to you.”

            Neo ran in the room and started jumping on Glynda’s bed, she flailed. I asserted my dominance. “Today you are Glynda! As this is my student-led mission today, and this mission starts now! I am the captain now! You are on a mission with Neo and Artorias now, and we do things a specific way, best get used to it!”

            Neo jumped off the bed and faced Glynda. Now get dressed bedhead! Neo pranced back to my side.

            “You have ten minutes teammate!” I said then closed the door.

            This is hilarious. Neo said beaming.

            “Ara ara how the turns have tabled. She said that she wanted me to act like a leader. She can only blame herself.”

            We said our goodbyes to Azraq and waited outside the inn for Glynda. She showed up after eight minutes.

            “Good morning Glynda!” The light was barely peaking over the horizon. “Glad to see you made good time.” I smiled.

            “What are you doing?” she asked.

            “You said I needed to act like a leader, so I am.”

            “You listened to my advice? That is a surprise.”

            “I get that you have a low opinion of me, I plan to change that on this mission, I promise I am not as bad as you think.”

            Her expression almost softened, then it quickly stiffened back up. “Don’t do that.”

            “What?”

            “Just lead the way.”

            “Uhm… ok?” We started walking.

            We made our way through the forest; I was tracking the Grimm along the way. Uniques and nuckelavees usually had a den that they defaulted back to, so I started by looking for that. It wasn’t long before we found it, a small cave. Grimm dens had their signature black ooze on the walls, if the unique is powerful enough this ooze can spawn more Grimm.

            I did a cast of Warmth; in a video game it was a fire spell that summoned an orb of light that gave those near it regeneration capabilities. I figured with my fire and regeneration I could replicate it, turns out I couldn’t, but the effort still creates a harmless orb of green light that gave off heat. The light filled the cave and revealed a few decaying bodies and the signature black ooze. I kneeled to analyze. “Based on the ooze this one’s pretty weak. Lucky us…”

            “Apt analysis Quinton. I’m curious though why you have no reaction to the bodies?” Glynda asked.

            “Not everything on my transcript was a lie Glynda. I’ve just seen a lot of these dens. I’ve learned not to dwell on it.” I stood up. “If we had more time. I would just wait here for it to come back at the end of its patrol. Let’s head out. If you have some negative things to think about, now’s the time.”

            We exited the den and Neo and I immediately climbed a tree. “What are you doing?” Glynda asked.

            “We’re getting the higher ground, if it moves through the trees and we decide to go on foot then we’re fucked. Now get up here.”

            Glynda moved some rocks with her semblance to make some steps up. “Good.” She said when we met up. She was grading us.

            “Now be quiet and listen.” Neo and I closed our eyes and focused our hearing. Neo’s face grimaced, she was recalling bad memories. I rubbed her shoulder and she seemed to relax. Then we hear a rustling of leaves, and a breaking of a twig. After a moment more we heard a branch snap. Neo and I started moving through the trees in the direction of our prey, it was a lot easier now, I had gotten stronger. Glynda followed a way behind, levitating pieces of debris to make a bridge for herself. Eventually we found the edge of a clearing, peering into the clearing we saw the beast, a disgusting amalgamation of other types of Grimm mashed together, probably some mutated geist Grimm that favored it fellow monsters over rubble. It looked like it was smelling the air, looking for us. Positive thoughts now. I signed. I jumped down from the tree.

            Glynda jumped down to meet me. You’re just going to fight it?

            Yes, I am. What else would I do?

            You’re not going to consider strategy?

            Maybe before I would, but now I can just burn it to a crisp with the sword’s power, it’s no biggie. Just stay here though so that it doesn’t move around.

            The sword’s power is no biggie?

            Well when you say it like that it sounds bad, but it’s not like I’m blowing up the planet or anything. Just this Grimm.

            I expected her to look angry, but she looked sad instead.

            Ok then, I’ll just do my thing. I signed. I walked into the clearing, the Grimm not noticing me as expected, I am a hunter. I prepped my fingers for a snap, Like Roy fucking Mustang, I thought. Green and black energy wrapped around my arm; this was going to be a big one. “HHUUURAAAA!” SNAP! The energy coursing through my arm always hurt a little bit, like the soreness after a workout, but whenever I did a big one it hurt a lot more. In exchange for that pain I was greeted with a massive black and green explosion. The air whipped past me, making my hunter’s trench coat flap in the wind in response, and my hair got pulled back. I felt powerful. The Grimm wailed in response as its form was burnt to a crisp. Using the power of the sword like this felt great, finally not being afraid to hurt someone, letting loose and finding my limits was amazing. I smiled brightly.

            I heard Neo jump down from the tree and start clapping. I was about to turn around and greet her but something else caught my ear.

            “Glynda, what are you doing?” Her footsteps as she approached sounded different, they held a different weight. She always walked with a purpose, but now she walked with intent. She had a grave short-term goal now. Lunas felt it, as did I.

            “You have convinced me that you are just a normal dumb kid, I think that much is clear.” She breathed in heavily. “But that still doesn’t change what I have to do. Just gives me a different reason.”

            I heard the earth shift, I tuned around to find Neo encased in earth, she was writing to try and escape. I didn’t hesitate. SNAP! Glynda was surrounded in an explosion, then the fire started swirling and coalesced into a spear which she shot at me. I was too slow to dodge completely, so the massive spear of fire took a chuck out of my side. I fell to the ground in pain. The sword trying to regenerate me, but it had trouble replacing this much flesh in a timely manner.

            “Does Ozpin know about this?” I coughed.

            “No, he would never agree to something this cruel, but this world is cruel.” Glynda walked to me and leveled her catalyst at me.

            “You bitch.” I spat blood.

            Glynda’s face was pained. “I wanted to give you a chance, I really did. But this world deserves better than to have someone like you possess the ability to raze it.”

            “I’m… not evil.” My wound was almost fixed, but I wasn’t about to tell her that.

            “I think I believe you. Regardless, the Relic of Destruction, the power of a god, cannot be in the hands of an immature alcoholic child! I don’t want to kill you so please, just unbind the weapon from yourself and give it to me.”

            I coughed. “’Give me the one ring’ huh? Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. You’ll probably have to get a maiden over here if you want that to happen.”

            She sighed. “Is killing you really the only way to separate you from the weapon?”

            “Yes.”

            “I’m sorry. Goodbye.”

            SNAP! Glynda was surrounded by another explosion, she tried to use the flames herself again, but I rushed her. She dispersed the flames immediately and dodged. I was surrounded by purple energy and hoisted up into the air.

            My arms and legs twisted out of my control; I dropped my sword. She slammed my body into the ground, my body rattled, and I was dazed. I vaguely heard Neo’s muffled mute scream.

            Glynda approached me again. “Don’t make this harder than it has to be. If you want to die painlessly, I’m going to need a lot of concentration. That’s just the reality.”

            I narrowed my eyes and thought. Does she need her catalyst for her semblance? I called the sword with my mind to strike Glynda. She dodged, but I wasn’t going for her. Her weapon snapped in half. The rocks encasing Neo started shaking and I did too. Then her control on me was broken. I scrambled to my feet and called my sword to my hand.

            Before it could get there, a blade of purple energy cut off my right arm.

            “AAAAHHHHH!!!” I screamed and my vision went blurry. I struggled to stay conscious.

            Glynda thrust her hand towards Neo. “You don’t have to die. Stay put.” She gripped her hand and the rocks tightened around my love.

            I sent the sword to attack Glynda, but she encased it in a pile of rocks.

            Glynda approached me. “Without my catalyst I can’t be precise enough to end your life painlessly, I’m sorry.”

            I struggled to stay standing.

            “Without the sword you’re powerless, aren’t you? I see why you are so attached now. You are nothing without it. In a sense I can sympathize. When I first unlocked my semblance, it was wild and impossible to control, I became attached to my catalyst as a result. I understand. But that sword isn’t just your weapon, it is a powerful force of destruction that has no equal. It is evil, and the people of this world are not safe if it is in your hands.”

            “And in your hands, it’s better?” I managed.

            “I don’t know. I will leave that to Ozpin.” She outstretched her hand to me.

            I recalled what Clare had said to me when she gave me the weapon. I felt a great pain in my chest, it burned from within. I felt the abyssal black hole open in my chest.

            SNAP!

            Fire encased Glynda, but this time she couldn’t do anything against it. All she could do was scream. The fire cleared and Glynda struggled to remain standing. Her aura pulsed.

            “Without that stick you can’t control plasma, can you?” I taunted. “To complicated?”

            SNAP!

            More screams. “How?” she asked. “You’ve been lying this whole time, haven’t you?”

            “My time on this world has affected me.” The fire emanating from the abyssal hole in my chest burned through my clothes. It was a pure black flame. “I’ve had the power of a god course through my veins, and I am changed.” I looked at her with killer intent.

            SNAP!

            The rocks encasing my sword and Neo started shaking. It was taking way more concentration for her to keep those in place without her catalyst, and she didn’t have much to spare with the pain that was slipping past her aura. She tried to put up a wall of earth to block my attacks, but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t shooting fire at her; I was summoning it from under her feet.

            SNAP!

            “What will last longer: My inner fire or your aura? Let’s find out!”

            SNAP!

            The power in my body was limited without the sword to refuel. This was now an endurance match.

            SNAP!

            SNAP!

            SNAP!

            SNAP!

            SNAP!

            SNAP!

            The pain my body was feeling. It hurt worse than anything that I could have ever imagined. But rather than weaken me, it gave me strength. The fire within me was burning me alive, but I was also burning bright.

            I shouted with all the pain that had brought me to this point.

            S N A P !

            This last explosion had no green light emanate from it. It was pure black flame. The trees surrounding the clearing were pushed back, the sound of wind rushing past my ears was deafening.

            Glynda’s aura broke.

            The rocks surrounding my sword and Neo lost their form. They crumbled to dust. I summoned my sword to my left hand and immediately went to work on regenerating my arm, the worst part about the regeneration ability was that it wasn’t automatic, I had to think about it. I approached the kneeling Glynda. “I made a promise! That I would kill anyone who would try to pry this sword from my cold dead hands!” I leveled the sword at her. “This power isn’t safe in anyone’s hands! But from where I’m standing the safest hands are still my own.”

            I let myself breath and the hole in my chest began to close. I tried to prepare myself for what I was about to do.

            I raised my sword above my head. I looked at Glynda, her eyes met mine, she nodded. She accepted defeat. It wasn’t skill or experience; it was raw power that made the difference. It wasn’t fair.

            “I made a promise.” I breathed in.

            Neo grabbed my sword arm, preventing me from crashing it down.

            “Neo!” I looked at her. Her beautiful heterochrome eyes met mine.

 

            I sat at Roman’s kitchen table. We were waiting for a casserole to finish baking. Roman sipped on some tea, I did too. Neo was doing her laundry upstairs. I tapped my fingers on the table. “I had to stop her today.” I finally said.

            “What do you mean Swordie?”

            “You told me after I cleared out that underground city, you made me promise that I wouldn’t let her kill anyone. I had to fulfill that promise today.”

            “Thank you.”

            “I had to actually stop her, I had to physically pull her away from that man. Her face looked so different in that moment.”

            “She wasn’t Neo.”

            I nodded.

            “Kid, why don’t you want to kill?”

            “It’s… wrong.”

            “No, try again.”

            I thought. “I don’t want to… because I can. I can kill people, I have that power now, and it scares me.”

            “Right. You didn’t always have that power, did you?”

            “No.”

            “And now that you do, you are changed.”

            “Yes.”

            “A lot of people disagree, and they are fools. People can change. It just takes a big event. For you, it was that epiphany that you can kill, you had it after we met, I noticed. So, you’ve experienced it firsthand right? People can change.”

            “What’s your point?”

            “Kid, most of the time, when people change its subtle. They become slightly less trusting, or in your case more scared. But the change after killing. It is not subtle. It is volatile, I am not the same man I was before killing by a long shot.”

            I met his eyes.

            “Neo would not still be Neo right now had you let her kill. Not even close. That face you saw when she was about to kill, that is all that would remain after taking that man’s life.”

 

            I dropped my sword and fell to my knees. “I’m sorry.” I didn’t know who I was saying that to. Glynda? Neo? Clare? Myself? I started weeping.

For the record, I think you did the right thing.

            Neo hugged me.

            Glynda sighed. She stood and walked over to the broken pieces of her catalyst. “We should go back to Beacon.”

            Neo glared at her. Is that all you have to say?

            “Yes, it is.”

            What, you aren’t going to try to kill him again?

            “I can’t. As much as I think it is a necessary evil… It is out of my hands now, so it is none of my business.” Glynda’s aura flickered back to life, she started healing her minor burns that her aura couldn’t stop. “I’ll call a bullhead to our location.” She lifted a piece of earth and sat on it, she pulled out her scroll.

            That’s it?

            “Yes, I tend not to worry about things that are out of my control… but…” She looked to me. “Thank you for sparring my life, you had every right to take it.”

            I pulled myself together and nodded. I struggled to stand. I clipped my sword back on and continued working on my arm. Green and black tongues of fire licked the stump. It will probably take a couple of hours to grow back. “You’re just going to let this go?”

            “You are, aren’t you?”

            I looked down. “Yeah.”

            “Keep in mind I don’t want to kill you, finding out I can’t is just weight off my shoulders.”

            “That was very emotionally draining for me. You’re not going to validate that at all? I almost killed you, and you just recovered like that?”

            She glared at me. “As a huntswoman, my life is always on the line, I had come to terms with my mortality a long time ago. I suggest you do the same.”

            I sat back on the ground. We waited in silence for the bullhead. We boarded in silence as well, and by the time we made it back to Vale my arm had grown back. I looked at my outfit, it was fucked. “We need to go clothes shopping.” I broke the silence.

            Neo looked at my clothes. I agree.

            We then heard a siren. It was loud enough to be heard over the buzz of the bullhead. “What is that?”

            Glynda stood up and looked out the window. Her expression changed to dread. She rushed into the cockpit. “Put this ship down!”

            “What?” I got up and looked out the window, Neo followed suit. “Aw shit.” There was a massive hole in the ground in the middle of King Plaza, with hundreds of Grimm pouring out. The Atlas military had already deployed some of their metal soldiers, civilians were running scared, those in buildings were trying to keep the Grimm out with kitchenware. It was a nightmare. “OPEN THE DOOR!” I yelled. The pilot obliged. Wind poured into the cabin; you could smell the dread in the air.

            Glynda nodded at me.

            I jumped out of the bullhead; I concrete I landed on broke apart from my weight. “EVERONE BACK AWAY FROM THE GRIMM!” I tried projecting my voice. Green and black energy swirled around my entire being. The air around me vibrated with excitement. The civilians noticed what was happening and those closest to me started spreading my message. I then saw team JNPR who were fighting their own Grimm, their eyes widened, and they shouted to get away from the Grimm. I looked around to make sure people weren’t near their Grimm. “HHHUUURRRRAAAAHHH.”

            SNAP!

            A torrent of flame moved around the battlefield, the front of it formed into a western dragon head. The dragon of fire consumed the Grimm, spiraling around huntsman and groups of civilians. The Grimm turned into black smoke.

            I passed out.

 

            I woke in the nurses’ office again. I groaned, my sword was still clipped to my back, I was laying on it, not very comfortable. I took it off with my mind and put it on my lap. My right arm sleeve was still missing. I frowned, I also looked at my chest, which had a hole in it from the fire that burned through it. I really didn’t want to get a new outfit; Clare had given this one to me. Sadly, this one was scorched in the places that weren’t outright missing, it was beyond repair.

            I was then slapped. “Ow!” I rubbed my face.

            You dumb bastard! Neo signed.

            “I have to agree with Neo. You could have gotten seriously hurt.” Pyrrha and Neo were sitting in chairs next to my bed. Pyrrha had her arms folded and looked very disappointed.

            I rubbed my head, it was aching. “How long was I out?”

            Only a few hours this time. Neo answered.

            “How is the city, did we beat the Grimm?”

            “’We’ didn’t, you did.” Pyrrha said.

            “Oh, nice!” I said, feeling better about everything. “How are the civilians?”

            “Only injuries, luckily. Most were from the initial explosion. We were on our way to our field mission, so we were close, and team CFVY was going clothes shopping in the town. We were able to help right away.” Pyrrha then reached to the floor and pulled out some clothes that were on a hanger and wrapped in plastic. “Speaking of, Coco noticed that you burned your clothes, she insisted that she would pick your new huntsman outfit, with some input from Neo.”

            Neo gave a thumbs up. How are you feeling?

            “Sore, but good.” I said.

            “Well that’s good to hear.” Ozpin entered the room, cane and mug in hand as always.

            “Do all of your entrances have to be dramatic?”

            “Yes.” Ozpin looked to Pyrrha. “Pyrrha, you should leave.”

            “Why?” She asked.

            “I’m going to talk to them about their mission that they just got back from. As you know we are not allowed to disclose students’ grades to those outside of their teams, privacy policy.” Ozpin gave a friendly grin.

            Pyrrha stood up and slightly bowed. “Of course, I should get back to my team anyway.” Pyrrha walked to the door. “Thank you Art. You did really save us back there.” She closed the door behind her.

            Neo and I looked at Ozpin expectantly. Ozpin grimaced. “I… want to apologize… for what Glynda did on your mission.”

            I looked down. “The thing is, I don’t think she was really in the wrong. I don’t think I’m worthy of this sword. Worthy? Is that the right way to put it? Maybe deserving is better.”

            “I think you are.”

            “Why would you think that? How can you possibly justify saying that!” I glared at him.

            He sighed, he leaned his cane up against the wall and placed a hand on my shoulder. “You saved lives today Quinton, that speaks volumes of who you are. What I look for in my students, is a willingness to put everything forward to protect the people of this world. You pushed yourself to your limit today, and no doubt saved many lives. That alone makes you a true hunter.”

            My lip trembled. “Thank you.”

            “You have the next few days off, take this time to reflect, and rest up. We will worry about finding out who is behind this attack… and Miss Torchwick, take care of him, I’m leaving you in charge of his emotional wellbeing.”

            Yes professor. Neo signed and nodded.

            “Also, the tournament is coming up. Do you want to participate?”

            I looked to Neo. No, not this time.

            “Are your sure? I am offering you a free uncontested spot.”

            “I… don’t have an aura, participating will just breed problems.”

            “I see, that is fine. It is your choice.” Ozpin got a buzz on his scroll, he pulled it out and frowned.

            What was that? Neo asked.

            “Just a meeting to discuss this recent attack. Nothing you need to concern yourselves with, just focus on school, and supporting your friends. It’s looking like team RWBY and JNPR are looking to participate in the tournament.” Ozpin smiled warmly. “Have a good rest of your night Quinton and Miss Torchwick.” He left.

            Let’s go back to the dorm. Neo helped me up.

Chapter Text

            Lunas told me in the morning that judgement day was fast approaching, so, this was the first day I wore the new outfit that Coco bought me. Team CFVY was thankful and impressed by my display during the Grimm invasion, the culprit of which was still unclear. As a result, Ironwood was put in full control of security for the festival, I still hadn’t met him yet. My outfit though, I liked it, it was similar to my last one but with green highlights instead of blue to match my fire, and the clip for my sword was a lot more stable. Overall it just looked better in many subtle ways. The most important change, however, was that it was fireproof.

            “…Well earned, what you said was stupid.” Professor port called from his announcer’s booth. Team SSSN had just won their match. Sun and Neptune started dancing.

            “Uhh, that was close!” Ruby said.

            “Looks like the dorks made it to the next round.” Yang observed.

            Sun shot finger guns at Blake. Blake looked away. “Yeah, definitely dorks.”

            Oobleck then loudly reminded everyone to leave the stadium in a calm and orderly fashion. It was time for an intermission, and for the show runners to reset the arena. We all stood up, I wobbled a little bit and held my head, I hadn’t been feeling well lately, like I was sore all the time.

