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Bloody Sakura Rose

Chapter Text

If you had asked Ruby yesterday, she would have laughed at the thought; of course she was the daughter of Taiyang Xiao Long, why did you ask? The conversation then would most likely lead onto a conversation about her father, jokes thrown in, and just a fun conversation. That is what would have happened if you had asked yesterday, or any day before that. Because yesterday, Taiyang Xiao Long was Ruby’s father, something the young reaper would have noted with great pride.

Today however, if you asked Ruby that same question, she would give you the most heartwrenching look you have ever seen on her face and then walk off without a word, her red hood covering her face. It was today that she had discovered that her father was NOT Taiyang Xiao Long, but some person called Marluxia. That didn’t even sound like a proper name from anywhere on Remnant.

Ruby still held her mother’s journal in her hand. None of the entries were dated, but it was easy to work out how old the entries she had read were. Just almost sixteen years.

Today, I met a man while on my mission. He seemed to be on his own mission too. I asked him his name and he introduced himself as Marluxia. He even wrote it out for me when I asked how that was spelt. After all, it wasn’t the most common of names! He was rather odd, he spoke with the most expressionless tone I’ve ever heard, and his ever present smile was rather unnerving…. I wonder if I’ll meet him again.

…...

I met Marluxia again today, he helped me fight off a strange beast he called a Heartless. He said that it was similar to the Grimm here, in a way. He didn’t elaborate on that though. I asked him if he had a team that he was working with. He said yes, but I’m not sure if I believe him. Once again he didn’t elaborate. I reported these Heartless creatures to Headmaster Ozpin, I didn’t tell him about Marluxia though. I don’t know why. Tomorrow my mission is to discover the nature of these Heartless. I may ask Marluxia more if I can.

……

It has been several weeks since my last entry, I’ve been busy. Marluxia is actually camping with me; he suggested that we team up, he’ll tell me about the Heartless if I tell him more about the Grimm. A rather odd request, I mean, who doesn’t know about the Grimm, though I suppose he means he didn’t go to a combat school. I agreed. He’s rather good company once you get used to him…. Not bad looking either. Not sure when I’ll get the chance to write again. Marluxia and I are hunting down a rather large Grimm.

……

Three months. That’s how long it has been since I’ve had a moment to write. Luxia and I keep teaming up to fight Heartless and Grimm. I think I’ve fallen in love with him! These past three months… he’s just always been there, had my back, and even saved me by showing up out of nowhere and using his scythe to cut down an enemy I haven’t seen. He still speaks in the same tone, but I think his smile is warmer now. I return home soon. I have to report back to Headmaster Ozpin. Luxia isn’t coming with me, says he has to report on his own mission. We have one last week together we estimate. The Heartless we are tracking is elusive but we are getting closer.

……

I’m home now, it’s been so long. Team STRQ is back together again. Raven keeps grilling me on my solo mission. I think she’s jealous that I met this hot guy and didn’t ring to tell her about it. The last day, I slept with Marluxia. Oh it was so embarrassing having Raven grill me on it. Yes, I met a hot guy; we fell in love and then fell in bed together. But no, she wants all the details. My friend is changing though. She seems restless. I hope Raven is okay. Little Yang is such a lovely girl; she needs her mother now more than ever.

……

Raven went missing two weeks ago, and I discovered that I’m pregnant. The child is Marluxia’s, but he has also gone missing. I have decided that I won’t tell anyone who the father of this child is. Taiyang promised to help me raise her, and I get a second child in the form of Yang too. My child will be raised as if Yang were her sister. I think I’ll name my child Ruby if it’s a girl or Onyx if it’s a boy.

That was the last entry Summer Rose had written in her journal. She had buried the book along with her secret, well within the many boxes of possessions. It was clear, when Ruby had stumbled upon this book that Taiyang had tried to hide it as well. Now Ruby knew that everything she once thought about herself was a lie.

“Ms Rose, is something the matter?”

Ruby jumped at the sound of Ozpin’s voice and spun around to face him, her silver eyes wide. She recalled that Ozpin was the one her mother was reporting to in her journal, maybe he knew who this Marluxia person was. Maybe. Ruby certainly hoped. Suddenly she realized that she was wringing her hands together, and Ozpin was still waiting for her to answer. Quickly she took a breath to work up her courage, and then said quickly;

“DoyouknowwhoMarluxiais?”

There was a pause, an uncomfortable one. Ruby found herself counting the seconds. It was a six second long pause. Long enough for the Headmaster to decipher her question, and then to pause again when he registered WHAT she had asked. His eyes fall to the journal in the teen’s hand, widened slightly, almost unnoticeably, but Ruby noticed, because she was already hyperaware of everything currently. Almost mutely, Ozpin gestures in the direction that lead back towards the way to his office.

“It seems you and I are in for a long conversation Ms Rose,” he commented as he walked beside his student. “May I inquire as to where you found that journal?”

“It was with my mum’s things which my father had sent through,” replied Ruby quietly, as she opened the book to the last entry again. “I asked dad if he could find me her old broach, but since he was heading out on a mission, he sent me the box to look through…. I guess he didn’t realise that the journal was there.”

“Actually, Ms Rose,” Ozpin hummed as he pressed the button for the elevator. “I do believe that Taiyang had no idea of the contents of that book.”

Ruby opened her mouth to say something, but then closed it again as nothing came out. Her voice died. He hadn’t known about this book? The ride up the elevator was quiet as the young silver eyed teen stewed over this information. When they reached the top, Ozpin lead the way in and offered Ruby a chair in front of his desk before he himself sat down.

“Let’s see,” the Headmaster started, pinning Ruby with a look. “Marluxia, your birth father, is someone I have only met twice, and he has never met your father. Taiyang only knows that Marluxia is your father and nothing else. He believes that your birth father is dead, as is what happens when someone goes missing for an extended period of time. However, I can tell you that, for as far as I know, Marluxia is not dead.”

The young reaper’s mouth fell open in shock, her hood falling itself as she shot out of her chair and all but slammed her hands on the Headmaster’s table. Her mind was reeling.

“He what?” she demanded. “Why isn’t he here then? Why was I raised by… dad instead of this Marluxia guy.”

Ozpin raised his eyebrow elegantly at Ruby, who deflated and sat down with a mumbled apology. The white haired man sighed and pressed his fingers together, resting his elbows on the glass table before him. Copper eyes closed and for a few moments the only sound that could be heard was the movement of the cogwheels above them.

“Your birth father visited me twice,” the man continued as if Ruby hadn’t interrupted. The young silver eyes watched him with rapt attention now. “The first time was the day of your birth. He asked me a favour, to keep your light safe. Keep you safe, because he wouldn’t be able to. The second time was at your mother’s funeral. It was then I asked him why he couldn’t take you in, and he told me. He is what is known as a Nobody, he is incapable of emotion. I’m not entirely sure if that is true, but… He clearly wasn’t about to take you.”

There was a sound of glass shattering, though only Ruby could hear it. It was the figurative sound of her heart shattering further. Taiyang was not her real father and kept that fact from her, and then she discovered that her birth father wanted nothing to do with her. Tears pricked in her eyes, poor Ruby was so confused. Again Ozpin spoke.

“Might I suggest that you talk to Ms Xiao Long about this,” he said. “She may have some insight for you. Though I can tell you that Marluxia did have some semblance of care for you, otherwise he would not have shown up at all after you were born.”

Ruby swallowed thickly and nodded. She took a few calming breaths and managed to get her heart beating at a somewhat normal rate. Once again she looked up at Ozpin, her expression slightly more subdued than before.

“What…. What was he like?” she asked hesitantly. Ozpin stood up and walked around the table. He gestured for the book in Ruby’s hands, which she handed over without a word. The headmaster hummed as he flipped through the pages.

“Your mother’s explanation of his character is rather accurate. He always spoke with a voice which rarely ever expressed anything, and he certainly smiled at times which could not have had any stimulus to smile. Though I tended to notice a truly expressionless face the two times I spoke to him.”

Before Ruby could ask her next question, Ozpin was already walking again, this time over to a cabinet on the side of the room. He pulled out a few pages, and momentarily Ruby wondered where all these pages had come from, first her mum’s journal and now these pages. Journals like her mum’s were generally recorded on scrolls.

The pages were placed in front of Ruby and the teen gasped when she saw they were drawings, signed by her mum; drawings of a pink haired man in a black coat, holding a scythe. Different poses, sometimes only his head, or half body, but it was all the same man, one man that Ruby recognised, because there was one such drawing in her room, a drawing that Ruby vaguely remembered her mother dubbing the “Guardian of Ruby’s Room”.

“This is…. Marluxia….?” Ruby asked softly, picking up one of the images and gingerly touching the drawn details. Her mother was a good artist, at times, at other times her art was no better than that of a child. Her mother had only put great care into images which meant the most to her. Marluxia clearly meant a lot to Summer. Ozpin’s answering nod was all that Ruby needed to confirm that the silly little drawing she had always cherished in her room, was an image of her father, drawn by her mother.

A silent question was asked of the Headmaster, the answer being an inviting hand, and Ruby gathered up the images from the desk carefully. She had gotten answers, and gained more questions, but she now had more clues.

“Thank you Professor,” she said with a smile which was brighter than her earlier despondency.

“If you have more questions Ms Rose, you need only ask.”

With a more cheerful nod, Ruby left the office, pages in hand. Ozpin watched her go with a sad expression. The secrets of Summer Rose were about to come to light, and he could only hope that Ruby wasn’t disappointed with the results.

---

Dear Diary,

Hi, I’m back again. Writing to you in secret because I don’t want Yang to find me. She doesn’t look at my paper diary. Is that why mum kept a paper journal? Because dad wouldn’t look in it? I would have thought that such a thing wasn’t for mum and dad… but I found out today that dad isn’t actually my dad. My dad is actually my guardian angel! I never knew that every time I looked at that image that mum drew I was actually looking at a picture of my real dad! To be fair…. I didn’t know that dad wasn’t actually dad. And now I don’t know what to call him! Do I still call him dad? Or do I call him Taiyang? Oh I really should ask Yang about this…. But I don’t know how she’ll react. Marluxia…. If I look for you, will I find you? And will you want me to call you dad? I think I’ll ask Blake, maybe she’ll know.

With love,

Ruby Rose

---

Meanwhile, in the city of Vale, there was a small commotion happening in the streets. Some shopkeeper was making a racket about his dust stores being robbed. In the crowd watching there was a certain pink haired man, with blue eyes. He scanned the area for something, before leaving the commotion behind, the tattered tail of his black jacket trailing behind him as he adjusted the sleeves of his white shirt. What he was looking for wasn’t here, so he moved on. This man walked into a pub on the main street of Vale and he walked over to the barkeep.

“Hello,” he greeted with a charming smile gracing his lips. “My name is Lauriam, and I was wondering if you could direct me to where I can look through older issues of the news? The Librarian wasn’t able to help me I’m afraid.”

The barkeeper took one look at Lauriam before pointing over to the side of the pub, where the news stand was.

“We keep newspapers as old as three months before we send them elsewhere, for patrons who prefer holding paper, or haven’t got immediate access to their scrolls, hope you find something useful there.”

Lauriam nodded his thanks before walking over to the stand. He picked up one from two months ago and hummed when he saw the front page.

BEACON STUDENTS APPREHEND TORCHWICK

The picture was of a team of four teenage girls. Lauriam’s eyes were drawn straight away to the youngest. Black-red hair, black clothes, red frills, and a scythe.

“You look just like her,” he sighed, before settling down in a chair so that he could read.

Chapter Text

The next day, Ruby was in her team’s dorm, sitting on her bed, wringing her hands together again, staring at the book in her lap, as she waited for her team to return. She had purposely ditched classes today, though the fact that none of her teachers had come to find her, she could only guess that Professor Ozpin had told the faculty that she might not be in classes. In that time she had prepared and rehearsed over and over the excuse she would give to her team so that she could ask Blake the burning questions in her mind, alone, without Weiss or Yang there to worry and pester.

