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re:Bound

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Chapter One: Shatter

 


 

re:Bound

A Fanfiction By Pokefan87

Chapter Publish Date: 6/22/17

 


 

Ice is a fickle mistress.

 

The pools of evil flow dark in the night, pulling the idle traveler down to rest in its sandy graves. Humanity, in its ever-present fight of self-preservation, froze the waters over to conceal the ocean depths and build their monuments to nothing. For centuries, civilization stood tall and proud, and in their wisdom, declared ice to be unchanging granite and marble. Lowly villages gave rise to spires and fortresses, technological marvels of dust and the cities constructed by its powers.

 

However, for all that Winter shall turn to Winter, so must Winter turn to spring. As the ice wears away, its crystalline fractures become too much to repair.

 

After all, melting ice never breaks even.

 


 

The glass spilled through the air in slow motion, jagged edges spiraling through the cool night air. Reflections in the foggy depths were lost in a crimson tide, tumbling down to Remnant in a collapsing wave. Perhaps it was the red dust spilling through the air, a kaleidoscope distorting the world around them. Maybe it was the scarlet drops of blood, dripping off the sharp edges hurtling toward the ground. Most likely, it was the young girl accompanying the cloud left behind in Roman Torchwick's wake.

 

Ruby Rose hit the ground. Hard.

 

Spinning to one side to avoid a burst of dust powered bullets, she sprang to her feet and unleashed her scythe as five grunts walked up to flank the well dressed orange haired man who had sent her flying. Hastily brushing sweat and blood away from a cut over her left eye, she winced as she tensed, ready for the attack.

 

“Okayyy… Get her!” Torchwick said, lazily leaning back on his cane as his men rushed into action around him.

 

Ruby narrowed her eyes as she sprang into action. Alright, I'm gonna knock them out so the police can get them.

 

She slammed the tip of the scythe into the ground, driving the powerful blade into the black pavement. Grabbing the handle, she used it to swing herself around and land a roundhouse kick directly into a grunt's face, laying him out flat on his back. One down.

 

Yanking her scythe back out, she ducked and rolled to avoid another explosion of red dust where she had been standing. Aiming the back of her scythe at her aggressor, she launched a stun blast into his chest, sending him flying backwards into the brick building behind him with a resounding crash. Two- Wait!

 

Desperately swinging the blunt end of her scythe around behind her, she swept the legs out from under two grunts who had snuck up behind. As she finished her rotation, she came face to face with the fifth grunt. Eyes widening, she brought her weapon up to counter a downwards blow from his sword. Feinting to the side, she brought the blunt end of the scythe up once again and sent it crashing down on his head, knocking him out cold.

 

Shots rang from behind her. Using her gun to launch her at a nearby tree, she saw that one of the grunts she had tripped was taking careful at her with a dust-filled pistol. Strafing him with consecutive cannon blasts, she flew past him. Digging her scythe into the ground again, she reversed her momentum and kicked him into the air. Pushing off of the ground, she did a backflip as she sent the blunt edge crashing down onto his head.

 

There, that's five. Wiping blood off her forehead once again, Ruby narrowed her eyes at Roman. I know this guy! He's Vale's most wanted criminal, locally at least. He was on the new last night!

 

“You were worth every cent. Truly, you were,” Roman muttered as he dropped his cigar and ground it into the dust shop's floor with his cane. “Well, Red, I think we can all say it's been an eventful evening, and as much as I'd love to stick around, I'm afraid this is where we part ways.”

 

Ruby grinned victoriously as she heard sirens in the background, but that smile faded instantly as Roman's cane clicked back to reveal a scoped shotgun, pointed straight at her head.

 

Act now! Firing her gun into the ground, she leaped over another red dust explosion and landed with her cape billowing around her. Head snapping up, she wildly cast her gaze around as she realized Torchwick had disappeared. A movement caught her eyes, and she turned to see him climbing a nearby ladder to the top of a nearby building.

 

Time slowed.

 

She knew she had split second decision to make. The dust shop behind her was in ruins, and she could see the shopkeeper cowering behind the counter as he nursed a wound from the explosion of glass on his shoulder. She had to check on him, just to make sure he wasn't in grave danger. That way, she could stop the grunts from getting away too, and tell the police what had happened. Yang would want her to stay down, anyways. But...

 

If Torchwick got away, who would be there to stop it from happening the next time?

 

In that moment, Ruby chose Torchwick.

 

Springing to her feet, Ruby disappeared in a cloud of rose petals and sprinted up the ladder at top speed.

 

Roman's eyes widened as a hand grabbed his ankle at the top of the ladder. “Red?!”

 

Dangling from Roman's ankle with a single hand, Ruby grunted as she swung her scythe around with a single hand and dug the tip into the edge of the building. For all of the strength training she had done in her years and years at Signal, she still had trouble handling her monstrous weapon without a solid double grip.

 

Roman pointed his cane at her head. “You're persistent, I'll give you that. This ends now!”

 

She let go of his ankle, swinging away from him as she hung onto Crescent Rose with a single hand. Roman grinned as he slowly backed away, sending another blast at her. Gritting her teeth, she swung away again as he took off across the roof at a full sprint, yelling into a small mic on his shirt, “I need you now!”

 

Ruby's eyes widened as she saw the dust crystal Roman had dropped. Springing into action, she launched her self and her scythe into the air with her semblance as it exploded beneath her. A chunk of shrapnel crashed against her right arm as she launched herself of another towards Roman. She screamed as she hit the ground running, barely keeping hold on her weapon.

 

Three yards away from the edge of the roof, an airship rose up with an open platform facing towards Roman. He hesitated for a moment, then took the running jump.

 

She had already come this far. She wasn't going to let him get away now.

 

Shooting forewards with her semblance, Ruby brought her scythe over her head. Springing from halfway across the roof, she took a wild leap towards the criminal, already halfway through his jump.

 

For a moment, she was on course to collide with Roman. Then, she brought her scythe down.

 

By the time it occurred to her which side she had swung down, it was already too late.

 

Roman screamed as the sharp tip of her scythe collided with his face. The blade tore through his neck and upper torso before Ruby's semblance send her hurdling into the criminal at top speeds, driving them underneath the aircraft and onto the pavement below.

 

An intense burst of pain shot through Ruby's head as her already injured right arm collided with the ground, hearing an unhealthy snap as it did. She yelled wordlessly in pain, depleted aura barely having held the rest of her body together. Remembering the airship hovering above her, she forced herself to open her eyes.

 

She would regret that for the rest of her life.

 

She was lying on top of Roman Torchwick's mangled body, surrounded by a pool of blood. His face was pale and his eyes unseeing, or at least what was left of them. A massive gash ran from his left eye to his stomach, skin torn raggedly like a piece of paper. His neck had snapped in the fall, and his head hung to one side like a rag doll.

 

He was undeniably dead.

 

Roman Torchwick was dead. Because of her.

 

Ruby Rose had killed Roman Torchwick.

 

I killed him.

 

An explosion above her caught her attention, and she looked up to see the hovercraft take to the air, launching a missile into the building above. Ruby closed her eyes, knowing she was to weak to get out of the way.

 

When the rubble never made impact, she opened her eyes again to see a regal woman in a purple getup with blonde hair standing over her. The glyph she had just cast sent the rubble flying back at the receding airship, where it exploded in a cloud of fire. The woman watched it disappear, then knelt down next to Ruby. “Child, are you okay?”

 

I killed him.

 

Silently, she shook her head as her eyes drifted back down, to her bloodstained hands and arms. She- How could she- No, she couldn't have done this. She- She- She was only going to knock out the robbers for the police to capture! This- No, it couldn't be her fault. It was an accident. If he hadn't been shopping there-

 

“Glynda. Get Miss Rose away from him. Now.”

 

The new speaker was male, and Ruby's eyes widened as she glowed purple and was pulled away from Roman. She screamed again as her arm moved, and Glynda cursed. “My arm!”

 

The scene was even worse from a distance. Roman's body was lying in a small crater, next to Crescent Rose. Her blade, that she had constructed by hand, that she knew how every component of worked, was soaked in blood. Was it even her blade anymore? How could she have-

 

Sirens sounded, and the purple surrounded Ruby again as she was lifted onto a stretcher. Her eyes widened. The shopkeeper! “Stop, I have to go, I have to check on the shopkeeper!”

 

“Quick, she's going to hurt herself! Put her under!”

 

A sharp pain bit into Ruby's arm, and her world faded out to black.

 


 

“Dad, she's coming to!”

 

Ruby's eyes blinked open to see two concerned faces staring down at her. Sluggishly, she murmured, “Yang? Dad? Wha...” She frowned, trying to think through the haze that filled her head.

 

“Ruby!” Yang yelled, then gave her a rough hug. “You're okay! We were so worried, after Ozpin came and told us that you had been injured.”

 

She blinked slowly, not yet fully computing her surroundings. “Where am I?”

 

Yang released her, and Dad leaned down and hugged her as well. “You're at Shelter Hospital in Vale. We're just glad you're okay, honey.”

 

“Oh.” Ruby yawned as the anesthesia came back in force, and she gently closed her eyes as Taiyang settled her back down on the bed.

 

“Dad, is she really okay?”

 

“She's alive, Yang, and that's what matters.”

 

“I know, it's just… She hasn't stopped frowning since we've been here.”

 

She drifted in and out of consciousness for what seemed like an eternity and a half. When she was awake, either Dad or Yang or a nurse was there to talk to her through the drugs.

 

When she was asleep, she dreamed.

 

Everything seemed so distorted through the red fog. She saw her dreams like a window, fractured sheets of shattered glass, spinning through the evening air. Sometimes, Torchwick would make the jump and get away. Either he would shoot her, or she wouldn't get there in time, or she would forget to activate her semblance, or she would have just stayed with the shopkeeper. Sometimes, she never even made in through the grunts, disarmed and tortured, captured, or killed.

 

Sometimes she traded places with him. They were both murderers, after all. She would stare down the barrel of her cane and shoot him in the head, or he would rake a scythe down the length of her body. He would capture her, too. The questioning room was black and white, or would be if the scarlet film hadn't painted it crimson. They would come one by one, her family and teachers and friends.

 

Torchwick only ever asked her, “Why?”

 

And then Torchwich was gone, and others Ruby knew found themselves underneath her scythe. She wielded the instrument of death, after all. What difference did it make, whether she killed a friend or foe? His grunts. A shopkeeper. A Grimm, a nameless terror that had plagued her dreams for years. Her Signal friends. The blonde woman. Dad. Yang.

 

In her dreams, Ruby desperately called out. Help me, please! Make this stop! Make this go away!

 

One time, she woke up shaking. Curling up as much as possible, she whispered “No, no, no, no, no...” over and over again, trying to make everything disappear.

 

“Ruby! Ruby! Calm down, please, it's me, it's Yang, I'm here. Nurse!”

 

Shaking her head, Ruby curled up even tighter until she felt another wave take her under, sending her back into unconsciousness.

 

This time, her dreams were different. Stumbling through the fog, she saw a hand reaching out towards her. Recoiling, she drew Crescent Rose and waved it out in front of her. The scythe still had bloodstains on it as she yelled, “Go away! Leave me alone!”

 

“No.”

 

The hand disappeared, and the person behind it reappeared next to her, touching her bare shoulder. Ruby turned to stare at the person next to her as a wave of calm washed over her body.

 

The girl was shorter than her, which caught Ruby's attention because nobody was shorter than her anymore. Half of her hair was bubblegum pink, while the other was a rich dark brown. Similarly, her eyes were two entirely different colors. She was entirely naked, and was looking at Ruby with the strangest expression in her eyes.

 

“Who… are you?”

 

The girl gave her a hard smile. “Neo. Are your dreams gone?”

 

Ruby nodded, and Neo vanished from her dreamscape. Looking out into the blackness around her, she was finally able to fall into a deep slumber.

 


 

Ruby smiled as Yang walked into the hospital room. “Hey, Yang.”

 

Her sister smiled tiredly as she settled down in a chair next to Ruby's bed. “Hey, you're awake.”

 

She nodded, fidgeting in her bed. She had only been awake for two hours, but she had already run through all of the games on her Scroll, read all of the eBooks she had downloaded, and gone through all of her good ideas for waiting (juggling the tissues and water on her bedside table). “This sucks! I hate staying in bed!”

 

Yang bit her lip and frowned. “The doctors said they can let you go tomorrow, but they want to make sure that your cast is good. Are you… okay?”

 

Ruby stared at Yang's worried expression, fiddling her thumbs underneath her flimsy hospital sheets. The doctors had taken her off of painkillers the day before, so her arm was throbbing with a ghostly pain she couldn't quite ignore. No. She gave Yang her best smile. “Yeah, I'm just bored! Don't worry about me.”

 

Something crossed through Yang's expression, and she leaned back in her chair. “How can I not worry about you? My little sister goes after Vale's most wanted criminal and came back with a broken arm that needed two reconstructive surgeries! Ruby, we thought you- that you- you-” Unable to finish her sentence, she embraced her as tightly as possible. “I'm just glad you're alive.”

 

She returned the embrace with her uninjured arm. “I'm glad that I'm alive too.”

 

I shouldn't be alive.

 

Yang broke the embrace and glanced down at her scroll. “Look, I've got to be back at school by seven, but-”

 

Ruby's eyes lit up. “School? You're at Beacon now! How's that?”

 

“It's good.”

 

She waited patiently through a pregnant pause before realizing that Yang wasn't going to say anything else, and was staring off at the wall. “That's… it?”

 

“Mhm.”

 

“Oh, come on! You gotta give me more than that! Is it as cool as it looks in Beacon 3: Return of the Grimm? Are there lots of awesome weapons? What about the people? Have you done awesome fighting like wa-cha ka- ow!” Ruby winced as her arm gave a sharp pang in the middle of her combat demonstration.

 

Her sister shrugged, not taking her eyes off of the wall. “It's pretty cool, I guess. It does look a lot like the game. A lot of people have swords-”

 

“Really? What kind of swords? Did you get to see their components? What do they do?”

 

Ruby flinched as Yang got to her feet and spun around to look at her. Yang gave her a hard stared and took a deep breath before her red aura faded around her. “Hey, Ruby, is there anything that you want from the hospital shop?”

“Yang?” She stared up at her big sister. “What's wrong? Did I say something?”

 

“No, it's- I mean, there's nothing wrong. Really, don't worry about it. Anything?”

 

“Well...” Ruby thought for a second, then she grinned mischievously. “Does the shop have any cookies?”

 

Yang rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I'm sure that there are cookies. I'll be back, okay?”

 

“M'kay.”

 

Her sister left the room, and she sank down into her pillow as she left. What's up with Yang? She's acting all funny, like that time she was making a lot of noise in her room and wouldn't tell me what it was.

 

Maybe Yang was angry at her because of what she had done. Actually, now that Ruby thought about it, that had to be it. She was a murderer after all. Was she going to go to jail? She frowned as she thought about it; what if they didn't have red jumpsuits? At least there were cool weapons in prison. She thought back to a prison video game that she had played a while ago. She had made an awesome pipe sword out of bedsprings and toilet paper, and she probably could recreate it if she had to. It would be sad that Yang and Dad wouldn't be able to come and visit her, but they probably wouldn't want to anyways.

 

She tried to roll over, but the tug of the IV cables stopped her. Angrily, she stared at the white cast on her arm. See, if I was dead, this wouldn't be a problem! Sighing, her thoughts drifted off toward Ro-

 

Nope, she was not going to think about that. Reaching over, she grabbed her Scroll and turned on the holoscreen across the room.

 

When Yang came back, Ruby was halfway through watching Grimm Hunters X: Revenge of the Fallen. She looked over as Yang put down a pack of chocolate chip cookies on her bedside. “Here you go. You're watching this terrible movie again?”

 

“Hey, it's not terrible!” she protested. “Elisse is awesome!”

 

“You only like her because she has a hammer. All video game movies are terrible!”

 

“Nope.”

 

“Whatever Ruby.”

 

“...”

 

“...”

 

“Yang?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Do you hate me now?”

 

Yang flinched back as if she had been struck. “What? Of course I don't! How could you possibly think that?”

 

Ruby sniffled, and she felt her tears starting to gather. “But don't you ha- hate me after what I did?”

 

“Ruby...” Yang embraced her again. “What you did… It was self defense. Torchwick-” Ruby flinched, and Yang hugged her tighter. “He was a criminal, Ruby. He's killed tons of people, and he would have killed you and even more if you hadn't stopped him. You can't beat yourself up over this! Please, just- Dad and I love you, Ruby. That will never change. Never.”

 

Ruby started to sob into her shoulder, and for a long time, the two sisters just sat there, holding each other tightly as possible. Finally, Yang broke away. “Look, I have to catch the ride back to Beacon. I'll- I'll be back soon, okay?”

 

“Okay.”

 

Despite herself, Ruby smiled as she watched Yang go, before turning to the pack of cookies that she had left behind. A hungry glint filled her eyes as she reached towards them ravenously.

 

Some things just never change.

 


 

That night, Ruby dreamed about Neo.

 


 

“Miss Rose. May I come in?”

 

Ruby looked up to see a man with with silver hair and glasses standing at the doorway. Quickly, she turned her scroll off and said, “Um, hi. Sure. Who are you?”

 

He nodded graciously as he swept into the room, sitting down at her bedside. “My name is Ozpin. I trust that you have been making a speedy recovery from your surgery?”

 

“Yup. The nurses here were all super nice, and they say that my cast can come off in a week!”

 

He smiled. “Medical technology these days is truly a marvel. Now, since you didn't recognize my name, I assume that you were unaware that I have been overseeing your medical process?” Ruby shook her head. “Well, you are quite the lucky girl right now. For a moment, we were worried that we would have to amputate your arm, but we were able to save it. You took quite the blow when you hit the ground.”

 

Ruby's gut sank as she cast her eyes down towards her arm. “I guess so.”

 

“Tell me, Miss Rose. Why did you decide to go after Torchwick?”

 

“I- I- He was going to get away! I didn't- I- I mean...”

 

“Ruby.” She stared up at him with frightened eyes. “You are not at fault for the death of Roman Torchwick. You must understand that.”

 

“But-”

 

Ozpin shook his head. “You have received a fine education at Signal Academy, and you should be feeling proud of your abilities. Otherwise, you would most certainly be dead right now.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“Why do you want to become a huntress?”

 

Ruby thought about that for a second, ignoring the cold feeling in her chest. “I guess it's because I want to protect people, like my mom did.”

 

“Roman Torchwick was a criminal, Miss Rose. He has killed hundreds of innocent people and committed every sort of crime you can imagine. Were you not protecting people through your actions?”

 

She shook her head vigorously. “But that's different, I-”

 

“You stopped one of the most dangerous criminals in Remnant. You saved lives through your actions. Regardless of what you may be telling yourself, you are a hero. Is that not what you wanted, to protect?”

 

“No! I never wanted to be a- a- murderer!” Ruby shouted, sitting up straighter in her bed. “How could you say something like that?”

 

“Ozpin!” Ruby looked up in surprise as her dad barged into the room. “What are you saying to my daughter? I thought we agreed-”

 

“Quiet, Taiyang. She has to understand this.” He spoke with a quiet intensity that demanded attention, attention that was ripped out of Ruby like a broken valve. “Do you remember the proverb that you were told on the first day of combat class at Signal?”

 

“Um...” Ruby's brow furrowed; hadn't she slept through that entire class? “Wasn't it something like 'The worst monsters are never the Grimm, but come in human skin?'”

 

“Ruby,” Ozpin's voice carried a vulnerable tone that hadn't been there before. “I wish that I didn't have to teach you this lesson now, but I am afraid that I have no choice. You are too young, but we are short on time. Young hunters and huntresses are idealistic, and this is always the hardest lesson to teach. There are good and bad people in this world, and it is our duty to protect the good and innocent, at any cost. These is a reason that hunters are trained in combat against humans. When the innocent come under fire, there are times when hunters must take human life to protect them.”

 

“No...” Ruby shook her head, “No, that can't be true!”

 

“It is. I am sorry, Ruby. However, you have done nothing wrong. The council has already commended your actions.”

 

Ruby's eyes widened. “No, I can't believe that!”

 

Ozpin sighed. “What do you intend to do when you are discharged tomorrow?”

 

“Oh, um...” Ruby thought about it for a second. “I guess I'm just going back to Signal, right? The term started last week, right?”

 

“You will be going back to school tomorrow. However, that school will not be Signal.”

 

“Huh?”

 

Her dad finally stopped leaning back on his hands against the wall and knelt down next to Ruby. “Ruby, Ozpin is the headmaster at Beacon Academy. He and I have both agreed that it is in your best interests to go there.”

 

Ruby stared at Taiyang slack jawed. “What? But… I'm fifteen!”

 

Ozpin stood up and started to walk towards the door. “We have decided that you are a special case, Miss Rose. Our psychological services are the best in Remnant, as are our classes. You have clearly already proven yourself to be adept with your weapon, and we wish to see you continue to progress. The choice is yours of course. Would you like to attend Beacon Academy?”

 

“Yes! Of course I want to go!” Ruby squealed, before remembering why she was getting the invitation in the first place.

 

“Miss Rose, we understand what you're going through right now.” Ozpin said as he twisted the doorknob open. “Please think about what I told you. Oh, and also?”

 

“Welcome to Beacon.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Two: False Idol

 


 

re:Bound

A Fanfiction By Pokefan87

Chapter Publish Date: 6/23/17

 


 

They walked among the things that were hidden, bare feet sinking into the soft moss and crackling against the dried leaves. The fog swirled around them, tinging the pine trees with a scarlet luxury reserved for the deciduous forests, a last blaze of glory before they would wither and die. They wore their false crowns, blinded in the haze of what could be, rulers of a land none would ever see.

 

Ruby's breath came in deep gasps as she sprinted through the woods, bare feet pounding against the ground. Her semblance sent her flying alongside a river of blood, soaking the rose petals as they drifted down to the viscous surface. Where was she running to? Where had she come from? All she knew was that she had to run, had to get away, but was forced to come to a stop as a cliff loomed large in front of her.

 

On a rock balanced at the edge of the cliff, a girl stood, looking out over the clouded domain below. She hesitated as she walked up to her, whose back was turned away. Shrouded, Neo's form was silhouetted against the fog, bare curves held against the cloying fog. “Where are we?”

 

Neo turned to look at her, an unsettling smirk plastered onto her face. “We are here, of course. Where else would we be?”

 

Ruby looked from herself to the other girl, laughing with surprised innocence as she did so. “We're both naked. Why are we naked?”

 

“Should we be clothed? Who do you need to hide from? Why are you running in the dark?”

 

Ruby opened her mouth to respond, then frowned. She looked up to see Neo staring down at her. “I… don't know?”

 

“Wrong.” Neo waved her hand, and the mist around them dissipated slightly, revealing hundreds of Grimm wandering around the forest around them. Ruby recoiled with a whimper, arms flying to cover herself as best she could. Staggering backward, her exposed back touched the cold rock behind her. I'm trapped!

 

Fear rolled off her in waves, and the Grimm turned to look at her. She cried out as she watched them slowly stalk towards her. The cold red light tinged their bone white faces, sending waves of fear through her body. She froze a ghostly memory floated through her head.

 

She and Yang, pressed up against a fallen tree trunk, screamed as a pack of Beowolves circled in around them. Just as they were about to attack, Uncle Qrow jumped in and saved them, but not before one raked its claws down Ruby's leg.

 

Ruby's breath grew heavier and heavier. She sank down the side of the rock, ghostly light sending Neo's shadow flying over her. The black beasts came closer and closer, and she yelled, “Make them stop!”

 

The Grimm stopped in their tracks, and Neo suddenly appeared in front of Ruby, towering over her hunched form. “Ruby Rose, when you are with me, I am your god. I know and control every aspect of what you can see. Do you understand?”

 

She shook her head rapidly, and the Grimm around her snarled. “No! Who are you? How are you doing this?”

 

Neo's face darkened, and she clenched her fists. “Why are you still alive? You should be dead!” She strode forwards, and Ruby pushed herself even further back against the boulder. “Nobody gave you the right to ask me that, murderer. You deserve to be afraid, to float down that river in your own blood.”

 

Ruby gasped as the cliff began to rumble before collapsing underneath her feet, sending her and the Grimm tumbling down into the abyss below. She screamed as she fell, watching Neo recede into the air above her. The rocky ground rushed towards her, and she prepared herself for the inevitable.

 

Instead of hitting the ground, her surroundings disappeared, leaving nothing but four mirrors forming a box around her. She stared at her nude reflection when suddenly she felt tingly. She gasped as her form began to change. She shrank downward, her build becoming even more petite as her facial features rearranged themselves. She blinked, and found herself staring back at Neo's reflection.

 

“I control you, Ruby Rose,” she found herself saying against her will, muscles moving involuntarily. “And I'm going to make sure that you never forget that.”

 

Unable to do anything else, Ruby reached inside of herself and screamed as loud as she possibly could. Her body exploded in a burst of white energy, and she found the strength to yell, “Let me go!”

 

Under too much strain, the mirrors shattered into a million pieces, returning her to darkness.

 


 

Ruby gasped as she pressed her nose against the thick glass barrier, the only separation between her and thin air. “Wow, you really can see all of Vale from here! This is so cool, isn't it?” She looked behind her for confirmation, then drooped as she realized there was none to be found. “Oh, that's right. Nobody's here.”

 

The dimly lit interior of the Beacon student shuttle was empty aside from a lone security guard softly snoring at his post. Rows of empty chairs, worn down by years and years of rowdy students, stared towards the front of the airship. At Ruby's foot, a lone piece of paper, presumably dropped by a student, was crumpled up into a small ball and cast aside.

 

She laughed slightly, half nervous and half lonely. “Well, Ruby, can't let this take away from the view?” Sighing, she turned back to stared out the window.

 

Maybe it's better that I'm alone here. It's not like anyone would want to talk to a murderer anyways.

 

But they could have cool weapons?

 

Dammit, you're right!

 

A head poked out of the captain's office. “Miss Rose, were you talking to me?” She shook her head, and he disappeared back into the cockpit without a second glance.

 

Vale seemed so tiny from above. It was almost like that one time when Dad had taken her and Yang to the Vale Child's Museum. A traveling artist from Vacuo had constructed an elaborate miniature model of Vale as a playground, with all of the buildings magnetically attached to their spaces on the map. She smiled as she remembered how Yang had gone on an absolute rampage, sending building and children alike flying across the museum floor. They hadn't gone back since. Dad always got a funny look in his eye when she suggested it, muttering something about “bills” and “warranties.”

 

Ruby frowned thoughtfully as she looked back over the city. Where would she go after Beacon kicked her out? Yang and Dad certainly wouldn't want her in the house anymore, so she would have to find somewhere. Maybe in the abandoned part of the city? She wondered whether there would be enough spare parts out there to fix Crescent Rose. Would she even be able to get back into the city?

 

“Welcome to Beacon Academy, the finest academy for young hunters and huntresses in the world. Please enjoy your stay,” a pre-recorded voice message droned over the intercom.

 

Ruby started as she realized that she had been dozing off against the window, and now had a fine view of a concrete landing pad. Jumping away from the window, her hand flew to her back. Crescent Rose's collapsed form was comforting, and she pushed the memory of its blade embedded six inches deep in a criminal's chest as far to the back of her mind as she could. Crescent Rose is mine! You can't take her away from me!

 

Walking over, she grabbed her luggage from next to her seat and walked towards the open exit ramp. She took a deep breath, then stepped out onto the landing pad.

 

Beacon was one of the most glorious sights she had ever seen in her life. The fortress was massive, constructed with the finest marble. The grounds marked flowing garden after garden, crowned by magnificent stone arches and sculptures. Atop the school, a series of spires gave way to a towering clock tower that loomed over Vale.

 

Her own troubles forgotten, Ruby gasped as she stared at the scene before her. Is… Is this really happening? Have these last two weeks been real? I can't- I'm a student. At Beacon. Which is in front of me. This isn't real. This can't be real. I'm really still home, and I never- Torchwick- No, I'm here. I'm not thinking about that. I'm thinking about everything except that. What was that song?

 

Holding her bag steady, she unzipped the front pocket and pulled out her scarlet headphones. Hands shaking, she plugged the ends into her Scroll, then froze as she saw the music that popped up.

 

This Will Be The Day, Jeff Williams, 1:06. The exact song and time she had paused her music at the night of-

 

No. This was before. Listening to it now- It'll be like nothing ever happened.

 

Hesitating slightly, she slipped the headphones over her head and pressed play. As she did, her Scroll blinked with a new message from Yang that read, “Meet Goodwitch by the main hall. C u soon, k?”

 

Ruby started to walk purposefully towards Beacon. This was a new start, a new beginning. She was going to make it a new beginning. Everything was going to change.

 

The stone walkway grew shorter and shorter as she approached the school.

 

 

Heads turned as Ruby walked up to the massive main doors. She could see people staring at her, leaning in to whisper to their friends. She knew they were pointing at her, at her weapon, at her clothes. Biting her lip, she pulled her hood over her head as she walked into the school.

 

 

They don't want you here. You're not supposed to be here. You're too young. What can a fifteen year old do against a bunch of seventeen year olds? You won't last a week. This is a ll fake . This is a dream. This is all going to disappear.

 

 

Murderer.

 

 

Murderer.

 

“Miss Rose!”

 

Ruby jumped back wildly as her eyes shot up from her feet to see the blond woman who had saved her after- well, she was standing right in front of her, wearing a stern expression on her face. Quickly, she slipped her headphones down around her neck and dropped her hood. “Oh, um, hi!”

 

The older woman pursed her lips as she said, “Are you alright? You seemed to be disturbed on your way in.”

 

No. “I'm fine, I was just… thinking,” she said as she put on her best smile. “Actually, can you help me find someone called Goodwitch?”

 

Glynda Goodwitch raised her eyebrow. “That would be me. In this facility, I will be referred to as Ms. Goodwitch.”

 

“Oh! I'm Ruby, I'm supposed to meet you then, I guess?”

 

“I know, Miss Rose.”

 

Ruby blushed and looked at the floor, giggling nervously. “Yeah, I knew that.”

 

Glynda sighed as she started to walk away. “Ozpin told me you would be arriving today. Please, follow me. I'm supposed to take you to your team's room.”

 

Ruby perked up slightly at that. “Teams?”

 

“Are you not aware of how Beacon operates?”

 

“Well...” She grabbed her luggage and followed the imposing teacher. “There are the Grimm, and there are us, and we learn how to go and kill the Grimm!”

 

“Yes, Miss Rose, but there is more to it than that. For the next three years, you will be working together with a team of three other hunters. You will do everything together, from eating meals to fighting. One of the most important lessons that a young hunter must learn is that they cannot fight alone, an experience that you have already had and seen the effects of.”

 

“But-”

 

Glynda turned around midway through climbing up a short stairwell and stared down at Ruby. “There is no argument. You will learn how to work on a team.”

 

“But what if they don't want me?” Ruby blurted out, then stared down at her feet.

 

“They have not been given that option. Now, you will be taking a series of classes...”

 

Ruby spaced out as Glynda droned on about classes and homework. What’s the big deal? Isn’t the whole point here just to learn how to fight? Instead, she stared at her surroundings, which had changed from the cavernous entry hall to a series of narrow corridors with large hardwood doors. Each door had a single plaque on in with four capital letters engraved into the bronze surface. The floors were covered with a fine brown carpet and marble tiling. I wonder how soft it is...

 

“Have you been listening to anything that I just said?”

 

She blinked. “Huh? Yeah, of course! You were talking about teamwork, and classes, and stuff like that, right?”

 

Glynda sighed, massaging her temple before putting her hands on her hips. “I suppose I will leave it to your instructors to impart some sense of obedience on you. It is certainly too early for me to do this today. Hold out your Scroll.”

 

She nodded, and fumbled through old candy wrappers and a mess of cables as she dug her Scroll out of her pocket and held it out. The teacher held out a matching device and tapped it to hers. “I have transferred your schedule for the day onto there. You have two hours to unpack and to meet your teammates, and then you are expected in the infirmary to have your cast removed. Do you understand?” She nodded, and Glynda gestured to the door on their right. “This is your room.”

 

Ruby stared at the door. Unlike the others she had seen in the hall, this one was unadorned, a slot intended for a plaque left empty. Reaching out, she grabbed the metal doorknob. Hesitating for a second, she twisted and pushed inwards.

 

Inside, three girls were sitting around a low seated table playing a game of cards. The walls were painted a warm yellow, and two sets of bunk beds were pushed against opposite walls. A door off to one side of the room led to a small bathroom, and a low-set bookshelf was pushed underneath a wide bay window. The window looked out over the entrance with an amazing view of the gardens below. At the table, one of the girls slammed down all five of her cards and yelled, “Hah! I have a flush, I win!”

 

Ruby’s eyes widened as she recognized a familiar head of blonde hair. “Yang?”

 

Yang looked up, and grinned victoriously. “Hey Ruby! Did you see me beat these two losers in the ground? I always win at poker!”

 

“That’s because you cheat,” a girl with raven black hair and a bow muttered.

 

Yang’s smirk dropped right as Ruby tackled her with a hug. “I didn’t know I was going to be on your team!”

 

Her older sister groaned as she rolled her off her and onto the floor. “Yeesh, Ruby, that cast is like a rock. Don’t hurt me!”

 

Ruby laughed, then looked up to see the other two girls staring at her. There was a short awkward silence, which was broken by Glynda as she poked her head into the room. “I’m going to leave you girls alone. Ruby, if you’re not in the infirmary by four, you will have detention before your first class starts.” Without waiting for the answer, she left, shutting the door behind her.

 

“Just ignore Goodwitch,” Yang whispered conspiratorially as she leaned in towards Ruby. “She probably hasn’t had sex in a decade.”

 

She flushed bright red. “Yang!”

 

“Um…”

 

Ruby looked up to see a white haired girl staring down at her with a calculating expression. “Hi? I’m Ruby.”

 

“I know.”

 

The expression the other girl was giving her was so cold that it made her shudder, and she looked away. “Okay…”

 

“Don’t mind Weiss,” the girl with black hair said as she settled down on her bed with a book. “I’m Blake, by the way. Nice to meet you.”

 

Ruby grinned at Blake as she got up from the floor and dragged her bag over to what looked like an unoccupied bed. Great! She seems friendly, so talk to her. Let’s see… “Uh, what book are you reading?”

 

Blake lifted an eyebrow. “It’s our history textbook. You know, for homework?”

 

“Oh.”

 

Blake went back to her book, and Ruby, Weiss, and Yang all sat around awkwardly staring at each other. Ruby kicked herself as she frowned down at the table. Dammit, Rose! “I, uh… I’m going to unpack now.”

 

Weiss pointed at a set of drawers pushed into the far corner. “That’s yours.”

 

Wordlessly, Ruby dragged her suitcase over to the drawers and started to empty out its contents. Clothes in one drawer, toiletries in another, Crescent Rose on top. Stepping back, she admired her handiwork. “Alright, feels like home already!” she cheered halfheartedly, trying to recapture her earlier enthusiasm.

 

“Is that your scythe?” Ruby turned around to see Weiss pointing at the red weapon on her drawers.

 

Her eyes lit up, and she nodded happily. “Did Yang tell you about it?” Grabbing it, she unsheathed it, feeling the familiar thrill as its mechanical unfurling unleashed the scythe into the dorm room. “Isn’t it awesome?”

 

Weiss took a step backwards, and Ruby frowned as she saw the strangest expression in her eyes. “It… Um… Are those bloodstains?”

 

Ruby looked up to the blade, and her stomach dropped as she realized the blade was still crusted with Roman’s blood. “Yang, you didn’t clean it before I got it back?”

 

Yang gave a shuddering sigh, then stood up. “Ruby,” she said with a false calm, an authoritative tone to her voice. “Put the scythe away in the dorm room. You’re making Weiss nervous.”

 

She frowned as her weapon retracted back to its compact form. “It’s also a blaster rifle like this?” she offered hesitantly. “What weapon do you use?”

 

Weiss squeezed her eyes shut and massaged her temples as she sat down at the lone desk in their dorm room. “A sword. I use a sword. It’s on my bed.”

 

Ruby’s eyes lit up as she used her semblance to cross the room to Weiss’ bed, lifting the sword on it up. The rapier had an ornery hilt with several large containers for dust strapped to its side. She shook it as she ran her hands over the length of the blade, trying to figure out how it worked. “What’s its name? What does it do?”

 

“Its name is Myrtenaster, it doesn’t ‘do’ anything, and I would ask you to handle Schnee family property with more respect than that!” the other girl snapped as she strode across the room and snatched her sword out of Ruby’s grip.

 

“That’s weird. If it’s your sword, then why does it belong to your family?”

 

Yang buried her face in her hands. “Weiss, please, she doesn’t know-”

 

“Are you telling me that you have never heard of the Schnee Family Dust Company?” Weiss said in a dangerously calm tone.

 

Ruby cocked her head innocently. “Am I supposed to have?”

 

“My wonderful father was nice enough to lend me this sword for my use straight out of his personal armory,” she snapped at her. “And unlike you, I don't walk into a room waving it around like there's a cloud of Grimm flying around my head. You know we come to this school to learn how to fight, right?”

 

“I know that!” Ruby shot back, heat coloring her face as she clutched Crescent Rose.

 

“Weiss...” Yang said in a warning tone.

 

Blake looked up from her book, and her bow twitched irritably. “Weiss, stop.”

 

Weiss narrowed her eyes. “Take her side, will you?” She swirled around the room, shooting glares at the two other girls. “I am the heiress of the second most powerful company in the world! I came to this school to become a huntress, not to be left with a fifteen year old delinquent with a bloody pigsticker as my partner! Forgive me if I seem a bit irritated.” Shoving her sword into her belt, she stormed out of the room as her light blue dress billowed out in her wake.

 

Ruby slumped as she watched the other girl go. “Weiss?”

 

Yang and Blake glanced at each other, and Blake said, “I'll go after her.” Hurriedly, she got to her feet and ran after Weiss.

 

“Yang, what did Weiss mean, partners?”

 

Her sister looked at her tiredly. “During initiation, we were paired up with the first person we made direct eye contact with. Weiss was the odd one out.”

 

“Because I wasn't there?”

 

“Look, Ruby...” Yang sighed. “I really have to go after her too. Can you please go down to the armory and clean Crescent Rose off?”

 

“But-”

 

“Please?” Yang shot her a final look before running out of the room.

 

Ruby stared at the wooden door as it swung shut in her sister's wake. When it clicked shut, she sagged, the tip of Crescent Rose coming to rest on the ground. What did I do wrong?

 

Looking down at her weapon, she sighed. Maybe if she had just checked it before she had come, this wouldn't have happened. Had the hospital had a weapons workshop?Settling down at the table, she pushed the discarded card game to one side and pulled out her scroll from her pocket and opened up one of the games she had been playing. Maybe they'll come back.

 

An hour later, she had gotten bored with the game, and her new teammates still weren't back at the room. The dorm room seemed so much darker without other people to cheer it up, and she pushed the door open as she grabbed Crescent Rose and stepped outside.I guess they really do hate me. Maybe I should listen to Yang and go find the weapons workshop.

 


 

“Wait a second… Ruby Rose?”

 

Ruby looked up from her workbench. Her hands were covered with suds and grime, and she dropped her sponge back into the bucket of soapy water at her feet. Crescent Rose still was tinged crimson, but the majority of the bloodstains were gone.

 

Across from her, a girl with bright red hair wearing a strange Mistrali set of armor had sat down, and was staring at her. In front of her, she had dropped a javelin and shield onto the table, and her hands loosely rested on the long weapon's hilt. She seemed vaguely familiar, but Ruby couldn't quite place her. I feel like I've seen her somewhere before. “Do I know you?”

 

The other girl shrugged. “You might. My name is Pyrrha Nikos?”

 

She thought about it for a second, then shook her head. “No, never mind. I probably just saw you on my way in. Nice to meet you!” Frowning, she squeezed out her sponge into the bucket and returned to scrubbing her weapon's blade. “Should I?”

 

Pyrrha broke out into a broad smile and shook her head. “No, don't worry about it… Wait a second, is that blood?”

 

Ruby nodded, grabbing a screwdriver to detach a component from the blade. Setting it aside and carefully sorting the screws into separate compartments, she used her semblance to scrub the now exposed metal. “I'm sorry, I haven't had a chance to clean it yet...”

 

Gasping and making a funny retching noise, Pyrrha said, “Wait, there's still blood on there from- No, no, I don't want to know. I was telling you that your knuckles are bleeding.”

 

Ruby stopped scrubbing for a second and looked down. Sure enough, tiny drops of scarlet were dripping down her raw knuckles. “Oh. Is there a first aid kit anywhere?”

 

Nodding vigorously, the redhead got up from her seat and walked over to a nearby wall. Grabbing a white box, she opened it and pulled out a bottle of ointment and a roll of bandages. “Here, can you wash your hands?”

 

She nodded, and walked over to a freestanding sink. The grimy handle squeaked as it turned, sending cold water washing down over her hands. “How do you know my name? Did Yang tell you?”

 

“Yang Xiao Long? Why would she have told me?”

 

“She's my sister. How else would you know my name?”

 

Pyrrha frowned thoughtfully as Ruby sat back down and reached her hand out across the table. “Huh? You and Yang are sisters? I would have never guessed, you two look nothing alike.”

 

She shrugged, then winced as Pyrrha sprayed the ointment over her raw skin. “Well, I guess we're really half sisters. We have different moms and the same dad.”

 

“Wow. Okay.” Pulling off a good portion of the bandage, she carefully wrapped Ruby's hand. “You're really beat up. This and a cast, that's really gotta suck. Anyways, I know your name the same way everyone else does, obviously.”

 

Ruby's stomach sank. What is she talking about? “Obviously?”

 

“You don't know.” Pyrrha laughed, shaking her head. “I- um- Do you never watch the news?”

 

She shook her head. “Why would I watch any of that boring grown-up stuff?”

 

The other girl bit her lip. “Well, you've been on it for the last week, basically 24/7. Didn't you kill Roman Torchwick?”

 

Ruby's eyes widened. “Really?” For a moment, she was ecstatic. I was on TV! That's so cool!Then, she remembered why, and her face fell. “So that's why Weiss hates me. She must not want to be partners with a murderer.”

 

“Huh? Murderer?”

 

“I look like one too. That's why I'm here.” She looked up at Pyrrha. “You probably don't want to be friends with me either.”

 

Pyrrha had a funny expression on her face, and she took a deep breath as she frowned. “Well, I will admit that the blood was a little bit… off putting, but you're not a murderer, Ruby. You took down a dangerous criminal, and that makes you a hero! Why wouldn't I want to be your friend? Also, what were you saying about Weiss?”

 

“I'm not a hero,” she muttered tonelessly, starting to scrub Crescent Rose again.

 

“Careful!” Pyrrha stood up and walked around the bench, catching her wrist before she could activate her semblance. “Really, it looks fine. The- the blood just looks like a decoration now, okay? Fits in with the whole red aesthetic?” She gave her a forced smile. “Please don't hurt yourself more.”

 

“It doesn't hurt,” Ruby said. It was more like a dull ache, just another bruise to add to all of her others. If anything, it made her feel the other ones less than she already did. The pain was nice, in a way; she could just ignore everything else around her and focus in on it.

 

“O-okay, if you say so.” Pyrrha sighed as she sat back down on the bench. “Now, what were you saying about Weiss?”

 

“I don't know. I was being friendly and showing her Crescent Rose, and she just stormed out of the room. Blake and Yang followed her, so I guess they don't want to be near me either.”

 

Pyrrha frowned, thinking for a moment. “Well, I'm not sure exactly what happened, but Weiss is… a very proud person,” she said diplomatically. “I'm sure that she was upset after she didn't get paired up during initiation. I wouldn't be surprised if she tried to take it out on you.”

 

“So it is my fault,” Ruby said flatly, staring at her distorted reflection in the blade beneath her.

 

“No, you were in the hospital. There's nothing you could have done about it. It's not your fault at all.” The other girl picked at a bronze cuff around her wrist, and the bench shifted slightly as her foot tapped insistently against the ground.

 

“Was that on the news too?”

 

“Yeah

 

“How much do you know about me?”

 

“I- Not much, actually.” Pyrrha frowned and looked away at the wall, and the weapons shop fell silent. She sat for a moment, then stood up and walked around the table. Sitting down at her original seat, she picked up her javelin and started to go through a routine maintenance check up.

 

“Oh.” Ruby picked up her scythe with her good arm and walked to the open area of the weapons shop. Quickly, she opened and closed the blade, nodding in satisfaction as the mechanics ran smoothly. She launched into a complicated practice routine, struggling to keep Crescent Rose balanced and accurate with her single arm.

 

“So, you like weapons?”

 

She nodded as she stopped, sweating slightly. “Yeah, this is Crescent Rose. I made it myself.”

 

Pyrrha nodded. “I'm actually kind of impressed that you can use something so much bigger than you are. How much practice did it take to be able to handle it so well?”

 

“I used to be terrible, really. I still would be, but my uncle helped me get a lot better. He's really awesome, and he uses a scythe too.”

 

Just as Ruby and Pyrrha were getting deep into discussion about fighting, her scroll beeped. Oops, I forgot about what Glynda said! “Sorry, Pyrrha, I have to go! I forgot that I'm getting my cast off now!”

 

Pyrrha smiled at her. “Do you want me to walk you there?”

 

“Sure, but-”

 

Pyrrha shook her head and smiled at her. “Really, it's not a big deal at all. I have to go back upstairs anyways. Now, come on, let's go!”

 

Ruby smiled faintly as she watched Pyrrha's red ponytail sway from side to side as she exited the shop in front of her. She seemed friendly, and she didn't seem to care about what she had done. Maybe this won't be all bad. Maybe Beacon will turn out okay!

 

Maybe things will be able to go back to the way they were before.

Chapter Text


 

re:Bound

 

A Fanfiction by Pokefan87

 

Chapter Publish Date: 8/23/17

 


 

Ruby saw herself painted in dawnlight.

 

The window pane was to cool for comfort, and her slim fingers haltingly curled upwards, straining against the thick bandage wrapped around her knuckles. Outside, her battered old Beacon brochure seemed to have come to life. Rows of topiary and flowering vines, stone paths wandering around perennials and under maple trees... No matter where she looked, the grounds were beautiful, and gardeners were already swarming around the flowers like honey bees.

 

She was there too, sort of. The reflection in the window was passing in the breeze, a faded stroke of messy bedhead and pale skin. She knew she was looking, but her eyes were shadows as a cloud passed over the rising sun. Then, her reflection was gone.

 

Is this a dream?

 

If it wasn't a dream, then why had Neo been in her reflection?

 

Shivering, she rubbed her hand over her pale shoulder, wishing her dad had packed her long pajamas. She walked over to her suitcase, haphazardly pushed under the bunk bed she had slept in last night. Digging through the pile of clothes starting to accumulate on top, she pulled out a black sweatshirt with her rose symbol embossed on the back. She yanked it over her head, brushed her hair back out of her face, then walked over to the shared desk pushed against the far wall.

 

After she had left the infirmary late last night, the nurse had handed her an envelope with a golden Beacon seal of the front. Now, Ruby excitedly dug her finger into the fold and quickly ripped the envelope open, grinning as she heard the satisfying tearing noise. She pulled the envelope out and read the first page.

 

Dear Miss Rose,

 

Due to your unique circumstances, your independent study will be conducted myself in my office, located in the top floor of the tallest tower. Should you have any worries or concerns, please direct them towards myself of Glynda. I will see you today at 4:00.

 

Yours truly,

 

Ozpin, Headmaster of Beacon Academy

 

Putting her curiousity aside for a moment, she set the letter aside to see an enclosed schedule underneath.

 

Beacon Academy Academic Schedule: First Year, First Semester

 

Rose, Ruby

 

Block One – Grimm Theory – Peter Port – 10:00

 

Block Two – Remnant History 100 – Bartholomew Oobleck – 11:15

 

Lunch – 12:30

 

Block Three – Combat Theory – Glynda Goodwich – 1:30

 

Block Four – TBD Elective – TBD – 3:15

 

Block Five – Independent Study – 4:00

 

She cheered as she realized she only had three real classes, then covered her mouth as Weiss grunted and shifted in her bed behind her. Oh, I totally forgot that everyone else is sleeping! Slowly, she turned around to see Yang sitting up in bed, giving her a death stare. Ruby gulped and waved at her sister, who groaned and stormed over to the bathroom, yanking the door shut behind her.

