“And you are absolutely certain there was no way you could have stopped the train in time?” Ozpin’s face remained in its usual calm, expressionless state as he interviewed Team RWBY’s leader. He had previously spoken with their mission guardian, Professor Oobleck, but as with any investigation he needed all perspectives.
“No, Professor,” Ruby said with a downcast expression. “There were too many of them to fight our way through.” She slumped back into her chair. “We shouldn’t have split up. If we’d just made a beeline for the front-”
“Then you would no doubt have been cut down as a group rather than as individuals,” Ozpin chided. It was clear to him that Ruby blamed herself for the breach; the headmaster had no intention of letting her pursue that line of thought. “As things stand, it is fortunate you and your teammates inflicted as much damage as you did. Things could have been much worse had the White Fang joined the attack, especially with Atlassian arms. People were still hurt, yes, but at least no one died.”
“Except the White Fang members…” Ruby trailed off. “Professor, I wanted to be a huntress so I could help people, to save them. Yes, sometimes we do have to fight other people, and yeah, I never actually hit anyone with Crescent Rose’s actual blade, but… whenever I knocked someone off of the train, they still got sucked underneath. They still died.” She was starting to tear up. “I’ve never killed anyone before.”
“Ruby,” Ozpin said softly. “Nothing that happened in that incident was your fault.”
“Of course it was my fault!” Ruby suddenly raised her voice at this. “You trusted me to lead my team on this mission! You said it yourself, we would have found a way there anyway! How is this anything but my fault?”
“True, I did bend the rules and allow you on a mission of a sort you and your team should not have seen for another year at least,” Ozpin conceded. “But had I not done so, there would have been ten hunters on that train, instead of merely five. With strength of numbers on your side, I’ve no doubt that things would have gone very differently.” Ozpin folded his hands in front of him and sighed. “The fact of the matter is, I made the wrong call. I sent you on an assignment you were simply not ready for. That you performed as well as you ultimately did is commendable in and of itself; many other first-year teams would not have survived the encounter, let alone avert the better half of a potential disaster.” Ozpin leaned forward above his desk. “Dwelling on things you could not have changed will not serve you or your team, Miss Rose. Instead, focus on the things you can change, and let that guide your development into a full-fledged huntress.”
Ruby seemed to perk up a bit after hearing this, but it was obvious she was still troubled. Ozpin smiled, and leaned back into his chair. “Now then, there is still the matter of how early your mission ended. You were not expected back for another few days yet, and regular classes will not resume until all of your professors have returned. I offer you a choice. Option one: you and your team can take a well-earned rest, catch up on your studies, and perhaps even pursue your… extracurricular activities, shall we say?” Ruby had a mixed expression on hearing this. It wasn’t the part about studying, Team RWBY’s grades were fine. It was, however, a lot of time for her to be alone with her thoughts, which did not particularly appeal to her at the moment. Noticing this, Ozpin added, “The other option is a small assignment.”
That one got Ruby’s attention. “I thought all assignments for this week were handed out already.”
“For shadowing a professional huntsman, yes. However, the one I have in mind is a real paid contract. It’s fairly simple; actually, most of your assignments will be more like this one, rather than that excitement at Mountain Glenn. There’s a small village just off Vytal’s middle-northern coast. A small pack of Beowolves, no more than six, has been sighted stalking the outskirts of town. The local sheriff will guide you to the area of the last known sighting. From there, you and your team will track them to their den, carry out an extermination, and report back anything of interest you find in the den.”
“That sounds… kinda refreshing, actually,” Ruby thought out loud. “Yeah, we’ll go with that.”
“Very well,” Ozpin said. “A VTOL will be waiting to take you there as soon as I finish debriefing your teammates.” As Ruby got up to leave, Ozpin added, “And Miss Rose. Should you happen to find anything of interest… do not hesitate to tell me.”
Ruby nodded. “Yes, Professor.” Then she entered the elevator.