The practice however proved to be almost futile, as the moment that WBY walked into the dorm room, Yang quickly ran over and started to shower the young reaper with concern.

“Yang, really, I’m okay now,” Ruby said with a smile she hoped was convincing. “I felt a bit dizzy in the library this morning and I went to the infirmary. The nurse told me to rest and I would be fine.”

That was a bad lie, so easily disproven. Internally Ruby cringed, Qrow had taught her how to lie so she could get out of some situations that might arise as a huntress, and he would be so disappointed in that lie. But she could only work with it now. Yang deflated a bit.

“You should really message us sis,” she chided gently, making Ruby cringe slightly as she was once again faced with her mother’s lie. She covered it with a nervous laugh.

“Yeah, sorry, it slipped my mind,” she said, then she perked up as if just remembering something and not playing to the script she was playing in her head. “Actually, I need to talk to Blake about something I found in the library. It’s about the White Fang. I… want Blake to confirm what I read.”

“What is it?” Blake asked, tilting her head the young reaper. Ruby stuttered a moment, not expecting the question. She sighed and held the book, her mother’s journal, closer to herself.

“Just you and me please Blake?” she asked quietly. “I’m not trying to hide this from anyone, but you really should be the first to look at this.”

Ruby felt horrible, lying to her team, but she wasn’t ready, she wasn’t prepared to admit the truth to anyone yet. She hadn’t even accepted the truth yet, the young reaper’s mind was still reeling. Ruby hoped that talking to Blake would help her feel less confused. Her teammates looked at her with softening expressions, and they looked at each other before nodding.

“Alright Ruby,” Weiss agreed. “But you both need to tell us what you found. Yang and I will put notes together of today’s classes and what homework we received for you while you do that.”

Yang saluted and then ushered Ruby and Blake out the door. Weakly, Ruby gestured away from the door, further down the hallway. Blake opened her mouth, concern on her face, but the pleading look from Ruby had her following her leader down and outside the dorm building. The moment they had left the building, Ruby grabbed Blake’s hand and ran to a wall that was secluded from view, where she promptly broke down.

“Ruby?!” Blake gasped with concern, pulling the sobbing girl into her arms. This wasn’t normal for Ruby, not in the slightest. Where was the cheerful, happy-go-lucky teen? Why was she so upset? A thought occurred to Blake, horrible in its conception and almost terrifying to consider.

“You didn’t really have anything relating to the White Fang to show me, did you?” the cat faunus asked quietly, running her fingers comfortingly through Ruby’s hair, hoping that the action would calm the poor girl. Ruby shook her head and pulled the book from where she was gripping it tightly to her chest. She opened the book to the last entries and offered it up to her friend.

“I don’t know what to do….” She murmured quietly as her black haired friend took the journal from her hands and began reading the entries. Blake read quickly, but her eyes widened and when she finished, the faunus teen quickly flipped back to the first entry she read and reread them all again. Blake was starting to get a faint idea of why Ruby wanted to talk to her, and not Yang or Wiess. With a sigh, she sat against the wall and gently pat the ground next to her, offering her arms for an embrace. The invitation was clear and Ruby, and the young reaper quickly found herself sitting next to Blake, trembling with the faunus’ arms pulling her close.

“I think my first question is how do you feel about this information, Ruby?” Blake asked. She wasn’t normally affectionate, but with the young reaper as rattled as she was, today Blake decided she would make an exception. Ruby needed it. It took the black-red haired girl a few moments to articulate a response, but the faunus waited.

“I…. I don’t….. Why did I have to find out from a book of all places?” Ruby finally asked, her eyes looking down. “A book! My dad isn’t my dad, and he was content to keep this a secret, leave this book and forget about it. And all I know about my real dad is now only descriptions of him from brief journal entries, and then pictures of him drawn by my mum. What do I….? How do I…?”

Blake pressed a finger to Ruby’s lips, making the young girl gasp and look up into the gold-amber eyes of her friend.

“You feel betrayed,” she told the reaper, and she pressed her finger slightly harder against Ruby’s lips when the girl went to protest. “No Ruby, you do, this is why you don’t want to talk to Yang. Why you feel so confused. You feel betrayed, but you want to deny that feeling because you can’t reconcile the image of the man who raised you doing it intentionally. At the same time you know that he did, and you are trying to work out some plausible explanation.”

“But I can’t find any…..” Ruby admitted, curling closer to Blake as she slowly started to accept the feeling of betrayal that was there, had been there since yesterday. It was as if puzzle pieces had slotted into space as Blake spoke.

“No, you can’t,” the cat faunus murmured with a sigh. “You want your ignorance back, but can’t have that.”

Ruby was silent for a few moments before she looked up at Blake.

“What do I call him now?”

It was unclear if she was asking about Taiyang or Marluxia or perhaps even both, as Blake suspected, but that didn’t change the answer that Blake gave.

“Whatever feels right to you. If that is his name, then call him by name. If it is by title, then call him your father. What do you want to call him?”

Ruby looked down and shrugged helplessly. With a small smile, Blake stood up, pulling Ruby with her. She straightened the young girl’s black and red dress and neatened her hair, before offering the reaper her handkerchief.

“While you work it out, I’ll be here to help you if you need to,” she said. “Now what are you going to tell Yang?”

Ruby’s eyes widened, before she looked down.

“Don’t do the same thing that your parents did,” Blake murmured, petting the head of her team leader. “Yang would want to find out from you, not a book like you did. You know she’ll help you. Come on, we need to talk to Weiss and Yang.”

Slowly, because Ruby had taken to clinging to Blake’s arm, the pair returned to their dorm, where Yang and Weiss were waiting, the former of which tried to shower attention and concern on Ruby, only to be stopped by the cat faunus. Blake quietly pressed Ruby forward. The young reaper took a deep breath, pulling her hood up.

“Ruby?” Yang asked, concerned.

“I’m….” Ruby started before cutting off and starting again. “Yesterday… I found mum’s diary, and I started reading through it hoping to discover more about her life….. but I also…. I discovered…..”

Her voice trailed off as she looked down at the ground. Yang took a step forward to try and comfort her, but stopped when Ruby held up her hand.

“I’m not really your sister, Yang,” she whispered. Silence fell upon team RWBY. It extended out for a few moments, a pin drop silence. Ruby shifted uncomfortably, relaxing slightly when Blake’s calming hand found its way to her shoulder.

“What?” Yang finally asked. “What do you mean? I know Summer wasn’t my birth mum, but dad is_”

“No Yang,” Ruby interrupted with a wavering voice. “You aren’t my full sister, you aren’t my half-sister. By birth, your dad isn’t my dad. And…. He didn’t tell me, wasn’t going to tell me…”

She held out the diary of Summer Rose to Yang, open once again at the last entries that had been written in it, about Marluxia. Yang read them. And again. And once more to ensure that her eyes weren’t deceiving her. And then without a word she handed she handed the diary back to Ruby, her eyes turning red, and she pulled her scroll from her pocket.

“No Yang!” Ruby gasped, leaping forward and grabbing the brawler’s hand. “Don’t… don’t call home. Please.”

“He’s been lying to us Ruby!” Yang exclaimed. “He_ he knew and wasn’t going to say anything! Like he didn’t say anything about my mum!”

“I know, but…. I’m not ready to confront him about it yet!”

“Yang.”

Everyone stopped as Weiss spoke for the first time since Ruby had returned. Gold, red and silver eyes all turned to look at the heiress. Weiss took a breath and began to talk.

“I think that this is Ruby’s choice, since it is her parents we are discussing here,” she said calmly, being the voice of reason. “Yes, you are angry, Yang, but your anger isn’t helping Ruby. What we need to do, before getting answers from your father, is help Ruby. Because while you are angry, it is clear that Ruby is confused and you are only causing her distress.”

With that out of the way, Weiss turned to Ruby, not letting anyone speak yet as she continued.

“Now,” she tutted concisely, “Ruby, tomorrow, you are coming to class with us, but if you don’t feel like answering the Professors questions then we shall answer for you. I, for one, want to know that you are okay, instead of letting all this bubble up inside you. It’s not healthy.”

Ruby hung her head and mumbled out an apology. Yang’s eyes faded back to violet, and she sighed, pulling the young reaper into a hug.

“Sorry Ruby,” she murmured. “But, even if dad lied, you’re still my sister okay? We have the families we were born into, and then we have our families of choice. And your family is also right here. Teams RWBY and JNPR. Kay?”

Blake got in on this with a smile. “Yeah, you have Weiss, Pyrrha, Ren and me as your wise older siblings, Yang and Nora as your crazy older sisters, and then Jaune, your goofy brother who makes us all laugh when we need it.”

This made Ruby perk up, a happy grin forming on her face as she thought about the words. “Right! You guys are the best!”

That night team RWBY and team JNPR decided to have a sleepover in JNPR’s room, they all dragged out their sleeping bags and laid them out on the floor. Team JNPR had also agreed with the conversation that had happened in their sister-team’s room when they were told. It was Nora’s idea for a sleepover which was quickly agreed to by both of the teams. When Professor Goodwitch went around the dorm rooms to check that all the students were asleep by curfew, she would discover both teams in JNPR’s room, Ruby in the middle of the group of sleeping bags, her mother’s diary under her hand, the rest of team RWBY and team JNPR sleeping around her like guardians. The Professor decided that she would leave them be and talk to the Headmaster about it.

---

The next day they had History after breakfast, and both teams sat together, very purposely seating Ruby next to Ren and Blake, Nora and Yang on the outside of the group to glare at anyone who stared at Ruby. The lesson was about city expansion and currently the discussion was about Mountain Glenn. RWBY had only come back from that mission two weeks ago. Doctor Oobleck saw the seating that the two teams had taken, but also spotted Ruby, who was looking slightly zoned out and distracted.

“Ms Rose,” he started, making the girl squeak quietly in surprise. “Perhaps you can answer this question for us; what caused the Mountain Glenn project to collapse?”

Ruby shrunk down in her seat, an action which made the Professor raise his eyebrow. Yes, he decided that he would inform the rest of the teachers of this, his eyebrow rising further as Yang answered the question instead of Ruby. This was something to note. Keeping the Headmaster’s note that Ruby might be absent from classes in mind, he didn’t comment on the fact that it was a student he hadn’t called upon who had answered. As the lesson progressed, Ruby raised her hand twice throughout to answer his questions, but she never answered when he called upon her, and it was one of her teammates or someone from team JNPR who answered for her. She did become more attentive though as her friends showed that they were looking out for her.

When the class was dismissed, Dr. Oobleck sent out a quick message to all of the teachers about Ruby’s behaviour in class. For the rest of team RWBY’s lessons that day, the team was called on collectively, rather than singling out one of them, since they were answering for the young reaper.

That afternoon when the two teams were working on homework in the library, Ruby, who usually was the main motivator, usually speaking some kind of encouragement, was staring at one of the pictures of Marluxia drawn by her mother. She was grateful that the Headmaster had given her those images. Nora snuck up behind her and peered over her shoulder.

“Oooooh who’s that?” the hyperactive red head asked with a grin, her turquoise eyes noting the signature on the images. “Your mum drew these?? Wow! She’s so skilled, what gave her the inspiration?”

Yang also looked over and her eyes widened as she recognised the figure.

“Isn’t that the same guy who mum claimed was the guardian of your room?” she asked. “You still have that drawing up at home and all that too.”

“This is Marluxia,” Ruby said quietly. “Ozpin said that these pictures are ones that mum drew of Marluxia. Who is he? I mean…. I know about him from mum’s journal, but I don’t really know him. Why does he have a scythe? Why the black coat? Where is he from?”