            “Hey, you alright?” Ruby asked. “Want me to text Neo?”

            “I’m fine, if I get un-fine, I’ll text her, don’t worry about me.” Neo was with team JNPR, they just finished their match and went to go get frozen yogurt, I wasn’t in the mood, so I stayed to watch team SSSN’s match. “Let’s go before Oobleck yells at us.”

            We started walking then Ruby bumped into Weiss who had stopped in her tracks. “What are you doing?” Ruby asked.

            Weiss was looking up, her eyes following an Atlas ship the had blue flags attached to a couple of its wings. Weiss’s wings were shivering. “It’s Winter… she’s here.” Weiss was frozen. She started breathing hard. “No, this was a mistake, I should have known better, the event is televised, she saw me. My wings.” She mumbled.

            Ruby tentatively hugged her. “Weiss breathe with me. Breathe.” Ruby started counting.

            Weiss breathed with the counts. Her scroll buzzed. She looked at it. “She says to meet her at the docks.” Weiss’s voice was shaky.

            Yang looked back to us coddling Weiss, she raised an eyebrow. I waved at her to just go. She tentatively nodded and went with Blake.

            “It will be fine Weiss.” Ruby said.

            “No, it won’t.” Weiss argued.

            “We are here to support you Weiss.” I said. “You don’t have to face her alone.”

            She breathed in and nodded a couple of times. “Ok.”

            We walked to the docks, Ruby holding Weiss’s hand. They still weren’t dating yet, but still… Another point for WhiteRose. I thought and added it to the scoreboard file on my scroll. There was only one ship at the docks, and only one person of interest coming out of the ship. A beautiful woman that had a commanding atmosphere. Winter was flanked by a couple of tin cans as well as a couple of human soldiers. They were probably there to hold Winter back more than protect her. This was a military version of Weiss, and Weiss was already a skilled duelist.

            We were now in front of the ship. Winter was turned around scolding one of her meat soldiers. When it seemed like the soldier had enough, she sighed and turned around. She saw Weiss. “All of you, leave.” Her soldiers flinched. The tin cans saluted and backed away. “I said leave us, go clean the ship or something.” Winter waved her hand. The meat soldiers saluted and did as she asked.

            Winter then approached Weiss. I readied a snap. Ruby saw and her eyes widened. If Winter hurt Weiss, I wasn’t going to hesitate to blow her to kingdom come.

            Winter hugged Weiss. “I’ve missed you so much.” She said. I relaxed. Ruby let go of Weiss’s hand.

            Tears formed in Weiss’s eyes. “I’ve missed you too.” She hugged her back.

            Winter released Weiss. Her eyes glanced to her wings. Then she cleared her throat. She stepped back and put her hands behind her back. Professional again. She looked around. “Beacon hasn’t changed much, but the air still feels… different.”

            “Well, it is fall so, it’s probably colder.” Ruby mumbled. I nudged her to shut up.

            “So… why are you here?” Weiss asked, after rubbing her eyes.

            “Mostly classified. What I can tell you is that it has to do with the extra security measures being employed by Atlas.” She narrowed her eyes. “What I didn’t come here to do is watch my own blood fail so miserably in battle.”

            Weiss flinched. I narrowed my eyes.

            “Tell me, how many strikes did you miss?”

            “Four.” Weiss said with shame.

            “At least you know that much.” Winter sighed. “So, how have you been?”

            “I’ve uhh… I’ve been good.” Weiss said.

            “Speak clearly please.” Winter requested.

            Weiss cleared her throat. “I’m in the top three of our sparring class, I also have top marks in the rest of my courses.”

            Winter’s hand swung toward Weiss’s head. I caught it. I met Winter’s eyes. “Excuse me?” She said.

            “There will be none of that.” I said in a dangerous tone. I’m sure my eyes went green.

            “Art, please don’t.” Weiss asked.

            I looked at Weiss. I then released Winter’s hand. Winter spoke. “Who do you think you are?” She sneered. “I have half a mind to bring down the might of Atlas upon you.”

            “Go ahead.” I countered.

            “Art stop!” Weiss said. “Winter. Please.”

            Winter shot me one last look before turning back to Weiss. She sighed. “I don’t give a damn about your ranking Weiss, knowing you I’m sure your marks are top notch. I was asking how you’ve been. Are you eating properly, have you taken up any hobbies, are you making new friends? Are you taking care of your wings?”

            I was about to comment but Ruby pinched my arm.

            “Well… I haven’t taken up any hobbies, but as for friends… you’ve already met Artorias.” Weiss gestured to me.

            Winter turned her attention to me again. “That name… You are the one that snuffed out that Grimm attack not that long ago?”

            I nodded slowly.

            “Well then, I suppose I could stand to respect your strength more.”

            I raised an eyebrow.

            “And this is?” She looked to Ruby.

            “Ruby Rose!” Ruby said cheerfully and bowed slightly.

            “So, this is the leader you wrote of. A little underwhelming, I must admit. But I suppose it can’t be helped, you were never given the chance to cultivate your taste in women.” Weiss and Ruby flinched. Winter bowed slightly. “Regardless I must thank you for taking care of my sister these past months.”

            “Ah, yes…of… course… the honor is in my… court.” Ruby almost lost her balance trying to match Winter’s more refined bow.

            Winter locked eyes with each of us. “I have business with the General and your Headmaster. However, I am early, so I would like to spend some time with you Weiss. Why don’t you take me to your quarters?”

            “Really?” Weiss said in a hopeful tone.

            “Yes, I would like to inspect them and make sure they are up to my personal standard. I will not tolerate my little sister staying in any abode that is inadequate.” Winter started walking forwards, she did a military hand gesture and a couple of nearby tin cans started following, Weiss turned to follow her. Ruby and I were left.

            “Just so you know, the bunk beds only look unstable.”

            “Bunk beds?”

            “I’ll… I’ll catch up with you! I mean I’ll uhh” Ruby tried.

            “Don’t bother Ruby.” I said. “Let’s just meet up with the rest of your team.” I started walking.

            “Art, I can’t believe what you did back there!” Ruby chastised.

            “What? Did you really expect me to just let her slap Weiss?”

            Ruby retracted. “Well no, but you did almost assault an Atlas Specialist, I saw you almost snap.”

            “I knew the risks, ok? Its fine.”

            “Fine? Just don’t get yourself killed over something petty like that, I would hate explaining to Neo how you got turned into a red paste over a slap.”

            I rolled my eyes. In the process something caught my eye, a few people were staring at something in the middle of the courtyard. “What’s going on?” I asked.

            Ruby looked curious. “Wanna go find out?”

            “Yeah.”

            We started walking towards the crowd.

            “I’m taking to you, ice queen.” It was Qrow.

            “Uncle Qrow.” Ruby’s eyes went wide, she almost dashed towards him, but I grabbed her cape.

            “Hold up a sec.” I said.

            “But-“

            Weiss approached Qrow. “I don’t know who you are, but I do not tolerate people calling me ‘ice queen’.”

            “ShhHhh…” Qrow was drunk. He put his hand on top of Weiss’s head. “Not you.” He pushed her away, towards us.

            “Hey!” Weiss protested.

            “Weiss, get over here!” I whisper yelled.

            “What?” Weiss walked towards us.

            Qrow took a few steps towards Winter and narrowed his eyes. “You!” He called.

            “Qrow is going to fight your sister and I kinda wanna see it happen.” I said.

            “You know that guy?” Weiss asked.

            “He’s my uncle!” Ruby squeaked.

            “What?” Weiss asked.

            “I saw that gaudy ship of yours in town, guess you’re here too?” Qrow said.

            “I’m standing right before you.” Winter said, unflinching.

            “So, it would seem.” Qrow wasn’t convinced, he was drunk.

            “You realize you just destroyed Atlas military property?”

            “Ohhh…” Qrow feigned guilt and realization. “I’m sorry, see, I mistook this for some sort of… sentient garbage.” He gestured to two tin cans that were destroyed by his feet.

            “I don’t have time for your immature games, Qrow.” Winter put a hand on her hip.

            “I’m sensing some real sexual tension here.” I said. Weiss and Ruby looked at me with disgust. “Kidding.” I held my hands up in surrender. Not.

            “Jeeze, you Atlas Specialists think you’re so special, don’t you?”

            “It’s in the title.”

            “Well, you know what you really are? A bunch of sellouts, just like your boss.” Qrow’s eyes narrowed.

            “I’m not sure what you think you’re implying, but I’ve heard enough.”

            “Oh, I heard too, one Grimm attack that caused no fatalities and Ironwood gets a ‘safety boner’ and throws Ozpin under the bus.”

            “Ozpin wouldn’t know safety if it smacked him in the face. That’s why I am here.”

            “Oh, that’s what you’re here for? To protect us? Hear that everyone? Our lives are in the very capable hands of Winter Schnee!” Qrow looked around the crowd. “Oh, hey Ruby.”

            Ruby got giddy. “Hey uncle Qrow!”

            “Hey kiddo, sorry, we need to catch up later, I got unfinished business.” Qrow turned back to Winter.

            “And what about this is unfinished?” Winter asked.

            “I’m not done praising the glorious Atlas military, you know, the one led by a fool that has done nothing so far but make people nervous and agitate more Grimm.”

            Winter narrowed her eyes. “If you won’t hold your tongue,” She drew her sword and pointed it at Qrow. “Then I will gladly remove it for you!” She growled.

            Qrow smiled. “Alright then,” He moved his bangs out of his face. “Come take it!”

            Winter charged Qrow. They were fighting.

            “And she was getting on your case for missing strikes.” I said.

            Weiss tried to defend her sister, but no words came out, she couldn’t.

            Qrow jumped away from Winter to dodge and landed in front of Ruby. “Hey, kiddo, I saw your first match.” He blocked one of Winter’s strikes without looking. “You were great out there.” He ruffled her hair.

            “Thanks!” Ruby said.

            Qrow turned around to block a strike from Winter. “Are you not taking this fight seriously?!?” Winter screamed. “Who am I kidding, you never took things seriously!”

            “Nope!” Qrow agreed.

            “Art, if you’re right I’m going to throw up.” Weiss said.

            The two professionals continued to fight. Qrow pausing occasionally to wave or give a thumbs up to Ruby. Which only further infuriated Winter.

            “Kick her but uncle Qrow!” Ruby cheered.

            “Teach him respect Winter!” Weiss called.

            Winter got in a good hit on Qrow, causing his aura to ripple. Qrow smiled. “Wow, how’d you know I like it a little rough?”

            Winter’s eyes widened. “Stop smiling and fight me like you mean it!” Winter screeched. She was able to push him back, requiring him to dig his sword into the ground to stop his movement. Winter spun her sword and stabbed it into the ground. A glyph appeared and murder of mini-nevermore sprouted and charged Qrow. He covered his face and slashed instinctually but with purpose, then when he found some leeway, he fired a shot and slashed his sword at the same time sending a blade of wind dust to Winter. Winter dodged. Qrow frowned for the first time in the fight. “That’s more like it!”

            Another glyph appeared below Winter, this one larger and more intricate. The temperature in the courtyard dropped dramatically. Qrow smiled again and turned his sword into a scythe. Weiss and Ruby started shivering immediately so I casted Warmth. Winter’s glyph started spinning rapidly, and ghostly white chains started rising from the edges of it. Under Winter, an eye opened within the spinning glyph, the chains had deep blue and white fire swirling around them.

            Qrow tilted his head in surprise, then he fully sheathed his weapon, clipping it to his back. He leaned forward slightly and gave a come get it gesture.

            Winter’s face was pure rage. She screamed. “Perso-!”

            “SCHNEE!” It was Ironwood.

            Winter’s glyph disappeared and the temperature went back to normal. Winter looked shocked for a moment, then turned around to face her superior. She tried to keep a face of stone, but I could tell she was boiling underneath. “General Ironwood, sir!” She stood at attention.

            “What the hell do you think you’re doing, summoning your Persona near civilians?” Ironwood chastised.

            “He started the altercation sir!”

            “That’s actually not true, she attacked first.” Qrow placed his hands on the back of his head, looking very relaxed.

            “Is that right?” Ironwood asked. Winter looked ashamed. Ironwood looked around the crowd that had gathered, everyone had concerned and maybe even scared faces. Ironwood then turned his attention to Qrow. “And you.”

            Qrow feigned a Who? Me? Expression and gesture.

            “What are you doing here?” Ironwood lowered his voice.

            “I could be asking you the same thing.”

            “I-“

            “Now, now everyone!” Ozpin projected his voice; he was flanked by Glynda. “There is a sanctioned fight happening just around the corner at the colosseum, that I can assure you has better seats… and popcorn.” He incentivized.

            “Break it up everyone! We will take care of this mess!” Glynda growled.

            “Let’s go.” Ironwood said to Winter and began walking to the tower.

            There was an orange haired girl with Ironwood, his daughter probably? She waved to Ruby and Ruby waved back with a smile.

            Ironwood noticed this. “Penny, is that Ruby Rose, your friend that you talked about?”

            “Yes sir.” Penny answered.

            Ironwood looked at Ruby with narrowed eyes. “You can stay with her until I get back, do not get yourself into trouble.” Ironwood… looked… guilty?

            “Really?” Penny looked overjoyed.

            Ironwood just nodded and continued walking.

            Penny ran to Ruby and hugged her. “Ruby!”

            “Penny!” Ruby then turned her attention to Qrow. “One second Penny.” Ruby charged Qrow. “UNCLE QROW!” She hugged him. “Hi. AHHH! It’s so good to see you! Did you miss me? Did you miss me?”

            Qrow smiled. “Nope.” He ruffled her hair. Ruby unhanded him.

            “Qrow!” Ozpin called. “A word please.”

            Qrow leaned to Ruby. “I think I’m in trouble.”

            “You did kind of fight an Atlas Specialist in the middle of the school.” Ruby shrugged.

            Qrow winked. “Yeah, I did. Catch you later kid.” He fist-bumped her. He walked to Ozpin.

            “Artorias! I think it’s best that you come too.” Ozpin called.

            I flinched. “Uhh, sure thing.” I walked to him.

            Qrow seemed to notice me for the first time. “Hunter? The hell are you doing here?”

            “A good question.” I said, then just kept walking. “That I’m not going to answer in public.”

            “Uhh, see you later Art?” Ruby called and waved.

            I half-heartedly waved back at her.

            Qrow, Ozpin, Glynda and I walked to the tower. Qrow kept glancing at me with confusion the whole way. Then we got in the elevator. “Ok, what is the kid doing here?” Qrow asked.

            Ozpin sighed. “We will discuss that too, in time.”

            “Huh,” Qrow took out his flask and took a sip.

            The elevator doors opened, we all stepped out. Ironwood and Winter were already there, Winter was pacing and stopped when we walked in. “What were you thinking?” she asked Qrow.

            “If you were one of my men, I would have you shot!” Ironwood added.

            “If I was one of your men, I’d shoot myself.” Qrow roasted.

            We all took our places in the room, Ozpin sat at his desk Glynda was at his side. I opted to lean against the wall off to the side, trying to hide.

            “While I wouldn’t condone his behavior, retaliating like you did, certainly didn’t help the situation.” Glynda folded her arms.

            “He was drunk!” Winter argued.

            “And that gives you justification to whip out a tier five semblance near a crowd of civilians?” I couldn’t stop myself from commenting.

            Winter looked at me with shock. Ironwood with confusion.

            “Quinton.” Ozpin held up his hand to get me to shut up. He sighed. “Qrow, why are you here?”

            Ironwood turned his attention back to Qrow. “You’ve been out of contact for weeks; you can’t just go dark like that in the field!”

            “I’m not one of your special operatives Jimmy.” Qrow answered.

            “General.” Winter corrected.

            “Whatever. You sent me to get intel on our enemy, and I’m telling you, our enemy is here.”

            Ironwood sighed and rested himself against the desk. “We know.”

            Qrow got sarcastically angry. “Oh, you know? Well thank goodness I’m out there risking my life to keep you all informed!”

            “Qrow!”

            “Communication is a two-way street pal.” He pulled out his black scroll and pointed to it. “You see this? That’s the send button.”

            “They had reason to assume you’ve been compromised.” Winter said.

            “And I have reason to assume you don’t need to be here!”

            Winter then pointed to me. “And the kid does?”

            I flinched. The room went silent, all eyes turned to me. Ironwood then glanced to Ozpin. “Why is the boy here?”

            I looked at Ozpin too, expecting him to give the answer. Ozpin instead just nodded to me. He wanted me to answer, it was a test. I thought for a moment, then sighed. I looked at Winter, if I was going to tell her she doesn’t have the security clearance to know why I’m here might as well roast her while I’m at it. “Winter Schnee. Weiss’s sister.” Winter narrowed her eyes at me. “Weiss doesn’t talk about her family a lot, and when she does its usually pretty vague… But what she has said hasn’t exactly painted you four in the most positive light.” I narrowed my eyes at her. “You are already on my bad side, and it would behoove you to not stay there, I suggest you start making an effort by respecting me a little more.”

            “And why the hell would I do that!” She stepped forward. As did Ironwood, he didn’t like my tone either.

            I pulled out my black scroll and waved it. Her eyes went wide. “Because I outrank you cold stuff. You don’t even have the clearance to know why I’m here, so I suggest you get the fuck out of this office.” I gestured to the elevator.

            “Listen here you little shit!” Winter growled. Qrow smiled.

            Ironwood sighed and place a hand on Winter’s shoulder. “Schnee, we will discuss this incident back on my ship.”

            “But sir!” Winter protested.

            “Winter. Leave.”

            Winter reluctantly saluted. She then stiffly turned to walk out, but not without some dangerous looks to Qrow and myself.

            “Go on.” Ironwood said to me.

            “That can wait Ironwood.” Ozpin cut in. “Qrow, there is something else you need to tell us, isn’t there?”

            Qrow glanced at me, then back to Ozpin. “Your little infiltrator, isn’t just another pawn, she’s the one responsible for autumn’s condition.” Qrow took a drink.

            “What?” Glynda asked.

            “Autumn’s condition?” I asked.

            Eyes were on me again. Ozpin then explained how Amber, the previous fall maiden, had part of her power stolen.

            I thought for a moment. “Qrow, how did you find this out?”

            Qrow giggled. “Well, you’re not going to believe this, but Roman Torchwick of all people told me.”

            “The criminal? One of the most dangerous people in Vale?” Ironwood clarified.

            “Yeah, apparently his daughter goes to this school, guess he doesn’t like the idea of one of Salem’s four horseman walking the same halls as her, so he gave me some intel, not enough to lead me straight to her identity though, he’s still trying to protect himself, but it was enough for me.”

            Ozpin and Glynda looked at me. I sighed. “His daughter is my girlfriend.” I offered.

            “Well shit, small world I guess.” Qrow then cleared his throat. “What impressed me though was that he was discreet about it.” He looked to Ironwood. “He was, because it’s what works, even he of all people knew how to fight Salem.” He approached Ironwood. “Which is something you still have a hard time understanding James.”

            “Qrow.” Ironwood said.

            “Is that what you thought you were being when you brought your whole fucking army to Vale? Discreet?”

            Ironwood sighed. “Discreet wasn’t working.” He placed his scroll on Ozpin’s desk, a hologram in the middle of the room representing the fleet and colosseum appeared in the center of the room. “I am here because this is what was necessary.” Ironwood gestured.

            “You’re here because Ozpin wanted you here!” Qrow pointed at Ozpin. “He made you apart of this inner circle and opened your eyes to the real fight that’s in front of us.”

            “I am here because there was an organized Grimm invasion in the middle of the city, the culprit of which has yet to be found!”

            “An invasion that I snuffed out!” I stepped forward. “Not your tin cans. Do you think that your hollow men stand a chance against actual fucking magic and monsters?”

            “My fleet makes the people of this kingdom feel safe.” Ironwood argued.