 

"Good morning."

 

She looked up to see Blake staring down at her over the cover of a thick hardcover book. "Oh, um, did I wake you up too? I-"

 

Blake shook her head. "No, I was already awake. I'm sure Yang apreciated getting woken up at 6:47 though."

 

"Really? She had that grumpy face she get whenever she goes out back and punches things really hard with Ember Celica."

 

Blake blinked, and Ruby could have sworn she saw her bow twitch. "Um, right. Okay."

 

"Why were you awake?"

 

"Couldn't sleep."

 

"Why couldn't you sleep?"

 

"It's nothing." Blake rolled over onto her side away from Ruby, and resumed reading her book.

 

Ruby watched her for a moment. "Did you have a bad dream?"

 

Blake stiffened in her bed, then slowly nodded. "Yeah, but... It's no big deal. I've had worse before. Why did you ask?"

 

Ruby shrugged. "So did I."

 

"Oh." Blake turned back to the book she was reading and started ignoring Ruby again. She sighed as she stood in the middle of the room, unsure of what to do. She could have sworn she saw a bit of pink moving out of the corner of her eye, but she dismissed it as her being tired.

 

"Ruby Rose." Ruby chuckled nervously as Yang stomped out of the bathroom and grabbed her shirt. "I don't care whether you're my sister or not. If you ever wake me up in the morning like that again, I am going to kill you and throw you out for the Grimm. Understood?"

 

Ruby saluted meekly. "You got it, sis!" she exclaimed, maybe a bit too loudly.

 

"Oh no! I forgot that she was here," Weiss said in shock and horror. Ruby turned around to see the older girl sitting up in bed giving Ruby a death stare. "Of course, I didn't expect to get a full night's sleep anymore now that we have a child here, of course." Airily, she knocked past Ruby and disappeared into the bathroom.

 

Yang grimaced at her. "Great first day so far, huh?"

 

And she doesn't even know about the nightmare...

 


 

She remembered it in fragments.

 

The man in black.

 

No matter where she ran, he followed.

 

Neo, always there, always watching.

 

She remembered it in blood.

 

 


 

"Ruby?"

 

Ruby frowned as she looked up from her bowl of cereal. She liked watching the milk slowly seep into her Cookie Crunch and drag it down to the bottom. Sometimes it made little bubbles on the top and colored the milk brown, although she usually had lost patience and ate it all before that happened. "Pyrrha, why are you over here?"

 

"To keep you company." Pyrrha readjusted her circlet on her head as Ruby turned back to poking at her cereal.

 

"I don't need company."

 

The older girl laughed, half in disbelief. "You're sitting in the far unlit corner of our massive cafeteria, staring at a wall alone." Setting her tray down on the table behind Ruby, she sat down and leaned forwards so Ruby was forced to look at her. "Come on, what's wrong?"

 

"Nothing."

 

Pyrrha shook her head. "I don't believe that. Where's the rest of your team?"

 

They hate me. "They didn't want to eat with me."

 

It was true, she knew. Weiss despised her, and Blake just ignored her. Yang... Yang deserved to have friends, and Ruby didn't want to screw that up for her.

 

"Well, I do," Pyrrha declared before she dug into her breakfast.

 

"Hey, what are you doing all the way over here, Pyrrha?"

 

Ruby turned around to see a boy with sandy hair and a battered old chestplate standing across the table. Sharply inhaling, she placed her cookies down on the table as Pyrrha said, "I was having breakfast with Ruby." The two of them fell into casual conversation, and Ruby tuned them out as she stared past the boy's shoulder.

 

Good morning, Ruby.

 

Neo was lounging on a nearby table, legs crossed and carelessly splayed over the pristine benches. A glittering parasol rested against her shoulder, and her smirk raised goosebumps on Ruby's arm. Stranger still, her entire body was... flickering. Slowly, her head tilted to one side as she rose from her seat.

 

"You're not real," she whispered under her breath, digging her fingernails into her palms.

 

Am I?

 

Neo's voice had an eerie ring that reverbrated through her mind. Ruby flinched as two cold, ice cold, fingertips rested against the back of her neck, fingernails lightly digging into her soft skin. Just as fast, the sensation was gone again. Neo's ghostly form in front of her vanished, then reappeared behind the boy. Her eyes shifted colors as she pulled her umbrella across her neck and pulled on the handle to reveal the gleaming silver of a blade concealed in it's hilt.

 

Should I, Ruby Rose?

 

No! She screamed internally, too frozen in fear to say anything out loud.

 

But what difference would it make? He's useless. He faked his applications to get into the school. He's failing all his classes. Besides...

 

For a moment, Ruby's surroundings disappeared, and she watched herself leap after Roman, then fall, then blood, crimson that filled her vision until all that she could see was a smile.

 

There are times when a hunter must take a human life, Ozpin's voice echoed in her head.

 

You enjoyed killing Roman.

 

You were a hero, Ruby Rose. Don't you want to feel that again?

 

All you have to do is say yes.

 

Ruby's eyes were wide as she looked up at Jaune, looked at his thin arms that had never seen a day of hard work or sun in their life, looked at-

 

No!

 

Neo's eyes narrowed. In a heartbeat, she had returned to her original spot, staring at her with a cold and calculating look that scared Ruby.

 

"Um, excuse me? Did you hear me? I said my name is Jaune."

 

Ruby gasped in a breath she hadn't realized she'd been waiting for and tore her eyes away from Neo. A hand had been thrust into her face, which she hastily shook. "Um, I, uh, hi?"

 

"Wow, you really were that spaced out," Jaune said in amazement as he sat down across from the two girls. "I guess you're just as tired as you look. Bad dreams?"

 

Ruby blinked. Well, I guess there was the one where a black figure was chasing me on Yang's motorcycle, outsped my semblance, captured me, and tortured me before ripping the aura from my body as Neo watched and laughed. "I guess so."

 

"That sucks," Jaune said, knowingly nodding his head. "You know, I had a nightmare once where I bought a hat with a cake on it, and when I got home, my sisters all trampled me to get it. It was awful."

 

Pyrrha's eyes shone with mirth as she said, "That's what keeps you up at night all the time?"

 

"It was that bad! You haven't met my sisters, they're evil!"

 

"I get it." That was another boy, accompanied by a tiny girl with fiery orange hair. His long hair had a distinctive purple streak that framed his angular face. "Try making Nora pancakes sometime, you'll see."

 

"But you don't let me eat them right after they're done! I don't want to wait that long," Nora pouted.

 

Pyrrha laughed, and turned back to Ruby. "Guys, this is Ruby. Ruby, this is Lie Ren and Nora Valkyrie. Together, we're team JNPR."

 

Ruby's stomach growled, and she was suddenly tired of Neo watching her. Staring down into her bowl, she carefully spooned a now soggy piece of Cookie Crunch into her mouth. It tasted the same as always, but somehow felt like eating ash. Quietly, she muttered, "I have to go." Picking up her spoon, she activated her semblance. Within seconds, she had downed the entire bowl of cereal, zoomed acros the cafeteria to place the dirty bowl in the dishwashing queue, and was back at the table to pick up her bag.

 

"Ruby?" Pyrrha called after her, but she ignored her.

 

"Was that-?" she could hear Ren ask as she walked away, a carefully calculated edge to voice.

 

"Ruby Rose, you guys should be nice to her. She's-"

 

Ruby sped away. She didn't deserve their pity.

 

No matter how fast she went, Neo was always still behind her.

 

Always behind.

 

Flickering.

 


 

"Weiss Schnee and Ruby Rose, you're up next in the arena!"

 

Ruby broke her blank stare on the far wall as Glynda called her name. Wildly, she got out of her seat and grabbed Crescent Rose before running into the center of the arena.

 

Her first day had been, more or less, a disaster. In Grimm Theory, Professor Port had called on her twice, and she had been forced to explain in front of the class just how behind on her schoolwork she was. When she had confronted the professor, he explained to her that as a Beacon student, she would recieve no preferential treatment, and had been expected to catch up on three chapters in the days between waking up and starting class. In Oobleck's class, she was out like a light, at least until Neo came.

 

Neo. She was everywhere, and Ruby wanted to scream her frusteration into the filled combat arena. In her classes, in her head, and she didn't know why.

 

"Ruby!" Her head snapped up to see Weiss glaring at her impatiently. "Be ready, you're wasting all of our time." Myrtenaster's tip was gently resting against the ground.

 

Ruby... I hope you're ready to play today...

 

Ruby narrowed her eyes as she unleashed Crescent Rose. Whispers rose up from the assembled crowd around her as they saw the blade, still not entirely clean from the attack. She could feel panic bubbling up in her throat, but she pushed it back down, choosing to focus on her anger at Neo instead. I'm going to win this, and there's nothing you can do about it.

 

Oh, really...

 

She bit her tongue to stop from screaming as Neo flickered into life around Weiss, her sword unsheathed in the same possition on Weiss. She cocked her head slightly, then mimed Weiss, who said, "Your move."

 

Your move.

 

Ruby shot forwards without a second thought. Semblace blurring the crowd around them, she launched herself into the air and took a wild swing at Weiss. The Schnee heiress glared as she sprang away on a small white glyph, sending the tip of Crescent Rose into the ground.

 

Hmm... That was the same move you killed Roman with...

 

Using her momentum, Ruby swang around on the tip of her scythe and shot a succession of quick shots at Weiss. Neo smirked at her as her partner wildly sprang from glyph to glyph before launching herself at Ruby.

 

Metal on aura. Back against the barrier. Ruby saw white.

 

Oh, so that's it... Neo stalked around Weiss, carelessly twirling her sword about. Makes sense, really. What could you, a little fifteen year old do to any opponent? It's not like you could hurt them, unless they had their back turned. You really ought to just forfeit. You're never going to win.

 

Ruby groaned as she got to her feet. Get out of my head!

 

Neo's smirk grew. You wish. Stepping next to Weiss, she assumed a ready position. Well? What are you waiting for?

 

Close combat. Weiss barely blocked Ruby's attack as she was suddenly put on the defensive. She faked one way then snaked out with Myrtenaster, just as Neo's blade came whistling towards Ruby's side. She jumped straight up then twisted and swung to block Neo's blade as it swang towards her.

 

To her shock, her swing went through Neo's blade, and the momentum from her swing sent her towards the ground. A phantom pain rocked her side as Neo's blade crashed into her side.

 

Forget something, did we?

 

But how- Gritting her teeth, Ruby rolled with her semblance as Weiss lunged forwards. Narrowing her eyes, she twisted toward other girl. Weiss pressed a button on her sword. As Ruby barreled forwards, an explosion of blue dust behind her set her off balance. Weiss sprang up with a glyph, narrowly passing over the blade of her scythe.

 

Ruby slammed the top of Crescent Rose and fired, sending her combat boots into Weiss' chest.

 

Weiss collided with the barrier and slid to the ground. A quick glance at the scoreboard showed that Ruby was behind a bit.

 

She didn't have any time to contemplate that before Neo was on top of her.

 

Her eyes were steely white as a flurry of blows exploded around Ruby. Even with her semblance, Ruby had a hard time dodging around them. If I attack her, will my blade just go through her? Realizing she didn't have enough endurance to keep up with Neo for long, she gripped Crescent Rose tighter and started fighting back.

 

Neo dodged gracefully, spiraling around Ruby as blows started to make it through Ruby's defense. Ruby was a whirlwind, sending Crescent Rose through Neo's sword but never hitting the girl. It was almost like she was...

 

You're cheating!

 

Neo gave her a chillingly vicious smile. I'm an illusion. What do you expect?

 

Then why do your blows hurt?

 

You're the only person who can see me, Ruby Rose. Just imagine how you look to all of them right now. But shouldn't you be looking at your partener right now?

 

Ruby spun around, only for Neo's blade to rake down her back from her right shoulder to her left leg. Unable to control her self, she arched her back as Wiess, still on the ground, looked on with something akin to horrid fascination. Eyes narrowing in determination, her partner leveled Myrtenaster at her and clicked open the red dust chamber.

 

Roman. Crescent Rose. Dust.

 

Blood.

 

Something inside of Ruby, a seething combination of fear and hate and self defense, took control. Launching herself into the cloud of dust, she brought Crescent Rose over her head and prepared to slam it do-

 

The world exploded into red light.

 

Ruby hit the wall and didn't come back up.

 


 

The floor was icy cold.

 

Her tears had started slowly, but now they were coming in heaving gasps and sobs, echoing through the heavy nothingness around her. She didn't really know what she was crying for here, but she was still in pain. She ached, and her back was on fire. She almost wanted to focus on that, just to drown everything else out.

 

Somebody...

 

Neo's touch was uncertain at first, and Ruby flinched away as she tried to brush a loose strand of hair out of her face. However, as Neo tried again, Ruby found herself crying into the offputting girl's exposed legs. The two of them sat there for a long time, until Ruby had no tears left to cry and her face felt hot and sticky. As she finally started to calm down, she realized who's leg she was lying on and recoiled.

 

"Ruby..." Neo's usual smirk was gone, replaced with a tiny frown. It was strange to see anything other than maliciousness on her face, but Ruby didn't care.

 

"Get away from me!" she cried. "Why are you ruining everything? Why can't you just go away?"

 

Neo's face fell, and she gritted her teeth. After a moment, she got to her feet and walked backwards as she slowly vanished.

 

Ruby blinked, and she was surrounded by mirrors. She caught her breath as she stared at her reflection.

 

She was covered from head to toe with splotchy bruises everywhere Neo's sword had collided with her aura. That was bad enough. What made her want to vomit was the massive puckered scar running down her back. Any active bleeding had stopped, but she could see the exposed flesh on her back. Another scar was visible on her side, but it was less agitated.

 

I'm sorry, Ruby.

 

"Why?" Ruby yelled, closing her eyes to drown out her reflection. "Why would you do that? It was a spar! It was my first day of classes! I thought- I thought- This was my dream, to go to Beacon. I never wanted it to to happen like this! I never wanted to be a murderer! I never wanted you!"

 

Ru-

 

She was screaming into the nothingness now. "No! I want things to go back to the way they were before! I- I hate you! I wish you would die! I wish I would die!"

 

Breaking down again, Ruby cried for a long time before she realized Neo was crying alongside her.

 

Slowly she opened her eyes. In the mirror, she saw not herself but Neo. The girl was facing away from her so she couldn't see her cry, but exposed her bare back. Hundreds of scars crisscrossed her back, straight lines that all looked perfect to have been caused by Grimm. Her breath caught in her throat. She tried to speak, but couldn't bring herself to force the words out. What happened?

 

Can I come back?

 

No. "Yes."

 

Those aren't the same answer.

 

I- I guess so.

 

Just like that, the mirrors were gone and Neo stood in front of her again. Her hands were shaking, and her head was hung low. "I want to hate you."

 

"Why?"

 

"I want you to be just like them," said Neo.

 

"Them? What?"

 

"You killed Roman. You- you destroyed him. And then-"

 

"Then what?" Ruby asked.

 

"You weren't, okay!" Neo exploded, stalking forwards before stopping and rocking on her heels. "So- So if you aren't like them, then you're like me. You deserve that scar! You deserve to not look perfect, to dream of death. You deserve to be fucked up!"

 

Ruby stared at Neo in shock. "Y- you think you deserve... that?" She nodded, and Ruby took a step backwards. "Th- that's not right!"

 

Neo's eyes shifted again, one becoming brown and one pink. She smiled regretfully at her. "You should have let me kill him."

 

"Kill who?"

 

"The blond boy. It would have been easy, really. I had my blade to his throat. You should hear them when I have to cut through their aura, they scream for such a long time." Her smile slowly fell back into its normal smirk as Neo started to stalk towards Ruby.

 

Cold fear sank down Ruby's spine as she took another step backwards. "W-what are you talking about?"

 

"I know how much you love building weapons, Ruby Rose. I've seen your memories, I know all about your time in the garage, building Crescent Rose and Ember Cecila," she said maliciously. "I've been fucked over by them far too many times for me not to."

 

"You- you've seen my memories?" she asked, chilled to the bone. No, she realized, the air around her was growing physically colder.

 

"Weapons are only dangerous when they are used," Neo said as she turned around and started to walk away. "If you won't use me, I will. If you won't be one of them..."

 

I'll just turn you into one of them myself.

 

Neo's reflection shattered, and Ruby sank into the darkness.

 


 

"Headmaster! I thought you'd never show up."

 

Ruby stiffened as she slowly came into wakefulness. Her back injury was gone, and she felt strangely numb. I don't want them to see me like this. Slowly, she tried to calm herself down as she listened to their conversation.

 

"I'm sorry Glynda, but I'm afraid I had other issues to attend to."

 

"Ozpin, it's 2 o'clock in the morning!" Glynda snapped at him. "Certainly you could have found a moment to check in on your injured student!"

 

"Would I have done anything different for another student?" Ozpin's tone was only mildly interested, and Ruby could hear him take a loud sip of some drink.

 

"Oh, please. Don't give me any of that bull. First of all, this is her second serious hospital visit in a week. Secondly, I would have though you would care a little bit more for your special silver eyes protegee project."

 

Ruby's insides froze. Special silver eyes protegee project?

 

"Well, Glynda, I can't fault you for speaking your mind, but the matter was of great importance. I do care a great deal for Miss Rose's welfare. Would you mind informing me of what happened?"

 

"There's a reason I've been sitting here for fourteen hours, professor. Miss Rose seemed to be having... problems. In my class, she payed no attention to the combat, even though Taiyang told me that's the only thing she ever seemed interested in at Signal. Then, during her spar, she kept acting as if she was in pain. After she hit Miss Schnee, she began to have a fight with herself. Then, when Miss Schnee was prepared to start fighting again, she dove straight into a red dust explosion."

 

"Do you think that it has something to do with..."

 

"Of course I do!" Glynda exploded. "I can't even imagine what that whole mess has done to her head."

 

"I'll be sure to speak about it with her during our sessions."

 

The two professors moved on to talk about other matters and eventually drifted away from Ruby's bed as her mind whirled.

 

What does me having silver eyes have to do with anything?

 

Not that it mattered. Lying awake in her hospital bed for the rest of the night, Ruby knew two things.

 

She had to find a way to protect herself from Neo, and Ozpin could never, ever know about the broken girl inside her head.

Chapter Text

Chapter Four: Black and White

 


 

re:Bound

 

A Fanfiction by Pokefan87

 

Chapter Publish Date:

 


 

 

The forest was cool in the early morning. Songbirds chirped in the boughs of towering gray oak trees as twigs snapped beneath Ruby's bare feet. A small dog trotted alongside her as she toyed with a miniature weapon in her hands.

 

It was a small sword Ruby had made her self. When she pressed a button on the hilt, it shifted into a small shield with a messy painting of a rose on it. Her Mom had told her the sword was amazing, so Ruby took it everywhere she went. That was what the hunters in her storybooks did, after all.

 

Ruby laughed as Zwei spotted a sunny spot up ahead and ran ahead to roll in a patch of clover. “Zwei, come on! We're looking for raspberries!” The puppy stopped rolling and looked at her, grass covering his black and white head. Ruby giggled as she ran over to him and brushed his head off. Looking up, she grinned as she saw a bush filled with plump red berries. “You found them, good boy!”

 

Ruby slowly worked her way around the bush, staining her mouth and her fingers red. Zwei trotted after her wagging his tail. Occasionally, he would jump up and eating a berry off of the bush. She smiled mischievously as she looked down at him. I knew feeding him me and Yang's vitamin every morning was a good idea!

 

Something caught her eye. Turning away from the bush, she caught a glimpse of water through the trees. “Come on, boy,” she said, and Zwei trotted along behind her as she pushed through the underbrush.

 

Ruby loved exploring the small forest behind her house. Houses were far and few between on the secluded island of Patch, and in between was a beautiful mixture of wide ancient forests, open clearings, and wetlands. Ponds sprinkled all around the island had always seemed mysterious to her, so she loved it whenever she stumbled across one she had never seen before.

 

The water was shallow, a murky navy-brown color beginning to reflect the rising sun's thin light. Ruby caught her breath as she saw the hundreds of lotus flowers floating at the edge of the water. She knelt down at the edge of the water, not giving her skirt or cloak a second thought as she reached out and scooped a single blossom off its lily pad.

 

“Oh,” she said softly. The soft lavender-lilac petals spiraled away from the yellow center, still cupping the early morning dew. “Zwei, look at this!”

 

An urgent bark from the dog came from behind her. Ruby set the flower down gently and wandered over to where Zwei was. Her stomach sank as she saw the mangled remains of a deer in front of her. A strange black substance coated its exposed flesh, and it smelled rancid as a shadow fell over it.

 

Ruby screamed. The Beowulf howled as it towered over her, taking a step forwards. Zwei growled and launched himself into the Grimm's chest, sending it staggering backwards. Turning around, Ruby ran as fast as she could away from the beast, which wasn't very fast.

 

The forest was darker around her as she ran. A splash came from behind her as Zwei was knocked into the pond, followed by the thundering pounds of the Grimm. She stumbled back into the clearing, pulling out her tiny sword as her raspberry bush was trampled.

 

I can beat it! I'll be like the heroes in the book Dad reads to me, she hoped bravely as the Beowulf walked forwards.

 

As she tensed, the beast lashed out. She was barely able to move to one side. Spotting an opportunity, she hit the Beowulf's claws only for the tiny blade to bounce off again.

 

She started to back up, then tripped.

 

The shield was bigger than the sword, but not big enough. Ruby screamed as she blocked the first blow, desperately crawling backwards on the ground. The beast's chipped bone mask was stained with blood, and its massive canine incisors dripped with black spit. Its red eyes held nothing inside, and that scared Ruby the most.

 

The second blow crumpled the shield like a tin can.

 

She kept backing up, but was stopped short as her back collided with a massive tree trunk. She screamed as loud as she could, but nothing stopped the Grimm from drawing back and ripping its claws into her leg.

 

Blood. Pain.

 

Her vision spun wildly. She could barely comprehend what was happening in front of her. Was that Uncle Qrow who had just dropped out of the sky and split the Beowulf's skull open? Her shoulder shook, but she shook her head. “My leg. My leg hurts.”

 

Was it weird, that she couldn't feel her body? Did it matter? Her head felt funny.

 

“Shit. Ruby, can you hear me?”

 

She shook her head again. “My leg is hurt.”

 

“Fuck, she's in shock,” she could hear him mutter. He gripped her shoulder with renewed intensity. “Ruby, I have to awaken your aura, or you're going to die. You have to nod or say yes so I can do it.”

 

“Something is wrong with my leg,” she mumbled. She was tired, and she couldn't feel anything. Maybe if she went to sleep…

 

“Ruby, please.” Uncle Qrow sounded sad, she thought. She didn't want that. What had he said to do?

 

“Yes.”

 

He sighed sharply in relief. Suddenly, Ruby heard a strange voice in her mind. For it is in passing that we achieve immortality. Through this, we become a paragon of virtue and glory to rise above all, infinite in distance and unbound by death. Qrow placed a hand on her chest. I release your soul, and by my shoulder protect thee.

 

The last thing Ruby saw before she fell into a deep sleep was the ghostly red light that surrounded her. Then, she was gone.

 

You don't need me to give you nightmares, Ruby Rose, Neo's voice whispered in the back of her mind.

 

All I need to do is find them.

 


 

Ruby shifted uncomfortably in her chair. The air in the room was too cold, the aesthetic was too mechanical, and she longed to be exploring the scenery she saw outside the massive clock tower window. Fidgeting, she smoothed out her cloak against the fabric, then bunched it up again.

 

“Miss Rose, how are you today?” Ozpin said cheerfully as he settled into his seat across from Ruby. He set his drink down on the table. Ruby had seen the coffee machine on the way in; that was one less thing she had to wonder about.

 

“Fine.”

 

The headmaster hummed as he pulled out a wooden box from under the table. “And how did you sleep?”

 

“Fine.”

 

“And based on your eyes, which seem rather bloodshot, as well as reports from the nurse of you waking up screaming, I would be inclined to not believe you,” he said thoughtfully. “Miss Rose, do you know why you're here?”

 

Ruby slunk down in her chair as Ozpin pulled out a chessboard from the box. I don't need this! She shook her head. He gave her a hard stare, and she said, “No.”

 

He sighed, then took a long drink from his cup. “If you refuse to be honest and open with me, I'm afraid this will be quite painful for both of us.” Picking up the chess pieces, he set them out on the board. “Do you know how to play?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“We are going to play a game, Miss Rose. I will be white, and you will be black. When I move, I will ask a question. You will respond with a move of your own, and you will give me a longer answer than one word. Are you ready?” The headmaster's eyes were hard, and Ruby pulled herself out of her slump and narrowed her eyes at the board. Why is he making me do this? I want to leave.

 

Don't be stupid, Rose.

 

It took most of Ruby's willpower to stop herself from flinching as Neo faded in behind Ozpin. Get out of my head!

 

Neo smirked as she stalked around the desk. Ruby did flinch as a cold finger ran down her neck, curling the uneven ends of her hair. Powerful men are always the same. They believe that they are cunning, knowledgeable, and in control. They would never expect you, poor little fifteen year old Ruby Rose, traumatized and depressed, to outsmart them.

 

But-

 

Cunning is not one of your strong suits. Good thing you have me.

 

Ruby clenched her hand around her cloak as Neo formed an illusory chair next to her and sat down. I hate you.

 

Good.

 

“Miss Rose, I asked you, are you ready?” Ozpin had a calm smile, but his eyes searched hers for answers. She wondered what he saw when he looked into her eyes, considering how much he seemed to care about them.

 

“Yes.”

 

Ozpin nodded as he picked up a pawn and moved it forwards. “First, can you repeat to me what I told you in the hospital?”

 

Ruby moved her pawn to match his, blankly staring at the chessboard. “There are times where a hunter must take a human life,” she repeated vacantly.

 

“Interesting,” the headmaster mused as he made his move. “If I remember correctly, I actually told you 'a hunter must take a human life to protect.' Tell me, do you still believe that you are a murderer?”

 

Ruby's eyes widened, and she shot a quick look at Neo, whose smirk widened as she dug her silver boots into a stack of paper. Did she-

 

Oh, but you were the one who thought it, didn't you?

 

“I- Yes, of course I do!” Ruby exploded. “I killed Roman! He didn't deserve to die!”

 

Couldn't have said it better myself.

 

“I don't believe you've made your move, Miss Rose,” he said. “You seem to be finding the side of my desk rather interesting. Should I be worried?”

 

I assume that was rhetorical.

 

Don't you ever shut up? Ruby growled. Neo recoiled as if she had been stung, and gave Ruby an ugly scowl. “No, Headmaster.” Staring at the knight the professor had just moved, she moved another pawn and sighed. I hate this already. This better not be something we do every day.

 

“Roman Torchwick was a murderer and a thief. Why should he have lived?”

 

Ruby thought about it for a second. “What gives me the right to decide?”

 

“I believe I am asking the questions, Ruby.” Ozpin smiled thinly, and took another sip of coffee.

 

Then stop asking stupid questions.

 

“Then stop asking stupid questions,” Ruby spat out before realizing what she had just said. She considered apologizing, but decided against it. She had meant it, after all.

 

Ozpin looked as if someone had struck him. “I see. Do you believe that you should be dead?”

 

Yes.

 

Neo sighed and leaned back in her chair, running a hand through her hair. This is boring. Tell him to stop asking questions he already knows the answers to.

 

Ruby moved her piece, then glared at Ozpin until he stopped waiting.

 

“...”

 

“...”

 

“Miss Rose,” Ozpin finally said after ten minutes. “I spent a good deal of time your father, Taiyang. Would you like to know what he told me?”

 

Ruby blinked. When was he talking to dad?

 

While you were sleeping.

 

I hate you. “Yes.”

 

We've established that.

 

Well, I hate you more now.

 

Ozpin drew his high-backed chair closer to his desk, mussing up his silvery hair before leaning on his clasped hands to stare at Ruby. “Your father told me that you are one of the brightest people he's ever met. He told me you are optimistic. Cheerful. Intelligent. You were the star student of Signal's combat class. You built the second semi-automatic sniper rifle and scythe hybrid in the world. Your report cards call you engaged. Your friends call you loyal and a leader.” Ozpin moved his piece. “Ruby, we all are very concerned about your well being here, and that's not the girl we've been seeing since you arrived here. Do you still feel like that person?”

 

She shrugged, still angry at Ozpin and Neo. “I've always been me.”

 

“So what changed?” he asked quietly, writing something down on a piece of paper.

 

Neo groaned, toying with the handle of her umbrella. This man honestly doesn't even know how to question someone properly. He keeps asking the same question and wants a different answer.

 

Ruby hated how she kept agreeing with what Neo was saying. “Well, I'm a murderer now,” she said, “So that might have something to do with it.”

 

Ozpin sighed. “Do you have any explanation for your actions during Professor Goodwitch's class yesterday?”

 

Ruby glared at him. “I fought Weiss. Are we done yet?”

 

The headmaster massaged his temple as he took a sip of coffee. “Since you seem so eager to be done here, I have one more question for you. Has something else, something besides Roman's death, been affecting you?”

 

Ruby's head spun. I could tell him about Neo. I could tell him about the dreams.

 

But you won't, Neo hissed triumphantly. She stood up from her seat, which dissolved behind her, and flickered away.

 

Because I can't.

 

Special silver eyes protegee project, his voice rang in her mind.

 

“No, Headmaster,” she said, meeting his eyes.“There's nothing else.” The words felt dead on her lips.

 

“Very well.” Ozpin got up from his seat and walked over to stare out of the window. “Tomorrow, you will be completing an initiation exercise along with your team, seeing as you were not present for the first one. We will have another counseling session after that. Our time is up. You may go.”

 

Quickly, Ruby stood up and walked towards the elevator, thankful to finally be done with the meeting. She felt… Lost. Broken. Angry. Whatever the session was supposed to have accomplished, she was pretty sure it wasn't that. Mechanics in the elevator hissed as the door slid shut.

 

Neo's laugh echoed through her mind as Ruby stared at her reflection in the polished elevator door. Deep bags under her bloodshot eyes betrayed her exhaustion, and she seemed to sag, as if under too much weight. She looked away, turned around to stare at the padded wall behind her. She was barely surprised that Neo was standing there.

 

That man is a joke. He thinks he is qualified to give therapy? No, obviously he doesn't, he just wants information out of you. Neo stared Ruby directly in the eyes, and she wilted as she saw half pink, half white.

 

“That was therapy?” Ruby whispered, drained.

 

Did you even listen to him? Neo's face darkened, and her image flickered rapidly as her aura briefly flared to life, a corona of black and white arcing violently like electricity around her body. Second to build a sniper rifle? Engaged on report cards? If you ask me, that man wants you to be his little golden girl, and he's throwing a fit that he got your mess instead.

 

I-

 

Do you want to know how I see you? Ruby backed up as Neo advanced on her, forcing her back into the elevator doors. She tilted her head as she stroked her hand down Ruby's face. Aw, that's adorable. You're scared of me, aren't you?

 

No!

 

Don't lie to me, Ruby Rose. I can feel it. Whatever would you do if I told you I could kill you, right here. It would be easy just to slit your-

 

“Get away from me!” Ruby screamed, shoving Neo backwards and into the far wall. The other girl hit the fabric hard, and her expression turned to downright fury. She grabbed her sheathed umbrella from her belt and undid it, spinning the blade around before resting it on the elevator floor. Ruby could feel the blade fly by her face, but she was too shocked and terrified to care.

 

The elevator door opened behind her, and Ruby stumbled out. “You're real,” she whispered, backing up as Neo slowly advanced.

 

Ozpin wants his perfect little girl. You know what I see? I see the girl who's too shy to start a real conversation with new people. I see a girl who's too reckless to stop herself from hurting herself or others. You're a liar. You're a murderer. You don't belong here .

 

No, no, no. I can't- you can't- You're real. She's real.

 

“Ruby?” She spun around, reaching for Crescent Rose but only finding air. It was Blake, who was giving her a strange glance. “Are you okay?”

 

She couldn't take it anymore. Activating her semblance, she sped away, through Beacon, into her dorm room, into her bathroom. She slammed the door as Yang and Weiss cried out confusedly, then retched into the toilet.

 

That won't get rid of me.

 

Ruby groaned as she buried her head in her arms, only to have to pick it up again to have another round of dry heaving. She had only had a piece of toast for breakfast and no lunch that day anyways, so it wasn't like she had much to come up. If you're real, then…

 

Oh, Ruby, I don't want you to die. I'm only going to make you use me, in the same way I'm going to use you.

 

Use me? Ruby felt faint.

 

You shattered, Rose. I can feel it, in your mind, in everything you do. Here's the thing- once you're broken, nobody's going to fix you. This world gives you your shit, and then it fucks you over with it again and again until you're dead. Either you fix yourself, or you die .

 

Are you broken, Neo?

 

Her laugh was short and cruel. I'm not dead yet, am I?

 

Ruby had no response to that.

 


 

“Ruby?”

 

“H-hi, Yang.”

 

She tensed, curling up into a tighter ball as Yang climbed into her bunk bed and sat down next to her. Her sister's purple eyes were filled with worry as she brushed a loose strand of hair out of Ruby's face. “You're crying...”

 

“No I'm not,” she sniffled.

 

Yang laughed in disbelief as she pulled Ruby into a tight hug. Losing it, Ruby sobbed into her shoulder, digging her feet into the tangled comforter around her. Everything- It all was too much, and she couldn't hold it all in. She didn't want to hold it in. If she was being honest with herself, she couldn't even remember the last time she had kept a secret from Yang. “Hey, it's alright. You're alright,” Yang whispered into her hair, and she cried even harder.

 

Once Ruby's tears had dried into gasping breaths, Yang loosened her grip on her. “Do you want to tell me what's wrong?”

 

She took one look at at her sister and as started crying again.

 

Yang sighed as she hugged her again. “Well, I already got that part. You didn't have to start again to tell me, silly.”

 

Ruby giggled despite herself. “I'm sorry,” she whispered, staring past Yang to look at the glowing sliver of moonlight shining through her fabric canopy.

 

Yang squeezed her tighter, resting her head on Ruby's forehead. “Hey, hey, shh… It's okay...”

 

“Yang?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Um… It's just- Do you think I'm different than I was before I- I k-”

 

Yang let go of Ruby and looked her in the eyes. “No, I would never think that, and you shouldn't either!” she said fiercely, and her aura flickered around her.

 

“But Ozpin said-”

 

“Ozpin? What does Ozpin have to do with this?”

 

Ruby shrugged. “I'm supposed to be doing therapy with him during my independent study.”

 

“What?” Yang's eyes narrowed. “Our school has a registered psychologist on staff. Why on Remnant would you be going to him for that?”

 

“I don't know.”

 

Yang frowned thoughtfully. “What did he say?”

 

“Well, he told me that he talked to Dad, and Dad told him all about me. I think...”

 

Ruby froze, and stared down at her hands. Was- Was I really just about to repeat what Neo said to me? I can't do that! She- she told me that she was trying to manipulate me. What if- But-

 

But what if she's right?

 

I'm fifteen. I don't belong at Beacon, I should still have another two years at Signal. It doesn't make sense.

 

“You think what?”

 

Yang snapped her out of her thoughts, and Ruby looked back at her. Her chest felt knotted, but… No, it was nothing. It had to be nothing. “No, he just talked about all of the good things Dad said about me. I don't know, it felt kinda weird, I guess.”

 

“Ruby, I'm going to talk to Dad about this,” Yang said uncertainly. “I really think you need a real psychologist.”

 

Her face fell. “So you do think-”

 

“No, no, it's, well…” Yang sighed, “Blake told me about what she saw by the elevator.”

 

“Oh,” Ruby whispered.

 

“There's that, and also what happened when you fought Weiss… We talked to her about that, by the way,” Yang smirked, but there was no mirth behind it. “She'll behave the next time you two have to do something like that together. We- We're just worried about you, Ruby.”

 

“Even Weiss?”

 

“Yeah, even Weiss.”

 

Yang threw her arm over Ruby's shoulder, and they sat on her bed staring into space for a while.

 

“Do you know what we're doing tomorrow?” Yang asked suddenly.

 

“Um… Some initiation thing, right?”

 

“Yeah, I don't know about you, but I'm ready to kick some monster ass!” she exclaimed, pumping her fist in excitement.

 

“Yang!” Ruby blushed.

 

Her sister rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on Ruby. You're fifteen! Are you still going to do that every time I fucking curse?”

 

“Yes!”

 

“Only you,” Yang muttered. Sighing, she let go of Ruby and swung off of her bed, lowering herself down until only her head was in the curtain. “You feeling better?” Ruby nodded. “Well, good night then. Try to get some sleep tonight, okay?” The curtain shifted, and Yang was gone in the moonlight.

 


 

The Emerald Forest stretched out across the horizon, clinging to the foothills of the massive mountain range in the distance. Deep green shadows spilled into the canyon below Beacon Cliff, which rose high into the blue morning sky.

 

Ruby gulped nervously as she stepped onto her launch pad. Last night was the best sleep she had gotten since she had arrived at Beacon, but the world still felt heavy around her. Besides, she was about to have her first best chance to prove herself to her teammates, and she didn't want to blow it. None of those things were the real reason she felt like puking, though.

 

Neo was strangely absent from her mind, and that scared her more than anything.

 

“Alright, is everyone in their positions?” Ozpin asked. He and Glynda were standing at the cliff edge, scrolls in hand. Ruby glanced to her right. Yang, Weiss, and Blake all looked ready for this, so why wasn't she? Gulping, she tried to look fierce as she nodded. “Wonderful.”

 

“Your initiation will take place in the Emerald Forest. Your objective is to return a chess piece located somewhere in the forest. Additionally, all four of you must return to this cliff top before your trial is complete,” said Glynda, fixing a hard stare at each of the girls. “Good luck.”

 

Ozpin pressed a button, and Weiss was launched into the air. Ruby gaped as her partner spiraled down towards the forest below. How was she supposed to survive that? Blake and Yang were launched next, the later looking particularly excited about it. Ruby smiled as she watched her sister whoop and blast off towards Blake with Ember Celica. She wasn't even paying attention as she was sent skyward.

 

Ruby sprang into action as she fell towards the forest. Quickly unclasping Crescent Rose from her belt, she unleashed the scythe as she hurtled towards the trees. Leaves swirled around her as she plunged into a tree. Just as she was about to collide with the trunk, she pushed her rifle forwards and shot into the tree before flipping and springing off as the massive trunk collapsed backwards into a thicket. Hooking her blade around a second tree, she spiraled down to land on the forest floor.

 

The first thing she noticed was that the forest was eerily silent.

 

Ruby gulped as she clutched Crescent Rose to her chest. Turning away from the cliff, she began to slowly walk in the direction she had seen Yang go.

 

She had spent plenty of time hunting on Patch, practicing with Uncle Qrow. Silence was never good. Silence meant Grimm.

 

She considered using her semblance for a moment, but decided against it. She knew how to walk silently, but she didn't have the agility to move silently when she moved at top speeds. Instead, she darted from tree to tree across the dappled landscape, avoiding dried leaves and sticks as she picked her way across the uneven landscape.

 

The forest was sparse, with plenty of rock formations and small rivulets interspersed with bushes and clearings. Ruby's combat teacher at Signal had given them lessons on how to move undetected and remain aware. Now, Ruby did her best to lower her heart rate and cull her anxiety, ready to spring away at any sign of life, even though her red and black outfit wasn't exactly the best for stealth.

 

When she heard the rustling behind her, she spun around with Crescent Rose, but it was already too late.

 

A slender hand covered her mouth as she was tackled to the ground. What the- Her assailant wrapped her other arm around Ruby's neck and rolled her underneath a nearby rock formation. Her grip was iron solid, and Ruby started to panic as the tiny cavity they had disappeared into turned pitch black. She gave a muffled scream as she kicked with her semblance, desperately trying to get free. I don't want to die here!

 

Then shut the fuck up and stop struggling and talking!

 

Ruby froze, blood running like glacial ice through her veins. Neo?

 

Shut up! He can hear us!

 

Neo sounded scared. If she hadn't been terrified before, she was now.

 

A low rumbling noise echoed through the forest above, and Ruby instinctively tried to cower deeper into the tiny cave. She was stopped as Neo wrapped both of her legs around Ruby's midsection, digging the heels of her boots into her stomach. Ruby winced as something next to them walked forwards, deep pounding steps of more than two or four legs.

 

Metal clattered as a deep raspy voice intoned, “Oh, Neopolitan. I know you're hiding yourself here.” He laughed, a coarse bark that sounded worn out by age. “Foolish. Once I get the Rose girl and her friends, it won't matter for you anyways.”

 

Me? Ruby gulped, and the rustling noises next to them stopped. She held her breath as Neo dug her sharp fingernails into the back of her neck. She barely stopped herself from whimpering as metal clattered again and the thing outside left just as fast as it had arrived.

 

They sat there, perfectly still, for a while.

 

Finally, Neo shifted, and Ruby took the opportunity to rip herself out of her grasp and scramble as far away from her as possible. “Who was that, and why is he looking for us?” she whispered.

 

Ruby, if you don't calm the fuck down, you're going to get us both killed! A strange light filled the crevasse, and Ruby gawked as she saw the light bulb that had just appeared in midair. The space was barely big enough for Ruby to sit up in, and got much narrower at the entrance. Or at least, where Ruby thought the entrance should have been.

 

“No, I'm not going to calm down!” she said, wildly staring around her. “What- How did you do that? Where'd the entrance go? Give me Crescent Rose back!” Activating her semblance, Ruby tore her weapon from Neo's hands and cradled it against her chest.

 

Illusion. I can't talk like this too much, or he'll find us! Neo barked, a rough edge to her voice betraying her wild fury.

 

Ruby pushed her back against the cool stone. “You can control what I see?” she asked faintly.

 

The other girl shot her a look that made Ruby feel like a small child.

 

That means- No, she didn't want to think about what that meant. “Just talk normally, then! Who was that? What's happening?”

 

Neo recoiled and shook her head. We have to go now! The light above her dimmed, flickering, and the world outside was visible for a moment as daylight flooded the crevasse.

 

Ruby narrowed her eyes as Neo started scrambling for the exit. “No, you're not leaving,” she hissed. Activating her semblance, she flung herself on top of Neo and pinned her to the ground. The smaller girl was easy to restrain, even as she struggled with her entire body. The world wildly flickered around Ruby, shifting from scene to scene, but she ignored it as she stared down at Neo. “Give me answers!”

 

She caught her breath as she looked down.

 

Neo's face was flushed, and her eyes were squeezed tightly shut. Her mouth was open. Her teeth were flawless, pearly white and perfectly straight. Only…

 

“Your tongue,” Ruby whispered, horrified. “What-”

 

Neo blinked, and two deeply layered white eyes stared back at her with biting anger. He used to play games with me. He liked to tie me down, always said he liked us better when we took it like animals. One day, he decided I had gotten to talkative, so during one of our sessions he cut it out. He died slower than the rest of them.

 

A deep revulsion settled in Ruby's throat, crawling under her skin. “S- s- someone cut your tongue out?” she asked, sick to her stomach.

 

Neo shuddered, then composed herself, settling into her smirk again. They said it was poison, they slipped it into his food. It wasn't the nice kind either, it was the sort that rotted you inside before you even knew you were going to die. After, they let me kill the rest of his men too… I'm sure you can imagine how… satisfying it was to watch them slump to the ground after I-

 

“Stop!” Ruby cried, something breaking inside of her. Someone would do that to Neo? How can she talk about it like that? How can she talk about killing people like that? “You killed people?” she blurted out, head hanging low as her hair spilled into her face.

 

Neo didn't respond as she threw Ruby off of her. She pulled herself out of the crevasse, then glared back in. Are you coming, or should I leave you to die here?

 

She stared at her, still in shock. Neo had killed people. Deep down, a part of her knew it made sense, but- You-

 

I guess that just makes two of us, doesn't it? she said, bitterly turning away.

 

Silenced, Ruby clambered out into the open air. Neo was watching the forest nervously, as if she expected Grimm to jump out at her at any second. She hadn't noticed just how much taller she was than the tiny girl. Neo looked like one of the dolls she and Yang used to play with, with her half pink, half brown hair and her glitzy outfit. Dad always made them clean up carefully and put the toys back on their place on the shelf, because they were too fragile to lay around on the floor. Those dolls were all perfect, fresh out of their packaging and ready for display.

 

No other doll Ruby had ever seen had scars crisscrossing their back.

 

No other dolls were missing their tongue.

 

No other dolls had killed people.

 

I don't need your pity.

 

I wasn't-

 

You can't lie to me.

 

But-

 

Neo spun around and violently ripped her umbrella off of her belt. If we don't move now, he will beat us to your training site, kill you, then murder your friends and your sister for good measure.

 

Why would anyone do that? Who is he?

 

Ruby clutched her scythe as Neo shot towards her, then staggered as the tiny girl jumped onto her back. “Wha- Neo?” She was as light as a feather as her boots wrapped around Ruby's chest again.

 

She also was holding her sword to Ruby's throat. You are going to stop asking questions. I'm going to show you exactly where to take your semblance, and you're going to follow it without question. Do you understand?

 

She clenched her throat, not daring to nod as her heart raced. Yes.

 

Go.

 

Ruby blinked as a path in front of her glowed in shifting black and white. Is this an illusion? She hesitantly stepped onto the path and gasped as it shattered and disintegrated upwards. “It's like glass,” she whispered. Spinning around, she walked backwards, watching with a passive awe as the shards flew into the sky in a cloud of jagged dust. “It's so pretty.”

 

Ruby, Neo hissed, pressing the flat of her blade against her throat.

 

Ruby took off like a bullet, sending rose petals and crystal debris spiraling into the forest behind her. Holding her top speed was hard for her, even without Neo on her back, but she pushed herself harder as the implications of what Neo had told her slowly began to sink through Ruby's cold shock and disgust. Yang is in danger! If anything happened to her because of me-

 

She would rather die.

 

The path grew increasingly complex as they wound through the forest, and Ruby was forced to use her scythe as she sprung from tree to tree and around rocks. She could feel her aura slowly start to drain as she relaxed her pace a tiny bit. She was pushing her reflexes to her limit, and her muscles were burning for it. Why are we going like this?

 

We can't let the Grimm see us, or else he'll find us, she hissed as she sliced an incoming branch out of the way with her sword.

 

How? Does he have something to do with the Grimm?

 

Yes.

 

Moments later, Ruby exploded into a wide clearing around a dilapidated stone temple. In the center of the temple, a podium stood holding four golden chess pieces. She dashed over and grabbed all four pieces, zipping them up securely into a pocket of her coat. Pausing for a moment, she realized she was panting heavily, her lungs and her legs aflame as her depleted aura slowly glowed around them. When was the last time I was out of breath?

 

Ruby, something's coming. You need to put me down.

 

Neo got off of Ruby's back as a rumbling noise came from the forest. She squinted as she saw yellow. “Is that Yang?”

 

She nodded. They won't be able to see me, but if that deathstalker sees you, it's too late. You have to activate your semblance now. I'll block it's vision. Your first strike is at the tail, then go for its eyes.

 

Deathstalker?! Ruby's head spun as she spotted yellow again. No, I can't worry about that! I have to get to Yang!

 

She tensed, then reached for her aura. Shock ran through her as she realized how low it was, but she ignored it and shot forwards.

 

Blake and Yang stopped fleeing as the deathstalker reared back and screeched, suddenly raging in place without any clear reason. A red blur tumbled past them, sending rose petals tumbling down to land in Yang's hand. She caught them and stared at them. “Ruby?”

 

Ruby sprang off the ground at top speed just as the giant scorpion swung its massive claws into the air. Unleashing Crescent Rose, she used the blade to swing herself under the claw, wincing as blood rushed to her head. Kicking off of the claw, she spun in midair, her scythe creating a deadly whirlwind of roses and blades as she bit into the soft connective tissue holding up the deathstalker's stinger. Unable to stop her momentum, Ruby collided with the stump, landing in a spray of black Grimm blood on the forest floor as she rolled.