What is a Nobody and why is he one? The question floated in her mind, but she didn’t voice it out loud. She fell silent, staring at the pictures with a thoughtful expression. She didn’t see her friends exchange glances. Pyrrha spoke up, interrupting the young reaper’s thoughts.

“Why don’t we go searching for him then?” she said with a smile. “Look for any clues to who he is. Maybe he encountered someone other than your mother while he was around. There has to be something.”

Ruby perked up at that, the thought of finding out more, of solving this mystery, learning about Marluxia. That is what she wanted. And so the two teams planned to head out on the weekend to the City of Vale to ask around; little knowing that there was a certain man in the city who was planning on doing the same.

Chapter Text

Come the weekend and teams RWBY and JNPR were prepared to make their outing to Vale, to start searching for any clues about Marluxia. Ruby was brimming with excitement, a change which had shown through the past few days in classes, her mood had improved and she had been participating more. She still had moments where she was uncharacteristically quiet, and that was fine, her friends answered for her when that happened. There was no time to fall into the uncertainty she had been wavering between for the past few days, for today was the day she would find answers. She didn’t notice Ren and Pyrrha had all but glued themselves to her side as Blake and Jaune lead the way to the bullheads, nor did she notice Weiss, Nora and Yang watching her with exasperated smiles.

The trip to the city was short and when they stepped off the bull head, the two teams made their way towards the library; it wasn’t that far from where the bullheads normally landed anyway. As Weiss had explained it, it was only logical to go there as they kept a few public records that could be checked for any trace of Marluxia. Nora kept bouncing ahead, dragging Ruby with her, though the pair always stopped when either Blake or Ren called them back.

Eventually they make it to the library. Weiss and Ren immediately walk towards the back of the library, where the public records are kept, while the rest of the group found a table to sit at. Ruby was fidgeting in her chair while waiting for her friends to rejoin them. The pair came back with two books and Weiss had a frustrated expression on her face. The books were a registry of visitors from outside the Kingdom, old enough that the information in it was all but obsolete.

“Sorry Ruby,” Ren said with an apologetic smile. “These were the only two we could find that could have the information we’re looking for.”

“I suppose a lot of the information that we are looking for will be inaccessible to us as we aren’t full hunters and huntresses yet,” Pyrrha suggested with a sigh, before smiling. “That is alright though. We have a start.”

Ruby smiled back at the red head, before looking at the book that Weiss had, over the heiress’ shoulder. Both books ended up on the table with the teams looking over them both. For the next hour they were silent, reading the information. Well, Weiss, Ren, Pyrrha, Blake and Ruby were reading, some surprise at the fact Ruby was reading, while Jaune, Nora and Yang were searching old newspapers on their scrolls, not actually reading, just scanning.

It was actually Ruby who pointed it out first. There was a small entry on Marluxia entering Vale on a date just over seventeen years ago. It was the only entry however. Apparently, according to the book, Marluxia had never left. Ruby knew this wasn’t true though. Her mother’s journal proved that.

“Where did he go?” she asked quietly. “How did he manage to leave undetected?”

No one had an answer for the young reaper. Desperate for more information, Ruby stood up and started searching the shelves in the library again, looking for anything. It took another hour for her to come back with nothing. There was a disheartened look on the reaper’s face, and she walked past the group and out of the library. Team JNPR and the rest of team RWBY all hurried to pack up and follow her out.

The two teams called out to the young teen, calling her back, calling her to wait. Ruby kept walking though, pulling up her hood as she went, walking away from the library and the feeling of hopelessness. There was nothing in the library about Marluxia, Professor Ozpin didn’t have many answers either, and her mother’s journal was filled with only moments of her time with the man. There was nothing to be found.

Weiss decided that enough was enough.

“RUBY ROSE!!!”

Ruby paused and looked back as her partner marched up to her and placed her hands on her hips. The young reaper cringed at the angry expression on the heiress’ face. Instead of yelling however, Weiss, in a display she would deny later, wrapped her arms around Ruby, her expression softening.

“I know we couldn’t find anything in the library you dolt,” she murmured to the younger girl. “But that isn’t reason to give up. We’ll find this Marluxia, if we need to we’ll ask one of the Professors to help us get to records that we can’t access, we’ll ask people around where your mum was doing her missions. We’ve only looked in one place.”

“Yeah Rubes,” Yang said cheerfully as she walked up beside Weiss. “I know your semblance is speed, but you gotta slow down a bit here and be patient.”

Weiss took a step back and smiled slightly as Ruby took a breath and nodded with a small grin. The young reaper mumbled out an apology, before squawking in indignation as Yang ruffled her hair playfully. This light hearted moment was interrupted however by a smooth and polite voice.

“Excuse me, but you wouldn’t happen to be the daughter of Summer Rose, would you?”

The two teams spun around to face this new voice, only to find themselves looking at the man from Summer Rose’s drawings. He was wearing a black, long tailed vest with ragged ends, over a long sleeved white shirt that had a high collar, with darkened magenta pants tucked neatly into his black boots. It wasn’t the clothes that Summer had drawn, but Ruby recognised the man none the less.

“…… are you Marluxia?”

---

Lauriam sighed, sitting outside one of the many cafés in Vale, tea in hand, but already cold, he had been sitting there for two hours and he had barely sipped his drink. His eyes were downcast slightly and he seemed to be lost in thought. Today he was asking around about Summer Rose. Sure, he knew the woman was dead, but he wanted to know about her family, about her daughter. His daughter. No one was willing to answer his questions, or they didn’t know, and the man didn’t want to press too hard, only to find himself getting arrested. That wouldn't do at all.

That was how he found himself here, outside the café with cold tea in his hands. Another sigh escaped his lips and he put the teacup in his hands down, next to some lien, and he stood up and walked away. Nobody stopped him. He sneered as the idea of stuffing his hands in his pockets flitted across his mind; such an action belonged to an old acquaintance. Yet another sigh and his face fell again. All he wanted to do was find_

“RUBY ROSE!!!”

The pink haired man paused, his head turning in the direction that the shrill exclamation had come from. There he saw the white haired teen from the newspaper he had read a few days ago, in a dress to match her hair, marching up to the black-red haired teen. She looked even more like Summer in person than she did in the newspaper. She had the hood of her red hood pulled up as well, causing a flash of concern to pass over Lauriam’s expression.

He watched as the white haired teen hugged the younger girl. He saw the blonde teen walk up too. He couldn’t hear the conversation they had, but it seemed to cheer the younger. Lauriam decided to approach the group, wanting to confirm this younger girl’s identity. The white haired teen had called her Ruby Rose… But was she really…?

“Excuse me, but you wouldn’t happen to be the daughter of Summer Rose, would you?”

His question prompted eight teens to look at him with shock, giving him the chance to notice them all properly. Along with Ruby, and her two companions he had first noticed, Lauriam also noted a black haired girl with amber-gold eyes, looking at him with an impassive expression, a hyperactive looking girl with orange-red hair, a black haired boy who had a pink streak in his fringe, and then off to the side slightly, a red haired girl with green eyes who reminded Lauriam too much of the man who had betrayed hi_ Marluxia, and a blonde boy who could have been that other boy who had joined the Organisation.

“…… are you Marluxia?”

The hesitant question was asked by the youngest girl, Ruby. Lauriam visibly cringed at the sound of his Nobody name. It was an unwanted reminder really. However the pink haired man couldn’t complain really, since he was following his memories as Marluxia to find this girl.

“That is no longer my name,” he said with a small cough, trying to hide his discomfort with the name. “I am called Lauriam now. I do wonder how you know of me though. Last I knew, Summer was adamant that she wouldn’t tell anyone.”

Perhaps that was the wrong thing to say, that was the impression that Lauriam got when quite quickly the blonde got angry, her lilac eyes turning red. Lauriam held up his hands in surrender, showing that he was unarmed, usually a universal sign that one meant no harm, but he was forced to step aside to dodge the teen as she literally flew at him to punch him.

“Yang, no!” Ruby cried. “Let him talk!”

“But Ruby!” the blonde_ Yang protested. “He left you! Left mum! If he had stayed then_”

“Then Ruby would have been noticed by someone you would not have wanted the attention of,” Lauriam interrupted. Why was he saying this? He wasn’t entirely sure why, as Marluxia, he had cared if Ruby had been discovered or not. Marluxia didn’t have a heart after all. However for some reason, that explanation felt right. So he accepted it as the answer he gave. It certainly caught the attention of the eight teens however.

“What do you mean?” the black haired girl asked. Lauriam noted that her bow twitched, was she a faunus, like the other humanoid people he had seen with animal traits? Question for later, for now he looked at Ruby with eyes expressing his confliction. He wanted to talk to her, about Summer, about himself, but not here, with her friends, because the explanations he had were only for Ruby’s ears, and perhaps Headmaster Ozpin’s as well. Momentarily he wondered how to deal with this.

“Would it be possible to speak with the Headmaster of Beacon?” he asked himself, choosing to ignore the question asked of him. “It would be better for him, and Ruby if she so desires, to hear what I have to say first, and Ruby deserves to hear it as well.”

There were underlying emotions in that simple request. Pain. Hurt. Fear. Confusion. Despair. Ruby’s silver eyes met the ocean blue eyes of Lauriam. The young girl was an empathetic person clearly, as she seemed to see all of that. Her expression softened, relaxed as she tilted her head to the side, smiling.

“We can take you to Beacon,” she offered, gaining a reprimanding glare from the white haired teen. Of course, none of the other teens trusted him. He looked at them all again and decided it was safe to assume that they were all Beacon students.

“Ruby, what are you doing?” the white haired girl hissed quietly into Ruby’s ear. Though Lauriam heard the question, he didn’t react to it, especially when he heard Ruby’s reply.

“We’re bringing him to Ozpin, there are eight of us, and he is unarmed. Maybe he has a hidden weapon but we’d notice if he went to pull it out. There is literally nothing wrong with doing as he asks.”

Lauriam smiled slightly, realising that this white haired teen thought he was a threat to Ruby. Well… that wasn’t entirely wrong. Marluxia, any connection to Marluxia, could be a threat to the young teen. His thoughts couldn’t continue however as whatever argument the girls were having ended and the white haired teen begrudgingly gestured in the direction behind her and she started walking. Taking it as an invitation, Lauriam followed after, almost laughing as the teens got into a loose formation around him, looking natural about it, as if they were just walking and HE was the escort. The pink haired man noted that it was the group who was escorting him however.

It didn’t take the teens long to lead Lauriam to the bullheads. He did well to hide his hesitation of stepping onto such an unfamiliar machine, the perpetual smile on his face now he knew he was drawing from Marluxia. There wasn’t anything more he could do.

The ride to Beacon was a short few minutes, however the silence amongst the group, and the looks being traded between the teens, made the trip drag out.

---

Ruby watched the man from the corner of her eyes, curious about him. He was certainly more expressive than her mum had described. Was he not a Nobody anymore? What was a Nobody? These questions didn’t have answers currently, so instead she tried to see if she could see any of herself in his features, after all, if he was her father, then surely something about her would look alike with this man.

His hair, it spiked out like hers. Ruby remembered that her mum had smooth hair, it always fell in soft waves, but her own hair, while not as wild as Mar_ Lauriam’s hair, it did not sit flat, it kinked out in places at random. Ruby could see that similarity. There was also his stance. The way he stood, it was… so similar to the way she would stand. Ruby wondered if he had a similar weapon to her.

She looked away from the man after she realised she was starting to stare. She pushed her eyes in the direction of Beacon, which was drawing near. They would be landing soon. Ruby sighed and pushed herself up from the chair she had been seated in.

Once the bullhead had landed, Ruby, Ren and Blake, through a silent discussion, were the ones chosen to lead Lauriam up to the Headmaster’s office, while Weiss and Jaune went to find Professor Goodwitch, and Yang, Nora and Pyrrha returned to JNPR’s dorm room to discuss Lauriam’s appearance in Vale.