            “No, it doesn’t. They saw one fucking kid take down a Grimm invasion.” Qrow pointed to me. “And now they see a whole fucking army that you’re telling them is meant to take down the same kind of threat. All you’re doing is telling the people exactly how deep in the shit humanity is.”

            “Qrow, Quinton, please.” Ozpin requested. “Calm yourselves. Although they are right Ironwood, there is an energy in the air now. Just recognize that.”

            Ironwood sighed. “I was put in charge of security by the counsels, so I decide how to keep the people safe for the duration of the festival.”

            “A counsel you hold two seats on.” I said.

            “Que!” Ozpin said.

            I rolled my eyes, guess Neo was rubbing off on me. Ironwood was being a dumbass thinking that his tin cans would do anything against Salem. He was doing more harm than good, and I held him to a higher standard than he was meeting.

            Ironwood looked at me. “I have to ask again; what is the boy doing here?”

            “And since when is your name Quinton?” Qrow asked.

            “You asked when we met if I picked Artorias myself, the answer is yes. I picked it because I wanted to start anew, be a new person. The only reason Ozpin calls me by my birthname is because he’s trying to make a point. If you guys could call me Artorias though, that would be great.”

            “But why are you here?” Ironwood asked again.

            “I am the chosen wielder of the Relic of Destruction.” I hope that sounded badass. I said then thought.

            “Oz?” Qrow asked for confirmation.

            Ozpin nodded. “It seems as though Clare stole the Relic from Shade. Then, after meeting this boy, gave it to him.”

            “And you’re going to just let him keep it?” Ironwood demanded.

            “You don’t have a choice.” I said.

            “Like hell I’m going to let a child wield one of the four most powerful artifacts on the planet.” Ironwood approached me.

            “You don’t think I tried that?” Glynda chimed in.

            “Are you telling me this boy bested you?”

            “Yes.” Glynda’s face was stone as always.

            “Well you certainly found a way to make up the power difference.” Qrow said to me.

            “Yes, I did.”

            “What do you mean?” Ironwood said.

            “I don’t have an aura.”

            “Do you mean that Marcus got to you?” Ironwood asked.

            “No, what? Who?”

            Ozpin rose from his chair. “Let’s not worry about that now. The point is, is that Quinton is on our side. As much as I don’t like the Relic being out and about, the weapon is bound to him via Clare’s magic, unless he dies, he is the only one that can use its power. Glynda has also proved that killing him is easier said than done.”

            “You tried to kill a kid?” Qrow asked.

            “Yes, would you stand for a child having the power to destroy the planet?” Glynda pointed out. I still didn’t fully disagree with her.

            “I still wouldn’t kill him.” Qrow drank.

            Ozpin walked to the center of the room, the clicks of his cane gave off an ominous air, he took Ironwood’s scroll off his desk and gave it back to him, the hologram disappeared. “Now that that is settled. There is also another matter to discuss. I believe it’s time we chose our guardian.”

            “Guardian?” I asked.

            Ironwood sighed. “We believe we have found a way to artificially transfer what’s left of Amber’s maiden powers to another person.”

            “All we need is the right candidate.” I finished.

            “Yes.”

            “Pyrrha Nikos.”

            “Yes, I suppose great minds think alike.” Ozpin said. “She is my first choice.”

            “I agree.” Glynda nodded.

            “Well, if she’s your girl, I’m not gonna argue. This isn’t exactly my forte.” Qrow pitched in, lazily holding his hands up in surrender.

            “I still say it should be Penny.” Ironwood said. “She was made using the aura transfer technology, we know she can survive the process.”

            “Made?” I asked.

            “Penny Polendina is the first synthetic human capable of generating an aura.”

            “Synthetic human? And let me guess, she was created for the sole purpose of being a dog of the military.”

            “Yes, as a matter of fact.” Ironwood paced. “She is an extremely powerful living weapon that will not age, the perfect candidate.”

            “Do you realize how fucked that is?”

            “Quinton, while I agree with your sentiment on the morality of it all, he has a point. A very valid one at that.” Ozpin said. “But regardless of your compelling argument James, you are outvoted. Pyrrha Nikos will be the next fall maiden.”

            “Fine, have it your way, but if Pyrrha denies. It will be Penny.” Ironwood said.

            “She won’t James.” I said.

            James seemed irritated by me calling him such an informal name. “I suppose we shall see in due time.”

==================================================

            Weiss sat across from Winter. They were drinking tea at a table in Beacon garden. They were the only ones there, as tournament matches were still underway. There was silence, only a bird chirped occasionally. The tension was palpable. Neither of the sisters knew how to break the silence in a way that wasn’t volatile, even so…

            Winter cleared her throat. “What… made you decide to start showing your wings?”

            Weiss thought, it was Ozpin that requested it of her, but it was really so much more. “Cutting off my wings…” Winter winced. “Is such a morbid action, I had to stop doing it.”

            “I agree… I understand that… that wasn’t an easy choice to make.”

            “You understand?” Weiss said with hostility.

            Winter backed down. “I… guess I don’t, I’m sorry.”

            “I was cutting off an appendage Winter! Burning a part of myself, and you thought it was ok? You even told me I had to do it…” Weiss’s voice cracked.

            Winter squeezed her eyes shut. “Yes, I did.”

            “Why? Why did you tell me to do that?” Weiss pleaded.

            “Because I’m afraid of father.” Winter opened her eyes. “Just as you are. I never wanted you to cut off your wings, denying that part of yourself has only caused you problems, in more ways than one.”

            Weiss’s lip trembled.

            “Which is why I am so proud of you for leaving.” She grabbed Weiss’s hand from across the table. “I know from experience how hard that is. You came here, became part of a team, made friends, you even got into the tournament. You have grown so much stronger in more ways than even you know.”

            “I’m not as strong as you think, I’ve depended so much on my friends, I should have been the one to stop you from slapping me, not Art.”

            Winter looked down and let go of Weiss’s hand. “I’m sorry.” She had been Pavlov’d by her father to think doing that was right.

            “Even my ranking has been because my friends have helped me train, I shouldn’t even be close to number three but Goodwitch gives me extra points for participating so much.”

            “Weiss, even if you don’t think you are strong enough now. You can be eventually, if you work hard at it. How is your summoning going?”

            “I can’t! I still can’t no matter how much I try!” Weiss got frustrated.

            “Weiss.” Winter grabbed both of her sister’s hands. “Calm down… And don’t say you can’t, every Schnee has the ability to summon.” Winter then looked away, realizing her mistake too late, just piling more expectations and pressures onto her sister.

            “I guess I’m just not a real Schnee.”

            “Stop thinking like that! Your semblance is Summoner’s Glyphs, a tier five semblance passed down through generations. You can summon, and hopefully gods willing, one day you will even awaken to your Persona.”

            “I can’t even afford to think about that if I haven’t even summoned a part of a Grimm.”

            “Well then, would you like to try right now?”

            “I can’t!”

            “No, we are doing this, right now.” Winter stood up. “Let’s go.”

            Winter led Weiss to the sparring classroom, she knew the way. They got Weiss’s weapon out of her locker on the way there.

            Winter directed Weiss to stand in the middle of the arena. Weiss was rubbing her arm and looking down. Winter stood tall with her hands behind her back. “Now, do you remember what we have discussed about summoning.”

            “Yes, you-“

            “Pick your head up! Eye contact!”

            Weiss looked at Winter. “You said that I would have to think to my fallen foes that have made an emotional impact on me. The ones that pushed me past who I was and made me become who I now am.”

            “Good. You remember. Now I want you to summon that knight, the Geist Grimm that possessed that decorative suit of armor that day. You have been different since that battle. Think to that difference.”

            Weiss breathed in, she spun around and stabbed her weapon into the ground, a glyph appeared on the floor in front of her, it started spinning.

            After about a minute a tip of a sword rose from the center of the glyph. “Yes Weiss, that’s it, focus more.”

            Weiss closed her eyes and her face grimaced. Then it broke. The glyph disappeared. “I can’t.”

            “Stop that you buffoon! It is obvious that you have gotten stronger these past months, but you are still having a block. What is it?”

            “I don’t know!”

            “What is preventing you from thinking about the Grimm knight?”

            “I’m not- I don’t know.”

            Winter had a moment of realization. “It wasn’t the Grimm knight that day, was it?”

            “What do you mean?”

            “It wasn’t the Grimm knight that made an impression on you, you were fighting something else that day.”

            “No, that knight was the only thing that I fought that day.”

            “I’m saying that you didn’t fight that knight at all.”

            “What?”

            “When you were stabbing that knight to death, you weren’t seeing the knight in front of you, were you?”

            Weiss’s eyes widened and her pupils got small. “What do you mean?”

            “What were you thinking of when you drove your sword into that armor?

            “Nothing, I-“

            “What Weiss?”

            “I-“

            “Who?!?”

            “Father!”

            “Summon now!”

            Weiss did, the suit of armor animalistically crawled out of the spinning glyph and stood tall. Massive sword in hand, ready for battle.

            “Perfect.” Winter smiled.

            Weiss fell to her knees. Winter walked over and hugged her. “Is isn’t how I wanted it.” Weiss said.

            “No… but this was an important step for you to take, you will never reach your full potential unless you fully accept all aspects of yourself, even the more shameful parts that you would rather lock away.”

            “I don’t want to kill anyone.”

            “No, you don’t want to be a killer, there is a difference. It’s ok to want to hurt people, rain down your justice and make them atone for what they’ve done. What matters is how you act on those thoughts. Killing father would be wrong, but I do not blame you for wanting to.”

            “Accepting myself…”

            “Yes, after summoning your enemies, comes your Persona. When you summon your Persona, you are summoning yourself Weiss. And you won’t be able to do that if you are not whole. Your Persona is a manifestation of who you are, the embodiment of your will. If you don’t understand who you are and what you want, you will never truly grow.” Winter let go of Weiss and helped her up. “A wise man named Mahayana once wrote: ‘Until you accept reality, you will always fail to change it. Your eyes must see truth, if you are to make your own.’ Take that message to heart Weiss.”

===============================================

            Qrow and I walked to the dorm building together. “So, are you friends with my nieces?” Qrow asked.

            “Yeah, our friend group consists on myself, Neo, team JNPR, and team RWBY.”

            “Neo’s your girl?”

            “More like I’m her man.”

            Qrow giggled. “I know that feel.”

            “You and Winter totally dated right?”

            Qrow sighed. “It was one night.”

            I laughed. “Well then, it really do be like that sometimes.”

            “That it do kid, that it do… How have my nieces been?... I know they won’t be fully honest with me.”

            “Yang seems perfectly fine… but Ruby misses you a lot. I think she needs you more than you know.”

            “I do know, I just can’t as much as I would like to.”

            I nodded. “She just gets really lonely sometimes, despite being surrounded by friends. It’s not great for her.”

            Qrow nodded. “Her father requested that I don’t see her too much, I’m not exactly the best influence, not to mention my semblance.”

            “By the way, I told Ruby what your semblance was… It just kind of came up in conversation.”

            Qrow sighed. “Its fine. She was going to find out eventually… Thank you though, for being her friend.”

            “You should thank Weiss more so than me.”

            “Yeah,” Qrow smiled. “Couldn’t believe Winter’s little sister became Ruby’s partner.”

            “That ‘partner’ may have a double meaning soon enough.” I laughed.

            “You don’t mean…”

            “They’ll date when their older, don’t go into protective dad mode just yet.”

            “I’m actually not even related to Ruby.”

            “Blood relation doesn’t matter.” I dismissively waved my hand. “From what I’ve heard, you might as well be Ruby’s dad.”

            Qrow sighed again. “I guess you’re right in a way… Tai always favored Yang.”

            “It shows.”

            “Yeah it does.”

            We made it to team RWBY’s dorm room. We knocked on the door. Ruby opened up and immediately hugged Qrow. “You’re back! Did you get in trouble with Professor Ozpin?”

            Qrow ruffled her hair again, seemed to be his signature ‘showing affection’ move. “Nah, me and Oz go way back. We’re cool.”

            “Yeah, cool for an old guy.” Yang said, she was playing on her scroll, laying on Blake’s bed next to Blake, who was reading.

            “Not funny.”

            “What about you Art?” Ruby changed to a scolding tone. “Did you get in trouble with Oz?”

            “Yes, very, I will be in solitary confinement for the next ten years and forced to read the poetry of Guru Mahayana over and over again.” I said sarcastically.

            “Fine, don’t tell me, want to play some video games?”

            “Kick your butts? Sure.” Qrow said. We walked into the dorm and Qrow noticed the beds. “This can’t be safe…”

            “They only look unstable.” Blake said.

            “So, you’re Blake Belladonna?”

            Blake quickly glanced up from her book and back down. “Yes.”

            “Well, I’m Yang and Ruby’s uncle. Qrow Branwen.”

            “Nice to meet you.”

            I leaned to Qrow and whispered. “We already know about her past, we sorted it out.”

            Qrow nodded.

            “You know I can hear you.” Blake said. Her cat ears moved to accentuate her point.

            “It’s called being polite.” I said.

            “Enough of that, let’s play.” Ruby begged.

            “Just to warn you Art, I am a master.” Qrow boasted.

            Ruby stifled a giggle.

            “Oh ho? Are you challenging me? Instead of cowering in fear you are issuing a challenge?” I said.

            “Oh, you’re on kid.”

            We started playing.

            “You have got to be kidding me.” Qrow buried his face in his hands.

            “Cannot face the power of the Doryah?” I taunted.

            “That’s not what that move is called.” Yang said.

            “It is what it do Yang, and that move Doryah’s.”

            “Qrow, don’t get distracted, you were about to tell us a story.”

            “Oh right,” Qrow and I continued with our second match out of three. “I come across a small village in the swamps west of Mistral. Right off the bat, I knew something wasn’t right.”

            “Oh, this one isn’t about me.” I sighed I relief.

            “Shh, don’t interrupt.” Ruby said. “So, what were you doing there?”

            “I needed information, tired from battling Grimm along the way, I decided to start my search at the town’s inn. That place was crawling with lowlifes and thugs, even a few huntsmen who were probably hired by less than reputable people for less than respectable jobs. And that’s when it happened.” Qrow paused for dramatic effect.

            “What happened?” Yang asked.

            “I was defeated… by the mere sight… of the innkeeper’s skirt length!”

            Yang threw a pillow at Qrow and he caught it, “You are the worst!” lucky the game just finished, he won. We started laughing.

            “What was your last mission about though? What are you doing back from it? Dad said you would be on it for, like, ever.” Ruby asked.

            “Well a professional huntsman like myself is expected to get results as soon as possible, isn’t that right Art?” Qrow said.

            I nodded. “Absolutely, when I was wandering Mistral as a hunter, I was finishing jobs left and right, and that speed improved my reputation dramatically. I wanna tell you, we may be becoming book smart at this school, but in terms of actual experience, a day out there is worth a week in here.” Qrow nodded in agreement.

            “Yeah, I get that. We went on a mission of our own and saved a town from a Grimm invasion. We’re practically pros already.” Ruby said.

            “Pros huh? The only one even close to being a pro here is Art, and even he’s still an idiot.” Qrow jabbed a thumb at me.

            “Mean.” I protested. “But fair.”

            “You can slay Grimm and stop dust shop robberies all the live long day but what really makes you hunters and huntresses is how you think about what you are doing.”

            “What do you mean?” Yang asked.

            “Did you notice what happened to Vale after that Grimm attack?”

            “Dust shop robberies stopped completely, I’m suspicious too.” I said.

            “Exactly, maybe I spoke to soon Art. After that Grimm attack, organized crime in the kingdom dropped off the face of the map, including White Fang activity. Don’t you think that’s odd?”

            “Well yeah. I guess.” Ruby scratched the back of her head.

            Blake chimed in. “Whenever an organized group stops operating for any period of time that just means that they are planning something. It’s not because they are taking a break or anything, it’s just unwise to make further plans without knowing if your previous plans were successful. And considering how much crime has stopped and for how long, they are planning something big.”

            “So, I take it she’s the brains of the team.” Qrow observed. “But yeah, they are planning something big, do you see what I’m getting at?”

            “You want us to think about the big picture more.” Yang said.

            “I’m curious as to why the Vale branch of the White Fang hasn’t seemed to fall apart. After Blake killed Adam, I expected them to scatter.” I said.

            “Art!” Yang chastised.

            “It’s fine Yang.” Blake raised a hand. “But if you ask me, they are probably just regrouping, Sienna has probably already found a…uhm… replacement for Adam and they are just making sure the transition of power goes smoothly.”

            “True.” Qrow said. “But don’t you think the relatively long period of time after Adam’s death that they operated smoothly is odd?”

            “I guess so, I didn’t really think about it.”

            “And that’s exactly it, you didn’t think about it. Class dismissed.”

            “What, you a teacher now?” I said and grinned.

            “I was a teacher, I taught at Signal where these two went.” He pointed at Yang and Ruby.

            “Keyword ‘was’.” Yang said. “Our papers always reeked of booze after he graded them.”

            “Hey, I resent that.” Qrow retorted.

            Ruby looked sad.

            Qrow noticed. “Hey… Pipsqueak…” Ruby picked her head up. “I want to say… for what it’s worth I’m sorry for leaving.” Qrow apologized.

            “No, I get it. You had important missions to go on.” Ruby said, but her tone betrayed her words, she didn’t get it. “I get it…” Tears welled up in her eyes.

            “Ruby…” Qrow got up.

            “I get it…” Ruby ran into the bathroom and locked herself in.

            “Well, Shit.” Qrow looked down. “I… guess I should leave…” He stood up.

            “Are you fucking kidding me?” I said.

            “What?”

            “You need to talk to her.” Yang said.

            “What is there for me to say?”

            “It’s not about what you have to say, it’s about what Ruby has to say.” Yang continued. I nodded in agreement.

            “What do you want me to do?”

            “Just listen.”

            “Let’s leave you two be.” I stood up. “Common Blake, independent reading time is over.” I waved my hand.

            Blake rolled her eyes. “Fine.” She got up.

            Yang, Blake and I left the room, closing the door behind us.

=============================================

            Qrow sighed. Getting told by a bunch of kids? Awful. He turned to the bathroom door. He could faintly hear Ruby sniffling. He had hurt her, he knew that. He should have just quit Oz’s war, adopted her like he wanted, but he didn’t, and here were the consequences. He approached the door and knocked softly. “Ruby.” He called.

            “Just leave me alone, you’ve never had a problem doing that before.” Ruby said.

            Her words stung. “And that’s exactly why I can’t now.”

            “Just say what you want to, get it over with.”

            “I don’t have anything to say. Yang told me this has to do with what you want to say.” Qrow paused for her response, she was quiet. “You have the floor Ruby, say what you want, speak your mind, yell at me.”

            The door swung open, Qrow took a step back from the angry Ruby. “You want me to yell at you? Fine! I overhear your conversation with dad before I went to school.” Qrow flinched. “My whole life you knew how miserable I was living with dad, he never looked at me the way you do, he never loved me! He always said I reminded him of my mom, I didn’t even know what I was doing wrong!”

            “You weren’t doing anything wrong.” Qrow tried. It was tough in some ways to watch your best friend grow up all over again, but in others it was a blessing, Qrow tended to look at the blessings more.

            “I barely even remember mom! How was I supposed to know?” She held her own head.

            “Ruby…” Qrow hugged her.

            Ruby started weakly hitting him. “Why didn’t you take me with you? You even said you wanted to! Why? Why didn’t you care?”

            “I di-” Qrow tried insisting that he did care but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He questioned his own resolve. Did he care? If he did would he have forsaken Ozpin and adopted her? What was his own standard?

            “And Yang didn’t even notice! She didn’t care, she always just laughed with him at my expense! She always just gave me cookies and told me everything was ok when it wasn’t! She never understood, she always had dad doting on her and even Raven visited her sometimes!”

            “What?”