 

“Ruby, be careful!” Yang yelled as the Grimm backed up suddenly.

 

Ruby's eyes flickered up to the massive beast, and she sprang from her knees to circle the Grimm. It was jerking back and forth wildly as she kept out of its vision, and she hissed to Neo, What are you doing to it?

 

It thinks that a pack of nevermores are slowly eating it alive. You're helping.

 

Ruby growled as a wave of rage bubbled through her stomach. She hated Neo for everything she had done. She hated the deathstalker for chasing her sister. She hated her teammates for hating her. She hated Ozpin for putting her in Beacon. She hated Roman for dying, for existing. She hated herself for what she had done, to herself and to everyone else.

 

Pouring even more aura into her semblance, she punched forwards like a bullet.

 

The hardened tip of Crescent Rose rammed into its bone mask like a battering ram as Ruby flipped and raked the blade down the creature's back while shooting her rifle it the back of its head. Curving upward, she pointed the blade downwards, kicked off of the stump, and split the scorpion's mask in half.

 

Panting, Ruby landed with the deathstalker behind her and let Crescent Rose's tip rest against the forest floor.

 

Neo laughed, and Ruby caught a flash of brown and pink in the trees. I'll admit, Rose, you're not half bad. We'll have to work on that.

 

Ruby's eyes flashed as Neo flickered in the corner of her vision. What do you mean, we?

 

Oh, you'll see. We need to leave, now.

 

“Ruby?” She spun around to look at Yang, who had a weird expression on her face. “Are you… okay?”

 

She looked down at herself. Her crimson outfit was coated in black blood, turning it an even darker shade of red. It stung her pale skin, which was covered with cuts and bruises from her wild dash through the forest. “I'm fine.” Ruby realized Yang was probably worrying about her, and she gave her best smile. “Aren't you going to thank me? It was chasing you guys, right?”

 

Blake bit her lit and took a step backwards, looking a bit green around the edges. Yang muttered, “Thanks,” then paused for a moment. “You're tired,” she whispered in genuine shock, raising her arm to touch Ruby. She flinched back, and Yang quickly dropped her hand as she clenched her fists. “What on earth were you doing out there? I've never seen you like this before.”

 

Ruby flicked Crescent Rose, and Yang sprang backwards as she rested her weapon's hilt against her shoulder. She took a deep breath, and looked at Yang, Blake, and Neo, who had appeared behind them, each in turn. “We're not safe here. There's a lot of Grimm coming, and we have to get out of this forest right now.”

 

“Where's Weiss?” Blake asked hesitantly. “Weren't the partners supposed to meet up?”

 

Ruby's eyes widened as a high pitched scream rang through the forest. “Come on, we have to go find her!”

 

Yang and Blake nodded, and Ruby shot deeper into the Emerald Forest to save her teammate.

Chapter Text

Chapter Five: Umber

 


 

re:Bound

 

A Fanfiction by Pokefan87

 

Chapter Publish Date: 9/23/17

 


 

Weiss Schnee smiled in satisfaction. She finally had all the Grimm surrounding her in one place, after five minutes of maneuvering and picking them off. Cocking Myrtenaster, she aimed her biggest cartridge at the center of the pack and-

 

A dark red blur swept into the clearing in a whirlwind of roses and blades. Launching herself straight into the pack of Grimm, Ruby shot and cut in a wild circle as she decimated the group of Grimm. Coming to a stop, she threw Crescent Rose over her shoulder and looked at Weiss. “Weiss, are you okay?” she asked tiredly, the effects of another full blown dash through the forest hitting her hard.

 

Weiss gaped at her as she slowly lowered Myrtenaster. “Ruby! What the hell?” she shrieked, hands shaking as she clutched her weapon.

 

“Yup, she's fine,” Ruby muttered. Maybe I should have just left her for the Grimm.

 

“I could have killed you!”

 

Ruby crossed her arms after she clipped Crescent Rose onto her belt. “You could at least thank me for saving you.”

 

“You- you think you saved me?” Weiss spluttered. “I will have you know I was about to kill all of them, before you got in my way!”

 

Yang, who had come up behind them, pitched in. “So what was all the screaming about?”

 

Weiss blushed and pointed down to her normally white boot. “I didn't notice the mud puddle, okay?” Yang took one look at the Schnee heiress and burst out laughing, and Weiss gave her a venomous glare. “It's not funny! Do you know how much these cost?”

 

“You're such a spoiled brat,” Ruby said as a wave of exhaustion washed over her. It's strange, I didn't realize how much aura I actually had until just now, when it's almost gone.

 

“At least I'm smart enough to not put myself in danger every time I fight!” Ruby flinched as Weiss started listing incidents. “Jumping off of buildings after criminals, running into dust explosions. Didn't you know that real hunters who actually graduate from lower academies learn how to not kill themselves when they go into combat?”

 

“Weiss,” Yang called over, hands on her knees as she took deep breaths. “Lay off Ruby for a second, will ya?”

 

“Oh sure, take her side,” Weiss said before turning away in a huff.

 

Ruby stepped forwards and opened her mouth, then shut it again. She knew Weiss was right, but she didn't care. Hunters are supposed to protect people, not themselves!

 

Ruby.

 

What?

 

You didn't listen to me. I told you to stay out of sight from the Grimm.

 

But you told me to attack the Deathstalker?

 

It's too late. He's coming. Neo flickered into sight in front of Ruby, her disheveled hair drifting down to cover her brown eye so all Ruby could see was a glittering pink.

 

“Um, guys?” Blake burst into the clearing as she whipped Gambol Shroud into her hand. “There's a lot of Grimm coming behind us. Shouldn't we be doing something?”

 

Yang grinned as she slammed her gauntlets together, sending orange sparks flying. “Great, I'm ready to kick some-”

 

“No, we have to run!” Ruby exclaimed.

 

Blake and Yang both stared at her as Neo toyed with her sword. Smooth. Real smooth, Rose.

 

Weiss groaned as she threw her ponytail over her shoulder. “If you hadn't noticed, we are at a school for hunters. If you're not going to kill Grimm, why are you here?”

 

“Because…” Ruby said slowly, casting around for a good excuse. Let's see, I can't tell them about Neo, or any of that... “All we have to do is bring back the chess pieces, right?”

 

Blake nodded. “That's what Ozpin said.”

 

“Aha!” Yang exclaimed. “You're right, it's gotta be a test!”

 

“I bet Ozpin is timing us right now.” The group turned to look at Weiss, who shrugged.
“My father would do the same when we trained. I hate to admit it, but Ruby may have a point. We should probably head back fast.”

 

Ruby nodded wildly as a low rumbling noise grew behind them. “Yeah, let's go!”

 

Her teammates nodded, and the group took off. After a few minutes of running, they came to the deep ravine that separated Beacon from the forest. Blake led the charge onto the bridge, followed close behind by Yang and Weiss.

 

Ruby never saw the ground coming up towards her.

 

White.

 

Black.

 

Red.

 

She blinked sluggishly as pressure weighed down on her chest and her mind. It was as if someone had tied a string to her heart, a dangling chord of chromatic energy spiraling out into nothingness. Focusing on it, she realized she could see it, feel it, so she reached out and grabbed it. A warm feeling spread through Ruby as the thread shone in her hands. Through the darkness, she saw the hazy outline of a girl, steely white rippling with black energy.

 

Ruby's vision glowed a soft red as she stared up at the girl on her chest. Neo's expression was distant as she pushed her hands down. Neo?

 

Come on, you can pass out when you get back to Beacon. Get up.

 

Strength flowed back into Ruby's body Neo got off of her chest. What did you do?

 

I gave you some of my aura. You probably would have died if I hadn't.

 

Ruby got to her feet, wincing as her head spun. She took a minute to regain her bearings, eyes widening as she saw a flash of yellow flying up the narrow stairwell that wound around the cliff side. They didn't wait for me?

 

Neo shook her head. You were only out for a few seconds, I got to you right away. They probably think you're ahead of them.

 

Ruby frowned. That was possible? More importantly, Neo had just done something nice for her? Um, thank you?

 

The smaller girl jumped onto her back, and she staggered under the added weight. Why are you thanking me? You don't have an excuse not to carry me, so take me back up the cliff.

 

Of course. What did I expect? Why do even have expectations anymore?

 

A roar behind them signified that the Beowulf pack was right behind. Without a second thought, Ruby shot off towards the stairwell towards Beacon Cliff.

 


 

“Congratulations to team JNPR for completing the initiation process!”

 

Ruby tiredly applauded in the wings of the auditorium as Pyrrha and Jaune happily took the praise from the general student body. Their initiation video had been particularly exciting; Ren and Nora had taken down a King Taijitu, and the group had dealt with a flock of Nevermores.

 

Yang leaned over to Ruby and whispered, “Wonder what they're going to think about our video.”

 

They had just had enough time to run up to their room and change before the assembly had started. Blake and Yang had chatted happily the entire way, while Weiss was stewing and Ruby was silent.

 

Well, silent to them.

 

Wondering what Ozpin's going to do?

 

Get out.

 

Oh, so after I save your life twice you're just going to start ignoring me?

 

Ruby glared at Neo as she flickered at the entrance to the stage. You're still standing behind me, aren't you.

 

Neo's hands were as freezing as always on the back of her neck. You know it.

 

So how am I supposed to explain whatever that thing was to Ozpin, or the fact that I was talking to yourself.

 

Don't worry about that, I assume that he shot all of your cameras down.

 

Why do you call it he?

 

Because it's a person.

 

A person? The hooves?

 

A very twisted person riding on decapitated Nuckelavee. Still a person.

 

So Ozpin won't see that.

 

No, but he'll definitely drag us into another one of those “therapy” sessions.

 

Oh, n- Wait, us?

 

That's what I said.

 

Ruby shook her head. Nope. There is no us. That's not a thing.

 

It so is a thing and you know it.

 

Their conversation was interrupted as applause erupted through the auditorium, and Ozpin spoke into his mircophone. “I'd like to welcome these four on stage now. Blake Beladona!”

 

Blake shot a quick smile backwards as she walked on stage to thunderous applause.

 

“Yang Xiao Long!” “Weiss Schnee!”

 

Ruby sucked in a deep breath as she realized it was her turn.

 

“Ruby Rose!”

 

The audience applauded as Ruby walked on stage, but it was far less enthusiastic than it had been for any of her teammates. Instead, she could hear whispers filling the room as she took her place next to her teammates. Trying to block them out, she flipped her hood up and stared at the ground.

 

You already know what they're saying, don't you?

 

Yes.

 

A hand reached out and squeezed hers, and Yang smiled at her as she looked up. “Come on, it'll be over in a second,” she whispered. Ruby tapped her foot nervously as she look out over the crowd, where every single person was looking at them.

 

Ozpin looked over each of them, then delivered his announcement.

 

“Congratulations your success in your delayed initiation! From here on out, you will be led by Weiss Schnee, and you will be known as Team WBYR, or Team Umber!”

 

Weiss stepped forwards. She was trying to put on a smug face, but her pride and happiness was evident as the room burst into applause.

 

“Once again, good job to all of our first year students. All of you are dismissed for the remainder of the day.”

 

As the crowd cheered, Weiss shot Ruby a look. When people started to leave the auditorium, Ruby ran out ahead of them and back to their room.

 


 

Weiss slammed the door shut behind her. “Ruby Rose!”

 

Ruby sighed as she flopped down onto her bed. She had already been in the room for a few minutes before her teammates had made it back from the team assignment assembly. “What?”

 

The Schnee heiress angrily shoved her sword into its usual position between her bed and the wall. “You know what! What on Remnant was that show you put on in the forest?”

 

Ruby felt her eyes starting to drift shut. She was too tired to think. She was too tired to listen. “Wha show?” she yawned, kicking her boots away from the foot of her bed.

 

Weiss stomped over and pulled her back up into a sitting position. “Oh, come on. We all watched the movie at the assembly. I saw everything single stupid thing you did in that exercise! Do I need to spell it out for you?”

 

She swatted Weiss' hand away. “I don't know, do you?”

 

Weiss' eyes narrowed. “The deathstalker. Jumping in front of a loaded dust attack. Collapsing, then getting back up again. Did you not listen to anything we said before the mission? The part about teamwork? The part about finding your partner?”

 

Neo sniffed in the back of Ruby's mind. She looked around, but didn't see any trace of her antagonize. If anyone's your partner, it's me. That prude little bitch can go and shove her toothpick of a sword up her a-

 

Stoooop… Ruby groaned. It was weird, but her connection with Neo made their lightning fast mental exchanges feel like actual conversation. Just go away, I don't need you and Weiss on me right now.

 

Oh, I could give you more aura, I'm sure that would wake you up enough to listen.

 

No, I don't want to listen to Weiss! I want to sleep.

 

So I stay, Neo said smugly, and Ruby could just picture her kicking back in a chair as she kicked her heeled boots up onto a table.

 

Fine. But don't curse. And Weiss' sword is bigger than yours.

 

Ooh, is ickle Rose talking back now?

 

Shut up.

 

“I can't believe you!” Weiss exclaimed. “You're not even listening to me!”

 

“Huh?”

 

Yang sauntered in between the teammates, holding out her hands and nodding. “Alriiight, ladies. How about we all calm down and get a good night's sleep, and we can talk about this in the morning?”

 

“M'kay,” Ruby slurred as she crawled into bed. She was fast asleep before she even heard Weiss' retort.

 


 

Ruby stood at the edge of the sea.

 

“Why are we here?”

 

Neo's hair blew out behind her as she stared at the seething black waters in front of her. “I came here twice before, in the real world.”

 

Ruby sat down, feeling oddly relieved to be awake yet asleep. There was a rock, smooth under the onslaught that would come with high tide, and she leaned back against it. “It's pretty.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

She watched Neo for a while. She didn't seem peaceful, but there was a certain calmness she had never seen in her before.

 

“I was six years old.”

 

Neo turned to to her, brown and pink eyes distant as the clouds drifting across the darkened sky. “My parents took me to the beach. I played in the surf with my dad and built sandcastles with my mom. We took a walk down the beach and chased after seagulls. They even let me get ice cream.”

 

Staring at her surroundings, Ruby had a hard time finding that beach. There was no sand, only the scorched rocks like the one she leaned on. They bled into the ocean and the sky, setting the world in twilight. “Why am I here?”

 

“Don't you hate me, Rose?”

 

Suddenly, the rock felt hard against Ruby's back as the freezing tide rushed in to bite at her toes. Shivering, she wondered at how just yesterday she would have said yes readily. Now, all she could think about were the scars, and how Neo had saved her life. “No.”

 

Neo turned away again, her shoulder shaking slightly. “I don't understand.”

 

“Why not? Why do you want me to hate you?”

 

“Why did you kill Roman?”

 

“Because he had robbed a dust shop! He was a murderer! I didn't- I couldn't let him get away!” Ruby exclaimed as she jumped to her feet.

 

“He wasn't a murderer,” Neo whispered coldly. The ocean began to seethe as she talked, the world flickering monochrome around them. “Every single death, every single disappearance, every single casualty they said was him was me. I killed every single one of them.”

 

“You?” she echoed faintly.

 

“Me.” Neo balled up her fists. “You don't understand. You don't understand anything about me. Roman wasn't like them. He was different. He cared about me. He listened to me. So, I did it for him. I wanted to do it for him.”

 

Ruby opened her mouth, then closed it.

 

“The second time I came here was with Roman. We played in the surf and built sandcastles. We walked down the beach and chased sea gulls. He bought me ice cream. And now, I can't even grieve for him because you're in my head! Get out of my head! There's always someone in my head!” Neo shrieked.

 

Ruby didn't understand. She didn't know how to understand. “How could you do that? How could you kill people?”

 

“Because I loved him. And you will always be the person who took that away from me.”

 


 

Neo?

 

Silence.

 

Neo?

 

Darkness.

 

Ruby gasped as someone shook her awake. Blinking, she saw her dad's cream colored hair hanging down into her face. “Ruby! Ruby, come on honey, she's leaving in a couple minutes, we need to say goodbye.”

 

Dad? What? Why am I at home?

 

She.

 

No.

 

“What's going on?” Ruby mumbled sleepily in a much higher tone than usual.

 

No. No. No. I can't control it. I can't make it stop.

 

Taiyang shook his head as he picked Ruby up out of bed and carried her into the hall as a tiny Yang stumbled out of her bedroom. Ruby desperately tried to scream, to flail her arms, to do anything, but she was frozen inside her memories.

 

Ruby wanted to scream as she saw the figure at the bottom of the stairs.

 

Summer Rose was dressed and ready to go. Her hood shadowed her face, and she carried a heavy traveling pack which she put down as she saw them come down the stairs. A warm smile crossed her face, and Ruby screamed silently as she dropped her hood.

 

Neo, stop! Please, I don't, I can't, I-

 

“I thought I told you not to go,” Taiyang said sharply as he put Ruby down.

 

Her mother's voice was soft and musical. Ruby couldn't stand it. “You know we don't have a choice, Tai. She's too strong, if I don't, then-”

 

“It's suicide!” her dad yelled. Yang flinched away, and Ruby covered her face and whimpered as she turned away.

 

Neo, please, let me move, let me change things, I have to change things!

 

“Tai, please, think about the girls.” Her voice lowered, but Ruby could still hear her perfectly. “Raven and Qrow will both be with me, we'll be fine.”

 

No, you wont! Dad, make her listen, do something.

 

“Let me come with you then,” he said desperately.

 

Her mom's voice was breaking her heart. “Tai, you know I need you to be here for the girls. Otherwise, they-” Her voice cracked, and her dad pulled her into a deep hug and kiss.

 

“But what will I-” Her dad's voice was lost as Summer turned to Ruby and Yang.

 

I can't do this.

 

Her mom knelt down beside her, putting a hand on her and Yang's shoulders. “Ruby, Yang, I- I need you to know that I'm g-going to be away for a while. I just need you two to know that I l-love no matter what, and- and- I-” Unable to continue, her mom pulled them into a hug, then planted a kiss on each brow.

 

Ruby was sobbing.

 

“Summer, I- I love you,” Taiyang whispered, defeated.

 

“I love you too, Tai.”

 

Don't go. You can't go, you can't leave me alone again, please.

 

“I'm sorry.”

 

Ruby had never seen her mom again.

 

She slept the rest of the night away in darkness.

 


 

Ugh, you're pathetic. This is even worse than when you were in the hospital.

 

Ruby didn't acknowledge Neo as she stared blankly at the table in front of her.

 

“Alright, now that Ruby is finally ready to listen to me,” Weiss said pointedly, “I'm happy to commence the first official meeting of Team WBYR! Who's excited?”

 

Blake stared at Weiss. Yang stared at Ruby. Ruby stared at the ground.

 

“Oh, c'mon sis!” Yang said, lightly punching her in the arm. “We need you to be our enthusiam! You should be all 'Go Team WBYR! I'm so excited! We're going to rock!”

 

Ruby twisted the ends of her cloak between her fingers. “Yay?”

 

“Nope. This is unacceptable.” Yang got to her feet and strode out of the room.

 

“Yang! You can't leave, this is an official meeting!” Weiss protested.

 

Blake groaned and her bow twitched. “Why do we even have to have these meeting anyways?”

 

Weiss rolled her eyes and pushed against the table. “Well, if you had given me an opportunity to explain before Yang rudely-”

 

“Cookies!” Yang yelled as she bounded into the room and deposited a plate in front of Ruby.

 

“Riiight, so as I was-”

 

“Damn, I forgot the milk!”

 

Yang was gone again, and Weiss groaned and slammed her forehead against the table. “And I'm supposed to be the leader of this- Hey, Blake, who said you could read a book under the table?”

 

Blushing, Blake quickly threw the book under her bed.

 

A small smile crossed Ruby's face as Yang deposited a glass of milk in front of her. “Thanks, sis.” No matter what, Ruby had never been able to deny a fresh chocolate chip cookie placed in front of her.

 

Ruby, stop ignoring me!

 

She decided to ignore that.

 

“Alright, so if we're actually ready to start now, we will.” The frosty edge to her voice left no question that they were. “Wonderful. First of all, we need to set up standards and ground rules.”

 

Yang laughed as she kicked her feet up onto the table. “Yeesh, Weiss, what is this, the military?”

 

Weiss pouted as she pulled her fingers through her hair. “For your information, my time in the Atlas military was some of the finest combat training I have ever received, so I would ask that you treat it with more respect.”

 

Their dorm room fell silent aside from Ruby quietly munching on her cookies. After an uncomfortable pause, Yang held up her hands and said, “Sorry, didn't realize you would take a joke so literally.”

 

“What I was going to say is that the most important thing is teamwork.” Weiss sniffed. “That means staying together during exercises, training together, and making sure each of us are performing to the top of their ability. Our team will not be anything less than excellent, even if that means catching up on two years of combat and schooling.”

 

Ruby flinched as Weiss locked her eyes on her. “I get it,” she muttered, finishing the last of her cookie.

 

“Don't y-”

 

Weiss' head snapped around. “Yang, I get she's your sister, but that doesn't mean we can baby her. She went on her special little vigilante mission, and now she's in a real hunters academy. People die when we're not trained to do our job properly, and right now, she's two full years behind. She needs to catch up, or we're all in danger.”

Yang looked like she wanted to argue, but just kicked the table and pushed her feet back under the table.

 

“Alright, so every day we're going to study for an hour right after school, then do combat training for an hour, then eat dinner. After dinner, we study for another hour, then we have free time until bed. On weekends, we'll do combat for two hours and study for three.”

 

Rubywas momentarily snapped out of her funk, and she stared at Weiss. “Five hours on weekends?”

 

Yang stood up abruptly, knocking her chair backwards. Panicking for a second, she caught the chair, then glared at the team leader. “You're insane. There's no way that we need to do all of that extra work.”

 

“You're wrong.” Weiss pulled a notebook overflowing with loose sheets of paper and let it drop onto the table. “My father had me research the most effective studying techniques, and routine and dedicated blocks of time are some of the most important aspects to succeeding. Also, if we want to get fit, we need to do endurance training, aura training, weapons training, and tactical training every single day.

 

Blake sighed. “She's right, I've read about that before.”

 

Ruby went back to staring at the table. I'm going to die. There's no way around it. I will not be able to do that much work.

 

Yang was looking at the notebook incredulously. “How the hell did you do all of that last night?”

 

“Don't be silly, I've had this since I got to Beacon,” Weiss said, her scowl turning into a small smile as she flipped through the pages of the notebook.

 

Blake cocked her head. “Why?”

 

“Isn't obvious?”

 

“No,” Yang deadpanned.

 

Weiss' eyes flashed as she sat up straighter in her seat. “I am Weiss Schnee, the sole heiress of the Schnee Dust Company, one of the most valuable companies in the world. I have been preparing for years to start assuming a leadership role at this school thanks to the services my generous father provided me.”

 

Dead silence.

 

“I mean, can any of you imagine one of you doing this? Blake, you're nice, but you're way to quiet to be an effective leader. Yang, you're strong, but your temper would ruin any sort of teamwork you could produce. Ruby, you don't work well on teams. You would probably find some cavern of White Fang and Grimm alone in the middle of an abandoned city and die in an explosion. Seriously, who would be insane enough to put any of you in charge of other students?”

 

Ruby pushed her feelings of resentment back down under another wave of depression. If she was being honest with herself, Weiss was probably right.

 

Blake seemed to be thinking the same thing, and she hesitantly said, “I guess you're right.”

 

Yang stewed in silence, grinding her heel into the wood floor.

 

“Thank you. Anyways, we start tomorrow. I hope everyone is ready, because if I have anything to say about it, Team WBYR will be the most respected and powerful team to ever graduate from this school!”

 

“Assuming we don't die first.”

 

“Yang!”

 

Ruby watched the notebook sitting on the table in front of her. She had a sinking feeling that she would come to hate it before long.

 


 

“So.”

 

Ruby glared at Ozpin, slouching down in her chair as the headmaster loomed over her from behind her desk. I hate him so much. I hate him for this, I hate him for Weiss.

 

I could kill him.

 

No.

 

You're no fun.

 

Define fun.

 

At least you're talking to me again. Was that relief? Now I can keep torturing you. Nope, it was pure unadulterated joy in her suffering.

 

“You mean to tell me that you have no idea how every single camera following you shattered at the exact same time, leaving us unaware of your location for twenty minutes?” The headmaster's eyes were dangerously narrowed, and he was taking more shots of coffee than Ruby had ever seen anyone consume.

 

How can he do that? I bounce off the walls if I even come close to a can of soda.

 

Probably addicted, he wouldn't be the first one I've seen, Neo shrugged. Or maybe he's immortal, I don't know.

 

Ruby shook her head. “Nope, I was searching for my lovely partner when I head Yang and Blake. I had already found the pieces, so I figured I would just take them and find everyone else. I didn't even know there were cameras.”

 

“I see.” His voice was curt, but his expression softened slightly as he looked down at her. “Well, know that Professor Goodwitch and I are relieved that you returned from the forest safely. Also, I would like to add that your handling of the Deathstalker was quite impressive. However, there is one thing I believe we must discuss now.”

 

Oh boy. Aren't we just trembling in excitement over here?

 

You're not any better than he is.

 

You hurt me, Rose.

 

“What is it, Headmaster?” Ruby asked, trying to sound innocent, whatever that even meant anymore.

 

“We believe you are in possession of a double semblance.”

 

Ruby gaped at him. Neo was silent for a moment, then burst out laughing. This could get interesting. I can't believe he came up with something like that. This could work in our favor.

 

“That's a thing?” Ruby asked, surprised.

 

Ozpin nodded. “It's a very rare phenomenon, of course. You seem to have been blessed, though. Miraculous, really, how talented you are.”

 

It was all Ruby could do to stop herself from lashing out at the man. I'm not your pet project! Instead, she gritted her teeth and said, “Thank you, how does it work?”

 

“Well, I think you have the ability to recharge your aura when you reach a certain point of exhaustion,” he said thoughtfully.

 

Oh yes, and it's name is Neopolitan and it would appreciate free ice cream.

 

Your full name is Neopolitan?

 

I think so.

 

What do you mean, I think so?

 

You were in the middle of a conversation?

 

Ruby gave him her best grin, which she supposed probably looked more like a grimace. “Cool.”

 

Ozpin nodded. “Well, I'm sure that your exhausted right now, so why don't you go back to Team WBYR and get some sleep? We can work on figuring out more about that power later. If you have any memory of anything that happened while those cameras were out, please tell us. You are dismissed, Miss Rose.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

Ozpin chuckled as she walked towards the elevator. “Don't thank me, if anything that I've heard about Miss Schnee is true, the hard part of school is just about to start.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Six: Rumors

 


 

re:Bound

 

A Fanfiction by Pokefan87

 

Chapter Publish Date: 10/7/17

 


 

Ruby woke up screaming into a cloying gloved hand.

 

Oh, I wouldn't struggle if I was you, Neo said gleefully as she held her sword closer to her throat. The smaller girl pinned her to her bed, straddling her as she clamped Ruby's hips with her legs. We wouldn't want to wake darling Weiss up from her beauty sleep.

 

“What the hell?” was what Ruby tried to say, gagging as she got a mouthful of white and grey leather.

 

What happened to 'Yaaaang, don't curse!' Is sweet little-

 

That was before I had a girl trying to murder me in my head! Ruby exclaimed, heat rising through her as she shook Neo. Get off of me!

 

But-

 

Using her semblance, Ruby twisted her hips and rolled over. It took her a moment to realize how close to the edge of her bed she had been sleeping. They tumbled through the thin air in a tangled mess, Neo shrieking a string of explicative as Ruby's bed swung wildly and they hit the floor with a thud.

 

Ow…

 

“What on earth-”

 

Roll. Now.

 

Ruby threw herself and Neo out of the way as Weiss stomped out of bed and flicked the light switch on. What now? What do I say to her?

 

Nothing. Be silent, she thinks you're sleeping.

 

Ruby caught her breath and quickly looked away from Weiss. Instead, she found herself staring up at Neo's face. Her multicolored eyes were so striking, iridescent pink and layered brown.

 

“Weiss?” Blake asked from above. “Are you okay? What happened?”

 

“So you heard it too?” Weiss said. “It wasn't me, and Ruby and Yang are both still out like rocks.”

 

“They really are siblings, huh?”

 

“It is rather hard to tell sometimes, isn't it?” Weiss emitted something between a sniff and a laugh.

 

Rose.

 

Yeah?

 

You're staring.

 

Ruby blinked. She had been staring, but it was hard not to given how close she was to Neo. She had no idea how warm it was being so close to-

 

Please, spare me the thought.

 

Ruby frowned as a rush of emotion swirled through her head, swelling up inside of her breast and threatening to break free. They felt controlled, as if- Stop.

 

You aren't angry at me? Neo's voice sounded genuinely surprised as Ruby felt the knot of tension dissipate. How had she felt that? Regret. Had Neo not wanted her to know she was thinking that?

 

“Weiss, I'm going to go back to bed. I'm sure it was nothing, or maybe it was Team JNPR. Can you turn the light off now?”

 

Weiss sighed. “Yes, I suppose we both need to get a good night's sleep. Good night, Blake.”

 

No, Ruby whispered, shivering. She couldn't bring herself to hate Neo, so what was she feeling? Why couldn't she hate her for all of the awful things the girl had done?

 

Just so you know, I was staring at you to, Neo said quietly as she got up slowly, leaving Ruby paralyzed on the floor. She looked torn for a moment; Ruby could feel the indecision coming off of her in waves. Finally, Neo's smirk returned, and the moment was gone. C'mon, are you just going to lie there all night?

 

Ruby carefully got to her feet, releasing the breath she had been holding. Um, we were- Oh, right – What the hell was that?

 

Simple. You don't have time to sleep tonight, we have way to o much stuff to do. Follow me.

 

Ruby narrowed her eyes. And what if I want to sleep?

 

Do you actually think I'll let you?

 

I- You- Fine. Neo and Ruby tiptoed out of the room and into the hallway. What could possibly be so important that I had to get out of bed in the middle of the night?

 

Well, first of all, you're going to cook for me, Neo said smugly as she marched into the kitchen and kicked her boots up on the first counter she got to.

 

What? No! Wha-

 

Neo shrugged at her. Well, I have been sleeping on the couch in the commons without a change of clothing for a few weeks now, and I've been eating all of the leftovers nobody cared about. It would be nice to eat something hot for a change.

 

Ruby pulled a face. No new clothes for two weeks? That's so gross! You could-

 

Do you have enough money to buy me a new designer leather combat suit?

 

No, but-

 

Ruby, I am not going to wear your clothing. Not even your combat outfit. Unlike you, I actually made it out of my angst phase.

 

But Jeff Williams-

 

Calm down. I shower and wash it all the time, relax.

 

Ruby scrunched her face up as she thought about it. But what do you wear when it's in the wash?

 

Neo laughed. I can make myself invisible, or just give myself illusory clothes. Do you actually think I care about running around Beacon naked?

 

Ruby didn't know how she felt about that.

 

Make me food already, I'm hungry! You can't lie to me, I know how much you enjoy it.

 

Neo wasn't wrong. Dad was usually to lazy to make dinner, and Yang couldn't be bothered, so it usually fell to Ruby to feed the family. It was a lot like building a weapon, really: lots of exact measurements and components. Still, Ruby didn't really want to admit Neo was right.

 

See?

 

Fine.

 

Ruby shot into action, activating her semblance as she sped around the kitchen. Opening the cupboards, she saw nothing but a massive tub of pancake mix with a sign that read “Mine! -Nora.” Shrugging, she pulled out two cups and put it next to the rest of the ingredients. It took only a few seconds to have the batter ready and the first batch on the grill before it had even gotten warm.

 

Okay, now what?

 

I don't know, what do you when you wait? Neo asked lazily.

 

Ruby smiled nervously, eyes flicking between the griddle and the girl. Um, yeah… I don't really do the waiting thing…

 

Of course you don't.

 

They were silent for a moment. Ruby began pacing nervously, checking the pancakes every couple of seconds. “Um, Neo, while-”

 

Stop talking out loud, do you want JNPR to wake up?

 

Right, um. Well, I guess…

 

Spit it out, Neo groaned as she sank deeper into the comfy couch.

 

Ruby frowned. I was just wondering, since you know so much about everything, do you know why you're in my head like this? I know nobody else sees you, so…

 

The other girl didn't answer. The pancakes slowly began to bubble, and Ruby flipped them as fast as she could, waiting for the answer.

 

Really? You're not going to tell me?

 

Suddenly, Neo laughed, an empty noise that reverberated through her head. Honestly, Rose, I don't deserve you.

 

But what's that supposed to mean? Ruby was lost, although it felt like she was always lost since Roman's death.

 

Ask me anything. Literally anything. Just not that.

 

Ruby scowled at Neo, tapping impatiently on the marble counter. Fine. Tell me everything you know about that weird Grimm in the woods.

 

Neo sighed and got up, sashaying across the kitchen. She sat herself at the table and stared down at an empty plate in front of her. It's not a Grimm, it's a human. His name was Harkan.

 

Was?

 

He's not a human as he used to be, Neo said darkly.

 

The pancakes finally finished, and Ruby broke the deepening tension as she burst into action, line of questioning momentarily forgotten. She had a full plate in front of Neo and herself in seconds, complete with whipped cream and syrup. There.

 

Neo stared down at the plate in front of her.

 

Um, Neo? Is something wrong?

 

Her eyes glowed pure white with something Ruby couldn't read as she looked up from the meal. You… actually made me pancakes.

 

Well, yeah, of course I did. Ruby said as her pitch rose slightly. I mean, you kinda woke me up in the middle of the night with a sword to my throat and forced me to, so I don't re-

 

Thank you.

 

Huh?

 

Neo smiled slightly at her, then got up and opened the refrigerator. Pulling out a carton of strawberries, she sprinkled a few on her dish before beginning to eat. You should probably eat, you need the energy.

 

Right… Ruby grabbed her fork and dug it into the fluffy cake, dolling whipped cream. She sighed happily as she blew her way through her pile of sugar and carbs.

 

I can see why Nora likes them so much, Neo said thoughtfully, eating just as fast as Ruby.

 

You talk about them like you know them, but they don't even know you exist.

 

Not like they think about you any more than me.

 

Ruby flinched. Neo was right, of course. It wasn't like anyone else at Beacon cared about her except Yang and maybe Pyrrha. Why should they? Her euphoric feelings sinking down, she looked away from the other girl. Two dirty dishes encrusted with syrup and crumbs sat heavy on the counter, shining slightly in the moonlight.

 

Get up.

 

She looked up at Neo, who was holding out Crescent Rose towards her. Her white eyes were gone, and her glare was steely. Snatching her weapon away, Ruby got up to face down the darkened hallway, leaving Neo at her back.

 

What are you waiting for?

 

She bowed her head, letting the light shine past her as her short hair drifted shadows along the corridor. I watched a movie once, where there was this awesome warrior girl who found this magical device. It made her have this weird mental connection with this guy, and they could talk and everything. They had some cool battles, and then also some gross mushy stuff Yang and I thought was boring but Dad really liked. Is that like what we have?

 

Neo swept past her, pulling her sword out behind her. Well, I'm not a guy, am I?

 

Beacon was dark after hours. Ruby was tense as they walked past looming paintings and closed doors as Neo stalked ahead of her. Before long, they were slipping out the massive double doors and into the formal gardens.

 

Ruby had almost spaced out when Neo spun around and pointed the tip of her sword to her throat. Dead.

 

She jumped back in surprise, unleashing Crescent Rose. Her beloved blade was coated in blood again, and she could tell her combat outfit hadn't really gotten clean in the wash. No time for her to think about that, though. She clutched her grip, ready to spring into action when-

 

Neo reached into a nearby bush and pulled out a pile of stuff. Put your pig-sticker away.

 

Don't call Crescent Rose that! Ruby exclaimed angrily, pulling it back into sniper mode before blowing a shot past her head.

 

Neo smirked as she flickered around her, making Ruby spin around wildly. Oh dear, the fifteen year old with the full combat assault rifle and scythe, how scary. You're so easy to kill, Rose.

 

Ruby inhaled sharply as she felt the cold kiss of metal at her throat.

 

Dead.

 

Why are we out here?

 

Neo pulled away and threw something from the pile at her. Ruby caught it, then staggered under the weight as she did. Twenty five pounds of books, full trail and camping gear, and ammo. Put it on.

 

Why?

 

Neo's smirk deepened. Do you like sleeping? Do you like nightmares?

 

Ruby didn't hesitate to put the pack on. She winced as the straps dug into her shoulders. It's so heavy!

 

Perfect. Now, run.

 

For how long.

 

Until I tell you to stop.

 

She stared at Neo until she started to flicker threateningly. Taking a deep breath, Ruby braced herself then took off flying around the school.

 

The scenery flew by as she sprinted as fast as she could go, Neo's illusion floating along next to her. Her pack grew heavier and heavier as she passed the entrance one, two, five, eight times. By the ninth, her legs and back ached so badly that she forced herself to slow down, her aura severely depleted as she took deep heaving breaths. Sweat covered her forehead as her vision blurred.

 

I didn't tell you you could stop.

 

I ca-

 

Blinding pain shot through Ruby's back, and she screamed as she fell to the ground. Neo stood over her as she curled up, an illusion with a blood-soaked sword disappearing. Did you forget that my illusions can still hurt you?

 

Ruby curled up, shaking her head.

 

Neo growled and kicked her before kneeling down and putting her hands on her chest. Red, black, and white swirled around them as aura rushed into her body. You did nine laps that time. Do it again.

 

Ruby staggered to her feet, picking up Crescent Rose. I don't understand. Why are you doing this?

 

Your endurance is shit. Your aura levels are shit. You get into any high stakes situation, you're going to die. We're going to do this every single night until you start improving. Do you need me to hurt you more to understand?

 

Squeezing her eyes shut, she took off running again.

 

Neo refilled Ruby's aura two more times that night, and struck her once more. By the end, Ruby was so tired that she could barely stand. Her entire body ached, and all she could do as she staggered back into her room, supported by Neo, was clamber into bed and close her eyes.

 

All she could dream of was her bleeding back.

 


 

Drip.

 

Someone sat down at the other end of the table. Maybe it was Neo. Ruby didn't care.

 

Drip.

 

Her milk made interesting circles when it fell into her Cookie Crunch. That was nice.

 

Drip.

 

“...what we have here!”

 

Ruby blinked sleepily as she felt a set of eyes on her back. She moved her spoon around in her bowl, letting her head droop lower over her untouched breakfast.

 

My back hurts…

 

“Hey, she's not even listening to us!”

 

A fist slammed down on the table next to Ruby. She stared at it blankly, then turned slightly to look at the person it belonged to. “What?”

 

A boy above her jeered down. His name was Cardin, or Cory, or something – she vaguely remembered his initiation video. Ruby found herself staring at his breastplate, which had a bird emblem printed on it. He had to be at least a head and a half taller than her. “So you're the one everyone is talking about,” he jeered, the rest of his team snickering as they stood around her.

 

“'Bout what?” she mumbled, wanting to go back to sitting alone in the corner.

 

Cardin snorted. “Oh, please, don't play that humble game with me, that's bullshit.”

 

Neo, they're being annoying, make them go away.

 

Wha… Neo said, only half awake.

 

Fine, I guess I'll just do it myself. Ruby slowly turned herself around and took a couple sips from the coffee she had poured herself. “What do you want?”

 

“To see if the rumors are true, of course!” he said, spreading his arms wide. “Ruby Rose, who killed Roman Torchwick with a single blow, youngest entrant to Beacon Academy in a century, took down a deathstalker solo and made it look easy!”

 

Ruby shrugged. “I guess.” She turned around and went back to her cereal.

 

Drip.

 

“Oh, so now you're just going to ignore me?”

 

“Go away.”

 

Drip.

 

“Now, why would I do that?” Cardin asked.

 

Ruby glared into her soup, that awful angry feeling that wouldn't go away rising up once again. Why couldn't she just disappear, vanish to some place alone where she could just work on her weapons all day?

 

A heavy gauntlet landed on her shoulder.

 

In an instant, Ruby sprang to her feet and unleashed Crescent Rose. Swinging her blade around, she knocked Cardin and two of his teammates back into the wall. “I said, go away!” she yelled, wincing as her back twinged in pain.

 

The cafeteria fell silent.

 

Cardin slowly got up from where he had fallen, staring at her in fear. “Your blade, it's covered in blood… You fucking psycho Black Rose bitch, you deserve that nickname! Come on, let's get out of here!”

 

Ruby knew how he saw her. He saw the bloodstained cloak and scythe. She didn't care.

 

She didn't care about the whispers. She didn't care that she was sitting down alone. She didn't care that when she glanced at the girl with rabbit ears sitting at the other end of the table, she scampered away in fright.

 

She was too tired to care about any of that. Besides, what was the point in arguing about something she already knew?

 


 

The suds were turning black, slowly.

 

Ruby zeroed in on the task she had at hand, scrubbing back and forth repeatedly. Wasn't Crescent Rose beautiful? She loved how she had made it, how effortless it was to pull it apart and put it back together. It sure made cleaning it easier, didn't it?

 

She had Grimm blood under her fingernails. Yang wouldn't like that, she hated it when she or Ruby got really dirty.

 

Rose, you're killing me right now.

 

As far as Ruby could tell, Neo was actually there, perched on the far end of the weapons bench she was working at. Huh?

 

Neo's eyelid twitched, and she was digging her fingernails into her palm. You have been cleaning Crescent's blade for twenty minutes.

 

You woke me up at two in the morning to run around Beacon twenty six times at max speed.

 

Neo groaned, lying down on the table. She contemplated her boot as she stuck it into the air, holding it up against the light. You're no fun today.

 

Who's fault is that?

 

Hold up, we've got company.

 

Ruby's head shot up to see a boy with straw colored hair tiptoeing across the weapons workshop. She probably knew his name; if that was true, she couldn't remember it.

 

The boy, who had been carefully watching her, shrieked slightly before composing himself. “Heh, I- um, I really only needed to grab this one thing, and then I'll leave, I swear! Don't hurt me!”

 

Ruby frowned as he flew towards the tool chests in a panic. Hadn't Neo said something about him? Oh, now she remembered: he was the one she had wanted to kill. “Aren't you the one that faked his transcripts?”

 

He turned, blinked at her, then collapsed into a dead faint.

 

Ruby yawned. She was having too much trouble trying to keep her eyes open, but she had to clean off Crescent Rose.

 

Neo laughed so hard she rolled off of the table and fell onto the floor. You know what? I take it back. There's never a dull moment around you, is there?

 

Jaune. Ruby remembered his name now. That was a name. Names were nice. Cookies were also nice. When was lunch?

 

“Mommy?” Jaune muttered as he slowly blinked his eyes open. “Wait, why am I on the floor?”

 

Neo howled as she held her hands to her stomach, nearly crying in mirth.

 

“You fainted,” Ruby said, hitting a particularly dirty patch of blade. Activating her semblance, she scrubbed it harder as the accumulated layers of blood and grime slowly came off.

 

Jaune sighed happily. “Okay, so that explains all of the birds… Wait a second, did you-”

 

She stared down tiredly at him, struggling to keep her eyes open. “Um, you're a little bit too close to me right now...”

 

“How did you know that?” Jaune hissed, his face betraying his panic and fear.

 

Ruby shrugged.

 

“Oh, no.” Jaune wildly looked around. “If you know, everyone else must know too. I'll have to leave Beacon! Please, don't tell anyone else! I'll do anything!”

 

Crescent Rose seemed to be clean, but she had to stand up if she was going to reassemble her. “I need to get up.”

 

Jaune sprang away from her. “Yes, of course! Was that a yes or a no? That wasn't a no, right? I mean, getting up could be a bad thing, so...” He trailed off as he watched Ruby. “Oh… Black Rose… That's why…”

 

Ruby activated her semblance as she reassembled her scythe, swinging it around as she finished. Ignoring her aching body, she launched into a training sequence – she never finished working on her weapons with out using them first. Spiraling around, she ducked and weaved around, making sure every component still worked perfectly.

 

Meanwhile, Jaune was groveling at her feet. “Please, don't kill me; I mean, I understand if you do kill me, but I would really appreciate it if you didn't. It would be nice to get to wear my bunny slippers again, ya know? I really-”

 

Finally done. Ruby sheathed her weapon and walked out of the weapons lab. She had an hour of free time left, and she was going to die if she didn't get some sleep. She paused at the threshold. She was forgetting something, wasn't she? Oh, that was right; she hadn't said goodbye to Jaune! “Bye, Jaune.” Clicking Crescent Rose to her belt, she left the boy behind on the floor.

 

Jaune stared at the ground in confusion. “Oh, um, bye Ruby?” He fell back onto his knees. “Was that a yes? She had to have meant yes with that whole walking away and ignoring me thing, right?”

 

Never a dull moment around here, Neo said as her laughs slowly died down, and she wiped a tear away as she left the room after Ruby. Never a dull moment.

 


 

Ruby sighed, leaning against her elbow as she skimmed over the textbook in front of her. I want to die. Can I die now? I probably should have at least twice in the last month.

 

If I have to suffer through this, so do you, Neo grumbled as she quietly played with Ruby's scroll in her bed.

 

“Alright, so what do we know about the 1712 Vacuo Grimm Uprising?” Weiss asked as she flipped to the next page in the textbook.

 

Team WBYR was sitting around a low coffee table Yang had dragged into the room. A mess of notebooks and textbooks was spread across the surface; they were halfway through the first of Weiss' marathon study sessions.

 

“Let me guess!” Yang exclaimed. “First, a bunch of Grimm went and attacked humans, then we killed them. Let's move on!” She banged her gauntlets together and grinned at Blake. “I'm ready to do some combat training.”

 

Blake rolled her eyes as Weiss glared at her. “For your information, this rebellion is a major piece of Remnant history and will most certainly be on our first test in History. That was an oversimplification of a complex series of events.”

 

“Oh really, I never could have guessed,” Yang said, biting back a laugh. Blake covered her mouth and looked away.

 

Ha, I just beat level thirty three of Atlas Attack Three! Neo exclaimed.

 

Hey, I just bought that game, don't play it!

 

Too bad, you've got to study now.

 

“Yang,” Weiss' voice was rising dangerously high.

 

Ruby's sister sighed. “Fine, whatever you say, ice queen.” Weiss blushed, but Yang ignored it and faced Blake. “So, Blake, what do we know about this Grimm thingy?”

 

“You're asking me?”

 

“Duh, you two actually study and all that,” Yang said with a grin.

 

“Actually,” Weiss said pointedly, “I was going to ask Ruby.”

 

Ruby woke herself up as she heard her name. “Huh? I'm awake!”

 

“Right...” Weiss sighed. “So, care to tell us about the Grimm Uprising?”

 

“Uh...” Activating her semblance, Ruby skimmed the pages as fast as she possibly could. “There was this human, and he led the Grimm into Vacuo… and, he was controlling them somehow?”

 

“You could actually pay attention next time instead of reading it when I ask,” Weiss snapped.

 

Ruby's head had already dropped back down to her elbow.

 

Yang shook her shoulder. “Yeesh, Ruby, why are you so tired today?”

 

Me.

 

You don't have to sound so proud about it. “I had a bit of trouble sleeping last night.”

 

“Well, that's no excuse. Get up, we have another hour of studying!” Weiss' tone was a bit too harsh, and Ruby flinched back.

 

“Hey, lay off of her!” Yang exclaimed, standing up. “This whole thing is ridiculous anyways. Why are we even doing this? I'll bet none of us have ever studied for more than an hour straight in our lives!”

 

“I have, and I'm team leader, so I'm responsible for making us the top of our class!” Weiss yelled, standing up as well.

 

“Well, just because you're team leader doesn't mean you get to order us around,” Yang said firmly. “Besides, who cares if we're top of the class? We're here to kill Grimm, kick butt, and not die.”

 

Blake spoke up quietly. “Yang does have a point.”

 

Weiss gritted her teeth as she ground her heel into the floor. “So now you're teaming up against me? You do realize that if we don't do this, Ruby will fail, and then I-”

 

“Leave Ruby out of this.”

 

“This is stupid,” Ruby muttered, playing with the corner of her textbook. “Nobody wants to study this much. It's Saturday. I wanna sleep.”