Blake and Ren left Ruby with Lauriam at the elevator up.

“Are you sure Ruby?” Blake asked with a concerned expression, one which was echoed on Ren’s face as well. Ruby smiled and nodded, giving the faunas an enthusiastic thumbs-up as she walked towards the doors of the elevator. Blake asked one more question that made the young reaper pause.

“Do you trust him?”

“Well I trust that he won’t try anything from here to the top floor.”

The door to the elevator closed before Blake could protest the provided response. It wasn’t a proper answer; it wasn’t really the answer to Blake’s question. Lauriam gave Ruby an appraising look as the elevator started moving up.

“So what is the honest answer to your friend’s question?” he asked curiously. Ruby blinked, looking up at him, silver once again meeting blue. She hadn’t expected such a simple question, though she supposed it was a logical question. The answer Ruby gave to the pink haired man was an answer she had to think about. She was silent in the few moments it took to actually think her response.

“I don’t know.”

Chapter Text

“I don’t know.”

Those three simple words echoed uncomfortably around the elevator, and Ruby wished she could snatch them back. She went to apologise, opening her mouth hurriedly only to pause when Lauriam started laughing quietly. The laugh was… wrong. The kind of laugh that denoted the feeling of resignation, but something in the pink haired man’s expression didn’t connect to the emotion in the laugh. It was disconcerting.

“There is only two answers to that question Ruby,” he said quietly. “Yes, you do trust me, or no, you do not. If you doubt whether you trust me or not, then you don’t.”

Ruby had no response to that, and she fell silent to contemplate what he had said. The rest of the ride up the elevator was silent; neither of the pair within spoke. That was, until right before the door opened. Ruby turned to Lauriam slightly with a small smile on her face.

“I want to trust you,” she said softly before stepping out of the elevator. Once again Lauriam found himself pretending like he didn’t react to the situation. He schooled his face of the shock he was feeling and followed the teen into the room. Immediately his gaze was drawn to the white haired, green clad man sitting behind the desk in the room. A man he recognised.

“Headmaster Ozpin,” Lauriam greeted with a wary tone. He was Marluxia last time they met, a Nobody without a heart, and the expressionless motions to match. Now he was Lauriam, a recompleted Somebody.

“Marluxia,” Ozpin replied, with much the same tone, making Lauriam grimace again. There was a pause before the pink haired man spoke again.

“I am no longer a Nobody,” he sighed, closing his eyes. “Marluxia is no longer my name. I am once again Lauriam, and I came here in hopes of finding the only clear hint to my memories.”

Well that made both Ruby and Ozpin pause as they both turned their undivided attention to Lauriam. The pink haired man sighed, knowing that he was in for a conversation with more questions than answers. However this was the reason he had come here; to sort out the disparity between his memories and his emotions. He stopped to consider his words.

“I am Lauriam, and Marluxia is my Nobody,” he started. “When I lost my heart so many years ago, I created a Heartless, the culmination of all the darkness in my heart, and a Nobody, the empty husk left behind. By technicality I am not Marluxia, however much Marluxia may be me. But, all I remember is being Marluxia. I have little to no memories of being Lauriam. I know my name…. I think I had a sister, but her name escapes me…. And then foggy memories of friends…. Grief….”

He fell silent for a moment, trying to fight through the fog of his memories. The man was startled out of his failing attempts at recollection by a hand touching his arm comfortingly. Lauriam looked to see Ruby looking at him with concern. The pinkette man wondered for a moment about this girl, who had admitted to not trusting him, yet now was trying to comfort him. He took a breath and continued.

“When I awoke, recompleted, I couldn’t remember anything except being Marluxia,” Lauriam said with a sigh. “In all the memories I have from Marluxia, there was only one discrepancy of actions that I can note. Why did Mar_ I work so hard to hide Ruby from Xemnas? An attachment to another world, she could have been used against me. But I shouldn't have cared about that. So why did I work so hard to hide Ruby? So I chose to chase that discrepancy.”

“You chose to look for Ruby,” Ozpin noted. Lauriam nodded, gasping in surprise as Ruby hugged him. She looked up at him with eyes which were shining with hopefulness, and sympathy. The pink haired man looked away. This girl was too trusting it seemed, despite her earlier statement of distrust.

“Ruby…” Lauriam sighed quietly. “There is a disconnection between my emotions and my actions. I’ve spent so long being an emotionless husk; I don’t remember what each emotion is meant to be.”

“I’ll remind you then,” Ruby hummed firmly. Her tone was rather decisive, she had made her choice. She believed in him, but Lauriam wasn’t sure if he believed in himself currently. When he looked down at Ruby again, he could see the thousands of questions floating around her head, but she didn’t ask any of them. What Lauriam didn’t realise was that Ruby was sorting through these questions to ask him later.

“Tell me Lauriam,” came the interruption from Ozpin, making the pink haired man look at the Headmaster. “Now that you are here, what are your intentions?”

There was a clear warning in those words. Ozpin was still assessing whether or not Lauriam was a threat, either to his school or to Ruby, perhaps even to Remnant. Marluxia seemed intent on hanging over Lauriam’s head no matter what. Lauriam could have gotten annoyed; he certainly could feel the underlying burn of annoyance; however he didn’t act on it. Instead he conceded to the caution that Ozpin had and answered the question.

“Hopefully piece together my missing memories,” he replied. “If you don’t want me anywhere near Ruby, that is perfectly fine, I understand, I was never there in the first place. I have no right to insert myself in her life.”

To lose is to find and to find is to lose, the words Marluxia had spoken oh so recently before his defeat echoed through his mind, mocking, taunting him for losing his memories to find Ruby, only to be about to lose Ruby after finding her. What was this feeling of tightness in his chest? It was crushing. To lose and claim anew, or to claim anew only to lose…

“I do believe that choice is Ruby’s,” Ozpin hummed, bringing his hands in front of him, raising his eyebrow. Well Ruby’s grin, sparkling up at him with something… mixed with uncertainty, answered that question. That was an expression he recognised through Marluxia, who had caused uncertainty in his opponents. However Ruby’s desire, to know him, spoke louder than her hesitance.

“Do you trust me, Ruby?” Lauriam asked, echoing Blake’s question. Ruby looked up and took a step back; she gave him a glance which sized him up. Then she smiled and held out her hand. For the first time since she discovered the name Marluxia, she wasn’t uncertain about what she was about to do. Sure she was uncertain what would come out of it, but she didn’t doubt her actions. If ever there was a time for blind faith, now was that time.

“No, but I want to,” She said, echoing both her words, and taking to heart what Lauriam had told her in the elevator. Lauriam laughed, but this time is was a genuine laugh which echoed with amusement. Silver eyes met ocean blue as the pink haired man reached out and took the offered hand. The handshake that followed was so formal, like there was an unspoken agreement between the pair.

Lauriam turned to Ozpin and opened his mouth to speak, but the Headmaster held up his hand to interrupt whatever was going to be said. Ozpin stood up and walked over to the window, looking outside. No emotion could be picked from his face and his copper eyes were hidden by the glare of his glasses. He appeared to be thinking about something.

“Lauriam,” he started. “If you truly intend to remain in Vale, then there is something I have to request of you. Ms Rose, please head back down to your teammates, I will bring Lauriam to you after we speak. After which you will have the chance to talk. Though right now, I do believe you have a call to make.”

Ruby froze at the reminder and then let out a sigh. She then took a breath, and gave a faux-smile and a wave before she headed back to the elevator. The moment she was gone, Ozpin turned to face Lauriam with a serious expression on his face.

“Tell me Lauriam; is your combat skill Marluxia’s or your own?”

---

Both teams were waiting in JNPR’s dorm room when Ruby returned, Weiss and Jaune reporting that they had told Professor Goodwitch and she was heading to the Headmaster’s office. Ruby sighed and rolled her eyes, smiling sheepishly as her friends jump up and started hounding her with questions. Holding up her hands, the young reaper took a step back.

“Guys, I’m fine, really,” she assured them. “Lauriam is talking to Professor Ozpin now. The Professor will bring him to us here once they finish talking, then you can ask him all the questions instead. I have to…. Yang…. Can we call… ehhh…”

Her voice trailed off as she realised that she still hadn’t worked out how she was going to address Taiyang Xiao Long. Ruby looked down, but Yang understood and pulled out her scroll, in a far calmer manner than she had after Ruby had announced her discovery. The little reaper gasped as a hand came to rest on her shoulder. She looked up to see Pyrrha smiling at her.

“Don’t worry Ruby,” the red head said, her green eyes shining with kindness. “We’re right behind you.”

“Hey dad,” Yang said in a neutral tone. Everyone looked over to the brawler, watching her with her scroll up to her ear, the screen displaying the contact of ‘Dad’. “Yeah, sorry, I was gonna call you earlier this week, but that wouldn’t have been a pretty conversation……… No dad, nothing bad has happened...... well that’s up for debate actually……… Dad… DAD! ……… Ruby has a question for you. I’ll put you on speaker.”

A few quick motions later and the voice of Taiyang was heard by the room.

“Ruby?”

“Hey….” Ruby said in response, hesitating a moment before the encouraging nods from her friends had her pressing forward. “Um this question will probably sound random, but I wanted to ask…. Who is Marluxia?”

The silence from the phone was deafening. Ruby didn’t squirm now however. Her friends were here and now that she had asked the question, she was eager to see if the man who raised her would tell the truth. Ruby’s face was set with determination.

“… I had hoped that I would never hear that name from your mouth,” Taiyang said after a while. “Actually, I had hoped to never hear that name again. Marluxia is dead, he can’t come back… Summer and I agreed that it was better for you to have a father instead of asking after someone who wouldn’t come back_”

“But he did come back,” Ruby interrupted quietly, making Taiyang pause. The young reaper took a breath and pressed forward. “Today, in Vale, we met him. He’s not called Marluxia anymore, but it is him. Professor Ozpin gave me mum’s drawings of Marluxia.”

The deafening silence returned with a snap. Ruby found herself tensing, waiting for the man on the other side of the scroll to say something, anything.

“I’m so sorry Ruby.”

Ruby was silent for a few moments, trying to formulate her response. Blake’s words from earlier in the week echoed back through her mind. You feel betrayed. You feel betrayed. YOU feel BETRAYED. Yes. She felt betrayed.

“… who are you to me?” was the small question that made its way from her mouth, conveying the hurt, the betrayal she felt. “I found out from a book. Not from you… who… Who are you to me?”

“Ruby….”

That was the last thing that Taiyang said before Yang took her scroll back and walked outside of JNPR’s dorm. The group left in the room didn’t hear anything until a minute later when they heard Yang start yelling into her scroll. They couldn’t hear what she was saying because they were too far away, but it wasn’t hard to discern the topic.

Nora clapped her hands together before grabbing Ruby’s hands and dragging her over to Pyrrha’s bed, seating the young reaper on the edge.

“Well then, I think we need a little fun to offset the sad!” she declared. “So I am declaring a RWBY vs JNPR charades contest! And since Yang is currently preoccupied, I shall keep a fair and unbiased score! It is only right that both teams have same number of participants.”

Both teams agreed to this and started to play their game, but fair and unbiased Nora was not. It was hard to play a scored game when the hammer wielder was giving points based on performance, and was always tacking on ‘full points’ to Ren’s performances. It was when Weiss was scolding Nora that Ozpin and Lauriam walked in. No one noticed at first because they were too busy laughing. Ruby noticed first though, she stopped laughing when she noticed the Headmaster’s serious expression.

“Headmaster is something wrong?” she asked quietly, making all her friends turn to the door to look at the two men who had just entered.

