It started with a thud.
The man in the white suit was talking about labor costs to a small group of similarly dressed men when his speech turned to gibberish. Blood bubbled up from his mouth and the next moment he was laying face first on the ground in front of the group of shocked businessmen. The blade sticking out from the man's reddening suit bore the symbol of the White Fang.
From her perch on the balcony, the young faunus girl stared in horror at the corpse and the growing panic. She was surrounded by five other faunus of varying species and baring expressions ranging from disgust and shock to zeal.
"Like fish in a barrel!" laughed the faunus who shot. He was much older than the rest of the group, probably in his mid-twenties. Blake had always thought of him as rather handsome but all that was erased at the sight of this murderous monstrosity that had taken his place.
She couldn't deny what he said, however. The businessmen and their rich families were comparable to fish in a barrel. She watched them run for the doors of the ballroom only to find them locked. Her nails bit into the palms of her hands as she tried not to cry at what she was seeing. Mothers ran to their children and fathers banged on the doors and tried to break the Dust-enforced windows and doors originally designed for protection. What a sick twist of fate that the very same thing would be what trapped them for slaughter.
The banner declaring the event the 75th Dust Association Gala Event had been torn down by stray bullets and currently lay soaking in blood on the floor.
Already groups of older White Fang members were firing into the crowd. They weren't picky with who they shot down, either. An elderly woman with hair white as snow screamed and fell to the floor as a bullet passed through her side. Feeling ill, Blake realized that her fellow members weren't shooting to kill, but shooting wildly to cause panic.
The older faunus turned to his group with a smile that made Blake's insides turn. "Alright, kids. For many of you this is your first mission under the new leadership. It's a little more bloody than the protests than you were at before, but hey, you gotta start somewhere. You won't be causing any bloodshed today, though. So if you don't have the stomach for that yet, don't worry. We're just going to smash the place up and take shit. We'll leave the killing to the older guys, got it?"
Then they were moving. They jumped from the balcony into the fray, all except Blake and another girl who stood and looked at each other in terror. Then the girl seemed to make up her mind. She fled down the hallway, away from the killing. Blake stared after her, knees practically knocking together. Then, she too made up her mind. Shaking, Blake pulled herself over the railing and jumped. She landed on her feet before her legs gave out and turned to jelly. She tumbled to the floor. In the panic, the people didn't even notice her. A man trampled right over her hand as he carried a chair to the window and tried to break it, causing Blake to scream out and clutch her hand to her chest.
That's when she saw her.
She couldn't have been older than twelve, the same age as Blake. She was like something out of dream. Her hair was long and white like snow, pulled back into a braid and tied with a black ribbon. Her dress was like something pulled from the pages of a fairy tale. It was white and long and it glimmered like it was made of crystals under the ballroom lights.
And it was covered in blood. The skirt of the dress was torn, part of it caught on the edge of a table. She was sitting on the floor about a foot away from the first man to fall, splattered with his blood. Now that Blake was closer, she could make out the Schnee snowflake embroidered on the back of the man's suit. The blade was wedged directly at the center of it. The leader of Blake's group had used the family crest as a target. The girl herself had earrings of the Schnee snowflakes.
Propping herself up on her elbow, hand still clutched to her chest, Blake stared at the other girl. Her cat ears twitched as the gears in her head turned. When a bullet hit a person not even a foot away from the other girl, Blake came to a conclusion. Finally, she got to her feet and limped over to the other girl.
"Come with me." The other girl looked up at her extended hand in confusion. But she accepted it. It wasn't until the girl had gotten to her feet that she noticed the second pair of ears of Blake's head.
And she screamed.
Panicking, Blake withdrew her hand. Oh Dust, this girl was going to get them both killed if she kept drawing attention to them. That said, Blake had made up her mind that she was going to save this girl.
So she knocked her out with a blow to the head.
Admittedly, it probably wasn't the kindest way to get her out of there, but in a room drenched with blood and people like her causing the bloodshed, she didn't see a way that the other girl would listen to words.
Pulling the girl up onto her shoulders, Blake pulled her off to the side of the room. She had attended the meeting where the White Fang plotted out the attack. During the meeting, they'd shown floor plans for the building.
With the girl still held tightly to her, Blake felt around the wall at the far northern corner of the room.
If she remembered correctly, it should've been...
Ah yes, there it was! The tiny door to the crawl space opened, revealing a dusty passage. Blake did a quick survey of the ballroom. None of the guests were looking at them and the White Fang were all focusing on trashing the place and killing. They were good. So Blake hauled the other girl into the crawl space and shut the secret door behind them.
She didn't know how long she sat in silence in the crawl space. The screams from the outside still found their way in, but they were muted. Blake closed her eyes, tears welling up. She never wanted any part in this. She'd just wanted to be treated like an equal to people. Once the leadership changed, she'd underestimated just how badly things had become. There she was, twelve years old and a terrorist.
The other girl stirred, and Blake turned her eyes onto her. She was thankful for her faunus sight then so she could calculate how the girl would react. Blue eyes opened up, hazy for a moment. Then they met golden cat eyes in the darkness and she screeched. Panicking, Blake shoved her hand over the other girl's mouth.
"They'll find us if you keep making noise!" Blake said as loud as she dared to. The other girl tried to move away from her, but the crawl space was too small. They were stuck pressed to each other. Blake could feel the dampness of her dress against her leg and cringed, refusing to look down at the bloody cloth. The girl continued to squeal against her hand.