 

“What did you say?” Weiss yelled, clenching her fists.

 

“Weiss, drop it,” Blake said softly.

 

Yang had no such reservations, her battle aura rising around her. “Why do you even care? I told you to leave her alone.”

 

“Well maybe I don't have a choice!” Weiss exploded. “Maybe it actually matters how well I do here, did you consider that? You are my responsibility, and I won't screw everything up.”

 

Yang growled. “Nobody is in charge of me but me. Ever.”

 

Ruby saw that her sister was about to explode, and she got out of her chair and grabbed her arm. “Yang, please, it's not worth it!”

 

She whipped around angrily to glare at her, then deflated when she saw Ruby's pleading expression. She sighed, then pulled Ruby into a hug. “Yeah, you're right.”

 

“You know what?” Weiss strode across the room and grabbed Myrtenaster. “I don't care. If you want to fail, we'll all suffer for it.”

 

The door slammed shut behind her.

 

Blake stared at the door. “That just happened.”

 

“I'm going to sleep,” Ruby said with a yawn. It's finally over.

 

Neo looked at her as she clambered into her bed. Um, are you just going to push me into the wall.

 

Too tired. Don't care. Sleep now.

 


 

Okay, this is weird, what's happening? Ruby asked in bewilderment.

 

You fell asleep, so I'm following Ice Queen. Watch this.

 

Weiss was huddled in a corner of the library, sobbing into sleeve. Neo stood next to her invisible, looking down at her with something akin to pity.

 

Ruby watched her in amazement. I don't get it. Why is she crying?

 

“Miss Schnee?”

 

Weiss stiffened, and she looked away. “Hi Professor Port,” she said.

 

The large man considered her for a moment, then leaned against a nearby bookshelf. “Dear girl, you have been crying. Please, I am an expert on these matters. Confess to me your strife!”

 

Weiss shook her head as she sniffed. “I'm not crying.”

 

Port hummed as he watched her. “It is quite normal to cry, there is no need to be ashamed. Would you like to tell me about it?”

 

“My team won't listen to me!” she exclaimed, glaring up at him. “I'm trying to help us be the best, and they're ruining it all. I don't get it.”

 

He hummed thoughtfully. “Well, Miss Schnee, might I tell you that the school received a letter from your father expressing his gratitude and his hopes for you?”

 

Weiss inhaled sharply, and Ruby frowned. Her father?

 

The president of the Schnee Dust Company? One of the richest people in the world?

 

Oh.

 

“My father has been wonderful in his support of my education and my ambitions,” she said tightly.

 

“Oh, but he isn't here, is he?” Professor Port said, twirling his mustache.

 

Weiss stared at the floor.

 

“You have been selected as a leader, dear,” Port said kindly. “It is up to you to determine what that means, not your father. At this school, you have the freedom to do much of what you please. Although you have good intentions, you are taking that away from them. Is it truly surprising that they would react like they are?”

 

“But a good leader needs to have obedience,” she protested.

 

Professor Port shook his head. “No. That may be what your father teaches, but that's not our lesson. All good leaders have the trust of their team. Once the team trusts the leader, they will obey them to the grave. Do you understand?”

 

Weiss got to her feet, wiping her eyes as she stared past Port. “I have to think about this.” She swept out of the library, leaving the professor and Neo in her wake.

 

Good night, Rose.

 

Good night, Neo.

 

Slowly, Ruby's vision through Neo faded to black as she fell into true sleep, lost in thought.

 

Could I ever follow Weiss like that?

Chapter Text

Chapter Seven: Fracture

 


 

re:Bound

 

A Fanfiction by Pokefan87

 

Chapter Publish Date: 10/21/17

 


 

“Remember, if you wish to properly meditate, you must clear your mind of all distractions.”

 

Ruby winced and buried her head in her hands as another vision of Roman dying seared its way across her mind. Neo tightened her mental grip even further. Don't you dare, Rose.

 

She didn't understand. She didn't understand why she had to be so tired. She didn't understand why Neo wouldn't just replenish her aura to get her out of the awful sessions. She didn't understand how Neo could replenish her aura in the first place. “I can't, Professor! Do we have to do this?”

 

“If you ever want to understand your powers, this will be the only way...”

 


 

Before Beacon, Ruby had never imagined her shadows could be so deep.

 

The room darkened ominously as Weiss stormed over towards her. Towering piles of textbooks had her trapped, and she couldn't get up from her seat. Panicking, she tossed her scroll away and sat upright. “Queen Schnee, please, I-”

 

Weiss loomed over her, scowling her further down into her seat. “Silence! How many times have I decreed you shall not eat cookies when we study?”

 

Ruby squeaked and quickly wiped crumbs away from her mouth. “What? No, I would never do something like that!”

 

Yang burst in as the Weiss was preparing to strike Ruby. “Stay away from my sister, Ice Queen!”

 

Weiss laughed evilly as she adjusted her crown and lifted Myrtenaster. “Nobody interrupts my sixteen hour study sessions!” A cloud of dust burst from the end of her sword, and Yang turned to solid ice.

 

“Yang! Nooooo!”

 

The Ice Queen spun around on her heel to point Myrtenaster at Ruby's nose. “This is your punishment, Ruby. I'm the team leader, and you're a bratty little fifteen year old. I might as well kill you so you don't have the chance to kill yourself.”

 

Ruby flinched back. “I won't let you win! Why are you doing this to me?”

 

The world around her flickered as her veins turned to ice.

 

This is a dream. I'm dreaming again.

 

Roman Torchwick sneered at her as she stared down the barrel of his cane. She stood frozen at the edge of an abyss, unable to run, to move. She wanted to clench her throat in anticipation of what was about to come, but she couldn't. She couldn't move. She couldn't do anything.

 

“Well, Red, maybe you should've thought that through before you killed me,” he said, then pulled the trigger.

 

Ruby shot straight up in bed as a wave of pain washed over her body. She doubled over, head pounding as her entire body burned, or at least felt like it. Biting back a scream, she dug her fingernails into her palm as hard as she could, trying desperately to focus on that until the phantom burning started to recede.

 

The room was dark. The small clock by Weiss' bedside read 3:30 am.

 

Ruby flopped back on her bed in despair. I can't live like this.

 

She needed to take a shower. She needed to eat. She needed to sleep.

 

All she could think about was Torchwick's mangled body.

 

Her fingers trembled as she picked up Crescent Rose for the second time that night, the effects of barely any sleep in the past two weeks and Neo's grueling physical training regiment slamming into her harder than a boarbatusk. Slipping out the doorway, she tiptoed past where she knew Neo was sleeping and into Beacon's corridors.

 

The training arena was dark as Ruby walked inside and placed her scroll on the giant screen. Lights blinked on and illuminated the stands, ringing her in the harsh glare. “Greetings Ruby Rose. How may I assist you?”

 

“Free training.”

 

The screen beeped, and Ruby's aura monitor and a live video feed popped onto the screen. “Good luck, Miss Rose.”

 

Ruby sighed as she stared up at her aura meter. She was reluctant to admit it, but she had more aura now at eighty percent than she had at full before Beacon. Neo may be killing me, but she's definently making me stronger. I just want to know why!

 

Crescent Rose effortlessly slid into her scythe mode, and Ruby brought the blade in front of her sliding her feet out slightly and taking a deep breath.

 

Side slash. Right cross. Spin into left cross. Anchor the tip and kick out. Cut down. Roll into low sweep. Fake left into right spin. Side slash. Fake right into left spin. Side slash. Fake right cross into ram forwards. Cut down. Fire.

 

Ruby ran through each move slowly, keeping her stance perfect and ignoring her screaming body. Whatever Neo was doing to her, it was working. She felt stronger physically for all it was destroying her mind – maybe she had just been weak in the first place.

 

As she finished the exercise for the fifth time, she looked up to the computer. “Set tempo.”

 

“Tempo set.”

 

“Double tempo.”

 

“Tempo doubled.”

 

Ruby gripped her scythe tighter as a metallic beeping filled the ring. Now.

 

Each swing came faster and harder than before now. Ruby winced every time she hit the ground, but forced herself to keep going. Sweat dripped into her eyes, and she blinked furiously to keep it out.

 

I'm not supposed to work myself like this. I ran five sets of twelve laps around Beacon and already did combat t raining with Neo tonight. Why am I doing this? Why can't I do anything?

 

If I stop and sit down, I may never stand up again.

 

“Double tempo.”

 

“Tempo doubled.”

 

Ruby pushed herself to the limits of her physical ability as she spun and ducked without using her semblance. The aching feeling in her body got worse and worse as she hit her fifth rep.

 

I can't keep going like this.

 

“Double tempo.”

 

Tempo doubled.”

 

Ruby relaxed slightly as she slipped into the lower ranges of her semblance. Now fighting at eight times her normal speed, she focused again on footwork and technique as the world blurred around her. Now she did ten reps, hitting the ground over and over again as she sliced her way through her imaginary enemy.

 

Ruby Rose, your aura levels have reached seventy percent.”

 

“Double tempo.”

 

“Tempo doubled.”

 

“Ruby? What are you doing here? It's four o'clock in the morning!”

 

Was that Blake? She didn't turn to find out as she took on the exercise at blistering speeds. Crescent Rose blurred around her as she pushed herself farther, her aura levels starting to plunge. At sixteen times her original tempo, she was going through the exercise once every three seconds.

 

I can't keep going.

 

“Ruby, stop!”

 

“Ruby Rose, your aura levels have reached thirty percent.”

 

On Ruby's seventeenth repetition, she slipped.

 

Crescent Rose flew out of her hand and slammed against the arena wall as Ruby's momentum sent her tumbling across the floor. Her head hit the floor hard, and she yelled as she crashed hard into the wall, slumping to the floor.

 

“Aura levels critical. Aura levels critical. Please stop training immediately.”

 

“Ruby!”

 

Her vision was blurry as she stared up at Blake. Something's not right. What's wrong?

 

Had her teammate's bow just flattened against her head?

 

Neo. Neo. Neo. Neo!

 

What?! Neo shrieked as Ruby prodded her mentally. Rose, I swear to god I'm going to carve my name into-

 

I need you to heal me. Something's weird about Blake.

 

Fuck you. Why the hell were you doing combat training now?

 

I couldn't sleep, she said as Neo got up from the couch and started running towards the training center. Wouldn't you know about that?

 

Neo prodded deeper into her mind, and she winced. Ha, that dream was all you. I was sleeping, and I would like to continue sleeping after this.

 

Not like you gave me that choice… Ruby muttered.

 

“Hold on, don't pass out on me!”

 

Ruby squinted harder as her vision briefly focused. Blake's face was filled with worry, but that wasn't catching her attention.

 

Why was her bow flattened against her head? Suddenly, it straightened out and Ruby caught her breath quickly. What? Did you see that?

 

Oh, you mean Blake's ears?

 

Ruby froze, and Blake frowned as she looked up at her. Ears? There are no ears there?

 

Take her bow off. You'll see.

 

She took one last hard look at Blake's bow. “Blake?”

 

Blake sighed in relief as she hung her head. “Oh, you're okay. I-”

 

Mustering her last bits of aura, Ruby activated her semblance and pulled the soft black ribbon off of a pair of black furry cat ears.

 

Blake blinked at her, her amber eyes wide and betrayed, frozen in stunned silence.

 

“You're a… faunus?”

 

Blake jumped away from Ruby, drawing Gambol Shroud as she fell into a combat pose. Neo laughed as she strode into the room behind her. “How did you know?” she hissed, tensing as she prepared to strike.

 

Ruby pushed herself into an upright position, only to fall to her elbow as her head spun again. “Your bow- it was twitching.”

 

Sheathing Gambol Shroud, Blake stood unsteady in the center of the training arena. “You- I, I have to go.” Turning on her heel, she sprinted out of the room leaving Neo smirking in her wake.

 

You knew, she said hollowly.

 

Of course I knew. Neo stalked over to her and kicked her onto her side. That's for being an idiot and waking me up. You're lucky I'm in a decent mood, I have half a mind to kill you.

 

Ruby winced as white and black aura rushed into her body, arms tingling as she pulled herself up. She jogged over and grabbed Crescent Rose, then looked back at Neo. The shorter girl glared back at her resentfully, grinding her umbrella tip into the ground. So you just decide to screw with me and my friends because punishing me is making you tired?

 

And it worked perfectly…

 

Well, you're coming with me.

 

Huh?

 

Her cloak spilled out behind her as she sprinted back to their room. The door was open; Blake was gone.

 

She's not here.

 

Check the docks.

 

Ruby nodded to herself as she zipped through the school in a haze of roses. The night air was just as cold as it had been during training an hour earlier. An airship was waiting at the edge of the cliff, and a dark form disappeared inside the bulky hull as the door started to close.

 

Now.

 

She tensed, then exploded.

 

Blake shrieked as Ruby tumbled through the tiny gap right as it slammed shut. She tumbled across the floor, unleashing Crescent Rose and flipping to stop her momentum. The faunus unleashed her weapon and sprang, darting in and out as Ruby desperately tried to to defend herself in the enclosed space. Crescent Rose scraped against the ceiling, a harsh metallic shrieking that made Blake wince long enough for Ruby to slam her back with her hilt and retract into her blaster mode. “Stop! Why are you attacking me? Why are you running?”

 

Blake panted as she held Gambol Shroud up in a defensive position, her eyes wild. “You can't be following me! None of you are safe with me, you shouldn't be following me.”

 

“But what's that supposed to mean? Tell me, Blake, I'm your friend!” Ruby exclaimed, taking a step forwards.

 

She relaxed for a moment, then took a sharp breath. “You were on the floor. You had no aura, I saw it, the computer, so then how- How did you get on the airship so fast?”

 

Ruby didn't have an answer, and she could feel panic bubbling in her throat. Neo, what should I tell her?

 

Te- -e- th-…

 

It hadn't once crossed her mind that their connection would get weaker with distance. Now she was alone, in an airship, with a fully competent huntsman in training pointing her weapon at her. “I...”

 

“You don't sleep. Every morning, you get up at two and train. You killed Roman Torchwick, people at school are afraid of you. Then there was initiation...” Blake thought aloud as her stare grew harder and harder. “I trust Yang with my life, but there's something's been off about you this whole time.”

 

Ruby laughed nervously as she backed away from Blake, waving Crescent Rose in front of her. “I don't know what you're talking about.”

 

She hissed as she started to walk forwards. “Yang may think you're pure and innocent, but I don't. I watched you kill that deathstalker. I'm leaving to protect Yang and Weiss. If you're putting them in danger as well, I'll take you with me!”

 

Without Neo, Ruby was just a fifteen year old with an oversized weapon. She had never been in a real fight with another huntress. At least…

 

Neo! I need you!

 

Ruby ducked and spun as Blake struck outwards, taking a third hit on the edge of her blaster. Firing into Blake's chest, the two girls hit opposite walls. “I would never put my teammates in danger!”

 

“Well, you're not doing a very good job at showing it! Who's Neo?”

 

Landing engaged. Reaching Vale in fifteen seconds.

 

Ruby's mind shut down. The crimson was coming back, the blood she had started to see whenever she got angry. She couldn't push it back down as the door to the airship slowly started to open. “How do you know about her?” she said in a dangerously low tone, barreling out of the ship and unleashing Crescent Rose into the dark.

 

What am I doing? Blake's my friend! We're teammates! Who cares if she's a Faunus?

 

This wasn't her.

 

She couldn't stop herself.

 

Blake stood illuminated against the airship interior. “You talk in your sleep.”

 

Someone screamed as Ruby opened fire on Blake. She can't know about Neo. Nobody can't know about Neo. Nobody can know about the things I think- she thinks- we think- I- I-

 

A trail of smoke soared into the sky as bullets ripped through a line of shadow clones. Ruby narrowed her eyes as Blake's semblance paused for a moment. Activating her own, she rocketed forwards and knocked Blake into a shipping crate.

 

She flipped in midair and sprang off, flicking Gambol Shroud towards Ruby's legs. Ruby was gone before she could finish the action, and Crescent Rose's blade clashed with Blake's.

 

Close combat was fast, which was what she did best. She was still having trouble getting to Blake as her teammate spammed shadow clones, lashing out with both ends of her weapon.

 

When she felt her aura levels starting to drop, Ruby knew she had to do something drastic.

 

What would Neo do?

 

Letting her feet settle and focusing in on Blake, she launched into the exercise she had just been practicing. Blake's face lit up with recognition, and she smirked slightly.

 

Neo plays dirty.

 

Side slash. Right cross. Spin into left cross. Anchor the tip and kick out. Cut down. Roll into low sweep. Fake left into right spin. Side slash. Fake right into left spin. Side slash. Fake right cross into ram forwards.

 

Blake held Gambol Shroud up, ready to parry the cut down. Ruby fired and kicked backwards instead. Her teammate tumbled backwards across the concrete, Gambol Shroud flying out of her hands. In an instant, she had grabbed the loose weapon and had Crescent Rose at her teammate's throat. The black haired girl laughed harshly. “What are you going to do, Black Rose? Kill me?”

 

The haze started to drift away from Ruby's vision, and she realized what she had just done. She was holding her weapon to her teammate's throat. She was threatening to kill her partner in cold blood. Because of Neo. Everything was because of Neo. “Blake, you can't run! What are you even protecting Yang and Weiss from?”

 

Blake glared up at her. “I'm not running anymore, am I?”

 

Ruby quickly pulled Crescent Rose away and got off of her teammate. “Blake, I'm- I'm sorry! I didn't-”

 

“Look. Ruby, I'll give you answers, but I want them too,” Blake said as she yanked Gambol Shroud out of her trembling hands.

 

The transport ship came flying back into view, and Ruby shuddered at the pure malice she felt coming off it in waves.

 

Ruby. Rose. What. Did. You. Do.

 

Desperately looking at Blake, she said, “Why are we fighting? We're teammates! I thought we were friends.”

 

Blake's ears flattened for a moment before she retied her bow around them, sheathing her weapon. “We were never friends, you were just Yang's little sister I had to be nice to. And we're going to keep pretending we're friends, because I'm not going to let Yang get hurt. I was leaving to protect them from my past. I'm going back to protect them from you”

 

She stalked into the airship, and Ruby had no choice but to follow her past Neo,who had nothing but rage in her expression.

 


 

Ruby stared blankly ahead as her surroundings changed to the Beacon Cafeteria. What are you showing me now? Another nightmare?

 

Neo glared balefully at her as she lounged at the end of a table, flickering. I don't know why you're here, I'm listening to your teammate's conversation. As far as I know, you're still asleep.

 

Team JNPR and the rest of Team WBYR sat around the table eating breakfast. Ren and Nora were talking quietly – or at least, Ren was trying to have private conversation with Nore, who was being her usual self. Blake had deep shadows around her eyes as she brooded at the edge of the group, while everyone else was eating quietly.

 

Pyrrha sighed as pushed her bowl away. “Yang?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

The Mistrali warrior frowned as she turned to Ruby's sister. “I'm really worried about Ruby. Why isn't she here right now?”

 

“I don't know,” Yang said tiredly. “She's gotten worse lately, and I don't know how to help her.” She balled her hand into a fist and slammed the table, rattling all of their dishes.

 

Yang, Ruby whispered, desperately wishing she could hug her. She knew her sister, better than anyone at that table. She could see the pain behind her expression, and she hated seeing her so worried.

 

“Blake, has she been sleeping?” Pyrrha asked.

 

The faunus turned slowly and glared at her uninterestedly. Ruby bit her tongue as her bow flattened against her head. If she wants to hide her heritage from them, she's doing a terrible job. How does she think she's protecting them like this?

 

“No.”

 

Jaune laughed, “Not a morning person, huh?” She whipped around to face him, and he slowly stopped and shrank down in his seat. “Okay, note to self: stop provoking crazy warrior girls. Got it, I'll just talk to Ren now...”

 

He turned to his left and found himself staring directly at Nora, who's hand had gone to Manghild. “You're interrupting our private conversation.

 

Jaune sighed. “Nora, literally the entire table knows you and Ren are talking about your missing pancake mix.”

 

“See, now you're eavesdropping too! Ren, make him stop!”

 

Ren shrugged.

 

Jaune groaned as his head hit the table. “I can't win, can I?”

 

Yang sighed as Weiss piped up. “She's tired all the time, too! We're not even going by my original study plan-”

 

“Thank god for that.”

 

“Yang!” Weiss said angrily. “You're missing the point, out of everyone on our team, she needs the most help with her academic classes. I can't help her if she's this tired all the time!”

 

Weiss wants to help me? Ruby asked in surprise. I thought she hated me.

 

You're also extraordinarily dense and naive.

 

Hey, I'm not!

 

Neo rolled her eyes at her. Yes. Yes you are.

 

Yang buried her head in her hands. “I don't know what to do. I want to help her feel better but I don't know how.”

 

“Hey, calm down, it's going to be fine,” Blake said hurriedly, wrapping her arms around Yang. Ruby's sister sniffled as she leaned against her partner.

 

Weiss shook her head, glancing at Pyrrha. “I don't know what we can do, beside figuring out what's wrong and trying to get her to sleep.”

 

Ruby's vision slowly faded back into her dream scape. I didn't know they all cared about me that much.

 

You don't even understand how lucky you are.

 

Huh?

 

Neo's expression had something other that anger for the first time that night, and a small frown graced her face. You have family who cares. You have friends who care. There are so many people who don't have that, and you do of all people. Why do you deserve any of that? I don't understand it.

 

I-

 

Wake up, Ruby. Wouldn't want to keep Ice Queen so worried about your studies, would we?

 


 

Ruby sighed as she walked through the library doors. Neo has one of the least consistent personalities of anyone I've ever met. Why is she in my head? Why does she care about me, of all people?

 

She didn't see the boot until it was too late.

 

Raucous laughter filled the air as she spilled to the floor, her books spilling out of her arms. “Look at the Black Rose, on the floor. Let's see who's high and mighty now, huh?”

 

Ruby glared at Cardin Winchester as she picked herself up off the ground. The world around her started to turn red as she reached for her weapon, but stopped as she realized it was in her room. “What do you want?”

 

Cardin's teammates kept laughing as he started taunting her. “Not so powerful without your weapon, are you?”

 

“Shut up!” He caught her semblance powered punch easily and pushed her back onto the ground.

 

Cardin smirked, and Ruby's vision went full red. I won't have another Neo. “Who's going to protect you now? I don't see your blond bimbo sister anywhere, do I?”

 

“Let her go.”

 

Ruby spun around to see Ren pointing his blasters at Cardin, who gulped. “Who do you think you are?”

 

Ren smiled slightly as he started walking forwards. “Her friend.” Cardin thought about it for a moment, then jerked his thumb at his teammates and left. Once her was gone, Lie held out his hand and helped her get to her feet. “Are you okay?”

 

Ruby nodded, still looking up at him even when she was standing. “Thank you.”

 

“No problem, I've gotta move or Nora will be annoyed at me.” Ren waved at her as he walked away, and she faintly waved back.

 

Funny, when we first got here I thought you and him would never interact.

 

Neo flickered into her vision, and Ruby looked at her questioningly. You're not actually here?

 

The illusionary girl smirked at her as she sashayed into the library. I do have better things to do than follow you around all day. Come on, are we going to talk to cat girl or not?

 

Blake was sitting at a table in the far back corner of the library, impatiently tapping her feet against the ground. Ruby stiffened as she saw Gambol Shroud tucked behind her coat. Alright, that's it. Cardin was bad enough on his own, I'm not doing this without Crescent Rose.

 

She turned to run back to WBYR's dorm, but Neo flickered into her path out and drew her sword. Don't be an idiot. She clearly doesn't trust you, and if Ozpin finds out about this because you two destroy the library, we're both screwed.

 

Ruby eyed Neo's weapon, then reluctantly turned back to the table and walked over. Blake's head shot up as she pulled out a chair and sat down. “Um, hi Blake.”

 

“Ruby.” She closed her book and set it on top of a massive pile of books next to her.

 

Looking at the tip of the black blade sticking out from behind Blake, she asked, “You brought Gambol Shroud with you?”

 

“Forgive me if I don't exactly trust you right now.”

 

There was an awkward silence as Neo settled in at the table.

 

“Blake, I'm sorry about last night, I didn't-”

 

“Mean to hold your weapon to my throat?” Blake hissed. “Attack me? There was no reason for you to go after me like that. What do you expect me to do after I see you depleted of aura one second, then coming into an airship with Crescent Rose unleashed and full aura the next?”

 

“I needed to stop my momentum,” she protested, knowing how hollow those words sounded.

 

Blake rolled her eyes. “Do you honestly expect me to believe that?”

 

“Um, excuse me ladies?”

 

Jaune wilted as Ruby and Blake both glared at him at the same time. Neo started cracking up. Oh, this should be good.

 

He scratched his head nervously as he stumbled through his words. “So, I kinda need to talk to talk to Ruby. It's like, really important? So, do you have a moment?”

 

“No.”

 

“Oh, okay, that's fine. I mean, it's not like it really matters or anything, right?” Jaune retreated as fast as he could, and Ruby heard him say “Dammit Jaune, you screwed it up again!” as he left.

 

Blake sighed. “He's such an idiot, I'm not sure how he even got into this school.”

 

Neo dissolved into hysterics as Ruby shrugged. “Why were you running away?”

 

Her face darkened, and she looked away to the side. “What do you know about the White Fang?”

 

“The terrorist organization?”

 

“It wasn't always like that,” Blake murmured as she leaned closer to Ruby, looking around behind her. “When I was a member, we used to be a peaceful organization dedicated to peace and equality for all faunus. We held peaceful rallies and protests, and the governments of the four kingdoms would brutally beat us back. It's no wonder they became so much more violent, as awful as it is.”

 

“But you're not still a member?”

 

“No.”

 

Ruby thought back to everything she knew about the White Fang – the robberies, the attacks, the bombings, all of it. It was hard to believe that Blake, one of the quietest people she knew, could have been an active member. “So what changed?”

 

“When I was… one of them,” Blake started, “I was, um, involved with one of the most influential members of the organization. When it started, he was one of the best minds of the revolution – brave, smart, open minded. Then he started to change. By the time he became leader, he was the ideological leader of the radical branch of the White Fang. They didn't want equality anymore, they wanted faunus domination.”

 

“So you left?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Ruby, please, I just need a second, can we just talk?” Jaune asked as he ran back up to their table, his fists clenched as he stopped Blake from starting a sentence.

 

Ruby sighed as she turned to look at him. “Jaune, please, not right now. Okay?”

 

Jaune opened his mouth to argue, then closed it. “Sure. Yeah, you two just keep talking. It's not like I care or anything!”

 

Blake's ears twitched as she watched him go. “I swear, I'm going to kill him if he interrupts again.

 

Ruby stifled a giggle, and Blake looked at her exasperatedly. “What? What could possibly be so funny right now?”

 

She broke out laughing as Blake's ears straightened up. “It's just your ears, they're so cute!”

 

Blake smiled sadly at her. “You know, it's easy to forget that you're only fifteen sometimes.”

 

Wiping a tear from the corner of her eyes, she shook her head at Blake. “I don't get it. What are you so worried about happening? Nobody cares about you being a faunus, except maybe Cardin, but screw him. Running away will hurt them more than telling them ever would.”

 

“But Weiss-”

 

“Won't care.”

 

“But-”

 

“Blake, if I hadn't gone after you, then do you really think Weiss and Yang would have just sat around waiting for you to come back?” she asked.

 

“I guess so,” Blake said doubtfully, resting her head against her palm.

 

Ruby, Jaune's coming back. You need to get out of the conversation.

 

Got it.

 

“Ruby Rose, I'm not going away until you come and talk to me!” Jaune yelled as he ran over and jumped onto the table in between Blake and Ruby.

 

“Jaune, you're an idiot,” Blake muttered as he teetered awkwardly on the edge of the table. “You do realize that we're in a library, right?”

 

“Oh...”

 

Ruby got up from her chair. “Alright, where are we going?”

 

Betrayal instantly crossed Blake's face. “Ruby, you were going to tell me about-”

 

“Oh, wow, I can't believe that actually worked,” Jaune said to himself. “Um, sorry Blake. Ruby, c'mon, let's go somewhere else.”

 

Neo smirked at her triumphantly. Take him to the roof.

 

Ruby hesitated for a moment as she was caught between her two classmates. But, Blake-

 

Can't find out about me, or we're screwed. You're damn lucky you have an out here. Take it.

 

I guess so. Steeling her resolve, she shot Blake and apologetic glance. “Sorry Blake, I guess we'll talk about me some other time.”

 

Blake bit back a hiss as she got up, hand flying to her weapon's hilt. “You can't just-”

 

It took Ruby a second to realize she was smirking. Immediately disgusted at herself, she flipped her hood up and turned away. “I can, and I am. C'mon Jaune, follow me.”

 

Jaune looked back at Blake worriedly as Ruby stalked away, beating up on herself furiously. Neo flickered at the edges of her vision as she walked towards the library exit. Brilliant, Rose. I couldn't have done it better myself.

 

The blonde haired boy gulped as Ruby led him to the elevator and pressed the button for the eighth floor. “Um, where are we going?”

 

“The roof.”

 

“Right. Okay, this isn't scary at all. Just a normal elevator ride with Black Rose to go to the roof alone. Absolutely. Normal.”

 

“Jaune?”

 

“Yes?”

 

“Shut up.”

 

“Ok.”

 

When the doors slid open to let in the cool morning breeze, Jaune ran out of the elevator and spun around to face Ruby. “Okay, we need to talk.”

 

Neo winked and waved at Ruby, her legs dangling off of the edge of the building as she hefted her umbrella over her shoulder. Shooting her a look, Ruby focused on the boy in front of her. “I know, you said that, like, three times.”

 

“Right.” Jaune gripped Crocea Mors at his side before he said, “How can you know and not do anything about it? You've been ignoring me for two weeks!”

 

She absentmindedly fidgeted with her cloak as she watched the clouds behind him. “Know what?”

 

“Know what?” Jaune exclaimed. “You knew that I faked my transcripts! Why haven't you done anything about it? I told you, I'll do anything for you if you just keep it a secret.” His voice rose until it cracked on the last words.

 

And there you have it. Neo got to her feet, sauntering over to stand behind Jaune as she slowly pulled out her sword. He'll do anything for you. Isn't that pathetic? What are you going to do with it?

 

“Anything?” Ruby echoed, gulping as Neo's sword drifted towards his throat. What do you mean, do with it? I don't have anything to do with it. I don't even want him to say that!

 

So I should kill him?

 

No! I just don't understand what you could possibly want me to do!

 

“Yes, anything!” Jaune said desperately. “Please, I don't know how to really fight. I don't want to be a disappointment to my family, they're all hunters and huntresses and I'm just… me.”

 

“I could train you.”

 

“What?”

 

What?!

 

As she thought about it, the more it made sense to her. “Jaune, I don't really know you, but you seem really nice. I don't want you to get kicked out, so I can train you!”

 

Jaune's shocked expression morphed into one of gratitude. “Thank you so much! So you won't tell anyone?”

 

“No, but you still have to do everything I say,” Ruby hastily added onto the end of her speech.

 

You're a fucking idiot. Have I told you that before?

 

Yes?

 

Well, you're still a fucking idiot.

 

A bell rang in the school below, and Jaune hit the side of his head. “Oh, I'm supposed to go study with Pyrrha, Nora, and Ren now. Um, I guess I'll see you around then?” Almost giddy, he walked over to the elevator and left the roof.

 

Ruby was still looking at the bronze doors when Neo grabbed her shoulder and twisted her around. You don't get it.

 

What am I supposed to get?

 

Neo spread her arms wide, backing up slightly. He would have done anything in the world for you, and you decide to help him? Do you even understand how much power you had over him in that moment? You don't just give that up!

 

Who cares about power? He needed help, so I'm helping him!

 

That's not how the world works, Rose. Neo jammed her sword into her umbrella and looked out over Vale. You don't understand how much danger we're in right now. Unless you have power, you're going to die, and I'm going to die with you.

 

Ruby's gray eyes were wide. What danger? I'm a first year at Beacon, nothing bad's going to happen to me.

 

You have no idea what's happening right now. We're at the beginning of a new age, and I'm stuck with you. We may as well already be dead. At least Roman was vaguely prep-

 

Roman.

 

Neo froze as Ruby clenched her fists. She knew Neo had been hiding something. She knew it. What does Roman Torchwick have to do with any of this? I know you cared about him. I know you killed for him. What do you mean, new age? Who are “they?” Neo, if you know why this is happening to us-

 

When Ruby's vision started wavering, she knew she had said something wrong.

 

They were hardened warriors, dangerous criminals, leaders of underground empires, Neo snarled as uncontrolled illusions started to spiral around her. Every single one of them understood what survival meant, even though none of them ever did. They had resources. Loyalty. Money. Power. You know what you are. You're a fifteen year old with a blade and nothing else. Nothing. Do you know who wants you dead?

 

Dead?

 

The illusion changed to show a tall woman in a red and orange dress, surrounded by fire as she rose into the air above Ruby. She backed away from Neo as the illusion spun around to face her. You've never heard of Cinder Fall, but she's going to change the world. Before, we were on the right side of history. Now, she wants both of us dead. You know who else wants us dead? Harkan. They're going to come for us, and you can't do shit against them.

 

Ruby shook her head. I don't understand. Who are they? What do they want? What do you have to do with any of this?

 

Neo shrugged. It's simple. They're going to destroy the world, and unless we come up with a really damn good solution soon, we're going to die alongside it.

Chapter Text

Chapter Eight: Last Levee

 


 

re:Bound

 

A Fanfiction by Pokefan87

 

Chapter Publish Date: 10/28/17

 


 

“Ruby? What are you doing?”

 

Ruby looked up from her thick book and yawned at Weiss. “Reading my history textbook, obviously.

 

The Schnee heiress stared at her, face filled with shadows in the dim light of WBYR's dorm room. “You're… actually doing your homework.”

 

She smiled at her partner. “Well, I'm trying.” If she was being honest with herself, she wasn't sure whether she was trying to study or not have a complete mental breakdown. It was taking more willpower than she would have liked not just start screaming for no reason.

 

Not that she was going to tell that to Weiss.

 

The aforementioned girl seemed to be genuinely happy as she settled down next to her, pulling up a chair to sit alongside her partner. “Well, then I suppose it would be my duty as team leader to assist you, right?” Flicking her ponytail of her shoulder, she pulled her binder off of their shared shelf and pulled Ruby's notebook towards her slightly, raising her eyebrows at a doodle on the page. “Okay… This corgi is cute, yes, but I don't see how that's going to help you understand the material...”

 

Ruby did her best to keep up with Weiss as her leader scoured through her notes. It became immediately obvious not only that she had no idea what was happening in class, but also that she didn't really know how to study. Weiss was a good teacher, though, and her thick leadership binder she had showed off that first day was actually incredibly useful. She had never been taught methodically like this before – her favorite teacher ever was her Uncle Qrow, who was freewheeling and often drunk in class.

 

She still hated it, of course. Every time she started zoning out, though, she immediately thought of Weiss crying in the library, and what Neo had said to her.

 

You have family who cares. You have friends who care. There are so many people who don't have that, and you do of all people. Why do you deserve any of that?

 

She had asked Neo to leave her alone while she studied. Shockingly, she had agreed, and was now conspicuously absent from her mind. She had said something about going into town, maybe? Ruby had never expected she would actually feel it when Neo left, but there was something cold while she was gone she couldn't stamp out.

 

In a momentary lull in the transition from note taking strategies and studying techniques to actual content, Ruby and Weiss glanced at each other at the same time and smiled. “Thank you,” she said softly, and Weiss shrugged.

 

“Thank you for finally opening up, Ruby,” she said softly as she traced the edges of the textbook. “We've all been worried about you, but you've seemed… better in these past couple of days. I'm just glad you're letting me help you.”

 

Ruby met her ice blue eyes, lit up by the desk light.

 

I've been so lost in everything with Neo, all of these dreams and violence… These are the moments I've been missing.

 

“You know, when we first met, I never thought I would say this, but you're a good leader, Weiss.”

 

Her ponytail swayed behind her as she tilted her head. “And you can be, um, difficult sometimes, and I know you've gone through a lot, but I'm glad you're on my team. Are we going to go over these Grimm attacks?”

 

“Yeah, let's do it.”

 

Side by side, the two partners worked through the dense history textbook. For once, Ruby felt like she might be able to actually fit in at Beacon.

 


 

Neo's boot connected with Ruby's head, sending her tumbling to the ground in a dazed haze.

 

Ow… What was that for?

 

The grassy commons were cold and dewy in the early morning. She didn't have long to take it in before she was lifted up by the collar of her combat outfit to stare directly into Neo's harsh brown and pink eyes. You asked me to teach you hand to hand combat because Cardin Winchester could have kicked your ass. You asked. Not me. Don't make me do that again.

 

Ruby groaned as she was dropped onto her knees. Clambering her way to her feet, she reluctantly took a combat stance and bared her aching fists. Crescent Rose sat where she had carefully placed it on the grass. Fine, I'm ready.

 

Neo smirked. Wonderful.

 

Activating her semblance, Ruby rammed forwards with as much force as she could muster. Neo brought her arms together to block, and Ruby barely ducked under a roundhouse kick. Even as she threw five times as many punches as Neo, the other girl clearly had the upper hand.

 

When she missed a punch, a kick to the gut sent her flying to the ground.

 

Coughs racked Ruby's body as Neo ground her heel into the dirt next to her. Rose, I'm not even using my semblance. If this had been a real fight, you're dead on the first punch.

 

I don't want to fight like this! Ruby exclaimed. You're trying to teach me like I'm Yang, but I'm not! I can't brawl, I can't throw insane punches like she can. It's not- um- it's not all swirly, like Crescent Rose is.

 

Fine, Neo growled as she pulled her sword out. We'll do this your way.

 

Huh?

 

Dodge.

 

Ruby jumped out of the way as Neo lashed out, her sword whistling by her head. Stop, are you trying to kill me?

 

Yes, and so will they!

 

She screamed as Neo swept her blade into her side, sending her tumbling to the ground as her aura broke. Pain flared across her side, searing just like when Neo had struck her in her dreams. Curling up into a little ball,she couldn't stop herself from crying, clutching her side as something warm and sticky seeped through her fingers.

 

Blood.

 

She was hurdling through the air, she was hitting the ground. Roman's face was so pale, so lifeless, so shocked to have his chest split open to the open night air. She was screaming, had she ever stopped screaming? Her clothes kept getting stained with blood…

 

Neo was talking. She didn't listen.

 

Aura rushed into her body, and the would closed up under her fingers, but she couldn't care less.

 

I killed him. I killed him. I killed him. I killed him. I killed him.

 

Murderer. I'm a murderer. I killed him.

 

I killed Roman Torchwick.

 

I'm a murderer.

 

Ruby, please, stop, I can't hide noises! Someone's going to come, please, just stop for a minute!

 

She was warm. Why was she warm? Was it the blood? She couldn't remember how to breathe anymore.

 

Ruby, you have to, you have to, I'm sorry, I'm sorry-

 

“I- I-”

 

It started as a whisper, weak and wavering, pulling Ruby back to her senses.

 

Pink and brown hair fell down into her face, wavering in her watery vision. A smaller body shook with sobs against hers, even as she cried her own tears. Neo glowed with black and white energy as aura flowed into Ruby, bringing her further and further away from Roman. Her eyes, illuminated by her own dying light, shone crystal clear in the dark.

 

“I- I'm so-”

 

Her voice was light but raspy, and she spoke in barely a whisper, struggling to force out sounds without a tongue. Voice cracking, she hung her head and looked away.

 

“You would have killed me.” Just like I killed him.

 

Silence.

 

“I can't handle this,” Ruby whispered, numb against the damp grass. “I can't do this anymore.”

 

“I-”

 

“Get off of me.”

 

Neo opened her mouth, but she couldn't make an r, couldn't say her name. Clinging tighter to Ruby, she sobbed into her shirt. Please, no, I'm sorry, I'm-

 

“Get off of me!” Ruby screamed, and pushed.

 

For a moment, there was a brilliant green glow in the night. Neo ripped herself away from Ruby, staggering backwards as she stared at Ruby in horror. No.

 

Ruby stared at Neo as her aura died down. She could feel her aura die down. She could see her aura die down.

 

What had she just done?

 

Neo shook her head as she stumbled backwards away from Ruby. No. No, no, you can't have- You- Ruby, please, I'm sorry.

 

Don't call me that.

 

What-

 

Ruby struggled to her feet as her pain and fear fueled the crimson inferno of rage inside of her. Her vision faded to red as she started walking towards Neo. I'm just you're plaything, aren't I? I'm just your little pawn, aren't I? I'm sick of secrets. I'm sick of living like this. I'm sick of fighting. Stop moving!

 

Neo froze in place as the air glowed green again. Ruby, please stop, don't do this!

 

Ruby stooped down and grabbed Crescent Rose, unleashing it in a whirl of gears and moving parts. Oh, but I'm not Ruby to you am I? I'm just a murderer. I just killed Roman Torchwich, so you get to torture me for months. Maybe you are teaching me something. Maybe I am just the Black Rose. It's not like you give a shit about me anyways.

 

Ruby, don't curse, Neo said faintly. This isn't you, please-”

 

“SHUT UP!” Ruby kicked as hard as she could, hitting Neo's side. The other girl tumbled into the grass, scrambling back to her feet but never moving from her spot. “Maybe I'm not the same fucking person I was when this all started, okay? Isn't that what you wanted? Didn't you want me to be one of them? Don't you want to hate me? Is that why you're trying so hard to fuck me up? Is that why I have no friends? Is that why my own teammates hate me? IS THIS WHAT YOU FUCKING WANTED?”

 

Tears ran down Neo's face as Ruby stalked forwards. Please, Ruby, do-

 

“I told you not to call me that.”

 

Ruby's voice cut like the shattering glass panes of Dust Till Dawn. So did Crescent Rose.

 

Neo's head snapped back as she cudgeled the end of her scythe into her head. Her aura shattered as she collapsed to the ground, bloodied. Ruby felt her aura dim, and she snapped back to her senses.

 

She was a murderer. She had killed Roman Torchwick. Nothing was stopping her from killing in cold blood again.

 

Maybe something in her had died. Maybe it had already been long dead. Either way, she was already gone.

 

Neo's prone form was left in the dark, dusted with rose petals as Ruby disappeared into the night.

 


 

The deep scarlet stain on Neo's shirt sank and rose in the moonlight.

 

Crescent Rose gently swung from side to side, creaking in the quiet common room. Her combat outfit had a jagged foot long tear, curling edges turned black as her pale skin was visible underneath. Her silver eyes were cold.

 

She had wandered for an hour before she had come back to Neo and brought her in. What else could she do?

 

Neo was so small. How had she never noticed it before? Unconscious, arms crossed over her chest, it would be so effortless just to take her away forever. Her nightmare would never wake again at the bottom of Beacon Cliff.

 

She couldn't bring herself to do it.

 

She wanted to run, she wanted to go to back to the training center, she wanted Crescent Rose to kiss the air with all of the venom and fury she felt in her world. She wanted to destroy something. Her weapon was the only thing she had ever truly known and understood, after all.

 

She couldn't bring herself to do it.

 

“Red like roses...”

 

Her voice quavered, her throat growing thick as she knelt by the couch. Her music had always helped her before, why wasn't it changing anything now?

 

“Fills my head with dreams and finds me always closer…

 

Reaching out, she held Neo's hands, carefully threading her fingers together as she sang quietly. Everything was swirling inside of her, and she couldn't stop it, she couldn't hide it, not anymore.

 

“To the emptiness and sadness that has come to take the place of- of- of-”

 

Unable to take it any longer, she curled up as tight as she could, burying her head in her arms to lock herself in darkness.

 

“If you ever want to understand your powers, this will be the only way...” “ There are times where a hunter must take a human life...”

 

She didn't want Ozpin in her head.

 

Something's been off about you the whole time… We were never friends...”

 

She didn't want Blake in her head.

 

We're just worried about you, Ruby.”

 

She didn't want Yang in her head. She didn't want Weiss in her head. She didn't want Pyrrha, or Jaune, or anyone else in her head.

 

Are your dreams gone?

 

“I control you, Ruby Rose, and I'm going to make sure you never forget that.”

 

“Why are you running in the dark?”

 

I want to hate you.”

 

“Oh, Rose, I don't want you to die. I'm only going to make you use me, in the same way I'm going to use you.”

“I want you to be one of them.”

 

You don't understand. You don't understand anything about me. Roman wasn't like them. He was different. He cared about me. He listened to me. So, I did it for him. I wanted to do it for him. And now, I can't even grieve for him because you're in my head! Get out of my head! There's always someone in my head!”

 

“I don't understand,” she whispered to the dark.

 

"Because I loved him. And you will always be the person who took that away from me."

 

“If you won't be one of them...”

 

You have family who cares. You have friends who care. There are so many people who don't have that, and you do of all people. Why do you deserve any of that? I don't understand it.”

 

“I'll just turn you into one of them myself.”

 

“I'm so-”

 

Reaching deep inside of herself, Ruby found her aura, pulsating crimson, sparking with Neo's white and black. For the first time, she could see Neo's aura as well, connecting to hers as pure energy shifted between them. There was an alien beauty to it, but Ruby couldn't see it.

 

Instead, she pulled as hard as she could.

 

Was this what Ozpin had mean, manipulating aura to calm herself? Her aura shrank and pulled away from Neo, growing smaller as its edges solidified into a hard shell around her core.

 

What was the ball of silver at her center? Curiously, she poked it only to meet solid resistance. It didn't matter, anyways. It wasn't like it was important.

 

Neo's aura feebly tried to hold onto hers, but she tore herself away and into herself. However, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't tear herself away from a tiny golden cord connecting them together. Frustrated, she pushed her aura further into herself, dragging red tendrils away from the darkness around her and into her core.

 

Slowly, her tears dried up as she began to reach her aura's limit.

 

I don't want Neo in my head.

 

I don't want anyone in my head.

 

I don't want to be in my own head anymore.

 


 

Ruby Rose's eyes shot open, red flecks dancing across steely gray.

 

It was comfortable, somehow, to feel nothing at all.

 


 

Neo woke up slowly, her head raging against every move she made. Once she had woken up enough, she cast out to Ruby – to apologize, to tell her anything.

 

Ruby?

 

Reaching out, she was met with a wall, one she could pass no matter how hard she raged against it. After casting her aura against Ruby's for several minutes, she sunk deeper onto the couch and buried her head in her hands.

 

What have I done?

 


 

“So, Jaune...”

 

“Huh?”

 

Weiss looked at him calculatingly, although a small smile betrayed her unusually good mood. She had finally gotten through to Ruby last night, so it wouldn't hurt to be happy with herself every one in a while, would it? Besides, as much as she hated to admit it, the idiot boy's position as a team leader made him her peer and equal. She had to at least pretend she wanted to interact with him. “What did you think of the leadership conference this weekend? Is JNPR ready for our trip to Forever Fall tomorrow?”

 

Jaune looked like a deer caught in headlights. She was used to that, as it seemed to happen to people around her often at home in Atlas. “Oh, um, I'm not sure about about the leadership stuff, I guess the tactics workshop was pretty interesting. We a-”

 

“We're totally going to kick Grimm butt tomorrow!” Nora yelled enthusiastically, pounding the table as she got to her feet. “Me and Ren and Pyrrha have been training super hard together, so anything bad that comes along is gonna get smashed.”

 

Ren shrugged as he pulled his partner down into her seat. “It'll be fun,” he said as he took another bite out of his stack of pancakes.

 

Team JNPR and WBY were seated around their breakfasts, bright morning light streaming into the cafeteria. Blake and Yang were quietly talking over to the side, and Ruby was nowhere to be found. Not like that doesn't happen all the time anyways.

 

Weiss leaned forwards over her continental breakfast – a small croissant with a dab of jam and fresh strawberries. “Wait a second Nora, what about Jaune?”

 

Pyrrha sighed as she stirred her spoon around in circles in her cereal. “Jaune… hasn't exactly been training with us.”

 

Jaune crossed his arms over his bunny t-shirt, staring down at the table. “I- I guess that I, um, prefer training alone...”

 

Weiss glared at him. That's totally bull, and everyone here knows it, Jaune. He winced, but held her gaze until she looked away in disinterest. “I see.”