Darkness enveloped Emi as her eyes slowly opened. She felt a liquid running down the back of her neck. Probably blood, she thought. I must have hit my head on impact. Impact? Wait. Memories of the battle slowly returned to her. They had been hit by a black hole. Supposedly, they could act as a sort of wormhole to another place in time and space; but shouldn’t the gravity have killed her? Point blank, she realized. The same had happened to other kaiju in the past. Before the black hole’s gravity had time to stretch her body into spaghetti, it had completely enveloped both her and the two monsters. Speaking of which…
Emi was please to find that the cockpit lighting still worked, and attempted to activate the middle head. All systems showed green, but the camera and controls were unresponsive. Now that’s odd. She tried reactivating MKG’s implants; no computer confirmation was needed to tell her that Ghidorah’s biological components were alive and well. As soon as the implants activated, Emi felt Ghidorah’s mind pressing against hers. One of the most powerful psychics in the universe, Ghidorah instinctively sought out a surrogate he could possess upon registering the loss of a head. The flanking heads had limited control over the body, but Ghidorah’s central head was dominant. With that missing, the monster attempted to dominate Emi’s mind; she would essentially become Ghidorah if this succeeded. But this was precisely why Emi had been picked out from the Saegusa Psychic Institute as MKG’s pilot: her mind instinctively reversed any attempt at psychic domination, instead dominating her attacker, regardless of power. Ghidorah was quickly subdued, and Emi assumed the role of the dominant head.
In the back of her mind, she could feel Ghidorah’s true middle brain trying to gain dominance, but MKG’s design would never allow that. The robotic head wasn’t merely a turret: it tricked the other two heads into believing that Emi’s mind resided within the middle head. Ghidorah could regrow a head eventually… but not as long as the rest didn’t attempt to trigger a regeneration cycle. As far as Emi was concerned, Ghidorah’s true middle mind could wallow in its personal purgatory for eternity; it would never return to power, regardless of how much it tried.
She reached out to the flanking heads. Lend me your eyes, she commanded. In an instant, she could see their perspectives as though she really were a part of Ghidorah.
With normal human eyes, she would have seen only black. Ghidorah’s vision, however, could detect much fainter illumination, and even some spectra outside human detection. Thus she quickly realized that what she was seeing was the ocean floor.
The middle head hung limply against the cyborg’s chest armor as MKG righted itself. In doing so, Emi was able to see that Godzilla had landed here as well, still unconscious. She considered trying to finish him off, but decided against it. Even if MKG’s systems weren’t completely waterlogged, nothing could match the King of Monsters, beneath the waves. As things were, MKG would be ripped to shreds should Godzilla wake up.
The reason for being so waterlogged was immediately obvious: the tow cables, deployed and cut, left gaping holes in MKG’s armor. It was a minor miracle that none had slipped into the torso itself.
Still using the flanking heads, Emi did her best to assess the damage to the wings. The wing membranes were exposed under many holes in the armor, and the wings themselves were punched completely through in some places. The conduits that conducted Ghidorah’s flight field -a sort of anti-gravity effect- were still intact, though without the membranes it was unlikely that MKG could counteract enough weight to get very high above the surface, and staying airborne for any long period of time was an iffy proposition at best. Still, anywhere else was better than standing helpless next to the most dangerous kaiju on Earth.
Emi activated the flight field, and MKG began a slow ascent to the surface.
The VTOL circled the village as the pilot searched for an appropriate landing site. Yang surveyed the area she and the others would be calling home for the next few days. “So what’s this place called again?” she asked.
“Odo Island,” Ruby answered. She’d practically committed the contract information to memory during the flight here. Despite the name, Odo Island was barely an island at all, separated from mainland Vytal only by a river. It was also enormous. “The briefing says it used to be way out in the ocean, but about two thousand years ago it crashed into Vytal and got pushed up a bit.” No one really questioned the island moving; they had all learned in grade school that Remnant had thousands of small tectonic plates, which were responsible for the patchwork look of the continents. A single island moving independently wasn’t unheard of.
“Well,” Blake said, “at least it’ll be easier than last time.”
“Don’t remind me,” Weiss groaned. “I’m still sore all over from the crash.”
“You could brace yourself a lot better if you didn’t insist on wearing heels everywhere you go,” Blake chided.
“...shut up.” Weiss snatched the briefing from Ruby and pretended to be engrossed reading it. This quickly evolved into actual engrossment once she started reading the extended notes. “Oh wow, I almost forgot my father had some mining operations here.”
“Does that mean we’re getting the penthouse suite courtesy of Schnee Dust?” Yang teased.
“Hardly. The miners mostly live in little on-site apartments when they’re stationed at places like this, except for the ones who live within commuting distance. Only the regional headquarters would have anything like a penthouse suite.”
“I guess you would know,” Blake snarked.
“...anyway,” Weiss continued, “I seriously doubt a village this small would have anything in the way of luxuries, even with the company here.”
The VTOL finally landed in a clearing just outside of town. As the team disembarked, the pilot yelled out to them, “I’ll be back to get you on Saturday morning. Don’t be late.” Ruby acknowledged him, and the VTOL took off again, turning back for Beacon.
They hadn’t walked far into town before the sheriff came out to greet them. He was a heavyset fellow, a tinge of grey starting to seep into his brown hair, but his face and posture spoke of long years of experience. Right now, that face was smiling at them. “You must be the team from Beacon I was told to expect.”
