Chapter 1: Encounter
Weiss's self-deprecating train of thought is cut short by a familiar face: Neo.
"How dare you!?"
The room belonging to the young Schnee heiress that once held silence had echoed the sound of pure irritation coming from an intimidating man. With an imposing figure and an aura that demanded control, Jacques Schnee loomed over Weiss. He took two steps closer to her. Anger had riddled his once calm and collected form. His hands had been clenched in fists of rage at the audacity of his daughter. Initially, Jacques had come to Weiss with a stern warning, but this little girl had the nerve to talk back to him in such a manner? To Jacques, this was unacceptable! Unthinkable! He was beyond his limits. Pointing a finger at Weiss, he would scold and threaten the young Schnee heiress.
"In this family, you have brought nothing but shame among us! First you have the audacity to attend schooling at Beacon instead of Atlas, then you have the nerve to ignore my calls after I specifically informed you to pick up each and every one before leaving for Vale, and now you have the gall to accuse me of soiling the Schnee name and running this company into the ground?! I will have you know that ever since I took charge, this company has made billions! You are nothing but an ungrateful brat who has forgotten her place, Weiss!"
Weiss Schnee, who just finished finally standing up to her father for the first time in her life, still felt herself reeling from the shock of it all. Her heart felt like it would burst from her chest, racing a mile a minute. It didn't help her one bit to see Jacques getting angrier and angrier. Icy irises widened in a mixture of shock and fear. When her own father took a step forward, she found herself initially flinching, preparing herself to be struck, just as before. Yet it never came. One slap was enough to get it through to her defiant skull for tonight. Clutching the sides of her long dress with a cyan gradient running down the length, Weiss found her breathing to be shorter and shorter. Her chest ached with fear and pain. Her oppressor was right in her face, speaking ill of her own defiance. How desperately Weiss wanted to break free from her chains. No matter what, however, Jacques always reeled them in.
Her father, now standing up straight and taking in a deep breath, decided on a different strategy. Brushing the length of his cufflinks with his hands, he began to compose himself once more. He had ways of controlling Weiss. Her newfound arrogance would be punished. Looking down upon her, Jacques's eyes displayed little emotion. No anger. No hate. No rage.
The president of the Schnee Dust Company knew how to get what he wanted out of anyone. People had their own weaknesses, each different from the next. Jacques was a master of manipulation: Strong arming his competition into bankruptcy, controlling a monopoly on Dust, winning over nearly everyone at his fancy parties and events. His daughter was no different. She had a weakness, and he aimed to crush her with it. Clearing his throat, Jacques stood with both of his hands resting firmly against his lower back, one hand over the other's wrist, exuding that aura of professionalism he had whenever meeting another businessman. Even his tone sounded much more crisp and clear. No longer did it hold any hate. It was the sound of the calm before the storm. But he knew this would devastate Weiss.
"Weiss Schnee, your level of disobedience has led me to believe that you are unfit and unprepared to lead a company as grand as the Schnee Dust Company. Your current professionalism is not up to par with what I'm looking for in a successor. Therefore, I've taken it upon myself to personally disown you as the heiress of the company."
With a reflexive gasp, Weiss reached up to cover her mouth with her hand. There was no way she heard him right. He planned to completely strip her of her rightful birthplace as the head of the company. Her mind went numb, her eyes trembling in a mortifying manner. Weiss cast her gaze downwards, just thinking back to her entire life: putting up with constant lessons, never making friends, never receiving a word of praise, and constantly being used as her father's own personal Public Relations puppet. It all amounted to absolutely nothing. A terrifying chill ran along her body as goosebumps formed all over her arms, legs, and the nape of her neck. Seeing as Jacques had her right where he wanted her, he had a triumphant smirk on his face, turning to casually leave her room.
"As of today, Whitley is the new heir to the company, while you are not to leave the manner under any circumstances. Now then..."
Despite knowing she couldn't see it, Jacques had the most self satisfying look on his face. He knew he won. It was all too easy to beat his defiant daughter. He took the only thing left that she had and yanked it from her grasp. With nothing left to take from her, he knew that this conversation was over.
* * * * * * * * * *
Weiss Schnee, now the former heiress of the Schnee Dust Company, found herself all out of tears after a while. Laying on her overly massive bed with her face buried in a light blue, snowflake-embroidered pillow, Weiss just looked up from burying her eyes in it's smooth fabric after a while. It had been soaked with tear stains from earlier. Her frustration even caused her to lash out with her glyphs, sending books flying off their pristinely sanded oaken bookshelves. She immediately let her anger loose earlier, but after calming down, she found there wasn't much left for her. Weiss didn't have any energy left for tears or outbursts. Right now, Weiss felt completely exhausted as the events from earlier played in her mind. Over and over again.
I can't believe it. He actually disowned me. And now? What do I even have left? My friends are gone, my freedom is gone, and even my destiny is no more. I...have nothing...
The now ex-heiress found herself in a predicament. She was instructed to just sit alone in this hellacious prison. Weiss was trapped like a bird in it's cage. Darkness seeped through every corner of her mind, enveloping it with negative thoughts and despair. This pain made her realize just how dead she really was on the inside. There wasn't any sign of life in her eyes. They just looked glossed over, her head hung low as she sat up from her miserable position on her bed. Her legs dangled off the edge, but her mind was completely elsewhere.
Darkness coated her room, save for the pale moonlight than shone through her massive balcony windows. She could hear the pitter-patter of raindrops starting up. Just as well, this storm only emphasized her dark mood even further. All of her effort had been for naught. Was she even a huntress anymore? Weiss didn't think it to be fair! Struggling was all she could ever do against this world: struggling to be a huntress, struggling to make friends, struggling to fight terrible Grimm and people alike. And for what? So she could just end up in her isolated solitary confinement once more? Her heart ached in genuine pain from how meaningless it all seemed.
The first crackling sound of thunder and lightning was the only thing to break the dead of silence in her miserably, darkened room. It was time for her to sleep. Maybe it was for the best. It wasn't like Weiss had the energy to do anything else today. Being conscious and brooding about her misery didn't bode well for her. Feeling dreadful unenthusiasm, Weiss would simply take the headpiece out of her hair. Weiss's long, flowing hair would gently rest along her back, no longer having any resistance to suppress it's full length of snow-white radiance and beauty. Glancing down at the headpiece, Weiss took a minute to take in it's crown shaped design. A crown was meant for someone with power. Someone with authority. That someone wasn't her. Of course, she wondered if she ever held any such real power in the first place. Lightly shaking her head, she just set the silver crown down on her mahogany dresser next to her bed.
Blanketed in white sheets made of the finest of materials, Weiss would rest her head against a pillow, one of the few without tear stains on it. No matter how soft, her head still pounded with a terribly headache that seemed in tandem with each lightning crash. Dried streaks of tear stains marked her face. Aching, reddened eyes from her weeping, had remained to indicate the short amount of time it had been since she last cried. A heartbreaking sigh escaped her lips. Weiss merely just wanted this to be all one bad dream. But she knew there was no waking from this nightmare. There wasn't even a reason for her to get up in the morning anymore. Nothing even mattered now. But soon enough, her own exhaustion and emotional distress was the catalyst to being able to finally pass out. Everything just felt so...
* * * * * * * * * *
"Wait! Ruby! No! Don't leave me!"
She ran and ran, but no matter how hard or how fast, Weiss could never catch up to Ruby. They both in an entirely dark space. Weiss had her arm out, trying to reach towards her friend. But no matter what happened, she couldn't reach her. Soon enough, Ruby just turned her back on Weiss, a morose frown on the team leader's face, and began to slowly walk away. Despite this vast contrast in paces, Weiss couldn't reach Ruby, no matter what. Soon enough, however, Blake and Yang were right by Ruby's side, their backs turned to Weiss and matching their team leader's calm walking pace. Weiss struggled, fighting back tears, and shouted for the heavens for her friends to come back.
"Girls! Wait! Don't leave me! Please! Please... Please don't leave me."
Eventually, Weiss knew her running was in vain. It was futile. And just like that, her team was gone. They had vanished forever from her sight. Now Weiss had been all alone in this encroaching darkness. Holding her arms around herself tight, Weiss shut her eyes tightly, feeling the sense of dread and utter despair creeping in. In her mind, all she had left was herself, the darkness around her, and one other object. It had formed in the distance not too far away. With expressionless, dead eyes, Weiss would get up and slowly step closer to whatever this was.
"Ah... So it's you. At least...I still have you..."
Reaching up slowly with her hand, it would come into contact with a simple full-length body mirror. In it's reflection, Weiss could see only herself. Yet there was something off about it: She couldn't see her own eyes. It was as if she lost sight of her who she even was anymore. After losing her claim to the company, was Weiss Schnee even Weiss Schnee at this point? Her palm gently grazed it's way down the side of the mirror. Weiss didn't know why, but the cool surface of this mirror put a sense of ease into her. This sense of ease, however, quickly came to a halt as cracks began to form. Cracks that spread from the center of the mirror, as if suddenly struck by a baseball. It caused her to flinch, pulling her hand back in a surprised gasp. The cracks would entirely distort her reflection. And for a moment, her scar over her left eye wasn't the only scar on her body anymore. Everywhere she looked, she just seemed so broken. Soon enough, the mirror would crack and shatter completely, the glass shards flying off it's surface. One stray shard came gliding towards her, directly in her deadening eyes. And soon enough, there was nothing.
Gasping for air, Weiss found herself suddenly jolting awake from her terrifying nightmare. Her sense of self had been lost to her. Weiss felt her heart pounding within her chest, but it would only worsen as she felt a strange amount of weight pressing against her chest. In this nightmarishly cold sweat, Weiss could hear that the storm was still persistent. But that's all. The moonlight didn't reach her bedframe, so the former heiress couldn't tell what was resting against her chest. Whatever it was, it prevented her from sitting up. Before she could even let out a gasp, Weiss found a gloved hand suddenly outstretched and covering her mouth from within the darkness. Eyes wide, Weiss realized this wasn't some inanimate object resting on her body. It was a person! An assassin? An intruder?
Another strike of lightning would light up the room, but only for a second. Yet, this second was all the time she needed to recognize this mysterious assailant. The light from the storm allowed Weiss to see key features: She was a woman, she had a bowler hat on her head, and she wore tight, brown pants with a white jacket over a brown corset. What struck Weiss the most, however, was the coloration of this girl's eyes and hair. Magenta and brown heterochromatic irises stared back at her, accompanied by a similarly themed hair color. Long, brown and pink hair with white streaks in the pink side was another distinguishing feature about this assailant. But Weiss recognized her immediately! She had seen this woman before. This girl was with Torchwick under the overpass in Vale! Yang also fought her during the train breach!
From shocked to downright fearful, Weiss's chilly irises gave away her emotions all too easily. Her mind raced with so many questions.
How is she here!?
How did she find me!?
What does she want with me!?
Her questions would remain a mystery, as her muffled mouth couldn't get a word out from Neo's gloved hands. The next lightning strike, however, illuminated her room once more, instilling a sense of even more dread and terror within Weiss. Neo had leaned her face as close as possible to Weiss, her mismatched eyes staring right into her own. A wicked grin made its way on Neo's features as her free hand would come up to raise a finger to her own lips. It was a gesture of silence. A gesture telling Weiss not to alert attention to this room. With sinister intent behind her threatening actions, Neo would mouth in silence what she wanted from Weiss.
Chapter 2: Striking A Deal
Weiss comes face to face with Neo, but finds this may be her only opportunity.
A/N: So funny enough, as of the newest RWBY episode, we have confirmation that instead of people saying "Oh God.", people say "Oh Brothers." So I'll add that bit of phrasing into the story as I go along
Silence filled the bedroom once more. The sound of the former Schnee heiress struggling had long since ceased. Her muffled words against Neo's glove faded away as well. All the while, Neo just glared down at Weiss, her creepy smile never weakening. It was almost as if she enjoyed watching Weiss panic for dear life. If Weiss hadn't been so physically and emotionally drained, she may have had the willpower to shake her off of her chest. But in the state she was now? Impossible. Closing her eyes, Weiss finally settled into an uneasy calm. The fact that this half-pint assassin hadn't executed her was a miracle in it's own. No, she clearly wanted something from Weiss.
Another bolt of lightning illuminated the room. Looking to her bedstand, Weiss took note of her weapon. Curses! Why did she have to lock it away in it's pristine casing? There wasn't a chance in the world she could shake Neo, reach the case, unlock it, and draw her weapon. Weiss wasn't stupid. She heard the stories from Yang and Ruby. Both of them witnessed first hand just how agile this girl was. Beating Neo in speed in this position was a far-fetched idea. With no other options, Weiss had no choice but to accept whatever fate Neo had for her. Upon being completely calmed down now, Weiss just looked up to the silent assassin with a lack of emotion in her eyes.
Now this was quite peculiar. Neo witnessed Weiss gradually shift to an unenthused state of mind. While she wanted her to calm down, she didn't expect her despondent visage. In a slow motion, Neo carefully dragged her hand down Weiss's mouth and settled to rest gently on her neck. Having the upper hand on her prey made Neo feel much better about these negotiations. Weiss wasn't going anywhere. She made sure of it. Neo's smirk went from sinister to a bit more tame. If Weiss cooperated, then things would go smoothly. The dead silence soon shattered by Weiss's initial question.
"You're that Neo girl, aren't you?"
No response. At least, not one she could see. Feeling that this darkness might cause a bit of confusion, Neo used her free hand to pull out her scroll. Turning the flashlight on, she'd face it upside down on the bedsheets, making it easier to see the two. Now with each girl in view of each other, Neo made sure to answer her first question with a simple nod of her head. Dread began welling up in Weiss's heart once more, but she wouldn't panic. Taking a deep breath, she continued her line of questioning.
"How did you get here? How did you find me?"
Now this was a rather difficult question. The mute girl merely looked up to the ceiling, a finger over her own bottom lip in order to give away that she was in thought. This was all in good jest, of course, as she figured this would come up. In a fake moment of realization, Neo imitated a small a-ha! gesture. Reaching for her scroll, the ice cream criminal would flip through a few images before landing on one and turning it around to show Weiss. A small gasp escaped the young Schnee's lips. It was an image of her family's private jet on the day Beacon fell. It had the Schnee emblem etched into the side, giving away who it belonged to. Weiss remembered that moment all too clearly. It was the moment she was yanked away from her friends and loved ones. Her eyes were downcast, her tone matching her mood.
"I see. So, you managed to follow me all the way here in Atlas? I suppose our family isn't known for being subtle with travel."
Looking back up, Weiss noticed Neo setting her scroll down once more to let the flashlight application illuminate their space. More nods from the silent assassin only confirmed Weiss's assumptions. For whatever reason, however, Weiss noticed that she wasn't even speaking to her. She heard rumors from her teammates that she might be mute, but she didn't actually think them to be true. Weiss would question it, if she wasn't so sure it would end in Neo tightening her grip on her neck. Instead, the ex-heiress left it alone. For now. Now came Weiss's most concerning question. Despite her lack of life in her eyes, they were fixed on Neo's beautifully mismatched irises. Every so often, Weiss saw them shifting colors from brown and magenta to magenta and brown. A weak inquiry soon followed from the fallen Schnee.
"What do you want with me? What makes me so special? I haven't done anything to you."
Without using words or text, this conversation would be hard. However, Neo was a gambling girl. She knew Weiss was smart enough to play this game of charades. Her grin widening ever so slightly, Neo reached for her scroll one more time to flip through her image gallery. This time, it landed on a picture of none other than the notorious Cinder Fall. Cinder was posed as walking away towards Emerald and Mercury in the background. Raising a brow curiously, Weiss felt a little confused by all of this. Her gaze fixed back onto Neo, who set the scroll down once more. There was a clear pattern occuring by now.
"I don't understand. Cinder? What do I have to do with her? What do you want from Cinder?"
Just thinking about that woman only soured Weiss's mood. She was behind all of this. It was her fault Weiss came back in the first place. Neo had her own score to settle with the new Fall Maiden. However, without any leads, Neo needed help. Reaching up to her own neck now, Neo dragged her thumb slowly across it to gesture the act of killing someone. Afterwards, she took the bowler hat off her hear and showed it to Weiss. During this time, however, Weiss could have sworn she saw Neo's expression go soft for a moment. Just looking at that hat brought Neo wonderful memories with Roman. They were inseparable. But now? He was gone. Shaking her head, Neo snapped out of her own gaze and out the hat back on her head. Weiss could only guess what she wanted.
"So, Cinder...killed Roman?"
More nods. Neo more or less was hoping Weiss would guess that she wanted to kill Cinder to avenge Roman, but this was close enough. After all, she blamed Cinder for Roman's death. Partially. Weiss didn't need to know that part, at least. As far as Weiss was concerned, Neo wanted revenge on only Cinder.
Just as before, Neo picked the scroll up to show Weiss a new image. This picture was none other than Ruby Rose, battling a Grimm on top of the airship. The same airship Roman perished on. The picture snapped right when Ruby killed an avian Grimm. Seeing her team leader, Weiss would try to shoot up again with a sharp inhale and newfound energy.
"That's Ruby! Don't you dare hurt her!"
Her struggling was cut short, however, as Neo tightened her grip around Weiss's neck. Pressing her thumb into her windpipe, Neo endured that this spoiled brat would calm down or else. Feeling the sudden pain in her neck, Weiss leaned back down with her head on her pillow, gasping for air through the iron grip of this criminal. The fear of death caused her heart to race. A strand of drool ran down the corner of her mouth. As her face turned red, Weiss wondered if this was the end. Of course, Neo still needed her, so she loosened her grip to it's gentle resting position from earlier. Immediately, Weiss found herself coughing from nearly being asphyxiated! Once her breathing returned to a more stable condition, Weiss just glared up at Neo.