 

A stroke of red caught the corner of Weiss' eye, and she stopped thinking about Jaune. “Ruby! Come over here and sit with us!” she yelled across the cafeteria.

 

Yang perked up and paused her conversation with Blake to look at Ruby. “Oh my god. Oh- Wha- Ruby!”

 

“What?” Yang burst out of her seat and ran over to Ruby as Weiss looked at her team member. Why was everyone else gasping in horror? She had her hood up – sure, that made her look like a criminal, but that was normal, so- Oh…

 

Yang pulled Ruby across the cafeteria and into a spare chair as Pyrrha stood up and ran over to her side. “Ruby, what happened? Are you okay?”

 

Weiss felt her stomach tumble as she stared at the massive tear in Ruby's combat outfit. Her side and the fabric were stained red, and she was covered in filth and grime. Her head hung low as her hood shadowed her face. That's a sword wound… One that cut through her outfit and her aura, if she had any left. “Ruby, who attacked you?”

 

A hush fell over the two teams as they all stared expectantly at her. She didn't move.

 

Weiss scowled as she got up and walked over to her partner's side. “Ruby, take your hood off and tell us what happened! Was it Grimm?” She didn't want to think about what that might imply, but she had to know. Reaching over, she pulled Ruby's hood back.

 

Silver eyes masked by swirling crimson film stared blankly ahead. She gulped and unconsciously backed up a step. Blake made a strange noise and pulled away from the table, and Yang grew even more frantic. “Ruby, are you okay?”

 

“She looks like you when you use your semblance,” Pyrrha murmured.

 

“I'm fine.”

 

Ruby looked up at Yang, then vanished into a cloud of rose petals faster than Weiss had ever seen her move. “Since when is her semblance that fast?” she said quietly, something in between concern and dread filling her. In moments, she was back at the table with a full tray of food, quickly making her way through her breakfast.

 

Yang grabbed Ruby's shoulder, and her sister blankly looked up at her. “Ruby, you're not answering me! What happened to your side? Did someone attack you?”

 

“I fell. I told you, I'm fine,” Ruby snapped as she finished her meal and got up from the table.

 

Yang flinched back as Pyrrha said, “Wait, Ruby, can't you sit with us and talk for once? We're all really worried about you. Please, just sit down and let us help you!”

 

Ruby pulled her hood back up as she walked away, other students jumping aside as she walked alone away from their table. “No.”

 

They watched her go in silence. Weiss was unable to rip her eyes away from the massive wound on her side. Stop her! Her rational mind screamed, but something else was deeply frightened of and for her partner.

 

“Hey, if it isn't th-”

 

Cardin Winchester slammed into the upper cafeteria wall as Ruby unleashed Crescent Rose directly into his chestplate. The cafeteria stopped and stared at her as he slid down the wall. Slinging her scythe over her shoulder, she walked out of the cafeteria before disappearing in a cloud of petals.

 

“Wow.” Nora put her hands on her hips as Cardin's team ran over him. “I know this probably isn't the right time, but that was aw-”

 

“Nora.”

 

She pouted up at Ren, but stopped talking and went back to her breakfast.

 

Yang collapsed into her seat, staring blankly at the wall ahead of her. Blake and Pyrrha rushed to her side. “Her side… That wasn't Ruby, it's like she died and something else took over her,” she said vacantly.

 

Blake shook her head. “That's not true. She's been like this for a while, I think she's just been better at hiding it.”

 

“But-”

 

“Yang,” Pyrrha said as rested her hand on Yang's shoulder. “We're Ruby's friends, we're not just going to stand by and do nothing! Come on, there's got to be a way that we can help her out!”

 

Weiss nodded, pushing her thoughts of Ruby's injury to the back of her mind. “Pyrrha's right, there's no way I'm going to let my partner be like this. Teams WBYR and JNPR, as your leader-”

 

“Hey!” Jaune exclaimed. “What about me?”

 

“Well, Weiss has spent more time training us than you have...” Ren said quietly. “She's actually very disciplined and helpful.”

 

Weiss smiled at the compliment, then shot Jaune a questioning look. The boy sighed and shrugged. “Anyways, it's our job to make Ruby happy again! Who has any ideas?”

 

A tiny spark lit up Yang, and a shade of her confidence came back to her. “Well, I may have an idea...”

 


 

Jaune jumped as Milo slammed against the door, glowing bronze. “Hey, Pyrrha, what was that for?”

 

Pyrrha Nikos frowned as she pulled her weapon back to her. Finally, I got him to stay. “Jaune, I told you I need to talk to you, so why have you been ignoring me?”

 

Her partner sighed and leaned against the door. “Pyrrha, please, I can't tell you!”

 

She narrowed her eyes at him. You haven't told me who you've been training with for too long. I'm sick of it. “You can't hide this from me any longer. You're my friend, Jaune, nothing can possibly be too bad for you to tell me! Who have you been training with?”

 

“Ruby! It's Ruby, okay? That's why I've been getting up every night for the past couple of weeks,” Jaune exclaimed, trying to turn the doorknob behind him.

 

Not for the first time, she was incredibly grateful for her semblance. “Ruby? Why Ruby?”

 

He searched wildly around the room looking for an out, but she had told Ren and Nora to leave them alone before classes this morning. That might have given Nora some… misguided ideas about them, but it was necessary. “I don't have a choice.”

 

She caught her breath as she realized something. “Wait, did you give her that-”

 

“Of course not!” Jaune exclaimed forcefully. “She never came to wake me up last night, so I don't know what happened.”

 

Pyrrha's gut twisted painfully, although she wasn't sure why. “She's been coming in here every night? Have you two been alone?”

 

“Yes, well-” His eyes were wild as he met her gaze. “Pyrrha, I wish I could have talked to you about it. Ruby, well- She-” He walked towards her and dropped his voice. “There are weird things that happen. Like, she works herself until her aura disappears, then she glows white and black and it just comes back. I mean, it's not normal! She- she's really messed up, like, she's super brutal and she just attacks me whenever I do something wrong. It's like a nightmare, Pyrrha.”

 

Jaune squeezed his eyes shut, and she realized he was shaking. She embraced him, and he flinched back as if he was scared of her touch. “Jaune, why didn't you tell me? You know I'm always here for you. You can tell me anything.”

 

“I faked my transcripts.”

 

“What?”

 

“I never went to a combat school before Beacon,” Jaune whispered. “My older sisters are all huntsmen or soldiers, but I was never that good at combat. My dad told me he was never going to give me Crocea Mors, even though I was the only boy in our family. So I ran. I stole the sword and ran, and I haven't talked to my family since. I came to Vale because I wanted to come to Beacon, but I didn't have the experience or money. I was working in the city for more than a year before I was able to get the fake transcripts, training with the retired huntsman who was running the bar I washed dishes for. That's why I couldn't tell anyone. That's why I couldn't tell you about Ruby. She told me she would keep it a secret as long as she trained me. I thought she was going to help me, not- not-”

 

Pyrrha hung her head over Jaune's shoulder as he started crying, unsure of what to say. He never was really supposed to be here… But he's worked so hard! Why didn't he come to me? I would have helped him, I would have done anything for him. “How did Ruby find out?”

 

“I don't even know!” Jaune shouted as he pulled away from Pyrrha. “I was just going down to the weapons workshop to get stuff to take care of my sword, and she just goes all 'Oh, you're the one who faked his transcripts!' How the hell did the fifteen year old figure that out? For that matter, if she's fifteen, how is she so screwed up?”

 

“Jaune, calm down!” Pyrrha said forcefully, grabbing his armor with her semblance and sitting him down onto the nearest bed.

 

He stared back at her, frightened. “Sorry. I'm sorry, I should ha-”

 

“I don't care.” She walked across the room and sat down next to him. “I just wish you had told me this sooner, so I could have helped you train. I'm your partner, so it's my job to support you. What should we do about Ruby?”

 

Jaune shook his head. “You don't understand, there's nothing we can do. If I get kicked out of Beacon, that's the end of my dream and I'll be homeless. If I leave here, I don't have anywhere else to go!”

 

“But-”

 

“If I talk to Ozpin, she's tell him and I'll get kicked out. If I talk to her, she'll tell him and I'll get kicked out. I already tried to tell Yang about how violent she gets, but she wouldn't believe me! She has some fantasy idea that her sister is this kinda awkward, goofy, naive sweetheart who would never lay a finger on someone else, but she's not!”

 

“Yang is really depressed, Jaune,” Pyrrha said softly as she rubbed his back to calm him down. “I've talked to Blake about it – she's absolutely terrified about her. She's such a good sister, but whatever is happening to Ruby is destroying her. Blake did say some of the same things you did about Ruby, though. I believe you. Can't we do anything?”

 

“I don't know. I don't have anything I can do to make her stop.”

 

An idea popped into her head. “That's not true, actually. You have me.”

 

“Huh?”

 

Pyrrha shot him her best determined look. “Alright, I know I've asked you this before, but I'm going to ask you again. Jaune Arc, will you let me train you?”

 

Jaune hesitated for a moment, then nodded slightly. “I guess so...”

 

She embraced her partner, who reluctantly hugged her back. “We're going to fix this, okay? I promise that I won't let bad thing keep happening to us. We're all going to be alright. I promise.”

 


 

Yang stood awkwardly in the middle of the training center as her combat class muttered around them, cocking and uncocking. Her plan was flawless – as long as Ruby actually showed up to class.

 

Convincing Glynda to pair them up in a match? Easy. All it took was a little charm to convince her a good spar with her adorable depressed sister would cheer them both right up. Now, she just needed to Yang her sister around a bit, and it would be just like back in Patch.

 

Hopefully.

 

Turning to find Blake in the stands, she smirked and saluted at her partner. Besides, Blake's going to love this. Sparring her would be fun… Nope, this is more important.

 

Blake smiled and waved back at her, then Weiss poked her and they started talking again.

 

“Miss Rose, you are late.”

 

Ruby! Yang spun around on her heel to see her sister walking into the room. Her heart fell slightly as she realized she looked the same as that morning. She had changed into her spare combat outfit, but she still had her hood pulled low over her eyes.

 

She didn't know why Ruby hadn't show up to their room that morning after breakfast.

 

She didn't know why her sister was acting so distant.

 

She intended to change that.

 

Ruby made for the seats, but was stopped short as Glynda held her in place with her semblance. “I don't think so. Since you were late, you will spar Miss Xiao Long to make up for lost time. This make for an interesting fight.”

 

Yang caught the teacher's eye in gratitude, and nearly burst out laughing as Glynda winked at her, almost saucily. Guess she's not quite as much of a prude as I though, that'll show me.

 

Ruby set her books down on the stairs and flipped her hood down as she walked into the center of the arena. In one fluid motion, she unclipped and unleashed Crescent Rose and dug the tip into the floor of the arena.

 

Silently. Which was a little unnerving, Yang supposed. None of her sister's usual complaining or fanfare. She could fix that.

 

“Ruby, don'tcha think you've been holed up in your room a bit too much?”

 

The crowd groaned, but the target audience was silent.

 

“I mean, you've really been breaking you're schedule up lately, huh?”

 

Okay, so even she could admit that one was pretty bad. Glynda shot her a look that clearly said, 'Get on with it or I will lock you up in my Atlesian sex dungeon and perform unspeakable acts to you.'

 

Now, she didn't necessarily have a problem with that, but the point was taken. “Fine, I'm ready.”

 

Blake rolled her eyes at her, and she tried Glynda's wink out on her. She laughed, so Yang decided that her combat teacher was seriously on to something.

 

“Let's get this over with,” Ruby said as she tensed.

 

What? No, “Yang, you're going down?” No, “Look at how weapony my stupid death blade is?” Is Ruby really not- Nope, this is going to help her feel normal again. It has to.

 

“Alright, your fight goes until one of you reaches twenty five percent aura. Ready, go!”

 

Her sister shotgunned backwards as Yang dodged the concentrated dust bullet. Kicking off of the wall, Ruby slammed Crescent Rose's tip back into the ground. The handle bent forwards as she kicked down, and Yang's eyes widened in shock as she easily took the hit with one arm and punched forwards with the other.

 

Is she actually kicking? When did she learn how to use physical attacks like that?

 

Ruby did a frontflip and brought Crescent Rose down to where Yang had been. She fired to quick dust powered shots, only to wildly duck as Ruby rolled as she swept around with Crescent Rose.

 

Whenever her sister started spiraling around, long distance was the easy way to tire her out. Easy victory.

 

Yang leaped away from Ruby and got ready to change Ember Cecila to distance mode, then gasped as Ruby activated her semblance into a double cross cut. She tried again, only to find that Ruby wasn't letting her get away. Realizing she was stumbling backwards, she decided it was time to go on the offensive.

 

Every time Ruby brought her weapon around, there was a moment where Crescent Rose was on the other side of her body. She could exploit that.

 

As Ruby's moves got more and more complex, she ducked and weaved through her attacks as she waited for the right moment. How was she dodging every shot she fired? Ruby had never been this good before. Then again, she hadn't sparred with her since right before they came to Beacon, so who really knew what had happened since them.

 

The moment came, and Yang struck.

 

Her chest filled with a deep satisfaction as she landed three punches directly on Ruby. Then, they came face to face. Staring into Ruby's crimson silver eyes, she knew she had made a mistake.

 

Ruby pulled the trigger on Crescent Rose, and her kill move dropped the blade directly into Yang's back. She then activated her semblance, and Yang lifted off the ground in a furious whirlwind of blows and red. After taking at least ten hits, Ruby kicked her down into the ground, where she slid back to hit the wall.

 

Ow… Ruby, how the hell did you do that?

 

It didn't matter. She could already feel her aura raging inside of her, emanating around her as she got to her feet and bashed Ember Cecila together.

 

Ruby had 78%, and she had 31%. That didn't matter. She was going to bash her little sister back to her senses.

 

Don't overextend yourself, just punch her then get away.

 

Ruby's eyes were calculating as she cocked Crescent Rose. Yang yelled and rushed forwards, only to duck underneath another dust explosion. Looking back up, Ruby was already halfway across the arena with three bullets coming at her from different angles.

 

Shit, she's strafing me. Two can play that game.

 

Focusing all of her energy on dodging, Yang shot round after round past where Ruby had been seconds earlier as she fought her way to the side of the arena. She can't strafe me if she can't get behind me.

 

Her back neared the wall, and suddenly Crescent Rose was on top of her.

 

No, she was just maneuvering me backwards! Damn, how the hell-

 

Yang dove to the side as a gravity dust bullet ripped through the wall, punching forward and flipping off her gauntlets as Ruby swung Crescent Rose through her roll. Pushing off the wall, Yang landed a solid hit on Ruby's head as she flew past her and the scythe, landing on her feet as Ruby collapsed to her knees after the superpowered hit. “Hah, you still can't beat me, huh? We did always say my semblance was bet-”

 

Ruby kicked out, and Yang fell backwards to land on Crescent Rose's blade.

 

A ding signified the end of the match, and Ruby dumped Yang unceremoniously onto the ground as she sheathed Crescent Rose and stalked over to the stands.

 

Yang stared blankly at the pulsing red 2% on the board.

 

Did I just lose? To Ruby?

 

She saw Blake, then darkness.

Chapter Text

“Yang? Are you in here?” Blake walked into WBYR's darkened dorm room to see her partner lying face down on her bed, softly crying into her pillow. Catching her breath, she ran over and sat by her side. “What's wrong? You never showed up to our study session.”

 

“Go away.” Yang's voice was thick and wavering as she tensed, burying herself deeper into her bed.

 

“Please, tell me what's wrong, I just want to-”

 

“I said, go away!” She sat straight up as her aura flamed to life around her, eyes mingling fury and desperation into burning red.

 

Blake flinched back, her instincts screaming for her to run away, to leave her partner and Ruby and everything about her new life behind. She started to turn away, but froze as Yang audibly bit back a sob. I can't, I- I told Ruby I was staying behind to protect Yang, to help her. I can't- no, I won't go back on that. She turned back to her partner and stared her square in the eye. “No, I won't leave you alone like this.”

 

Yang glared at her for a moment and clenched her fists, then pushed away from the bed and threw her arms around Blake. She stiffened for a moment, the hugged her back as tight as she could. “Please, tell me what's wrong.”

 

“I- I'm an awful sister,” Yang choked out into her shoulder.

 

“That's not true,” she whispered back fiercely. “Ruby- Ruby is- She's going through something none of us understand right now. You've been amazing.”

 

She blushed slightly as Yang pulled herself tighter against her. Her body seemed so frail as sobs racked her body, so different from the girl she usually knew. Tentatively, she combed her fingers through her disheveled hair as Yang said, “That's not true though.”

 

“Yang, yo-”

 

“No, it's not,” she said forcefully. “Blake, I've tried everything I can think of to help her. When I found out she wasn't getting real therapy, that O-Ozpin was, I talked to everyone! Dad, Qrow, Glynda, the school therapist, and nothing changed. I've tried helping her, comforting her, but it doesn't do shit! She's just gotten worse and worse, and I-” Yang's voice broke, and she was silent for a moment. “You shouldn't be here, I hate letting people see me like this. It's so pitiful. I'm so pitiful.”

 

Blake stared down at Yang's cascading hair as her partner clung to her. It was hard to bear see her partner devastated like this. You're so strong, I never thought I would see you like this. “Yang, you've done so much for Ruby. None of this is your fault.”

 

“So why isn't she better?”

 

Blake sighed. “I don't know. Sometimes… Sometimes people just change, and sometimes there just isn't anything we can do about it.”

 

Yang stiffened, and Blake's heart sank as she pulled away from her. “That's awful, Blake! Why would you say something like that? Ruby- She's my sister, there's got to be something.”

 

“Yang, calm down!” Blake said as her partner backed away. “Look, I know she's your sister. I'm just saying-”

 

“You're saying that we should give up on Ruby!” Yang yelled, her aura flaring around her again.

 

“No, that's not what I'm saying. You don't understand, Yang, I've see-”

 

The other girl shook her head. “No, I don't believe you. You said there's nothing we can do for her! That's can't be true, it's never-”

 

“It can be true, because I've seen it happen before!”

 

The clouds slowly drifted away, revealing the silver moon underneath. Silver light flooded in between them, carrying the dust into the sky as it floated through the air.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

Blake squeezed her eyes shut and looked away. “I told you, I've seen it happen before. When they're changing, you can't stop it. Usually that just makes it worse. All you can do is watch it happen or run. That's it.”

 

“But that's total bulls- Bla- Oh.”

 

The fabric drifted to the ground as Blake bowed her head in shame, coming to rest in the light.

 

“I was a member of the White Fang.”

 

Yang stared at her in confusion, eyes flickering up and down her body before coming to rest back on her ears. “You're a… faunus.”

 

“It was my entire life, Yang.” Blake had never wanted to tell her story or secret to Yang, or anyone else at Beacon, but somehow having Ruby know made it easier to tell. “You could almost say I was born into it. Rallies, speeches, protests, all of it! We were fighting for freedom, for equality, and we got nothing for it. After a while, the organization changed, becoming more violent and extreme. My family left, but I stayed with my… he was… I don't know.”

 

“Blake, why didn't you tell us?” Yang whispered, her eyes still fixated on her cat ears.

 

“Adam- He was so wonderful, I thought. He talked about fighting for freedom and equality, and he also- we- Anyways, we fought for a long time, but after a while, Adam started to change. He got more cruel, more extreme in his methods, and he started to abuse his position. He… he changed like that in his personal life too.”

 

“Blake-”

 

Yang's eyes were purple again as Blake met them. “I tried, Yang. I thought that if I just stayed, just pushed a little further and did what he wanted with me, I could change him. I could stop him, I could make the White Fang about peace and equality again. I don't know why it took me so long to leave.”

 

“Was he violent… with you?”

 

Blake nodded slightly.

 

“Oh my god.” Yang stared at her, mouth agape before she exploded, her aura flaring up twice as powerful as before. “I'll kill him! I'LL FUCKING KILL HIM!”

 

“Yang, calm down!” Blake yelled, grabbing her partner's arm as she made a move for Ember Cecila. “You don't have a chance against him! He'll kill you, or maim you, and then you'll be gone and I-”

 

“Is everyone alright in here?”

 

Oh no.

 

Blake and Yang both turned to stared at Pyrrha Nikos in frozen horror as she stopped still in the door way. Jaune and Nora pushed through from behind her, only to stop as they saw Blake. Jaune blinked and scratched his head in confusion. “Oh. Blake, you know, I wasn't sure what was going on here, but I sure didn't expect you to be a c-”

 

Oh nonononono.

 

“What on Remnant is going on in here?”

 

Fuck.

 

Weiss Schnee stared at Blake for a moment, and everyone else in the room fell to a hushed silence. Her eyes widened as Weiss backed up, than strode away from the room, her high heels clacking against the marble and carpeted floors into the distance.

 

Blake and Yang exchanged a look. “Go after her,” Yang said. “I'll keep them here.”

 

She nodded and ran out of the room after her leader. She caught up to Weiss in Beacon's lobby, throwing a hand onto her shoulder. People around her were staring, she knew it, she didn't even care anymore. “Weiss!”

 

Weiss spun around and slapped her arm away. “Get away from me!”

 

Blake jumped back as a hurt look crossed her face. “Please, can I just talk to-”

 

“I think I just need some time alone,” the Schnee heiress said with a deep breath.

 

“But-”

 

Weiss bit her lip as she looked at the ground. “Blake, I- I shouldn't have run away, but I need this right now. This is… a lot.” As she looked back up at her, Blake saw something shift in her expression, and suddenly Weiss seemed more mature than she had ever seen her. “I am the leader of Team WBYR. I- I used to think that meant I was in charge of everything, but not anymore. Between Ruby and everything else that's happened...” She stepped forwards and looked right at Blake. “We have to be ready for Forever Fall tomorrow. Blake, I'm putting my trust in you that you won't just leave like you usually do when you're upset. Can you trust that I'm going to come back?”

 

Blake nodded slowly. “I- I guess so.”

 

Weiss' expression softened, then she turned away and walked out of the school.

 


 

“Why, what's a little snowflake like you doing around here?”

 

Weiss snapped out of her thoughts as she froze in place. Had she let herself lose track of where she was? Stupid, immature, idiot mistake. Slowly turning around, she faced the man who had addressed her and drew Myrtenaster. Cocking her dust chamber, she said with the coldest tone she could muster, “If you come any closer, I will blow your balls off.”

 

The man laughed haltingly before hiccuping; it was painfully obvious that he was drunk. His hair was black, and a grey weapon stuck out from behind is cloak. “Wait a moment… Winter, what're you doing in Vale?”

 

Weiss flinched uncomfortably as he lurched towards her, pointing her sword at his chest. “What do you know about my sister?”

 

“Ah, she and I go back. Like, waaaay back, if you know what I mean. Like, waaaaaaa-”

 

“Who are you?” Weiss interrupted.

 

“Me? Why I'm just a little birdie,” the man said, holding out a hand for her to shake and leaning forwards. “The name's Qrow, Qrow Branwen.”

 

Weiss didn't shake his hand, so he leaned too far forwards and fell flat on his face. “Wait, you mean you're Ruby and Yang's uncle.”

 

“And you must be Miss Weiss I-Have-A-Stick-Up-My-Ass Schnee, huh? I've heard about you,” Qrow said with a chuckle as he tried to get up but ended up rolling over onto his back instead.

 

“Hey!”

 

“Yang's words, not mine.”

 

“HEY!”

 

Qrow groaned. “Mind helping an old man up?”

 

“I couldn't be bothered,” Weiss sniffed, still reeling from Yang's second hand insult. When Qrow groaned, she stuck her sword into the ground and popped him into an upright position with her glyphs. “Happy?”

 

“You aren't.”

 

“Perceptive.”

 

Qrow slouched, unable to keep himself standing upright. Weiss sighed in disgust, then turned on her heel and walked away from him. People like him are the problem with this world.

 

“Oi, Schnee, you need someone to talk to. I see that look, been there, screwed that up more time than I care to remember.”

 

Weiss slowly turned back around and stomped back over to him. “And you're one to talk. I'll bet there's a reason you're drunk out of your mind right now too.”

 

“Touche.” Qrow staggered over to a nearby park bench and collapsed. “Come on over, have a little chat with good old Uncle Qrow.”

 

Weiss thought about it for a moment. If she was going to be at all rational about this, she ought to walk away and pretend she had never met the strange man on a Valean street.

 

He's not wrong though. I do need someone to talk to.

 

As every instinct in her body screamed at her, she sat down as far away on the bench as she could from the drunkard.

 

Weiss Schnee had standards, after all.

 

“So. Is it a boy? A girl? Both? You could be into that, I don-”

 

She sighed, already regretting her life choices. “It's not that. Did Ruby or Yang tell you about our other team mate Blake?”

 

“The edgy one?”

 

“Yeah, her. Turns out she's a faunus.”

 

Qrow stared at her for a while, then broke out laughing. “Really? That's it? From the expression you had, I though she had killed somebody. Relax, it's no big deal.”

 

Weiss glared at him. “How am I not supposed to care about this? What if she's a White Fang member? The White Fang has been hurting my friends and my company for years! People I know have died because of them! How am I-”

 

“She's your friend, right?”

 

Weiss nodded and stared at the ground. “Yes, and I don't want to lose that, but how can I stay friends with someone like that?”

 

“It's always a choice, Ice Queen.” Qrow unsteadily rose from the bench and started walking away. “If you're really friends, something like that shouldn't matter. Do me a favor and don't tell Ruby or Yang about this, okay? I've got a little surprise for them.”

 

Weiss stared at Qrow as he staggered away. What an insufferable loser. It's just…

 

She had always known when she got to Beacon that she would become a team leader. Years of training made it impossible for anything to happen otherwise, so why hadn't it prepared her to be an actual leader?

 

Blake was her friend. She actually had friends, for the first time in her life! Not the kids of wealthy aristocrats her father made her play with, actual friends who cared about her and each other.

 

Smiling slightly, she turned around and started walking back towards the docks. They did have a field trip the next day, and it wouldn't do for the team leader to be too tired to function!

 


 

Red.

 

Ruby stared out the window of the Bullhead as they descended into the sea of burning trees, tracing her shadows across the sparkling pane. The leaves brushed against the glass, and Neo's reflection flickered into view. She was leaning against the wall behind her, watching her with a desperate expression.

 

She heard nothing. There was no bond. There was only crimson.

 

The airship came to rest on the dappled ground, and Glynda barked out a series of instructions. Somebody rested a hand on her shoulder, which she pointedly ignored as she watched the shifting undergrowth around the ship.

 

The glass pane shimmered, and the words “I'm sorry” curled their way across the pane. Ruby pushed her thumb against them, and they shattered and spiraled into the sky.

 

Something about the fracture had been beautiful, once. It was hard to remember what. Her aura was so easy to tap into now, concentrated as it was. She left Neo behind in the darkened hull as she ran up to the group of assembled students. Glynda was explaining about the rules of their assignment, something about teams and sap.

 

Before long, they had split up into groups. Ruby dragged her feet as she wandered behind the rest of her team. Blake had her cat ears out, which was different, and the three were deep in an intense conversation. She felt a twinge of something, maybe jealousy, as she watched them.

 

Maybe Neo could tell me what they're saying.

 

The silence was deafening.

 

Team JNPR walked alongside her team. Nora and Ren were doing their own thing as per usual, but Jaune and Pyrrha kept shooting her odd glances. She caught Jaune's eyes as he turned towards her once again, and he hurriedly looked away and whispered something to Pyrrha.

 

It's fine. I don't need to know what they're saying. It's not like I care. I don't care about any of this. It'll all be over soon anyways, and then nothing will matter anymore.

 

Desperately, she ignored Neo as the shorter girl played with her semblance alongside the two teams.

 

“Ruby!”

 

She blinked as Weiss pressed an empty jar into her chest and said, “Come on, did you even notice that we stopped? You have to get your sap.”

 

Ruby took the jar she handed her, then looked around her. Everything was so red, all of it, no matter where she looked. She had to get away from them, as if she was a tree in a hurricane or pressed against a boulder at the edge of a cliff. Activating her semblance, she sprinted away from her team.

 

Nothing will matter anymore.

 


 

Neo screamed silently as she send her sword through another ephemeral Grimm. As she did, she controlled her semblance to make it explode into a cloud of black glass, feeling a hollow wash of satisfaction. Drawing on her aura, she violently smashed her boot into an Ursa's face, sending the glass back into the sky.

 

“Weiss, where did Ruby go?”

 

Her head snapped around as Ruby's sister walked up to Ice Queen, holding a jar of sickly sap under her arm. Ice Queen looked around. “I don't know. Blake! JNPR! Did anyone see where Ruby went?”

 

There was a howl far off in the forest, and Neo's blood went cold as everyone froze.

 

“Grimm,” Champion Girl growled as she drew her weapons.

 

Searching, Neo found the thin golden cord she knew would lead her to Ruby. As the hunters and huntresses ran off in the direction of the howl, she sprinted towards where she knew her broken partner was.

 

Ruby, I'm coming!

 


 

Ruby easily dodged the jar of sap as it hurdled towards her head and slammed into the tree behind her. Spinning around, she stared as the fragments of glass hit the ground.

 

Blood.

 

Dust.

 

Roman.

 

She staggered away from the fallen jar as laughter came from a nearby bush, falling to her knees in the middle of the clearing. “Well, well, look who's scared of a little bit of sap.”

 

Cardin Winchester drew his mace as he and his teammates walked around Ruby to surround her. She clutched her head as the flashback faded, digging her fingernails into her scalp. Murderer. Murderer. He's dead. “Go away.”

 

“Oh, so now she wants us to go away. Betcha didn't think about that when you were launching me into that wall, huh?” Cardin growled, brandishing his weapon as he circled her. “Why don't we play a little game now, just you and us? I'm sure we'll see just who the strong one is four versus one.”

 

“Leave me alone,” Ruby growled as started to get to her feet.

 

“Oh, I don't think so,” Cardin said as he kicked her back, sending her face first into the ground. His team laughed as he spat on her. “You're going to take this lying down like the little bi-”

 

Crescent Rose exploded into life as Ruby activated her semblance. Dove and Russel flew backwards into the underbrush as Sky and Cardin jumped back out of the way of her wild strike.

 

“You.” Ruby's voice shook as Crescent Rose's tip dragged in the dirt behind her. “You're the one who started calling me Black Rose, aren't you?”

 

Cardin laughed at her. “Yeah, so what? You and your team are just a bunch of fucking dykes anyways, makes sense that one of you would be a homicidal psychopath anyways.”

 

“I'll be your Black Rose,” Ruby said softly, her rationale and self-horror drifting away into anger. “Maybe I'm fucked up, but people like you deserve to be launched into walls. When people tear each other apart, maybe they should think about the consequences, don't you think?” Sky slowly backed away as Ruby stalked towards Cardin.

 

“Wait, Cardin, maybe we should think-”

 

“Too late,” Ruby whispered as Crescent Rose spiraled around her body.

 

This one's for you, Neo.

 

“Get her!”

 

Cardin was bashed aside as Ruby used the momentum from hitting him to send her boots into Sky's head. Firing, she strafed around Russel as Dove shot at her, ducking a dagger as she triggered her kill move. Russel flew backwards across the clearing as his aura glowed, and Ruby blocked two swings from Dove before catching him across the side with her blade.

 

Cardin roared as he brought his scythe down, and she rolled away and swept towards his legs. The bully jumped back and cursed, rolling under a wild swing from Sky that Ruby easily countered before yanking his weapon away and firing her rifle into his chest.

 

Ducking under a shot that hit Cardin square in the chest, she sprinted towards Dove and flipped into her downswing. Dove barely dodged to the side on for Ruby to kick him in the face. Cutting across with Crescent Rose, she sent him rolling across the ground, and his aura shattered. Lost in the battle, she advanced on him only to find Russel in front of her. “Dove, run!” he yelled as she caught him in a flurry of semblance powered blows, sending him flying in Dove's retreating form as they both flew into a bush.

 

Cardin shot a look at his retreating teammates, then back at Ruby in fear. “Wait, they're hurt, I should go and-”

 

His mace flew up to counter Ruby's downswing, struggling to hold the massive blade above his head.

 

Ruby smirked at him. “You forgot something.”

 

She pressed the button, and Crescent Rose retracted around Cardin. He threw himself to the side as the massive blade sliced through where he had been and into her sniper form. “What the hell? That would have cut me in half!”

 

He didn't have a chance to recover as Ruby disappeared in the blink of an eye, leaving him standing alone in the center of the clearing. He looked around wildly, then dove out of the way as an explosion of red dust sent dirt flying into the air. Another explosion rocked the clearing as he held his mace out and yelled, “Joke's on you, my mace is a gun too!”

 

Ruby sprinted from tree to tree as Cardin's ballistic cannon mace sent massive shots into the foliage, send red leaves flying through the air. Pushing her semblance further, she stopped circling and shot directly towards Cardin, whose mace flew out of his hands as she rammed into his chest. She gasped as he grabbed her scythe and ripped it out of her hands, throwing it behind him them moving into her path. “We both know you can't fight hand to-”

 

Ruby's fist collided with Cardin's jaw, and his head stared back as he staggered backwards. She hit him again before kicking him in the nuts. Cardin shrieked as he fell to his knees, hanging his head as he massaged his groin. She walked over and picked up Crescent Rose, then kicked his mace back over to him. “Get up.”

 

She panted as Crescent Rose shook in her grasp. I've done everything she's taught me. Is this what she wanted? Is this what I want?

 

Is this how things are going to be?

 

Cardin's hair flamed like dying light as a cloud drifted across the sun, and the clearing fell to shadows.

 

“Alright, you've made your point. You win, okay?” Cardin spat as he grabbed his weapon.

 

Ruby threw her scythe over her shoulder. “You chose this life. You made this happen. Now you're going to pay for it. Get up.”

 

Something flickered in Cardin's eyes as he struggled to one knee. “Wai- Look, I'm sorry. Do you want me to do something, huh? Is that it? Or are you just going to kill me? Is that how this ends?”

 

She stared at him as his frame shuddered and he fell back down onto his hands. Crescent Rose trembled before tumbling out of her grasp, and the red lightened for a second. “I-” For a moment, her aura shield around her core wavered, and she shook her head.

 

Cardin Winchester looked up at Ruby Rose and smiled, crooked and broken in the arms of dusk.

 

“Thank you.”

 

The Ursa roared and sprang out of the bushes. Ruby screamed as the massive Grimm collided with Cardin's body, slamming him into the tree behind him. Cardin helplessly flailed as Ruby stood frozen, watching it rake its claws against his aura again and again.

 

No!

 

Just as Ruby dove for Crescent Rose, Cardin's aura broke. The Ursa's claws sliced through his armor like tissue paper, and he roared in agony. Ruby shot forwards at max speed and drove Crescent Rose's tip through the Ursa's skull. Leaving the beast dissolving behind her, she sprinted back to Cardin's side.

 

The boy's chest was mangled and covered with blood, and her mind went blank. She sank to her knees and shook his head slightly, but there was no response. “Roman...” she whispered, “No, you can't die again, you can't, you can't, please don't be dead, you can't be dead...”

 

He was gone.

 

“Why, how… unfortunate. Quite a shame really, the boy didn't need to die yet.”

 

Her head snapped up as a massive Grimm slowly walked into the clearing. It looked like a horse covered in bone and metal, and it stopped as a black clad figure got down from its back. His skin was deathly pale, and sickly red patterns crisscrossed his face as he drew a broadsword taller than him from a sheathe on his back.

 

“Who are you?” Ruby whispered as blood seeped into the stockings from the growing pool around her.

 

“My name is Harkan, and you have no idea how long I've been looking for you, Ruby Rose,” he rasped.

 

Ruby's sick feeling turned icy cold, and she stared fearfully at the man before her. He wasn't moving right, didn't look right, the darkness around him… “You're not human.”

 

“You could say that,” he said as he pulled his sword up and plunged it into the earth.

 

The ring of trees around the edge of the clearing burst into flame, and she grabbed Crescent Rose right before it was engulfed in the inferno. Unsteadily, she rose to her feet and held the weapon out, but the gesture felt so hollow. Pressing the button, she tried to switch to sniper mode but nothing happened.

 

“My semblance is jamming electric and mechanical objects, so I'm afraid your little toy won't work against me,” Harkan said as he swept his broadsword to the side. “I can't wait for Clarent to destroy you so I can finally take Neopolitan as my own… our own.”

 

Ruby's head screamed in pain and confusion as she lifted Crescent Rose up. “What do you mean, take Neo as your own? You're not taking Neo anywhere!”

 

In the cluttered haze of her mind, she could still distinctly remember how scared Neo had been the last time they had hid from the man in front of her.

 

“Oh, so you haven't figured it out yet.”

 

Ruby stared at him as he broke out into harsh laughter.

 

“If you don't even understand what you have, there's not a chance you'll ever beat me!”

 

Now!

 

Ruby felt the heat that had become familiar to her, felt her aura surging as she pushed all of her power into her semblance and flew forwards. Harkan caught Crescent Rose's blade with Clarent's, hooking Ruby around and punitively flinging her back towards Cardin. Ruby staggered back to her feet, her arms jarring under the impact of his strikes. On the third, her aura broke and Crescent Rose flew away from her grasp.

 

Harkan walked away and picked up her weapon. Lying on the ground, she could do nothing as he picked up Crescent Rose, her weapon, her darling, her beauty. Smirking at her, he slowly ran a finger down the red edge of the blade, then changed it to its sniper form and dropped it to the ground.

 

“No, don't…” Ruby choked out as he rose his blade into the air above her weapon. “Please...”

 

Clarent plunged through Crescent Rose and glowed orange, and her beloved blade melted into a blackened husk of metal. She screamed again, watching the cruel twist at the edge of his mouth. “Well, wasn't that fun? Now, to kill-”

 

Neo shot through the fire with her sword drawn, scoring a direct hit on Harkan's shoulder. The Grimm man staggered before roaring in fury and charging at the tiny girl.

 

Neo?

 

The world went haywire in front of Ruby. The clearing exploded with illusions, Neo flickering wildly across the clearing as she danced around Harkan. Grimm charged, the air twisted and shifted, and an intense strobe lit up the clearing. Dizzy, she closed her eyes to shut herself off from the chaos.

 

They're gone.

 

She couldn't handle it.

 

It's all gone.

 

She retreated, took herself even deeper inside, shut everything around her out, and willed the darkness away.

 

And for the second time, she was surrounded by mirrors, controlled by someone else. Lashing out, she shattered the red, so all she could see was the black and white, Neo's crackling aura dancing around her in the dark, so she pushed, pushed the gold away, and found the silver once again.

 

“LET ME GO!” Ruby howled as her body rose up. Forcing every ounce of aura she had around Neo, she held the center of her aura and pushed with all of her might. Under a moment of impossible strain, her silver core shattered.

 

Ruby's eyes burned with a fire she couldn't control, and a shock wave shot through the world around her. Unable to take it any longer, she slumped to the ground.

 

The red was gone, and the world turned white.

Chapter Text

Chapter Ten: Neopolitan

 


 

re:Bound

 

A Fanfiction by Pokefan87

 

Chapter Publish Date: 11/11/17

 


 

The white foam sank into the black sands, the tide receding under the shattered moon's watchful gaze. A seagull soared overhead, blending into the clouded skies. Screams of mirth and laughter came from the waves below, and boats bobbed lazily on the calm ocean.

 

A young girl laughed as she ran along the boardwalk ahead of two adults, spreading her arms wide like the soaring bird above her. “I'm flying! Mommy, look at me~!” Clambering onto a wooden bench, she teetered on the edge.

 

She was short, even for her age. Her brown hair fit perfectly with her bathing suit, which was hidden under a pink shirt with a cartoon cat emblazoned on the front. She would have been utterly unremarkable had it not been for her striking multicolored eyes – one a light pink and the other layered brown.

 

The woman scooped the girl up into her arms and squeezed her gently. “Come on, silly, we have to get home soon.”

 

She struggled in her mother's arms. “Aww, but I wanna play more!”

 

The man shot his wife a pointed look. “Honey, we need to be getting back home. You know our vacation ends tomorrow, and I have a hunting contract on the other side of Anima to prepare for.”

 

The girl spotted a colorful pink awning, and squealed in excitement. “Oh, ice cream, ice cream!”

 

The man was ready to say no, but the woman shot him a look. “Of course, love.”

 

A bell dinged as they entered the shop, and the shopkeeper looked up. “Hello there. Who's looking for something sweet today?”

 

“What do you want, sweetheart?” the man asked as he hoisted her up to stare down at the flavors. “It looks like they've got vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. You can get-”

 

“All three!” The girl grinned cheekily at the shopkeeper, who winked back at her.

 

“No, there's no way-”

 

Her mother smiled playfully, ruffling her daughters hair. “Well, it is our last day on vacation, I don't see why not.”

 

The man looked ready to retort, but deflated and smiled slightly. “I suppose so. One scoop of all three in a cup for the little one, please.”

 

Lien and sweets changed hands, and the young girl squealed in excitement as she snatched the ice cream and dug in. The shopkeeper cursed and backed away as her eyes shifted color from brown and pink to pink and white. “What the hell, did her eyes just change color?”

 

The young girl was too oblivious to notice as her parents both stiffened. Her dad's hands tightened on a sheathed weapon at his side, and her mother pulled him away from the man before he could go after the shopkeeper. “It's called heterochromia, her eyes are almost always different colors. Honey, le-”

 

A bellowing siren went off as a dull explosion rocked the ice cream parlor.

 

“Bandits...” the shopkeeper whispered as people started sprinting towards the beach. “Hold on one second, I'll put the dividers down!”

 

The man ran to the door before the metal blockers started to fall, holding it open as he pulled out his weapon. “They found us. I knew this was a bad idea! Stay here, you-”

 

His wife shook her head violently. “You're insane. I have aura, let me help you! If you fall, then-”

 

The parlor turned red for a moment, and the young girl screamed as she felt steel against her neck. “It's a bit too late for that...”

 


 

The voice was harsh, yet oddly familiar. As the young girl's assailant said her father's name, Ruby couldn't make it out – like a fog had settled over her words.

 

She was still screaming, screaming even as Neo pleaded for her to stop, to leave, to disappear.

 

Why had she watched Summer leave, again and again and again and again and again and-

 


 

The man spun around wildly as her mother screamed in horror and backed away. “Raven Branwen, let go of my daughter!”

 

“Get into the street if you value your daughter's life!” she barked.

 

The young girl started sobbing hysterically as her parents slowly backed away from her out of the store. The ice cream slipped out of her hands and fell to the floor, and some slipped out of the bowl although most stayed inside.

 

“Move.”

 

The girl shook her head, nearly in shock.

 

Strong hands gripped her shoulders, and she found herself staring into a pair of red eyes. Raven glared at her and said, “Your parents are about to die, and I'm not about to play baby sitter with you. When I tell you to move, move.

 

The girl still didn't budge. Raven's fingernails dug into her shoulders, but she glanced down at her midriff and her gaze softened. Reaching down, she picked up the fallen bowl of ice cream and gently placed it in her hands. “Will you come now?”

 

Sniffing, the young girl nodded.

 

A circle of bandits in the middle of the road surrounded the young girl's parents. She clutched her bowl in her arms as two bandits jumped to get out of Raven's way. She walked up to a man with gray-black hair and pushed the young girl towards him. “Their daughter.”

 

“Excellent work, Raven,” he said as he pulled her towards him.

 

“Thank you father.”

 

Starling Branwen nodded at Raven, and she unleashed her sword as she walked towards the young girl's parents. A bandit had taken away their weapons, and they were on their knees in the center of the circle. “How did you find us?” the man called desperately. “We used fake IDs, everything!”

 

Raven smashed her foot into his face. Although his aura took the blow, he was knocked backwards onto the ground. “It was laughably easy to put an Aura Tag on you. We know about your little raid mission. We know your team was the one who tried to assassinate Starling. Nobody messes with the Branwen tribe and gets away with it.”

 

“Raven, please… I knew you at Beacon, we're supposed to be protecting mankind, not this!”

 

She slashed at his fallen body, and his aura broke. His wife screamed, and the girl watched with silent horror. “The tribe – my family – always comes first,” she snarled, and her father nodded in satisfaction.

 

“Raven, stop playing with your prey and get this over with. I don't want anything to… complicate the situation.”

 

She lifted him up off the ground by the collar as he called his wife and child's name and yelled, “I love you!” Turning to stare into her blood red eyes, he spat to the side and said, “Does Taiyang know about this?”

 

Raven's sword plunged forwards and into his stomach. He screamed as she yanked up and twisted, then dropped him to the ground and watched as he slowly bled out onto the concrete beneath her. “No, and he never will.”

 

His wife screamed. The young girl stared numbly at her father's body as Starling placed a hand on Raven's shoulder as she walked over to her. “Men, do whatever you want to the woman,” he said, “Just make sure she understands why nobody lays a hand on the Branwen tribe. Everyone else, take the lien and get out of here before the Grimm come.”

 

The girl stared at her mother as she desperately screamed for her. A group of bandits seized her and dragged her into a nearby alleyway, and she was gone.

 

“Father, what should we do with the girl?” Raven asked as she sheathed her sword.

 

Starling hummed thoughtfully as he knelt down next to the girl. “Darling, what's your name?”

 

She stared frightfully between them as Raven's face darkened. “Darling? You're kidding, right? Do you remember what he did to our camp? Men are dead, she deserves-”

 

Starling shook his head and pointed at the dead man's body. “He got what he deserved, and so did she. The little one is not guilty of their crimes. Again, your name?”

 

The two Branwens stared at the girl, who shook her head. Raven scowled and turned away. “We should just kill her, it's a loose end.”

 

“Or we could use her for the experiment.”

 

Raven froze and turned back to her father. “I thought we weren't going through with that. It's dark, even for us. There's a reason it's been banned for deca-”

 

“Raven, look at me.”

 

She glared at him, wavering as she stepped forwards. “What?”

 

“Do you love Tai?”

 

Raven flinched back, but nodded after a moment. “Yes.”

 

Starling bowed his head slightly, then looked back to the young girl. “Qrow was lost to the tribe ever since Ozpin took him in, and much of the burden you two once shared has been placed on you. After the attempt on my life last month, it is clear that your protection is no longer enough to protect me. After all...” He gestured towards her stomach, which Raven held and looked away. “Once I'm a grandfather, Tai will need you.”

 

“The tribe always comes first.”

 

“Yes, but your family is still important to me.” Starling sighed, shining with weariness and hope. “Now, child, can you please tell me your name?”

 

The girl shook her head, pulling her small bowl of ice cream to her chest as chocolate stained her shirt.

 

“Neapolitan.”

 

“What?”

 

Raven gestured at the girl dismissively. “We have to call her something, and it's a color. Besides, clearly she's attached to it.”

 

Starling frowned. “Raven, can't you choose something more fitting to who she's going to be?”

 

“Father.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“Are you seriously telling me that Neapolitan is not cool enough?” she growled.

 

He grinned mischievously at her. “We're bandits, not Schnees. Surely you must understand.”

 

“Neopolitan, with an O. She can go by Neo for short. I'm going to leave now, are you coming or do you want to walk back?” Raven waved her hand, and a portal opened up behind her.

 

“I suppose that works.” Starling gripped Neo's shoulder firmly and guided her towards the portal. “Neopolitan, you belong to us now. Say goodbye to your father, because I guarantee you'll never see him again.”

 

The last thing Neo saw before disappearing was her father's body, lying in the middle of the street until the swirling crimson enveloped her and she was gone.

 


 

The mists swirled across the barren cliff's edge, crackling with black and white energy as Neo's aura swirled violently around the frosted world. Curled up into the snow, Ruby's pale body shook as she cried away from her world. Her back trembled with phantom pain as she extended the puckered red scar down her back further than it could go, biting more that the cloying cold filling her ears.

 

Neo's white coat billowed out behind her as she stood at the cliff edge. She closed her eyes and led her face to the Remnant moon, sinking in the dusk behind her. This is Summer's grave, isn't it?

 

Ruby didn't respond, all too aware of the granite slab looming between her and Neo.

 

“I don't know my real name.”

 

“...”