“That’s us!” Ruby saluted. “Team RWBY reporting for duty!”
The sheriff laughed. “Welcome to Odo Island.”
Deep in the ocean depths, a giant creature stirred. Yellow eyes blinked open, and took in their surroundings. Godzilla was a creature of the sea. It was, and had always been his home. Something about the ocean floor here seemed, off, though, like it belonged somewhere else, but his kaiju mind couldn’t place it.
The Monster King turned his attention to his other senses. Though not a powerful psychic on offense, Godzilla did have significant mental defenses, and right now he felt something that shouldn’t be there; something that should have been dead long ago. What was worse, the dark presence seemed to totally surround him. One of its many foci was approaching him now, fast from the side.
Godzilla turned to face it, only to be rammed in the chest by the beak of a gigantic, squid-like creature. This would prove to be its first mistake. The Monster King was knocked from the ocean floor, only to immediately right himself and speed through the water towards his enemy. He may have been slow on land, but Godzilla was the unparalleled master of the sea.
He surveyed his opponent on his approach. The squid was mostly black all over, with some sort of white and red mask-like covering surrounding its glowing red eyes. If not for his other senses, it could have easily gone unnoticed by the kaiju. From tip to tentacle, it was a bit over half Godzilla’s own height at a respectable forty meters.
Before he could counterattack, the Ursula Grimm exposed its beak and unleashed a corrosive black substance that stung Godzilla everywhere it touched. The King roared in pain, managing to get some of the substance in his mouth before veering away from his target. The Ursula’s moment of triumph didn’t last long, however, as the water surrounding the two combatants began to take on a blue glow. Having no eyelids and unused to bright lights, the Ursula attempted a retreat, but was immediately buffeted by a blast of intense heat.
His opponent slumped into lifelessness even as Godzilla’s atomic breath ebbed and faded. A black smoke emanated from the corpse as the Ursula slowly disintegrated.
Despite the creature’s death, Godzilla could still sense the dark presence. It was rather weaker than his recollection suggested it should be, but he still felt a nagging urge to be rid of it. The Monster King made his way to the surface, first poking his spines and then his head out of the water. He took a moment to let his spines soak up radiation from the sun’s rays. Though not his primary source of fuel and energy, the sun was invaluable to Godzilla as a way to slow his hunger, allowing him to go far longer between feedings than would otherwise be possible. Given the choice, Godzilla would likely have spent all of his time resting between the nourishing sunlight and the comfortable buoyancy of the ocean. Instead, he raised his nose to the air, trying to determine the nearest scent of land. Finding it, he changed course, and began his journey to eliminate the vile presence that irritated his senses.
Blake and the rest of the team followed the sheriff, whose name had turned out to be Huxley, through the village of Odo. Huxley had insisted on giving the girls a brief tour of the town before their hunt started later that evening.
Entering the center of town, the group was greeted by a two meter stone statue of… something. It looked to Blake like the mutant offspring of a gorilla, a whale, and a crocodile. “This here,” Huxley declared, “is the god of Odo’s pre-historic people, painstakingly maintained over the centuries. In those times, it is thought that every year the islanders would send a virgin girl out to sea, in order to appease the god and ensure a productive fishing season.”
Yang scoffed. “Why is it always a virgin sacrifice with these old gods?”
“It’s to do with the romanticized purity of a woman untouched by a man, saving herself for her future husband,” Weiss said with a certain flutter to her voice.
Yang shrugged. “Well I don’t know about you, Ice Queen, but if I were a god I think I’d want sacrifices with a bit of experience, y’know?”
Blake stifled a laugh. Ruby failed at doing the same. Weiss just blushed. Huxley cleared his throat. “Sorry,” Blake apologized on behalf of the group. After calming down she said, “What this god’s name, anyway?”
Huxley’s smile returned. “Well I’ll just have you take a gander at the nameplate down here. The original script has never been translated, so we don’t know the original pronunciation.” The script he was referring to looked to Blake like little geometric shapes with curved lines going through them. “Fortunately, these folks seem to have known Latin script. If you look right below there, the transcription reads as…”
Huxley showed them to the last place the Beowolves had been sighted, handed Ruby an emergency radio, and bid the girls good luck in their hunt. “Well team,” Yang said, “I guess it’s time to see what a normal assignment looks like. So… where should we start?”
Blake pointed at the ground. “Following the tracks would be a good start.”
“I knew that.”