            “Yang had her to teach her how to use her bird powers, but mom wasn’t there to teach me how to use my stupid silver eyes! I didn’t have anyone…” Ruby was tiring herself out, her voice was going hoarse. “You left me without anyone…”

            Qrow hugged her tighter. “I’m sorry Ruby, I’m so sorry. Please don’t think that you are alone.”

            “But I am!”

            “No, you have your friends, you have Weiss, and now you have me, I’m not going to leave you again Ruby, ok?”

            “You won’t leave?” Ruby looked at Qrow in disbelief.

            “Not this time Ruby, I promise.”

======================================================

            Blake, Yang and I walked back to my dorm so that Blake didn’t involuntarily eavesdrop, I unlocked the door and opened it. “Hey Neo.” I said.

            Neo stood up off her bed, walked over and kissed me. How are you feeling?

            “Still just weirdly sore, like all over as usual… I’m glad we opted out of the tournament.” I laid down on my bed.

            “That’s why you opted out of the tournament?” Yang asked, she always seemed personally offended by our decision whenever it came up.

            “Kinda and kinda not, at the time I just didn’t want to raise any eyebrows with me not having an aura and all.” Blake shrugged at my explanation and went to sit down on Neo’s bed, and opened her book. “But it has also become increasingly apparent that my powers are taking their toll on my body, I don’t want to push it.” Especially if Cinder gets the rest of the fall maiden powers. I silently added.

            “I guess I can relate to that, with how my semblance works and all.” Yang said.

            “Anyway, Neo.” I looked to her. “For context, Ruby and Yang’s uncle is in town, and Ruby and him have some emotional shit they need to work out. That’s why Yang and Blake are here.” Neo shrugged and gestured on her own head where cat ears would be if she had them. I nodded. “So, yeah, seems like Ruby has more emotional baggage than she lets on.” Neo laid on my bed next to me and got comfortable.

            Yang sighed, grabbed one of the desk chairs, spun it around and sat in it. “Yeah, you could say that.” Yang pulled out her scroll. “I’m going to tell Weiss to come here so she doesn’t walk in on their emotional talk.”

            “You don’t think she should? She is Ruby’s super bestie.”

            “Probably not, this is between Qrow and her.”

            Blake shifted in her spot-on Neo’s bed then felt something under the pillow, she pulled it out. A bottle of chocolate syrup. She frowned at it. “You know there’s a ‘no eating’ rule in the dorms.”

            Aren’t you the one that reads smut? Neo signed with a grin. It’s not for eating.

            Blakes eyes widened and she gasped. She then threw it at us. It hit me right in the head. “Goddamn Blake.” I groaned.

            Yang laughed loudly. “What I wouldn’t give to have a team with just me and a hypothetical girlfriend.”

            I then pointed at Blake and looked between the two, Yang stuck her tongue out at me. I took out my scroll. “Countn’ it.” I said and added the point. “Another point for Bumbleby.” Neo looked over in curiosity.

            “Could you not.” Blake looked at me with narrow eyes.

            “What?”

            “Do that.”

            “Like I’m not going to do this.”

            Blake growled.

            “Ok, I’ll bite.” Yang caved. “What’s the scores lookn’ like?” She smiled.

            “Well, Flour Power is in first with a whopping one thousand thirty-six points. White Rose in second with nine hundred and sixty-four. Arkos in third with eight hundred and eighty-one. And get this, Bumbleby in fourth with seven hundred and thirty-two,” Blake had murder in her eyes. “Black Sun in fifth with seven hundred and twenty. You and Sun gotta get your shit together, Yang is hard carrying her own ship.”

            “I hate you.” Blake went back to her book. “I notice you aren’t including Neo and yourself, biased?”

            We don’t have to keep score, we’re canon. Neo signed and stuck her tongue out.

            “Then we go down the list, a lot of these are just abandoned…” I though aloud. “Man, Lancaster just fell off the map after the summer camp… what happened?”

            “What do you mean? Ruby and Jaune are still really friendly towards each other.” Yang asked.

            Yeah, friendly. Neo signed. Any sexual tension that used to be there is gone now.

            “Can you please not use the word ‘sexual’ when referring to my fifteen-year-old sister.” Yang requested with a sigh. Neo shrugged.

            “Well, we are trying to be an anime…” I mumbled. “You got Glynda x Ozpin with three hundred and two points.” I continued.

            “Eww.” Yang said.

            “What?”

            “Aren’t they like thirty years apart?”

            “Wait, Oz is that old?”

            “Yeah dude he’s like eighty.”

            “Ok, your right, gross. He really looks good for his age though.” I looked down the chart more. “And today we have our most recent edition of Snowbird with three points.”

            “Snowbird?”

            “Qrow x Winter.”

            “No, no, no, no, no.” Yang shook her head.

            I laughed.

            There was a knock on the door. “Come in!” Yang said.

            Weiss opened the door and was followed by Winter. Winter looked at me. “You…” she growled.

            “What happened?” Weiss looked between us.

            Winter sighed. “Classified.”

            “Uhh… of course.” Weiss turned back to us. “So why can’t we go back to the dorm?”

            “Qrow and Ruby are having a much-needed talk.” Yang said. Winter’s eyes narrowed. “They should be done now, let’s go.”

            We all got up and started walking.

            “Sooo… you’re Winter huh?” Yang said.

            “Yes, I am Winter Schnee, Atlas Specialist.” Winter glanced at Yang.

            “I have to say, I’m watching you.” Yang pointed at her own eyes then pointed at Winter.

            “Why?”

            “The Weiss Protection Squad was established shortly after we all found out Weiss was a Faunus. Meant to prevent her from facing any and all discrimination.” Blake said. Winter seemed to just notice Blake’s ears. “From anyone.” Blake glared at Winter.

            “Guys, stop, its fine.” Weiss said. “Winter is the only one in my family that doesn’t want me to hide who I am.”

            “Really?” I asked.

            Winter cleared her throat. “Yes, even so I admit that I did not do as much as I could… to help the situation.”

            “Well I guess I do owe you an apology then. I’m sorry for being rude.”

            “That’s why you were rude?”

            “Yeah.”

            “I see… I accept your apology.”

            “What was that?” Yang asked.

            “Classified.” Winter and I said in unison. I giggled.

            “So, are you not going to try and fight my sister again?” Weiss asked me.

            “Perhaps.”

            “I am curious of your combat level though…” Winter said. “I doubt I will ever get that answer though.”

            “Yeah, I don’t think the sparring room is durable enough.”

            Winter almost grinned.

            We got to the dorm and Weiss swung open the door. “Ruby are you ok?”

            Qrow and Ruby were hugging, Qrow let go of her and allowed Weiss to take his place. “Yeah…” Ruby wiped some tears from her eyes. “I am… Thank you Weiss.” Ruby hugged her tightly. “So much.”

            “Qrow.” Winter said in a low tone and squinted her eyes.

            “Winter.” Qrow returned.

            “Alright noons let’s call it a truce.” I said and stepped between them.

            Qrow sighed. “Yeah.”

            Winter scoffed and stepped into the dorm. “These are not safe!” Winter was suddenly outraged. “This has been the state of your dorm for both of these semesters?”

            “They only look unstable.” Weiss said. “I told you.” She let go of Ruby.

            “Well, I gotta go talk to Ozpin about something. I’ll catch you all later.” Qrow lazily waved as he walked to her door.

            “Goodbye Qrow.” Winter said.

            “Whatever.” He left.

            “That was a little weak. Half point.” I brought out my scroll.

            “Don’t you dare.” Yang plucked my scroll out of my hand and deleted the entry, then tossing it back to me.

            “Well, I suppose it’s time we get down to business.” Winter sounded very military. “If you insist on having bunk beds then we will do it right.”

            We then all worked on upgrading team RWBY’s bunk beds. Winter used her glyphs to fuse the beds together somehow, despite them being wood.

Chapter Text

            Pyrrha leapt over her opponent, a generic looking second year from Haven. He shot at her, an electric dust bullet fired from a regular pistol, Pyrrha was disappointed. She parried the shot with her shield and sent it to Nora, she noticed and grabbed it out of the air. Nora smiled widely and her opponent, another generic male, stepped away in fear. As Art would say: Omae wa mō shinde iru. Pyrrha thought. Nora practically teleported behind her opponent and sent him out of bounds. His partner’s eyes widened then narrowed in anger.

            “HHUUURRRAAAH!” He charged. His attack was extremely telegraphed. Pyrrha didn’t even need her semblance to sidestep, another disappointment. She knocked his saif out of his hand and slapped him across the face with her shield. He tumbled to the ground. Nora then ran over and kicked him out of bounds.

            “High five girl!” Nora held up her hand. Pyrrha obliged with a slight smile.

            “And that’s the match, excellent play by our two heroines!” Oobleck said from the announcer’s stand. “Looks like team JNPR will be choosing one of their own to go onto the singles round.”

            Pyrrha sheathed her weapons and started walking to the exit. Nora pranced to her side. Nora leaned to look at Pyrrha’s face. She sighed. “I know that look.” Nora teased.

            “What look?” Pyrrha responded.

            “The ‘that fight wasn’t hard enough to be fun’ look.”

            “I have a look for that?”

            “Yeah! You wear it whenever you fight someone other than Neo.”

            Pyrrha sighed. “Well, I admit, I expected more from our opponents.”

            “I get that.” Nora tilted her head. “They were second years, I expected them to be at least team CFVY’s level.”

            “Yeah, me too. I wish Art and Neo were participating, at least I would look forward to the grand finals.”

            “Hey, give Yang more credit.”

            Pyrrha smiled. “Yeah, you’re right.”

            “Hey, why does Art look menacing right now?”

            “Huh?” Pyrrha looked forward, Art was leaning up against the wall in the hallway, his face looked grim. She picked up the pace. “What’s going on Art? You look stressed.”

            He looked up at Pyrrha. “Hey… I’m here to… fetch you I guess.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “Ozpin needs to talk to you.” He looked away. “So, do I… I guess.”

            “Uhh.” Nora patted Pyrrha on the shoulder. “This sounds kinda serious, I’m going to go see Renny.” She pranced away.

            Art sighed and waved his hand, beckoning Pyrrha to follow. She did, they walked in silence for a while. He led her to the elevator that was the entrance to Ozpin’s office. He pressed the button and stepped inside, Pyrrha tentatively stepped beside him. The elevators closed. Art looked down.

            “Are you not going to press the button?” Pyrrha asked.

            “Before we go up there are a couple of things you should know… First of all, you can say no. Remember that. There is no shame in abstaining, only in retreat.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “Second,” He continued. “This world holds many secrets that the public doesn’t know about. Because of this, Ozpin has made a secret brotherhood of sorts to deal with these secrets out of the public eye, and… about a week before the dance, for reasons I cannot yet say, I joined that brotherhood.”

            “Art?”

            “I’m sorry for keeping this from you, but please understand that I could not tell you.”

            “It’s… it’s fine…I just want to know what’s going on.” Pyrrha requested. She was feeling a pit in her stomach, what Art just said was the tip on an iceberg that extended to the bottom of the ocean, and she knew it.

            “Well then, let’s go up.” Art took out a black scroll, that felt wrong somehow, scrolls were white.

            “Welcome Quinton, which floor do you want to go to?” The elevator spoke.

            “Ozpin’s office please.”

            “Quinton?” Pyrrha asked as the elevator shot up.

            “My birth name from Earth, Ozpin insists on calling me by it, it’s really annoying.”

            So, he wasn’t lying about that at least. Pyrrha then felt bad, so quickly turning on Art. She suddenly just doubted everything Art ever told her. She shook her head, No, he would have good reasons, for whatever he’s kept from me. He’s still my adopted little cousin.

            The elevator dinged. Ozpin was sitting at his desk idly sipping coffee, another man was also there, messy black hair and light red eyes, he was leaning against one of the pillars off to the side. They walked into the room.

            “Hey, Qrow.” Art said as he took a place standing next to the man.

            “She doesn’t hate you now does she?” Qrow asked.

            Pyrrha shook her head. “No, I’m sure he had good reasons for keeping… whatever he has from me.”

            “Pyrrha, please, sit.” Ozpin gestured to a chair in front of his desk.

            Pyrrha did. The pit in her stomach grew.

            “I just saw your match, I’m very impressed. Also, it seems that your team has put you down as their choice for the singles round while you were on your way here.”

            “Yes sir, thank you. We decided I would go on beforehand.”

            “You were that confident that you would win? I guess that’s no surprise considering your immense skill.”

            “Thank you, sir, but I can only take a fourth of the credit, I wouldn’t be here without my team.”

            Qrow scoffed. “Are you going to lie to our faces, not a great first impression. Admit it, you are the hard carry.”

            “I don’t know what you mean by that.” Pyrrha felt like defending Jaune… and Ren and Nora.

            Qrow scoffed again and took a drink from a flask.

            “Professor, I have to ask: Why have you called me here, Artorias didn’t tell me.”

            “Be at ease Pyrrha, Quinton didn’t tell you because I asked him not to.” Ozpin said.

            Pyrrha got a bad taste in her mouth, her mouth tasted like metal when she was nervous, side effect of her semblance. She didn’t get nervous often, today was the exception.

            Ozpin paused for a moment and seemed to study her. “Tell me, what’s your favorite fairy tale?”

            “Pardon?”

            “Fairy tales, stories from your childhood. Surely you remember some of them, perhaps even had a favorite.”

            Pyrrha looked to Art for reassurance. Just play along. He signed quickly.

            “My favorite was always the story of the seasons; it was a favorite of Art and I’s grandmother.”

            Ozpin smiled, satisfied it seemed. “Of course, it was, she always had a thing for ironic humor.”

            “You knew Grandma Clare?”

            “I did. A long time ago. Would you believe it if I told you that story has been around since I was a boy?” Ozpin’s smile was warm, but it held pain beneath it, Pyrrha could see it.

            “Well yes,” Pyrrha nervously giggled, taking in every bit of levity she could in that moment. “That story has been around for thousands of years; I imagine you were told it when you were young.”

            Something about Ozpin’s smile changed, Pyrrha realized it, something she just said was a lie. Something that she just said wasn’t the truth, and that scared her. Everything she said should have been the truth, it should have been-

            “Well, would you believe me if I told you it was true.” Ozpin got serious.

            “I… beg your pardon?” Pyrrha resisted the urge to look at Art for reassurance again.

            “What if I were to tell you that there were four maidens existing in this world, that could wield such tremendous power, unlimited by dust or aura?”

            “Do you mean like a kind of semblance?” Pyrrha struggled to find a logical explanation for what she just heard.

            “No, I mean magic.” Ozpin raised his eyebrows. “Semblances are a part of you, no different from an arm or a leg in reality, limited in scope and ability and aura. Magic. Is so. Much. More.”

            Pyrrha’s eyes widened in shock, suddenly, so much clicked into place. This is how Artorias made up the difference. He has no aura or semblance, but magic is so much more. He discovered it somehow and that’s why Ozpin had to recruit him for whatever this brotherhood was. If the maidens were true, what prevented some of these other fairy tales from being the same… The story of the sword with a soul. Pyrrha realized.

            “Yeah, hearing it for the first time really takes you for a ride.” Qrow said.

            “You’re… serious?”

            “Do I look like I’m joking?” Ozpin didn’t.

            “…Why… Why are you telling me this?”

            Ozpin glanced at Art and Qrow. He breathed in, as though he was the one that needed calm. “I am telling you, Pyrrha Nikos, because we believe you are next in line to receive the fall maiden’s powers.”

            “We?”

            The elevator dinged. Its doors opened, revealing Goodwitch and General Ironwood. “Talk about dramatic timing.” Art muttered.

            Ironwood glared at Art. “Sorry we’re late.” They stepped inside.

            “Who are you? Who are you really?” Pyrrha pleaded.

            “You know who we are, we are still the same General, professors and… cousin. That you knew when you arrived at Beacon.”

            “Except we have a little part-time job.” Qrow said.

            “Speaking of which, when am I gonna get paid?” Art said, with some levity.

            “When you actually do something of use.” Ironwood roasted.

            “I’m just throwing in some humor.” Art surrendered. Pyrrha appreciated it, most of their friend group just tolerated Art’s brand of humor, not unlike Yang’s it was a little too dark or sarcastic or real for their liking. But Pyrrha appreciated it, because their humor reflected reality more.

            Ironwood sighed. “We are the protectors of this world.”

            “And we would like you to help us, if you are willing.” Ozpin finished.

            They took the elevator down, farther down than Pyrrha thought possible. The ride was long and uncomfortable, it didn’t help that the lift was a bit cramped with so many people. Pyrrha inched closer to Art. At least she trusted him. He always made his intentions clear. She didn’t know what to make of the other four people in this metal box with her. It still didn’t feel right though, Art was always just a guy, he always referred to himself as such, just a regular guy. How did he get caught up in all this? How did she? She was a combat prodigy sure, she understood that. Despite her humility on the matter she still understood that she was good. But good enough for this? Was Art? She didn’t really know where Art was at in terms of combat, he was good, but in some ways, he seemed disproportionately weak, and in others strong. Were those displays of weakness just a façade?

            Pyrrha’s though process was halted by the elevator. The doors slid open. What was before her was a large and dark hallway, with other hallways branching off. The group stepped out of the elevator. Pyrrha rubbed her arm and tried to ignore the taste of metal in her mouth. “What is this?” She asked.

            “The vault.” Art answered.

            That really didn’t answer her question but… she stepped out of the elevator to join them.

            The group started walking down the main hall. Art walked next to Qrow, Ozpin took the lead, Goodwitch and Ironwood walked next to each other. Goodwitch then slowed her pace slightly to walk next to Pyrrha.

            “I’m sure you have many questions.” She said.

            “Maybe just one or two.” Pyrrha thought aloud, maybe this was an invitation? “I don’t understand, you said I was next in line to receive the fall maiden’s powers. Could you elaborate?”

            Glynda proceeded to explain how old the powers were and how they were transferred, the other people chiming in when appropriate, or not.

            “Why are you telling me this now? Wouldn’t it be better to wait until I’ve graduated?”

            “I wondered the same thing.” Art answered. “The answer is that we’ve run out of time, Grimm are getting more powerful by the day. The current fall maiden is dying, and fast, and our enemies know it, there’s going to be a mad scramble for power soon, especially since she’s here at the school. Things could get dangerous for everyone if we don’t have our guardian. You. I would tell you more… but Ozpin like to play things close to the chest.” Pyrrha caught something in his voice, he was a guardian too, and he didn’t want to be.

            “The current fall maiden?”

            “She was attacked, and for the first time in recorded history, part of her power was stolen.” Qrow said, Art looked away.

            They reached the end of the hall. There was a terrifying machine there, one that had two pods the size of people. One of the pods was filled. “Amber.” Ozpin said. The woman in the pod had a terrible scar on her face.

            “We are using state of the art Atlas technology to keep her stable…” Ironwood said. “But there is a lot about this situation that is… unprecedented.”

            Pyrrha was about to say something but Art cut her off. “Could we stop being vague and cryptic? I get that we are a secret brotherhood and all, but this is just getting frustrating.”

            Ozpin sighed. “Then why don’t you explain it Quinton?”

            Art sighed. “Fine… Amber is dying, and one of two things is going to happen when she does. Either the power will seek out its other half. Or it will go to the next person normally. Either way, the power goes to a villain in this story. The killed usually have their killer in their last thoughts.”

            “And that would not be good, for anyone.” Ozpin finished.

            Pyrrha thought, she slowly walked to the pod where Amber laid. She placed her hand on the pod, she felt Amber’s heartbeat through the vibrations in the metal. It was so weak; she knew they were right. Her time is limited. “I’ll do it. I trust you.” She looked at Art. “If you believe this will help humanity… Then I will become your fall maiden.”

            There was silence. Art broke it after a while. “Please don’t agree to something if you don’t know all the details.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “You won’t be able to inherit her powers naturally… but Ironwood and his Atlassian scientists, have found a way to do it artificially. When a maiden’s power moves to the next host, their aura’s, their souls, combine.”