 

Neo slowly sank to the ground, draping her legs over the edge of the cliff. Unfurling her umbrella, she held it against the seething wind to stave the snow away. “Th- That memory, it-” That was the first thing I remember and the last time I ever saw my parents. Rose, you- You asked me once why I talked about all of your teammates like I knew them. The truth is… Neo took a deep shuddering breath as she stared down into the abyss below. Yang's grandfather was the first one.

 

N- Neo-

 

Yeah?

 

Ruby dug her finger into the snow, shuddering as the deep numb soaked through her aching body. “You saved me,” she whispered as flurries clung to a loose strand of hair blowing in her face.

 

Boots dug into the sinking drifts, and the wind stopped as Neo stuck her umbrella into the snow. Tears gathered in the corners of her eyes as Ruby turn to stare up at her. “You're wearing clothes now. Why?”

 

Neo choked out a laugh. “Because it's winter, you idiot, and everything-” Everything is different now.

 

Ruby tried to keep her composure, but a tidal wave of pain and sorrow washed her into Neo's arms. The sun broke through the gray clouds above, filtering through the clear parasol as the two girls clung to each other in the snow. They held tight in the cold, two lives irreparably broken yet bonded.

 

I'm sorry, Rose.

 

Ruby.

 

Huh?

 

“Call me Ruby. Dad… Dad used to call my mom his little Rose. He used to bring her bouquets sometimes, so our house would smell like flowers. And then she would laugh, and she made the best cookies, and I- Mom, I-”

 

Neo squeezed her tighter as Ruby let out sobs she had been holding back since Summer had left. Your mom was incredible, Ruby. You were so lucky to have her when you did.

 

The snow slowly accumulated on the umbrella, shading the iced world below in blues and dreams.

 

Why did you show me that?

 

Neo gulped, and she pulled away from the embrace. “Ruby, I- I'm tired of lying to you. I can't anymore.”

 

Ruby shook her head. “I don't understand.”

 

“Then let me show you.”

 


 

The world was a spiraling maelstrom of pain, spinning through her mind like a murder of crows dancing over the Pales of Atlas.

 

For it is in passing that we achieve immortality. Through this, we become a paragon of virtue and glory to rise above all, infinite in distance and unbound by death.

 

Neo's shrieks of agony rose through the camp, flailing wildly on the table she was pinned to by Starling Branwen's hand. Light ripped its way across her body, arcing like electricity.

 

I bind your soul, and by my shoulder take thee for my own!

 

Neo's body contorted as aura exploded to life around her, black and white violently shrinking as a golden glow shone around her body. Then the light was gone, and she slumped back to the wooden table.

 

His name was Starling he was fifty one years old and leader of his tribe of bandits since sixteen she remembered how his father brought him to the edge of the forest and looked out on the village and said “all of this will be yours one day” she remembered how he was thrown to the B eowolves at ten with a sword and a newly unlocked aura and was told “if you survive you will be fit to lead our people our everything there is no room for week in the tribe the tribe is your life our life we are the tribe the tribe comes first” she remembered the first time his sword sank into the sallow flesh of G rimm how he sang with his primal joy as the sword came out of his first kill a civilian he had shot his bow and he had acted on instinct yes there was the child and his wife behind him but he was protecting the tribe his tribe he was the tribe when his father died and left him with nothing to something she remembered Lilac how she laughed when she was sad and how she squirmed beneath him when he took her as his own she was good to him she remembered Qrow and Raven how they cried and ate and walked and talked and fought and his wife was long gone but it didn't matter he was the tribe the tribe came first and one day they would be the tribe so he taught and trained and fought for his life as the world closed in around them they could not be weak they could not stand idle any longer the tribe was everything he was the tribe when they came for him he would be ready when Qrow left him forever he didn't know the true meaning of the tribe had he ever been the tribe and he was getting old and they kept coming for him but he would not fall they would not fall and he would make sure Raven would lead his people to his dying breath so he created her he would have her protect him that was her job her mission she was the tribe young as she may be and-

 

Neo screamed in pain as five decades of memories tore through her head, swirling in an incoherent mess, blocking out everything else she could see and feel and drawing her deeper into her own mind.

 

“Stop screaming!”

 

A wave of green energy slammed into her body. Now more than ever, she wanted to explode into the world around her, but she couldn't. She tried, but her mouth would not open and she couldn't scream and she couldn't breath and and and and-

 

“Neopolitan! Stop hyperventilating and calm down so I can talk to you!”

 

Neo's throat clenched as her emotions were buried under a wash of aura and green. She didn't know what was going on, but she felt so empty. Why did she feel empty?

 

“Father.” Raven pushed off the wall of the tent and drew her sword. Neo stared at it blankly as she pointed it at her throat. “Are you alright? I will kill her if you want to undo the process.”

 

The Branwen leader looked conflicted for a moment, and it crossed her mind that maybe she should be afraid of the sharp metal sending a warm trickle down her neck. Brown aura pushed into her mind, not as hard as the initial wave but her head still pounded with a raging fury. “She's only six… Raven, put your sword down, you're scaring her.”

 

Raven stared at her father, whose expression held something she was afraid to understand. “What… does it feel like?”

 

“I- I know her, Raven,” Starling said reverently as he considered Neo. “I've never felt this connected to another person in my life.”

 

Neo shrunk back as the two adults considered her. “What happened? Why can't I feel anything?”

 

The bandit leader drew a sharp breath in. What do you mean, you can't feel anything?

 

She yelled and covered her ears as the alien voice rocked through her mind. What? Who are you? Why are there voices in my head?

 

I am sorry, Neopolitan. It was not my intention to block off your emotions when I told you to calm down.

 

Neo swayed from side to side dangerously as the brown aura probed deeper into her psyche. Her head was so noisy, battered by memories of things she knew nothing about. Tears leaked out as the aura scab over her feelings was slowly pulled back.

 

Warmth. A distant comfort from a memory of home, perhaps, or the rough polyfiber of the rouge gauntlets pressing against her back. She sank into Raven's embrace as she started to sob again, and the huntress said, “She's a child, Father. If you're going to keep her, we're going to have to take care of her. Let her cry, she will have the rest of her life to learn about the bond.”

 

A chorus of confusion united the camp as their leader and his enforcer emerged from the prison tents, the later carrying a crying child in her arms. The elder Branwen stopped at the edge of his tent and boomed out, “We are not to be disturbed unless huntsmen or Grimm are at our doorstep!”

 

Neo rubbed at her eyes with her fists as a tin was offered to her. Taking it, she sniffed and lifted the lid up. Inside, chocolate chip cookies were neatly stacked up. Lip quivering, she took one and bit into it, then shoving the rest into her mouth as the flavors burst in her mouth.

 

Raven watched her passively, fiddling with the hilt of her sword. “Do you like them? They were made by my friend Summer.”

 

Neo nodded as Starling entered the tent and sat down on another couch adjacent to them. He sighed heavily as he unstrapped his weapon from his side and laid it on the table between them. “Neopolitan, are you ready to talk?”

 

“Talk about what?” Neo asked as she grabbed another cookie.

 

Starling bowed his head. “Under normal circumstances, you would have died in that village alongside your parents. The Branwen tribe does not discriminate against those who have wronged us. Man, woman, child – anyone foolish enough to get in our way. However, these are not normal circumstances.”

 

Raven was leaning against the side of the tent, never taking her hand off of her weapon. “In the past year, there have been a number of attempts on Father's life. I am pregnant, so he needs a protector.”

 

Neo blinked. “Me?”

 

“Yes.”

 

That was incredibly confusing. “Why me?”

 

“It's my semblance,” Starling said, his aura glowing brown around his body. “In the kingdoms, they would have had me killed, or jailed for life. From a young age, I swore to myself that I would never use it, but I feel I no longer have a choice.”

 

“What is it?”

 

Aura bonding.

 

There was a deathly silence as fate sealed around the young girl on the faded couch cushion.

 

“You were the perfect subject,” he whispered with a morbid fascination. “Bridges burned, no aura, young and innocent. You didn't even have a name, or at least, you couldn't say it – it's too late for that now. The technique is dangerous, and I was half convinced it wouldn't even work. But it did, and now you belong to me.”

 

“Belong to you?” Neo echoed faintly.

 

Starling leaned forwards. “An aura bond is an irreversible connection between two souls, which can only be ended by the death of the bound individual. It opens up our minds, and allows the bonded into the other's mind.” It allows us to communicate by telepathy, “to see each other's view points, as well as memories.”

 

She frowned and cocked her head to the side. That's weird, I thought it would be something really bad! “Why is that bad?”

 

“Because I have complete control over you. Stand up!”

 

Neo's body glowed green, and she was jerked to her feet. Her head burst with pain again, and her entire body trembled in instinctual fear she couldn't control. She held up her hands to see the green fade away to nothingness, then stared up at Starling in fear.

 

“That's not natural.” Raven abruptly pushed away from the side of the tent and cut a portal in the air. “I hope you understand what you're playing with. I'll be with Tai.” Stepping away into the vortex, she left an eerie silence in the tent.

 

“There's nothing you can do. If I die, the bond will just pass either to my killer or the last person I was thinking of,” the bandit leader said.

 

“I wanna sit down.”

 

“You may.”

 

Neo slumped down onto the couch, lost and confused. She was so tired, but when she closed her eyes the presence didn't disappear. Why wasn't it going away? Why couldn't she make it go away?

 

A heavy hand rested on her shoulder, and she looked up at Starling's imposing form. Neo. Your mission, the only reason you are alive, is to protect me. Starting as soon as possible, we will begin to train you to protect me and the tribe. The tribe always comes first.

 

Why?

 

The bandit leader turned away. “This is your life now, Neo. I hope that you are grateful, although it won't matter for you whether you are or not. I have to address the tribe now, so take your time to think about it...”

 


 

Ruby's chest clenched as the memory faded to black and the snow scape came back into focus around them. Neo was clutching her knees to her chest, rocking back and forth. I'm sorry… I'm sorry about all of it. I was so afraid, when you took me, I- I wanted to hide, I wanted to be in control for once in my life! I wanted to be free, but I couldn't!

 

Neo…

 

Her head whipped up, her eyes white with explosive despair. If you were one of them, it would have been easy. You would have know about my curse, you would have shut me down and fucked me to high hell before sending me out to brutally slaughter your enemies. Even with Roman, that's what I did. Who I was. And then you came.

 

Ruby reached out to comfort her, but Neo slapped her hand away.

 

You were never my master, Ruby. You were a victim, someone to be killed and discarded. Neo's voice was jagged ice in her head. At first, I punished you for what you did to Roman. I wanted you to kill Jaune. I wanted you to let me slit his throat, to watch the blood spill down his chest and know that you, Ruby Rose, were the one who had caused it. I wanted you to use me. I needed you to use me. I need you to be just like them, just like Starling, just like Roman, just like everyone else who's ever been in my head.

 

“D-don't say that-”

 

I fed you nightmares. I trained you like they did to me. I hurt you. I ridiculed you in front of your combat class. I did everything in my power to make you hate me, to make you want to kill me. But you didn't.

 

Neo rose to her feet and pulled her umbrella out of the snow. Ruby watched her, unsure of what she could say or how to say it.

 

After all of that, you cared enough to cook for me, to worry about where I was sleeping, to still care for me as a human being.

 

“Of course I did!” Ruby exclaimed.

 

Don't say that like it's nothing!

 

Snow blew between them as the sun disappeared behind the clouds once again.

 

After that night, I stopped sending you nightmares. I tried to start fixing things. I couldn't stop combat training because of Harkan, but- You still didn't understand the bond, how it worked, so I thought I still had a chance to make things right. I-

 

“It was too late, wasn't it?” Ruby asked softly, her cloak waving in the wind behind her.

 

Neo nodded slowly. I should have know you would never be like them. When you spiraled, it just happened so fast, Ruby. I couldn't stop it, and you weren't getting any better, and then I slipped up in training and let myself get angry at you. When you made me stop, I was so petrified. And then it was too late, and you were gone, and- She tensed, then ran forwards and threw her arms around Ruby. “I'm so sorry,” she whispered. “Sorry for everything.”

 

“Neo...”

 

Ruby didn't know what to say, so she just held tight to Neo.

 

Neither of us ever deserved to be broken. Fucked up. That night, after you fought Weiss, I thought about it. About telling you everything, when I told you I wanted you to be just like them. I wish I had. I wish I had been strong enough to see it.

 

“Well, we're not dead yet, are we?” Ruby said, and Neo shook with harsh laughter and tears.

 

No, we aren't.

 

It took a long time before Neo was able to calm down enough for Ruby to talk.She asked, “So this is what an aura bond does? It lets us talk like this?”

 

Yeah. I'm not sure, but I think the only reason our surroundings feel so real is because of my semblance. The flickering, all of the illusions – I can't do that with a normal person. My normal semblance makes illusions that everyone can see, but you're the only one who can see me when I follow you around.

 

“And I can really… control you?” Ruby asked.

 

When I came to comfort you in the hospital and after your fight with Weiss, when you stopped me from taking Jaune, all those dreams that ended early – that was all you commanding me unconsciously.

 

She swayed unsteadily as the full implications of her power over Neo occurred to her. “Do you- I think I need to see- see myself do it before I can believe you. Do you mind?”

 

Do it.

 

Ruby took a deep breath. “Neo, tell me more about Yang's mom.”

 

Neo stiffened as her body glowed green, then returned to normal. Really? That's it? I thought you might try to make me… well, do something.

 

“But I'm not like that, Neo. I never have been.” Ruby's fists clenched as she held Neo's gaze. “I- I may never be that girl in Dust Till Dawn again, but I don't want to, to, to own you. I couldn't do that to anyone.”

 

She would never innocent or naive again. That much, Neo had taken away from her. But maybe she was something more than that now. Maybe everything was changing for a reason.

 

What do you want to know?

 

“Everything,” Ruby said. “I don't know anything about you or her, Neo. She's Yang's mom, and- Maybe we could find her as a team someday, and she also knew Mom and was with my dad, plus she's Uncle Qrow's sister. So anything, I guess.”

 

Neo smiled slightly. I guess it would be easier to show you than to tell you again. Just… Thank you. For everything.

 


 

Alright, now we're going to work on push ups again.

 

Neo panted as she doubled over, sweat dripping off of her short hair onto the dirt training ground. Her body burned after an hour of physical training, just another inthree long months of physical training. She had managed to make it one lap around the camp this time, but it hurt so much and she hated it! She hated the training, and she hated the bond, and she hated Starling for it.

 

“Neo, I know you heard me,” the bandit leader said as he walked towards her. As per usual, a small group had assembled around their workout, but Starling only was paying attention to her. “Let's work on push ups now, okay?”

 

Her eyes burned as she jutted her chin and looked at him defiantly. “I don't wanna.”

 

A murmur went up among the assembled crowd as the elder Branwen's eyes narrowed. “What did you just say?”

 

“I said, I don't wanna do the pushups!” she yelled at him backing away until he forced her to stand still.

 

“I see.”

 

An armored fist slammed into Neo's head, sending her tumbling to the ground in a wash of pain. Black and white lightning burned across her body as her world spun. Reaching up, she wiped the dirt and dust of her forehead.

 

That was the first time Starling had ever hit her.

 

“Neo, do twenty five pushups now. No breaks. After that, we're done for today,” Starling snarled before turning tail and stalking across the camp away from her.

 

She was forced up from the ground as she started doing the grueling exercise again. She was already far beyond where she would have normally given up, and by the twentieth rep her arms gave out after each one. Once she finished, she slumped back to the ground in exhaustion.

 

He hit her. Starling never hit her – nobody had ever hit her on purpose, to hurt her.

 

“Neo?”

 

“G-go away!” she yelled at Raven, who knelt down at her side and pulled her up out of the dirt.

 

The older woman sighed as she brushed dirt off of her face, her belly swollen from seven months of pregnancy. “You're filthy. Come with me.”

 

Raven's portals were just as strange as they had been the first time Neo had used them. One second she was in a dusty bandit camp, and the next she stood outside of a cheerful yellow house in the middle of the woods. She stared around in wonder as they walked towards the front door and Raven pressed the doorbell.

 

Clattering noises came from inside of the house, and the door flew open as a man with sandy hair exclaimed, “Rae! I thought that you had work to do today.”

 

“I still am, Tai, I just need to use the house for a bit,” Raven said coolly. Neo peeked out from behind her nervously, and Taiyang gave her a funny look.

 

“I thought you guys didn't do kids.”

 

“We don't, usually. Can we come in?” she asked, and he hurriedly swept them into the house and closed the door behind him.

 

The living room was a cheerful affair, filled with warm colors and paintings of distant landscapes. Raven unclasped her sword and set it by the doorway, sighing as Taiyang narrowed his eyes at Neo. “What the hell have you guys been doing to her?” His wife didn't answer, and he walked up to her and tried to brush her hair out of her face. Flinching, Neo backed away from him, and he whipped around to glare at Raven. “Rae, why is she filthy with a black eye? More importantly, why is she here?”

 

“She need a bath. We will discuss this after she is cleaner than she is right now,” Raven said firmly as she guided Neo up the stairs and into a white tiled bathroom.

 

As she pulled her filthy clothing off, Tai leaned against the doorway and crossed his arms. “She's not yours, is she? Because, that might cause some pro-”

 

“My father used his semblance.”

 

“Oh.” He looked back at Neo, meeting her eyes before inhaling sharply. “Oh.”

 

Raven shook her head as she deposited the six year old into the running bath. “I told him that it was an awful idea. I told him that it would paint a target on his back, for the authorities and for all of the other bandit tribes. Does he listen to me? No, of course he doesn't. We're twenty six now, Tai! If he expects me to lead someday, he needs to listen to me sometimes!”

 

“Wait, wait, wait a second.” He shook his head as grime started running off Neo's body into the water. “You're telling me that your fifty year old old man – my father in-law – is inside her head.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“You do realize how fucked up that is, right?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Taiyang took a deep breath as he watched the sullen young girl who was silently watching them from his bathtub. “Does Qrow know?”

 

Raven glared at him, but he met her scarlet glare evenly. “Qrow lost the right to know when he walked out on our tribe. Maybe if he was still around to clean up the mess instead of traipsing around with Oz, he would.”

 

He bit his lip and turned away from the bathroom. “I need to think. I need to talk to Summer, she- she'll know what to do.” Raven tried to protest, but he raised a hand and cut her off. “I'll make her keep it a secret, but we both know Qrow will find out as soon as he makes it back to civilization. I hope you're ready to deal with that.”

 

Neo's eyes were drooping as Raven sighed and turned back to her. Sleepily, she whispered, “Mommy, I wanna go to sleep.”

 

Raven gaped at her as she started washing her hair. “I'm not your-”she started to say, but Neo had already dozed off in the soft morning light. Her eyes softening and holding her hand against her stomach, she murmured, “But I'm not even done washing you yet...”

 


 

Neo, are you ready?

 

Neo smoothed the dress Starling had taken from one of the finest boutique (or what was left of it, at least) and smiled. Yes, I am.

 

She was seven, now, although she hadn't gotten any taller yet. Starling liked telling her how much she had improved recently, and she carried as small dagger at her side in a white sheathe at her side. Her hair was longer, reaching just past her shoulders.

 

Remember, this is a privilege that I'm taking you with me. If Raven hadn't asked me to, I would have left you behind to train, understand? Don't embarrass me or the tribe.

 

Right!

 

A rift opened in front of them, and Neo followed through and into the open clearing around Raven's house. People were gathered in and around the entryway, but they stepped aside as Starling entered the Xiao Long household proudly and made a beeline for Raven.

 

“So there we were, hanging from the cafeteria rafters when- oh, Starling!” Taiyang exclaimed as he saw his father in law. Starling boomed in laughter as he embraced Tai, while Neo made a beeline for Raven.

 

Raven's face was tired as she cradled a baby in her arms, but she smiled as the young girl threw her arms around her legs. “Hey, Summer, can you take Yang for a second?”

 

A woman with silver eyes and black hair shot her a look as she took Yang and gently cradled her. “Rae, who's that?”

 

Neo looked to Starling, who nodded, so she clambered onto Raven's lap and exclaimed, “I'm Neo, who are you?”

 

Summer's eyes widened as she introduced herself. “Wait, Raven, is this the girl Tai told me about?”

 

“Yes. Neo, how have you been? I've been a bit too busy to come around to check on you lately,” Raven said with a wry smile as she gestured at the small child in Summer's arms.

 

She grinned and took her sheathe from her belt. “Look at what Starling got me!” she exclaimed as she held it out for Raven to see.

 

“Yes, I'm sure our wonderful father 'got' you that.”

 

Raven and Starling both whipped around to see Qrow walking towards them, hands in his pockets as he stared directly at Neo. Raven gently pushed her off her lap and said, “Neo, why don't you go play outside for a moment. I think we're going to have to have a talk with my dear brother for a second.”

 

Neo stared at Qrow for a second before she grinned and slid off of her lap. “Okay!” she chirped before running outside and sitting down to focus.

 

It hadn't taken her long to figure out that if she tried really hard, she could see what Starling saw as it happened. Sure, she could see his memories afterward anyways, but it didn't change how cool it was to see it in real time.

 

“Qrow.” Starling's voice was strained as he glared at his son.

 

Qrow's voice dripped with disgust and sarcasm as he said, “Oh yeah, I heard about your little experiment, Father. Good thing for you I decided not to tell Oz, because otherwise all three of you would be dead.”

 

“Leave Neo out of this,” Raven growled as she got to her feet. “Nothing here is her fault, and if it wasn't for her good-for-nothing parents-”

 

“Calm down.” Summer's voice cut like steel as she stepped between the two siblings. “We are not having another one of your famous Branwen arguments. We're here for Yang, not your despicable father's actions.”

 

“You dare-” Starling barked harshly, only to pause as Tai laid a hand on his arm.

 

Qrow looked ready to keep arguing, then deflated and laughed hollowly. “After all of these years, you're still our leader, Summer. Still keeping us in line.”

 

Summer shrugged and smiled at him. “C'mon, can't we just be Team STRQ for a second and forget about that whole mess. Yang won't be an infant forever...”

 


 

“Before you stands a man who has attacked out lifestyle!”

 

A roar went through the assembled bandit camp as Starling forced the unarmed hunter to his knees. Neo fidgeted at his left side nervously as Raven stared straight ahead, stoic, at his right.

 

“And now, he will be sentenced to death for his crimes!” Starling roared as the huntsman started crying on his knees. “However, this will not be a normal execution.” He stepped back and gestured to Neo. “Today is Neo's right of passage to become a true member of the tribe. She will be the one to kill him!”

 

Raven's aura flared around her as she desperately fought to keep composure. Neo squeezed her eyes shut as she drew her dagger and thrust it to the sky, eliciting cheers from the crowd as she brought it to the hunter's throat.

 

The man looked up at her desperately, then gasped. “No, you can't be. Are you his daughter?”

 

Neo's hand trembled as she stared down at him, at his brown hair and electric blue eyes. I- I can't-

 

You will.

 

No, please, I don't want to, I-

 

Neopolitan, kill him.

 

Her hand glowed green, and the dagger slid into his unprotected throat. Blood covered the blade as the man slumped to the ground, never to rise again.

 

Unable to resist, she lifted the dagger to the sky once more before thrusting it into her belt and dashing off of the stage and behind the main tent. Falling to her knees, she puked into a bush at the edge of the camp, tears falling as her stomach roiled.

 

She had just killed someone. She had just taken a human life.

 

Somebody pulled the hair out of her face and held it behind her head as the rest of her lunch came up. Digging her fingernails into her palms, she brought her knees closer to her chest.

 

“I threw up after my first kill too.”

 

Raven sighed as she knelt down next to Neo and pressed her fingers to her cheek. Neo shook her head, unable to comprehend what she had just done.

 

“This life… Sometimes I wish that I could just go live on Patch with Tai. I wish I could spend all of my time with Yang, go on missions with Qrow and Summer, all of it,” she said softly. “But I have a duty to the tribe, and so do you.”

 

“Raven,” Neo sobbed as she threw herself onto the Branwen woman, who held her tightly.

 

“I was eight too when I had to take my first life,” she whispered. “Yang is one, and I can't even imagine doing that to her. Neither one of us chose this life, Neo, but the tribe always comes first. The tribe always has to come first...”

 


 

“Raven, what did you do to Tai?”

 

Neo peeked out from behind the tent flap as Raven and Qrow went at each other with a fury she had never seen before. Sword met scythe in an intricate deadly dance across the camp, knocking into boxes and collapsing tents.

 

“You know what's been happening!” Raven shrieked as she ducked and weaved around his brute force attacks. “The death threats, the other tribes, they're mobilizing! They know about Neo, Qrow! Tai was in danger, Yang was in danger, the tribe is in danger. How did I have a choice?”

 

“So what?” Qrow launched a massive overhead strike that Raven caught with her blade before slamming her foot into his chest. He rolled as he hit the ground and charged back at her once again. “You're just going to walk out on him? Do you have any idea how fucked up he was when I left to find you? He was sobbing all over Summer, and then Yang started crying to! Are you just going to leave your one year old alone for the rest of her life?”

 

“They are in danger. Because. Of. Me!” Raven used her semblance to appear behind Qrow and send him flying again. “And Neo isn't ready to protect Starling yet! Neo doesn't stand a chance against what's coming – not one fucking chance. The tribe always comes first, Qrow. I don't know when you forgot that, but-”

 

“When I realized what we're up against!” Qrow went back on the offensive, tearing through Raven's defense and landing a series of blows on her. “You're too busy making your little warrior that you haven't even noticed what's happening beyond the kingdoms. Oz is doing everything he can to stop an assault that's going to happen in our lifetime, Rae! You can't tear us apart, not now! We need you back. We need Team STRQ again! Me and Summer can't do it all alone.”

 

“We are going to war, Qrow!” Raven flipped over his strike and raked her sword down his back. “The tribe needs me more than you do right now. I don't have a choice! Do you even understand how many assassination attempts there have been in the last month?”

 

“ENOUGH!” Neo jumped out of the way as Starling strode out of the main tent and in between the two siblings. “Both of you are disgracing the tribe, fighting like this! Raven, you have overstepped your bounds. Leave, now.”

 

Raven's eyes flashed, but she sliced a portal into the air and stepped away.

 

“And I suppose that you're perfectly fine with the fact that she just walked out on her husband and your only grandchild, huh?” Qrow sneered as he hefted his scythe at his father. “Because it's not fucking okay!”

 

“SILENCE! You do not have the right to come into this camp! You lost that right when you left out tribe,” Starling boomed.

 

“Doesn't change the fact that my father and my sister still live here,” Qrow said dismissively as he held his scythe over his shoulder.

 

“Yes it does.”

 

Qrow blinked. “What?”

 

“You're disowned, Qrow Branwen.” Starling drew a massive broadsword from a scabbard at his side and pointed at him. “You haven't been my son since you left the tribe. For your entire life, I have taught you that the tribe always comes first. You chose to ignore that, to betray us, to sell your soul to Ozpin. I have given you more chances to redeem yourself than any other man, woman, or child in this camp, and you left them in the dust.”

 

Qrow's face filled with shock, then raging anger. “You can't do that! I'm your son, I put up with your bullshit for years! I killed people for your stupid tribe! I'm trying to save the fucking world, father, you-”

 

“I'm not your father, and you have no right to call me that,” Starling snarled. “Get out of my camp before I make you.”

 

He flinched back as if he had been struck. “You know what? Fine! I was done with your stupid tribe years ago. Can't you see that there's more to this world than your savage little corner? Don't you care at all about protecting people? I hope you all fucking die, and you know all what my semblance is.”

 

For the last time, father and son turned away from each other and vanished into the darkness.

 


 

Starling, are you okay? Neo asked the bandit leader quietly.

 

Her captor suddenly looked old, older than she had ever seen him before. One day, you'll understand it, Neo. Not the pain of killing, but the pain of pushing someone you care about away. I can't begin to explain it to you.

 

“Father, are you listening to me? I've never seen Qrow drink like this. Hell, I've barely ever seen him drink.” Raven chuckled to herself. “Well, there was that one time at Beacon- No, that's beyond the point. He's barely left that bar all week. You have to do something, anything.”

 

“I don't have to do anything,” Starling said quietly. “He's no longer my responsibility. Rae, have you given any more though to what I said?”

 

She stiffened. “I can't, you know-”

 

“I'm getting older, Raven.” He slowly rose from his seat and walked to look out over the camp through the tent flap. “I miss your mother and your brother every day, but there's nothing I can do to bring them back. If you don't go and give Tai and Yang another chance, you're going to regret it for the rest of your life.”

 

“It's not too late, Father!” Raven said. “You can still find Qrow, talk to him – I can bring you there myself, and we can still fix-”

 

Starling shook his head. “No, but you still can. Go. Now. The longer you wait, the more they will slip away.”

 

Raven paused for a moment, then nodded. “Alright. I'll give them another chance.” She walked over to Neo and hugged the girl, then smiled at her father. “Thank you.”

 

The portal open and closed, and a still silence filled the tent.

 

“Well, Starling Branwen, that was rather heartwarming,” a masculine voice intoned as a steel blade bit into his throat. “Such a shame, really, that Raven is never going to see you or your little slave again.”

 


 

Ruby's head jerked up as the memories faded to black. “He just… died? Like that?”

 

I was nine. Neo bowed her head as she dug her fingers into the snow. That was the first time the bond changed. You are the sixth person who I've been connected to.

 

“So, that's it? You never saw Raven again?”

 

I did. After her father was killed, she tried desperately to get me back for a while. That almost got both of us killed. Then- then she would come in secret, and we would talk, but I couldn't hide those memories forever. The worst one, he- he found out, and he forced me to tell her- Neo took a deep breath, and Ruby walked towards her once again. With the physical contact, she calmed down slightly. Thank you. I had to tell her that I hated her, and I never wanted to see her again. I think she knew he made me say it, but it still hurt her. I haven't seen her since that night.

 

“That's so awful,” Ruby whispered. “All of this is just awful.”

 

Not all of it. Neo's eyes shone as she grabbed Ruby's hand. I can show you your mom, Ruby. I don't have a ton of memories of her, but I do have a few. Besides, Raven was more of a mom than my real mom ever was to me. I don't have as much with Qrow, but-

 

“Is that really why Qrow is a total alcoholic?”

 

I guess so.

 

The conversation lulled as Ruby thought about everything she had just seen. To see her parents, their old team – it was almost surreal.

 

“Neo, why am I here?”

 

Neo's face fell. You're in a coma right now. Whatever that silver power did to your body and your aura, it's stopping you from waking up. I've been watching you, you're on Patch right now. Yang and Tai are really worried about you.

 

“Oh.” I'm cold, can we go somewhere else?

 

The world around them shifted to a peaceful wooden clearing Ruby recognized from near her house. Neo settled down onto the dappled forest floor, lying on her back with her sword at her side. Ruby, when you wake up… What's going to happen? To us?

 

“I don't want to be enemies anymore,” Ruby said as she sat down besides her. “I don't know what would happen if I snapped again, if I-” She stopped short and swayed in place. “Oh my god, I killed Cardin.”

 

No, you-

 

“I killed him. I've killed two people. Two people.”

 

Stop. Warmth flooded Ruby's heart as Neo pushed a burst of calm across their bond. Ruby, that's my fault for pushing you that far and Harkan's fault for killing him. Nobody else's. He attacked you. He bullied you. There was nothing else that you could have done.

 

“But what about Crescent Rose?” Her expression was bleak as she swirled the dirt around her fingernail. “She was my baby, and now she's gone.”

 

Neo put her arm around Ruby and nestled her head on her shoulder as the silver eyed girl started softly crying again. Don't think about it like an ending. Crescent Rose, she saved your life and she also took lives away. For a weapon, that's a fully lived life. You cared so much about her, and it's not your fault she's gone.

 

I'm so sick of crying, Neo.

 

I am too.

 

“Can we- can we try being friends, maybe?” Ruby asked, slowly calming down with the rise and fall of Neo's chest.

 

Neo snuggled up against her and nodded. I've never had a real friend before, at least, not that I can remember. I guess we could give it a try.

 

“I'm going to have to go back to Beacon after I wake up.”

 

We'll figure it out when you do.

 

“And we still have to do something about Harkan.”

 

That's what training is for, right?

 

Ruby sighed as she said, “And then, after everything makes more sense, maybe we could look for Raven, or figure out who your parents are. Someday, at least.”

 

Someday. Right now, though, neither one of us is going anywhere anytime soon.

 

She nodded, then pulled away from Neo and got to her feet. “I know where we should start. We never got to do this properly.”

 

What do you mean?

 

Ruby smiled at her. Her cloak was ripped and bloodied, but still whole. Shattered, yet somehow still breathing. Broken, but connected in the dark.

 

She held out her hand to the girl before her, who was alien in a way she knew everything about. “It's nice to meet you! My name is Ruby. Ruby Rose.”

 

Neo got to her feet, and their hand joined in imperfect unison. Thank you, Ruby. My name is Neopolitan, and I can't wait to be your friend.

 

The forest breathed its leaves into the sky, and spring sang with all the joy of illusion and loss it knew.

 


 

Ozpin looked up as the doors to his elevator slid open. His eyes widened as Qrow walked into his office and slumped down into a chair by his desk. “Qrow, this is certainly a surprise. You are back quite early. News?”

 

“Lots, and you're not going to like it.” The Branwen son growled. “First off, I'd like to know what on earth happened to my niece under your watch.”

 

The headmaster sighed as gears turned around them in the endless circle of time. “An old evil, an evil that I though had been forgotten but seems to have emerged once again. I have my suspicions, but I believe you might have the information that will confirm them. I was a fool, just as I always have been, and I will need to give her some serious explanation.”

 

“Well, what I originally was going to tell you – by text, mind you, walking to Beacon from the Grimmlands is a pain in the ass – is that the queen has pawns.”

 

Ozpin took a sip off his coffee as he leaned back in his comfy chair. “I suspected as much, but thank you for confirming that. I assume you would not have returned prematurely for just that.”

 

“Nah. What happened was I woke up one morning to find that Ruby had killed Vale's most dangerous criminal and was accepted into Beacon! Around that same time, things started getting crazy out there, so I did some more digging. You know what I figured out?”

 

“Tell me.”

 

“Roman Torchwick was one of those pawns.”

 

A deep sense of dread filled Ozpin as he set his coffee down. “That is grave news indeed.”

 

“Yeah, Oz, ya don't say.” Qrow pulled out his flask and took a swig before glaring directly at Ozpin. “Look, buddy, you and I are going to have a serious chat about your mental healthcare and Ruby at this school, but I found something more important out.”

 

“What?”

 

“I tracked Torchwick's close henchmen down. Got them to talk to me. And they told me something about his left hand, something I've been searching for since- for a long time.”

 

Ozpin raised an eyebrow as Qrow took a deep breath. “What about his left hand?”

 

“Tell me, Oz. How much do you know about my father?”

 

End of Volume One

 


 

Date Completed: 11/11/17

 

Chapters: 10

 

Word Count: 55k+

 

Comments: 20

 

Kudos: 48

 

Bookmarks: 7

 

Hits:  1343

 


 

re:Bound Volume One – Soundtrack

 

SHATTER: Mark The Graves – Linkin Park (The Hunting Party)

 

FALSE IDOL: This Will Be The Day – Casey Lee Williams and Jeff Williams (RWBY Soundtrack Vol. 1)

 

FLICKER: Intention – Kiiara (Low Kii Savage)

 

BLACK AND WHITE: Blackout – Linkin Park (A Thousand Suns)

 

UMBER: Lifelines – I Prevail (Lifelines)

 

RUMORS: Dream – Imagine Dragons (Smoke and Mirrors)

 

FRACTURE: Taking Over Me – Evanescence (Fallen)

 

LAST LEVEE: Red Like Roses Pt. 2 – Casey Lee Williams, Sandy Casey, and Jeff Williams (RWBY Soundtrack Vol. 1)

 

FOREVER FALL: Summoner's Rift – Dangerkids (blacklist_)

 

NEOPOLITAN: Wish – Nine Inch Nails (Broken)

 

ENDING: Wings – Casey Lee Williams and Jeff Williams (RWBY Soundtrack Vol. 1)

 

STREAM THE SOUNDTRACK ON MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqE4toeyXKYiRri06Wm-dv2K8RdnSjk3W

Chapter Text

Chapter Eleven: Hearthfire

 


 

re:Bound

 

A Fanfiction by Pokefan87

 

Chapter Publish Date: 11/18/17

 


 

Disclaimer: I don't own RWBY, and I am not affiliated with Rooster Teeth in any way.

 


 

Trigger Warnings: This work will contain imagery of violence, major character death, bullying, discrimination, abuse, and depression alongside non-graphic mentions of rape and sexual abuse.

 


 

When all of the trees have lost their leaves, the evergreens still linger.

 

Summer comes back in memories, new leaves shadowing the decay of past, buds entombed beneath bark and icicle stars in the night. A white cloak flitting in the dark, blossoms of hope in the decadent wilderness of dreams. Everything will change and stay the same, comforted in the knowledge of oblivion and rebirth.

 

And when the autumn comes, even those most vibrant leaves will Fall just the same…

 


 

“Looking for something?”

 

Emerald Sustrai had always been a careful woman. Stick to the shadows, don't let anyone see you weak – it was how she had survived on the streets before Cinder had found her. The illusions helped of course – it would have been hard to keep her light green hair hidden without them – but she had been an effective thief long before she ever learned about aura.

 

That being said, she could see when someone was trying to hide from a mile away.

 

The big man spun towards her, his body screaming with trepidation. Her eyes flickered to his fingers as sharp points slid out for a moment before vanishing. Good. I can use that. His tone was forceful as he bowed his head slightly in greeting, asking “Can I help you?”

 

“Hm, so it isn't something?” Emerald toyed with the loose ends of her hair, a smile dancing away from her lips.“Maybe it's someone, then? Or is someone looking for you?”

 

A harsh winter gust bit into the morning calm as the man started to back away slowly. “Please excuse me, I have to get to opening my shop in-”

 

“Oh, Tukson Lupa, I was under the impression you just sold that shop, no? You must have a moment to… chat.”

 

Emerald rolled her eyes at her partner as Tukson spun around to face Mercury Black. He smirked as Tukson growled, “You won't take me here. I know your types, won't do anything unless you're sneaking around like gutter rats.”

 

“Says the mangy cat halfway to Vacuo,” Mercury muttered under his breath.

 

We are not going to kill you,” Emerald said as she walked towards Tukson. He bared his fingers as she slid her blade up from its holster and held it against his arm. “An old friend wants to talk to you, that's all.”

 

A low rumble sent tremors through her weapon, and she steeled her reflexes to jump back and end his life. Mercury came up on the other side of the man, whispering heavily into his ear. “Right now, I am holding a shot to your neck that carries a deadly toxin. If you move, if you yell, if you resist, you will be dead in moments. We know about your sister hiding in Atlas, along with your cousins and parents in Menagerie. Move, and they will all die as well.”

 

Tukson tensed further, then deflated as he let his eyes slip shut. “What do you want?”

 

“Come with us,” Emerald said sweetly as she linked her arm through his and started leading him down the street. Mercury scoffed, pulling away to follow close behind them. Two blocks later, Emerald pulled a sharp turn into an alleyway before spinning and throwing Tuskon onto the ground. The bulky man bellowed as he hit the dirt hard, digging deep ruts in the ground as he raked his claws down to stop his momentum.

 

“Well, Tukson, I can't exactly say we're meeting under pleasant circumstances.”

 

Tukson staggered to his feet as a man wearing a Grimm-like mask stepped out from the shadows, revealing a head of fiery red hair. “Adam Taurus,” he spat as his feet widened into a combat stance. “So this is how far we've fallen. Using humans to do your dirty work.”

 

“I gave you every chance in the world. You were one of my most trusted advisers, and you turned your back on the White Fang and the faunus!” Adam hissed, letting Wilt slide an inch out of Blush.

 

“I fight for the faunus, Adam,” Tukson said as he stood his ground, staring his former leader defiantly in the eye. “I stayed when the humans came because I believed our cause was stronger than their meddling. That- that thing was the last straw.”

 

There was a moment of silence before Mercury said, “My employer has informed me that Harkan will be… useful to our cause. It's a shame that you-”

 

Emerald rested her hand on his arm, her hair whirling around her head as she shot him a sharp glance. Even after all these years, the idiot still doesn't know how to hold his tongue.

 

A brief pause marked only by the busy rush of traffic set the heavy air adrift into the frigid sky.

 

“I'm willing to be forgiving this once,” Adam said as he rolled his neck. “Come and rejoin our cause. The faunus need leaders, and-”

 

“If these are the ones you choose, then you're insane to think I'm ever going back,” Tukson growled backing up against the wall and baring his claws. “You're a fool, Adam. Once, I thought you would lead the Faunus to a new golden age. Now, you're going to take us all into darkness.”

 

“I see. Leave my presence.”

Tukson did a double take as Emerald stepped aside with a smirk. “Huh?”

 

Adam gestured to the open way out of the alley. “I said, go. Do not try my patience.”

 

The faunus hesitated for a moment, then walked purposefully out of the alley. “I will be in Vacuo by dawn. Goodbye, Adam. I hope you lift the faunus up, for your sake.”

 

Emerald and Mercury exchanged a glance and nod. Perfect. “And now?”

 

“His fate is sealed,” Adam growled as he smirked vicious. “Let them all see it. Let his blood spill out on the streets, until Vale sees nothing but red and black. Martyrdom is more than he deserves.” The leader of the Vale White Fang threw a deep cowl over his head as he stopped at the head of the alley. “I will be watching.”

 

Emerald burst into action as she made a leap for a low hanging fire escape. Grabbing hold of the rusting metal, she made her way to the roof as fast as she could. We get one shot at this, and we have to beat him to the punch. She glared at Mercury as a dust powered kick send him onto the roof after her, and they took off along the cityscape at a full sprint.

 

Cars screeched across the intersection as Pierre Gray leaned against the metal lightpost. His Valean military badge shone on his chest as he stared at the intersection impassively. Peace times most certainly didn't call for desperate measures, so the small voluntary military was relegated to traffic duty.

 

The light turned red, and he stepped into the street. It was a quiet morning, and there were just a handful of pedestrians around them.

 

Well, there was one, with a strange mask on his- Wait a second-

 

Emerald narrowed her eyes intently at the soldier as he yelled, “Stop right there! Put your hands in the air!” She didn't have the energy to smirk at the ghostly outline of the white fang mask around Tuskon's face as he threw his hands in the air – every detail needed to be perfect.

 

“What did I do?” he called. “Sir, I haven't done anything wrong.”

 

Pierre unlocked the safety on the gun as long claws slid out of the White Fang member's fingers, his sweaty hands tightening around the black carbon fiber. The vigilante growled, “I'll never listen to a fucking human like you.”

 

Tukson flinched as the soldier snarled, “Stand down, you filthy faunus animal!” He backed up two paces and fell to his knees.

 

Cries of outrage came from the crowd that had now begun to gather, lights flickering as scrolls caught the video on film. “Sir, there must have been a misunderstanding. I'm a peaceful man, I run a bookstore. Please, I don't know-

 

Mercury nodded solemnly. “Do it.”

 

Emerald took a deep breath and focused.

 

Adam smirked as he shoved his sword back into its hilt, watching from the shadows.

 

Pierre's mind raced as the vigilante leaped towards him, feral with claws extended.

 

There was just one thing to do, and just a moment to do it.

 

The city rang as six bullets buried themselves into Tukson's chest, leaving the faunus splayed on the cold December pavement for all the world to see.

 


 

The light was dull, a sword leaning against the wall, ready to be set against the grindstone. Snow climbed up the frosty panes, crystal gray mosaics sinking glacial rivulets onto the pale bedsheets. Disturbed, the girl beneath them stirred.

 

I'll see you when you wake up, Ruby… You can go…

 

Her lip trembled as cool air spilled against her throat. How was the dark so light, or had the light grown dark?

 

Slender fingers curled against hers, and Ruby let her eyes slip open.

 

Neo swept her pink hair out of her face as she smiled down at her. Her brown and pink eyes watered as she squeezed her hand.

 

Ruby's throat was dry, but she whispered, Hi Neo.

 

Ruby… Neo hesitated for a moment, then hugged Ruby. She didn't have the energy to hug back, but she hugged her mentally as best she could.

 

Thank you.

 

I told you I was waiting for you to wake up. Did you really think I would go anywhere?

 

Ruby shook her head slightly, then winced as a dull pain flared in her arm. Wincing, she started to panic as she noticed the ventilator around her mouth and the wires on her arm. What's happening? Where am I?

 

Neo cursed as the heart rate monitor by her bedside set an alarm off, pulling away from Ruby and into the corner. You've been in a coma for a month, it's all medical equipment. Your dad and Yang will be up in a second, probably.

 

Sure enough, a pounding sound came from downstairs as Yang yelled something incoherent and sprinted up the stairs. Ruby turned herself enough so that she could see the door as her sister burst into the room. Yang swayed at the doorway as her face broke out into a hopeful smile, then ran over to Ruby and threw her arms around her. “You're awake!” She held on to her for a minute, then broke away and yelled, “Dad, she's awake!”

 

Taiyang came in behind her with a worried expression, then rushed over and turned off the alarm on the medical equipment. Leaning over, he said, “Ruby, give me a second. I'm going to get you off the ventilator.”

 

She gasped as the plastic came off of her face, releasing a pressure she hadn't fully realized she was feeling. Yang and Tai watched her hopefully as she shifted and croaked out, “Hi Dad. Hi Yang.”

 

Her sister sniffed back tears as her dad knelt at her bedside, taking her hand. “It's going to be alright. We're going to be alright now.”

 

Everything is going to be alright.

 


 

Ruby knocked once at the door, then slipped through the frame from the dark hallway in the cream colored light of her and Yang's bedroom. “Yang?”

 

Her sister raised an eyebrow at her as she pulled her pyjamas over her head and pulled her hair out from the top. “C'mon, Rubes, this is our room! Why would you ever need to knock?”

 

“I wanted to talk to you.”

 

“Oh, right.” Yang flopped down on her bed, stretching her arms out and yawning obnoxiously. “Well, let's hear it.”

 

Ruby, I'm going to sleep! Do you need me? Neo asked.

 

No, I'm talking to Yang. Good night.

 

Mm…

 

Ruby sighed as she settled down onto her bed, smoothing out the covers as she did. On the top shelf of their bookshelf, the Grimm action figures she had loved to play with seemed to loom down – what had once been their massive palace seemed cozy, small even. “I- I'm sorry.”

 

“For what?” Yang looked at her without the slightest hint of irony.

 

“What do you mean, for what? For everything!” She stared at her legs, playing with her feet. “I was horrible, Yang. I- I was mean to Blake, and I ignored all of you, and I- Cardin- I ruined our first semester at Beacon, and I wasn't even supposed to be there in the first place.”

 

“Nobody blames you for any of that, Ruby.” Yang though about it for a moment, then said, “Well… Blake has a problem with you, but we can work on that, okay? We all know you were going through something.”

 

“But Cardin-”

 

“You di-”

 

“I watched him die, Yang!” Ruby drew a shuddering breath as she pulled her arms against her chest. “He- he tried to throw a jar of sap at me, and we ended up fighting a-and I lost control and he was on the ground and I don't know what I would have done but the Grimm came and-”

 

“It's not your fault, Ruby!” Yang slammed her bed with her fist, sending a stuffed animal that had been teetering on the edge onto the floor. “We've all been so worried about you, and all you did was get more and more distant! Let us help you! Let us do something! I care! Weiss cares! Blake cares! Pyrrha cares! Jaune is terrified of you, but Pyrrha can make him care...”

 

“Is everything alright up there?” Tai's voice drifted up from the kitchen.

 

“We're fine, dad!” Yang shouted back, then took a deep breath to calm herself down.

 

Ruby shook her head at her sister. “Yang, I've seen two people die. I-I killed one of them, and I beat Cardin half to death. How can- How am I supposed to- I don't know why anyone would want to see me again. I'll just go back to Signal, or-”

 

“Of course we want to see you again!” Yang exclaimed. “I'm your sister, and the rest are your teammates. Why don't you understand that we all just want you to get better?”

 

“Because I-”

 

“Arf!”