They hadn’t walked for more than half an hour before Weiss called the team’s attention. She pointed to the trunk of a nearby tree. “Beowolf claw marks,” she said. “Probably marking their territory.”
“Can’t be very far, then,” Ruby noted. She looked up at the sky. “It’s getting pretty dark. You guys set up camp. I’ll scout around and take first watch.”
Emi flew all through the night, looking for some sign of civilization. The cyborg’s middle head had regained some basic function, but MKG would still not have lasted long in combat at this point. There were still gaping holes in the armor where the grapplers had been, and the wing armor had seen better days. Having the middle head did, however, take the strain off of her mind from controlling the flanking heads, and allowed Emi to pan around with her camera instead. She could see through the night-vision filter that Ghidorah’s wing membranes were already starting to heal, with smaller gaps already closed completely. So at least she’d be able to keep flying.
The bad news was, Emi had no idea where she was going. MKG’s global position system was working fine, but it could find no satellite with which to facilitate said positioning. She had pointed herself west toward the setting sun, hoping she would eventually find land. Flying at full speed, she might have found it already, but with the shape MKG was in she had opted for a meager sixty knots.
Finally, though, nearing midnight -though it could have been earlier, given she had undoubtedly crossed at least one time zone- Emi spotted dots of light in the distance. Couldn’t have been anything larger than campfires, but she’d take what she could get. As she made preparations to land, a loud set of calls sounded in the distance. Emi had no sooner pointed the camera when four gigantic… bird-things started making a beeline for her. Three of them sailed straight past her, but one had apparently not seen MKG and crashed right into it. The bird crashed into the waves, dead or unconscious Emi neither knew nor cared at the moment. Ghidorah was howling with pain, and Emi struggling to get the cyborg back under control. They were losing altitude far too quickly. Unable to re-establish a flight field, Emi braced for impact.
Three men wearing white and black outfits approached the fallen behemoth cautiously. Each one had the symbol of the White Fang emblazoned on the chest of his shirt. While cautious, though, they strangely showed no outward signs of fear. The lead one signaled one of his men. “Get Adam on the horn, and try and reach the boss lady if you can, too. They’re gonna want to see this.”
The next morning, Ruby woke up to Yang warming up a small breakfast over the campfire. The elder sister had taken the last watch, and then taken it upon herself to feed the group. “Morning sis.” Yang said in a low voice, trying not to wake the others.
“Mmmm… what’s for breakfast?” Ruby said, groggily.
“Nothing fancy,” Yang laughed, “just some canned hash browns.”
Not long after, Blake and Weiss were up as well, and soon the four of them were pounding down hash browns like mana from heaven. Ruby half-expected Weiss to complain about the food not being up to her usual standards, but the Heiress made not a peep as she ate. Yang was the first to speak. “So, anything happen on your guys’ watches? I’ve had a pretty boring morning.”
“Boring as boring can be,” Weiss said.
“Ditto,” Ruby added.
“I heard a couple of scuffles a bit east of here. Thought maybe we should check it out.”
Everyone turned to look at their faunus companion. “How far are we talking here?” Yang questioned her teammate.
“Fifteen, maybe twenty minute walk. I doubt anything is still there, but we might be able to pick up a fresher trail.”
The group finished their breakfasts, packed up the campsite, and set out for Blake’s “scuffle.” Sure enough, twenty minutes later they were met with a grisly scene. Maimed carcasses of a pack of wolves littered the clearing, some simply gored, some with various limbs torn off, and still more rent completely in half. The stench of death filled the area. Even Yang couldn’t help covering her mouth and nose. “My… god.”
Blake pointed at the other side of the clearing. “One’s still alive.”
The group looked, and there was indeed one wolf still limping its way through the carnage, bloodied and battered. It gave Ruby a pitiful stare, and she couldn’t help but be reminded of Zwei. She was suddenly quite glad they’d left him at the dorm this time. She rummaged around in her rucksack, prompting Weiss to question her actions. “I’m going to help it,” Ruby said, flatly. Before the others could stop her, Ruby marched out toward the wolf, a packet of medical Dust in hand. Not ten feet before reaching the wolf, a Beowolf suddenly burst from the brush, clamping its jaws down on the wolf’s flanks. The wolf, already exhausted, couldn’t do more than whimper as its backside was torn from the rest of its body. The remaining half of the wolf hit the ground hard, twitched for a moment, then lay still, its eyes frozen in a moment of pure terror.
The Grimm finished consuming its prize, then turned its attention to Ruby. It growled menacingly, advancing slowly upon the girl, savoring the kill to come. Ruby, for her part, was dead to the world with shock, looking at the wolf. Another living, breathing creature, killed before her eyes; flashing her back to the incident on the train, remembering the screams of the White Fang members as they were crushed between wheel and track. She could distantly hear her friends crying out to her as the rest of the Beowolf pack made itself known and closed in.