"What do you want with Ruby? If you think I'm going to just hand her over to you, then you're sorely mistaken."
Neo would cover her mouth to silently giggle at the threat from Weiss. As if she had any power over the ice cream criminal in the first place. Raising her finger, Neo would waggle it back and forth, shaking her head in the process. This brought more confusion to Weiss. She tilted her head to the best of her abilities, given the hand around her neck. If she didn't want to kill Ruby, then what did she want with her? Or Weiss for that matter?
"If you don't want to kill Ruby, then what do you want? Ugh, I wish you would just talk already."
Leering down to the former heiress, Neo threatened to tighten her grip again. Sensing this, Weiss quickly seeked to make amends.
"Ack! Alright, alright. Sorry. Geez..."
That's better. Going for her scroll again, Neo swiped back to her image of Cinder and showed it to Weiss. Now the real game of charades was about to begin. The former heiress simply rolled her eyes, but knew she didn't have a choice.
"Okay, fine. I'll play this game. Cinder."
With a confirming nod, Neo would then return her scroll to face the mattress for more light. Using her index finger and middle finger pointing downwards, Neo gestured using them as someone walk along a road. Weiss thought this was so unnecessary, but just guessed anyways.
Shaking her head, Neo tried again. And as she tried again, so did Weiss.
Nodding this time, Neo had a genuine smile on her face now, just glad she could get somewhere with Weiss. Next, she would repeat her earlier motion of dragging her thumb slowly across her neck. Reaching over for her scroll, she showed the picture of Ruby again and set it down. Weiss's eyes widened in terror. She knew exactly what that meant. The look of despair on her face brought Neo such joy. Her devilish smirk returned to her face as Weiss figured it out.
"She's going to kill Ruby?! I have to stop her!"
Again, Weiss uselessly struggled against Neo's grasp. Feeling her tighten her grip once more, Weiss was quick to calm down. This only brought joy to Neo. How quickly the little Schnee girl learned her place. After calming down with a few deep breaths, Weiss would get to the point with Neo. Still, her eyes seemed so devoid of life when she wasn't panicking.
"Fine. What do you want from me then?"
With a small smile devoid of evil intent, Neo simply pointed towards Weiss, then herself, and finally towards the picture of Ruby on her scroll again. Afterwards, she'd set it back down to gesture with both hands. Her fingers interlocked together, showing a union of sorts. Immediately afterwards, however, she dragged a thumb slowly over her neck and finished this game of charades by pointing at a picture of Cinder. Thankfully Weiss was a bright kid, or else she would be here all night explaining her intentions. Weiss pondered for a moment and clarified.
"So you want Ruby, you, and myself to team up to kill Cinder? All in the name of vengeance?"
Yes! That was it! Enthusiastically, Neo nodded several times. She was so elated to talk to someone smart for a change! Of course, it meant nothing if Weiss declined. The ex-heiress pondered for a moment, her eyes downcast. It would be difficult working with a criminal. There would be endless amounts of trust issues. What if Neo just stabbed them in the back? Then again, did any of this matter? With a defeated sigh, Weiss gave a disheartening response, her eyes back to being lifeless as before.
"While your offer is ever so tempting, Neo, I won't be going anywhere any time soon. My father stripped me of my freedom. Of my title as heiress. I'm on complete lockdown. I have nothing left. No friends. No family. No power. Nothing."
The shorter woman listened intently to Weiss's plight. So she didn't have lien or her title? But she still had her combat prowess as a huntress, knowledge of her team's whereabouts, and a reason to fight. Neo knew Weiss would want to help Ruby against Cinder. These goody goody kids were all the same. The only real problem, however, was lockdown. To Neo, however, that was miniscule. A cocky smirk emerged on her face once more. Waving a dismissive hand, Neo let Weiss know not to worry about it. Feeling taken aback, Weiss just inquired further.
"What? You have a plan to get me out of here?"
A single nod.
Glancing over to Weiss's bedside table, Neo noticed her scroll. Reaching over, Neo swiped it and held it up to her own scroll, inputting numbers onto both. Seeing this, Weiss felt more expression in this strange moment of hope. With a scoff, she glared at Neo and snapped at her.
"H-Hey! You can't just take people's scrolls without permission!"
Neo didn't even bother with a response. Just a silent chuckle and nothing more. Handing Weiss her scroll, Neo finally moved off of the ex-heiress, hoping down by her bedside. Should Weiss still want a fight, Neo was more than prepared with Hush in her hands, resting on her right shoulder in it's closed state.
Weiss sat up and gently rubbed her neck of painful red marks. For such a small girl, she sure had an iron grip. Grumbling to herself, Weiss just looked down to her scroll to see a new contact added.
Ice Cream Bae
"W-What the--!? Just what is the meaning of this!?"
Seeing Weiss's reaction was too priceless. Her cheeks were tinted pink and she seemed flustered. Honestly, teasing her was too easy, but thoroughly enjoyable. The former heiress let out a huff, leering at Neo. She wasn't amused. Quickly, Weiss changed her name to just Neo instead of that ridiculous contact.
"I still don't see how this helps. What, you want me to just stay in touch or something?"
After a nod, Weiss just looked baffled. She was just kidding, but Neo wanted to just send her texts? Weiss let out a sigh and wondered if this was the right thing to do. Being trapped within her father's prison would only send her further down the spiral of despair. But did she really need Neo to break her out? With all the cameras around the compound, it was impossible for Weiss to escape without someone on her trail. Getting a ride by sea or air would take too long before being caught. If Neo could somehow sneak in and out of the manor without being picked up on the cameras, then she was better thsn Weiss gave her credit for.
Neo began to walk off towards the balcony to make her departure. It was a now or never moment. Weiss needed to make a decision. Her eyes glanced all around her, her heart rate increase by the second. Breathing a bit heavily, she made her hasty decision. Stepping towards Neo, Weiss called out to her.
As if surprised by her own decision, Weiss covered her mouth. She was really doing this. Impulsive decision or not, she wanted out of this nightmarish prison. Her voice regained it's sense of calm after a moment. Weiss gathered a semblance of composure once more.
"Alright. I'll work with you. We'll find Ruby and take down Cinder together. But I have two conditions."
Glancing behind her shoulder, Neo felt genuinely curious now. No teasing smirk or wicked intentions. Turning around entirely, Neo would slightly tilt her head.
Her way of showing curiosity sure is cute.
"My conditions are simple."
Raising one finger, Weiss went on.
"One. You have to successfully assist me in getting out of this... dastardly compound! And never bring me back here."
Weiss brought up a second finger.
"And two. Don't you dare betray me or Ruby. If you even think of hurting her, I won't hesitate to stop you. Can you promise me that?"
Seeing that determined look on Weiss's face was too adorable. A Schnee truly knew how to make themselves appear bigger than they actually were. What a spoiled brat. Neo could play along, though. Taking a few steps towards Weiss, Neo suddenly dropped to one knee, taking Weiss's hand. The swift action caught Weiss off guard. Neo didn't seem to be hostile, so she would see where this led.
The mute criminal glanced up towards the young Schnee with a smirk. Bringing Weiss's hand up, Neo placed a soft, chaste kiss on the back of it. The action symbolized a promise. She had Neo's word that she would successfully comply with her conditions.
The former heiress stood in shock. She pulled her hand back quickly and covered it with her other. Immediately, her cheeks turned a shade of pink. Glancing away, Weiss just stammered a few complaints out.
"W-What in the world are you doing!? You could have promised some other way! Goodness, Neo..."
A silent giggle came from the mute girl. Standing back up, Neo gave Weiss a bow of grandeur. It was as if she just put on a show for a loving audience. Turning back around, Neo prepared to take her leave in the middle of the storm. However, just as she neared the balcony, she felt a hand on her shoulder, suddenly stopping her in her tracks. With her own genuine surprise and silent gasp, Neo turned around to face Weiss again. What was it this time?
While Weiss was normally one to be direct, she found difficulty this time. She couldn't even make eye contact with Neo. Slowly letting her shoulder go, Weiss would mumble something under her breath. After a few deep breaths from Weiss, Neo figured she was just trying to calm herself down. Or maybe pump herself up for something big? Weiss still couldn't bring herself to look at Neo, but she spoke up from concern.
"Wait! It's storming outside. You don't have to leave if you don't want. If you want, you can spend the night. A-At least until the storm passes!"
Feigning confidence, Weiss stood up straight suddenly with her head held high. Crossing her arms, it was clear she wanted to seem in control. On the inside, however, she was screaming at herself for even making that offer.
Authentic surprise coated Neo's features. Both of her eyebrows were raised. Did she hear her right? Why would Weiss offer her something so kind? Did she really believe everything Neo told her so easily? Was it naivete? A long pause filled the room. Neo racked her brain for a rational explanation, but figured there really wasn't one. Instead, she wanted to see just how far this trust extended. Was Weiss truly was being as kind as Neo thought? Soon enough, Neo had a tiny grin on her face. And soon, she gave Weiss her answer to her offer.
A single, firm nod.
Chapter 3: The New Help
After a hectic night, Weiss awakens and assumes her encounter with Neo was just a dream. Evidence proves otherwise, however.
This isn't exactly what I had in mind...
A foot pressed up against Weiss's cheek. When she offered Neo a night's respite against the storm, she didn't think it would end up like this! Not only did Neo somehow manage to take up ninety percent of the bed, but she somehow turned herself upside down in her sleep! Never in her life had Weiss seen such a rambunctious sleeper. The small criminal stole all the blankets, shoved them to the side, and steadily encroached on Weiss's side of the bed. To think Weiss had to put up with this unconscious girl kicking her in her sleep. After a final, rough kick to her cheek, Weiss sat up in bed. There was a clear sense of bloodlust in her eyes.
"That is it! Neo! Wake up this instant!"
Finally getting a good view of Neo, Weiss saw just how lackadaisical she seemed in her sleep. If Neo wasn't mute, Weiss would have bet her entire fortune that she would be snoring right now. Another thing that seriously bothered Weiss was Neo's lack of clothes! Weiss offered her to sleep in her bed, but didn't expect her to strip down to her underwear! Still, now that she got a good look at them, Weiss could see they had a rather cute design. Her bra had pink on one cup, and brown on the other. Looking down, Weiss saw Neo's panties had three vertical stripes as the design: pink, white, and brown. It upset Weiss greatly to admit it, but Neo had really cute underwear! Thankfully the pink tint to her cheeks would be nigh impossible to see with this lighting.
The former heiress took to shaking Neo's leg in order to help wake her up. Neo's eyes eventually fluttered open, looking to see Weiss shaking her. Sitting upright, the mute girl slapped her hand away from her leg. She'd place both of her hands on her hips and pout towards the former heiress's direction. Weiss groaned and pointed towards the ice cream criminal. They needed to get one thing straight about this offer to sleep with her.
"Listen, Neo. I may have offered my bed for the night, but you can't just take all the blankets and intrude on my side of the bed. And to make matters worse, you keep kicking me in the face! Honestly, how do you even manage to flip upside down in your sleep!? I have half a mind to kick you out right-"
Before she could finish ranting, Weiss felt something soft against her hand. As it turned out, Neo had reached out to hold Weiss's hand with both of hers. It was a little hard to see, but Weiss was able to make out Neo's pouting lips. To make matters worse, Neo combined it with puppy dog eyes. Truly, a deadly combination. Weiss stopped her irritated threat and just sat in silence for a moment. Her heart skipped a beat at the sudden contact. What really got her, however, was that damn adorable face. How could Weiss find it in her to ever kick out someone like this?
Oh Brothers, she's cute! B-But she's also a criminal! Yes, a criminal who tried to kill half my team! But...look at those eyes! Aaaah! Her face is killing me! And how dare she seduce me with her half naked body! I know what she's up to! And it won't work! I'll just tell her to find a hotel and kick her out! Okay, Weiss, you can do this.
A sigh left the former heiress's lips, her tone uncaring.
"Alright fine, you can stay."
Really!? What the hell was that!? Ugh!
Wanting to regain some semblance of dignity, Weiss pointed a scolding finger towards the silent assassin. Despite everything, Weiss managed to put on a stern expression.
"But sleep normal this time! Got it?"
Neo looked to have a smirk on her face. She knew her little act of being cute worked. Already Weiss felt like a complete sucker for being so easily persuaded. With a few nods, the mute girl simply slid her form back down against the pillows at the head of the bed. Neo soon pulled the blankets up to cover both girls just above their shoulders. Weiss glanced over to see Neo getting snug with one of her pillows. Her gaze fell upon the girl that quickly fell asleep once more. It was hard to imagine that this small, cute, quiet, and peaceful looking sleeper was a cold-hearted assassin. Then again, everyone thought Weiss was cold-hearted, too. Maybe she was wrong about Neo. Letting out a small sigh, Weiss just rolled over. She didn't want to think about it. Right now, Weiss just wanted to sleep.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Did it seriously end up like this, again!?
Just as before, Weiss found herself rudely awakened by another kick to the face. Sitting up, she just glared down at the smaller girl with malice in her eyes. It continued to baffle Weiss just how well Neo managed to get into this same position every time! The Ice Queen figured nothing new would come from waking Neo this time around. This was just her own personal hell for the rest of the night. With an agitated groan, Weiss layed back down. Of course, the covers were gone, thanks to Neo. As if she wasn't already agitated enough, another kick came square to her jaw. She flinched and rubbed her jawline with a hand.
Ow! Damn, she kicks hard!
Weiss glanced to her scroll, wanting to see the time. Hopefully it would be morning soon enough and this nightmare would end. The former heiress held onto a small light of hope, deep within her heart. How bad could it be, right?
* * * * * * * * * *
The morning sun shone through the massive windows in Weiss's bedroom. Their beautiful, bright rays descended down elegantly upon her soft, pale skin. Once they rested upon Weiss's eyelids, she began to stir from her sleep. Her eyes fluttered open, her vision soon clearing. Sitting up groggily, Weiss rubbed her eyes and let out a soft sigh. Last night was hell for more than one reason. Turning her head, however, she noticed that Neo was gone. Raising a curious brow, Weiss checked to see if she left her clothes behind. Nothing. It was as if she never showed up in the first place. But that felt far too realistic to be just some lucid dream.
Was that a dream...? Wait, I know!
The former heiress quickly grabbed her scroll and flipped through the contact list. Neo. Weiss didn't realize it at the time, but she had been holding her breath. It was only until discovering Neo's name did she exhale in relief. Weiss wasn't sure why she felt so relieved that her encounter with a criminal wasn't fake. In truth, she should still be worried. So why did she care? She soon rationalized it as just wanting to be free from this manor. Neo made a promise, and Weiss intended to hold her to it. Before she could deal with further conflicting emotions, however, Weiss heard several knocks at the door.
"You may enter, Klein."
The creak of the exquisite oak door broke the momentary silence. In walked a portly man with short stature. His most notable attributes were his brown mustache and balding brown hair. His eyes currently were brown, letting Weiss know this was just the regular Klein. A regular routine wake up call. He'd take three steps into the room. Klein held his hand over his wrist in front of his groin, at the ready.
"Breakfast will be ready within the hour, Miss Schnee."
"Thank you, Klein."
But instead of being dismissed, Klein just walked closer towards Weiss's bed. He raised a hand over his mouth to let out a gasp. After a single blink, his irises went from a brown color to that of mint green.
"G-G-Gosh, Miss Schnee! Your hair! And your eyes! D-D-Did you get a-any sleep last night?"
Blinking twice in confusion, Weiss hopped out of bed to check her mirror. Her mirror was right by her bedside and easily accessible. She understood entirely what Klein was referring to at this point. Weiss had bedhead before, but never to this extent. There were cowlicks sprouting everywhere and her hair looked to be a tangled, frizzy mess! Leaning closer, she also saw the dark rings under her eyes. Weiss just covered her face and groaned, hating being seen like this.
"Y-Yes, Klein. I just had a rather... difficult night. That's all."
The portly butler's eyes soon shifted from mint green to a crimson red. His brows furrowed and he clearly gave off the sign of anger in his tone of voice.
"Aye! I heard what your crusty old man did! Why, if I had the chance I would-"
Feeling her cheeks growing hot from embarrassment, Weiss just offered him a pleading look. She really didn't want to relive that dreaded conversation last night. Klein stopped dead in his tracks and blinked once more. His irises soon shifted to a bright yellow.
"Terribly sorry, my adorable Snowflake! I just get so protective, sometimes! You really feel like the daughter I never had. But you'll be happy to know I made your favorite! Strawberries and cream crepes!"
After such a display, Weiss couldn't help but offer a sincere smile. Not a fake, business friendly smile. Not one to appease her father to hide her true emotions. A real, genuine smile. Out of everyone left in this horrid manor, Klein was the one person who felt most like Weiss's true family. Without warning, Weiss eagerly gave her butler a hug. She loved him more than anyone else in this prison. And as such, he loved her. He raised her as his own daughter. To think Jacques could do such horrible things to her really made his blood boil! Weiss felt a sense of relief wash over her from this gentle embrace.
"Thank you, Klein. I don't say it enough, but I love you. You're the father I wish I had..."
"...And I love you too, my little Snowflake."
Once the embrace ended, Klein offered Weiss a parting bow. He had plenty of work to do today. Ever busy, he made for the door. But given his current happy mood, it looked more like he skipped towards it, without a care in the world. Weiss just let out a small giggle underneath her breath. All she had to do now was figure out where Neo headed off to. A low, questioning hum left her lips. Should she text her? Well, it was worth a shot. Glancing at her scroll, Weiss pulled up Neo's name and started tapping along.