 

Ruby and Yang stared as their small black and white dog trotted into the room carrying a plate of cookies and a glass of milk, all precariously balanced on head. He cocked his head to one side and stuck his tongue out, and Yang made a heroic save before the milk spilled across the floor. They looked at each other and burst out laughing as Ruby took the cookies away from the puppy and squeezed him.

 

Yang shook her head as Ruby started eagerly making her way through the deserts. “Some things never change, huh?”

 

“Cookies are always amazing,” she mumbled.

 

“Give me one of those!”

 

“Hey! Cookie caper!”

 

Yang grinned maliciously as her sister flailed her arms wildly at the plate held above her head. “You'll never get them now- hey!”

 

“Boob punch!”

 

“Come back here, you little-”

 

Ruby sprinted to the other side of the bed as Yang's aura flared to life. “Catch me now!”

 

Yang grabbed her pillows in either hand and stalked towards Ruby, who was busily shoving every cookie on the plate into her mouth whole. “Prepare to die!”

 

“Pillow fight!”

 

Zwei didn't know what was happening, but his tail wagged furiously as he launched himself into the fury of fluff for maximum hugs.

 

After wrestling for a couple minutes, Ruby breathlessly collapsed onto the floor in laughter as Yang held the empty cookie plate up to the light. “You heartless monster, they're all gone!”

 

“I missed this.”

 

“Huh?” Yang rolled to the edge of the bed and stared down at Ruby as Zwei clambered onto her head.

 

“I miss the way I was, before all of this happened,” she said wistfully as she pulled a fallen pillow under her head. “Just being all happy and energetic. It was fun, not having to care about everything all the time.”

 

“You could still go back,” Yang said, her tone thick. “That Ruby is still in there, somewhere.”

 

“But she's not, though,” Ruby replied with a sad smile, tracing the cracks in their ceiling and shading her face from the light. “I wish that was still me, but it's not. I'll always be Ruby, your sister, but I don't know if I can go back. I don't know if I want to go back.”

 

Her sister slid her legs off of the edge of the bed, raking her hair out of her face again. “I know that, silly. That doesn't mean we don't still love you and care about you. You're on our team, and we're just glad we still have our team mate.”

 

“Is everyone else doing okay?” Ruby asked softly, almost shyly.

 

“Yeah, Weiss had to go back to Atlas over break, and Blake is staying with friends in Vale. I think Jaune and Pyrrha went back to Mistral together, and Ren and Nora- actually, I have no idea what they do. Haven't you looked at your scroll since you woke up?”

 

She shook her head, asking, “No, why?”

 

“Weiss and Pyrrha have both been texting you like crazy. You should make sure Ice Queen isn't freaking out over you, or something.”

 

“Can't it wait for the morning?” Ruby yawned as she got to her feet and walked towards the bathroom.

 

“You're awake, Ruby, and that's all that matters,” Yang said softly. “We have the rest of our lives to figure things out.”

 


 

“So, Jaune, how did you meet my daughter?”

 

Pyrrha sighed as Jaune fidgeted nervously, staring down at his food. Oh, please make a good impression on my parents.

 

“Well, I was kinda plummeting to my death, and she caught me with her spear?”

 

Pyrrha's father was an imposing man, with burning red hair and a deep scar on his left jaw. He raised his eyebrow at her, and she shot him the best 'yes he's hopeless but give him a chance' look she could. Aurum Nikos sighed and turned back to Jaune. “I've been told that you have a rather impressive aura. Why didn't you use your semblance to land?”

 

“I didn't exactly have my aura back then,” Jaune muttered, “And I don't know what my semblance is yet.”

 

“I see.”

 

Lila Nikos rested her hand on his arm, and she said, “Honey, let's change the subject. Pyrrha, honey, you should to enter the Vytal festival. It will be a wonderful opportunity for you to...”

Pyrrha poked at the elaborate meal that had been set out to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Why had she made Jaune come over for dinner tonight? Why had she come? They had been perfectly happy wandering through Mistral's tourist spots, just the two of them, and now her parents were ruining the pleasant mood that she had managed to put herself in after the Forever Fall incident.

 

And now she was thinking about that. Wonderful. Just… wonderful.

 

“Well, we're going to have to discuss it as a team,” Jaune said firmly as he shot Pyrrha a concerned glance. She gave him a small smile then stared at the decorated walls of the Nikos household. “Besides, we don't even know if we'll qualify.”

 

“With an attitude like that, I don't know how Ozpin was in his right mind making you leader,” Aurum muttered under his breath, and Lila slapped him lightly.

 

“Oh, shut up Aur. Honey, you're the most decorated tournament champion in Mistral! Of course they'll have to let you in, what other choice do they have?” her mom said lightly.

 

Okay, that's it. “I- I'm not feeling well, I'm going to go look at my old room.” She pushed away from the table and storming up two flights of stairs. Breathlessly, she leaned against the wall and took a deep breath.

 

I was going to keep my composure! I let myself be weak in front of Jaune – why did I even want him to meet my parents in the first place? Why do I care?

 

“Pyrrha?”

 

Pyrrha flinched as she whirled around to face her partner, her face flushing as she stumbled backwards. “Jaune, you scared me.”

 

“Well, you did leave me alone with your parents, who were giving me these looks that were kinda scary.” The blond boy scratched the back of his neck sheepishly. “Besides, I figured that you were probably freaking out up here anyways, so-”

 

“Oh.”

 

Jaune had left his armor at the door, and his old sweatshirt hugged his muscular frame tightly. He had really filled out since coming to Beacon, she thought – no more scrawny farm boy to be found. “Um, Pyr? What were you saying about your old room? Isn't that just your room?”

 

“Well, not exactly.” Pyrrha stared at the fancily carpeted floor. “I… haven't actually lived here since I was fourteen. That apartment we've been staying in – yes, my parents payed for it, but it belongs to me. That's my real home.”

 

Jaune looked dumbstruck, and her spirits fell. He doesn't get it. Why would he get it, I've never said anything about it. “But your parents live in a mansion! There's like, art! And gold! And those weird dispensers with orange juice that I'm actually not supposed to touch.”

 

She laughed as he gestured wildly at all of the over the top things around them. “They do have a very nice house, I suppose. I just- Maybe if I show you my room, you'll understand.”

 

Jaune gaped as she flipped the light switch and the master bedroom came to life. White carpet covered a space the size of the apartment they had been staying in. A massive king sized bed with drapery was against one wall, with an empty walk in closet adjacent to it. Most strikingly, the far wall was covered with trophies and plaques: stacked on shelves, hanging loosely, and the four golden statues nearly half Jaune's height displayed from marble pedestals.

 

“It's so...”

 

“Big?”

 

Jaune shook his head. “I was going to say empty.”

 

Pyrrha walked towards the bed with her arms outstretched, her dress flowing out behind her. “My parents used to tell me that they would give me anything in the world if I won the tournaments for them. I got the best trainers, I lived in a palace, and I did win them, Jaune. But I hate all of this.” She caught his blue eyes and shrugged. “The beauty, the grandeur, the fame. I hated it, and I hated how lonely I was because of it.”

 

“Pyrrha, I had no idea...” Jaune said, staring at the golden statuettes in his teammates likeness.

 

“So they let me leave. I could live on my own, as long as I kept winning the tournaments. I moved out after I won the tournament for the first time, and- well, clearly I did what I said I would do. That's what I like about you, Jaune.”

 

“Me?”

 

“I came to Beacon to get away from all of that. You've always seen me for me, not the tournament winner everyone else sees. Thank you.” Pyrrha smiled at him, rushing forwards and embracing him. “I know they're horrible, so thank you for sitting through that with me.”

 

“I mean, who even serves anchovies in their salads?” Jaune muttered into her shoulder, and she laughed as she led him out of her room.

 

“C'mon, Jaune,” she said lightly as they walked back towards the staircase. Today, she had to deal with her parents, but it would only be a few short days before she was back at Beacon, back with her family. “Let's go home.”

 


 

Neo, this is a nightmare! Wake up!

 

Neo breathed heavily as she curled up in the corner of the metal cage. Tears stained her cheeks as the events of the night played out over and over in her mind. Starling slumping to the floor before getting swept away by the mysterious man and taking her away to wherever she was now.

 

His name was Silas Ravinere, and she knew everything about him. She could hear his thoughts, his alien presence on her mind. The green aura was repulsive, she desperately wanted to return to Starling's comforting brown.

 

The cage glowed red, and arms wrapped around her freezing arms. “Neo,” Raven whispered heavily as she pulled her into a tight hug. Abruptly, she burst into tears as she tucked herself into her arms. “Is the man who ki- killed Starling awake?”

 

He was asleep, so Neo shook her head. “Starling is- is- is.”

 

“I should have been there,” Raven hissed. “I wasn't there for the tribe when they needed me, and Tai didn't even want to take me back. Guess he never really cared, because he already went and knocked Summer up. This is why the tribe always comes first.” Red fury glowed in her eyes, but Neo couldn't stop crying.

 

“He died, Raven. What's going to happen now? What's going to happen to me?” Neo sobbed into her shirt.

 

Raven squeezed her tighter. “Neo, I want to murder the man who did this. I want to take you back, but I- I want you to be okay with it. Please tell me you're okay with it.” A note of grief and desperation drifted into the last sentence as she pulled away and looked at Neo.

 

Neo wanted to say yes. She had to say yes.

 

Her body glowed green, and she whispered, “No.”

 

“You can't- did he order-” Raven's eyes filled with tears as she looked down at her. “Please, Neo. I've lost father, Qrow, Yang, Tai, I can't loose you too. Can't you tell me his name, something, anything?”

 

She could only shake her head.

 

Raven closed her eyes and turned away, a red vortex opening up behind her. “I'm sorry, Neo. I'm sorry for everything we put you through. I hope that someday, you- you can for-”

 

“Raven,” she choked out. “I-I don't wanna be alone. Can- can you still visit, sometimes? I think I can keep it a secret from- from him.”

 

The leader of the Branwen tribe paused, nodded once, then disappeared into the portal and was gone.

 


 

Ruby stared dully at the freshly cut gravestone at the edge of Cliffside Forest.

 

I'm sorry, Ruby, Neo said as she squeezed her hand. Crescent Rose… she was the best weapon you could have possibly had.

 

Her last name was Rose. Ruby said, looking past the space between Summer's grave and Crescent's. She was the best thing that I've made in my entire life. She- she was my baby, my friend, my- When I was alone at Signal, I would talk to her when I fought or cleaned her. I used to imagine that she looked like my mom, at heart, and that somehow she- she was still there. And now she's gone. Now they're both gone.

 

Neo knelt down next to her, and Ruby wept beneath the crystal clear sky for her mother, her creation, and everything that had been lost in between.

 


 

“Ruby, do you have a second?”

 

She nodded as Neo discretely slipped out of the living room, so Taiyang collapsed into an armchair. “Sure, what's up Dad?”

 

“Do you think I made a mistake, sending you to Beacon?”

 

Ruby blinked, startled by the question. There was a vulnerability on her dad's face that she didn't recognize, didn't understand. “Why are you asking?”

 

“When Ozpin brought you back home, he said that he wasn't sure when or how you would wake up from your coma,” Taiyang said softly. “Really puts things in perspective, you know, seeing your daughter like that. It made me wonder if it was a mistake to trust him again.”

 

“Again?”

 

Tai sighed, picking up the framed picture of Summer off of their coffee table and gently pressing his finger to the cool plastic. “Your mother was one of the most incredible women I've ever met. She was a brilliant leader, ruthlessly effective at stopping me and Qrow from goofing off and Qrow and Rae from fighting. She cared about you guys so much, but she believe that she was fighting to save the world. When Ozpin sent her on what was essentially a suicide mission, I begged them both to call it off, but nothing stopped. She went, and then she was gone.”

 

The words caught in Ruby's chest, so she just petted Zwei as he walked up to her, putting him in her lap and cuddling him.

 

“I don't know how to help you, Ruby,” her dad said. “I hate that, but it's true. I knew Beacon had mental health care, and I knew how much you wanted go there, so I told Ozpin you could go. When Yang told me that you were getting worse and that you weren't getting real therapy, I wanted to pull you, but Ozpin told me he thought you wouldn't be safe on Patch anymore. I almost lost you too because of that. I almost lost you,” he echoed faintly, tracing his finger across Summer's lips.

 

“I don't think you made a mistake.” Taiyang looked up at Ruby, who was gently stroking Zwei's ears. “Even after everything, I don't know if I would go back and change it. I've made friends, despite doing everything I could to push them away. I never really had that at Signal.”

 

“So you still want to return to Beacon this spring?” Ruby nodded, and he grinned at her. “That's my girl. Even after all of this, being a huntress is still your dream?”

 

“Yeah.” Ruby snuggled deeper into her blanket, warmed by her pet and the crackling fire on the hearth. Her eyes started to droop, and she murmured, “I just know what I'm up against now, and I guess I have more to fight for too.”

 

Tai set the photograph down on the table, then kissed Ruby on the forehead. “Take a nap, Rubes. Mom and I love you, and you're safe now. Everything is going to be okay.”

 

Things are going to be alright.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twelve: Checkmate

 


 

re:Bound

 

A Fanfiction by Pokefan87

 

Chapter Publish Date: 11/26/17

 


 

The window steamed as Ruby pressed her nose to the side of the airship, breathing in the open world below her. Vale was cloaked in a viscous fog, snow-capped buildings looming in dark morning sky. Yang was chattering excitedly with Ren and Nora, who happened to have been on their same transport. Ruby had thought to join in, but couldn't translate her thoughts to movement and watched her world instead.

 

This feels different than last time.

 

Neo leaned against the back wall of the airship, casually resting her hand on the hilt of her sword. Ruby flinched and tore her eyes away from the reflection, a vicious twinge rocking her heart as her hand reached behind her back and met nothing. Ruby, you won't be alone this time. You'll have your team, and I'll be-

 

She sighed, watching the metal floor grumble beneath her. Neo, what are we?

 

Pushing off from the wall, Neo slipped past Nora's hammer towards her. She hadn't realized her hands were shaking until Neo grabbed it and squeezed. Almost surprised, Ruby pulled back and she jerkily let her go, flickering almost on instinct. We… I thought we were going to try being friends.

 

But how? Ruby shoved her hands into her skirt, shooting Yang a furtive look. How can I be friends with anyone after what happened? Why would anyone want to be friends with me?

 

Because you're amazing, Ruby. Neo bit her lip, her eyes murky as her aura danced around her hands. Pyrrha and Weiss want to be your friends, Ruby, and so do I. You want it too, no matter how much you say you don't deserve it.

 

But-

 

I know you better than anyone, Ruby. You can't lie to me.

 

The airship broke away from Vale and started sailing over the Emerald Forest. She didn't know how to respond, so they just watched the landscape drift beneath them. A news cast droned in the background, and the low buzz of conversation surrounded them.

 

A shadow fell over the window, and Neo frowned as she pressed herself to the glass so she could see up. Holy crap.

 

Ruby gasped as a massive airship came into view, fully decked out with dust turrets and multiple decks. “Wow, that's so cool!” she exclaimed, watching in rapture as a squadron of smaller ships dropped from the belly of the airship and flew by the transport.

 

“What's cool?” Yang walked over and peered out the window, then rolled her eyes. “At least you're obsessing over weapons again.”

 

“Hey!”

 

“It's a ship, Ruby.”

 

“But its an Atlesian battleship! They have seven decks and three hundred turrets and it's supposed to hold more than-”

 

“Like I said, a ship,” Yang said, shaking her head slightly. “At least you're acting normal again.” Yawning and stretching, she walked back over to Ren and Nora, who waved at her as she looked over. Ruby waved back before looking back at the battleship above.

 

I don't like this.

 

Huh?

 

Neo stared at the aerial display, letting her finger rest against the vista. When I was… with Roman, we spent a lot of time avoiding those soldiers. The commander, General Ironwood, he's a paranoid man. Really helpful, actually.

 

Ruby met her eyes, unsure of how to feel. She knew that Neo had been a criminal for a long time, but she had never thought about what that meant. Neo felt her uncertainty, and sent her a defiant look.

 

Look, I'll show you all of that eventually, I promise. I'm not sorry what I've done, though. It's their fault for a lot of that, but I chose to fight for Roman. Are you going to have a problem with that? She flickered wildly for a moment before steadying herself.

 

Ruby gulped and shook her head. Why was that helpful?

 

Because whenever Ironwood's troops show up, there's something worth stealing behind them. The only question is why are they here?

 

“You have arrived at Beacon Academy. Please exit the aircraft through the open doors.”

 

Her thoughts were interrupted as students poured out of the airship and onto Beacon's landing pad. Ruby wandered after Yang, Ren, and Nora through the crowd as Neo pressed herself into the corner of the ship to avoid contact with anyone else. Gradually, the crowd thinned out as they made their way towards the school.

 

“Alright, now where are Jaune and Pyrrha and Blake and Weiss?” Nora grumbled as she paced around Ren in circles. “They told us they would be here, but clearly they aren't, and I left my pancake mix in the dorm room. If they don't come, me and Manghild are-”

 

“Nora.”

 

“Yes?”

 

“I think they're right over there,” Ren said as he pointed toward the girls and Jaune.

 

“I knew you guys would be on time~!”

 

“Blake!”

 

“Yang!” Blake threw her arms around her partner's neck as she pulled her into a tight hug, rocking back and forth as everybody stared at them. Weiss had an odd expression as she turned away and waved at Ren and Nora, who waved back.

 

“Hi Yang,” she said quietly as Yang finally broke away from Blake and turned to her.

 

“Weiss! How are ya, Ice Queen?” she responded as she gave Weiss a quick hug.

 

“I, um- Fine, thank you.”

 

Weiss turned away to find herself staring at Ruby, who was hovering a couple yards away from the rest of JNPRWBY. Her cloak rippled slightly in the breeze, the start of rips and tears perforating the ragged ends. Slowly, the rest of the two teams noticed her, and she hesitantly wavered between running to Yang and backing away.

 

A hand rested on her arm, and Neo nodded to her.

 

You don't have to be alone anymore.

 

Hesitantly, Ruby broke away from Neo and said, “Hi.”

 

Smiling, Pyrrha strode forewards and embraced her. “Ruby, I'm so glad you're okay! We were all worried about you.”

 

I promise.

 


 

“Alright, so how was everyone's holiday?” Yang asked as she sprawled out on her bed.

 

WBYR's dorm room was caught in a state of chaotic disarray. Weiss was busily moving clothes from her suitcase to their only set of drawers, which consequently became Weiss' set of drawers. Blake's bed was covered with unorganized books, so she had managed to get under the coffee table and was reading a book with a too big dust jacket Yang was fairly certain was one of her erotica novels in disguise. Ruby was sitting on the edge of her bed, spaced out and ignoring the world.

 

“Right, so I'll go first. My vacation was great, I kicked some Grimm butt and took care of Ruby. Who's next?”

 

Weiss muttered something as she tossed a handful of lingerie across the room, which landed on Blake's legs. Ruby's eyes drifted shut as she tied down the corner of her canopy, teetering on the edge of her bed precariously.

 

“Guys, you're not giving me much to work with here,” Yang groaned as she rolled onto her back. “Weiss, what did you do?”

 

“I went home,” Weiss responded stiffly as she slammed the lid of her second suitcase shut and opened her third.

 

“Oh, how was that? Lots of mansions and stuff, huh? What do you do there?”

 

“I don't have space for any of this, I'll just send it back,” Weiss muttered as she got to her feet and pushed her suitcase to the side. “My father praised me for my position as team leader, and decided to send me to a leadership conference during the Winter Solstice to improve my skills.”

 

Yang winced, and Blake said, “That sounds awful, I'm sorry.”

 

“Why are you wearing your bow, Blake?”

 

Everyone whipped around to look at Ruby, who was staring at the slip of black cloth on Blake's forehead. Weiss stared at her partner as Blake hissed quietly. “You're… talking to us?”

 

Ruby blushed and looked away, fiddling with her skirt nervously. “When I woke up, I-”

 

“What gives you any right to ask that?”

 

Yang sat up as Blake set her book down, her bow flattening against her head. “Blake, calm down.”

 

“No. Ruby, you ignored us for an entire semester. I don't know what you've been hiding from us, but you have no right to ask me that. I don't care if you've been in a coma or if you killed some criminal, that doesn't just mean you can expect us to be nice to you after being an asshole for a semester!”

 

“Blake, stop!” Yang shot her partner a look, which was met and held.

 

“Um, guys?”

 

Yang tore her gaze away from Blake's beautifully layered eyes – no, now was not the right moment to think about it (Not true, every moment was a good moment to think about it (Wait, what?)). “Huh? Oh, right. Chill out, okay? We just got back, so there's no reason to go at each other right now.”

 

“Actually, she does kinda have a point,” Weiss said as she looked up at Ruby. “Do you actually plan on paying any attention to us or school this semester?”

 

Ruby's face was downcast, staring at Weiss' bed below her. “I'm sorry, I know I was a bad teammate last semester-”

 

“That's putting it lightly,” Blake muttered.

 

Yang narrowed her eyes at her. Was she trying to attack Ruby today? “Hey, watch what-”

 

Her partner spun around to face her directly. “Yang, can you take your rose colored glasses off for a damn second so we can have a real conversation?”

 

Biting back a retort, she said, “Fine.”

 

“I mean, you didn't exactly make being your leader and partner easy,” Weiss said with a bitter undertone, pushing her heels further under her dresser. “I did all of our pairwork – every homework assignment, every essay, every fight. It would have been nice to get a little bit of help, maybe.”

 

“She attacked me.”

 

Silence.

 

Yang stared incredulously from her partner to her sister. “You attacked her?!”

 

“You ran away from me after I figured out you were a faunus!” Ruby burst out.

 

“So you used your semblance to chase me! With your weapon! What was I supposed to do, hug you?”

 

“I'm your teammate! You were running away from me!”

 

“Teammate? Bullshit, Black Rose!”

 

“What, so you just attacked me?”

 

“Yes, and you fought back!”

 

“Self-defense!”

 

“Like how you held me against the Vale Docks with your fucking pigsticker at my throat?”

 

“SHUT UP!” Weiss screeched, pointing Myrtenaster at the ceiling and firing a blank round of ice dust.

 

Yang ran over and grabbed Blake's shoulders, but her partner threw her off. “And you still haven't told me who Neo is. I don't see why I should trust a word you say when I told you my story and you lied to my face in return.”

 

A crimson glint of rage shone in Ruby's eyes as she pushed off of her bed and onto the floor. “DON'T CALL CRESCENT A PIGSTICKER! SHE WASN'T A PIGSTICKER!”

 

Weiss was thrown into a wall as Ruby vanished in a blur of red petals. The room exploded into black smoke as she careened through Blake's shadow clones, setting the fire alarm off with a wild shriek. Furniture and books flew across the room as the two teammates fought, sending their dorm into utter chaos.

 

Yang's eyes glowed red as debris landed in her hair. “STOP IT!” Cocking Ember Cecila, she starting wildly slinging punches through the thick haze, trying in vain to land a hit on Blake or Ruby but ultimately failing to hit either.

 

“CHILDREN, STOP THIS NONSENSE IMMEDIATELY!”

 

Ruby, Yang, and Blake all froze in midair as Glynda pushed past team JNPR and knelt by Weiss' side. The leader groaned and said, “I'm fine, professor. Don't worry about me, I was just surprised.”

 

Glynda nodded, then flicked her riding crop and turned to face the rest of WBYR. The room repaired itself around them as she said, “You are fighting. In your dorm room. On the first day of the term. Unless someone gives me an excellent reason why this happened, all four of you – yes, that includes you, Ms. Schnee – will be doing detention for the rest of the month! Ms. Rose!”

 

Ruby burst into tears, and everyone else stared at her. “She called Crescent a- a- a-” she choked out, unable to finish the sentence.

 

“Pigsticker, Mrs. Goodwitch,” Weiss offered hesitantly. “Her weapon, the one that was-”

 

Glynda's expression softened slightly, and she held her crop closer to her chest. “I see. One of the reasons Professor Ozpin invited you to come here was your unique talents in weaponry. I am… sorry for your loss, but that is no excuse for this behavior.”

 

“Because I'm just his silver eyed prodigy, right?” Ruby spat out as she wiped tears away from her eyes.

 

Glynda recoiled, her expression shifting from shock to horror. “You heard th- Ms. Belladonna, I assume you are responsible for this fight?”

 

“Maybe if she hadn't attacked me, revealed that I'm a faunus to everyone, lied to my face, and hurt my friends, we wouldn't be having this issue,” Blake snarled back, struggling against the telekinesis futilely.

 

“And Ms. Xiao Long, I don't suppose you'd like to air all of your grievances too?”

 

“They got dirt in my hair!” Yang protested, and Glynda rolled her eyes as she dropped her.

 

“Belladona, Rose, we are going to see Ozpin. Now.” Before either girl had a chance to protest, Glynda had levitated them out of the dorm room, leaving Weiss and Yang on the floor in stunned disbelief.

 

“Um, guys?” Jaune poked his head into the room nervously. “What just happened?”

 

“Jaune, if you can't tell already, right now is a really bad time, so get lost before I punch your face out,” Yang growled as she got to her feet, pushed him out of the doorway, and slammed the door in his face. Breathing heavily, she knelt by Weiss' side. “Are you okay, Weiss?”

 

Pulling herself up, Weiss winced and held her shoulder. “Yeah, I'll take a painkiller, it'll be fine. I just completely failed as a leader, didn't I?”

 

Yang shrugged. “Ya know, generally it's the leader's job to stop her team from blowing up the dorm room, but who's really counting?”

 

Weiss sighed, staring down at her dust covered dress. “God, I'm filthy.”

 

“Don't call it that.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“You're not filthy, you're just a little rocky road,” Yang said, grinning fiercely as Weiss slapped her arm.

 

“I didn't miss your stupid ice cream puns, though!”

 

She smirked at her, flipping her hair back over her shoulder. “Betcha did, it wouldn't be a real Sundae without them.” She laughed at her own joke, and Weiss couldn't help but giggle slightly alongside her.

 

“Hey, Yang?”

 

Yang wandered over to her bed and sat down, leaning back on her hands as she kicked her feet up on the overturned table. “What's up?”

 

“Do you… like Blake?”

 

She stared at Weiss as the heiress settled down on the bed across from her, wincing and coughing slightly as she did. “Huh?”

 

Weiss carefully rested her sword on the bed behind her as she said, “You see, before Beacon, I went to a combat school in Atlas, but I was never treated as a normal student. My father… expected me to watch the other kids, or otherwise he would have kept me home and gotten me a tutor. I notice things, I guess, and it's just the way you guys talk to each other, and that hug earlier- Oh, and also the dirty look you gave her when she started reading her secret book today, that was pretty obvious.”

 

Yang's face turned bright red and her eyes widened. “You know about her erotica? But she didn't tell you-”

 

Weiss laughed. “Oh, please. Everyone who knows her knows she reads that stuff. She told you? That just makes it seem even more obvious.”

 

“You notice stuff. Weiss Schnee, stuck up brat with a fancy sword, notices plain old teenage drama. That's great. That's just priceless.” She shook her head in disbelief.

 

“And you're avoiding the question.”

 

Yang blushed deeper and looked away. “I don't know what you're talking about. She's my partner, and… Well, I guess she's my first real friend, but that doesn't mean that, so I seriously don't know why we're talking about this right now.”

 

Weiss hummed quietly as she got to her feet. “You should ask her out. You two would be a good couple. I'm going to take a shower to get all of this absolute filth off of me.” She slipped into the bathroom, leaving Yang behind in stunned silence.

 

“Weiss, I don't like Blake!” she yelled.

 

“Whatever you say...”

 

“But I don't, I think,” Yang murmured to herself as she collapsed back on her bed.

 

Did she like Blake like that?

 


 

You're an idiot! Why would you attack her? What could possibly come from attacking her?

 

I don't know, Neo! Ruby shot back as Neo jogged after her levitating form. She insulted Crescent, what was I supposed to do?

 

I'm just as sad about Crescent as you, and there was no reason for her to be such an asshole, but you can't react like that! Do you want to talk to Ozpin again? Do you want to explain to him how you heard Glynda say that?

 

No!

 

“Ozpin!” Ruby and Blake were thrown onto the ground of Ozpin's office as Glynda stalked out of the elevator. “Ms. Rose and Ms. Belladona- Oh.”

 

Ozpin, an older man with graying hair, Qrow, and the holograms of several men in suits watched Ruby as she clambered to her feet with mild disinterest. Ozpin sighed as he pushed his glasses up the brim of his nose. “Gentlemen, thank you for your time.” He pressed a button on the desk, and the holograms disappeared. “Glynda, how can I help you?”

 

Before she had a chance to respond, Ruby yelled, “Uncle Qrow!” Running over, she threw her arms around him and squeezed as tight as she could.

 

Qrow hugged her back. “Hey there, kiddo.”

 

“Did you miss me?”

 

“Nope,” he said as he ruffled her hair lightly. Glynda flicked her riding crop, and Ruby flew off of her uncle and back towards Blake.

 

That other man is Ironwood, Neo said, a hint of nerves touching her voice.

 

Why are you so nervous?

 

Neo glanced at Qrow as she pressed herself further into the corner of the room. The last time I saw him, he was busy trying to murder Raven. Forgive me if I'm a little cautious of a man who tried to kill me every time he saw me.

 

“Glynda, you just interrupted a meeting with the council,” Ironwood said tartly, leaning back against Ozpin's desk.

 

“And you haven't changed a bit, James,” she snapped back before gesturing towards the two girls. “Ozpin, they were trying to kill each other.”

 

“I see.”

 

Ruby glanced over at Blake, who was trying to burn a hole through her with her gaze, then glanced away. Ozpin slowly walked around his desk and sat down, gesturing to the two chairs in front. She sat down in one, feeling intensely uncomfortable under the gaze of the adults in the room. Blake sat down next to her as he poured himself a cup of coffee.

 

“Oz, are you going to do what I told you?”

 

The headmaster glanced at Qrow and nodded. “Now, would you two please explain to me what happened that has Glynda so angry. Ms. Belladonna, you start.”

 

“Ruby's been acting strange since the school year started,” Blake said, sitting on the edge of her seat as if she was ready to flee on a moment's notice. “Two days before she went into her coma, I walked in on her training at four o'clock in the morning.”

 

Ruby's eyes widened as a realization hit her. Shit. Shit shit shit. Neo, is she about to talk about you?

 

Wait, if Qrow is here, and- Did he track me to Roman? Neo said as dread settled in her stomach. Qrow knows me. Qrow knows who I am. If she says my name, we're fucked, both of us.

 

“She knew I was a Faunus, and that was the last straw.” Blake narrowed her eyes at Ruby. “I tried to get away, but she chased me down with Crescent Rose. We ended up fighting on the transport to Vale. She acted normal until I mentioned some name she kept saying in her dreams, then-”

 

“The name.”

 

Neo paniced, and Ruby whispered, “Qrow, don't.”

 

“What?” Blake seemed startled as Qrow drew his scythe. Ozpin got to his feet as Glynda came around the desk to stand next to him, and Ironwood drew his pistol.

 

“I said, what name was she saying in her dreams?” Qrow growled after slipping his flask back into his jacket.

 

Neo?

 

Neo shut her eyes as she slid to sit on the metallic floor. God, I'm so stupid. How did I not see this coming? Why didn't I think they would figure it out?

 

Blake stared at the adults in fear. “She- The name Ruby would call out was Neo, I think.”

 

“I see. Now,” Ozpin gestured, and all hell broke loose.

 

Neo ducked past Qrow as he sprinted to the elevator with his scythe extended, drawing her sword as Glynda caught Ruby with her telekinesis. Ozpin stood and drew his cane creating a green barrier out of thin air that moved from the walls towards the center of the room. Neo flickered wildly as the green closed in around her, turning a deep shade of purple as it touched her skin. The room exploded into illusions of explosions and Grimm as Ironwood charged towards her, and Ruby's eyes widened as she drew her sword to sink it into his neck.

 

“Neo, no!”

 

Everyone froze as the room glowed green and Neo froze in midair. She screamed silently as Ironwood's gun slammed into her midriff, sending her rolling across the floor. Her illusion shattered, and suddenly she was visible to everyone in the room. Glynda cursed and levitated her into the air, and she glared at Ruby. Fuck you. Fuck you for doing that.

 

I don't want you to die!

 

Qrow held the tip of his scythe to her throat and laughed haughtily. “Well, if it isn't my dear father's little slave. I thought I was never going to see you again.”

 

“Don't touch her!” Ruby screamed, trying in vain to break free of Glynda's semblance and failing.

 

“Who is that?” Blake asked wildly as she backed away from Ruby, pressing herself to the massive window at the back of Ozpin's office. “What's going on?”

 

“Qrow, you can remove your scythe.” Ozpin swirled his cane around as he walked towards Neo. “Neopolitan, Qrow has explained your relationship to his father to me. I am afraid that I cannot allow any aura bonds in my school to go unregistered, and yours has gone on for far too long.”

 

Neo glared up at him and spat.

 

Ironwood and Glynda made noises of outrage as Ozpin calmly wiped his face off. “I see. We could have done this the easy way, but I'm afraid the hard way may be far more suitable to these unique circumstances.” Sighing, he rested his hand on her arm and pushed green aura into her body.

 

Ruby's aura sprang to life as a golden river of black, white, and red aura sprang to life between Ruby and Neo. Qrow cursed and backed away as Ozpin pushed his aura around the bond, then nodded. “It would seem you are correct, Qrow. Neopolitan, who your father originally bonded, is now bonded with Ruby.”

 

Neo's mind was in turmoil as the aura projection faded away. Ruby send the best push of calm she could. Please, I need to be able to talk to you. What do we do?

 

I don't know! If Ozpin knows, then- Are they going to lock me up, or kill me, or-

 

“Can someone please tell me what the fuck is going on?” Blake yelled, and everyone else in the room turned to look at her.

 

Ozpin sighed and looked at Glynda. “Take the girl's weapon and let them down.”

 

Neo's sword flew into Ironwood's grip as Neo and Ruby fell to the floor again. Scrambling to her feet, Ruby rushed to Neo's side and got between her and the rest of the adults.

 

“Ruby, get away from her,” Qrow growled. “She's too dangerous-”

 

Ooh, that's rich coming from him, Neo muttered.

 

“How would you know, the only thing you've ever said around her is how she should be dead!” Ruby exclaimed as she helped her to her feet.

 

“You've got to be kidding me.” Qrow took another swig from his flask. “She's a serial killer!”

 

Like he's not.

 

“Like you never killed for Starling either,” she shot back.

 

Qrow flinched, then narrowed her eyes at her. “That's different, and I'm not talking to Ruby right now, am I?”

 

“The only difference between you two is that Neo didn't have a choice when she killed people,” Ruby snapped back at him.

 

“Alright, that's it.” The scythe gouged into the ground in front of them, gears whirring as it locked into place. “Get away from my niece!”

 

“Enough.” Glynda pulled the scythe out of Qrow's grip and shot him a blistering glare. “Qrow, clearly your year in the Grimmlands has addled your judgement. Neither Ms. Rose nor Neopolitan pose an immediate threat to us. Now, Oz, were you going to explain for Ms. Belladonna's sake what is happening?”

 

Ozpin sighed as he retracted his cane and turned to Blake, who was somewhere between queasy and terrified. “Ms. Belladonna, I apologize for your involvement in this matter. However, we cannot afford to let this become widely known, and you know far too much to leave now. Fortunately, you have a great deal of experience regarding secrets, so I am sure you will be fine.”

 

“What do you mean?” Blake said. “What am I involved in?”

 

“It would appear that when Ruby killed Roman Torchwick, she became… attached to Neopolitan. Their auras are connected through an extremely illegal act performed by a man who is now dead named Starling Branwen.”

 

“Wait, Yang's good-for-nothing mom?”

 

Don't talk about Raven like that!

 

“Don't talk about Raven like that!” Qrow glared at Neo, then turned to Blake.

 

“Yeah, my father's semblance was a nasty one. Never used it for most of his life, at least not until he created that thing.”

 

“Qrow, that's enough,” Ironwood barked, and Ozpin looked at him gratefully.

 

“Thank you, James. Ruby, would you care to explain how a registered criminal has been living inside of an institution for children for the past several months?”

 

“No.”

 

Right back in therapy, huh? Neo shook her head and glared at Oz balefully as Ruby crossed her arms.

 

“Why don't we let Neo explain it herself?” Glynda asked, and Neo flinched before flipping her off. Tell them.

 

Are you sure? It took you-

 

Just get it over with.

 

“She's mute. One of them cut her tongue out.”

 

“Oh my.” Glynda backed up to the wall as Neo let her mouth fall open, her eyes shifting colors.

 

Ozpin sighed and massaged his temples as he said “Ruby, please make thi-”

 

“No!” Neo grabbed her arm to try and calm her down, but she shook her off. “Why should I trust you? You forced me to go to 'therapy' with you, where all you did was interrogate me! You forced me to work on my 'dual semblance' for hours, even though you only saw Neo heal me once. Besides-” Ruby pushed her hair out of her face. “The only reason I'm even here is my silver eyes, right?”

 

Qrow turned towards Ozpin and leaned on his desk. “You were the one giving her therapy. You have got to be kidding me.”

 

“Taiyang and I-”

 

“Bullshit, we both know Tai hates your guts for what you did to me and Raven.” Qrow pushed away from the desk and shoved his hands in his pockets. “Go on.”

 

Ozpin paused for a moment, taking another sip of coffee. “Miss Rose, when I discussed my reasons for admitting you to this academy, I was not lying to you. Your entire family has been exemplary hunters and huntresses – Team STRQ has the most accolades of any team in Beacon history. So, my admitting you was not without adequate reason. I am sorry, however, for the situation we find ourselves in now.”

 

Neo laughed, and everyone turned to stare at her except Ruby. Right, so after all of this now he's sorry. This is absurd. This entire situation is absurd.

 

“I have made more mistakes than every man, woman, and child on this planet, and I do not exaggerate when I say that,” Ozpin said heavily. “The honest truth is that I knew of your bond from the moment you stepped into my office for our first session. I thought I was right in my inaction, but I now believe that I have taken the greater of two evils.”

 

The office fell silent as Ruby stared at him with stunned disbelief. “You're telling me that you knew about Neo this entire time and you did nothing.”

 

“Tell me, when you were a child, what was your favorite fairytale? Miss Belladonna, you may answer as well.”

 

Glynda, Ironwood, and Qrow all tried to talk at the same time, but it was James that managed to make his voice heard. “Oz, you can't seriously be considering filling them in!”

 

Blake shook her head wildly. “Filling us in on what? If this was supposed to explain things to me, it's not working!” she said, her voice rising higher with every word.

 

Qrow looked at her with pity, then back to Ozpin. “Letting her stay was a mistake. You know this is going to put Amber in even more danger, right?”

 

“I'm afraid that is a risk we must take.”

 

Ruby looked to Neo, who was swaying next to her. Do you know what he's talking about?

 

No clue.

 

“Ozpin, give it to them straight.” Glynda's harsh expression wavered slightly, but she held it as she looked to Blake. “Deception is only going to hurt us at this point.”

 

Ozpin looked between the three other adults and nodded. “I believe there may be no other way. Tell me, Ms. Rose, have you ever heard the tale of the four maidens?”

Chapter Text

Chapter Thirteen: Beauty and the Burden

 


 

re:Bound

 

A Fanfiction by Pokefan87

 

Chapter Publish Date: 12/2/17

 


 

Ruby stared at Ozpin. “The four maidens? That's a fairy tale.”

 

“But what if I told you it wasn't?” Ozpin said quietly, pressing his hands to his cane as he met her eyes. “Also, I don't believe I gave you permission to leave, Miss Belladonna.”

 

Blake's form disappeared into a puff of smoke as Glynda held her in place by the elevator with her riding crop. “Let me go!” she yelled as Neo stared at her wide eyed.

 

Ruby, no matter what we do Ozpin isn't going to let us go. We have to play this right, or else we're screwed.

 

“Blake.”

 

What is this? I came to Beacon because I wanted to get away from all of the lies and bullshit!” Blake hissed at the headmaster, trying to break free.

 

“Do you remember what I told you in your interview?” Ozpin said with a heavy sigh as he rose to his feet, chair sliding back as he pushed back against his desk.

 

“I was-”

 

“I told you that you would be allowed into Beacon on one condition – if you ran again, you would no longer be a student at my academy.”

Blake went limp in Glynda's hold, letting her knees sink to the floor. Ruby gaped at Blake, at a loss for words. Finally, she whispered, “That night… the night you ran away from me- Was that supposed to be the last time you ever saw us?”

 

“I didn't have a choice, okay! If they knew- It's bad enough that you know, but if they-”

 

“There is always a choice, Miss Belladonna. I offered you my trust, and you broke it.” Ozpin pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose as he walked around the desk. “That choice has led you here, and now you no longer have the option of running away.”

 

Ruby wanted to disappear, to be anywhere but Ozpin's office, away from… whatever was happening. Neo, he's scaring me. He- he's Professor Ozpin, he's supposed to protect us, he's- right?

 

Qrow growled and Ironwood flinched as Neo hugged her, shaking her head into her head. I don't know. I don't know. This is fucked up. We fucked up, we should have just let her run.

 

And leave Yang?

 

I don't know.

 

“And what if I refuse?” Blake spat back. “What if I want to leave here?”

 

Ozpin narrowed his eyes, just as the clock tower rang three o'clock. The deep vibrations pulsed through the tower, rising and sinking through the tension in the room. “That, I am afraid, is unacceptable.”

 

“What's that supposed to mean?”

 

“What it means,” Ironwood said as he walked between Blake and the elevator, “is that you know too much.”

 

Blake bit her lip as her ears curled up, falling silent as Qrow groaned and took a deep swig from his flask. “Oz, you screwed it up again. I said you were going to screw it up again, and you did.”

 

“Qrow, you know that I-”

 

“No,” he growled, kicking the desk and throwing his flask to the ground. “I left for one year, Oz. One goddamn year, and I come back to this! That thing is in my niece's head, Amber is half dead, and James is turning this school into a military base! Give it to them straight, because clearly you thought it was a good idea to tell them.”

 

Ozpin gave Qrow a long stare. Ruby gulped – his expression was something barely measurably human, ancient beyond what she could understand. “Professor, who is Amber?” she asked as Glynda made a strangled noise and Ironwood massaged his temples with his palm.

 

“Amber is- was-” Glynda sniffed and James strode across the room to embrace her as Ozpin addressed Ruby, Blake, and Neo heavily. “Amber was a young woman who came into a great deal of power too early in her life. We prepared her the best we could, but she had been in Mistral visiting with Leo Lionheart, the headmaster of the academy there. On the way back, she was attacked by a team of members of an unknown organization.”

 

“You sent her without guards, Oz,” Qrow said, pounding his foot against the wall.

 

“Not in front of the children, Q-”

 

“You sent Amber across two continents without a single damn guard!”

 

Ozpin bowed his head. “I told Leo to send guards with her. I am not omnipresent. I cannot save every life, or be everywhere.”

 

“So she's dead,” Blake deadpanned. “What does that have to do with anything?”

 

Ruby didn't know what was the most surprising – watching her uncle and her headmaster fight, seeing Glynda break down into tears, or what Ozpin said next:

 

“Amber was the Fall Maiden. She held immense magical powers, and now more than half of it has been lost to a gathering darkness preparing to destroy the world. The story of the maidens is true. Magic is real, and I myself am magical.”

 

Silence, aside from Glynda struggling to compose herself.

 

Neo shifted in Ruby's embrace. That's insane. This is insane. Why the fuck is that real?

You actually think he's telling the truth?

 

You're in my head. Why wouldn't I believe someone when they tell me magic is real?

 

I don't understand this at all.

 

Neither do I, but we don't have any choice but to roll with it. I have an idea, can we try it?

 

Yes, what?

 

Let me speak through you. In a jumbled mess of thoughts, Ruby understood what Neo meant and shot her acknowledgment back.

 

“You're lying,” Blake said uncertainly, looking to Ozpin.

 

He shook his head, looking down to the but of his cane. “This conversation should not have escalated. Neopolitan was not an immediate threat, we could have taken care of her at a later time. It is unfair to have burdened you three with this knowledge. I should not have let this get out of hand.”

 

“Prove it.”

 

Ruby's heart burned warm as she felt Neo mouth the words as she said them, letting her head hang over her shoulder. You're welcome.

 

“Neopolitan-”

 

“Neo,” she said through Ruby, eyes shifting as she held Ozpin's gaze defiantly. “If you expect me and Ruby to believe a single fucking thing you say after everything you've done to us, prove it.”

 

Qrow bit something back as Ozpin said, “Neo, my apologies. I understand that you have had a rather turbulent past, and what Starling and Raven Br-”

 

“Don't say shit about Raven,” Neo retorted as Ruby held her tighter. “Maybe if you actually tell us something straight instead of avoiding our questions, this wouldn't be a problem. Now, prove it.

 

Ozpin hesitated for a moment, then said, “I understand that your semblance is physical illusions, no?”

 

“That's right,” she responded, her form shifting to look like Ruby for a moment.

 

“Please cover the windows so no one can see in.”

 

Neo nodded, and the room was plunged into darkness aside from a handful of bobbing multicolored lights drifting through the air. Ruby shivered – the scene was too close to the Emerald Forest, reminded her too much of Harkan, of Cardin, of-

 

Not right now.

 

But-

 

Focus Ruby.

 

Ozpin looked from one adult to another, then closed his eyes. His body glowed a brilliant green as he slowly rose into the air, energy spiraling around his body into a shielding bubble. Staring down at the three awestruck children, he said in a displaced voice, “I believe this should do.”

 

Ruby pulled away from Neo, unable to tear her eyes away from the light show above her. Ozpin's feet touched the ground, and the illusions around the room vanished with single hand gesture. The fading afternoon light seemed hesitant to come back, like a child called away for dinner. Shadows ate at the horizon.

 

“How?” Blake eventually made out, barely noticing that Glynda had deposited her onto the cold metal floor.

 

“I am the old man from the maiden story. Using my semblance and my magic together, I gifted four young woman with the ability to harness the seasons and bend them to their will. That was the final time I ever used my semblance,” Ozpin said as the light faded around him.

 

Blake stared at him for a moment. “You're dead serious, aren't you?” she laughed, shaking her head in disbelief. “So Professor Ozpin is actually an immortal wizard who's single handedly responsible for the creation a fairy tale.”

 

“Yeah, it's a lot to take in, but pretty much,” Qrow said. “Trust me, it gets worse.”

 

Ruby was pretty sure her brain had stopped working properly. “Wha-”

 

Just let me talk. Neo pulled her hair back and got to her feet. “What does this have to do with me and Ruby?”

 

Ozpin sighed again, walking past Qrow and back to his chair swinging his cane around as he did so. “I am not blind, nor am I so lost in ideals that I fail to notice the actions of those around me. I knew from the instant both of you entered my office, and I suspected standing by your hospital bed. Neopolitan, the advice I gave Miss Rose then was for you just as much as it was for her. You have lived a life I would wish on no one, and I will not punish you for any action you have taken prior to coming under my watch.”

 

Neo blinked at him, at a complete loss for words.

 

“You're kidding me. Oz, did you not listen to anything I told you about my family?” Qrow slammed his fist against the wall. “About her?!”

 

“Qrow, please excuse yourself.” Ironwood said coolly, resting his free hand on his gun. “Unless, of course, you want your niece to learn more about you than she wants to.”

 

Qrow narrowed his eyes at Neo before softening his gaze as he looked at Ruby. “Rubes… You weren't supposed to be here. You were never supposed to be like we were.” He jabbed at the elevator button before slipping into the compartment. “I need a drink.”

 

“Wait, so you're not going to- to kill Neo, or hurt her, or-” Ruby trailed over as Ozpin shook his head.

 

“Miss Rose, Neopolitan, you are incredibly fortunate. Aura Bonds have been illegal for centuries, an ancient law enforced in all four kingdoms by the death penaly,” he said as he carefully reorganized the papers Qrow had sent flying. “I am afraid that if your existence comes to the attention of any council member outside of this room, I will be forced to kill you myself. However, I will not bring this down on two who I believe to be innocent.”