“I have sent Miss Xiao Long to my office,” he said. “She was causing a scene with her argument with her father. As promised though, I have brought Lauriam back here. I will leave you all to it. And Miss Valkyrie, if you don’t play by the proposed rules of the game then you’ll find that your friends stop wanting to play with you.”

Nora grinned and apologised with a chirp. The two teams started laughing again. Ozpin left, leaving Lauriam in the room, looking around as if surveying something. He startled when Nora stared at him.

“Well since Yang isn’t here, would you like to play charades?” she asked. “There’s no better way to break the ice and all.”

The pink haired man almost said no, but then thought against it. He didn’t have anything better to do, and it would give him a chance to talk to Ruby as well. He shrugged and accepted, sitting where Nora directed him with a roll of his eyes. Momentarily a ghost of a memory swelled in his mind. Had he done something like this before….? With who?

Strelitzia, where are you?

Chapter Text

Two weeks went by and Lauriam was a scarce sight around Beacon, though when possible Ruby was with him, asking him questions and answering his in turn. This was them trying to get to know each other, but also, Ruby worked out, Lauriam trying to remember his forgotten memories. As the young reaper got to know him better, she could start seeing the underlying dead look that haunted his gaze, as if he wasn’t hopeful at the prospect of his memories returning. At other times there was grief that replaced that dead look, as if he almost remembered something sad. Very rarely did she see a look she’d rather forget, the look of horror and self-loathing. Ruby didn’t want to know what he thought about when he looked like that.

During this time however, despite all their talking that they managed to do, it was strange that Ruby had never asked Lauriam what his weapon was, especially since she knew that he was doing something combat related for Ozpin. He had told her himself. She never even thought to ask what his weapon was until the day, two weeks after they had met, where he approached her while she was training, just going through her forms with her scythe in hand and asked her a question.

“Why do you hold your scythe like that?”

Startled by the question, Ruby jumped, almost dropping Crescent Rose, which gave Lauriam the chance to take it gently from her hands. The young reaper almost shouted out her indignation at him taking her weapon without asking, before she noticed that he had taken a few steps away from her and was now swinging the weapon masterfully around him. She also noted that he was able to do it while alternating between using one and two hands on the long staff of the weapon. Ruby’s eyes widened in shock, her mouth falling open, and suddenly she remembered the drawings her mother had made, Marluxia with a scythe in hand, wondering how such a detail could be forgotten.

“Do you… wield a scythe too?” she asked hesitantly. Lauriam’s gaze shifted back to Ruby and he handed her back Crescent Rose before holding his hand up in the air and summoning a scythe in a flurry of cherry blossom petals. The scythe itself was shaped, and coloured like a flower, a flower which Ruby was certain she had seen before, but she couldn’t remember the name of. Pink blade, green shaft, yellow and orange accents. The scythe her mother had drawn.

“Graceful Dahlia,” Lauriam murmured. “Something from my time as a Nobody, it isn’t something I want to cling to, but for now it is my only weapon. Scythes are regarded as the weapon of death, did you know that? To call them anything less is an insult to the weapon.”

“…. Torchwick called Crescent Rose an oversized gardening tool…” Ruby muttered. Lauriam raised his eyebrow with a small smirk.

“Did he now?” the pink haired man asked. “While…. Historically accurate, it isn’t considered good form to ignore the fact that scythes are still considered deadly weapons, no matter their origin. Did you get the chance to show him the error in his judgement?”

Ruby scowled and shook her head, her hands clenching around her own scythe with frustration as she remembered the encounter. She didn’t want to remember that, her… failure, her lapse in judgement as a leader.

“Circumstance unfortunately found me without my weapon,” she replied, looking down, unable to meet the blue eyes of the man before her. There was a quiet chuckle and a gentle hand was placed on her head, ruffling her hair slightly. Ruby looked up.

“Even I have experienced the misfortune of losing my weapon,” Lauriam said reassuringly. “It is something you learn from and try your hardest to avoid.”

Ruby tilted her head, oddly enough, not reacting to the hand still resting on her head. She hummed quietly, biting her lip, trying to hold back her question. Lauriam gave her a look however, a cross between inviting her to speak and exasperation at her hesitance to ask. The little reaper was quiet for a few moments more before she finally spoke.

“What’s the most embarrassing way you’ve lost your weapon?” Ruby finally asked sheepishly. This caused the man before her to freeze slightly in shock, not that his face showed that shock. Lauriam’s pause was brief before he took his hand back from Ruby’s head and he walked to the side of the arena to lean against the wall. He hummed thoughtfully, his blue eyes closing as he tried to recall, or perhaps choose a moment.

“Well… as a Nobody, I didn’t really have the heart to be embarrassed about anything,” he started, opening his eyes again. “However I can tell you a moment that would embarrass me now if I did it again.”

Ruby was staring at him with the look of someone who wanted to soak up all the words being said. Lauriam smiled.

“Let’s see,” he continued. “It was one of my first missions with the Organisation, and Xigbar, who was the one who was supervising me that day, was taking me to do recon. Go in, find out what we need to know, don’t get spotted, get out. No combat. I wasn’t prepared for heartless to jump me. Oh I got my scythe summoned, but without a tight enough grip, Graceful Dahlia was thrown from my grip. As Marluxia, I was overconfident in my ability, or perhaps I didn’t care to be cautious. I still remember Xigbar’s words though, as he shot the Heartless before they could claw me. ‘And that, Buttercup, is why you always prepare yourself for everything.’ I didn’t react then, but now, I probably would have been mortified.”

“Because you made a stupid mistake?” Ruby asked, her eyes sparkling with mischief. “Or because he called you Buttercup?”

Lauriam started to laugh at that, pushing himself off the wall. Now he was leaning on Graceful Dahlia.

“Xigbar gave nicknames to a fair few in the Organisation,” he said with a snort. “He stopped calling me that after a while. He only kept nicknames tagged on those who had an actual reaction. So, I just told you about a time I lost my scythe, what about you?”

Ruby hummed quietly looking thoughtful. Unconsciously, she hugged Crescent Rose closer, as she remembered Mountain Glenn and how she lost her weapon. That wasn’t the best judgement she had made, and because of it she had been put in danger, put her team in danger. The young reaper knew it would be stupid to not acknowledge the fact that they had been extremely lucky to have gotten out of Mountain Glenn alive.

“I lost Crescent Rose in Mountain Glenn a month ago,” Ruby sighed. “I shouldn’t have. I should not have been in that situation in the first place. I had found White Fang soldiers entering a building, and I rushed back, I didn’t take care in where I was walking, didn’t let Zwei lead me, and the ground collapsed from under me. I threw Crescent Rose onto the road where I expected to be able to climb up again, but after catching Zwei and making sure that he was safe, I couldn’t keep my grip and I fell. And I was captured by the White Fang after that.”

Lauriam considered the young teen for a moment before walking up to her again. Gently he took Crescent Rose from her hands and replaced it with Graceful Dahlia. Ruby looked up at the man with confusion, but wasn’t answered as he walked several paces away from her and took up a combat stance.

“You should learn to wield more than just Crescent Rose,” Lauriam stated gesturing forward with Ruby’s scythe. “While my weapon is also a scythe, it has no gun on it, nor can it transform. It is a start. I would suggest that you learn to wield your teammate’s weapons as well, and other weapons, so that if you ever find yourself in a situation where you don’t have Crescent Rose, you won’t be defenceless. You will be able to pick up or take a weapon from your opponent and fight with that.”

Ruby’s eyes widened as she realised Lauriam was challenging her to a spar, and that Crescent Rose was being used against her. She discerned what the pink haired man wasn’t saying. Just as she could learn and use other weapons, take weapons from White Fang goons, so too could they take and use Crescent Rose against her. The proposed thought was jarring and one that confronted her. Hesitantly, Ruby tested the weight of Graceful Dahlia in her hand. It was lighter than Crescent Rose, most likely because it didn’t have all the transformative parts which changed the red and black scythe between its forms. However, as expected of the weapon, it was still fairly weighty.

The pink bladed scythe was swung around in an experimental manner, and the doubt that was on Ruby’s face faded. She finally swung the scythe to rest in her usual combat stance, ready to rush forward and attack Lauriam. Neither of them moved at first, they just stared at each other. When Lauriam shifted his grip on Crescent Rose, Ruby dashed forward, seemingly disappearing in a flurry of rose petals, trying to surprise the tall man. When she reappeared a second later, Graceful Dahlia already swinging to attack, Crescent Rose was already there, blocking. Ruby’s eyes widened with shock and she quickly jumped away, forgetting for a moment that she didn’t have her own weapon in hand as she tried to fire a dust round out of habit. The shift in weight wasn’t followed by the recoil of Crescent Rose propelling her backwards, and that made Ruby land with a thud as she suddenly realised her error.

“Alright, I think you are aware what you did wrong there,” Lauriam’s voice said smoothly, and the young reaper looked up to see the man offering her a hand back up. “You forgot which weapon you have in your hands and tried to fall to a habit to get away. Let’s run through the motions slowly before we go back to your semblance.”

He pulled Ruby up when she accepted the offered hand. Lauriam watched as Ruby picked up Graceful Dahlia.

“I also underestimated my opponent,” Ruby replied quietly, causing Lauriam to nod with approval. “I ran at you and was confident you wouldn’t be able to follow my movement, but you were and you were blocking my attack.”

“As a member of the Organisation I learned to judge where people would appear,” the pink haired man said. “I knew some who were fast, and quite a few of us used the skill of ‘teleportation’.”

Ruby opened her mouth to ask what he meant only for her jaw to drop as darkness seemed to swallow him up and he reappeared several metres behind where he was, back where he had been standing when they had started their short spar. It took a few moments for the young teen to recover from the shock.

“Again?” Lauriam invited as if he hadn’t just teleported. Ruby’s grip on Graceful Dahlia tightened. This time when she ran forward she didn’t activate her semblance. This time Lauriam called out small corrections to her stance. This time, Ruby was listening, rather than fighting to prove her skill.

When the pair finished, Ruby felt like she had actually learned something. She took back Crescent Rose, handing Lauriam’s scythe back to him quietly. Breathing heavily, but quietly, Ruby smiled at the man and bowed. In her mind she remembered seeing Yang and….

Ruby cut of the thought and looked down.

“Thank-you,” she murmured quietly. “I… enjoyed learning from you. Maybe we can do it again…?”

“Of course, Ruby,” Lauriam replied as he let Graceful Dahlia fade. “I will look forward to it.”

The young reaper grinned slightly, clipping her folded scythe behind her, before she waved farewell and walked away. Lauriam watched her go with a responding smile. But once she had left the arena, his smile dropped into a look of concern.

“You’re right Ozpin,” he hummed softly. “She isn’t alright.”

---

In the city of Vale Yang, Blake, Nora and Pyrrha were walking and discussing Lauriam and his appearance, as well as his effect on Ruby. They found a small café to stop at and they quickly ordered drinks.

“I’m just saying she seems to be growing closer to him but we still know next to nothing about Lauriam,” Pyrrha was saying as they waited for their orders. “I’m happy that Ruby wants to connect with this man, but I feel hesitant not knowing much about him, especially since it is Ruby he’s talking to.”

“Professor Ozpin seems to trust Lauriam though,” Blake pointed out passively. “Though I do agree there is some need for caution. But we shouldn’t worry Ruby with it though; she’s already dealing with enough, trying to sort out her own thoughts. We can be cautious for her.”

“Aren’t we always though?” Nora asked with a fond smile. The four girls burst out laughing, accepting their drinks from the waitress when she came over. For the next few minutes they drifted away from the conversation of Lauriam for a while. That was until they noticed the very man walking down the street with a troubled expression on his face. Exchanging glances, Pyrrha stood up and walked over to him, speaking to him quietly for a few moments before they both walked back over to Yang, Blake and Nora.