            “What this machine will do, if you accept, is it will forcefully combine your aura’s.” Ironwood said.

            “You’re going to rip her soul out of her?” Pyrrha was… disgusted.

            “I would normally agree,” Art said. “But think about it, if we don’t do this her soul will just end up merging with a villain. Lesser of two evils and all that.”

            “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” Goodwitch added.

            “And these are indeed desperate times.” Ironwood said.

            “Don’t do that James.” Art said. Pyrrha was surprised he called the General by his first name. “Pyrrha,” Art turned to her. “If you do this, there is not guarantee this will even work, you could get really hurt or even die.” His face was pained. “And if it does work, we don’t know what will happen to you. Will your souls combine? Will Amber’s just fade away and you get the powers? Or will yours fade away…” He let that comment hang.

            “Take some time kid.” Qrow said. “This isn’t a decision you should make when we’re around to pressure you. This is a big deal, bigger than you even know right now.”

            “But before the festival is over… we will need your answer.” Ozpin said with finality.

           =======================================

            Yang Xiao Long broke Mercury’s leg.

 

            Qrow flew through team RWBY’s dorm room window. Yang’s eyes followed him until he turned back into a human. “So, you can do that too huh?” Yang asked in a low tone.

            “Ruby told me you could, figured I wouldn’t keep it a secret anymore. From you at least.” Qrow responded. Yang looked away. “I have to ask, why’d you do it?”

            “You know why.”

            “Well… your statement really clashes with what everyone saw on tv, so either you’re lying, or your crazy.”

            “I’m not lying.”

            “Crazy it is…”

            “Who knows? Maybe I am… Blake seems to think so…”

            “Seems like she’s rubbing off on you, wanna dye your hair black?”

            “Like my mom…”

            Qrow shrugged. “What I was really suggesting was that you’re acting emo. But sure, let’s talk about your mom.”

            “Ruby told you she visits me sometimes, didn’t she?”

            “Yeah, apparently she taught you how to use your shape shifting. Is that right?”

            “Yeah. Taught me to use a sword too… did she really never tell you about our visits… like I get not telling dad… but you?”

            Qrow shrugged again. “Whenever we do talk its strained, she’s still mad at me for leaving the tribe.”

            “Could you tell me… why do you think she visited me… she ran out on me when I was little, why come back at all?”

            “I don’t really know; Raven isn’t exactly the most straight forward of people. She has an interesting way of looking at the world that I don’t particularly agree with. But one thing is clear. She’s dangerous, and it would do you well to keep that in mind.”

            Yang nodded.

            “Common firecracker, don’t look down like that.”

            Yang took an angry tone. “How can I not? I got disqualified from the tournament and everyone thinks I’m crazy.” Then she got sad. “And Blake thinks I’m turning into Adam…” Her voice cracked. That was the hardest part of this whole ordeal. People thinking, she was crazy, whatever. Getting disqualified, Pyrrha was probably more disappointed than her. Blake thinking Yang was turning into a monster. That was more painful than most of what Yang has gone through in her life. Yang might as well have just lost her best friend.

            “Have you heard of semblance personality theory?”

            “Yeah, we studied it in school.”

            “Well they say, your semblance is a part of who you are. But according to the theory, it’s much more than that. It’s really a lot of spiritual mumbo jumbo, ‘your semblance defines who you are, or the other way around’ and all that. But it is based in truth. Do you know what Adam’s semblance was?”

            Yang looked at Qrow.

            “From what I’ve heard, it’s very similar to yours. He would take in energy and dish it back out, sound familiar?”

            “So, you’re saying I am like Adam…” Yang looked down.

            “I’m saying, that Blake probably sees bits of Adam in you, and she’s probably right.”

            Yang glared at Qrow.

            “But that doesn’t mean she saw the bad parts. Adam was just guy at one point, he had his good points, even if he died having none. What you can do, is make sure you keep your good points, and don’t let them turn into bad ones, get it?”

========================================

            Pyrrha was laying on the grass in the middle of Beacon Garden. The garden was beautiful, especially in the fall, the trees began to color and complement the flowers. She also liked the colors, the red of the leaves and the green of the grass matched her hair and eyes. She closed her eyes and felt. When she was on the ground like this, she could feel the earth. All the metals hidden beneath the surface, and now that she knew about the vault, she knew to look for it. It was so far down she really had to concentrate to see it. “This is me.” she whispered to herself. Her polarity was a part of her, its who she is. If she did this, there would be something else there. Maybe someone did need to have this magic in order to protect the world, but she knew it would feel wrong to use it. It would feel foreign. It may have been so much more in terms of power, but it wasn’t her like her polarity was. Not to mention… it would not only not be hers; it would be stolen too.

            She heard someone lay down on the grass above her, she could tell by feeling the armor it was Jaune. His head fell into place next to hers on the grass. “Hey Pyrrha.” He said softly. Pyrrha loved his voice.

            “Hello Jaune.” Pyrrha breathed in the cool air.

            “Have you been feeling ok?”

            “No… I haven’t.”

            “Don’t let the thing with Yang get you down…”

            “It’s not that…” Pyrrha lightly shook her head. One of her bangs slightly touched Jaune’s face. “I… I want to ask… I must know… Why do you love me?”

            “Pyrrha…” He turned his face to look at her. They never really talked about how they felt, who they were to each other. They were partners, teammates, training partners, but they both knew they could be more. But now was not the time for them to be children, they couldn’t afford it anymore, to play this game where they were both too embarrassed to move forward with their relationship.

            Pyrrha scrunched her face in pain. She needed to know exactly how he felt about her for her to move forward. “Please… I need you to tell me…”

            “Did I ever tell you how I got here, to this school?”

            Pyrrha shook her head.

            Jaune looked to the partly cloudy sky. “I didn’t go to combat school… I decided to become a huntsman late in my life… too late to go to an intermediate combat school, much less an elementary one… It was ten months before I came to Beacon, I saved my little sister from getting hit by a car. I broke my leg, hurt like hell.” He smiled. “But that was the first time in my whole life… my parents praised me.” He lightly chuckled. “They called me a hero and meant it, they said I did something good and they meant it… I wanted to feel that way again. I wanted to be a hero. So, I trained, I worked harder than I ever had before on anything. I got ripped, I studied whenever my body didn’t allow me to keep working out. Even so, I still lacked so much experience, much less an aura. But I took the exam anyway. I passed the written portion with flying colors… but the combat test… I failed spectacularly. I’m only here because the supervisor took pity upon finding out my written scores.” He squeezed his eyes. “I shouldn’t even be here. I’m not a true huntsman.”

            “That’s not true, you have worked really hard, before and after getting here.”

            “It’s not that.” He shook his head. “You made me realize something. I’m not trying to become a huntsman for the right reasons. I… I have a hero complex Pyrrha.” She could hear in his voice that that wasn’t easy to admit. “It’s so wrong. I don’t want to help people to help them, I just want to be praised for helping them…” He sighed and gave himself a break. “Did you know I used to like Weiss?”

            “Yes.”

            “It was over the summer camp that Art told me that I should be liking you like that, and it made me think. I thought about why I was attracted to Weiss… I thought it’s because she was pretty, and smart and stuff… but it was none of that. I liked her because she was broken… and no other reason, I wanted her to love me for fixing her…” Pyrrha could feel his body shake via his armor. “And I became disgusted with myself. Absolutely disgusted… and that’s when I turned to you. Looked to you for answers…”    

            Pyrrha looked at him. His eyes were closed.

            “I love you because you are a hero for all the right reasons, you are everything I really want to be, but I’m too immature and too stupid to see it. You aren’t a hero because you love being a hero, you are because you enjoy doing the things that make you a hero. You enjoy fighting the bad guys, but not because of some volatile sense of justice, but because you enjoy it. You are pure, you enjoy fighting because you enjoy it. You enjoy saving people with a smile just because you do. You enjoy lighting up my life because… you just find it enjoyable. You. Are. Pure. Just by doing what you enjoy, you are a hero. I admire that so much. That’s why I love you.”

            “Jaune I…” Her words got lost in her mouth.

            “And now I want to put what you have taught me into practice. I can tell something is wrong. So, let me help you, because helping you, is all I ever want to do. Because you deserve to have someone in your life that just enjoys helping you, because they enjoy helping you.”

            “I think… That’s why I’m having trouble. I’ve always just put my heart and soul into everything I enjoyed, and that was that. I didn’t have to think about what I wanted. I’ve never had to make a tough decision. One where I don’t fully enjoy all of the outcomes.” Pyrrha teared up. “I thought my destiny was so straightforward. I would just walk the path I walked and get there eventually. But now that I am faced with a crossroads, I am frozen. I’m paralyzed with fear for the first time in my life, and I don’t even fully know why! Is this what everything has led too, my whole life?" Her voice broke. "Facing a fight that isn’t my own, was my path always meant to be taken over? Or is this my path? Was I always moving towards this goal? To be able to solve all my problems with a snap of my fingers?”

            Jaune leaned up and looked at her. “Pyrrha, you’re not making any sense.”

            Pyrrha hugged herself. “None of it makes sense! I don’t know if I can change! I thought I was meant to be a huntress because that is always who I was, you said it yourself that I just naturally enjoy the things that make me a huntress. But now I see that there is so much about being a huntress that I didn’t ask for, that I am unprepared to face.”

            “Pyrrha…”

            “My whole life I thought I was doing pretty well; I had my slip ups and my faults, but I always kept moving forward. Whenever I looked back, I would be satisfied with what I have done, I had learned from my mistakes and gotten stronger in more ways than one. By now when I look back, I suddenly see so much naivety, so many mistakes I didn’t even know I was making. I’m not even who I thought I was and now I am faced with becoming someone else and I don’t know if I can do it.”

            “This is just another challenge Pyrrha, no different from all of those fights you have fought, those tournaments that you’ve won. The Pyrrha Nikos I know doesn’t loose, never surrenders, makes sure the other guy is down before she does. Never backs away from a challenge. You have never let anything stand in your way before, why now?”

            “I…I don’t think that’s what I wanted to hear…”

            “I’m sorry… I was just-” He looked guilty and looked away.

            “No… I think it’s what I needed to hear… I am so sorry Jaune.”

            Pyrrha got up and left, still crying.

 

            Pyrrha borrowed a tripod from Velvet and carried it with her to the roof of the dorm building. It was nighttime, less than twenty-four hours before the final four singles matches. The moon was beautiful, both its broken and whole parts equally visible. Pyrrha struggled to get the tripod open but eventually it worked. She got out the scroll clamp and put it on her scroll, then screwed her scroll onto the tripod. She adjusted the height of the tripod so that it was level with her face. She then stepped away and tried to see what the picture looked like through the scroll’s transparent screen. She used her polarity to move the tripod a little bit to make sure it was just right. She clicked the dongle in her hand and the scroll started recording.

            “Practice lesson one… Let’s get started by reviewing the basics, Jaune.”

Chapter Text

            “And the first match of the top four will be fought by…” Port called as the randomization process spun to life on the big screen, it settled on an image. “Pyrrha Nikos.”

            I felt bad for my cousin. I didn’t want to throw all that magic and shit on her during the tournament, but we did run out of time. My body was getting more and more sore and I think I figured out why; it was a warning. It was almost time. I could have chosen to fight Cinder sooner, but I didn’t because I didn’t think I was ready, I only got one shot, if I lost then the Relic would fall into her hand immediately. But I let those thoughts get in the way, and now I was going to have to fight her on her terms, wasn’t I?

            “Hey, the match is gonna start, aren’t you gonna watch?” Ruby asked from my left with those silver eyes of hers, Ruby had become a little sister to me, we weren’t super close. But I liked our dynamic.

            Neo nudged me from my right. I looked at her. You ok?

            “I’ll be fine, just thinking about some stuff.”

            Neo nodded. I told her what was going on with Pyrrha. Oh yeah… Neo saw Pyrrha making goodbye videos for Jaune. Fuck that was just sad. I shook my head and looked up to the stage.

            My eyes widened and I started shivering from shock. This was planned, just like the Yang breaking Mercury’s leg shit, it had to be, Cinder was acting right now. I stood up violently.

            “Hey Art!” Ruby protested as I pushed past her. JNPR moved their legs to make room as I ran by.

            I started running around the stage to get to where the announcer’s booth was. The force field around the arena would prevent me from just jumping onto the stage and stopping the fight. There was a staircase leading up to the announcer’s booth as I recalled. Hurry. Then I saw someone come out of a door on the side of the hallway, Mercury. I stopped. He was wearing shorts, he had metal legs just like I suspected, but didn’t do anything because I was scared. I cursed myself.

            He saw the look on my face. He smiled. “So, you figured it out huh? Polarity vs-”

            He didn’t get to finish his sentence, I pushed what power I could without my sword into my legs and rushed him. I feigned a punch to his head, and he dodged how I predicted. I swept his legs sending him parallel to the ground and I brought down an axe kick on his prosthetics. Shattering them. Damn, it hurt like a bitch.

            “Damn you! You and your little girlfriend aren’t safe anymore!” He called from his spot on the floor. I patted him down and got his scroll out of his pocket and broke it in my hand. “Hey!”

            I started running again. Damnit! I got to the stairs; my scroll started ringing. I kept up my pace as I answered it, my sore body was slowing me down though.

            “Get them to stop the match!” It was Ozpin.

            “I know, I’m already on my way.”

            “Bart and Peter aren’t picking up… Damnit I should have foreseen this.”

            “Shut the fuck up and get ready to fight! This is just the beginning Oz!”

            “Same to you… good luck in the coming conflict.” He hung up.

            I got to the door and tried to open it. It was locked. “Fuck!” I started bashing my shoulder against it, it was a full metal security door. It took a few more bashes before I got it open. The door flew off its hinges with a crash. Port and Oobleck stood up in shock. I ran to the microphone, I desperately picked it up with shaky hands. “Stop the match!” I screamed into it. “Stop the-“

            It was too late. Penny Polendina got ripped into pieces in front of my eyes… all our eyes. Pyrrha’s eyes.

            The dread in the air was palpable. It may have been my imagination, but I could hear the cries of glee from every Grimm on the planet. My eyes were wide, knowing exactly what this event would bring crawling to our walls. The entire planet, all at once, just saw a perfect invincible girl murder a child in cold blood. I dropped the microphone. Its thud could be heard all throughout the world.

            “What are you doing? Kill the feed!” Oobleck hissed into an earpiece. “…Impossible.”

            All the screens in the stadium changed, they now depicted a red filter with a Black Queen piece over the pictures of Penny’s corpse.

            “Get ready to fight…” I mumbled.

            “What?” Port asked.

            “This! Is not a tragedy.” Cinder’s voice boomed through the stadium, the world. “This! Was not an accident. This is what happens when you hand over your trust, your safety, your children, to men who claim to be our guardians.” I felt like she was taunting me for not ending this sooner. “But are in reality… nothing more than men. Our academies’ headmasters wield more power than most armies, and one was audacious enough to control both. They cling to this power in the name of piece, and yet, what do we have here? One nation’s attempt at a synthetic army? Mercilessly torn apart by another star pupil. What need would Atlas have for a soldier disguised as an innocent little girl? I don’t think the Grimm can tell the difference. And what, I ask you, is Ozpin teaching his students? First a dismemberment and now this? Huntsman and huntresses should carry themselves with honor and mercy, yet I have witnessed neither. Perhaps Ozpin thought his fiery student’s display at the Grimm invasion wasn’t enough to show to the other nations that he had power and wanted to stick it to the man put in charge of security at our dear tournament. But perhaps he was in the right, to send a message to the tyrannical government who has their whole army occupying another unsuspecting country. Honestly? I haven’t the slightest clue who is right and who is wrong. But I know that the existence of peace is fragile, and the leaders of our kingdoms conduct their business with iron gloves. As someone who hails from Mistral, I can assure you the situation there is… equally undesirable. Our kingdoms are on the brink of war, yet we, the citizens, are left in the dark.”

            “Get ready to fight you two!” I shouted at my teachers.

            “So, I ask you: When the first shots are fired, who do you think you can trust?” I could hear the bitch smile.

            “Incoming Grimm attack, threat level 9.” The automated intercom said. “Seek shelter in a calm and orderly manner.” The people did not listen.

            Ironwood pushed past me and picked up the microphone off the floor. “Ladies and Gentlemen. Please, everyone, remain calm. There is no need for panic.”

            A Nevermore landed on the forcefield that covered the top of the stadium, its feet and beak made blue ripples in it like an aura, as it tried to break in. Its screech was deafening.

            Ironwood’s scroll buzzed. He picked up. “Ozpin, what’s happening on your end?”

            “James…” Ozpin said in a tone that transcended authority. “You brought your army to my kingdom… Use it!”

            “I will… gladly.” He hung up. He turned to leave.

            I grabbed the front of his shirt. “She hacked into the feeds James; she could have done the same for your tin cans. Watch your back.”

            He nodded. “I will…” He left.

            As if on que I could see one of Ironwood’s ships firing on another, they already took one over. I closed my eyes and concentrated. I had a hard time calling my sword from so far away as is, but Lunas also had to follow the path of least resistance too, we agreed that to be the case a while ago to minimize damage. Sadly, I didn’t have it with me now to tell him that it didn’t matter anymore.

            I then felt his presence. I backed away from the booth window. I then ran forward and jumped, breaking through the glass.

            “Stop!” Oobleck called.

            I fell and landed with a thud, breaking the cement below me. I still felt sore, but that was slowly going away. Glass followed me and a couple of pieces hit a kneeling Ruby who was touching the forcefield in front of me. She was bawling he eyes out mumbling Penny’s name. She didn’t register my presence. “She just wanted to be human… to go to school with us…”

            I ran to her and grabbed her shoulders, I looked her in her sad eyes. “Ruby! Snap out of it!”

            Her face displayed so much shock I couldn’t fathom.

            “You need to find your team! They’re watching with Yang, right? I’ll take care of everything over here; you need to protect your team now ok?”

            She nodded.

            I hugged her; it might have been my last chance. “Do what you have trained to do.”

            She sped away with her semblance.

            I looked up at the nevermore. It was about to break through. I looked to my right. Jaune was calling Pyrrha’s name, she was frozen, standing in the center. “Jaune! Get ready to grab Pyrrha as soon as the shield drops!”

            He looked at me and nodded. He stood up on one of the seats and I saw his white aura concentrate around his legs. I readied myself too. I noticed that other students were still here ready to fight. Good. The nevermore flew up and got ready to divebomb, I nodded at Jaune. A green ball of fire soared through the sky. The nevermore roared as it crashed through the forcefield.

            Jaune and I sprang into action. He aura jumped in and grabbed Pyrrha. I jumped in front of both of them. “Its gonna get hot!” I warned.

            “What?”

            The green ball of fire impaled itself into the Grimm’s head pinning it to the floor, my sword roared to life burning up the Grimm from the inside out. There was an explosion of green and black fire that I guided out of our way, the fire consumed the stage. The roar of the flames was deafening.

            When it cleared, the Grimm was dust. Penny now had what made her look so human burned away, leaving a metal body with skeletal features. “God fucking damnit.” I muttered. I called Lunas to my back.

Its time, my friend.

I know.

            I looked back to Pyrrha, some of the other students jumped onto the stage. Pyrrha was shaking in Jaune’s arms. “Pyrrha, this isn’t your fault.” Jaune said. “That woman on the microphone, that’s who did this, not you.”

            “I felt it Jaune… When I was fighting her, I felt that something was wrong… and I still…” Pyrrha tried to shoulder the blame.

            He held her face. “Don’t Pyrrha, don’t go down that road. I’m here saying it isn’t your fault. I’m also saying that we can afford to lose anyone else, are you up to the challenge?”

            Griffon Grimm started circling the stadium. Their roars made all the students that were here nervous.