[TXT to Neo at 7:30AM]: Neo? Are you there?
[TXT to Ice Queen at 7:31AM]: 👌👌👌
[TXT to Neo at 7:31AM]: Don't tell me you don't even use words when texting! How are we supposed to discuss the plan? Do you even have a plan?!
[TXT to Ice Queen at 7:32AM]: ...😉😊
[TXT to Neo at 7:32AM]: Ugh, you are so useless! 😠
[TXT to Ice Queen at 7:33AM]: 😢😭
With that uninspiring conversation out of the way, Weiss tossed her scroll to her bedside and made for the shower. Plan or not, she still had to grab breakfast.
* * * * * * * * * *
The massive double doors to the dinning room opened. They were painted sheer white with stunning, gold lining on the door frame. The room itself was painted entirely white. Sconces hung up along the portions of the walls that jutted out, adorned with a blue teardrop on the bottom of each one. Their dinning room even had a second story balcony above head. This balcony led into several open archways out into a courtyard of sorts. Each archway was adorned with a beautiful white veil. Within the dinning room itself contained a single table. It's length was nothing to sneeze at. It stretched long enough to felt twenty six people; twelve on each side and one at each head. The pure white tablecloth that held everything together was made from the softest of materials. Upon it would rest a few candles (their lights currently out), the finest of silver forks, spoons, and knives, and exquisite wine glasses with fine china plates to accompany them.
Weiss just hated it. All of it. It was so obnoxious and over the top. There was no way a family could enjoy themselves at such a spacious table. Glancing around, she noticed her brother and father already at their respective seats: Jacques at the head, and Whitley to his side.
Great. I get to deal with this first thing in the morning.
"Well, look who decided to come out of her room and spend time with the family!"
Whitley was the first to speak upon seeing his sister approach. She didn't want to feed into his taunts. His jeers were something Weiss had gotten used to by now. Instead, she would just cast him a passing glance. Her tone of voice matched how nonchalant she looked.
Jacques didn't even address her. He didn't care to. Not that Weiss wanted him to speak to her. Maybe this was a good sign. A sign that they could just have a nice, quiet breakfast together. That hope was immediately dashed, however, as she heard that condescending tone in her father's voice. He didn't even bother to look up at her to address her. Weiss just mattered that little to him.
"You know, Weiss, just because you no longer are heiress to the company, I hope you don't grow complacent to your duties. A Schnee must always ensure the family name comes first."
Weiss just wanted to focus on her food. Even Klein's delicious strawberry and cream crepes couldn't help in this situation. Jacques seemed to really want to put her through the ringer.
"As such, you will continue your lessons before you went off to that trivial combat school in Vale. Singing, piano, dance, speech, and so much more. If you slack behind, then you look bad. And when you look bad, you make the family look bad."
"You wouldn't want to end up embarrassing the family name like your sister, Winter."
How badly Weiss wanted to lash out. How badly she wanted to tell him off. But deep down, she knew she couldn't. Weiss had no power or authority to do anything anymore. Deep down, she just felt so worthless! It pained her heart to hear him bad mouth Winter like that. Winter was twice the Schnee he would ever be. She could feel tension in every joint in her body. Weiss hated this! Weiss wanted to just scream and run away from it all. But in the midst of her anguish, she felt a looming presence from behind her. Turning around, she saw that it was just one of the maids. The maid in question took Weiss's glass and filled it with water.
She seems rather short for a maid. Black hair and green eyes? I don't remember anyone like that...
But as soon as the maid gently rest her glass on the table, she turned to Weiss with a devious smile on her face. Blinking once, her eyes shifted from green to a mismatch of brown and pink. She made sure the men didn't see her face. Weiss knew who this maid truly was. It all clicked in her head. A reflexive gasp escaped her lips. Her eyes widened in sheer shock. Of course, this only served to make the maid smirk even more.
N-Neo!? What!? B-But how!?
Neo simply offered Weiss a small wink. Soon, she sat up straight and held onto the pitcher of water. Weiss turned to look at Neo, her eyes still coated in surprise. Neo just stood there, pretending to be a mere maid meant for refilling water whenever one of the three Schnees needed. Jacques thought his daughter's sudden display to be unsightly. Raising a brow, he questioned her.
"Weiss. What's the matter with you?"
The former heiress turned back to look at her food and just shook her head. After a few breaths, she just pretended to be calm. In truth, she had a million questions and worries racing in her mind. Right now, however, she just needed to play along.
Chapter 4: Undercover
Neo goes undercover as a maid for the Schnees. In doing so, she takes notes about every exit possible and learns the times of each servant. Weiss, however, is eternally conflicted.
"Father, may I be excused?"
The awkward silence that fell upon the dinning room finally broke. Weiss had no idea Neo planned to infiltrate the Schnee manor disguised as a maid! The former heiress couldn't stop peeking over her shoulder. Neo stood there as if there wasn't a problem with the scenario. Her attire consisted of a knee length dress, painted black with a white trim, a white half-apron with a ruffle, and a white ruffle headpiece on her head. The sleeves were merely shoulder length and puffed outwards. Neo even had to sport six inch heels. It was a shame how she still managed to look so short. The mere sight of the silent girl in such a daring outfit caused Weiss to feel a blush creep along her cheeks. Why did her father have to have such a perverted taste in maid uniforms!?
"What ever for, Weiss?"
His response brought Weiss's attention back to her father. Jacques didn't ask for the sake of enjoying time with his daughter. He simply wanted to keep tabs on her. Weiss knew all too well about his intentions. It wasn't anything new. She knew she needed to think of some lie that would let her leave early. Thankfully, she thought quick on her feet.
"I wish to brush up on my studies. I've been gone a long time, and figured it would be best for me to stay on top of the game."
Jacques wasn't entirely convinced that was Weiss's plan, but he didn't care enough. If it were true, then she would have learned her lesson afterwards, which is a win in his book. Having Weiss up to date with current affairs would be beneficial to the family name. Heiress or not, he didn't want her to slack in any department. Her schedule would still be a busy one, after all. Jacques didn't even care to acknowledge Weiss for her trivial request. Instead, he waved her off, as if telling her to get out of his sights.
"Oh. Dear sister? You've hardly touched your food."
Whitley caught Weiss as she tried to escape. She had stood up and managed to get halfway through the room. Why did he have to be so obnoxious?
"I don't have much of an appetite today, Whitley. That's all."
Weiss's response came as cold and uncaring. Opening the large double doors, the former heiress escaped the dinning room. Once out in the hallway, Weiss discovered she had been holding her breath for some time. A deep sigh let her relieve that stress and tension she felt whenever having to converse with her father. Images of Neo in that cute outfit kept flashing through her mind as she made her way down the hall.
Focus, Weiss. She's a criminal. And she tried to kill Yang and Ruby! Don't be distracted by...
More images kept popping up in her head. Most of them consisted of Neo doing cute poses: leaning forward and blowing a kiss, giving Weiss a wink and a daring smirk, or even a cute curtsy and slight bow of the head. It was all too much!
...all of that. It's just a disguise. She's probably worn hundreds. All of which, were probably for nefarious reasons. This time can't be different. Even if...
Finally, Weiss reached her bedroom door, her hand resting on the doorknob. She didn't know what she was thinking. Weiss wanted to believe in Neo; to trust in her. Leaving the manor was all she wanted at this point. But was she really willing to team up with a criminal and a killer to do so? Could she even be trusted with her promise? All of these negative thoughts swirled around in Weiss's mind. Eventually, she just let her head rest against the door to her room, her gaze cast downwards. White bangs concealed her face. A trembling hand struggled to open the door.
Even if...I want to believe in her.
* * * * * * * * * *
The bedroom had since been cleaned: the books were picked up and organized in their original spots on the bookshelf, the bed was made with fresh sheets, and the clothes in her bathroom had been properly cleaned by a butler. Weiss figured it would be best to actually brush up on her studies, in the event her father quizzed her. It wasn't likely, but wasn't impossible either. Hours passed, and the young Schnee felt her mind go numb from flipping through pages upon pages in her books. Most were relating to Dust, their origins, and how to properly care and handle for them. Others spoke of business law, politics, and sociological studies.
I'm not the heiress anymore, so I don't know why I even bother with this...
As if on cue, Weiss heard a knock on the door, pulling her from her own thoughts. She thought it might be Neo, so Weiss took a quick look in the full body mirror. Her long, cyan gradient dress didn't have a single speck of dust on it. Perfectly acceptable for company. Weiss called out for whoever it was to open up. A light, proper tone came with her voice.
"You may enter."
The door opened to reveal the short maid from earlier. Just as Weiss suspected; Neo. She watched as the smaller of the two stepped through with light footsteps. A playful grin painted her features. Neo closed the door behind her, careful as to avoid making too much sound. For the first time, Weiss was actually glad to see Neo. She stood up after closing her book and made her way to the mute girl. After getting closer, Weiss got a better look at her, thinking just how adorable she looked. It would be difficult to converse with Neo without having to mentally scold herself for such thoughts.
"So, when exactly were you going to tell me you planned on disguising yourself as one of our maids?"
Weiss crossed her arms and leered towards the shorter girl. Immediately, Neo just rolled her eyes. It wasn't as though she had the ability to directly communicate it with Weiss. But something about the grin on Neo's face made Weiss believe she wanted to surprise her, just to see her reaction. Neo blinked once and her eyes returned to their original mismatched coloration of brown and pink. For the moment, Neo kept her hair black, in case someone opened the door. Neo pulled out her scroll and selected a few images to share to Weiss.
"Hey, wait. That's-"
The former heiress looked carefully at the first image. It was of a simple balcony from Weiss's room. Weiss looked over to it and the image several times to confirm. But why did Neo have a picture like that? Neo swiped with her finger to reveal more images. One displayed a courtyard with a beautiful fountain. Another showed the front door of the manor itself. A third displayed a side entrance adorned with hedges coming from the left side of the manor. And finally the last image was of a back exit through the servant's quarters. One thing stood out to Weiss in all of these pictures, however. They all had strange angles. Sure Neo was short, but how bad of a photographer could she be?
"Yeah, I have no idea what I'm supposed to be looking at here. Are these supposed to be escape routes?"
The shorter girl nodded twice and pointed to a small spot in each image. These spots had little white mounds upon the foundation of the manor. It took Weiss a minute, but she finally realized why Neo took these photos. They were originally escape routes, but were flawed because of these mounds. These mounds contained hidden cameras. Weiss knew of this already, thanks to warnings from Winter. The former heiress simply sighed and waved a dismissive hand.
"It's useless. Those cameras make it impossible for us to escape without being seen. But, I could have told you that."
Neo furrowed her brow and glared at Weiss. She put her hands on her hips and looked agitated. This sudden irritation confused Weiss. Did she do something wrong? But before Weiss could ask, Neo would just punch her in the shoulder. Weiss reflexively gasped and took a step back.
"Ow! Hey! What was that for? It's not like you ever asked about cameras or anything. Honestly, I just wish you could talk."
It was obvious that this was a sensitive topic for Neo, as she soon cast her gaze towards the ground and frowned. A silent sigh escaped her lips and she soon took a seat on Weiss's bed. The sight of Neo looking upset really made Weiss feel guilty. The former heiress clutched her own elbow with her other hand and looked to the side.
Damn. Sensitive spot, I guess.
Weiss felt like a jerk and simply sighed. She took a seat next to Neo and tried to think of something nice to say. Apologizing wasn't her strong suit. But Neo looked hurt by what Weiss told her. The silent girl touched her throat, her dainty fingers gently brushing down along the soft skin. Weiss knew that look in her eyes. Neo was hurting too. The more she looked at her, the more terrible she felt. At one point, Weiss thought about touching her shoulder to comfort her, but figured that might be a breach of personal space. Instead, she just tried with her words. Her tone, however, betrayed her impatience.
"Okay, Neo. I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. Now just, show me what you were trying to say."
Neo's downward glance remained the same. That apology didn't sound genuine at all. She heard it all before: all the fake apologies people gave her to get what they wanted. They would just use her, mistreat her, give a half-assed apology, and repeat the cycle. Neo couldn't help her disability. She tried her best to work with it, but knew how limited it was. Instead of addressing Weiss, Neo just flipped through her scroll to the conversation she had earlier with Weiss.
[TXT to Neo at 7:32AM]: Ugh, you are so useless! 😠
Weiss thought back on it and realized how rude that really was. At the time, she acted out of anger and impatience. It made her realize how selfish she was being. Neo was sticking her neck out for Weiss and attempting to do reconnaissance for her. This was the thanks she got? Now Weiss really felt terrible. The former heiress looked away with a morose expression of her own. Her tone shifted dramatically. A soft, regretful voice soon filled the silence between them.
"...Neo, I'm sorry. I'm... I'm really sorry. You were just trying to help, and instead I just lashed out at you. I didn't mean to hurt you. That... That wasn't right of me. You aren't useless. If anything, you're doing more than I am. I've just complained and whined about your disability on more than one occasion. I feel like a complete bitch."
Her words stung, but they rang true. Weiss didn't deserve help like Neo. Already, the smaller girl went to all these vantage points to plan an escape route. Meanwhile, Weiss did nothing but mope and bury her face in her books. She needed to work with Neo; not against her. A heavy sigh left her lips. Weiss turned to Neo with a look of sincerity in her eyes. She wanted to make things right with her new partner.
"Is there anything I can do to make it up to you? Anything at all?"
It was apparent that Weiss's words had an effect on Neo. Soon enough, the smaller girl would raise her head. Her gaze that had been fixed on the floor, soon fell upon beautiful, icy irises. Even for a mute girl, she was speechless. Neo felt so much genuine sincerity from the former heiress. Her words weren't laced with poison. Her eyes weren't void of care. Neo just blinked quietly at Weiss, her eyes shifting color at times. They adjusted from brown and magenta to magenta and brown. But during one instance, they fell upon matching magenta irises. Weiss couldn't tell what they meant, but she knew Neo was staring at her now. Did she have something on her face? Impossible! She checked the mirror beforehand. So why?
Soon enough, Neo's trance broke and her eyes returned to their brown and magenta combination. She displayed a silent giggle and hopped up from the bed. Neo didn't want Weiss to do anything to make it up to her. As far as Neo was concerned, she already has. She gave the young Schnee a simple smile. Weiss felt Neo's hand coming up to rest on her head, patting her softly a few times. What was she, a kid? Neo was shorter than her and she was giving her headpats like a child!? The only response Weiss had was a slight pout. At least Neo seemed glad again. Weiss made a mental note to avoid talking about Neo's disability in the future.
"Okay, okay! Sheesh, I'm not a child."
The silent assassin wanted to get back to work. She pulled her scroll back out to flip through more images. One of which had a massive sheet of paper on it. On this paper was every servant's schedule for the entire week. Clearly this was taken in the servant's quarters. A lot of this information displayed names of servants, where they were assigned for the day, and when they were to change shifts. Neo pointed to a slot in particular. Weiss had to squint to make sense of it.
"Let's see... Christopher switches shifts with Jeremy at 11:50PM, but... Wait... Wait!"
Weiss's eyes widened as she stood up to take hold of the scroll. Her face lit up with a newfound sense of hope.
"But Jeremy doesn't arrive until 11:55PM! Neo! Do you know what this means?"
Neo just gave Weiss a slight nod and a smirk. She couldn't talk, so she decided to take a picture instead. It seemed to have gotten her suggestion across well enough.
"For five minutes, there won't be a single person patrolling the fifth corridor in the Eastern Hall on the first floor! Neo! That corridor has a door that leads to an underground passage! It's..."
Weiss's face suddenly lost spark. She remembered all too well of what laid beyond that door.
"It's a dungeon. My father's dungeon for unkempt prisoners. He keeps it heavily guarded in case of company. But apparently, not so well during the night. Once we get inside, we can use my Arma Gigas summon to break through to the other side and dig a hole out of here. It's not the most elegant of escapes, but it should work."
Weiss handed Neo her scroll back and let out a sigh of relief. To think this was a possibility. To think they had a chance of escspe. She truly felt grateful towards the smaller girl. Neo seemed more than proud of her reconnaissance, her chest puffed out with her arms crossed. Weiss rolled her eyes at Neo's smug smile, but knew that she deserved it. Deep down, Neo deserved a bit of praise. It felt a bit awkward, since they had a misunderstanding not five minutes ago, but Weiss wanted to properly thank Neo.
"Neo, I can't believe you managed to do all of this in one day. I bet you're a master at this already, but it still blows my mind. You gathered everything we needed in a single day. That's honestly amazing to me. You're amazing."
Both girls went silent for a moment, a genuine smile gracing each of their lips. Neo never received this much praise before. It felt heavenly and gave her confidence a good boost. Weiss, on the other hand, felt extremely grateful to Neo. She was always bad at expressing her thanks towards someone, but she tried her best. Extending a hand out for Neo to shake, Weiss spoke in a soft tone of voice.
"What I'm trying to say is... Thank you, Neo. Thank you so much."
A handshake. Neo looked taken aback, a questionable brow raised at this strange offer. This girl's way of giving thanks was through a handshake? The smaller girl thought that was rather peculiar. Weiss's hand was left hanging there for a few seconds. She felt stupid when she saw Neo covering her mouth with another silent giggle. Before Weiss could complain, however, Neo made her move. The silent assassin gently slapped Weiss's hand away and moved closer to invade Weiss's personal space. Weiss looked perplexed, but couldn't question it before she felt two arms wrapped around her sides. Neo pulled Weiss in for a sudden hug, embracing her with a massive grin on her face. Neo didn't have any sassy or snarky expression to her. Instead, she just looked genuinely thrilled to be doing this.