"I'm not going to hurt you! Please stop!" Blake begged. Eventually, the other girl stopped struggling and making noised. Her eyes were wide and fearful in the dark. Shaking, Blake moved her hand away from the girl's mouth and was relieved when the other girl stayed silent.
"I'm sorry I knocked you out. You were just... screaming." Blake shivered. "I didn't know how else to get you to come with me."
She was met with silence for a long time. She watched the other girl squint and try to adjust to the darkness. "Where are we?"
"There's a crawl space in the ballroom. I imagine they use it for storing or something. I saw it on the maps while they were planning." Blake bit her lip.
"They..." Blake froze as the girl went over what she just said. "So, you're one of them."
She thought about what she could say. She could outright deny it. No, I'm not part of the White Fang. But she was.
She was. And didn't this girl, covered in blood, deserve a little truth?
"Yes." She said finally.
"But you saved me."
The other girl looked at her uneasily. "Why?"
Blake stared at her. "I... I don't know. What they did..." A scream bled into the crawl space, making them both cringe. Dust, it was still going on? "What they're doing is wrong."
They sat in silence, marinating in the darkness and misery. Their legs were pressed against each other. Neither of them moved away.
"You're not like them." The girl said finally, eyes meeting Blake's in the darkness. Her gaze was steady, and had her trembling body not given her away, Blake would've thought the other girl was perfectly fine.
"I wouldn't say that." Blake looked down at her lap. She'd been part of the mission. She'd agreed to come. Admittedly, she hadn't known the extent of the violence, but she'd agreed.
"You saved me."
"I'm part of the group that killed your family."
She watched the steadiness in the girl's eyes falter, revealing the agony and despair beneath the mask she was constructing. She was good at it for somebody so young and Blake wondered why.
They were in the darkness for what--ten minutes? Thirty? An hour? Two hours? Blake didn't know. They didn't speak a work after their initial conversation. Then the screams subsided.
"Do you think it's over?" The other girl asked. Blake's ears twitched as she strained to hear through the door. She couldn't hear any panic. It was very faint but she could hear... police sirens?
"I'll check." As Blake went to push open the door, the other girl grabbed her hand. Blake jumped, the girl's cool touch sending shivers down her spine.
"Be careful." The girl said. Startled, Blake withdrew her hand and pushed the door open a crack.
Blood covered the floor like a fresh coat of red paint. Bodies were being hauled off by medics. Blake sighed in relief. It was over. "We're safe."
Then a thought occurred to her.
How would she get out of this? She was a faunus. The only faunus present at the gala were White Fang members. Even if she wasn't a member, she'd probably be arrested anyways without a second thought.
The other girl seemed to be thinking the same thing. "Here."
Blake turned to watch the other girl undo the black ribbon in her hair and pull her white hair from her braid. She pressed the ribbon into Blake's hands. "What's this?"
"Use it to cover your ears."
"Why are you..." Blake trailed off, clutching the ribbon in the hand that had been trampled earlier.
"Why am I helping you?" the girl guessed. "Because you saved me."
"You helped plan this attack. I know. And that's despicable." Blake winced. "But you saved me. You're not forgiven but you're not bad through and through. So I'll help you. My mother told me to always pay my debts."
"I'm sorry." Blake whispered weakly. She knew it was useless.
"Just put the ribbon on." She did. The other girl was quiet, then she spoke again. "What's your name?"
It was Blake's turn to be quiet.
"I'm sorry." she said again.
After they left the crawl space, Blake slipped away unseen. As she walked back home, she wondered how she'd explain getting separated from her unit. She wondered where the girl in her unit who ran was. She wondered whether the elderly woman who was shot survived.
She wondered about the girl above all else.
It was in early one morning in History that Blake thought about the Gala Attack for the first time in years. The White Fang were the subject that day, and Blake's skin crawled.
"Are you okay?" Pyrrha asked, gently touching Blake's shoulder. "You look like you're going to faint. Are you sick? Perhaps you should go to the nurse."
"I'm fine." Blake snapped. She immediately regretted it when Pyrrha looked hurt. "Thank you, Pyrrha. Truly, I'm fine."
"Alright," Pyrrha eyed her with concern.
The class covered the beginning of the organization. There were pictures of the protests, and in one picture Blake's heart seized with fear as she recognized herself and Adam in the crowd. She worked to keep her mask on. Don't let them see.
Then they started to cover the change in the White Fang. When the Gala Attack came up, Blake heard somebody hiss under their breath. She turned to look at Weiss, who said frozen in her seat.
Blake closed her eyes. She'd recognized Weiss the first day at Beacon. The fear when she saw her for the first time nearly paralyzed her. But she was driven to speak to the heiress by something inside of her that she just couldn't place.
When she realized that the girl didn't recognize her, she wasn't sure if she was relieved or disappointed.
Blake slowly opened her eyes and looked at Weiss again. She no longer wore her hair in braids and she wore the Schnee snowflake like a bullseye. Weiss was something else. Somehow the same little girl in the crawl space and somehow not.
Sighing, Blake turned back to the lesson and the teacher as he told her things she already knew better than him.
"The Gala Attack served as one of the changing points in the history of the White Fang. It's merciless execution and bloodshed were an eyeopener to the people of how dangerous they were. It also served as a moment of awakening for faunus who realized that their peaceful organization was gone..."