            Pyrrha nodded and stood up, she called her weapons to her hands. “Let’s not loose anyone else.”

            A griffon landed and roared. A bunch of students started taking out their scrolls for their weapons. A silver sword decapitated the Grimm. Winter Schnee stood there. I approached her. “Winter, where did Bart and Peter run off to?”

            “They left to help evacuate everyone. Where is my sister?”

            “She’s at the dorms with the rest of her team, I sent Ruby after her.”

            More griffons started circling the small crowd of students, team CFVY’s locker’s landed and they grabbed their weapons, more followed. We all got ready to fight.

            “You children get out of here; I’ll draw the Grimm!” Winter ordered.

            I stood at her back, ready to fight with her.

            “You too.”

            “Since when did you start giving me orders?” I joked.

            “Artorias!” Jaune called. “Neo left, I don’t know where!”

            “I do, it’s fine, just get out of here!” I said. If I had to guess, Neo found Mercury.

            The griffons got close. “Get out of here.” Winter said. “If I am not mistaken you are needed elsewhere.” She said gravely.

            I sighed. “You’re right… but do you really think you can take all of these on your own?”

            She scoffed. “But I’m not alone.” The intricate glyph below her feet appeared, the temperature dropped. I sped away to find Neo. I looked back before turning down the hallway I left Mercury just in time to see the eye open beneath her. I ran into the hall as she yelled. “PERSONA!”

            It wasn’t long before I saw Neo. She had her sword to Mercury’s throat and her foot on his groin, she was in interrogation mode. “Neo!” She waved with her off hand to me. I got to her. “This bastard talk yet?”

            So-so, he’s avoiding my questions. She sighed with one hand and pushed her foot further into his groin. Mercury looked like he was going to throw up.

            I looked at him and thought. “We don’t need him to talk, I know exactly where we need to go.”

            “Merc!” Emerald was suddenly in the hallway.

            Neo almost charged her, but I grabbed her arm. “We don’t have time. Cinder is the priority target.”

            We both ran away from Emerald, I looked back and saw her kneel to his side.

==========================================

            Ruby paced herself but she still went as fast as she could. She called her locker, got Crescent Rose, jumped off the arena and used her weapon’s recoil to slow her fall. She had to space her shoots; she hadn’t refilled ammo since her tournament match. Her aura didn’t like the whole ordeal, but it was faster than waiting for her turn on one of the civilian’s busses. She ran through Beacon square and to the dorm building. She found her team in the halls on their way out.

            “What’s going on?” Blake asked, she had a new sword strapped to her hip.

            Yang and Ruby hugged. “I- I don’t really know.” Ruby thought to Penny again, she got teary eyed, Weiss put her hand on her shoulder. “But… we need to get out of here, they are ordering evacuation.”

            “Did you see me sister anywhere?” Weiss asked.

            Ruby shook her head. Her scroll buzzed. “Jaune?” She asked, she put him on speaker.

            “Thank goodness, where are you?” Jaune was out of breath.

            “We are at the dorms, where are you? Is Pyrrha ok?” Ruby knew it wasn’t Pyrrha’s fault, but Ruby knew that Pyrrha didn’t see it that way.

            “I-I think she’ll be fine. Ironwood told us we are free to leave with the civilians if we want, my team is staying to fight though, we’re heading to defend Beacon tower, what will you do?”

            Ruby looked to her team. Weiss spoke. “What about my sister? Have you seen Winter?”

            “Yeah, last I saw her she was with Artorias about to fight a whole murder of griffon in the middle of the stadium.”

            Weiss sighed. Team RWBY looked at each other. “We’ll fight.” Ruby said. “See you at the tower.” Ruby hung up.

            “We still need our weapons.” Yang observed.

            “Right.” Blake said. Ruby looked at the sword on her hip again but decided against saying anything.

            They ran out of the dorm building and into the sparring building, it had the sparring room as well as a couple of regular classrooms for their combat theory and weapon’s shop classes. When they got inside however, there was a group of White Fang soldiers already inside, some were rigging explosives. They all stopped what they were doing to look at the team. “Curse me needing to refill my dust.” Weiss mumbled. They only reason that they didn’t just go outside to call their weapons with the rocket lockers was that there wouldn’t be any ammo in their lockers, they used it all in their tournament fights.

            “The White Fang! Why are you here?” Blake yelled.

            The twenty or so soldiers that were in this circular lobby had already raised their weapons and them. “Don’t even think about using your semblances!” One of them called. “And drop your weapons!” He gestured to Blake and Ruby. There were too many of them, their auras would break in an instant with all that machine gun fire. Blake had to oblige. Ruby threw down Crescent Rose as well, she was out of ammo too from her jump off the stadium.

            “You two Faunus?” One of the soldiers lowered their weapon. He unclipped a pistol from his hip. “Help us, our cause is just.” He held out the pistol, begging either Blake or Weiss to take it.

            “Stop! Look at that sword! It’s Adam’s… She’s Blake Belladonna!” All the soldiers tensed up. “Fucking kill her!” She ordered.

            They all started firing.

            Everything slowed down. The room became red scale. Everything became shades of either red or black. The bullets from their guns moved in slow motion, barely moving forward at all. The fire from their guns were just red and black stationary clouds. The faces of anger that looked at team RWBY stopped their motion. The sound became muffled as well, that part though was a little annoying.

            Ruby stretched her arms above her head. It had been a while since she pushed herself like this. She jumped in place a couple of times. She breathed, she needed to be calm. She got out some earphones and put them on to block out the annoyingly altered natural sounds, it was like they were under water, it made her seasick in a way. She picked a song on her scroll and hit play; she then went into an app she got online that could speed up audio to an unlimited degree. The coders made it just for fun, on the higher speeds it would drain two days’ worth of battery in a couple of minutes, but scrolls lasted about a week on a single charge anyway. She increased the speed until the song sounded right. Red like roses fills my dreams… Ruby let the soft intro calm her. Then she began.

            She turned and ran on the wall to survey the situation. Wherever she stepped, roses would grow, wilt, then die as she moved across the wall. A trail of rose petals followed her where she went, replacing the air she had pushed away. Ruby counted a total of twenty-two fiends. She jumped off the wall. She liked to be creative about how she dispatched foes like this, but just to test the waters she poked one of their cheeks. Their skin undulated, no aura. Ruby shrugged. She gave the guy a wedgie. She then moved from person to person, messing with them in a unique way. She would take their guns out of their hands and throw them at each other, pull out their masks so that they would snap them back in the face via the rubber band thing that kept them there. There was no end to Ruby’s creativity.

            She looked to her team. The bullets were moving slowly towards them. Ruby walked over and took each bullet out of the way so that they didn’t hit her team. When she was moving this fast, she could just pluck them out of the air. She tossed them into a nearby trashcan but as they left her hand, they froze in the air again. Her aura then broke.

            All the White Fang members flew around or fell and got knocked out in all sorts of volatile ways. Not a single one of them was left standing. There was a loud jingle of the bullets being thrown in the garbage. Ruby took off her earphones, fixed her hair and looked at her team.

            Yang had a massive smile on her face. She went over to her sister and hugged her. “I am so proud of you.”

            “Careful, used all my aura.” Ruby wheezed. Yang released her.

            “There you go.” Yang smiled, she ruffled her hair, messing it up again.

            Blake picked up Adam’s sword and looked at it sadly. “Thanks’ Ruby.” She said. She put his sword back on her hip.

            Weiss approached Ruby. She kissed her. “Way to waste your aura you dolt!” She criticized with a smile. “Let’s go.” She went in the direction of the locker room.

            Ruby felt giddy.

            “Definitely telling Art to add that to the scoreboard after this.” Yang said.

            Ruby grabbed Crescent Rose and followed her teammates to the locker room. They started getting ready for the coming conflict.

            “Why is the White Fang here? They shouldn’t be here…” Blake mumbled to herself.

            Yang placed a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sure we’ll find out, but for now we need to focus.”

            They made their way out of the building. Atlassian robots were firing upon students. Grimm were abound in the school. They were also losing. It was apparent not all the teams stayed and fought. The ran to Beacon tower to meet up with team JNPR, fighting both Grimm and robot on the way.     

            There was an ear-splitting screech. They looked to the source. A wyvern was flying towards Beacon academy. They all felt fear. The wyvern was spawning more Grimm as it flew.

            “We need to find our friends!” Ruby shouted. They had to keep moving.

            They eventually found a group of student’s fighting near the tower. Teams SSSN and CFVY as well as Ren and Nora were present.

            “Ren, Nora!” Yang called. They ran to them. “Where’s Pyrrha and Jaune?”

            “We don’t know.” Ren said, he was already exhausted.

            “They went into the tower with Ozpin.” Nora finished; she was tired too.

            “If they’re with Ozpin they’ll be fine. We need to make sure the White Fang doesn’t blow up the school!” Blake said.

            “Then we defend the tower.” Ruby said. “We can hold here.”

            They were suddenly bathed in green light. They turned to the source. Artorias was on the roof of one of the school buildings with Neo. Neo was killing Grimm and protecting Art from the rogue tin cans. Artorias was shooting beams of fire at the wyvern, he looked like he was tiring himself out. The beams of fire were either missing or not doing much to the massive beast.

            “Where’s Winter!?” Weiss exclaimed; her eyes widened.

            “She’s probably still near the stadium or at the docks.” Ren stabbed another Grimm.

            “Ruby, will you come with me to find her?”

            “Yeah, let’s do this.” Ruby’s aura still needed some recharging so a break from real combat would probably be for the best anyway.

            Weiss and Ruby ran in the direction of the docks.

           ------------

            Yang watched her sister go away, she hoped she would be alright. Yang punched a Grimm to dust and went to Blake’s side. “What do ya think is going on with the tin cans?”

            “I don’t know but it can’t be good. I’ve fought some of the robots Atlas has created before and we’re in for a bad time if we have to fight a lot of them.” They fought as they talked.

            Speak of the devil, three Atlas Paladins came into view, followed by a massive spider drone.

            Velvet took on one of the Paladins, the rest of team CFVY and Ren and Nora the other, and team SSSN the third.

            “I’ve fought one of these before, we can take it.” Blake said.

            “Are you sure?” Yang asked.

            “Well it wasn’t this big last time…” Blake retracted, then glared at Yang’s smirk. “Don’t you fucking dare!”

            Yang winked. “That’s what she said.”

            Blake rolled her eyes and they charged the spider droid. “I hate you.”

            “No, you don’t.”

            Blake tried to trip it using her weapon’s whip-like mode and Yang just tried blasting through the front, but it wasn’t making a dent. Yang already started running out of ammo. She jumped away but the robot caught her landing, Yang was barely able to hold up her weapons in time. Yang was flown back into a pillar. She fell to the ground. “Yang!” Blake warned. The robot shot a blue laser at Yang, she blocked it with her weapons. When the laser relented, she tried to fire off a shot. Her gauntlet clicked. She looked at them, scorched black, the metal was partially melted, her right one just fell right off her arm into the grass, completely broken.

            She threw off the left one. “Fine! If that’s how you want to play!” She got ready to bust out her semblance.

            The robot started charging up its laser again. Energy concentration to be pushed right through her. Yang knew she wouldn’t be able to dodge this one. Her eyes widened.

            “Yang!” Blake threw Adam’s sword to her. “It’s made of an uru and energy dust alloy! Use it with your semblance!”

            Yang understood and grinned wildly. You’ve been holding out on me. She thought. She pushed her aura into the weapon, it seemed to welcome her.

            The robot fired a massive blue beam of energy. Yang partially unsheathed the sword and absorbed the whole blast.

            The air got warm as Yang’s hair caught fire brighter than it ever had before. Yang felt euphoric. Whenever she absorbed damage for her semblance her aura had always had to preform double duty, blocking the damage and storing the energy. Now that her body didn’t waste aura blocking the damage it was like a cap had been lifted. Everything around Yang started to burn. “Out with a Yang.” Yang unsheathed the sword in a vertical slice that passed clean through the robot and left a trail of fire in its wake. The spider droid fell apart.

            Yang dropped to her knees. Her aura broke. She still felt amazing though, all that energy without having the pain to keep it in check, it was great. Blake ran over to her and coddled her. “Are you ok?”

            Yang nodded. “Yeah, just didn’t know my own limits… How are the other’s doing?” She looked around.

            All the other teams had defeated their paladin but were all looking very tired, the only ones not on the ground resting were Coco and Neptune, they were using their advanced guns to keep the stray Grimm at bay. Eventually though, things died down. Art and Neo seemed to be drawing a lot of Grimm towards them with their lightshow.

            Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap. “Well done children.” A voice said, then giggled. “You are all so gifted. It’s almost a shame to take the lives of children so talented. EEEEEHHHAAHAHAAHA!!” He cackled.

            The students looked to the source, it was a Faunus, with a scorpion tail. He was followed by a dozen White Fang soldiers.

Chapter Text

            James destroyed the metal men on his ship before he took off. He didn’t like the boy or even respect him, but he was right, the glorious Atlas military had been compromised. He flew his ship high to avoid conflict and made his way to the compromised battleship, it was firing at another one, it had already sunk the third via surprise. Men died today. James was furious. James got above the compromised ship and opened the door to his own. The cold wind whipped past him, he gauged it and grabbed a parachute. He strapped it on and jumped.

            He landed on top of the ship with a thud. He threw off his parachute and let it fly away in the wind. A griffon landed next to him. He grabbed its beak with his metal arm and snapped it off, then drove the good end into the beast’s head. He ran to the head of the ship until he found a window. He punched through it.

            He jumped down into the interior. He saw one of his men laid down in the corner of the hall. He went over and checked for a pulse, dead. James ran in the direction of the control room. This was the lead ship, if there were problems, this is where they would be. He punched through the metal door that was his destination.

            “Why hello General!” Roman taunted and waved. “Welcome aboard my ship!” He was surrounded by the corpses of James’ men, as well as a few White Fang soldiers.

            The White Fang members charged James, he punched all of them out no problem.

            “Well that was dramatic.” Roman said, waving his cane.

            “Why are you doing this? Attacking the same school your daughter goes to?” James asked.

            Roman narrowed his eyes. “So, I guess the bird talked then huh? I thought he would have been more professional than that.” Roman started to pace. “You are asking the wrong questions Tin Man. I’m not attacking Beacon; I’m doing what I must to survive!”

            “Salem has you. She has you around her finger.”

            “I’m afraid so yes. I’m a thief James, not a terrorist. Does this really look like my modus operandi?” He gestured around. “Also, my daughter is a badass thank you very much, even with this attack I doubt she’ll get hurt. Especially since she’s with that kid who’s swingn’ around the dick of the God of Darkness.”

            “So, are you going to fight me?” James approached Roman.

           =====================================

            Clap. Clap. Clap. The student’s moved closer together, most of their aura’s were down. The claps of this scorpion Faunus permeated the air.

            “Who are you?” Coco demanded. “Why is the White Fang here?”

            “Why my name is Tyrion. I’ve been leading the White Fang’s conquest of your dear school. After that little kitten murdered poor Adam… well someone had to step up.” He cooed. His eyes screamed insanity.

            The other students looked at Blake in shock. “Blake?” Sun asked.

            Blake just nodded slowly.

            Sun turned to Tyrion. “Just leave, you are outnumbered.”

            The scorpion laughed. “Oh, oh, now that’s funny mhmhmh.”

            “If you think we are going to go down without a fight you’re wrong!”

            Tyrion smiled wildly. “Good!”

            A red portal appeared in front of the group of students. A woman with a mane of black hair wearing a full-face Grimm mask stepped out of the portal.

            “Oh hoo hoo, now who do we have here?”

            The woman pressed a button on her massive sword sheath and sent a volley of sword blades towards the White Fang grunts, they were impaled and died in clouds of fire and ice on the spot. Tyrion just smiled. The woman dialed her sheath and pulled out her sword handle. With a red dust blade attached to it. She leveled the weapon at Tyrion.

            “As I live and breathe, Raven Brawnwen!” Tyrion got excited. “A true huntress has entered the fray.”

            “Sorry Horseman, I’m not here to entertain you. Yang! Get in the portal, we’re leaving.”

            “Mom! I’m not leaving my friends!” Yang protested. “I’m not leaving my sister!”

            “I’m not giving you a choice this time. Beacon has fallen. I still won’t force you to join the tribe, but your aura is broken, and you are surrounded by Grimm, don’t be a dumbass. We need to go.”

            Yang had a pained look on her face. She didn’t want to leave Ruby behind. But… “Fine.” She grabbed Blake’s hand and went for the portal.

            “Wait.” Blake pulled back. “What are you doing?”

            Yang looked at her with a pained expression. “I have to go, one way or another, please don’t make me go alone.”

            Blake’s eyes widened with fear. They were just going to leave? Just like that?

            “Please Blake.”

            Blake looked to the other students around her. Yatsuhashi was hurt badly, Sage wasn’t much better, the shields for their teams. Sun spoke up. “Just go, we’ll be fine. You have an opportunity to get out of here, take it.”

            Blake nodded. Her and Yang went through the portal together.

==========================

            Winter, Weiss and Ruby went towards the tower. “I can’t believe you talked me into going back.” Winter shook her head.

            “Thank you.” Weiss said.

            “We need to get our friends out of there.” Ruby said.

            “I can’t believe they stayed and fought.” Winter said. “Foolish children.”

            They got to the group of students. A scorpion Faunus was standing in front of the group. “Not who will be first to die.” He taunted.

            “Get your friends out of here.” Winter whispered. “I’ll fight him.”

            Ruby and Weiss looked at each other and nodded.

            “And do it fast, I’m not fully recharged yet.” Winter created a glyph underneath her. The temperature dropped. “On my mark.” The glyph spun and the ghostly white chains appeared. An eye opened in the center of the spinning glyph. “Now!”

            The partners started running on either side of Tyrion. This caught his attention. He turned around. He saw Winter. “Winter Schnee, another true huntress today, that’s two for two.” He smiled and giggled. “Teehee. Oh sorry, do you like to be called an Atlas Specialist?”

            “I like to be called by my name. COME!” Winter spread her arms wide and yelled to the sky. “EISKÖNIGIN!”

            A female wearing an armored dress rose from the ground in a swathe of cold white fire. She was white, blue and black, including her long flowing hair. She wielded two massive curved swords. This being was about four times the size of Winter herself. The ghostly white chains floated around the pair. The Persona screamed elegance and beauty, demanding that she be looked on with awe.

            The children ran past both of them, shivering from the cold. Eiskönigin fired of a blast of white flame at Tyrion and continued to do so until the children were out of the way. Tyrion was too occupied to chase after the children.

            Winter and Eiskönigin fought a two on one battle against the Horseman. Winter went in for melee while Eiskönigin supported her with cold fire attacks and buffs to her speed and strength. Tyrion was maneuvering expertly, changing the momentum from his dodges into force for his strikes. Winter was making it too apparent that she wanted to end this fight quickly. Tyrion caught on and played an evasive game. Winter was getting worn out.

            SNAP!

            Artorias and Neo jumped into the fray. Four on one. Winter was impressed by the two children’s fighting. They played off each other like they had been fighting together for decades. Art was sturdy so Neo was using him as a springboard, jumping off him and using him to get the high ground. She would jump off his sword even while it was floating. Neo sent illusions after the villain and hid Art’s real moves. They fought as one entity. Winter knew how important that was. Now with four people overpowering the villain they were getting good hits in, beating down his aura. Eventually his aura started flickering, they were winning.

            Tyrion found his opening and almost impaled Artorias with his tail. Winter let down her defensive aura to allot the energy to perform the taxing move. “Tetrakarn!” Winter commanded. Art became surrounded in an orange shield. When Tyrion’s tail struck the force field it coned out and struck the Faunus back.

            The wyvern then slammed itself into Beacon tower. Chunks of the tower were flung off and even the whole top room seemed to fall off the tower. The group had to dodge clouds of rubble. Eiskönigin wasn’t as cognizant thought and got hit with some large chunks of debris, breaking Winter’s aura.