The former heiress didn't know what to do or what to say. At first she was a bit surprised to have her former enemy hugging her. But Weiss felt like she needed it. Weiss never received much affection before, and could probably be labeled as touch-starved. But this was something she felt she needed. Her heart rate initially skyrocketed from surprise. The same surprise written all over her face. But soon, she eased into it. This felt nice. Weiss could feel the small warmth shared between them. It was a foreign experience. Sure, she had hugged Klein before. Even her teammates hugged her. But this? This eas different. It put the former heiress's mind at ease. It was slow, but Weiss returned the hug. Both of her hands rested at the small of Neo's back. She gave her a gentle embrace in turn. A smile never faded from either girl's lips. Weiss's voice soon came in the form of a sweet whisper.
"Thank you, Neo. Thank you..."
Chapter 5: Escape
After careful planning, Weiss and Neo attempt to break out of the Schnee manor.
[TXT to Neo at 11:45PM]: Okay Neo, we have exactly five minutes before this starts. Please tell me you remember the plan.
[TXT to Ice Queen at 11:45PM]: ...🤔🤔🤔
[TXT to Neo at 11:45PM]: NEO!
[TXT to Ice Queen at 11:46PM]: 👌😂
[TXT to Neo at 11:46PM]: You are such a little shit, I swear.
[TXT to Neo at 11:46PM]: Just get over here, please!
[TXT to Ice Queen at 11:46PM]: ♥️😊👍
"Ugh, that girl is going to drive me crazy."
Days had passed since their planning phase finished. Now it was time to execute the escape plan. It was simple; sneak into the dungeon when there was a lapse in watchful eyes, and break through to the other side with Weiss's new summoning powers. Weiss put her scroll away since her conversation with Neo. She waited out in a nearby guest room, in case other servants would catch her. It would be hazardous to the plan if people even saw her with Myrtenaster drawn and perusing the halls. Each second felt like minutes. Each minute felt like hours. Weiss was clearly nervous about everything, but she knew she had to do this! A knock came from the door to the guest room, causing her to immediately glance upwards. Clearly, she was anxious.
Her voice wasn't commanding like with a servant. Rather, she spoke as if with a casual friend. She knew who it was. The door creaked open slowly. In walked Neo, still in her disguise. Every time she saw it, Weiss thought it looked cute on her. Of course, she would never admit that out loud. Unfortunately, she was terrible at her subtle glances. Neo caught her a few times, a knowing smirk on her face each time. But as much as Weiss would love to ogle cute girls, she knew she had to focus! The sound of glass shattering emanated from Neo's body, as her semblance activated. Bit by bit, her attire shattered away, replaced by her typical outfit. What was once a maid with black hair and green eyes, was now an intimidating criminal with brown and pink eyes. Her hair went back to normal as well: brown, pink, and white streaks. With her parasol, Hush, at the ready, Neo was ready to commence this operation.
"We have two minutes until Christopher leaves. Once his footsteps fade down the hall, we make a break for it. Are you prepared?"
The silent criminal merely scoffed and waved a dismissive hand. It wasn't much of a big deal for her. Escaping prisons was second nature to her. More specifically, busting a certain dum-dum out of prisons. How hard could it be to escape a manor? Neo could think of so many ways to escape by herself. With a passenger, however, it was a totally different story. Weiss's plan seemed about as good of a plan as any.
"Neo, this is serious!"
A silent sigh escaped Neo's lips. Fair enough. With a single nod, Neo looked more determined than before. It was mainly to satisfy Weiss. The two of them soon went quiet and listened for footsteps. After two minutes passed, they could hear them.
Neo had no trouble keeping quiet and listening for enemy movements, but Weiss wasn't as experienced. The former heiress felt anxiety welling up within her. A single bead of sweat rolled down the side of her head. Her ear had been pressed against the door, in order to hear her servant's footsteps. Twenty seconds passed before they truly faded. Looking to Neo, Weiss gave a serious look to the mute girl and nodded once. Time to make their move.
Weiss opened the guest door and quickly shuffled out of the room. Immediately, she looked left and right. No signs of anyone. Perfect. She waved Neo on to follow her, which the silent assassin complied with. They were a foot apart, making haste towards their destination. The unguarded door to the Schnee manor's dungeon. The fact that such a place existed disgusted Weiss. They shouldn't need a dungeon at all. Let the law deal with criminals, she thought.
The door to the dungeon opened with a swift turn of the knob. Thankfully her servants weren't smart enough to lock it. They probably thought nothing could go wrong in a mere five minutes. But how wrong they were. The door opened to reveal cobblestone stairs descending into a dark hallway. The only source of light came from torches occasionally fastened to each side of the wall. Neo closed the door behind her and took the plunge with Weiss. The former heiress moved as quietly as possible down the stairs. It was so strange to see such a medieval atmosphere from a place in the Schnee manor.
Just what is this place? Why would father even have something like this?
Soon enough, it would all become clear. In the distance, sounds of pained groans filled the otherwise silent hallway. The light emanated from the torches revealed cold, iron bars on each side of the cobblestone walls. What was saw before her very eyes would soon haunt her for the rest of her life.
"N...No... This can't be..."
Prisoners. Each and every one of them had been faunus in one way or another. They looked absolutely delirious; mad from countless hours of torture and pain. Each faunus looked to be malnourished. It was as though they were only getting the bare minimum amount of food in order to stay alive. There was a clear indication of where their ribs were on each and every one of them. But what was even worse were the markings each faunus had. There were brands of the Schnee Dust Company initials marked somewhere on each body: chest, back, leg, arm, and face. Burns marks, cuts, and bruises were all scattered across their bodies as well. Clearly, these people were physically tortured on top of this hellish imprisonment.
"I... I can't believe this. Father, he-"
Weiss's eyes widened with a terrifying mixture of shock and fear. She couldn't control the rate of her heavy breathing anymore. There was no way she could look away from this horror either. These poor people were on death's door, and yet were being used as public property. The former heiress had been clueless this entire time to the horrors of her father's practice.
"He did all this...? Th-This entire time...!? I-I..."
Without even thinking, Weiss rushed over to one of the cells. She grabbed onto one of the iron locks and started to tug and fiddle with it. Panic settled in, and she had all but lost her composure.
"I have to save them! I have to!"
The inmate whose cell lock was being tampered with, soon made his way to the bars. A blonde man with brown eyes, probably in his fifties, weakly extended a hand through the bars. His pained groans were agonizing for Weiss to listen to. But she knew she needed to save him! His voice sounded terrifically harsh when he attempted to speak.
"Help...Me... I want to see... My family..."
"J-Just hang on! I'll get you out! Stand back!"
Weiss had since pulled away and readied Myrtenaster, aiming it at the lock to the cell. But before she could fire off a shot of fire dust and blow the lock off, she felt a hand over her own on Myrtenaster. It was Neo's. She insisted Weiss lowered her weapon. Before, Neo had seemed indifferent about this escape, finding it to be all too easy. But now? She knew Weiss's emotions would get the better of her. Weiss wasn't thinking rationally. The silent woman slowly shook her head. Her eyes locked onto Weiss's with a serious aura about her. Although still frightened, Weiss protested against Neo's interefere.
"Neo! What are you doing?! We have to help them!"
Neo knew this would be an issue the second she saw these cells. Instead of arguing, however, she placed both hands on Weiss's shoulders, her gaze never dropping. It was enough to silence Weiss entirely. Neo soon pointed a finger at Weiss, then to herself, then to the end of the hallway. To top it all off, she pointed to her wrist, indicating that they were on a time crunch.
"I know, but...!"
As much as Weiss wanted to argue, she knew she couldn't. Neo was right: there wasn't a chance they could free these people and escape together. They would just slow them down. And who knew what wrath her father would cast upon these people? He may just kill these poor slaves outright. The thought tore Weiss inside, but she had to think logically. She bit her lower lips and shut her eyes tight, both hands on her head.
"Ngh...augh! You're right! But...but...!"
Once more, Neo placed her hands on Weiss's shoulders. This time, they weren't to scold or warn her. They were to offer comfort. A soft, gentle squeeze on each shoulder would soon give Weiss enough peace of mind to make a decision. Soon enough, she opened her eyes and let out a sigh. She knew she needed to calm down. They were in the thick of it now, and there was no turning back.
"You're right. We can't free them. At least, not yet."
Turning to the man in the prison cell, Weiss would address him directly. He looked like a poor soul who had lost all hope. It killed her on the inside to have to leave these people. But Weiss had no other options.
"I'm sorry. I promise I'll come back for you. You won't have to endure this hell much longer. I promise. Please, forgive me..."
Shaking her head, Weiss couldn't even bear to see his look of disappointment. She quickly ran off towards the back of the dungeon. They soon reached the wall. The cries of each prisoner rang out within her ears. It was impossible to focus! To make matters worse, each prisoner had something vile to spew at Weiss.
"She's just leaving us!"
"Just like a Schnee!"
"I knew I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up."
"I'm going to die in here, and it's all her fault!"
"Evil bitch! Just like her father!"
These insults rang loudly in her mind. Weiss couldn't stop herself from trembling. She raised Myrtenaster, but it wasn't strady in the slightest. Her mind went wild with doubt.
Oh Brothers, they're right! I'm just like my father. I'm enabling this! I've lived here all my life and just let this happen! I'm no better than him!
"Guards! Guards! Weiss Schnee is trying to escape!"
A panicked gasp left Weiss's lips. The inmates were actually calling on the guards to bust them!? They were that bitter towards the Schnee line. She couldn't blame them, but it only made matters worse. Of course, Neo was rightfully pissed off at the inmates. She went towards the nearest prisoner and grabbed him by his ragged collar. Her fist was raised, threatening to punch him. How dare these people try to interfere with their plans?! She would have punched him too, but she had bigger problems. Neo let him go with a rough push and went over to Weiss. The former heiress was trembling. Just as Neo predicted, there wasn't a chance in hell her summoning would work.
Weiss pointed Myrtenaster into the ground, a glyph soon forming around it's blade. She closed her eyes and tried her best to focus. Her summoning was still rusty, and these prisoners didn't make it any easier on her. Blame had been placed upon her shoulders for the sins of her father. Naturally, her attempts to summon failed. Each time, a small glyph formed ahead of her, but soon dissipated into nothing. Weiss clearly felt strained with how tightly closed her eyes were.
Suddenly, a loud kick from the dungeon entrance pierced the room. The cries of the prisoners had reached Jeremy's ears. He brought several other servants, all similarly dressed, in order to chase down Weiss.
"There they are! Don't let them escape!"
Despite being servants to all of the Schnees, their loyalty to Jacques was heavily skewed thanks to the lien he paid them. Money could bend the will of men too easily, it seemed. Each one had been equipped with a small stun gun. They gave off a warning zap to show their efficiency, before rushing at the two from down the hall.
Shit! This is bad!
Neo had to think fast. Weiss was failing at summoning and there were guards starting to pour in. She needed Weiss to hurry! But her fears and anxiety were getting the better of her. There was only one thing Neo could do.
"Ngh! It's no use! I can't summon!"
The former heiress struggled with each attempt. Each one ended in failure. Her mind was all over the place. She couldn't focus. Even her hands shook upon their handle on Myrtenaster. But soon, she felt it. Another pair of hands placed over her own. Her eyes opened wide, a gasp soon to follow. They were Neo's hands! As she turned to look towards her partner, Weiss saw Neo's face mere inches from her own. The silent assassin embraced Weiss from behind, offering her an odd sense of warmth and comfort. Neo knew Weiss needed to clear her mind, and this was the only way she could think of that would work.
The shorter girl offered Weiss a sincere smile, void of teasing or malice. It was pure. A smile of assurance. Neo knew Weiss could do it. Her eyes blinked a few times, with one time in particular flashing a pair of matching magenta irises. But only for a brief moment. Weiss felt her heart flutter. Neo was so close to her! Her arms were around her in an attempt to put her mind at ease. The gentle touch of the shorter girl caused Weiss's cheeks to flare up. Although she had butterflies in her stomach, Weiss felt as though she could do this. It was just her and Neo now. No one else could intrude in this moment. No guards. No prisoners. No one. Her focus on Neo caused Weiss to get a grip on her emotions. Soon enough, she offered a soft smile in return and nodded once.
A glyph formed mere feet away from the two. It was large enough to summon the entire body of Weiss's minion: an Arma Gigas. Although it usually had a blade, it didn't need one this time. It's glowing white aura exuded power beyond belief! It balled up it's fists and knew it's purpose. The Arma Gigas lunged towards the end of the hallway and slammed it's massive fists into it. It delivered a punch so devastating, it shattered the cobblestone wall in just one blow! Moonlight poured in from the newly formed hole. It was big enough to fit four people side by side and eight feet tall! Having done it's job, the Arma Gigas stood up from it's battle position and faced it's summoner. After a single bow, it soon vanished. Weiss's face lit up with sheer joy.
I did it! I actually did it!
Of course, this was no time to celebrate. The guards were mere feet away from the two. Weiss and Neo soon got to their feet and rushed through the giant hole in the wall. The second they passed it, Weiss turned around with a determined expression and aimed Myrtenaster at the guards. They took pause to thinking Weiss would actually fight them, but only for a second. However, that second of hesitation was all Weiss needed. With a smug smirk, she soon summoned multiple glyphs to form from the floor of the newly made exit. Weiss raised her rapier and summoned a humongous wall of ice to block the way. The guards banged their fists on the ice, but to no avail. The wall was way too thick and sturdy to penetrate.
"That should hold them off. Come on, Neo! Let's go!"
Weiss turned to her partner in crime, offering a small smile. Neo nodded and reciprocated her grin, rushing off alongside the former heiress. The Schnee manor was atop a hill, thankfully, so they just had to race down and make a break for Atlas. The two ran down ice covered slopes, confident in their mobility. Weiss couldn't help but feel so giddy on the inside.
I'm actually doing it. I'm breaking free! I'm... I'm finally free! No longer will I be a caged bird. I'm free to make my own decisions! My own choices!
The former heiress looked towards Neo as they both ran. Her face softened as her eyes laid themselves upon the silent assassin's form. To think that just a few days ago they would be bitter enemies. But now? She owed Neo so much gratitude and thanks. Without her, Weiss would still be sulking in her dark room. Without her, Weiss would still be a miserable mess at the lowest point in her life. Without her, Weiss would still be...
Chapter 6: Rest
Weiss and Neo look for a place to sleep for the night.
Huff. Huff. Huff.
"Did we lose them?"
Weiss felt like she ran for miles on end. It wouldn't surprise her if she actually did at this point. Rushing down icy slopes in the middle of the night was bad enough, but having to clear enough distance to break away from the Schnee servants was even worse. Luckily, it didn't seem like they were on their trail anymore. Neo and Weiss were almost out of breath for how long they had to run. Their lungs were on fire. Each hand their hands on their knees, panting for a bit of reprieve. Neo checked behind her before giving the all-clear with a thumbs up. Weiss let out a deep sigh and would lean her head against the nearest wall.
"Thank Brothers. I thought we'd never lose them..."
Neo came to rest next to Weiss, mimicking her posture and leaning against the wall as well. They were both in the midst of Atlas; a place they definitely didn't want to stop. Too many people around here would recognize Weiss. Atlas was far too close to the Schnee manor for Weiss to feel comfortable. Although people in Mantle would recognize her as well, Weiss figured it would be the safest place to rest for the night. Weiss took out her scroll and started checking schedules for airbus schedules. After a few minutes, both girls caught their breath and had a new plan.
"Alright, Neo, thankfully there's an airbus still running this late at night. I say we catch a ride to Mantle and find refuge there, for the night. Any objections?"
Neo looked up to the taller girl and pondered for a moment. Her finger came to rest on her lower lip, her glance cast to the sky to signify she was in thought. The idea was good enough, but there was a problem Neo could foresee. Looking back towards Weiss, Neo made a hand motion by rubbing her thumb against her index finger and middle finger. If they were to catch a ride, they would need the lien to do so. But upon seeing this gesture, Weiss merely grinned and put a hand behind her back.
"Oho, don't you fret. Before we escaped, I may or may not have nabbed a bit of lien from my father's secret stash."
The former heiress took a bit of lien from a tiny satchel placed on the back of her sash, located right next to her stationary Myrtenaster. Neo had a look of genuine surprise on her face, her eyes wide, and her lips mouthing a small, silent gasp. She didn't think Weiss had it in her to ever steal lien. Hell, she didn't think she could steal cookies from a cookie jar. But having been proven wrong, Neo just offered the former heiress a proud grin and a few claps. This just made Weiss roll her eyes with a huge grin, unable to suppress a small chuckle.
"Ahah! Oh stop. It was nothing. You aren't the only one who can be sneaky too, you know. Besides, it's not like that man will notice a bit of lien missing. What he doesn't know won't hurt, right?"
Weiss had a sneaky grin of her own now, pocketing her money, and heading back off. The duo needed to make it to the next airbus station in the next twenty minutes if they wanted to catch the last ride. It wasn't terribly far, so they figured they could enjoy a light stroll. The silence between them made Weiss feel a bit awkward. Sure she was beginning to like Neo, but communicating with her was difficult. Weiss didn't play charades a lot as a kid. There had to be a better way, right?
She already told me she couldn't speak. It would be insensitive to ask how or why that came to be. But I wish I knew...
A small sigh escaped Weiss's lips. Noticing this, Neo looked to her with a curious tilt of her head. Not wanting to seem rude, Weiss just responded with a nonchalant answer.
"Oh, it's nothing. I'm just a little on edge about the future. It's a really big change in my life. In the heat of the moment, I was thrilled and excited. But now that the adrenaline died down, I'm a bit scared."