“Ruby has walked off into her own thoughts,” Lauriam said quietly to the group once he was standing at the table. “We were sparring together, I was instructing her use of the scythe. When we finished she seemed to think of something which made her draw back. I fear what darkness she may be spiralling into if left alone with them for too long.”

“Why haven’t you asked her about it then?” Yang asked, almost challengingly. The pink haired man’s expression twisted wryly as his blue gaze rested on the blonde.

“I am neither her confidant nor her friend right now,” he replied. “Currently I am a stranger who she is trying to get to know. Her real father, whom she knows nothing about, who has fallen into her life after she discovered that what she thought was real, wasn’t. No, it would be counteractive for me to speak to her. So I am telling you.”

Yang thought about that answer, it struck a chord in her heart which resonated with a sad thought which had been plaguing her mind ever since Ruby had told her that they weren’t really sisters. The blonde looked down at her hands and then she shifted her gaze to Blake next to her. It took a moment before Yang could formulate the words in her head before she spoke them, and then she surprised her friends with the considered response she made.

“Blake, could you go find Ruby and talk to her?” she murmured. “She is more likely to talk to you at the moment. She’ll tell you the truth, whereas she likely won’t tell me because she won’t want to potentially cause more of a rift between myself, her and dad.”

It was with a bit of shock that Yang noted that Lauriam’s eyes widened slightly. Seems he wasn’t aware of just how much Ruby was struggling with accepting the truth. The brawler took committed that small detail to memory with a bit of savage glee. It seemed that Ruby wasn’t confiding everything with this man as she had first feared her sister would do. Lauriam was telling the truth then, he wasn’t Ruby’s confidant. That chain of thought was interrupted by Blake nodding and standing up, offering her chair to Lauriam.

“I’ll be back,” she promised, nodding to the group before walking off. The cat faunus realised she didn’t know her team leader as well as she could have, especially this far into the school year, but she had an idea on where Ruby would go. Yang’s revelations had helped her there, and with what Blake did know about her leader, she surmised that the young reaper had gone to either the docks, or one of the dust shops, two places she could wander aimlessly to think, and of them both, the docks were more likely, since no one would interrupt the young reaper. Blake knew, because she had seen Ruby do that once before, looking for Penny.

And Blake was right, mostly, as when she reached the docks, Ruby was there, hood pulled up over her head, sitting watching the water as she sat on the end of the pier. The cat faunus sat next to the reaper without a word, offering silent support. The pair said together in silence for a few minutes, watching the water below them. Blake noted the fish in the water below, trying to count them all.

“He used to train Yang like that…” Ruby murmured suddenly, though Blake’s only reaction was to shift her gaze to the side. “Back when we were younger, before I went to Signal. Yang came home with her weapon and immediately challenged him…. She tossed to the floor within seconds and all he did was correct her stance and told her to try again…”

Blake knew then that Ruby was talking about Taiyang. The cat faunus looked out across the water and hummed softly.

“You didn’t train with him?” she asked. Ruby shook her head in response.

“He tried but….”

“His fighting style wasn’t yours?” Blake finished, gaining an affirmative sound from the reaper beside her. “Ruby…. When you were training with Lauriam, what was it like?”

Ruby was quiet, but the cat faunus waited for her to respond. While waiting she looked down at the fish in the water again, not really seeing them. Her amber-gold eyes followed Ruby’s shadow over the water instead.

“It was fun, I learned something… It was like Uncle Qrow’s lessons… But calmer… I… I enjoyed it.”

There was another question that Blake wanted to ask Ruby, but the cat faunus left it be. She would ask again tomorrow. The pair fell into silence again, sitting quietly together. Eventually they stood up and made their way back to the café. Lauriam had left, but that was okay. Yang had a thoughtful look on her face. Pyrrha exchanged a glance with Blake, they would talk later.

Chapter Text

A week later, teams RWBY and JNPR were called out on a joint mission. It was assigned to them suddenly and they were told to pack at least two weeks’ worth of rations. Doctor Oobleck was with them for scientific purposes, as was Lauriam, for he was the one who requested back up. Why? Heartless were starting to show up, too close to the city for the liking of the former Nobody. He had asked Ozpin for help, and was displeased when he sent two teams of first years and one teacher to help. However he didn’t protest the assistance, he merely gave the Headmaster a certain look, before going off to where Ozpin said he would have the two teams meet him.

On the bullhead out to Forever Fall where the Heartless had been sighted, all the while Lauriam gave the two teams and the teacher a quick briefing on what Heartless were. As well as the danger they were about to walk into.

“Heartless are born when someone’s heart gets consumed by darkness,” Lauriam was saying, not looking at the teens behind him, instead looking out at the forest. “They are wild creatures, and they will seek to consume your own heart. There are two types of heartless as well; Pureblood and Emblem. The main difference between the two is unimportant as none of us have Keyblades.” Briefly the pink haired man’s eyes flickered to each of the student’s weapons. “However you should all note that Emblem Heartless tend to appear in stronger forms.”

“So are they like Grimm?” Jaune asked. Lauriam looked at the blonde with a serious expression on his face. The young knight almost shrunk away.

“Heartless and Grimm have many similarities,” the older reaper said. “However Creatures of Grimm aren’t made from the darkness in hearts, but from pure darkness themselves. Grimm seek to attack humanity, Heartless seek to destroy a world’s heart. That is why we go to deal with them now. Normally weapons have no effect on Heartless; however, I was able to observe that the weapons of Hunters are able to affect the Grimm.”

Ruby stiffened as she realised that Lauriam was referring to her mother. The man glanced at her briefly, before looking back out over Forever Fall. The bullhead was flying over the red forest now, eventually landing in a clearing. The two teams got off the bullhead and looked to the two adults for guidance.

“Right, it is time to embark out on our mission,” Oobleck started. “Be sure to take care out here, and keep in mind what Mr Lauriam has told us. We are likely to be here for several days as we assess the level of this threat and then deal with it.”

The two teams nodded, then followed Lauriam without a word when he started walking deeper into the forest, Doctor Oobleck bringing up the rear.

---

xX Day 1 – Planning Xx


The walk through the forest wasn’t that horrible in Weiss’ opinion, but the attitude change of the pink haired man who was leading them unnerved her. Currently no one was willing to speak, and the reason why was obvious. Everyone was listening out for Grimm… and now these Heartless things too. Weiss opened her mouth to ask a question but then noticed…. Lauriam and Oobleck seemed to be communicating with hand signals. Having noticed this, the heiress was more alert to notice when the pink haired man held up his hand indicating for everyone to stop.

Looking back, there was a look exchanged between the two adults before Lauriam faded into the darkness, petals emphasising the action. Five seconds passed before Doctor Oobleck started to speak quietly.

“Team JNPR,” he said seriously in that fast paced tone of his. “Walk out a short distance and make sure that there is no Grimm or Heartless within the trees around us. Team RWBY, you four will be helping me set up our base here.”

“Where did Lauriam go?” Weiss asked as she, along with her friends moved to follow the given instructions. Oobleck didn’t answer straight away, but once he finished his task he turned to Weiss.

“He has gone to gain a quick assessment of the enemies nearest to us.”

That wasn’t exactly comforting, but JNPR came back reporting that the forest immediately around them was clear. Five tents had been set up, under the trees and Oobleck had made a place for a fire, which would be used later.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Oobleck started, once all the students were gathered around, with Ruby sitting in one tree, keeping watch and Ren sitting in another doing the same. “The mission we are now on is different to your previous missions. We have set up a base camp to be a place we can regroup if needed, and there is the possibility that we may need to remain out here past the two weeks we anticipated. We aren’t here for extermination but intelligence gathering.”

“Also known as reconnaissance,” Lauriam’s voice said just as a portal of darkness opened and the man himself stepped out, making the students gasp in surprise, Nora reaching for her weapon. “All we have to worry about currently within the next quarter-mile is shadows, Pureblood Heartless, and notably weak on their own, but become dangerous the more there are. Don’t let them swarm you.”

Everyone relaxed before looking at the pink haired man. Yang had to ask.

“Was that your semblance?”

“No, it was not, it is something that I shouldn’t actually be using that method of travel without proper equipment,” Lauriam replied.

“You make it sound like it could kill you,” Nora laughed, only to find the pink haired man giving her that look which basically proclaimed ‘that’s because it can kill me.’ The orange haired girl stopped laughing and looked away, mumbling an apology. Lauriam nodded and then pulled out a map which he had kept folded in his jacket and laid it out on the floor of the forest. The students, sans Ruby and Ren, gathered around, Oobleck chose to look over Nora’s shoulder at the map. It was hand drawn, not an official map.

“This is Forever Fall as I have observed it the weeks that I have been here looking into the Heartless for Ozpin,” Lauriam started quietly. “We need to keep them away from the city, as I highly suspect that the world’s heart is somewhere in one of the main cities, hence why we need to exterminate them now.”

Deep in the back of his mind was the thought that even the Hunters and Huntresses of Remnant wouldn’t be able to hold off the Heartless forever, without Keyblades they could only temporarily destroy the Heartless, eventually the Heartless would get to the heart of the world and devour it. However, even in the fifteen years that had passed in this world since he had left, the Heartless were still being held off, there weren’t that many. Which was a good sign, for now.

“How are we going to do that?” Pyrrha asked as she looked at the map. She pointed at the small mark that represented the city and then drew her finger back to the estimated point that they were currently seated. “We have a good distance between us and the city, but it isn’t a good enough distance between the city and these… Heartless as you called them.”

Lauriam’s blue eyes rose from the map and looked at Pyrrha for the briefest moment before dropping back down to the map as he pointed closer to the mountain range.

“Somewhere there is a giant Heartless,” he responded, the tone in his voice made the students shiver. “I asked for backup to clear out this forest and takeout said Heartless. What I got was two teams of students who are only in their first year of training. Now my plan has to change, because I am not taking students to fight an enemy I am not willing to fight alone. So we will be_”

“Excuse me,” Weiss interrupted, sounding insulted. “We train at Beacon Academy to fight monsters, you can’t possibly_

Now it was Weiss’ turn to be interrupted, this time by Oobleck. The professor cleared his throat, making everyone gathered around the map look at him. He took off his glasses and cleaned them with his shirt. He didn’t speak until he had put them securely on his face again.

“We train you, Miss Schnee, to fight against Grimm,” he stated seriously. “Not Heartless. These Heartless share characteristics with the Grimm, yes, but do not presume that they are the same, that is a mistake that could prove fatal. Heartless are an entirely new threat to Remnant. Do not forget that. Lauriam is currently the one with the most knowledge on these beasts.”

Weiss looked away and apologised tightly. The pink haired man sat back from leaning over his map and nodded to the heiress. He had a thoughtful expression on his face. There was an extended moment of silence. This silence was unnerving. Weiss looked back at the two adults to find that once again they were having a conversation without saying a word; the only indicator that they were communicating was the changing facial expressions and slight hand gestures.

“Alright then,” Lauriam finally sighed. “Ruby, Ren, come down from your trees a moment, we’ll be fine while I say this. I want you both to look me in the eyes when I say this.”

The pair startled, but quickly made their way down their trees, weapons still gripped tightly. The pink haired man then looked at the eight students standing before him.

“So you want to prove you can fight the giant heartless?” he asked, gaining a few nods. “Six days. I will give you six days to prove your fighting skill as well as your teamwork. After which I will make a judgement as to whether you can or not. During this time we will be clearing this forest of Heartless. However, all of you must display sufficient skill. Should one of you not meet the standard, we will not be hunting this giant Heartless. Am I understood?”