Her hand gripped Crescent Rose, slowly unholstering it. As the Beowolf advanced, Crescent Rose expanded its blade and handle as Ruby slowly lifted her eyes to meet the Beowolf’s. It was not fear she felt, but a deep, burning hatred. A life she could have, should have saved; gone. Her aura flared up around her, eyes burning with an intensity greater even than Yang. “You…” she growled. The Beowolf stumbled back at this unexpected reaction, seemingly re-assessing the situation. Ruby lept forward, screaming, “YOU MONSTER!” The last thing the Beowolf felt was the blade of Crescent Rose jabbing upward through its skull.
Late afternoon was giving way to early evening when Team RWBY arrived back in Odo. They met Huxley at his office as he was wrapping up the day’s paperwork. “Back so soon?” He smiled, and turned a machine toward them. “Just stick your scrolls in there, and we’ll wire the bounty right to your accounts.” As the girls did so, Huxley couldn’t help noticing the sullen looks on their faces. “Something happen out there?”
“Just a bit more gruesome than we’d been expecting,” Blake sighed. “Nothing we couldn’t handle, though.”
Huxley nodded. “Yeah, Grimm can be pretty nasty. If you think what they do to animals is bad, well…”
“What?” Ruby said, having snapped out of her slump momentarily.
“A few years back we got paid a visit by a couple Ursas. Big ones, built like tanks. Not something you usually wanna mess with. Had a huntsman team come out to try and track them. They killed the Ursas alright, but only one made it back.”
“What happened?” Yang asked apprehensively.
Huxley leaned back in his chair and sighed. “One of my boys found the poor fellow on the outskirts of town trying to hold his guts in.” The girls cringed at this. “Had like half his intestines ripped out. Now, you can heal pretty serious wounds with Aura and Dust therapy, even regrow body parts if you can stabilize the person in time. Those memories, though… When a Grimm takes a chunk out of you, he doesn’t just hurt you. He feeds on your fear. Your pain. I’ve heard it compared to having your soul sucked out. You can’t un-live that.”
“So…” Ruby trailed off. “...what ended up happening to him?”
Seeming reluctant, the old sheriff replied, “He blew his brains out a month later. Right across the street in our clinic there.” He pointed at the clinic in question. “That’s why you’re paid so well even for these simple contracts. That’s why the work you do is important. They don’t advertise it much on TV, and you probably don’t see it as much in your regular schooling, but Grimm… they’re pure evil incarnate. And every one of them deserves his time in Hell.” He glanced at the machine as the final transaction was completed. “Well, looks like you’re all done here. Anything else you need?”
“Our ride isn’t due back until Saturday,” Yang chimed in. “We could use a place to stay for a couple nights.”
“Well we don’t really have any inns or such around here, but I keep a little guest house on my property for these occasions. It’ll be a bit of a tight squeeze with four of you, but you’re welcome to it.”
“Thanks,” the blonde replied. “I’m sure it will be fine.”
A roaring screech reverberated through the building. Then another. And another. Weiss glared at the sheriff. “I thought there were only Beowolves around here!”
“There were!” Huxley shouted as he dashed out the door.
The girls had no sooner gotten out the door before they witnessed Huxley be crushed underfoot by a Nevermore’s landing. Ruby stepped back, gaping at the monster. This Nevermore was even larger than the one back in the Emerald Forest, at least thirty meters head to toe. The Nevermore reared back and screeched at the sky, to be answered by another call. Ruby looked up, and was greeted by the sight of two more Nevermores of at least the same size.
Yang got ready to charge, but Ruby knocked her hand down. “No!”
Yang gave Ruby something resembling a glare. “We have to kill this thing before someone gets hurt!”
Now it was Weiss’ turn to talk Yang down. “Your sister’s right. We’re not equipped to take down a Grimm of this size, let alone three of them!”
“We should focus on evacuating,” Blake finally added. “We should try and get to the mines. They’ll probably have weapons there. Weiss?”
Before they could enact that plan, a large plume of water jetted out of the water by the docks. The girls, the villagers, even the Nevermores could only stare as a huge, dark figure emerged, silhouetted against the red sky. It took a few steps onto dry land, and the girls immediately recognized the creature from their tour the previous day.
The god of Odo Island reared back, then roared a challenge at the giant Grimm. The Nevermores answered in kind, and the two sides closed on each other as people, no larger than ants in comparison, scampered about looking for any kind of shelter.