It wasn't technically a lie. Weiss really did feel anxious about the future. As the two walked down the sidewalk of the well lit city, Weiss just began to fumble with her ponytail. It was a sign of anxiety that she never told anyone about. She would curl her fingers around it, before letting it unfurl and repeat the process over and over.
Just then, however, Neo took hold of Weiss's hand. A light gasp escaped Weiss's lips as she felt the soothing warmth of the shorter criminal. She immediately cast her gaze towards Neo, looking at her with sudden shock. Neo even went so far as to interlace her fingers with Weiss's own. The mere action caused Weiss's face to flush bright red. Why was Neo suddenly holding her hand?!
But then it all made sense.
Soon, a flash of light crystals would shimmer and shatter all along Weiss's feet. They soon made their way upwards to the top of her head, revealing an entirely new outfit and hairstyle. As if out of nowhere, Weiss suddenly found herself as a short haired blonde with torn jeans and a purple punk rock shirt with a skull in the middle. Fishnets aligned her wrists and forearms. Even her eyes changed to a much lighter shade of blue.
"W-What!? What is this!? Neo, what did you--!?"
"Hey, kid? Yew gettin' on 'er what?"
Looking up from her own dismay, Weiss saw the driver of an airbus. Wait, they already made it? How long had Weiss been lost in her own thoughts? Soon, it all clicked in Weiss's head. Neo had to make constant contact in order to keep her semblance up. Part of Weiss felt relieved that that's all it was, but a small part felt a bit disheartened that this wasn't an earnest display of affection. But she didn't have time to sort her own feelings out. Weiss reached behind her with her free hand and handed the necessary lien to the driver. The two made their way to the back of the bus. It was empty, save for two middle aged men in different seats.
When Weiss looked towards Neo, she saw an innocent smile on her face. It was like she knew she was messing with Weiss on the inside. The former heiress simply scowled and let out a huff. She leaned back and mumbled under her breath.
"You could have at least warned me, you know..."
The entire ride would last an hour. Weiss didn't think it would be beneficial to talk about future plans with three sets of ears potentially listening. She felt like a wanted criminal now. Glancing down at her outfit, she definitely dressed like one. Out of curiosity, Weiss poked to the spot where her skirt would be in between her thighs. Nothing. It gave her a bit of insight to Neo's semblance. It was like an illusion that manifested itself into reality.
Thirty minutes into the ride, Weiss thought about breaking the silence to start up idle chatter. But as soon as she went to speak, she saw Neo's head lightly resting upon her shoulder. The shorter girl had her eyes closed and was lightly breathing.
Is...Is she seriously sleeping!? Wait, what about the semblance!?
Weiss looked down at her own body, expecting to return to normal. Much to her surprise, however, her disguise remained in tact. She shot a curious look towards Neo and tried to figure it all out. Eventually, she decided that her semblance could keep up, conscious or not, so long as she maintained contact with the person or object she wanted to disguise. Intriguing semblance aside, Weiss took note of just how peaceful Neo's sleeping face looked. It was hard to imagine this girl was a criminal. She looked so calm and serene. And to have her sleeping on Weiss's shoulder made the former heiress's heart skip a beat. She couldn't help but just have a soft grin on her face. Her free hand came up to gently rub Neo's head. The soft headpat would only help Neo find more peace in her slumber.
Another thirty minutes passed. The airbus arrived to it's final stop in Mantle on time. The driver looked back to his four customers and bellowed out towards them.
"Aight! Last stop! Now git off this bus so's I can go home and get some got durn sleep!"
Weiss's glance become deadpan towards him, thinking him to be quite rude. Turning to her partner in crime, she would gentle nudge her shoulder in order to wake her up. Her voice came as a whisper, hoping to not be as rude as the driver.
"Psst. Neo. Wake up, Neo. We need to get going..."
Neo's eyes would slowly flutter open as she shifted in her spot. She was clearly still tired, but knew of the importance of their mission. The silent girl let out a quiet yawn, using her free hand to rub sleep from her eyes. On the outside, Weiss just looked calm with a serene smile, but on the inside she was losing her mind.
Aaaah!! She's too kah-yoot! How is it even possible for some hardened criminal like her to be this adorable!?
Thankfully Neo couldn't read minds.
The two eventually rose from their seats and made their way off the airbus. It instantly took off once there weren't any more passengers on board. Weiss and Neo were now left to their own devices in Mantle. This place was a stark contrast to Atlas's pristine aura. Mantle was where the lower class citizens lived. Flickering street lights were the only source of light. They illuminated dark, crusty alleyways, suspicious looking buildings, and piles of trash around each corner. As if that wasn't bad enough, there was certainly a homeless problem in Mantle. Seeing something like this was really frustrating for Weiss. Furrowing her brow, she mumbled underneath her breath.
"This isn't right... These people shouldn't have to live like this."
Weiss knew more than anyone just how much lien the people in Atlas had. They should help these people, instead of wasting it on frivolous spending! She may not have been the heiress anymore, but if she executed a successful coup against her father, this would be the first thing she fixes.
"We need to get moving."
The former heiress's voice was suddenly stern. She didn't want to bask in this unjust societal rule any longer. She just wanted a bed. Thankfully, Neo seemed to know her way around, as she began to lead Weiss for once. Raising a curious brow, Weiss wondered just where Neo was taking her. After their time together, she highly doubted it was a trap. Maybe she had connections?
After having traversed through a muck filled street, the two came across a building with flickering neon lights.
Triple Branch Motel
Neo nodded to Weiss's inquiry. It wasn't like she could start being picky now. Not after everything they had gone through. The two made their way past the entrance, only to be greeted by a middle-aged man at a desk. His hairline was beginning to recede. He had on a black button up shirt with a white vest; something that was way too fancy for a place like this. He even sported a black tie of all things! Did this guy not realize how much of a dump this place looked? His yellow eyes lit up when he saw Neo.
"Ah! There she is! My favorite customer! Oh, and who's your friend? A special lady friend, I assume? Bahaha! Don't worry, I'm only teasing. Or am I? Bahahaha!"
Well he certainly knew how to make himself laugh. Weiss stood there with an awkward expression and a sweatdrop rolling down the side of her face. Neo just shook her head and rested her free hand against her forehead. Clearly these two knew each other.
"Well, hey, don't let me keep you love birds. Oh! And if you see Junior back in Vale, tell him his big bro says hi."
Suddenly his face went sour and his tone dark.
"And that that bastard still owes me two hundred lien!"
Neo simply smiled and waved him on, leading Weiss down the hall to one of the rooms. She took a keycard from her pocket and swiped it, opening up the door to reveal a rather shabby looking room. Weiss had several questions, but saved them until the door was closed. First, she just took in the sight of it all.
The room itself was fairly small: a bedroom and a bathroom. There was a single queen sized bed with an old cathode television set at the end of it and up against the wall. The fact that it even had antenna sticking out of it made it too clear just how old it was. It rested upon a brown stand with one cabinet below it, for storing clothes most likely. The bed laid next to a giant window with brown curtains drawn over it. The bathroom itself had one toilet, one sink, and one small shower with a single shower curtain. At the very least, they had a mini fridge.
"This place is a dump. But...it beats living in the streets, I suppose."
Neo just rolled her eyes at the spoiled princess's view on this place. As someone who actually had lived in the streets, this place was a paradise to Neo. The silent assassin shook her head and slipped her shoes off. Once their hands separated, Weiss turned back to her original self, revealed by shards of shattering glass raining from her head to her feet. She didn't think she would ever get used to that, but knew they'd have to keep doing it in order to move about Mantle.
"Okay, Neo, I have several questions."
Weiss began slipping her own heels off, just thankful to rest her aching feet. She took a seat at the edge of the bed, looking up to Neo. The shorter girl started to remove her socks, jacket, and corset, leaving her in her brown pants and brown, pink, and white striped bra. Weiss's eyes went wide. Now she had another question.
"Wh-What are you doing!? You can't just start stripping!"
Neo turned to look back at Weiss with a confused expression. After looking left and right, Neo just shrugged, completely lost.
"W-Well! It's just... I mean... Ugh! Whatever!"
The former heiress felt her face flare up. She did her best to look away from Neo, but a few glances were made here and there.
How does someone so small have a chest that big!?
Neo took note of Weiss's flustered frustration and silently laughed into her hand. Honestly, it was adorable to see her like this. Weiss, however, was not enjoying being teased like this! Although, it wasn't fair to deny Neo her own comfort. After a few moments, she took a deep breath and slowly turned back to the shorter girl. It was hard to keep a conversation going at this point.
"Well... What about that guy? You know him?"
A single nod.
"Yang told me about Junior. So that's his older brother or something?"
"Alright... But wait, you already had this room? Just how long have you been staying in Mantle?"
Neo pondered to herself, repeating the same motion from back in Atlas with her finger on her lower lip and her glance cast upwards. Soon, she looked back to Weiss and held up ten fingers, followed by two after a few seconds. Seeing her answer, Weiss nearly flipped out.
"You've been stalking me for almost two weeks!?"
Neo's response was that of a completely innocent smile. She placed both hands behind her back and rocked on her heels. Her cute, innocent act didn't trick Weiss one bit. The former heiress crossed her arms and glared towards the shorter girl.
"That's really creepy, you know."
Now Neo's face feigned a look of hurt. She had s fake frown with the back of her hand resting against her forehead. The act only made Weiss glare harder. She wasn't amused. Neo certainly was, however. After another silent giggle, Neo would walk over to Weiss and gently pat her on the head. This only made Weiss leer even more at the silent criminal. She was treating her like a child!
"Ugh. Fine. Whatever. I suppose I can gloss over that little detail. You did help me escape after all..."
Several seconds passed. Weiss thought on it again. She thought about the moment she tried to summon. Her anxiety and fears caused her to give pause. But once she felt Neo's soft embrace, it became much easier. Once she had her focus all on one thing, it was smooth sailing from there. Soon enough, Weiss's face softened from her mean glare. A sigh left her lips and her arms unfolded.
"...Thanks again, by the way. For everything. And...when I was back in the dungeon...I couldn't summon to save my life. But then you..."
Not wanting to even say it, Weiss just looked down for a moment and felt her face turn bright red. Just the memory alone made her have butterflies in her stomach.
"...did that. And it was like I just knew what to do. Focusing became so much easier."
The shorter girl could sense the shift in tension. Soon enough, she felt a genuine grin spread across her face as well. She took a seat next to Weiss and gently placed her hand on Weiss's shoulder. Neo gave her a soft squeeze of comfort. Weiss just bashfully returned a smile and twirled a finger through one of her own bangs. Clearly she was anxious again.
"H-Heh...thanks, Neo. Seriously. Thanks for everything. I promise on my family's honor to return the favor. But right now..."
Weiss checked her scroll.
"Geez, it's late. We should get some sleep. We can plan stuff out in the morning, alright?"
Neo gave Weiss a small nod and let go of her shoulder. She let out a silent yawn and a stretch of her legs and arms. Neo was completely tuckered out and just wanted to sleep. The silent assassin plopped down on the bed beneath her, wriggling up to rest her head on her pillow. Seeing this adorable display, Weiss just covered her mouth with a hand and silently chuckled as well. After taking her socks, dress, and arm sleeves off, Weiss wore nothing more than her plain white underwear. She left Myrtenaster next to Hush propped up against the door frame. If she was to be Neo's partner, they would have to get comfortable with each other. Weiss let out a yawn of her own and scooted up to her own pillow.
"Mmmnng... goodnight, Neo."
The words came as a sleepy slur from her lips. She gave Neo one last smile before turning over on her side. Weiss had her back to Neo, while Neo laid on her back, already fast asleep. And for the first time in a long time, Neo found herself having pleasant dreams, apparent by her sleepy grin.
As did Weiss.
Chapter 7: Relaxation
Weiss and Neo take a day to themselves to just relax and unwind.
A groan left Weiss's lips as the first ray of sunlight hit her eyes. Even though the curtains were closed, they weren't dark enough to suppress the sun's rays completely. Her eyelids twitched before eventually fluttering open. The first thing she saw in the morning was the air conditioner next to the bedside, running on medium. Mantle wasn't as cold as Atlas, but it wasn't exactly a tropical paradise either. Weiss reached over to check her scroll to see what time it was.
She knew she had a long day of planning ahead of her, so she decided it was the perfect time to get up. Yet, she felt an odd source of warmth pressing against her back. Curiously, Weiss turned to look behind her, only to discover the source of said warmth. It was Neo. She withdrew her arms and legs into a curled up ball. Her cheek was pressed against Weiss's bare back, having found comfort in the closeness of the two. Having seen Neo in such a way really made Weiss question just how in the world someone like this could be considered deadly and intimidating. In all honesty, it was getting harder for Weiss to see her in any kind of scary light anymore.
When the former heiress attempted to sit up, she felt Neo's protest. The silent assassin nuzzled her nose into the crevice between the pillow and Weiss's back. Obviously Neo wasn't a morning person. But Weiss knew they had to get up to start their day. The young Schnee faced Neo entirely now, reaching over to gently nudge her shoulder. Despite needing to wake up, Weiss didn't want to be rough with it. Even her tone of voice fell back into a calm serenity.
"Neo. Psssst. Neo. It's time to get up. Come on, wake up already."
Slowly but surely, Weiss's method proved effective. Neo began to stir in her sleep until her own eyes slowly opened. She instantly rubbed the sleep from her tired eyes and looked up. Her very first sight in the morning was that of Weiss's calm smile and beautiful face, all in front of the backdrop of a rising sun. It left Neo in awe for a few moments. Weiss looked absolutely stunning. Her beauty was simply divine. Soon enough, Neo found herself unable to suppress a smile. She could get use to waking up to that sight.
"Finally, you're awake. We have a lot to do today. Do you want the first shower or should I?"
Weiss went on without thinking too much about the expression on Neo's face. The shorter girl simply pointed to Weiss, indicating she could go first. Weiss soon got up from bed to stretch and yawn. After a few aching pops from her joints, Weiss spoke once more.
"Fine, fine. But don't even think about falling back asleep. Got it?"
Neo's response was a simple thumbs up. Of course, the second Weiss closed the bathroom door behind her, Neo fell back to the bed. She was already out like a light. However, around twenty minutes later, she roused once more from her slumber upon hearing a soothing melody in her ears. Her eyes flew open once more as she sat up. Was someone... singing?
Mirror, tell me something
Tell me who's the loneliest of all?
Mirror, what's inside of me
Tell me can a heart be turned to stone?
Mirror, mirror, what's behind you?
Save me from the things I've seen.
I can keep it from the world
Why won't you let me hide from me?
Mirror, mirror, tell me something
Who's the loneliest of all?
I'm the loneliest... Of all.
The melody to grace Neo's ears was so bittersweet. It's elegant beauty was rivaled only by it's message of anguish. Neo's eyes blinked from brown and magenta to a pair of magenta eyes, indicating her love for the song. It honestly reminded her of herself. Since Roman's death, she hasn't had anybody to turn to in life. She's felt so lost and empty. All she wanted now was revenge. But this song put ease within her heart. It took her a moment to realize the source of the melody: Weiss Schnee. She had been singing in the shower. Did she always do that?
The sound of rushing water came to a halt. Neo found herself lost in thought on the message of Weiss's song. Was she lonely, too? Thinking about it, it only made sense. That poor girl had been trapped within her father's reach her entire life. He poisoned her mind for his own selfish gains. For the first time, Neo actually found herself sympathizing with Weiss's situation. Her eyes returned to their default brown and magenta with a single blink. Before she knew it, Weiss came out with yesterday's clothes on and a disheartened expression.
"Ugh, I swear we need to go clothes shopping today or I'll--"
Weiss's complaints fell short as soon as she noticed Neo's face. It was like she was in a trance, staring at the former heiress. But that wasn't what surprised Weiss the most.
"...Neo? Are you okay? Are you...crying?"
The former heiress approached Neo with a sense of ease and desire to help. Neo let out a silent gasp and reached her finger up to touch her cheek.
A single tear.
Neo herself didn't realize it, but Weiss's song touched her further than she initially believed. Were these actual tears? Weiss could tell by the surprise on Neo's face that even she didn't know she was crying. Neo quickly shook her head and wiped her eyes. The silent criminal soon shot Weiss a big smile, as if nothing just happened. She hopped up from her position on the bed and moved closer to Weiss. Her hand reached up to pat her on the head a few times, nonchalantly moving past her soon after.
Weiss didn't like it. Neo was just pretending nothing was wrong. But it wasn't like Weiss could get her to talk about it. The former heiress simply closed her eyes and sighed, wanting to leave a last message to Neo before she hopped in the shower.
"It's okay to cry. You don't have to hide it from me..."
The shorter girl stopped in her tracks, her hand resting on the bathroom door. Her fake, carefree expression had been erased. She wanted to talk to Weiss about it, but felt it was too soon to bring up their trauma to each other. Weiss probably felt the same way. They weren't close enough, yet. With a heavy heart, Neo closed the door behind her.
* * * * * * * * * *
"Alright, so it says here the nearest clothing store is half a mile away. It shouldn't be too expensive either."
Weiss and Neo had since left their motel, hand in hand. The main reason for this was to maintain Weiss's disguise when they were out and about in Mantle. She just finished checking her scroll for online information to help plan their itinerary for the day. It only took about ten minutes to get to their destination at their leisurely pace. Weiss looked too busy and frustrated to really enjoy herself, unfortunately. Neo thought she should learn to take it easy and relax once in a while. Thankfully, she would throw a few wrenches into Weiss's perfect schedule later on.
Pierre's Pristine Picks
"Interesting name, but this should be the place."