There was a chorus of agreement from the eight students. They all met his gaze when he looked at them. There was a mix of apprehension and determination. Lauriam nodded again, and then he pointed at his map again, sending Ruby and Ren back on watch. Oobleck stood up and added a third pair of eyes to the watch, standing by a tree.

xX Day 2 – Shadows Xx

Jaune watched Ruby as she fought against Shadows, as Lauriam had called them. They were small black creatures with yellow eyes and antenna that pointed forward. The young reaper was currently cutting though them with a pink and green scythe, instead of Crescent Rose, which was in Lauriam’s hands. The blonde knight was confused; Ruby never let anyone touch her weapon, ever. So why was the scythe-rifle in the hands of a man who, for all intents and purposes, was a stranger?

He had no time to continue thinking on it however as his attention was brought back to the fight as a Heartless attacked his shield. Jaune brought up his sword and slashed as Pyrrha had taught him. He twitched as he heard the sound of Crescent Rose firing a shot. His mind had already placed Ruby ahead of his position; the sound of the sniper rifle was behind him. He didn’t think he’d get used to that.

Now that he noted it, a few others had flinched as well when Lauriam fired Crescent Rose. Yang’s was the most obvious, while Pyrrha’s was the least, but their reactions were visible. Nora and Blake didn’t react at all.

“Huh,” Lauriam’s voice rumbled quietly, seeing the Heartless he had shot was barely dented. “I didn’t think that would work. Note to self, bullets don’t work on Heartless.”

“Use Dust bullets,” Ruby shot at him flatly, making the pink haired man smirk.

“I wouldn’t waste a spell cast on Shadows, so why would I waste Dust?”

Jaune sent a questioning look at Pyrrha who shrugged in response. She wasn’t sure what Lauriam had meant by ‘spell cast’ either. The blonde knight was left to ponder it for the rest of the day. He didn’t think he’d get used to the disorientation of hearing Cresent Rose being fired from somewhere other than Ruby’s position.

xX Day 3 – Scouting Xx

There was something very off with this forest, the hints of this fact were littered around. Yang had passed by trees with long, deep scratches scoring them, causing the sap to bleed from the trunks. These gashes in the trees weren’t small either, they were huge, indicating to a large beast. Something was horribly wrong, and Yang felt that off feeling crawling up her skin. Beside her, about fifty paces to the left and also scanning the area, was Ren. She could see that he felt it too.

The two students walked for another few paces before they met up. They stop next to one of the gashed trees. Ren puts his hand over the markings.

“Something tells me that this isn’t the work of any of the small Heartless or a Grimm,” he said seriously. Yang nodded in agreement. Quietly she wondered what kind of creature had caused such damage. It wasn’t a comforting thought in the slightest. She scanned the area then pointed ahead at a tree where they hadn’t walked. It looked as though it had been snapped in half. Yang’s mouth ran dry.

“I think it’s time to walk back and report,” she murmured. Ren looked up at her with a perplexed expression.

“Why not just use_” he asked before Yang pushed him around to face the tree. The ninja’s mouth fell into a look of realisation. Nope, no using scrolls. Not while they didn’t know anything else about the Heartless.

“This is getting far too close to the city,” the blonde brawler hissed as she and Ren quickly made their way back to the camp, trying to move as quietly as possible. When they reached the camp, only Oobleck and Nora were there. Lauriam had taken Weiss and Pyrrha further into the forest than Yang and Ren had gone, while Ruby, Blake and Jaune were scouting back in the forest to find signs of Heartless drawing closer to the city.

“Ah, Miss Xiao Long, Mr Ren, welcome back,” Oobleck greeted his two students. Ren looked at the man who was oddly not drinking coffee at this moment.

“This giant Heartless,” he started quietly. “We found what we believe to be claw marks from it on the trees, as well as a tree that was completely snapped in half.”

Nora looked up from the map which was once again laid out on the ground, her eyes wide.

“But…. You and Yang were only exploring the kilometre radius in front of camp!” she exclaimed. “That’s too close!”

“Doctor Oobleck,” Yang said, turning to the teacher. “What do we do?”

It took a moment for the man to respond. Yang’s mouth went dry again and she swallowed thickly trying to wet it again. She remembered what Lauriam had said two days ago. I asked for backup to clear out this forest and takeout said Heartless. What I got was two teams of students who are only in their first year of training. Yang had seen Deathstalkers knock trees over, had seen King Tajitus break walls when they crashed into them. Never had she seen a perfectly healthy tree that had been snapped in half, roots still sitting in the ground with the top of the tree lying beside it.

She realised exactly why Lauriam had changed his plans when he was sent students. They weren’t prepared for this.

“For now we shall wait here,” Oobleck said with a grim expression on his face. “I could send you to find either of our other teams; however that would be ill advised if the enemy is closer than we expected.”

When Ruby, Blake and Jaune returned they brought a chillingly similar story, they had seen significant damage to the forest closer to the city, not as horrific as what Yang and Ren had found, but still too close to the city. Lauriam returned with Weiss and Pyrrha not long after. The frown that formed on the pink haired man’s face was not comforting. He told everyone to stay in camp and then he ran off into the forest, silently without even a rustle of grass.

xX Day 4 – Assessment Xx

Lauriam was watching them, Pyrrha realised as she threw her shield at the shadow Heartless. Using her semblance to snatch the shield back, the red head glanced at Jaune who was doing decently against the heartless. Ren and Nora were working together as well.

“Pyrrha!” Jaune called, pointing with his sword at something. The warrior looked and saw a new swarm of Heartless approaching, different from the shadows, they looked like clouds of shadow, covered with purple spikes. Pyrrha and Jaune nodded to each other before running at the new Heartless…

… only to discover that their weapons phased through the Heartless. Their attacks still seemed to damage the creatures, but not as much as was expected. The knight and the warrior jumped back and re-evaluated their strategy.

“Do you still have some of that burn dust Pyrrha?” Jaune asked, glancing to the red head beside him. Pyrrha smiled and pulled the vial from her belt pouch. It was her last one, but she knew how to make the most of it. The two teens jumped backwards.

Opening the glass tube, Pyrrha tossed it, spinning, into the Heartless, red dust glittering as it slowly fell, scattering around the Heartless swarm. Once the young teen was satisfied with the spread of burn dust, she fired her rifle at it, flame enhanced bullets igniting the dust in a dramatic explosion. The Heartless disappeared in a large puff of smoke.

The area around team JNPR was clear now. Lauriam walked forward and looked at the team of four.

“Well done,” he said quietly. The pink haired man made a gesture with his hand and started to lead the way back to the camp, where Pyrrha hoped team RWBY and Professor Oobleck were waiting. She couldn’t stop the question that was burning in her throat from escaping while they were walking.

“Were you assessing our skills?”

The look that Lauriam gave her was the look of someone who was trying to convince themselves of a fact.

“That I have been,” he admitted, though he smirked at the quartet. “How else am I meant to uphold my end of the bargain.”

Pyrrha didn’t comment on how his expression betrayed the partial lie.

---

Teams RWBY and JNPR are clearly skilled in their talents, and like all students, their weaknesses are apparent. Given time they will be fine fighters. However their talents are not enough to face the Heartless in Forever Fall. I should be sending them home as soon as the Heartless clean up in this forest is finished. However, I fear that I do not have that option anymore and I will have to send two teams of first year students against an enemy they aren’t prepared for. They should have had more support than myself and Dr Oobleck the first time they faced down something like this. I hope I am wrong, that my fears are unfounded, but now I highly suspect that the Heartless is hunting us. It must be eliminated now.

- Lauriam’s Observations

Chapter Text

Lauriam was officially over this mission. He watched the students interact with each other and concluded that they knew each of their teammates and trusted them enough to have each other’s backs. However he noted that they were shocked whenever Ruby used Graceful Dahlia. The thought of using each other’s weapons was foreign to them. He made a mental note to seek permission to teach these students.

The main reason this mission was such an annoyance to Lauriam however was because he was suddenly acutely aware of the fact that he had no choice but to bring students against the Heartless which he was becoming more certain was a Veil Lizard. Four days in and his carefully structured plan was collapsing. Lauriam discussed this with Oobleck and they both agreed that they needed to confirm the identity of the Heartless before deciding on the best course of action. At this point, retreat was still a potentially available option. If it was truly a Veil Lizard however, it was almost certain that the Heartless was hunting and there was no escape from fighting it.

Oobleck called the students together on the fifth day while Lauriam went off to hunt down the Heartless. Had the students been awake, they would have realised that the pink haired man had walked in the direction of Vale, not deeper into the forest.

xX Day 5 – Danger Xx

Ren didn’t know what to think when the Professor called them all together. He was certain that it couldn’t be good. Lauriam was missing. The young ninja themed fighter looked at Oobleck, trying to work out what the man was going to say. He wasn’t prepared for what the teacher did say however. None of them were.

“Lauriam has gone to try and identify the Heartless we discovered traces of yesterday,” he started seriously, slowly, taking off his glasses so that he could look at each of the students without the light glaring off glass and hiding his eyes. “It falls to me to inform you that we may be forced to fight this Heartless. It is not a testament to your skill that will bring us to fighting the creature. If this were an assessment of how you have progressed in your time here at Beacon, you would have passed, but this was not that. It was an assessment of if you were ready to fight what was in this forest, which you are not.”

That harsh truth was spoken and left a cold feeling settling over the eight students. That was something Ren appreciated about Doctor Oobleck. He didn’t sugar-coat the truth and didn’t try to downplay the situation. One look to his friends and Ren could see that they were reacting with different levels of shock. It was Pyrrha who spoke first.

“You said may?” she asked, stepping forward. Oobleck nodded solemnly.

“Yes, if it is still possible, we will be retreating back to Beacon,” he replied. The eight students exchanged glances. If the danger wasn’t apparent before, it was now. They nodded together then looked back at their professor. Just then Lauriam stumbled through another portal of shadow, scythe in hand, shoulder jutted awkwardly. His expression was grim as he beheld the students in front of Oobleck.

“I can now confirm that this Heartless is a Veil Lizard, and it is hunting us,” he said. “And it is currently blocking our exit. It would down any bullhead sent to retrieve us.”

“Vale Lizard?” Jaune asked. The pinked haired man looked at him and noted the confusion, Lauriam realised that he, and probably the rest of the people from Remnant, probably thought it was in relation to the city, Vale.

“Veil, as in the cloth, not the city,” he clarified. Realisation dawned in a few eyes, Ren saw, not to just its name, but also the implication to its abilities.

“It can camouflage itself,” Pyrrha murmured. “Veils conceal what they cover…. So a veil lizard would conceal itself.”

Lauriam nodded at the red head with a slightly impressed expression. He sat down and dismissed his scythe, leaning against a tree and sighing. The man stretched out his arm with a grimace, and there was a sickening pop, leading Ren to realise that he had dislocated his shoulder somehow, and Lauriam was unlikely to tell anyone, bar Ruby perhaps, how.

“Pack your stuff,” he said, instead of answering the question that was looming around. “We can’t stay here for much longer, and it’s time for us to play bait. We’re going to lead this lizard further away from the city.”

The eight students moved quickly to follow instructions. Ren took a moment to stare at Lauriam and wonder what he had run into to come back with such an injury. The young ninja was starting to suspect that Lauriam did not have his Aura unlocked.

xX Day 6 – Hearts Xx

It was late, Blake noted with a frustrated hiss, and they were still fighting Heartless. She glanced at the one who was leading them and frowned. Lauriam was looking worse for wear, as he had taken a few significant hits. Why wasn’t he using his Aura to heal himself? He had his own scythe in his hand and was using it to slash at strange looking floating jar like creatures. They had a black and red heart shaped emblem which had a three pronged tail. Emblem Heartless is what Lauriam had identified them as.

Blake noted that Lauriam was staring at something with shock. She looked in the direction that the man was and paused when she saw a crystalized pink coloured heart floating up from somewhere. The faunus had no idea what it meant, but one look back at the shock written over Lauriam’s face was enough to tell her it shouldn’t be happening. Whether it was a good surprise or a bad one was still up in the air though… Blake groaned at the unintentional pun.