            When the dust cleared, Tyrion was gone. “Damnit! He got away!” Winter was pissed.

            Artorias coughed. “I think that’s the least of our problems.” He pointed in the direction of the docks. Weiss and Ruby were running towards them.

            “What the FUCK are you two children doing back here?” Winter asked.

            “Pyrrha is still here!” Weiss explained.

====================

            “Pyrrha?” I screamed. “What happened?”

            “We just got a call from Jaune!” Ruby offered. “He said that she went to go fight some crazy bitch that killed Ozpin at the top of the tower.” I was shocked she swore. I could tell that wasn’t all the bad news, but one thing at a time.

            “Ozpin’s dead…” Winter was shocked.

            I breathed in. Calm. “Neo and I will get her back, you three need to go. Winter is out of aura.” Winter looked away, Weiss and Ruby didn’t move. “I WASN’T ASKING, GO NOW!” They flinched.

            I nodded to Neo and we ran towards the tower. I measured the distance with my eyes. Neo then grabbed onto my back. I pushed power into my legs and jumped, breaking the ground and leaving nothing but dust in my wake. We flew into the air until we were above the tower.

            Cinder was walking around Pyrrha, Pyrrha seemed injured. I pressed my hand away from the tower and produced an explosion from it, changing our momentum towards the tower. Cinder materialized a bow, drew it and aimed it at Pyrrha.

            Neo and I separated, and I drew my sword. I slammed it into Cinder as I landed causing us both to tumble out of the way. Neo flipped into action not missing a beat, Cinder rolled along to ground to dodge Neo’s barrage, then managed to get off a fire blast sending Neo backwards. I got up and fought Cinder standing.

            Cinder summoned twin blades; we clashed our swords. I hit he left one hard enough to break it, fire exploded from the blade. I redirected it with my mind, the fire turning green while under my command. Time seemed to slow as we put our hands up to each other with fire licking around them, the fire exploded from both of our hands. Cinder got slammed into the remaining wall of the tower that had the elevators and I was pushed to the ground almost tumbling off the edge of the tower. I coughed as I stood. Neo drew her sword out of her umbrella and took on her duel wielding stance. Pyrrha seemed frozen in shock.

            Cinder coughed and brushed herself off. “So, you finally decided to show up. I was wondering when you would.”

            “Pyrrha, she got the powers, didn’t she?” I asked.

            Pyrrha nodded.

            Neo nodded at me. We sprang into action. Cinder summoned two swords and did a great job at fending us off, we were giving it our all. “Pyrrha, you need to get out of here.” I said.

            “I can’t, I’m out of aura and my leg…” She grimaced in pain as she tried to stand.

            “Fine. Neo, take her out of here.”

            Neo nodded and flipped to Pyrrha’s side and picked her up.

            “I don’t think so, I still feel hungry and I think I know why.” Cinder said, she dashed for them.

            My hand was suddenly in front of Cinder’s face. Black flames licked my hand gently. “Lunas, immolation.” Cinder’s eyes widened.

            A pure black flame erupted from my hand pushing back my arm, it engulfed the whole side of Ozpin’s office she was standing on in an instant. My chest started to hurt. I could turn up the heat of my flames, but it would burn me up from the inside. When I had Lunas with me it wasn’t nearly as self-destructive as my bout with Glynda though, he could temper the damage.

            Neo looked at me one last time before jumping off the tower. I gave her directions. “Neo, meet me at home. I love you.”

            Kick her ass. She signed. She jumped off with Pyrrha. She would use her umbrella to slow their fall just enough, she had wind dust woven into it to help with stunts like that.

            I turned my attention to the smoke clearing. Cinder coughed. When the smoke cleared enough, I saw that I completely incinerated the remaining wall of the office. Cinder stood. “Now that was good… I could take a few notes from you.”

            Ruby then jumped onto the stage. “Where’s Pyrrha?” She demanded.

            “Neo got her out. What are you doing here?” I asked.

            “I can help!” She unfolded her scythe and moved towards Cinder.

            I snapped and conjured a wall of flame between her and Cinder. “No, Ruby. Leave.”

            “Glad to see you’re honorable.” Cinder seemed impressed.

            “What are you doing?” Ruby asked.

            “Please… Just go. You’ll only get in the way.” I said in a pained tone.

            Ruby then seemed to understand. She nodded. “Don’t die.” She said. She went to the edge of the tower. “Weiss! Catch me!” She jumped.

            The wall of flame disappeared, and Cinder looked at me, amused. “’You’ll only get in the way.’” She cooed. “Not the first time I’ve heard those words today. Ozpin certainly taught you his arrogance.”

            I gripped my sword; I slid my left foot forward and leaned into it. I extended my sword arm behind me and angled the sword in the way I had been taught.

            Cinder summoned dual curved swords. She spread her arms wide but off-set and angled the weapons towards me. She took a wide stance and smiled.

            It was dark, only the light of the massive moon and our fire to light our conflict. The light danced upon the broken and intact glass of the office alike, and casted shadows when it hit what broken rubble there was.

            I steeled myself.

            “It’s only arrogance because he lost.”

Chapter Text

            Clank

            Clank

            SNAP

            Clank

            Snap

            Snap

            Clank

            Cinder and I darted around the arena. Both of our bodies were emitting fire of our respective colors. Every clash of our blades caused fire to break free from the arena. It was hot. We were creating a lightshow from our dance.

            I broke her weapons, the resulting explosion pushed us both back. I spun around, summoning a torrent of flame around me. I got my footing and slammed my sword into the ground sending all the fire to Cinder.

            Cinder slowly moved her hands in a circle in front of her, guiding the flames behind her. She planted her right foot forward and pushed her arms towards me. Sending her own torrent of red flames towards me.

            I pushed my arms forward as well to meet her flames with my own.

=============================================

            Yang and Blake stumbled out of the red portal and tripped on a brown coffee table. They spilled onto the red rug. “Ow!” Blake said, rubbing her head.

            Raven stepped out of the portal, it disappeared behind her. She took off her helmet and turned to look at them. “Gods damnit Yang." Raven facepalmed. "You have to go through the right side of the portal Yang! Now look at this mess, you broke my coffee table. I stole that from some rich fuck. Do you know how many rich assholes have coffee tables that appeal to my unique tastes? Not a lot!” Raven put her helmet on her nightstand, nice oak. She pouted.

            Yang got up. “Sorry?” She rubbed her head.

            A tom-boy looking woman stuck her head into the tent. “Everything alright in here?”

            “Its fine Vernal…” Raven sighed. “Just tell the chef to whip up something for… these two.”

            Vernal left.

            “Did you have to bring the cat with you?”

            “My name is Blake.” Blake folded her arms.

            “I don’t care.” Raven said and waved as she opened a mini fridge and brought out a beer. “Want one?” She gestured.

            “Aren’t we underaged?” Blake asked.

            Raven looked to Yang; Yang didn’t react. She shrugged. “Suit yourself.” The hit the bottle cap off with her sword hilt and drank.

            “What I want, is to make sure my sister is ok.” Yang said, folding her arms.

            Raven shrugged again. “Well they are streaming the event.” She took out her scroll and put it on her dresser, she tapped it a couple of times and brought up the livestream of the Fall of Beacon.

            “Someone is streaming this?” Blake was disgusted.

            “Event?!?” Yang was outraged.

            Raven rolled her eyes and sat on the edge of her luxurious red bed facing the screen.

            Yang and Blake looked at the screen. It was Mercury, Mercury and Emerald were streaming the event. As Merc moved the camera they caught glimpses of Emerald and Mercury’s pants, with his distinct guns attached to his ankles. “Merc is streaming this?” Yang said.

            “You know him? Looks like he’s with the bad guys.” Raven said.

            “You didn’t watch the festival?” Yang asked.

            She shrugged. “I just wanted to see your finals matches. Didn’t tune in until the final four.”

            Yang’s eyes narrowed. “I was disqualified.”

            Raven coughed. “You what? The hell did you do?”

            “I broke Merc’s leg after the match ended.”

            Raven gestured to the screen. “Well based on what I’m seeing his legs are robotic. The activation mechanisms for heel guns like that are really unreliable for the ones that work with flesh legs. It would be better to cut off your legs and get the prosthetics if you wanna go that route.”

            “They’re…” Yang sat down on the bed next to her mom. “I’m a dumbass…”

            “Nah… don’t worry about it, it’s just a stupid tournament.”

            “Just? I contributed to this.” Yang gestured to the screen.

            “I think that one chick murdering that girl did more than enough to cause this.” Raven gestured.

            “Oh god Pyrrha.” Yang felt awful.

            Blake walked over to the mini fridge and opened it. Raven noticed. “Sure, just make yourself at home.”

            Blake grabbed a couple of beers and handed one to Yang. “Really?” Yang asked.

            “At this point?” Blake used her sword and swiftly uncapped both of them.

            “Sooooo she your girlfriend oorrrrr?” Raven asked.

            “MOM!” Yang exclaimed. Blake looked away.

            “Still in denial huh? I thought you were more confident in yourself.” Raven unhooked her sword and tossed it to the side, then got more comfortable on the bed.

            “Blake doesn’t swing that way.” Yang gestured.

            Raven glanced at Blake. “Ok, sure.” Raven shrugged.

            Yang shook her head. “I’m gonna call Ruby.” Yang took out her scroll and dialed. Ruby picked up almost right away. “Hey Rubes, are you ok over there?” Yang put the scroll on speaker. “Blake got out with me, she’s here too.”

            Ruby was silent for a moment, but Yang could hear her breathing through her nose.

            “Ruby?” Blake asked.

            “YOU FUCKING BITCH!”

            “Ruby!” Yang was shocked.

            “Why the fuck did you leave?!?”

            “Raven came for me, I didn’t have a choice.”

            “Don’t give me that lame-ass bullshit excuse! You are my sister: Yang Xiao Long! If you really wanted to stay and help us, you would have stopped at nothing to do that!”

            “She’s right you know… sounds like Summer…” Raven mumbled.

            “Ruby, relax, getting riled up like that is not helping anything.” Weiss could be heard.

            “Don’t tell me to fucking relax! Yang why the fuck did you leave? Tell me the fucking truth!”

            “I didn’t think she could be this intense.” Winter said.

            “I-” Yang shook. “I was scared Ruby… and I was being selfish with…I’m sorry for…”

            “You fucking coward, bye! Jaune is calling me, you know, the guy who I thought might be dead a few seconds ago because this shit is serious over here and you just bailed on us, on ME, rather than helping. Don’t bother coming back!” Ruby hung up.

            “Sheesh.” Raven said. “Summer didn’t lose it like that often, you must have really upset her.”

            “Not helping.” Blake said, she started rubbing Yang’s back.

            “Can you portal us to Qrow?” Yang’s lip was trembling.

            Raven sighed. “No can do. Severed that connection a while ago.” She lied.

            “Dad?”

            “He’s still in patch right now, I can sense it. You wouldn’t get back to the school until after the shit is over.”

            “Damnit.” Yang buried her face in her hands.

            “Hey, it’ll turn out fine. I have a feeling that Ruby is the forgiving type.” Blake said.

            “But she isn’t, you were there before she had that talk with Uncle Qrow. She’s still mad at mom for dying.”

            “Rude, I’m right here.” Raven said.

            “Summer was just as much of a mom as you are, she deserves the title just as much as you, if not more.” Yang glared.

            Raven shrugged. “Fair.”

            Blake hugged Yang; she dragged her hand through her hair. “She’ll be fine. If you’re worried about her safety, don’t be. Weiss and Winter are with her.”

            Yang nodded.

            “You let her touch your hair?” Raven asked, she received two killer glares in response. She held her hands up in surrender. She finished her beer and threw the bottle in a waste bin. “So… I see you got a sword, when did that happen?” Raven pointed at the sword now attached to Yang’s hip.

            Yang was about to tell her to shut up, but Blake answered instead. “We got it after the summer camp, you remember. It is made of a uru and energy dust alloy to complement her semblance.”

            Raven raised her eyebrows. “Ooo, that’s some quality and rare material. Must have had someone skilled make that thing too, that kind of alloy is not easy to make stable. Quite the upgrade from those bracelets you made in inter school.”

            “Yeah.” Yang said dejected.

            “Ooh, look at that.” Raven pointed at the screen. “Wyvern.”

            They looked at the screen to see a wyvern crash into Beacon tower. The stream cut out.

           ===============================

            “Weiss! Catch me!” Ruby leapt from the tower.

            Weiss’s eyes widened. Could she catch her? “Shit. Shit. Shit.” She mumbled. She quickly casted some negative glyphs combined with some gravity dust to slow Ruby’s fall. It wasn’t enough. Weiss sheathed her swords and aura jumped to catch Ruby. “Hang on!” Weiss spread her wings and made some more negative glyphs to slow their fall. The land broke Weiss’s aura but didn’t hurt her too bad, just some minor leg pain. “What if I hadn’t caught you!?!”

            Ruby hugged her. “I knew you wouldn’t leave me.”

            “Ruby…” Weiss realized how bad Ruby was doing in this moment. She lost her shit when she found out Yang left. “What happened up there? Is everything ok?”

            Ruby breathed. “Neo got Pyrrha out of there and Art is fighting Cinder now.”

            “He didn’t want help? Does he need help?” Weiss looked to the top of the tower and drew her sword. Art and she didn’t get along that well, just too different people, but she still cared for him on some level because the people she cared about did.

            “He said I would only get in the way.” Ruby said, dejected.

            Weiss sheathed her sword. “I think he’s right.”

            Ruby looked to the tower too. “Wow… its almost… beautiful.”

            Green, black, red and orange flames were being sent outward in bursts, lighting up the sky. The fire was everywhere, there was no doubt Ruby helping would just make Art worry about hitting her.

            “Pyrrha!” Weiss shouted. She saw Pyrrha walking with Neo, who had the injured girl leaning on her shoulder. Neo was stronger than she looked thanks to her powerful aura. Ruby and Weiss rushed over.

            “Pyrrha are you ok?” Ruby asked.

            Pyrrha looked up at Ruby, her face became a mixture of shock and sadness. She started tearing up immediately. “Ruby I-… I am so sorry… I felt the metal but I didn’t think… I was distracted and I…”

            Ruby hugged Pyrrha. “It’s not your fault, it’s Cinder’s. Art will get payback for both of us.”

            “I’m so sorry Ruby…”

            Weiss breathed in. “What were you thinking Pyrrha?!?” Weiss yelled. “That woman killed Ozpin; did you really think you stood a chance? Did you have a death wish or something?”

            Pyrrha took a shaky breath. The look on her face said it all. Yes.

            Weiss and Ruby took a step back, unsure on how to respond. Let’s just get her some medical attention. Neo signed as best she could with Pyrrha holding onto her. Help me get her out of here.

            They all picked up Pyrrha and lead her to where people were getting evacuated. Winter was there, sitting on the ground. “Where did you two run off to… oh.” She saw Pyrrha’s state.

            “Wait, what happened to you…” Weiss saw bandages on Winter. On her leg and one on her side. “When did you get hurt?

            “That scorpion caught me a couple of times when I didn’t have my aura up.” She struggled to stand. “When I still had some aura left they weren’t bleeding, but when I ran out…”

            “Miss Nikos!” Dr. Oobleck ran over. “Oh, my goodness. Where are you hurt?” He had a medical kit. The girls set Pyrrha on the ground.

            “My ankle.” Pyrrha lifted her leg to reveal an arrowhead stuck in it.

            “Wait. Where did Neo go?” Ruby asked and looked around. Neo was nowhere to be seen.

            “She probably went back to help Art?” Weiss suggested. Ruby looked worried.

            “No, Art told her to meet him at home. I don’t know where he means, but that probably where she’s headed.” Pyrrha said.

            “Good to know he’s not planning on dying.” Winter said. Looking to the light show at the top of the tower.

            “Guys!” Sun approached the group. “You guys need to get out of here, all the civilians have already bailed. We can get you guys on a ship now.”

            “He’s right children.” Oobleck said. “And Pyrrha can be better treated in the safe zone in Vale. Let’s get her up.”

            Weiss and Sun picked Pyrrha up.

            “I’m not leaving without Art.” Ruby said firmly.

            “Ruby, common.” Weiss pleaded. “Qrow in in the safe zone. You should meet up with him.”

            “No, I’m staying.”

            “Then I’m staying with you. Dr. Oobleck, can you carry Pyrrha in my stead?” Weiss asked, Oobleck nodded and took her place.

            “No, Weiss!” Winter approached her sister. “It’s not safe. We need to leave.”

            “Ruby is my partner Winter, I’m not just going to leave her.”

            “Weiss…”

            “I’ll be fine Winter. We are just waiting for him. We aren’t going to fight.”

            “Guys, that wyvern keeps circling the school!” Sun got heated. “Even the White Fang is pulling out! We need to go!”

            “I’m staying.” Ruby said.

            “Me too.” Weiss agreed.

            Winter hugged Weiss. “Be safe.” Winter turned on Ruby. “If she gets hurt, I will have your head.” Despite the harshness there was some levity hidden in the words.

            Ruby nodded. Her and Weiss ran back towards the school.

            “Idiots…” Sun said.

            Winter narrowed her eyes; she didn’t like this. She, the boy and his girlfriend bested the scorpion and make him run but they didn’t know where. Winter dialed her scroll.

            “Ice queen?” Qrow answered.

            “Ruby is still near Beacon tower with my sister. You need to get over here and protect them… I’m out of aura.” She admitted.

            “Understood.” He hung up.

===============================================

            “Pyrrha!” Jaune hugged her. “Why the hell did you do that?” He started crying into her shoulder.

            “I’m sorry Jaune. I’m… sorry.”

            “Give her some space Mr. Arc.” Goodwitch requested.

            “Sorry.” Jaune released her.

            “You should check on the rest of your team, they are in the main tent.” She gestured.

            Jaune nodded. He looked at Pyrrha. “I’ll be fine.” She reassured with a smile. It didn’t reach her eyes.

            Jaune left the tent. This tent was a tent for one. Goodwitch wanted to talk with her alone. Goodwitch sat on the edge of Pyrrha’s bed and looked at her with sympathy, rare for Goodwitch. Pyrrha tried to scoot her leg away but grimaced in pain. The arrow was barbed and awful to get out. She wouldn’t get back on her feet for a while. “Tell me everything.” Goodwitch requested.

            She did.

            Goodwitch nodded solemnly. She knew Ozpin would reincarnate. It still hurt regardless. “So now Quinton is fighting a fully powered maiden on his own, who no doubt has received training on how to use her newfound powers.” Goodwitch shook her head. “Win or lose, what will be the cost?”

            “I’m sorry… I should have accepted sooner… I’m sorry.” Pyrrha started crying.

            “You said the transfer was hurting you. You likely would not have survived the process anyway. Don’t beat yourself up. You are a huntress; you can’t let your guilt stop you.”

            Pyrrha looked away from her.

            “I’ll leave you be. Focus on recovery.” Goodwitch got up to leave but heard rumbling. “What?”

===========================

            Our fight dragged on. We couldn’t beat each other.

            She shot a torrent of flame at me. I returned it, the flames extending from my fist in front of me. The wind shot past my ears and the only thing that could be heard was the muffled roar of the flames. I wavered and my flames pushed hers away at an angle. A wall of red flame passed my right. We both relented. Green and black flames spun and dissipated behind Cinder and red behind me. Cinder looked back at it. She was breathing hard, as was I.

            I lit my sword on fire and slammed it into the ground sending more flames to my opponent. She opted to dodge out of the way this time, pushing herself to the side with an explosion from her feet. She flicked her hand along the ground creating a wall of ice to prevent her from falling off the edge. She skated around me on ice and shot fire at me at the same time. I countered a few blasts with my own. I held my sword in both my hands in front of my face and concentrated. A green light surrounded the blade. I rested the blade on my shoulder and spun, sending fire in a circle around me catching Cinder. She tumbled onto the ground.