The exterior of the store looked similar to every other building around: small and middle class at best. The interior had brown carpeting with white walls. There was a little bit of everything on each rack and shelf. At the back of the store laid a single cash register and a few changing rooms on the right. On the left, however, was a single door leading to the manager's office. The lineup of clothes wasn't as high class as the name would lead someone to believe, but it was good enough. Weiss just wanted skirts, whereas Neo just wanted pants. Each girl had to wonder just how the other managed to wear them all the time.
"Oooh! These look good! Oh! And so do these! Oh and this is just cute!"
Already, Weiss had picked out a handful of clothes. She was just dragging Neo along to grab all of her stuff first. Since they couldn't separate their hands, Neo had to begrudgingly go along with it. Honestly, she felt like a child shopping with her mom at this point.
Fifteen minutes later, Weiss had enough clothes for herself to fit both, her and Neo's, free hands. Neo had to attach Hush to her belt in order to free up a hand. Once they made their way to the changing rooms, however, Weiss knew she had to let go. Thankfully there weren't any cameras, or this could have really been bad. The second she let go, her facade shattered and she looked normal again. Neo, of course, had to leave the changing room afterwards. The silent criminal waited patiently on the bench. If only Weiss wasn't a Schnee gone missing. Maybe she could have shown off her new clothes to Neo. It would have been fun, but that was for another time.
After about ten minutes, Weiss dressed herself back in her normal attire and beckoned for Neo.
"Okay Neo, you can come in now."
Once in the changing room, Neo took Weiss's hand again and kept up the facade with her semblance. Weiss picked out the clothes she wanted to keep. All of which consisted of skirts, bras, heels, panties, dresses, blouses, and boleros. Each had been either blue, white, or a mix of the two.
Now it was Neo's turn. Her shopping went by much quicker. She picked out jeans, heels, jackets, long sleeved shirts, corsets, bras, and panties. All of which were a mixture of pink, white, and brown. Both girls picked out thematically appropriate clothes. It was a bit awkward for Weiss to wait in one of the changing rooms while Neo changed in another. However, it was the best way to try on clothes without being seen. Weiss was just thankful they were able to stuff all of their new purchases in one giant bag. She made a mental note to buy a small travel sized suitcase later on.
After leaving the store, Weiss and Neo decided to drop off their purchase back at the motel room and depart once more, after changing, of course. Weiss's attire consisted of a bolero with a cyan gradient and a dress to match. The skirt came up to just above her knees. She even sported her new fashionable white heels. Neo's attire consisted of tight white pants, brown heels, and a simple long sleeved shirt that was pink. Weiss would never admit it out loud, but she thought it looked so cute on Neo!
"Alright, let's see. Next up, we should probably scout out the international departures terminal if we want to safely move from here to Vale. What do you think, Neo?"
The shorter girl looked up to Weiss with a slight frown. She patted her own stomach and rubbed her hand in circles. It was clear she was hungry. Weiss just looked slightly annoyed and let out a sigh.
"Seriously, Neo. Can't you at least try to--"
As if on cue, Weiss's stomach let out an embarrassingly loud rumble. She froze in her tracks and her face went bright pink. Now Neo had the most smug grin on her face Weiss had ever seen. The former heiress just offered a sheepish grin.
"Eheheh...maybe food isn't such a bad idea after all."
Neo let out a silent giggle, her free hand covering her mouth. Weiss was so embarrassed after that perfectly timed mishap. But her face soon regained it's normal color after a soothing sigh. Weiss checked her scroll for nearby restaurants and decided to just take the nearest cafe available.
"Seems simple enough. Come on, let's see what they have."
The duo walked into another small establishment in Mantle. Most of these stores were local, instead of big business franchises that could be found around the globe. This place looked like a cute enough diner: red table tops and booths, checkered tiled floors, a bar with a curved counter top, and even a view into the small kitchen on the side. Upon entering, they were greeted by one of the servers. She stood at five feet and ten inches with short, rainbow dyed hair. She had a pale complexion and wore black slacks with a green collared shirt. One of her three buttons around the neck was unbuttoned. She even had a nametag indicating that she was Raye, the owner of the fine establishment. It appeared she preferred waiting tables over actually running her business.
"Well hooooowday, y'all! Welcome to my finely established establishment! My name is Raye LaGaye and I'll be your wonderful waitress this fine afternoon! Just follow me to y'all's table now, y'hear?"
When she turned her back, Neo and Weiss just shot each other a look saying Is this girl for real? They were both seated at a red booth and given two menus. When Raye's voice started up again, Weiss tried to not display her cringing exterior.
"We are so glad to have y'all with us, today! I can tell y'all's is a new customer, so let me go over the deals we got here! We got a buy one get one half off grits special for four ninety nine, a beeyootiful signature house salad with a bit of granny's secret sauce on top, and my person favorite: beans n cornbread! Now do y'all know what you'll be havin' to drink?"
"Yes! I mean...yes. Yes, I just want a coffee please. No sugar."
"Allllllrighty, lil' missy! And what about your partner there? Y'all ain't stopped holdin' hands since ya got here, y'hear?"
"Oh! Uhm...well she's... uhh."
"Aww shucks, don't you worry about a thing! We don't judge here at Raye LaGaye's! Why, my wife is as beautiful as the day is long! She's a short lil' thing too! Golly just thinkin' about her makes me melt!"
Raye clasped her hands over one another and looked to be daydreaming, her gaze towards the ceiling. Meanwhile, Weiss wanted to dispute her claim.
"W-What!? N-No! We aren't--"
"Hah! Don't you worry, ol' Raye ain't gonna tell a soul! Now, what'll it be lil'er missy?"
Neo had since been smirking at Weiss's personal dilemma at being called her girlfriend. Seeing her squirm in such a flustered manner really made Neo's day. But now she had to pick a drink. After thinking for a moment, she showed Weiss her menu and pointed to a cola beverage.
"Oh, she'll just have a grape cola, thank you."
"Awwh, now ain't she a shy thang! Don't worry, we don't judge here. Coming right up, sugs!"
Once Raye left, Weiss placed her free hand on her forehead and just rubbed her temple. Just being around someone with such an eccentric accent really got on her nerves. How was someone like that even in Atlas!? Vacuo, sure, but Atlas!? At least Weiss had a moment to breathe. Although, when she saw Neo's smug grin once more, she immediately knew what was coming.
"H-Hey! Don't make that face at me, alright? It was just a misunderstanding. Sheesh."
The former heiress pouted and looked away, her cheeks painted bright red. Neo loved the sight of a flustered Weiss. To worsen it, she even brought Weiss's hand up to her lips and gave the back of her palm a small smooch. She could physically feel Weiss's nerves tighten. The former heiress glared daggers at Neo now.
"Wh-!? You little, smug--"
"Alrighty! Here y'all go! I hope y'all enjoy the dranks. Now have you two fine lil' ladies decided on food yet?"
Raye's interruption saved Neo from a tongue lashing. Weiss just grumbled and put on a fake smile to her obnoxious waitress.
"Yes! Uh, I would like... The ham and cheese omelette, please."
Looking to Neo, Weiss awaited her order. But she felt her heart sink when she pointed to something on the dessert menu.
"Dessert? Really? Come on, you should at least pick out some real food."
Neo shook her head and adamantly pointed at the ice cream bowl. Weiss just gave up and looked back to Raye with a defeated sigh.
"And I suppose an ice cream bowl for her."
"Aww, y'all's just tryna look out for her. Ain't that precious! One ham and cheese omelette and one ice cream bowl comin' riiiight up!"
Once Raye walked off to fetch their food, Weiss just glared at Neo once more.
"Seriously? Ice cream for lunch?"
The shorter girl just responded with an innocent look on her face and a shrug. She couldn't help that it was her favorite food to eat. It made Weiss feel like she was dealing with an actual child. No wonder Neo was so small. And Weiss had an idea as to where all that ice cream went...
"You should really eat some actual, healthy food, Neo. No wonder you're so short."
Neo just retorted by sticking her tongue out at Weiss and looking away.
Is this the kind of stuff Roman had to deal with? Suddenly I'm starting to pity the guy.
Once they received their food, the two mostly ate in silence. Weiss had her scroll on the table and occasionally checked online time schedules for international departures to Vale. Not a lot. Of course, no one wanted to go to Vale these days. Not after the attack. But they were on a mission: to get the team back together. Yang and Ruby were probably in Patch. As for Blake, Weiss had no idea where she ran off too. It was a bit disheartening to think about it, so she just turned her attention to Neo instead.
Neo only picked at her ice cream here and there. Clearly she was down about something, but Weiss had no idea what was wrong. The former heiress softened her tone before speaking.
"Hey, is everything okay? You've hardly touched your ice cream."
But after seeing Neo's own scroll on the table, she knew why it was difficult for her to eat. On her scroll was a picture of her taking a selfie with Roman at a diner. The two were eating bowls of ice cream, neapolitan flavored. Neo looked so happy back then. And now? Just seeing this picture probably brought back good memories of Roman. Weiss knew she missed him greatly. He was definitely more than just some boss. Was he family? Or maybe something else? Either way, Weiss had a sympathetic tone to her voice.
"...Hey, Neo? Uhm...do you...?"
She couldn't say it. She couldn't ask it. Instead, Weiss just scooted a little closer and offered a bittersweet smile.
"Do you want to try a bite of my omelette? You might like it."
Neo tore her gaze away from her scroll and looked up to Weiss, her eyes glossed over. It must be hard to eat without Roman around anymore. They had too many good memories together and shared a special bond. Weiss knew she couldn't replace it. Hell, she probably wouldn't even get half as close to Neo as Roman did. But, the least she could do would be to help a friend out. After some time thinking, Neo decided with a weak nod.
"Okay. Here. You'll like it, I promise."
Weiss took a forkful of her omelette and went to feed it to Neo. She didn't think she would end up in this situation, but she wanted to help Neo in any way she could. Neo rubbed her eyes to prevent any tears from forming and just leaned forward to take a bite of her ham and cheese omelette. Her face lit up and she decided that she actually enjoyed it! Neo didn't think she would like something other than ice cream. Most of the things Roman tried to offer tasted terrible. But this omelette was certainly an exception. Seeing Neo's smile only gave Weiss one of her own.
"See? It's good right?"
Unfortunately, before she could finish her tender momentz Weiss heard that same obnoxious accent from her left side.
"Dawwww! Ain't that just the cutest thing! Y'all are such a cute couple! Y'all's remind me of me n' my babydoll."
"Wh-What are you doing here!?"
"I just came to give y'all y'all's check. Just pay whenever y'all's ready."
Weiss's cheeks were on fire; a mixture of rage and embarrassment.
"W-We are not...! Just...Just get out already!"
Chapter 8: Familiarity
The girls survey their escape route and end a long day.
A/N: wow, probably my shortest chapter yet. Sorry everyone! I've been on a super bad sleep schedule lately and keep forgetting to update! I can't believe I left you all hanging for a week. I'll try and be better, I promise! I was just kind of in a writing rut for this particular chapter. I should be out of it though. Hopefully 😭😭
The door to Raye LaGaye's closed with Weiss clearly in a flustered mood. Her cheeks were still tinted red from all of those teasing comments. If she had both of her hands free, Weiss would have crossed her arms. But because she needed to keep up the disguise, she constantly held Neo's hand. The warmth was always welcomed, at least. Weiss had enough of that restaurant, though. Her voice rose a bit in pitch, indicating her frustrated demeanor.
"That woman was so unprofessional! You can't just harass customers like that! And don't even get me started on that accent! And another thing-!"
Before she could finish her complaining, Neo rose a finger up to Weiss's lips. Neo had a slight smirk on her face. She wanted Weiss to shush, but also wanted to show her she didn't have any ill will behind her actions. Her complaints were cute, at times, but Neo knew she was working herself up into a tizzy. Neo figured it would be best if Weiss relaxed a little bit.
"Mmph... We aren't dating..."
Weiss looked away, mumbling her last bit. She was still extremely grumpy from Raye's implications that they were a couple. The idea ran through her mind several times since then. There was no way on Remnant Weiss would ever date a criminal. Ever. Neo was no exception. Even if she was small...
Weiss was dead set on not dating any criminals and that was that. Sure, she could admire her aesthetically, but that didn't mean much. Neo had a bad record. Weiss couldn't overlook that. Although, deep down, the former heiress really wished they could have met under different circumstances.
Snap! Snap! Snap!
Suddenly Neo was snapping in front of Weiss's face, trying to get her attention. She definitely looked frustrated, too. Weiss snapped out of her thoughts about how she viewed Neo and looked around. Realizing she was daydreaming, Weiss felt a bit sheepish.
"O-Oh! Sorry. I guess I was staring off into space."
After an apologetic smile from Weiss, the former heiress checked her scroll with her free hand and looked up their next destination: the international departures terminal. They needed to scan the area to find a proper way to break onto an air craft headed for Vale. Without proper identification, they couldn't exactly waltz on one. Weiss was a Schnee on the run, and Neo had a criminal record back in Vale.
"Okay. The terminal shouldn't be too far away. We need to observe the guards and see which patrol routes they take. After that, we'll need to plan out a path with the most cover. Hmm..."
Weiss began mumbling to herself, leading Neo towards their destination. The entire way there, her mine had been racked for ideas. Stowing away on international transport wouldn't exactly be a walk in the park. If possible, Weiss wanted to avoid conflict. Low ramblings left her lips about possible outcomes and plans.
Neo, on the other hand, could tell Weiss was extremely tense. The silent assassin furrowed her brow at Weiss's anxious state of being. By now, Neo knew how Weiss operated. She tried to shoulder everything on her own without being a burden to others. Even at the cost of her own health. Weiss really needed a break, but Neo wasn't sure how to give her one. At least they were away from Jacques. For now, Neo just gently squeezed Weiss's hand. She wantee to let her know that she wasn't in this alone. That she didn't have to burden herself. Weiss needed to relax and rely on others.
Soon enough, Weiss got the message and turned to look at Neo. The girl in question would imitate a deep, slow breath. In through the nose, and out through the mouth. As she held her breath, Neo counted to five with her free hand. This tactic always worked for her.
Weiss understood the message, more or less. Closing her eyes, she took in a deep breath through her nose and mentally counted.
Five seconds had passed. The former heiress let out her held air through her mouth. A wave of calming relief washed over her after a few repeats of this action. Weiss opened her eyes, only to find Neo giving her a smile and an "okay" sign with her index finger and thumb forming a circle. A smile soon formed on Weiss's lips, her tone much more calm.
"Thanks, Neo. I needed that."
After a second, Weiss would softly squeeze Neo's hand, returning the small comfort from earlier.
"Come on. Let's get going."
* * * * * * * * * *
"Alright! Bring it in!"
The loud boom of a man's voice cut through the cold, chilly night. He held two lit up traffic wands, waving in an incoming airbus. The wind below the large, metal contraption rustled with the force of the landing airbus. Leaves, trash, and debris scattered upon touchdown. It was a regular airbus, crafted for international transport. Of course, it was also large enough to contain a massive cargo hold in the back. It soon opened up it's giant metal doors, giving way to built in stairs embedded in the door.
The first to exit the airbus seemed to be a portly man, no younger than forty. He had a receeding hairline and suspendors on. Most likely, he was an entrepreneur coming to Atlas for business. The next to hop off was a beautiful woman in a red dress that hugged her curves perfectly. She even had a red sunhat on, despite the time, and red earrings. Her red rimmed shades made her look way too obnoxious. She held a cigarette holder up to her lips to let out a puff of smoke. Clearly, she was just another rich snob coming into Atlas. These people would have one more flight from Mantle to Atlas, however.
One by one, bourgeois individuals exited the airbus, making their way down to the entrance of the terminal. This airport was massive. As such, this was only one of many terminals. The building itself must have gone on for miles on end, given it was the top airport in Mantle. A rather large, protective wired fence encased the entirety of the runway and airport. Security was top notch at this place, considering it was Atlas. Atlesian guards were strewn about around the perimeter of the wired fence and within the runway itself.
Off in the distance, a rustling in the bushed in a nearby forest gave way. Out popped Weiss's head and hands, leering through a pair of binoculars. Neo did the same, but since she didn't have any binoculars, she just used her hands to pretend like they were.
"Mmh... it's more guarded than I thought. No doubt thanks to White Fang attacks in Atlas."
It made the most sense. A majority of systematic oppression of the Faunus formed in Atlas. And a huge chunk of that was thanks to the Schnee family. Just thinking about it made Weiss sick to her stomach. It only further inspired her to fix the wrongdoings her father had wrought.
"Geez. The guards go on for miles! And considering the model of these Atlesian robotic guards, I'd say they have a vision range of two hundred feet. More than enough to see the next guard over. They even have vision in the dark, no less. A sneak attack would be impossible without alerting the others."
Weiss bit her lower lip and cursed underneath her breath. Initially her plan was simple: slip in over the fence and onto the runway with Neo, have Neo disguise them as guards or flight attendants, and catch a ride to Vale. But even that had it's own flaws. If anyone asked for identification, they would be in hot water. And especially if they were to pretend to be flight attendants. It would arouse too much suspicion for two flight attendants to just hold hands for hours on end.
Thankfully, Weiss didn't have to break out of Mantle tonight. For now, they were just observing their options and would form a plan from there. They couldn't get in from the outer perimeter, so they would have to go through the building. But that would mean needing identification. There was no way fake IDs would work on Atlas security either. This left Weiss completely frustrated. Her plans kept ending up in a dead end.
"No, we can't do that... No, not that either... Augh! This is hopeless!"
Before she could whine more, Weiss felt Neo's hand on her shoulder and offered her a smirk. Clearly Neo had a plan. Moving out from the bushes and back into the forest area, Neo began her little game of charades. She held up two finger guns with a wicked grin. A second later, she moved to where her finger guns were pointing, raising her hands in the air with her eyes going white in fear. It was a weird game of charades, but Weiss got the gist of it.