“Checkmate!” She heard Ruby call in a panic, and Blake looked up, responding to the call quickly, seeing the red pot Heartless and quickly meeting Weiss’ eyes before they leaped into the fight, slashing at the creature that had knocked Ruby down. Where was Crescent Rose? Thoughts for later as the Heartless fell to the joint attack of Blake and Weiss. No heart formed from it.

“Are you alright, Ruby?” Came the smooth voice of Lauriam. Crescent Rose was still nowhere to be seen. Blake went looking for it; her leader would need her weapon. She found it folded up, lying in the grass. Odd… Blake remembered that Ruby had been fighting with it in scythe form. The faunus picked up the weapon and brought it back to the girl who was trying to convince Lauriam that she was fine.

When she saw Crescent Rose however, Ruby’s face fell. The young teen took the weapon and with one hand tried to open it. It remained stubbornly closed. There was a small hiss under Ruby’s breath, a hiss of frustration. She clipped her weapon onto her belt.

“I’ll need to fix it back at Beacon…” she sighed. Her fist clenched as the realisation that the weapon was broken set in. Blake frowned. They were down a fighter now because_

The faunus’ thought was cut off by Lauriam handing his scythe to Ruby once again.

“I’m not useless without my weapon,” he hummed quietly, before he glanced up and frowned. Blake followed his gaze again and blinked in surprise when she saw another crystalized heart floating up from the other side of the clearing. Blake tried to recall if Lauriam had ever explained what made Emblem Heartless different to Pureblood Heartless. She couldn’t find that explanation in her memory.

Blake’s questions were left unanswered as the two teams moved on, constantly keeping an eye out behind them to try and see if the lizard they were leading was following. The grim look on Lauriam’s face was all they needed to see to know that; yes, the Veil Lizard was still hunting them.

xX Day 7 – Prey Xx

The next day they were facing the mountain range. Nora stared up at it and had the creeping feeling of déjà vu. Something similar then? The orange haired girl glanced at Ren and saw he was thinking the same thing, though his face was still the same collected expression that it always was. Nora hummed then turned to Lauriam and Oobleck.

“Sooooo, our aim was to bring this lizard thing to this clearing near the mountains,” she started. “Then fight it, correct?”

“That is correct Miss Valkyrie!” Oobleck exclaimed.

“So where is the lizard?” Nora asked. “We didn’t step on it did we? Is it small? Or is it big? Maybe it’s in the tree_”

Her voice was rivalling Oobleck’s with its speed, and she seemed to be wavering between excitement and worry as she kept speaking.

“Nora,” Ren interrupted. “I think it’s large.”

Nora paused, and then spun on her heel to face in the direction that Ren was looking. Actually, everyone was looking in that direction. Behind the group, standing from where they had come from and now effectively blocking their way back, was a gargantuan black lizard with nasty looking spikes on its back in a poison yellow colour, a colour matched by the ring’s around its arms and legs, and an even sicklier yellow on its long claws. The yellow eyes on the lizard glowed in such a way, which paired with its open mouth showing a pink tongue; it looked like it was grinning.

The hunter had found its prey. Now it was time for the hopeful trap to spring. Thankfully, Jaune, ever the strategist, already had the start of a plan.

“Ruby, Nora, Yang, keep it distracted,” the blonde leader said. Nora smirked and raised her hammer, glad that Jaune was observant. Ruby seemed happy to defer her leadership for this fight to the blonde as well, for the most part. The trio who had been called ran forward to take the attention of the lizard. As she swung Magnhild at the enemy, she could hear Jaune giving more instructions, and she slotted what he said into the front of her mind so she could ensure she fought with her friends.

Ren, Weiss, Blake and Professor Oobleck were spreading out and firing at the lizard from a distance. Pyrrha and Jaune would circle around and strike the lizard from behind, and Lauriam would prevent the Heartless lizard from hurting anyone, as best he could.

Nora grinned wildly, this would be fun.

About fifteen minutes later that grin was wiped from her face and she was lying on the ground, having been thrown into a tree by the lizard’s spinning tail attack. Nora pushed herself up with the handle of Magnhild and rushed forward again, hammer swinging, her movements somehow bigger than before to keep the Heartless’ attention on her. Nearby she saw Jaune protecting Ruby from the claws of the Veil Lizard, before the young leader of team RWBY jumped up, Lauriam’s scythe in hand, and slashing at the creature’s head in tandem with Nora’s smashing strike.

“We really need to finish this fight now,” Pyrrha said from beside Yang. “We’re running low on Aura.”

In what could have been a mocking example of that statement, the Veil Lizard swung its tail again, throwing back Pyrrha and Yang, both girls landing on the ground, Aura shattering around them. Jaune grunted as the attack pushed him back into Ruby. The younger leader whispered something to Jaune and both nodded in agreement before leaping in opposite directions.

“Ren! Nora! Help Jaune!” she called. Nora nodded and gripped her hammer tighter. She blinked as fire flew past her, her head whipped around to spot Lauriam, standing as if he had literally thrown the fire. No time to question that however, as she refocused on what Jaune was doing. The blonde signalled to Nora, asking for her to toss him into the air. The orange haired girl grinned.

The blonde ran at Nora and jumped onto the head of Magnhild, which was then swung upwards, propelling Jaune into the air above the Veil Lizard. Then Nora and Ren ran at the Heartless to attack. Pyrrha and Yang were now standing as well, and they were nodding at whatever Ruby was saying. They ran forward with what Nora could only guess was their own strength now since their Auras had broken. The orange haired teen suddenly understood; this was an all-out attack.

Ruby was now moving and calling Weiss and Blake to her, and they were running to meet Oobleck. They were to be a second wave if the Heartless was still standing after the combined attack of Jaune, Nora, Ren, Pyrrha and Yang. The young leader needn’t have worried.

Nora’s hammer smashed the lizard’s legs, while Ren’s bladed guns stabbed into the lizard’s side. Yang took great pleasure throwing a punch at the Veil Lizard’s belly, while at the same time Pyrrha and Jaune’s blades sliced at the Heartless’ neck.

It dissolved into darkness, releasing a crystalized pink heart. The five students who had taken it down didn’t notice it. The RWB of team RWBY didn’t notice it. Oobleck was too busy checking over his students to notice. But Lauriam noticed.

Nora decided that she was tired and wanted some of Ren’s pancakes. The bad news came in the form of Oobleck saying that transport wouldn’t be able to get them until tomorrow. No pancakes.

xX Day 8 – Father Xx

It was late afternoon and they were still waiting for the bullhead to find them. Pyrrah had unfortunately fallen unconscious after the lizard had been defeated, the shattering of her Aura leaving her open to gaining a last nasty bite from the Heartless. Yang was also out, though she was sleeping by choice, her head resting on Nora’s shoulder, who was watching Ren closely. Said ninja was currently keeping watch on their temporary camp with Blake. Jaune and Weiss were listening to Doctor Oobleck who was giving them some lecture.

Ruby on the other hand was sitting near a tree, Graceful Dahlia in her hands, staring at the pink blade with a troubled expression on her face. Grass crunched under boot and dark magenta pants entered her vision. She looked up to see Lauriam looking at her with a worried gleam to his eyes despite the easy-going smile on his face. Was this the face of Marluxia? Lauriam sat next to her with a hum, leaning his head back against the tree.

“So, am I allowed to ask what’s on your mind?” he inquired softly, not looking at her since he let his blue eyes fall closed. Ruby glanced up at him again and noted the shape of his face. The angles in his face structure, they were similar to hers, even though her face was rounder.

“Just…” the young teen started before she sighed. “Just the same thing that has been on my mind for the past five weeks… I still don’t know…”

Her voice trailed off again.

“What to call your father?”

Ruby jumped as Lauriam finished her thought. She nodded and looked away. The young reaper said nothing, but flinched when the man placed a hand on her shoulder comfortingly. The hand retracted at her flinch.

“Ruby, let me ask you something,” Lauriam said quietly. “Who raised you?”

“My fath_ Taiyang Xiao Long.”

The reply was said in a monotone, making the pink haired man raise an eyebrow.

“And what feels right?” he asked. Ruby looked up again, confusion practically screaming from her entire posture, so Lauriam clarified. “You called him by his name, did that feel right? Does the name sit right on your tongue?”

The little reaper shrugged, her eyes becoming conflicted. Ruby curled into herself, setting Graceful Dahlia aside and drawing her legs up to her chin so she could bury her face. The scythe disappeared with a flick of Lauriam’s wrist. He looked hesitant for a moment before he laid his arm over Ruby’s shoulders and drawing her closer to his side. He wasn’t really hugging her, nor did she hug back, but the young reaper decided she appreciated the gesture.

“You should talk to your father,” he murmured quietly, and though Ruby didn’t react, she heard him. “Yang mentioned that you were heading home to Patch before the Vytal Festival. Talk to him, face to face. I know you were considering staying in Vale while your sister went back, but you should go home with your sister.”

When the young reaper remained silent, Lauriam continued, staring up at the leaves above in the forest canopy.

“Say that you stopped calling him father,” he hummed. “What then? I can’t give you fifteen years of your life that you’ll have thrown away. Taiyang, while he certainly lied, still raised you to the best of his ability. Don’t let that truth fade away with the lies. So I shall say again, go home with your sister.”

Ruby was silent for a few moments before she looked up at Lauriam with silver eyes that showed her reluctance, but also brimming with the budding trust that the girl had started to put in the man beside her.

“Will you come with us?” she asked. “That way… he can meet you properly.”

The sound of a bullhead approaching pulled a halt to the conversation; however that didn’t stop Lauriam from placing a reassuring hand on Ruby’s head. Then he stood up and offered his hand to help the young teen to her feet.

“I’ll think on it.”

---

When the two teams got back to Beacon, Oobleck took most of the students to the infirmary to get them checked over, while Lauriam lead Ruby and Jaune to Professor Ozpin’s office to make a report. Needless to say, the two leaders got to witness the pink haired man tear into the Headmaster for his reckless decision to send two teams of FIRST YEAR students into Forever Fall when he had requested back up to help him exterminate Heartless. Jaune very specifically covered Ruby’s ears when the furious man started throwing insults that were well beyond the appropriateness for the school setting, much to the younger leader’s protest, if her glare at the blonde was anything to go by.

When Ozpin finally turned his attention to the two students, they both spoke in tandem to express their thoughts on the mission. They looked at each other and knew they agreed.

“We shouldn’t have been the ones to deal with that threat but in the end we were forced to.”

The look in Ozpin’s eye… was there a lesson that he had wanted them to learn at the same time. He looked both apologetic and proud of his two students. Strange man. Once they left, a certain young reaper made her way to the library, where she pulled out her scroll and made a call.

“Hey… dad… can we talk? I have a question…”

---

The students, when put under pressure, work well together, and look to their leaders to choose their next move. I am unsure if they see it, but they seem to look to Jaune to make their strategy, he has the mind for it, even if his combat skill is lacking. Though they were clearly out matched against the Veil Lizard, they did well to take it down as they did. They recognized their disadvantage and planned accordingly.

This brings me to my second observation. Someone in this group of eight students has a Keyblade, of this I am certain. While fighting against the Emblem Heartless, hearts were being released. This can only mean that one of the students’ weapons is a Keyblade in disguise. What was the term again? Formchanging? How do I know that? In any case, I can narrow my list of candidates down to five of the eight. Yang Xiao Long, Lie Ren, Nora Valkyrie, Pyrrha Nikos and Jaune Arc. All of Team JNPR and Yang from Team RWBY. From the rest of RWBY, Weiss and Blake defeated an Emblem Heartless in front of me but no heart was released, and Ruby was nowhere near the released hearts while I was observing the fighting. After her scythe broke, she was using mine. I will need to watch these students closely.

- Lauriam’s Observations #2