            She coughed as she stood. “Damnit.” She mumbled. She caught her breath.

            I caught my breath too. Then we heard the rumbling. We turned to look at the source. The lead Atlas ship crashed into the ground, sending a massive plume of fire into the air… and now Amity Colosseum started falling out of the sky. I also saw some stray tin cans collapse onto the ground, they got disabled. I turned to Cinder. “Is this what you wanted?” I got out between breaths.

            “Not exactly according to plan but still in our favor.” She coughed. She seemed to think. “You know… Roman was on that lead ship.”

            My eyes narrowed.

            “He’s probably dead. Such a shame too, I actually grew to like him.” She chuckled at my expression. “He was the only colleague I had with a foot in the real world. Shame he will leave his daughter behind.”

            “If you think you can rile me up, it won’t work.” Get her monologuing. I then thought.

            She grinned. “How do you think poor Neo will react to her father being killed while working for me.” She spread her arms wide.

            Perfect.

            “I only wish I could see her cr-“

            I was suddenly in front of her. Pushing speed like this hurt my legs like hell but this was the best moment to do it.

            Her eyes widened and she tried to bring her right hand towards me to blast me away, but I grabbed her wrist.

            I then drove the tip of my sword into her head pushing her backwards onto the ground. My sword cut through the glass floor and her head easily, like a hot knife through butter. The floor cracked under the force.

            “You clever devil, you caught me monologuing.”

            My eyes widened. I had pushed the hilt of my sword into her forehead, but the blade of my sword was no more. It was a puddle of molten metal that pooled under cinder like blood.

            “It’s my semblance…” She cooed. “I can superheat material. That blade’s energy absorption is off the charts by virtue of it being made of uru, but it’s still not immune to my semblance. I can even change the shape of material after I melt it, want to see?” The molten metal shot up like a spear into my shoulder.

            I cried out in pain. Cinder then sent a spear of ice into my stomach to get me off her. I was flung backwards by the force and landed on my back. I struggled to stand, and I pulled the spear of metal out of my shoulder. The spear of ice fell out of me onto the ground thanks to my regeneration. I looked at the sword handle in my hand, the blade was gone.

            Cinder got on her feet. “Couldn’t seem to melt the handle though, strange.”

            “What the hell have you done?”

It’s fine, don’t worry about it, that blade was grafted on, it was never a part of me.

            I breathed a sigh of relief.

            BBBOOOOOOMMMM!!!!

            I turned and looked. Amity Colosseum had fallen, the explosion sent debris and fire all over the city. I became furious.

            Cinder shot another fireball at me and I swatted it away. I grabbed my chest and fell to my knees. I was in pain. I was at my limit. I coughed blood.

            “This is it, isn’t it?” Cinder tilted her head and slowly walked towards my kneeling form. “This is how you will go down? I admit you put up a good fight, but I almost wanted you to beat me, not many have.” She readied a fireball.

            Green and black blood fell from my mouth. As it dripped to the ground, I felt mesmerized by the swirling colors. I gingerly touched it. “Is this… my blood?” I mumbled.

            My world became fire, and blood.

==============================================

            Artorias’ body erupted. Cinder had to shield her eyes from the green light. Cinder summoned a pair of curved swords. Storm clouds apparated and covered the moon, green lightning crackled within. The air smelled of ozone. The light died down and Cinder looked at her opponent. Enough fire moved out of the way to make Art visible.

            The sword had a new blade. An ornate glass blade. It glowed with a green light. Within the blade swirled the abyssal cosmos. It was as though a galaxy was within the blade. Art had a hole in his chest, pure black flame burned out of it. The hole didn’t seem to have an end, it felt infinite, Cinder felt like she was falling when she looked at it. Green flames licked the rest of his form. His eyes, they had green blood leaking out of them, and they were covered in green flame. He rose to his feet slowly, using the sword to help him stand. He steadied himself and gripped his sword. He still stood with a bit of a hunch.

            The wyvern cried and soared towards the tower. Art turned his head to look at it. It was incinerated in green fire immediately. The wyvern was nothing but dust.

            Cinder’s eyes widened, she stepped backward, her stance wavered. “What is this?” She whispered to herself.

            Art turned his attention back to her. He angled his sword outward and slightly to the ground. He wasn’t in any fighting stance. He started walking slowly towards her.

            Cinder readied herself and narrowed her eyes. She shot a torrent of flame at him.

            The red flame turned into a green ball and was shot back to her. She dodged. Art sped up his approach into a fast walk. Cinder approached. Art raised his sword and slammed it back down. There wasn’t any form or intention behind it, it was sloppy. Cinder easily dodged and stabbed a sword into his side.

            They both paused. Art turned his head to look at her, his face was stone. His eyes unreadable due to the fire that poured from them. Cinder double check that she stabbed him. He spun around swinging to decapitate. Cinder let go of her sword and dodged away just in time. He looked at the curved sword that was lodged in his side and took it out. He dropped it and turned on Cinder. He rushed her.

            He slammed his great sword into the ground like a mindless animal, with animalistic grunts to accompany his mindless brutality. He spun at the sound of Cinder’s heels on the glass floor. He shot fire from his body without care in every direction. Despite his lack of form and skill his speed and power had Cinder on her toes. Her dodges were narrow, her attacks were useless. Cinder became afraid. It was like she was trapped in a cage with a rabid animal.

            Cinder had a terrible realization: It’s not him. It’s not HIM! It was almost… sad.

            His arms went limp and he hunched over. His body convulsed and pained sounds escaped from his mouth to accompany it. His spine snapped backwards, and he screamed, orbs of black fire erupted from his chest and homed in towards Cinder. He leaped to Cinder and slammed his sword. Cinder dodged him but got tagged by one of the orbs, her aura pulsed. She got his by his sword and was flung back. Some of the orbs hit the ground and the spots they hit glowed with light. Bolts of green lightning streamed from the sky to these spots.

            Cinder shot streams of fire to him, but it was useless. I lost. Cinder realized. She got hit, almost flying off the tower. Green hard-light swords sprouted from the floor, preventing her from falling off. Cinder stood and turned to face this creature. It screamed at her. Cinder screamed back.

            Cinder sprouted wings of fire and flew into the air. She summoned all the magic within her and shot it at the being.

            The being motioned its arms and became engulfed in flame.

LET IT ALL OUT!

            The green and black fire pushed outwards, engulfing the arena.

            It took everything Cinder had to protect herself in a ball of magic. It wasn’t enough. The green and black flame pushed to her and started burning the skin off her arms. Her aura pulsed, trying to protect her from the heat.

            The monster’s face appeared in front of her and he dug his sword into her chest. Her aura cracked like glass. She tried grabbing the sword, but it just burned her more. “No, stop. STOP!”

            She was pushed through the floor, the glass breaking in brilliant fashion, with the green energy coursing through it. Her aura broke.

=================================

            Weiss and Ruby looked at the tower in awe as a pillar of green and black flame shot into the heavens, brightening the sky as though it was day.

            Then Beacon tower exploded.

Chapter Text

            Ruby woke up in a cold sweat. The pushed her bed covers off herself. Her head then throbbed in pain, she placed a hand on it and noticed the bandage. She noticed her surroundings, she was back at home, back on patch. Her room was just how she had left it before going to Beacon. Her father was sitting in a chair next to her bed, asleep. She shakily got out of bed; her head was throbbing. She wobbled to her dad and shook his shoulder. “Wake up…”

            He was startled awake. “Ruby? Ruby! What are you doing standing? Get back in bed!”

            “Sorry…” Ruby looked down. She sat back on her bed.

            Tai stood. “Get comfortable, you need to recover. I’m gonna get you some water.” Tai left.

            Ruby’s head pulsed. She relented that he was probably right. She wrapped herself in blankets, but she didn’t feel like laying down.

            “Here.” Tai handed her a glass of water. She took it gingerly. He sat back down. “How are you feeling?”

            “My throat is dry…” She said with some levity, Tai smiled. She drank her water. “I’m guessing I’ve been out for a while, how long?” She held her head again.

            “You’ve been out for a few days… You took a heavy hit to the head after the tower exploded.” He gestured to his own head. “What do you remember?”

            “I remember up to the tower exploding… the green light…” Thinking about the green fire hurt her head.

            “Well that’s good, that’s about up to what you should remember.” Tai nodded to himself with relief. “Qrow went for you both and got you out of there.”

            “Where’s Uncle Qrow?”

            “He’s out shopping,” Tai smiled softly. “He’s going to bring you your favorite cookies.”

            Ruby’s eyes widened. “Where’s Weiss? Where is she?!” She demanded; Ruby tried to move but she had already trapped herself in blankets.

            “Ruby!” Tai went over and held her shoulders. “Calm down, she was uninjured.”

            “But where is she?” Ruby stared daggers into him.

            Tai sat back down and sighed. “Her dad came to take her back to Atlas…”

            Ruby held her head and shook it. “No, no, no, no, no. She can’t! Her dad… her wings.” Ruby started to tear up.

            “Ruby, it’s going to be fine.”

            “How?!”

            “They… compromised, she’s going back to Atlas, but she will be living with Winter. She’ll get to keep her wings.”

            Ruby started crying. “But… she’s still going to be gone… just like Yang and Blake… she’s gone…”

            “Ruby…” Tai looked down and away, knowing there was little he could do to help.

            “I’m… What about Jaune, and Pyrrha and Ren and Nora?” She asked through tears.

            “Pyrrha is still recovering, when she is back on her feet her team will be staying in Vale to help with the cleanup. They’re going to need her semblance. Between Beacon tower exploding and Amity falling out of the sky. It will take years to clean up even between Pyrrha and Glynda… Neo is still missing by the way…” He shook his head.

            “Did… Did Art win? Did he beat her?”

            Tai nodded solemnly. “We found the woman’s… body. Her skin was burned off and she had a massive hole in her chest.” He gestured vertically over his chest.

            “And Art is recovering… like me?”

            Tai shook his head.

            “What do you mean?!”

            “We found his clothes… there were human ashes within them, and we got them tested. It was him… He… burned up.”

            Ruby started shaking. He was her friend… he was like a big brother. That was the relationship she wanted to develop with him, but now they wouldn’t be able to. He helped her through things… taught her it was ok to be feared. “Damn it…” She balled her hands into fists. “Damn it!” She started hitting her legs franticly. “Damn it! Damn it! Damn it! Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!”

            “Ruby! Ruby stop.” He grabbed her wrists. “Don’t hit yourself like that! You’re going to bruise…”

            She bawled. “Weiss is gone… Yang is gone… Blake is gone… and Art and Penny are dead.”

            “Qrow will get here soon Ruby… Ruby, Weiss left you a note before she left.” He nodded to the nightstand. “That might give you some comfort.”

            Ruby looked at the nightstand, there was an envelope. Tai let go of her hands and let her go to it. She picked it up gingerly with shaky hands.

            “I’ll leave…”

            “No… stay… please.” Ruby asked.

            “Ok.” Tai sat in his chair. He put his hands together and looked down.

            Ruby opened the envelope and slipped out the note. It was a page torn from Weiss’s ‘competition notebook’, it was Ruby’s page. There was a new note at the bottom. Ruby’s eyes widened. She flipped the page over, Weiss had written a goodbye letter on the back, and an explanation for the new note. Ruby looked at Tai. “Tai?” She asked.

========================================

            Qrow flew back to Tai’s house. He was worried about Ruby. Emotionally more than physically. She would bounce back from any injury, but from her team leaving her? Artorias dying probably didn’t help either. But, he would be there for her now. He told Oz that he quit. Oz was very understanding, but still sad. At least they would have still been on friendly terms if Oz had lived. Oz understood and sympathized with his reasons for leaving. Qrow did hope they would meet again.

            Ruby was his priority now. Qrow knew that Tai would prioritize getting Yang back home as soon as Ruby was better. Leaving Ruby alone. If Qrow didn’t quit he would be looking for the next Oz right now, leaving her all alone.

            Qrow arrived, he turned back into a human and landed in front of the house. At least Oz let him keep his bird powers, Qrow offered to give them back, if he even could. The best thing about the bird powers what that anything he was carrying just turned with him. He looked at the groceries in his hands, he expected Ruby to wake up soon, so he opted to get her some cookies and milk. The good stuff, Tai would always get the stuff that was on sale.

            Qrow let himself in. “Tai! I’m back!” He announced. He made his way to the kitchen. He put the cookies into the pantry. This action felt weirdly good to him, back to domestic life. I can probably start teaching at signal again. He thought and smiled. He heard movement and looked to the entrance of the kitchen. Tai was standing there. “You alright Tai? Did… did something happen to Ruby?”

            “She’s awake now, had a good cry about what happened.” He said.

            “Oh… I’ll bring her up some cookies and milk.” Qrow took out the cookies again and went to get a glass from the cupboard, the glass almost fell out, but he caught it. “Guess we’ll have to be on top of that more huh?” She shook the glass and gave a slight smile to Tai. “What?” Tai was frowning. Qrow put down the glass and walked over to him. “Look Tai, Yang probably wants you to find her, you’ll be able to get her home.”

            Tai was fuming, his face scrunched in anger. “I know.” He said with harshness. “It’s not that.”

            “What is it then?”

            Tai was shaking. With a scream he reeled back and punched Qrow.

            Qrow tumbled backwards, luckily, he got his aura up, Tai could throw a good punch. “What the fuck was that about Tai?”

            “I just needed to get that out of my system.” He looked away and clenched his fists. “To find out I was playing the cuck fifteen years after the fact…” Tai started to walk away.

            “Wait Tai!” Qrow scrambled to stand.

            “Just go talk to her… Before she leaves.” Tai left.

            Qrow’s eyes widened in realization. He rushed up the stairs. “Ruby!” He barged into her room. “What are you doing?”

            Ruby was packing a camping backpack. She held her head. “Can you not talk so loud?”

            “Ruby, what’s going on?”

            “I’m leaving dad.” She spat the word ‘dad’.

            Qrow was taken aback. “Ruby I- I didn’t know. I-“

            Ruby glared at him. “It doesn’t matter if you knew. You were always my dad.” Ruby continued to pack.

            “Ruby, where are you going? You still need to recover.”

            Ruby zipped up the backpack. “Art cut off the head of a king taijitu, but now the second head is calling the shots. No one else is going to cut off the second head. So, I will.”

            Qrow’s eyes widened. “Ruby, you have no idea what you are getting into. Please, just rest while Tai finds your sister and your other teammate.”

            “Cousin.” Ruby corrected. “And Yang chose to leave. I don’t give a shit about seeing her again.” Ruby put on her backpack.

            “Ruby, you can’t be serious.”

            Ruby clipped on crescent rose. “Bye.” Ruby turned into a red summer tanager and flew out the window.

            “Ruby!” Qrow transformed and flew after her.

            Qrow squawked to try to get her to stop. Ruby was having a hard time flying, she dipped and flapped her wings out of sync. Qrow started gaining.

            Ruby! Ruby gained her stride, then she broke the sound barrier with her semblance, leaving rose petals in her wake. Qrow untransformed on accident and fell to the grass. “Damn it!”

==========================================

            “Jaune, I don’t like surprises.” Pyrrha said.

            “I know,” Jaune led her by the hand to their team tent. “I just really want to get you happy about something.”

            As Jaune led her, the people they passed by gave her the looks of contempt she had come to expect, she tried in vain to shut it out. “Thank you, but-“

            “Jaune! You brought Pyrrha, good!” Nora stuck her head out of the tent. “Now let’s open these letters!”

            “Letters?” Pyrrha asked.

            Jaune smiled widely as they entered. Ren was sitting cross legged on the floor, with a bag on his lap. “The people of Vale has been sending us thank you letters for helping with the rebuilding. Port released a P.O. box, thought it would lift our spirits, and it seems like you are the favorite.” Jaune said.

            “Hmm?”

            “You’ve been doing about as much work as Goodwitch Pyrrha!” Nora nudged her. “Enjoy people thanking you for it. Hey!” Pyrrha had been pulling away and Nora turned her back. “I hate seeing you like this; you need some positivity.”

            “And I have just the thing.” Ren pulled out a letter from the top of the stack. “This one is from your parents.” He handed the letter to Pyrrha, who took it tenderly.

            “Uhm… Pyrrha?” Jaune asked, he noticed the look on her face. “Do you want us to leave you alone with that?”

            “No, I’ll just open it later. I’m sure there’s plenty more positivity in the other letters.” Pyrrha’s smile didn’t reach her eyes. She put the letter in her red satchel.

            “Ok…”

            “Let’s rip these open!” Nora broke the tension. “I do love praise.”

            They sat down in a circle on the rug.

            “Ok.” Ren started; he plucked a letter out of the bag. “This one is for Nora, from the school activities where the kids are given a name to write to, not very personal…” Ren handed the letter to an exited Nora.

            “Nice!” Nora exclaimed.

            “This one is from an…” Ren squinted. “Kari, who is a big fan of Jaune based on the heart. Must have seen your match at the festival.”

            Pyrrha glared at Jaune as he joyfully took it. Jaune did a double take between the letter and Pyrrha. “Oh… I’m… uhh.” He scratched the back of his head.

            Pyrrha smiled softly. “I’m joking Jaune.”

            “Oh…” He blushed.

            “This one looks formal, for Pyrrha from a Serina.” Ren handed Pyrrha the letter. “And this one is for me from… another fangirl…”

            “Let me see!” Nora dove for it, they started wrestling over the letter.

            Jaune smiled at Pyrrha, damn she loved that smile, made her heart flutter. He gestured to open the letter and started opening his.

            Pyrrha opened her letter and unfolded the paper that was within, she read it.

            MURDERER

            Scrawled in red ink.

            Her hands trembled, she looked at her teammates. Jaune was smiling as he read his fan mail, Nora was reading Ren’s with him over his shoulder.

            Pyrrha incinerated the letter. She held back tears. She closed the envelope it came in and set it to the side.

            Jaune noticed the motion. “Did you like it?” He tilted his head.

            Pyrrha smiled. “Yes, it was very nice. Reminded me of some of the fan letters I got back in Mistral, but more somber.” She loaded the lie.

            “Oh yeah, I always forget you were famous before this.” Jaune smiled.

            Pyrrha crawled over to him and kissed him. “Thank you Jaune.”

            “Uhh, yeah sure.” He was flustered. “Anything for you. What did I-”

            Pyrrha looked down and away from him. “I wish I could do more for you.”

=================================

            “Master.”

            “Hazel,” The master didn’t look away from his computer screen, the screen was playing footage of the Vytal Festival. “You are here to report I assume?” His voice was old and gravely, there was also tremendous energy behind it, as though the souls within him helped him to speak.

            “Yes, Salem as went through with the fall of Beacon plan.”

            “And?”

            “Ozpin has died.”

            He smiled. “Perfect, go ahead and make the preparations, it is time we act again. Track down his next life.”

            “Yes master. I will also make contact will Leonardo.”

            “Of course, it has been a while since I have fed. Speaking of which… Mercury?”

            “He is doing well under Salem and Tyrion’s tutelage; his combat prowess has increased dramatically.”

            “I can see that.” He gestured to the screen in front of him. “I was asking how he’s been, is he eating properly? Has he taken up any hobbies? Has he made new friends? And I hate to ask, but Salem still suspects nothing yes?”

            Hazel shuffled in place. “She suspects nothing, of course, I am still one of her four horsemen. Mercury has been heathy; Emerald is not the friend he deserves but she is suitable given the circumstances.”

            “And some circumstances they are…?” The master sighed. “Leave, I need time to ponder.”

            “Of course.” Hazel bowed. “I will make the proper preparations.”

            After Hazel left, the master touched the screen in front of him gingerly. “Mercury… It seems we will cross paths again soon. I can not wait to see how you have grown, how you will grow.”