"Wait, you want us to rob someone?"
Neo pointed to Weiss and nodded enthusiastically, just glad she understood. But, of course, Weiss had to be a goody-goody and ruin Neo's fun. The former heiress put her hands on her hips and furrowed her brow.
"No! No mugging, Neo!"
The silent criminal returned an upset expression of her own, mimicking Weiss's with her hands on her own hips. She rose a brow, as if to ask if Weiss had any better ideas.
"Well, no, not yet. But we aren't going to just steal someone's ID! You are not turning me into a criminal."
To that, Neo's silent rebuttal was simple. She took out her scroll and brought up a webpage. On it, it showed a wanted poster with Weiss's face on it.
TWO MILLION LIEN
The quiet criminal had a smirk on her face, inching her scroll closer to Weiss for her to see it. She was quite literally rubbing it in Weiss's face about how much of a criminal she really was. Of course, Weiss responded with a flustered flail of her hands against the scroll being thrusted towards her.
"Augh! Okay! Okay! I get it! Geez! But it's not like I'm a criminal for murder. I just ran away from home after pocketing a bit of my father's lien. I bet you've done much worse."
To that, Neo just gave an elegant bow, her hand extended behind her with her other curved over her stomach. Weiss's eyes leered towards the girl as she mumbled.
"That isn't something you should be proud of..."
Neo leaned back up and covered her mouth with a hand, letting out a silent giggle. Teasing Weiss had proven to be rather enjoyable. It was something Neo could find herself doing for a long, long time. Her reactions were just far too priceless and Neo absolutely loved them.
A sigh escaped the young Schnee's lips. They came here for reconnaissance, but only found disappointment. If anything, this only made thinking of a plan that much harder. Weiss put her binoculars away and just shrugged.
"I really don't know what we can do. I'm more stumped than before. This is going to be-"
Before she could finish her sentence, Weiss felt a tingling feeling brush against her arm. She practically froze as she realized what it was: a spider. Her eyes were wide with fear. Weiss threatened to scream, but Neo was one step ahead of her. The silent girl quickly lunged forward to cover Weiss's mouth with a hand, muffling her would be shriek. The Schnee heiress flailed in fear. Tears were practically streaming down her face.
Neo rose a curious brow at this spider in question. It was extremely tiny; most likely a baby. The mute criminal just rolled her eyes and flicked the spider away, letting go of Weiss's mouth.
"Uuuugh...I hate spiders!"
At this point, Neo had to get her jabs in. She just raised her balled up fists to her eyes and rubbed them, making fun of Weiss's crying. Her fear over such a tiny spider was way too funny to her. Neo stuck her tongue out at the former heiress and covered her mouth for another silent giggle.
"H-Hey! Don't make fun of me! Sh-Shut up!"
Weiss never thought she would tell a mute girl to shut up, yet here she was. Her face went bright red with a mixture of frustration and embarrassment. Neo teasing her only forced her to angrily pout in her direction. Feeling way too frustrated now, Weiss just stomped off into the forest.
"Hmph! Whatever! You're a jerk, you know that? I'm leaving!"
After Neo finished her small giggle fit, she soon followed after Weiss, a delighted smile on her face the entire time. Oh, how she loved to tease the poor girl! The path back to the main city of Mantle was empty and quiet, even for a forest. The entire way back, Weiss would angrily mumble something underneath her breath about Neo being a jerk.
However, as the two departed from the forest, they had to hold hands to enter the city. Neo had another smug look and offered her hand to hold, knowing Weiss didn't have a choice. The former heiress begrudgingly took it, a huff coming from her. She would cool down eventually. Her old, punk rock facade soon enveloped her and the two went off from the forest and into the city of Mantle. Luckily their motel wasn't far away.
After the two departed, however, a rustling came from one of the bushes in the forest. It was pitch dark within the shrubbery. But soon, a pair of two red, rectangles horizontally on top of one another pierced the darkness. A while Grimm mask soon came into view, as well as bull horns. A glint of malcontent shone through the mask and bush. Behind the bush, a low gruff voice hissed through the greenery.
Chapter 9: Underground Deals
Neo sneaks off in the middle of the night to find a solution of her own.
It was the dead of night in the dark motel room. Mantle always felt freezing at night, especially around this time of year. Weiss and Neo had their heater on to it's fullest extent, thankfully. The two had since been stripped of their clothes and tucked in bed. They were rather cozy in their positions: Weiss on her side with her back turned to Neo, and Neo on her back and staring up at the ceiling. Mismatched eyes gazed slowly towards Weiss's back in the dark. When she was certain her partner had fallen asleep, Neo would make her move.
Carefully, she arose from bed and slid out one leg at a time. She didn't want to wake Weiss for two reasons: what she was doing would go against Weiss's moral wishes, and she just plain didn't want to wake her up. She looked so peaceful in her slumber. Neo couldn't help but feel a genuine smile encroach upon her features. Once she was dressed, she looked back to Weiss with one last lingering gaze. Sure Neo wanted revenge for Roman, but now part of her wanted to go through with this crazy plan for Weiss's sake. Neo didn't realize just how fond of Weiss she came to be.
But right now, Neo had work to do.
She made her way to the motel lobby, coming face to face with the owner of this joint: a man named Senior. Considering his little brother was named Junior, it was obvious their parents weren't very creative. He had been relaxing in a swivel chair, just reading an article on his scroll. The sound of clacking heels against his floor caused him to look up to see who it was.
"Hm? Ah! Well if it isn't my favorite customer! What can I do you for, Neo?"
Of course, Neo couldn't speak, but she had her own methods. She had history with this guy. Like his brother, he wasn't as clean as he made himself out to be. He had connections. And Neo intended to use these connections tonight. She had a small smirk on her face, leaned her elbow against the counter, and tapped on the desk with her index finger and middle finger three times. Each tap was separated within a two second interval. But that's all he needed to know. Suddenly, Senior's friendly demeanor was wiped away and he was all business. His face went stern for a moment with a serious tone to match.
"I see. And what exactly do you need help with, kid? With these Atlas dogs running around, my powers are limited."
Neo knew he had to be on his toes now. With Ironwood recalling his troops on high alert, crime wasn't as easy, even in the slums of Mantle. The silent criminal simply took her wallet out and showed him her ID. He raised a brow curiously, wondering what she meant. But he soon got the idea. She pointed to her card and then held up two fingers.
"...You know I can't do fake IDs anymore, kid. But..."
His eyes shifted left and right, ensuring no late night customer could eavesdrop. He leaned forward and brought his hand up to cup his mouth. The whispers were all Neo needed to hear. As it turned out, Senior might not be able to do as much as he used to, but he knew a place Neo could go for help with her little problem. After getting the directions in the form of more whispers, Neo nodded twice and offered him a devious grin. Immediately, it was followed by a small wink. With her new destination in mind, Neo headed out for a lovely stroll in the middle of the night. Her parasol came to rest on her shoulder, lazily spinning with a repetitive motion of her wrist. After watching her leave, Senior just sat back down and shuddered.
"Yeesh...that kid gives me the creeps..."
* * * * * * * * * *
So this was the place, huh? Neo looked down a dark alleyway with a secret set of stairs going down into a basement. The only indication that it was Lil' Marco's had been the crudely crafted wooden sign plastered onto the side of the building, right above the stairwell. How the cops haven't raided this place yet would forever be a mystery to Neo.
She soon descended into the dark stairwell. Before her, there was a large, iron door. Neo politely raised a hand to knock twice on it's surface. Seconds later, a panel would slide from the door's surface, revealing a pair of brown eyes. It came accompanied by a gruff sounding voice.
"What's the pass-"
He stopped, however, and had a look of genuine confusion. His eyes shifted left and right, only to find nothing. An unseen shrug came from the man as he closed the panel. He didn't see anyone, so it must have been his imagination.
Neo felt a bit annoyed that he couldn't see her, so she knocked once more. Again, he opened the panel to look around.
"What's the pass-"
And, of course, he didn't see anyone. Feeling agitated now, he opened the door and bellowed out an angry sound.
"Okay! That is getting annoying! Who would dare prank-"
But he soon looked down to see Neo, looking rather impatient by now. He just scoffed and waved her off.
"Oh, just some brat. Listen kid, why don't you ding dong ditch a place that won't gut ya for lookin' at it funny?"
The large, burlesque man closed the door on Neo. However, once he turned around, he was suddenly surprised to see Neo right there. She snuck in ever since he opened the door, and he had been talking to a mere illusion. He seemed genuinely surprised to see Neo again upon turning around.
"Ah! Hey, what gives al-"
Before he could complain anymore, however, he felt a suddenly sharp blade pressed against his neck. Neo was quick on the draw, letting Hush's pointed blade extend from its tip. Her facial expression went from calm and petite, to wicked and malicious. All with a sadistic grin to back it up.
"U-Uhh... Make yourself at home?"
This massive bouncer found himself fearing this girl half his height. To say she was creepy or scary was an understatement. To be fair, this place was for tough people only. Neo had successfully terrified him in two seconds flat. She definitely belonged here, appearance be damned.
The inside of this establishment was that of a shady looking bar. It was a dimly lit underground bar with pool tables on the side and a jukebox that had been broken for some time now. The busted glass case was a clear sign of collateral damage from a bar brawl. Two men were playing darts on the side, clearly wagering cash as well. A majority of the patrons were just drunkards down on their luck and complaining at the bartender. Neo almost pitied the poor guy.
The bartender in question appeared to be a young, blonde man. His hair reached down to his shoulders, with eyes that shone blue. He even had a small, blonde beard. It was cleanly shaven to a pointed tip. His lean figure made Neo question if he's ever really fought in here before. Either way, she needed his assistance. If what Senior said is true, then he was her guy.
"Yo, kid. You gonna order somethin'?"
Neo simply offered him a devious grin and took a seat at a bar stool. She looked way too small for the bar stool, and it only made her look like a kid. But she was all business now. Taking out her scroll, Neo showed the bartender a picture of Senior and the pointed to himself.
"Tch. That old timer really sent you here? He must be losin' it. Heh. Alright, kid. I'll bite. What do ya need?"
At least he was compliant. The short girl reached for her wallet and took out her identification card. She pointed to it and proceeded to hold up two fingers. It took the bartender a while, but he started to piece it together. Thankfully, he seemed perceptive enough to realize she wasn't able to speak.
"Fake IDs? Is that it? Man, the suits really must be hittin' Senior hard."
The bartender merely let out a dry laugh. He just finished drying a glass with a rag and placing it upside-down on the countertop. It was clear he and Senior had history. Neo just wasn't sure what it was. He spoke up again after a momentary pause. Now he seemed a little downtrodden, but didn't let it show.
"Look, kid. I'd love to help you out. Really, I would. But it's like this..."
He soon pointed an accusatory finger towards a particular patron sitting in the back. The man in question had on a purple fur coat, black shades, and a purple hat to match. He sat upon a couch, adorned with women and money.
"That guy is driving away business. Pretty soon I'll be in the negatives! He hustles every single sucker that comes in here for pool wagers. Turns out, he's never lost a single match. Once he scams these idiots-"
"No offense, Chuck. Once he scams 'em, they don't have any lien left for my top of the line drinks! So, with that in mind..."
Now the blonde bartender had his own cocky grin on his face. He fully intended to use Neo to his own gains. If she could drive this obnoxious con artist out of here, then his business could thrive once more.
"Take care of him, and the fake IDs are all yours. Deal?"
The silent criminal just rolled her eyes. She felt like she had gone on a wild goose chase by now. But if she dealt with this annoyance, then she could get the fake IDs. That's all it took. How hard could it be? After a few seconds of mulling it over, Neo nodded and hopped off the bar stool. The bartender just watched her walk over with another bittersweet laugh.
"Go get 'em, tiger..."
The man in question had a bright grin to his face. But that was mostly due to him having golden teeth. He seemed obnoxiously rich. Neo already didn't like him. Taking him down would be all the more satisfying.
"And so I said, velociraptor? I barely even know her! Ahaha!"
His hanger ons just let out an, obviously, fake laugh, placing their hands all over his chest. Neo could just tell how fake they were in everything they did. If he didn't have money, they wouldn't even give him the time of day.
"Ahah. Oh my Brothers, Big P, you are so funny!"
"Hehe, you know it baby-"
His gloating soon came to a screeching halt when Neo showed up with two pool sticks. She kept one for herself and tossed him the other one so suddenly. Immediately, he sat up and began complaining.
"Hey! What gives!? I'm smoozing over here!"
Neo gave him a confident smile with the slightest tilt of her head. She raised up a hand of lien that she snatched from Weiss earlier. Neo knew it would come in handy. This gesture only meant one thing: she wanted to make a bet with him over a game of pool.
"Pfthah! Little girl, I don't think you realize just who I am."
Big P soon got up from his seat and adjusted his suit to look as professional as he could. Clearly, he looked down his nose towards Neo. Just as well, Neo loved to take on the prideful ones. Their looks of utter despair when they lost gave her so much satisfaction! He began speaking once more with an overly confident tone of voice.
"The name's Big P. You're dealing with the number one pool champion in all of Atlas. Why, I've won over fifty tournaments all around the globe. My record is as clean and as flawless as myself, of course. To challenge me is a fool's joke. My perfection is unlimited, little girl."
A deadpan face was all he'd get from Neo. She even leaned her elbow against the handle of Hush and used her other hand to cover up a silent yawn. Her taunts seemed very effective at getting him riled up, as his face began to turn bright red.
"Why, you little... let's go, then!"
The stage was set. Once the billiard balls were all lined up, the game could officially begin. Coming down his from earlier spike in frustration, Big P would give Neo the first shot.
"You can break, kid. Don't say I never gave you a turn."
Such arrogance. Neo couldn't wait to tear him down from his throne. The anticipation ate her up inside. But she knew all good things came with time. For now, she just lined up her shot. Sure, Neo could break with force like everyone else would. But she had a different strategy. With a smug grin, she gave the cue ball a simple, light tap. It barely even nudged the first ball it came into contact with. Instead, it just came to rest right beside it.
"Hah! you call that a break!? I know you're tiny, but that was pathetic! Just watch a pro at work, kid!"
Just what she wanted.
Neo moved aside to let him take his first shot. Of course, she left him with no real control. He couldn't exactly sink any balls with precision or angles. No, he had to break for himself. But with the distance so close, he wouldn't have an ounce of control as to where any of the balls would end up. At one point during his turn, he realized this. His eyes went wide beneath his shades, which were starting to slide down. Neo could see his fear already. Her gaze locked onto his own, pathetic expression. It only gave her a sinister smile, one that only proved to trip up Bit P even further.
Just as she planned: not a single ball went in a hole from his worsened break. But with everything scattered now, Neo could take her turn and control the outcome of this match. With his failure, Neo shook her head and feigned disappointment.
Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.
That was just too bad. She shrugged and went to take her turn. Since the easiest shot would be the seven ball, Neo decided to go for solids. She sunk it with ease, looking up to Big P afterwards with a cocky grin of her own. There was more than one way to beat someone at a game. Psychological warfare just so happened to be Neo's favorite.
"Tch. Lucky shot, kid."
Big P wasn't having it. She was getting under his skin and Neo knew it. Since she sunk a ball, Neo could go again. Once more, she sunk an easy solid; a six ball. Now Big P was getting nervous. Clearly, Neo was better than he thought. So it was time to start playing dirty. Once Neo tried to take her third shot, she noticed something strange. The ball didn't go completely straight as intended. Instead, it skewed off to the side in an unnatural manner. A genuine look of surprise painted her face at her unusual miss.
"Tough luck, kid. Let me show you how it's done."
Neo looked back over to Big P, who had his arms crossed and just finished lowering a finger. Was it some sort of displacement semblance? Maybe. Neo wasn't certain, but she would keep her eyes peeled now. Unfortunately, she saw why Big P was able to clean these saps out of their lien. He sunk three stripes back to back with ease. This wasn't good. Her psychological tactics were starting to wear off. Neo had to end this, and fast. She was confident in her pool abilities, thanks to Roman, but she didn't know what trickery was afoot.
"There. I think that's enough of a beating for now. Let's see you struggle, kid."
There was no chance his own mind games would work on her. Neo knew she had to focus. Mismatched eyes lasered in on the cue ball before her. If her hypothesis was correct, then she knew how to beat Big P. He wasn't the only criminal who could play dirty. Neo steadied her breathing and went to sink the three ball. However, she purposefully aimed a bit to the right. Had it kept going naturally, it would have missed entirely. Thankfully, Neo's semblance came in handy. She simply disguised the scenario to appear as though she shot straight. So, once Big P used his own cheating semblance to push her ball off course, it was actually the reason the three ball made it into the corner pocket at all.
"Huh?! Wait, what!? That's not supposed to happen!"
Neo feigned innocence, giving him a curious head tilt with a finger to her lower lip. By now, they had a crowd gathered around and watching. There were a few murmurs between the slums rats saying how Big P was getting beat by a little girl. It boiled his blood, but he couldn't do anything about it! He didn't know if his semblance would help or hurt her anymore. What he saw, may not be what actually was there! It just ticked him off more and more!
And each time he looked over, he saw that smug grin on Neo's face. He wanted to wipe that grin off, but he couldn't. Soon enough, Neo sunk the final ball, the eight ball, and finished the game. Considering Big P still had plenty of balls left on the table, it was an embarrassing loss. His eyes went wide with dismay as he fell to his knees.
"I can't believe it... I lost to some nobody!? This..."
He put his hands over his face. In doing so, he ripped off his shades and showed his true rage towards Neo.
"This is bullshit! You fucking cheated! I made sure to move the cue ball each fucking shot! So how!? How did you fucking do it, you little creep!? I swear I'll kill you!"
Again, Neo just feigned innocence with a simple shrug. The brutes by her side heard everything they needed to hear. Their murmurs turned to full on shouts as well.
"Hey! You hear that!? Big P cheated!"
"Yeah! He used some semblance or whatever to con us out of our lien!"
"Let's kick his ass and get our lien back!"
Big P stood straight up in fear as massive, hulking shadows loomed over him.
"W-Wait fellas! We can just sort this out! I mean, there must be some misunderstanding right? Haha. Right, guys!? G-Girls back me up here!"
Unfortunately for Big P, even his fangirls had moved on. Considering he was about to be stripped of lien and fame, he was worthless.
"Sorry, loser. We don't talk to chumps."
"Yeah, like, beat it."
And beat it he did. Hard against the concrete outside, that is, after being beaten and tossed out. The bouncer himself even wiped his hands of that mess and slammed the door on him.
"And stay out!"
With that fiasco out of the way, Neo went back to the bartender, who had seen the entire thing. She felt a bit prideful herself, and her face showed it. But, the blonde knew she earned it. He took two fake IDs from the back of the bar and handed them to her. They were both the names of fake girls.
"I gotta hand it to ya, kid. I didn't think you'd actually beat him. And to top it all off, you exposed him for the fake he is. Hah! Now, that was a good show. Hey, you're welcome back here any time you want, alright?"
A small, joyous nod was all he'd receive from Neo. Now that she had what she wanted, she could return to Weiss. Just as well, it was getting late. Neo desperately wanted rest. And who better to sleep with than the Ice Queen herself? Just the thought put a bit of pep in her step. She hated to admit it, but Weiss really grew on her. She was just too cute for words and they shared much more in common than Neo first thought.
Once back outside, Neo saw the unconscious body of Big P, in all of his disgraceful glory. She simply opened her parasol up and turned her nose up to him. It wasn't the most satisfying way to break someone down, but she enjoyed it all the same. Neo didn't want to waste time here anymore. It was late. And besides...
She had a cute girl waiting for her back in her room.
Chapter 10: A Change Of Plans
Our girls receive unfortunate news at the terminal, but meet a familiar face.
A/N: Hey everyone! Super sorry about the long delay. Life has been a wild ride these past couple weeks. Between the holidays, getting a new job, helping a new roommate move in, A TON OF DRIVING, and being sick for what feels like an eternity, I got hit hard. Hopefully the new job won't interfere with frequent uploads! Again, super sorry!
The sound of the motel room door opened meticulously. A morning ray of sunlight slipped through the cracks in doing so. In walked a rather tired looking Neo, black rings underneath her eyes. It was clear to anyone that her night was long and eventful. Although she tried to enter stealthily, so as to not awaken Weiss, her attempt failed. The former heiress stirred in her own slumber, her eyelids twitching at the sun's rays. The creaking on the old door didn't do Neo any favors either.
Weiss soon felt her eyelids open, her first view being the closed curtains and opened door. With a grumble, she soon sat up and rubbed her eyes. The former heiress was clearly still tired. Her bedhead made her look a bit silly, causing Neo to have a slight smile on her tired, worn out face. When Weiss's vision fully cleared, she realized Neo was just getting in. She had no idea what Neo had really done that night. Feeling exhausted still, Weiss just inquired with a sleepy mumble.
"Mm...Neo? What time is it? You look exhausted. How long were you out last night?"
Without a proper response, Neo was forced to just toss the fake IDs onto the bed. Not far after, she ended up plopping down herself, face first into the pillow. She looked like she had fallen on cloud nine with how blissful her face looked. Despite her cute looks, however, Weiss held up the fake cards and suddenly woke up. It was as if an on switch had been flipped within her. The former heiress's eyes shot wide open with an audible gasp.
"N-Neo!? What in the world is this!? I thought I told you we weren't going to rob anyone!"
It was blatant by Neo's scrunched up face just how annoyed she was of Weiss's sudden shouting. And here she was finally able to get a wink of rest. Still, she figured something like this might happen, so she sat up to look Weiss dead in the eyes. Weiss felt a bit guilty, considering how tired she looked, but this was a serious matter! This needed an explanation.
Neo raised a finger to waggle it back and forth. Her mouth even mimicked a tsk tsk tsk sound. Weiss was wrong. They weren't stolen. Before the former heiress could complain again, Neo whipped out her scroll and showed Weiss a picture of Neo and the bartender taking a selfie together.
"Uh...? Who is this and how is this relevant?"
The short criminal would point to a specific part of the picture where the bartender had the ID cards in his hands. Weiss managed to put two and two together and wondered out loud.
"Wait, he gave you these? And just what sort of shady business did you get into, hm?"
Neo just glared at Weiss with two red eyes. What was she? Her mother? Neo just wanted some sleep and it showed in her actions. She stuck her tongue out at Weiss and dove face first into her pillow again.
And this left Weiss by herself, wondering just what in the world she would do with her. The former heiress rubbed her temples and sighed, looking down at Neo, who had quickly gotten comfortable. Criminal or not, she was efficient in what she did. Weiss took a look at the cards and then Neo once more. Her face softened in a mellow expression. Maybe she had been too hard on Neo? After all, she was just trying to help. Come to think of it, Weiss figured it was much more than she, herself, had done thus far. A light sigh soon left her lips and her scowl was replaced with a small grin. Weiss reached over to gently brush her fingers along Neo's beautiful head of hair. Headpats were a good reward, Weiss thought.
"Thanks for helping, Neo. You deserve a good rest."
The shorter girl looked positively brimming with satisfaction. Weiss's gentle headpats made falling asleep all the easier. However, she felt that soothing hand attempt to slip away. Weiss tried to leave to take a shower, but Neo quickly reached out to grab at Weiss's forearm. It surprised Weiss for a moment, but she soon realized what this meant. Neo pulled her hand back down onto her head. She didn't say Weiss could stop, and this just felt too perfect! A smug, pleased expression was left on Neo's face. Weiss found it to be a mixture of mocking and cuteness, so she gave her a free pass. Rolling her eyes, Weiss just giggled to herself with a light grin.
"Mhmhm~ Alright, fine. I guess you earned five more minutes of headpats."
* * * * * * * * * *
The sound of Weiss's voice broke through the crowd of angry civilians behind her. The terminal, which they had scouted out just yesterday, had been overrun by an angry mob! There were plenty of employees attempting to calm each person individually. The poor soul that had been paired up with Weiss and Neo, would soon suffer the wrath of the former Schnee heiress.
"It's as I said, Miss..."
The heavily armored man held up the two fake IDs to his face to examine them. On one ID was the picture of a punk rock girl with an orange mohawk, a heart tattoo on her left cheek, blue eyes, and a septum piercing. The other ID contained a rather average looking girl with a black bob, green eyes, and a girl-next-door vibe to her. Their names were Becca and Sarah respectively.
"Y-Yes! That's my name! Obviously!"
Weiss could have sworn that she saw a smug, teasing smirk from the corner of her eye on Neo's face. It was bad enough that she was given Becca and not Sarah, but now they were given disastrous news! The guard stood firm and continued with an exhausted tone of voice that gave away just how many times he's given this news already to other people.
"I told you already: the Atlesian government has ordered a full embargo on Atlesian imports and exports, as well as traveling passengers. As such, the terminal is closed off to the public indefinitely."
"But that's ridiculous! Why would Atlas suddenly close it's borders to the rest of the world!?"
"Ugh! Look, I go on break in five minutes. I don't know what the higher ups are thinking either! Why don't you ask them yourself?"
A genuinely offended scoff came from "Becca", her hand over her chest.
"Wh-!? Excuse me!? And just what is that supposed to mean? You know what? Fine! Let me speak to your higher up!"
"Works for me!"
The guard clearly was just glad to be rid of this annoying brat. He reached for his radio to start calling over his supervisor. Meanwhile, "Sarah" had been desperately shaking her head and waving her free hand frantically to stop Weiss. The last thing they needed was more guards. Especially one that sounds like they had a sliver of competence. After coming down from her argument, Weiss looker towards Neo and realized that it was probably a bad idea. Now she just felt stupid and sheepish.
"Erm...uh...oops? Well, at least we can get to the bottom of this embargo. Maybe?"
It was her only saving grace. But as fate would have it, she would soon discover something even better. As it turned out, the supervisor received the call and began marching down the entry way of the terminal. The sound of military boots was enough for the guards to freeze up. They knew what was coming.
Winter was coming.
"What is the meaning of this!?"
Winter Schnee, in all her militaristic glory, stood at the head of guards with her weapon unsheathed and resting in front of her, the blade tipped into the ground with both hands covering the pommel. She had a fearsome look on her face that could make even the toughest of Ursa cower in fear. Her voice commanded absolute attention and authority from everyone within the terminal. Winter Schnee was known as the single hardest Atlesian soldier known in all of Remnant. None could match her ferocity; on or off the battlefield.
"I will ask it once more! What is the meaning of this!? Have you people lost your minds!? Do you want to attract Grimm!? I should have every last one of you thrown in prison for such a foolish outbreak!"
Winter instilled fear in the civilians and soldiers alike. Even Neo would prefer to keep her distance from her. But the only person eager to see her at this point was Weiss. She absolutely loved her older sister! Growing up, Winter had been there for her through the tough times of her childhood. Winter's tough love was what helped Weiss push forward through all of the pain and abuse her father imposed upon her.
The Atlesian lieutenant looked towards the sound of the familiar voice she heard. The room had gone quiet with the exception of this one person. One person, that sounded all too familiar. The eldest Schnee sibling's eyes widened, pinpointing the sound.
Of course, when Winter approached the duo, she didn't exactly meet Weiss and Neo. She met "Becca" and "Sarah." But she knew that voice anywhere. Without a doubt, this person had to be Weiss. The former heiress herself quickly realized how bad this situation would be in public. She flinched from feeling so stupid and attempted to fix everything.
"Let's, uh...take this to your office?"
"...Very well. Maybe then we can discuss your absolutely ridiculous appearance. It absolutely reeks of chaos and disorder."
"Ugh! Let's just go!"
Weiss just lowered her head, feeling incredibly embarrassed by all of this. Winter waved a hand to her guards to ensure they would keep people in line in the terminal. Luckily, the display from Winter made it easier to send people home. Neo, however, leered at the older Schnee. She didn't exactly get along with authority figures. And if Weiss did what Neo thought she'd do, then things could get ugly.
* * * * * * * * * *
The shabby wooden door to Winter's office at the terminal barely held up each time it was used. The office in question had hardly any room to it. The only thing in this tiny office had been Winter's metal desk, a desk fan, a computer, file cabinets, and an obnoxiously large stack of papers on her desk and in her cabinets. One thing Weiss noticed as she entered was the lack of air conditioning. That desk fan must have been a godsend for Winter.
"They have you stuck in here? I thought you were a lieutenant."
Her older sister would properly move towards her desk chair and have a seat. The chair behind the desk was a swivel chair and the two in front of it were cruddy, metal folding chairs. Winter's gaze narrowed slightly at the comment towards her rank.
"Yes, well, as much as it pains me to admit it, dear sister, the entire Atlesian military is in disarray and on high alert. Ever since the fall of Beacon, the council has been at ends with each other about how to proceed. In fact, you've seen the results of one of their latest decisions."
Neo gave Weiss a small squeeze to her palm. She knew just how tense and upset Weiss had been over this information. The former heiress felt the small sign of comfort and remembered to breathe before speaking. She wouldn't let panic overcome her. They would find another way of leaving Atlas. There had to be one.
"I understand. So then, theyre just assigning their personnel wherever they can with no sense of order, is that it? But why don't you say something to Ironwood?"
A light sigh was all of a response Winter could muster. She soon closed her eyes and thought for a moment. The memories of attempting to reason with Ironwood on the matter had all fallen in vain. But, Weiss deserved an answer. The eldest Schnee sibling shook her head and looked towards Weiss with a stern glare.
"Don't you think I've tried that already!? Ironwood is doing the best he can with what power and people he has. The fact that he hasn't gone insane is a feat in and of itself, Weiss!"
The former heiress visibly flinched at Winter's tone. She knew it was her training voice. It was only brought out when she taught Weiss a lesson or how to spar. However, Winter wasn't oblivious. She could sense the effect of her irked retort: Weiss's worry and her companion's glare. Winter had no idea who this girl was, but grew curious about why they were holding hands. But first, she had to address her sister. A light sigh left her lips as she shook her head.
"I'm sorry. Everyone's just been on edge, lately. But... we'll manage. However..."
Now her older sister looked upon Weiss with a raised brow.
"Were you not supposed to be back at the manor? Don't tell me you and your little friend here broke you out."
Weiss felt a bit sheepish to answer, rubbing the back of her head with her free hand. On the other hand, Neo looked extremely proud, puffing her chest out and nodding. The former heiress just looked at Neo with genuine shock. She just wanted to strangle her.
That isn't something you boast about to my older sister, you dunce!
Thankfully Neo couldn't read minds.
"I see... And I assume she's also the one who helped you with..."
A single hand was waved in front of Weiss's visage. Her sister really had no idea what in the world she was thinking. Even her look of disgust brought a sense of shame to Weiss. But she quickly interjected to explain herself.
"Wait. It's not what you think! It's...well..."
Weiss bit her lower lip and looked towards Neo. It would be dangerous to expose her to her sister. On the other hand, it would explain everything to Winter. Weiss had full faith in her sister to not overreact, but wanted Neo's permission. They were a team now, so she couldn't impulsively make team decisions by herself. Even if Neo did exactly that last night. The silent girl gave a nod and Weiss silently nodded back. She let go of her hand and waited.
The effects of Neo's semblance had worn off, exposing both of them to Winter. Genuine shock filled Winter's eyes, and she had seen plenty in her years of service. Instantly, she got up and moved to Weiss, placing a hand on her shoulder. This was no illusion anymore. This was her sister. Not some fake visage, but her actual sister.
Without warning, Winter leaned down slightly to give her little sister a hug. Her arms wrapped around her shoulders in a tight embrace, pulling Weiss in. It felt like forever since she had seen her sister again. Meanwhile, this was unheard of for Weiss. Her older sister stopped hugging her when she was learning to fight. She said it made her soft. And yet, here she was: hugging Weiss. Deep down in her heart, Weiss felt incredibly touched. She had since frozen from the sudden display, but soon reached up to reciprocate her older sister's loving and tight embrace. Weiss didn't realize it, but a single tear had fallen from Winter's eye. Of course, it was quickly wiped away. Neo saw this and looked absolutely astonished. A suit with a heart? Especially one with a reputation like Winter's? Seeing this sort of family bond on display, Neo couldn't help but be a little jealous. Weiss was lucky to have someone like Winter.
"Weiss...it really is you."
Winter immediately stood up from her hug, both hands on Weiss's shoulders. Her gaze was fierce, yet filled with supportive kindness, unlike earlier.
"You made the right choice. You cannot hope to grow as a person underneath father's roof. I'm extremely proud of you, Weiss. I always have been. Never forget that."
Now it was Weiss's turn to feel tears welling up in her eyes. She immediately lunged forward and reinitiated that tight embrace. Her hands met behind her older sister's back. Weiss wasn't able to suppress the few tears that began streaming. She truly loved Winter and knew for certainty that she wouldn't even be here today if it wasn't for her.
"You don't know how happy I am to hear you say that."
Weiss let out a few happy sniffles through her tears of joy.
"I love you, sister..."
"...I love you too, Weiss."
Now Neo had seen it all. The mighty and powerful Winter actually having a soft and caring side? Unheard of. She was tempted to snap a picture, but decided against it. It was a tactless idea to begin with. Seeing such love made Neo smile somewhat. Maybe she wouldn't get in trouble after all.
Once the Schneebling embrace ended and the tears were dried, Winter had to get back to business. Clearly there was an elephant in the room she needed to address.
"Miss Politan, was it?"
Neo gave a single nod.
"Right... Under normal circumstances, I would have you arrested on the spot for your actions at Beacon. However... I believe a personal pardon is in order. You saved my sister from our father's terrible clutches. For that, I am grateful. Unfortunately..."
The entire time, Winter had on a professional militaristic demeanor about herself. All with the exception of her last word. She soon turned her back to Neo and Weiss and sighed.
"Should other members of the military find you...they will not hesitate to apprehend you. I highly recommend proceeding with caution. Elsewise, I won't be able to help you. I'm already sticking my neck out farther than I should be for a criminal. Had you not been in my sister's good graces, I would arrest you myself."
Weiss's tone was that of an embarrassed younger sister. She couldn't just say something like that to her new companion! But unbeknownst to Weiss, Winter had on a knowing smirk while her back was turned. Clearly, it was her own way of being an annoying older sister. Normal sibling relationships were non-existent for the Schnees, so it was a rare, pleasant feeling when something like this occurred.
"Do not fret, Weiss. I have no intention of apprehending your little...'friend' here."
As it stood, Winter wasn't entirely sure of the relationship between the two. Just as well, Weiss and Neo didn't really know either. Calling them acquaintances felt too formal. Clearly they were friends, Weiss thought. Although, deep in the back of her mind, Weiss knew that she wouldn't mind if they became something more. Neo was a wonderful person once she got to know her. But that was wishful thinking at this point. Right now, Weiss just had to stay focused on assembling her team and taking Cinder down!
Winter cut off Weiss's train of thought with another interjection. This time, she had no intention of hiding her smile in front of the two.
"I may be able to assist you in surpassing this embargo. But it won't be easy. I take it you two are up to the task?"
Neo and Weiss both looked to each other with a knowing grin. They nodded once and looked towards Winter with the same amount of confidence. Weiss spoke for the two of them for their final decision.