 

Ruby's head spun as she backed away from Ozpin, stunned at how casually he had just pronounced and waived her life. The death sentence… They would kill us just for existing.

 

Neo seemed just as shaken as she was. What is he? How can he talk about this so casually?

 

“What's an Aura Bond?” Blake asked.

 

“An unbreakable bond between a being with aura and one without. By creating the bond, the aura is shared equally between the two entities allowing their thoughts and minds to intermingle. However, the original holder of the aura can manipulate and control the bonded, meaning that with a malicious holder a bond can become akin to slavery, or worse. Moreover, the bond will not simply end once the holder dies – rather, it transfers either to whoever killed the holder or the last person the holder was thinking of. The only way to break a bond is to kill the bonded.”

 

“How do you know all of that?”

 

“Because my semblance is the reason the ban exists in the first place.”

 

A cold pallor swept through Ruby's body as what he said began to sink in. She and Neo exchanged a glance, then slowly started to back away from Ozpin's desk. “You mean that you've done this to other people?”

 

Ozpin lowed his head in acknowledgment, peering out from over top his glasses. “It has been a long time, longer than you might think, since I have, but yes. I was foolish in my youth, and I sought to fix all of the problems in the world. Two times, I tried to use my semblance to stop an evil long forgotten, yet both times the problem only became worse. After the second, I had gone too far.”

 

“Two times? You did this to all four maidens and someone else?” Ruby exclaimed as her eyes flashed red. Neo caught the back of her hood to stop her from launching herself at him.

 

“My semblance is not the same as Starling's. He had the power to bind himself to another, whereas I have the power to bind another person to a natural force or an animal.” Ozpin's eyes glowed green as he said, “We are many, but we are only one aura. You are two auras, yet you are only two. Be grateful, at least, for that much. To live eternally is a curse, forced upon a new body and soul each time the old dies.” The green vanished just as fast as it had appeared, and he slumped back in his seat. “I am sorry, truly. You are all children, but you must understand the magnitude of this situation.”

 

There was a thick tension in the room. Slowly, Ruby began to realize the implications of what they had just been told. “Professor Ozpin… what are we going to tell Yang and Weiss?”

 

“You won't,” Ironwood said as he broke away from Glynda and faced them. “Your teammates will never know about this – nobody is allowed to know unless Qrow or one of us three tells them.”

 

“Knowledge is power, but knowledge is also a burden,” Ozpin said as he got out of his chair and turned to face the window. “You are too young to carry it, but you are also to young to hold an Aura Bond, both of you. Miss Belladonna, holding your thoughts inside right now will only hurt you.”

 

Blake's amber eyes were cast downwards. “I'm trapped again, aren't I?”

 

“Miss Belladonna, I have offered you a chance for redemption once,” Ozpin said coolly. “I am not one to extend that offer a second time so quickly, but these… special circumstances have forced my hand. Do not mistake me – if you do not learn how to work with others, if you refuse demonstrate resilience towards your goal, if you attempt to cross me or divulge any of this information outside of this room, you will not be attending this school or worse.”

 

“So this is all just one big threat?” she spat, throwing up her arms. “The only reason you had me hear that was so you could control me. What now? What are you going to force me to do, bend over for you?”

 

“Miss Belladonna, that langu-”

 

“Glynda, relax,” Ozpin said as Glynda's eyes flashed. “I see potential in you, potential for good perhaps stronger than many of the others at this school. I know you devoted your entire winter break to the Lupa Protests – admirable that you continue to advocate for faunus rights even after leaving the White Fang.”

 

“Shut up! Tukson has nothing to do with this!”

 

“Who's Tukson?” Ruby asked.

 

Blake spun to face her, and her expression softened slightly. “He was… a former associate, who was murdered in cold blood by a soldier over winter break. How could you not have know about the protests?”

 

“Uh… Coma? I don't know, the news seemed busy covering Grimm attacks when I woke up.”

 

Blake's face darkened resentfully, and she turned away.

 

“This will not be the last time we speak of this,” said Ozpin. “For now, however, you three must learn to be civil. Miss Belladonna and Miss Rose, you will have detention cleaning chalkboards together – without super speed, might I add – for the next five days for destroying your dorm room and fighting. In addition, Team WBYR will have a team detention one night a week for the rest of the month. Is that understood?”

 

Ruby's stomach sank, and her head drooped.A whole week?

 

“You're going to make me be with both of them, alone, every day for a week? Are you trying to kill me?” Blake shot back.

 

I wish.

 

Shut up, that's not helpful.

 

“I will oversee. Nobody else is going to die under my watch,” Glynda muttered stiffly.

 

“Now, Neopolitan. I will not have you running around my school invisible and unchecked anymore.”

 

Can you talk for me again?

 

Yeah.

 

“I won't be separated from Ruby again,” Neo said as she stepped forwards. “The last time that happened, she nearly died. I won't do it.”

 

“Of course,” Ozpin responded, “which is why you'll be attending Beacon as a transfer student this semester.”

 

Neo stared at him for a while.

 

“Ne-”

 

“I'm twenty-three and I've been training my entire fucking life! I'm not going to attend your twisted little murder academy, you- Neo, I'm not going to say that to him!”

 

Why not?

 

He's still the headmaster.

 

You're no fun.

 

Neo, does this seem like a good time for fun?

 

It's always a good time for fun!

 

Oh come on, that's bullshit.

 

“Girls,” Glynda snapped.

 

Neo looked back at Professor Ozpin, who was waiting with a semi-interested expression on his face. “I'm not sure I want to know. Now, Neo, you have two choices. Either you can be placed with the remaining two members of team CRDL-”

 

“Ooh, how long do I get to torture them before-”

 

“Okay, so you'll be staying with a three person team coming to Beacon for the Vytal Festival. I believe the members are Emerald Silver, Mercury Blaise, and Dane Lilac. We'll also need an excuse for why you're so close to Ruby… Did Summer have any siblings? She did, didn't she...”

 

Ruby frowned. Neo, did you ever find anything about cousins?

 

Why are you asking me?

 

Because I'm don't know, and you have all of my memories too?

 

“Ruby visited second cousins once, while Yang was away,” Neo said. “She thinks maybe she was five, Summer was still alive so they went while the Xiao Longs stayed behind. I could be one of them.”

 

Wait, so would your last name be Rose?

 

Yeah, why? Is that a problem?

 

Ruby fought the weird warm fuzzy feeling she had been feeling down with her aura, shoving down underneath the silver ball that had slowly started to reform. She didn't need to think about anything like that right now!

 

“Good, now can you do disguises with you semblance?” Ozpin asked, and Neo grinned.

 

Ruby blinked, and she was looking back at a mirror copy of herself. Neo smirked, then did a spot on impression of her “I just found an amazing new weapon made out of cookies” face.

 

“Creepy...” she whispered when Neo winked at her.

 

“Impressive, but perhaps something less off putting?”

 

Nurse?

 

Oh my god.

 

“Maybe a little bit less cleavage.”

 

Soldier?

 

Neo, stooop…

 

“Neo, you will be a student, so dress like it.”

 

Fine. Neo concentrated for a moment, then her appearance shifted. Long violet hair spilled down her back, and she wore a combat skirt similar to Ruby's, only mostly silver and white with purple highlights. Her eyes were like Yang's, but deep rather than her ephemeral lilac. Violet Rose. Can I be done now?

 

Ruby felt the air leave her chest, too entranced by Neo in front of her. Cascading hair looked bad ass on her sister, sure, but on Neo it just looked downright gorgeous. She had made herself slightly taller so they were the exact same height, and her usual smirk and stare seemed less malicious than… something. “Hi, Violet.”

 

What's that supposed to mean?

 

What's what supposed to mean?

 

That.

 

What's that?

 

What?

 

Exactly!

 

Ozpin nodded. “That will do. Neo, if you would allow me, I can imbue a little bit of magic onto you so you can easily access that illusion and also to prevent it from shattering on touch. Will you allow me to do that?”

 

She thought about it for a moment, then nodded. Ozpin flicked his finger, and Neo glowed green for a second.

 

“So, what are you going to make us do now?” Blake asked.

 

Sighing, the headmaster looked at Glynda and James. “I am afraid we were unprepared for this moment, although I wonder if anyone ever is when their worlds are turned upside down. For now, though, you may go into Vale for the rest of the day – I am sure you will all want time to think, and it wouldn't do for your teammates to be put in a bad spot immediately. You are dismissed – do not discuss what you have just learned outside of this room.”

 

Blake dashed to the elevator as Ruby and Neo stayed back. She didn't know what to think, but Neo took her hand and sent as much warmth as she could muster into her. It'll be okay. He doesn't want to kill us, we can figure out what to do after this. We're going to be okay.

 

“Miss R- Ruby?”

 

The elevator dinged and the door slid open. Neo stepped in and stuck her hand out to hold it as Ruby looked at Glynda. “What?”

 

Shaking her head clear, the deputy headmaster said, “I hope you remember that my door is always open to students, should you feel the need to come.”

 

Ruby contemplated that for a moment, then turned and let the elevator door close behind her. “Thank you, I'll keep that in mind.”

 

The office pulled away behind them.

 


 

“Hiya!”

 

Metal clashing. Heart racing. Her scroll was playing good music for once, not the trashy pop she had loved as a twelve year old. This was exactly where Pyrrha wanted to be, and she loved it.

 

Sidestep. Backslash. Dodge left, then right. Push Jaune just a little, then ran Akouo into his chest.

 

Jaune yelled as he went flying backwards, skittering to a halt right by the edge of the rooftop. Gulping, he looked backwards and said, “Hey, I thought we said no semblance!”

 

She laughed, nearly giddy on her adrenaline rush. “Just having a bit of fun, Jaune!”

 

“You could have killed me!”

 

“Nope!” In a moment of inspiration, she lifted him up by his armor and dangled him out over the edge. “See! I got you.”

 

“Pyrr- woah!”

 

Tapping into her power she so rarely fully used, she sent her partner soaring around the rooftop. Jaune flailed wildly as his armor spun around through the sky. “Let me down!”

 

“Pretend like you're flying!” she yelled back.

 

“Fine!” Jaune stuck his arms out in front of him, and she sent him in a wide circle around her head. “Hey, this is actually pretty cool! Look at me, I'm flying~!”

 

“Alright, now do a cool landing pose!”

 

He kept one fist stuck in the air she slowly brought him back down to earth, sending vibrations through the metal and concrete roof to make a poof of dust as he hit the roof. Crossing his arms, he grinned and said, “And the great Jaune is back to the roof.”

 

“Jaune, your combat looked so much better!” Pyrrha exclaimed, running to his side as he started coughing in the dust cloud.

 

“Yeah, well it was going good until you tried to kill me!”

 

“Relax, I would die before I let someone kill you,” she said, before realizing what she had jut said. “By which I mean, I would-”

 

“Pyr.” Jaune's blue eyes carried an intensity she could never understand as he wrung his hands together. “Do you think I'm getting better?”

 

She smiled at him. “Jaune, of course you're getting better! I would have had you flat on the ground in seconds two months ago, but I had to use my semblance for a second there.”

 

“Thank you,” he smiled back, scratching the back of his neck. “I mean, for everything. I thought I was going to have to spend winter break in a Vale hotel room, but I got to go back to Mistral with you instead.”

 

“Of course I invited you home with me, you're my partner, my team mate!” Pyrrha exclaimed as the music changed.

 

Jaune groaned and leaned back over-dramatically. “Oh, you have got to be kidding me.”

 

“What?”

 

“Destiny Blue? Really?” He waved at the forest backdrop the roof looked out over. “You could have gotten any music in the world, and you chose this?!”

 

“It's good music!” she protested, holding back a fit of giggles.

 

“My sisters listen to this! My mom listens to this stuff!”

 

Now, she couldn't hold back the laughter as Jaune closed his eyes and started swaying side to side, holding his arm out in front of him as he mouthed the lyrics. “Are you dancing to it? I thought that you just hated this stuff.”

 

“Hey, when you have six sisters sometimes you just don't have a choice! I'd like to see you do it, Ms. Destiny.”

 

“Maybe I will,” she said as she walked forwards and grabbed Jaune's shoulders.

 

“Wow, ok, I did not expect you to actually do it,” he said as he tensed for a moment, then slipped into the leading position. It took just a moment to slip into the same comfortable rhythm of combat they had been practicing for months, gracefully spiraling along the rooftop. “Pyr, when did you learn to dance?”

 

“Crazy rich parents, remember? They made me go to all sorts of fancy balls,” she said as she pulled him closer to her.

 

He made a sharp intake of breath, bringing their faces closer together than before. Metal hit metal as he said, “You know, considering how Yang still sometimes calls me Vomit Boy, I never though I would like flying that much.”

 

“What did it feel like?”

 

Jaune laughed breathlessly. “It's like getting launched off into the Emerald Forest, only you know there's going to be someone there to catch you. I didn't know how much I liked it until I was halfway to the ground.”

 

“That amazing, huh?” she whispered as the bridge of the song started.

 

“I would do it again, I th-”

 

Pyrrha leaned into Jaune and gently kissed him. After a moment, Jaune relaxed, holding her up as they swayed to the fading note of the songs, breaking away as it faded into silence. They rocked with the wind, soaring in the breeze.

 

“Was it just like that?” she asked.

 

“Yeah,” he said as he pressed his forehead to hers. “I think it was.”

 

The sun glittered down on them, holding each other before the world below.

 


 

The stuffed bear was old, older that she was, probably. A little tear on the left ear, a missing eye, that bit of fluff poking out of a hand sewn seam. Somehow it had gotten separated from the pile, so she had scooped it up from the freezing cement and scooped it onto the pile of flowers and gifts, trinkets and cards flowing with calligraphic chicken scratch.

 

Blake sighed as she stared at the picture of Tukson looming over the memorial to his life. The flickering candles and notes around him was overwhelming, and it made her sad. Most of these faunus will never even know how much he fought for us, for our freedom, for everything the White Fang was supposed to stand for.

 

Sometimes Adam used to let her sit in on council meetings, back when he liked to show her everything. She hated his declarations that she was his 'little kitty cat,' but she couldn't stand not knowing what was being planned next in the fight. Tukson had always been the voice of reason for both sides, neither a pacifist nor extreme – in fact, Blake had usually found herself in agreement with him over Adam.

 

It was a cruel twist of fate, for the man who symbolized everything she had admired about the White Fang to become a symbol of everything she hated about humans.

 

He had talked to her once, of leaving. Had he gotten that choice? Was the bookstore the papers spoke of just a front, or had he really loved literature? How could she have been so stupid, to think that Beacon could ever have been any different?

 

She had never escaped. She had just moved to a different trap.

 

I wish I could go home.

 

“Did you know him?”

 

Blake's ears flattened, and she turned to see a boy with sandy hair and a raised eyebrow. A tail waved in the cold air by his bare chest. “Sorry, you scared me. What did you say?”

 

He pointed his tail at the picture. “Tuskon Lupa, did you know him?”

 

“Yeah, kinda,” she sighed, narrowing an eye at his abs. A bit too out there for her, definitely. “Why?”

 

He shrugged. “Dunno, I've just seen you here every day and I was curious. The name's Sun, by the way. Sun Wukong.”

 

“Aren't you a bit cold wearing just a shirt in January?” Blake asked. “Also, doesn't that mean that you were here every day too?”

 

Sun suddenly looked shifty as he swayed from one foot to the other. “Well, I came to pay my respects the first time, and then I noticed you… Anyways, I'm Vacuan, ya know? Hot days, cold nights, I don't notice it anymore.”

 

Blake facepalmed, muttering, “Don't you think a memorial isn't the greatest place to ask a girl out?”

 

“I don't know, why don't I buy you coffee and we can talk about it?” Blake stared at his cheeky grin from between her fingers and groaned. “Besides, you look like you could use someone to talk to.”

 

Blake sighed heavily; she hated it when people like him were right about something. “You know what, sure. Just don't expect anything.”

 

“Yes,” he whispered to himself, fist pumping enthusiastically before realizing she was still watching. “Oh, right, um, let's go?”

 

I can't believe I'm actually doing this, Blake thought as she stuck her hands back into the pockets of her white coat and followed him away from the memorial.

 

“So, mysterious cat girl, what's your name?” Sun asked as he leaned his head back on his clasped hands.

 

Blake pushed down the moment of uncomfortableness and panic as memories of Adam resurfaced. “It's Blake Belladonna, and is 'mysterious cat girl' really the best thing you can come up with after thinking about this for weeks?”

 

“Yes!” he exclaimed, giving her a thumbs up.

 

“Right,” she rolled her eyes before looking at the remnant Winter Solstice decorations, already staged to be taken down.

 

“So, why are you in Vale?” he ventured after picking up, Blake hoped, on her unrelenting scorn for his existence.

 

Better question – why am I still in Vale?

 

“Well, I'm a student at Beacon academy-”

 

“Oh, you're at Beacon, that's great!” Sun patted a pair of brown weapons at his side and said, “I'm from Shade, and Team SSSN is totally the coolest all male team on Remnant. We're here for the semester-”

 

“Okay, I'm going to need you to define great for me,” Blake muttered.

 

“-and we're going to win the Vital Festival, no competition!” Sun exclaimed. So he was oblivious to what she said. Wonderful. “What's your team like?”

 

How was she supposed to answer that now? “Um, well… I'm on Team WBYR, and-”

 

“Wait, what?” He interrupted as he pushed the door to Grimmbucks open with his shoulder.

 

“Yeah, we didn't know what umber was either, we had to look it up. Apparently it's some sort of clay.” She stopped talking for long enough to order, then sat down at a table in the corner by a styrofoam winter display. “Let's see, our leader is Weiss Schnee-”

 

“Hold up.” Sun laughed, which slowly died down as he saw the expression on her face. “You're telling me that you, a cat faunus, are on a team led by the heiress to the SDC?”

 

“Yup, pretty much.” Blake bit her lip as she though about her team leader. “Let's see- she's actually really considerate, once you get to know her. I think she really wants the best for all of us.”

 

“Excuse me?” a large woman wearing an apron said as she came over to the table

 

“Ooh, do you have my grande latte with peppermint spice and extra sugar?” Sun asked eagerly as Blake shook her head before leaning it against her hand.

 

“Um, no sir, I'm sorry, but I actually have to ask you to leave the premises.”

 

The warm and homey atmosphere of the coffee shop snapped cold in an instant as Blake sat straight up in her seat. “Excuse me?”

 

“Well,” the woman said as she fidgeted with the hem of her shirt. “I really am sorry, but we do have a 'No Faunus' sign and all. I mean, we don't usually enforce it, at least when it isn't obvious, but the manager said she can't have a monkey tail and all waving around our display. I'm so sorry, but you two understand, don't you?”

 

“What do you mean, I understand? Why the hell-” Sun started to say angrily, before Blake held a hand up to cut him off.

 

“Sun, please shut up. You will giving us a refund,” Blake hissed, sliding the blade of Gambol Shroud out of its holster slightly.

 

“Of course, ma'am, wouldn't dream of doing anything differently!” the woman exclaimed far too fast to be natural, hurrying as fast as she could and knocking a chair aside to reach the cash register. “Are you going to rob us? Should I give you all of it?”

 

Blake looked at the receipt and cleared her throat. “I believe you owe my friend nine lien and thirty six cents, exactly.”

 

“Right, right, of course.” She quickly pulled out the money and pushed it onto the counter too fast, making some of it spill out onto the floor. “Oh, I am so sorry. Please leave fast, my manager is already annoyed that I keep taking the cream packets home.”

 

Blake hissed under her breath again as she bent down and picked up the fallen cards. Sun walked to the door and yanked it open, and he stalked out after Blake and slammed it behind him.

 

“Okay, what the hell was that?!” he yelled at her, only to wilt under her furious gaze.

 

“You didn't check the door to see if there was a 'No Faunus' sign?” Blake shouted back, shoving the lien into her pocket and starting to walk away.

 

“Wait, I saw it but I didn't think it mattered. I mean, what kind of assholes actually do that?” He asked, throwing his arms out.

 

“Oh, that's right. Of course you didn't check, you're from Vacuo,” Blake snapped back at him as he stopped walking. Of all of the fucking stupid things I didn't want to get into right now…

 

“What's that supposed to mean?”

 

“It's Vacuo, Sun.”

 

“Well, nobody I've ever met in Vacuo has even slightly cared about this bullshit!” Sun said as he resituated his jacket on his shoulders.

 

“That's because nobody in Vacuo gives a shit about anything!” Blake exclaimed. “What happens in Vacuo stays in Vacuo? Look, you're not in your progressive getaway desert anymore. This is the real world, where real people would very much like it if you and I don't exist! Hell, if we had just pulled that stunt in Atlas we would be on our way to jail or fighting for our lives right now!”

 

Sun was silent for a moment, then said, “So that's why you wear your bow, huh?”

 

Blake sighed and hung her head, flipping through the cards in her pocket. “You know, I don't know how you were so naive after going to that memorial so often. Don't you see what other people think about us? Why we have to fight back?”

 

“Well, there was an awfully pretty girl in my way most of the time...”

 

Blake shook her head and cut him off. “Look, what just happened isn't okay, but we're not going to get anywhere talking in circles about it. Sun, it was… um, nice? to meet you, I guess.”

 

“It was nice to meet you too, Blake,” he said faintly.

 

She considered him for a moment. “Look, I'm going to head back to Beacon. I don't want to spend any more time around here after that. Just… If you actually care, there's going to be another big protest about a week from now by the monument. I'll be there, and maybe I'll see you there too. Bye.”

 

She turned around, not bothering to look back for his awkward wave.

 

If I really am trapped with no way out, why do I still care about fighting it so much?

Chapter Text

Chapter Fourteen: Perfectly Fine

 


 

re:Bound

 

A Fanfiction by Pokefan87

 

Chapter Publish Date: 12/9/17

 


 

Ruby hated how the world kept forcing her to grasp for things that weren't there, as if somehow she would ever get them back.

 

“Fuck!” she yelled as she launched punches at an impossibly fast speed, yet somehow never managing to connect with Neo's head. Neo's disguise flickered in and out of view as she used her semblance to duck and weave around Ruby's attacks. Accidentally extending too far after punching off the wrong foot, and Neo slammed her boot into her chest, knocking her back into the wall.

 

Ruby screamed in wordless rage as her hand went back to where Crescent was supposed to be and came up empty handed. Pouring her aura into her semblance, she exploded off of the wall and cast herself into the cesspool of illusion in the center of the training arena. Her aura was falling, but she pushed herself further before crashed into Neo at maximum speed. The other girl flew backwards before flipping in midair and kicking off the wall. Overextended, Ruby had no chance to dodge before she was kicked in the head and sent spiraling to the ground.

 

Neo's hands pressed into her back, and black and white aura rushed into her veins. She started to cry, the hopeless stones chilling her legs. Neo…

 

Strong arms pulled her up as Neo held her tightly, brushing her disheveled hair out of her eyes. Ruby, we can make it through this.

 

He knew, Neo. She was such an ugly crier, hacking sobs breaking up her thoughts. He knew the entire time. Why didn't he say anything? Why didn't he stop it? Why? Crescent could-

 

I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, for everything.

 

Shut up, it's not your fault. Ruby leaned her head against Neo's neck, taking deep breaths as her hands shook. I can't fight Harkan without a weapon. I can't be a student at a combat school without a weapon. I- I have to replace her, Neo. I don't have a choice. I have to-

 

Ruby broke down again, and Neo sighed as purple locks reappeared. We just got so much bullshit we're expected keep secret, this is all too much. You don't need all of the rest of this shit; we're still grieving, Ruby. Maidens, the silver eyes, magic, aura bonds – Ozpin can go burn in hell, and you don't have to do anything.

 

But I want to. She stared at the ground behind them, digging her fingers into Neo's jacket. I used to love just sitting down in the workshop and tinkering, but I haven't done it since I got into Beacon. I love weapons, Neo. Even if- even if Crescent is gone, I don't want to lose that. I've already lost my first semester at Beacon… I just don't want to lose anything else.

 

You're amazing, Rose. Neo broke away from her and got to her feet, the empty combat chamber echoing with the clatter of her shoes against the stone floor.

 

Why?

 

Because if you didn't have me, you would have kept all of this inside just like you did with everything before. Neo was never able to control the illusions when she was upset – they rose and rushed around her like flowing water. Let me take some of it.

 

Ruby wiped her eyes and got to her feet, her tattered cloak hanging loose around her shoulders. What do you mean?

 

I've given you emotions before, you know that. Just… let me take some of the pain, some of the grief away for just a little bit. There's so much, too much, and you can't handle it. Ruby, I can feel you breaking again. You can't melt down now, not again, for both of our sakes. Please, I just want to give you time to think about everything Ozpin just said.

 

Her desperation pressed into Ruby like a weight. But… I don't want to forget about Crescent. I don't want to lose her, my memories of her, ever. If you take away the grief, any of it, what happens then?

 

I- I don't know. Neo's shoulder's sagged and the illusions vanished, leaving just the room's harsh white light.

 

We can't go back now. We just need to keep pushing forwards, both of us. You said that something is happening, right? Something big?

 

I did.

 

Harkan destroyed me, Neo. I didn't even stand a chance. If we want any chance of winning against that, we have to fight.

 

Neo stiffened. Even after what happened, you still want me to train you?

 

Yes. Can we start now?

 


 

“Blake!”

 

Yang and Weiss dropped their card game as Blake stalked into the dorm room. She got to her feet as her partner yanked Gambol Shroud off of her belt and dropped it by her bed. “I don't want to talk right now.”

 

“What's that supposed to mean?” Weiss asked. “You've been gone for six and a half hours, and Ruby still isn't back yet! Glynda came by to tell us that we have team detention every Friday for the first month of the semester! What happened, and why are you so mad?”

 

Blake leaned against her bed frame and slammed her fist against her mattress, ripping her bow off of her head and throwing it to the ground. “I-”

 

Yang's stomach twisted as she saw the conflict in Blake's eyes. “Blake, what's wrong?”

 

“Glynda took us straight to Ozpin.”

 

“And?” Weiss said.

 

“And...” Blake echoed, looking lost. “And I- Ruby and I are in a lot of trouble. We have detention together every day for the rest of the week. Alone. Then, he let us go into the city, and that stupid fucking monkey had to-”

 

“Woah, woah, woah. Hold up. What monkey?” Yang interjected.

 

Blake's ears flattened against her head as she glared out the window, where snow had started to fall. “I was at the memorial again, and this boy named Sun Wukong comes up to me and asks me if I want to get coffee – at the memorial, who does that?”

 

“But you said no, right?”

 

“Actually, he was persistent so I figured I would get the free coffee out of it-” Yang's gut twisted painfully, and her face fell as Blake talked. “-so he took me to a coffee shop that didn't allow Faunus! He didn't even read the sign! How stupid can he be?”

 

“He sounds awful. I wouldn't see him again, if I was you,” Weiss offered as she tried to catch Yang's gaze.

 

“But that's the worst part! He's an exchange student at Beacon this semester, so I can't avoid him.” Blake sighed as she kicked off her shoes and climbed into her bed. “All because I was too scared to not wear that stupid bow, all of it.”

 

“Well, I'm sorry your day was so bananas,” Yang muttered as she grabbed Ember Cecila and opened the door.

 

“Wait, Yang, where are you going?” Blake called as she stepped over the threshold.

 

Yang had never realized how much she hated it when Weiss was right until that moment. “You were right, Ice Queen. I'm going to go punch shit, see you guys later.”

 

“Hey!”

 

“Yang!”

 

The door slammed shut behind her, the plaque clattering as she slid down the hardwood to the carpeted floor below. Her fists smarted as she jammed her gauntlets onto her wrists, her hair hanging into her face. Taking a deep breath, she pushed to her feet and stalked down the hallway.

 

I like her, don't I? I like Blake Belladonna. Why did Weiss have to be right? Why did this have to get complicated!?

 

“Um, Yang?”

 

Yang stopped just short of Ren, who had been walking towards Team JNPR's dorm. “What.”

 

“Are you… okay?” he asked hesitantly.

 

“Do I look okay? Get out of my way,” she snapped, stepping to his side and storming past him. The school hummed with the last wave of poppy Solstice carols coming from dorm rooms filled with students waiting for the first day of term tomorrow. The training room was already lit up, a couple people already mock fighting and working out. Ember Cecila cocked as she stalked forwards and sent the nearest punching bag to her flying with a wild yell. Some of the closest kids to her stopped what they were doing and stared as her semblance flared up. She punched and whirled around the heavy bag, using years of experience from brawling and fighting to beat the everlasting shit out of it. I'm going to kill that Sun person, she thought with a wild sneer as she blasted a dust round into the bag, sending it flying off the chain into the wall.

 

“Yang? Are you okay?”

 

Yang panted as Ember Cecila settled back into her resting position, whispers filling the air as people went back to their exercises. “Ruby, what are you doing here? Why haven't you gone back to the room yet?”

 

Ruby's expression was guarded, something that would have scared Yang before Beacon. When had she come to expect that from her little sister? “I needed to… work off steam. I was training. Why were you down here?”

 

“I was...” Angry at Blake for going out on a date? Angry at Weiss for being a good friend? Angry at you for getting us all in trouble? “I don't know, I guess I needed to blow of some steam too… Um, who's this?”

 

The first thing Yang noticed about the girl who had come to Ruby's side was that she was blisteringly hot, with long purple hair and… assets. The second thing she noticed was that she was receiving an expression of familiar exasperation, almost as if the girl knew her. She winked at her and waved slightly.

 

“N- Yang, do you, um, remember that time I went and visited those second cousins with Mom without you and dad?”

 

Yang blinked. “Wait, so you're telling me that she's related to you?”

 

“Yup? This is, um, Violet Rose.” Ruby grimaced as she presented Violet with her hands, shaking them slightly.

 

Yang shook the girl's hand in a daze. “And you just happened to run into her? Here, of all places?”

 

“Well, I didn't expect to run into her here, since I haven't seen her since-” Ruby stopped mid sentence and swayed, before giving an obviously fake grin and saying, “Well, I've been training with her! She's really good, I bet she could beat you.”

 

“Right… Um, nice to meet you?”

 

“Oh, she's also mute, so you can't talk normally with her.”

 

“Riiight...” Violet shrugged, flipping her hair around over her shoulder. Yang's eye twitched at her self-assured smirk. Oh, I hate her. I really hate her. I will not have any hair competition – in fact, I'd bet it isn't even real. “Well, I'm not going back to the dorm room yet, are you?”

 

“No.” Ruby's eyes lit up, and she grinned at Yang before pointing at a boxing ring in the corner of the room. “Hey, sis, wanna spar?”

 

“But-” you don't have a weapon…

 

“Haven't you been paying attention? I've been training in unarmed combat all semester, so I think I'll put up a little bit more of a fight than last time.” Her cheerful expression wavered, and a shadow fell on her face. “Please? I need something to take my mind off of, well, everything, really.”

 

“Sure.” Ruby smiled, then grabbed Violet's hand and pulled her towards the boxing ring. Yang stared at her as she grabbed a pair of gloves and jumped into the ring, waving for her to come over.

 

She's so… grown up. Yang wandered towards the ring as she pulled her gauntlets off, shaking her head slightly. When did she get so grown up? What happened to the bubbly immature kid who was always too enthusiastic? Grabbing a pair of gloves, she swaggered into the ring and leaned against the ropes. Was Violet laughing at her now? She'd show that stupid-

 

“Alright, what are we waiting for?” Ruby held up her fists and slid her foot back.

 

Yang grinned as she pushed off the ropes, letting her arms hang lazily by her side. “Hey, it looks like somebody really did teach you a thing or two. Too bad that you're too tense!”

 

She rushed forwards with a punch only for Ruby's glove to connect with the back of her head. Damn, forgot her semblance. Alright, let's do THAT! Yang spun a roundhouse kick around, grazing Ruby's back as she ducked under and landed another punch on her chest. She staggered back as her sister stopped moving and crossed her arms. “Yang, actually try!” Ruby yelled as she launched herself at Yang.

 

Yang ducked under the wild punch, only to be knocked face first onto the mat as Ruby spun in midair and kicked both feet into her back. Scrambling to her feet, she pressed herself into the corner of the ring and took up the best defensive stance she had. Alright, she's faster than me. Last time we fought like this, she completely forgot about her semblance, so now I have to think about that. Time to change strategies.

 

Ruby's eyes were tinged crimson as she stalked into the center of the ring. “Already done?”

 

“Come at me, sis!” she responded, feigning a dash forwards to trick Ruby into motion.

 

Before she could think, Ruby had already landed five punches on her. Yang felt her aura start to fall and her semblance build. One punch, let's make it good. She ducked and dodged as best she could in the corner, slowly maneuvering her into the best position possible. Finally, as both her semblance and aura reached the breaking point, she struck.

 

She yelled in surprise as Yang kneed her into the air with a fire charged blow then slammed her head into the mat. In that single strike, Ruby's aura had dropped from sixty seven percent to seventeen. She knelt by her sister's side and tapped her shoulder as Violet jumped into the ring. “Are you okay?”

 

“Yeah,” Ruby mumbled as she pushed herself up into a sitting position. “I forgot about your semblance, I'm stupid.”

 

“You're not stupid, Rubes,” Yang laughed as she pulled her into a hug. “You were so much better than the last time we sparred like that, it's kind of amazing. Look, I can help you get better at fighting like that, since-”

 

There was an awkward pause.

 

“That would be awesome, Yang, thank you. If you want, I think I'm okay to go back to the room.”

 

It wasn't until they were already out of the combat room that Yang realized something. “Ruby, what about Violet?”

 

Ruby waved her hand dismissively, walking ahead of her slightly. “Oh, it's fine, I already told her I'll see her again in the morning.”

 

What? When?

 

“Salutations!”

 

Ruby stopped walking as a strange girl with orange hair blocked the middle of the hallway. “Um, hi? Can we help you?”

 

“Oh, you want to to help me? Wonderful! I am supposed to be making friends right now! Would you like to be my friend?”

 

Ruby looked to Yang, who shook her head with a raised eyebrow. Who on Remnant is that direct?

 

“Sure, we can be your friends!” Ruby chirped, and Yang massaged her temples. “My name is Ruby Rose, and this is my sister Yang Xiao Long, nice to meet you.”

 

“And my name is Penny Polendina! It's a pleasure to meet you. You were on the news, weren't you?”

 

Wow, straight to the point, huh?

 

“Um, yeah, that's me,” Ruby said, suddenly seeming unsure of herself.

 

“You seem distressed, Friend Ruby,” Penny said thoughtfully, reaching into her pocket and pulling out a scroll. “Are you a 'dog person' or a 'cat person?'”

 

“Definitely dogs,” Yang responded.

 

“Ohmygodit'ssocuuute!” Ruby squealed as Penny handed her a picture of a puppy getting stuck inside a tissue box.

 

Yang scratched the back of her neck. “Look, Penny, it was nice to meet you-”

 

“It was nice to meet you too, friends!”

 

“-but we really have to go back to our dorm room. So… Bye!” Yang looped her arm through Ruby's and pulled her away.

 

“Goodbye friends!” Penny called, waving as they rounded the corner away from the training room.

 

Ruby pulled away from her. “Yang, what the hell?”

 

“I was going to ask you how you told Violet you were going to see her later before that weird girl started talking,” she said.

 

“She was just being friendly, what's so bad about that?”

 

“Nothing, I'm just a little confused on who the hell Violet is and where she came from.”

 

Ruby looked away. “Look, Yang, she's- I, um, don't know her very well either, and neither does Dad. I mean, I totally told him and he was just as surprised as I was. She's pretty nice though, so I think I'm going to spend a lot of time around her.”

 

“But how do you know she's nice? She doesn't talk!”

 

“She, um, carries around a notepad, and, oh, that's pretty cool, yeah, she told me that she actually knows some Vale Sign Language.” Not waiting for an answer, Ruby rushed down the rest of the hallway, opened WBYR's door, and slipped into the dorm room.

 

Yang stood alone in the empty hallway, staring ahead blankly. Something's weird here, but there's no way some stupid second cousin is going to be better that Rube's big sister! I'll show that stupid hot bitch just how great family is supposed to be!

 


 

Hey, Ruby, I'm pretty sure that your sister wants to kill me.

 

Ruby yawned as she picked her head up off of Neo's shoulder, waving at Yang sleepily as fire blazed around her sister's hair. Nah, I'm sure she's fine.

 

Blake grabbed Yang's hand and squeezed. “Yang, calm down! You're going to break the table!”

 

Yang looked down at her hand, making a sound somewhere in between a squeak and a squeal before sitting down abruptly. Her face was red as she looked away, and Blake just seemed confused.

 

Weiss groaned looking from Ruby and Neo to Blake and Yang, then to Jaune and Pyrrha who were suspiciously close to each other. “Is there anyone here who's acting normal today? Ren and No…”

 

“Nora, no!”

 

“Aha, I did it!”

 

“Not the entire stack at once!”

 

“Yup, I think I'm going to go sit with Team CFVY right now,” Weiss mumbled as she got up and fled the table.

 

“So… Violet...” Blake forced out. “How was your first night at Beacon?”

 

Ruby rolled her eyes and cuddled further into Neo. This is so nice… You're actually here, and we can almost act normal again…

 

Ruby.

 

Yeah?

 

You're being clingy, and it's going to get me killed. Blake and Yang both looked like they wanted to get up and rip Neo away from Ruby as she gave a half-smirk half-smile and a thumbs up.

 

We've had so many mental cuddles, why can't we have real cuddles? Ruby whined as she pulled away from Neo and ate a spoonful of her cookie cereal.

 

I like cuddling you, Ruby, it's just-

 

Who cares about them? I just wanna-

 

Neo stuck one arm out as Ruby started to drift back towards her, holding her at arms length as she flailed her arms to stop from falling over. No.

 

No fair…

 

“Okay, so this has been a totally awkward meal so far...” Jaune muttered.

 

Pyrrha finished her bowl of cereal, then closed her eyes. The bowl flew across the cafeteria and landed on the dish rack as a second bowl of cereal landed in front of her. “Ruby, Yang, Blake, what happened yesterday? It sounded like you guys got into a fight of some sort.”

 

Blake curled her lip and looked away as Ruby ducked under Neo's hand with her semblance and made it back to her shoulder.

 

“We-ell, it wasn't that big of a deal,” Yang said, leaning back in her chair as she kicked her feet up on the table.

 

“I could hear you guys from outside,” Pyrrha said.

 

Jaune laughed nervously as Yang glared towards them, “You did kinda destroy your dorm room.”

 

“Your anger was rather overwhelming last night,” Ren said ponderously as Nora groaned, rubbing her stomach.

 

“It was-”

 

“Excuse me, are you Violet Rose?”

 

Ruby and Neo turned around in their chairs to see three students in Mistrali uniform standing behind them. One had long gray hair, another had even longer green hair, and the last sported a crew cut and a thickset jaw. The one with green hair had spoken, so Neo nodded hesitantly to her. Pulling a small notebook she had scrounged up, she wrote a quick message and passed it to her.

 

The girl gave her a pitying look, then said, “We're actually the rest of your team, so we thought we'd say hi. Long trip, you know. “I'm Emmy Silver, and this is Merc Blaise and Dane Lilac. Nice to meet you. Oh, and you're Ruby Rose, right? Very… noble of you, I've heard Roman Torchwick was quite annoying.”

 

Why, I think I hate them.

 

Yup. That pretty much sums it up.

 

Neo waved at them as Ruby grimaced. Alright, so now I'm definitely going to give them the slowest and most painful deaths possible. I wonder how…

 

Ruby tuned Neo out as she said, “Um… Yeah, that's me?”

 

“Hey, kitty cat!”

 

Blake hissed and Yang yelled in outrage as Dane crossed his arms. “Hey, watch it asshole!”

 

He rolled his sleeve back to show a long patch of leopard fur up his forearm. “Relax, you and I aren't so different, kitty cat. Matter of fact, I remember you. You were with Adam, no? The one everyone called his pet? I'm an ex member too, ya know. Guess we end up on the same track anyways, right?”

 

“Dane, cool it,” Merc growled.

 

Suddenly, the group of three had a sharp black blade pointed right at their faces. “If you ever call me Adam's pet again,” Blake whispered, “You won't live long enough to talk about it.”

 

“Right, so we'll be leaving now,” Emmy said as she kicked Dane's shins. “Nice to meet you Violet, swing by our dorm eventually, okay? We are all here for the Vytal Festival after all, so we're going to be spending some time practicing together.” She grabbed the two boys by the collar, leaving Blake and Yang seething in their wake.

 

Neo sighed as she watched them go. Of all of the shitty people I could have been paired with… They remind me of a group of assfucks Roman and I used to work with.

 

Honestly…

 

“This is literally the worst possible start to the semester,” Blake mumbled. “Like, I literally can't think of a single thing that would make this worse than it's been so far.”

 

“Don't say that, you'll jinx it,” Yang said as she pulled her partner back into her seat. “Otherwise it might actually come true.”

 


 

The bucket clattered as it hit the desk, the rags falling into the soapy water.

 

“You will not kill each other. You will clean these chalkboards for the next hour and a half. Begin.”

 

The sound of the door slamming shut echoed through the room as Glynda left the three of them alone in the classroom.

 

Ruby opened her mouth to say something, to which Blake shook her head. Neo groaned and stretched out on a desk, slowly falling asleep.

 

The next hour and a half crawled by in brutally awkward silence. By the end, Ruby was ready to collapse and join Neo on the desks. We have four more of these? Are they all really going to be like this?

 

Bed had never seemed more welcoming.

 


 

Neo, where are we? Is this a dream?

 

I was nine...

 

Neo tiptoed through the mud as she slowly made her way to the main hut of the bandit camp. Her breaths came short and heavy, her dagger hanging at her side. She froze in place as the lone guard walked around the back of the tent once again before quietly dashing forwards and slipping under the heavy animal skin walls.

 

Four people slept inside of the guarded room, and she could see man at the door shift restlessly, never looking in the dirty window. Slowly she drew her dagger, tears filling her eyes as she tried to hesitate.

 

Kill them silently, so that nobody knows you were ever there.

 

Neo tiptoed to the first man, remembering years of stealth training under Starling then Silas. Closing her eyes, she took the hilt with both hands and plunged the short blade into the chieftain’s throat before stuffing the corner of the covers into his mouth to stifle his choking. The blade came out crimson, and her throat clenched and her stomach turned.

 

As quickly as she dared, Neo ducked back out of the tent and ran for the nearest bush, unloading her dinner into the leafy fronds. Raven, she thought as tears sprang to the corners of her eyes. Why isn't Raven holding my hair back anymore?

 

It wasn't the first time she had killed someone. She was almost ten, she wasn't a stupid little eight year old anymore. It shouldn't matter anymore, right? Silas said she still cared about killing too much, but she didn't want to go back. She didn't want to have to finish the-

 

And kill his family. Always make sure you finish the job.

 

Breathing her tears back, she crept back towards the tent. The dagger shook his her hands as she crept back into the tent. Unsure of who to kill next, she went towards his son, who was sleeping with a massive broadsword by his side. If he was awake, he would just kill me. He wouldn't care, he would just cut me in half. Would he be smiling? Should I be smiling? Should I kill people like that? Would that make this any better?

 

This cut was too far to the side, and it took a second to cut through the tendon she had caught before the blade reached his throat. He almost had the chance to scream, so Neo had to let go of the blade and hold his jaw shut. Her fingers trembled as they brushed over the stubble of his fresh shave – someday he might have had a full beard, if he had so chosen.

 

The man's wife was easier, almost. It was easier to smirk than to try and bite the tears back, because somehow she needed to pretend like she wasn't ripping herself apart.

 

The last one was too much.

 

It was a tiny girl, even smaller than her. She was peacefully curled up in her sheets, a small pink night dress hugging her tiny shoulders. The fledgling smirk vanished, her hands shook, she wanted to pull away from her. She didn't want to do it. She couldn't do it.

 

She wouldn't do it.

 

All of them.

 

Green light surrounded her, and she let the dagger fall.

 

I didn't kill her. I couldn't kill her. I decided not to, right? See, none of them are dead. I won't let them be dead!

 

Her aura flared, and suddenly the room looked different. The sheets were not bloody, no, everything was perfectly peaceful apart from the white and black flicker. The girl's covers had fallen away, so she carefully knelt by her bedside and tucked her in.

 

Look at how peacefully she's sleeping. I wouldn't want to be cold when I sleep. That would be awful.

 

The half-smile came back, maybe because it was easy, maybe because everything was perfectly fine.

 

She didn't see the shifting half illusions in the middle of the room. That couldn't be possible, because then everything wouldn't be perfect and she might never make it back to camp.

 

The four corpses slept peacefully, carefully tucked in by the visitor in the night.

 


 

Qrow groaned as he stumbled into the elevator, jamming his hand into the panel as he wondered why the elevator was going down. He was far too lost to wonder about the red glow that filled the elevator, or who had picked him up and dragged him to his hotel room.

 

“Qrow… What could have happened to have gotten you this drunk?” Raven asked softly as she dropped her brother into his bed.

 

“Rae,” Qrow mumbled as the dark rose around him. “I found her.”

 

By the time she thought to ask what he could possibly mean by that, he had already passed out. Sighing, she cut her portal back open and stepped through. “Don't go anywhere, idiot. I'll be back” She sighed, then the hotel room was filled with nothing but the faint remnants of booze once more.

Chapter Text

Chapter Fifteen: Whiplash

 


 

re:Bound

 

A Fanfiction By Pokefan87

 

Chapter Publish Date: 12/16/17

 


 

Ruby's forehead glistened with sweat as she carefully poured the molten metal into the mold. The red hot liquid spilled from the ladle under her careful guidance, making slight adjustments to the console operated machine on the other side of the glass. Even outside of the forging room, the temperatures were upwards on a hot summer day. The moment the slim mold had filled, she jabbed a blue button on the console. Watching as the top of the mold pressed down on the molten metal, she sighed in relief and collapsed into the chair behind her. That's the last of the easy stuff. Tomorrow I can work on the little parts.

 

“Ruby?”

 

Looking up, she gave Pyrrha a tired smile as she settled down at one of the workbenches and set her spear and shield down. “Oh, hi Pyrrha. What's up?”

 

“Oh, you know, Milo and Akouo both need to be sharpened.” Closing her eyes for a second, Pyrrha pointed at the corner of the room and pulled a grindstone bench towards her. “How about you? What are you working on?”

 

The screech of metal on stone filled the room as Ruby walked back to another bench and picked up a wide sheet of paper. “A new weapon – well, it's not new, but I'm making it again.”

 

Pyrrha looked away from her spear as she let her semblance do the work for her. “What do you- Wait, isn't that-”

 

“Ember Cecila.” Ruby stared down at the detailed blueprints. She could sketch her finger over every line, she had looked at this drawing that many times. “It's not permanent, but- Crescent was more than a weapon, and I'm never going to remake her, I don't think. I designed it for myself a couple years ago, but Yang really liked it and had me make modifications. I brought the original molds with me, though, so I'm going to use these until I come up with something new.”

 

Pyrrha frowned as her javelin flew off of the stone and was replaced by her shield. “I thought you didn't fight brawler style like Yang?”

 

“Well, it doesn't fight like Yang's. I made changes for her fighting style when she asked for it, the original design worked much better with my semblance,” she responded, starting to get animated like she always did about weapons.

 

“Changes?”

 

Ruby grinned and activating her semblance, shooting across the room and stopping by another workbench. She picked up a small dark gray cube and tossed it across the room. It seemed to fly through the air in slow motion before Pyrrha caught it in wonder. “What is this?”

 

“A gravity dust infused steel alloy.” In a split second, Ruby was back at her outline and pointing at a part of the sketch. “See, Yang is strong and I'm not, but I do have my speed. The way Ember Cecila is designed is it has two gauntlets connected by metal runners that slingshot the outer gauntlet forewards. For Yang's, she fights fast and close up, so both of Ember's gauntlets are steel and the runners are dust powered. That's good for her because she doesn't have the time or space to generate that momentum herself, so the dust gives it a powerful push without a lot of extra effort.”

 

“So how is yours different?”

 

She plucked the cube away and wiggled it between her fingers. “On mine, the inner gauntlet is made of this super light material, and the runners are really loose. That way, when I use my semblance, the outer gauntlet gets pulled behind the inner because it has so much more resistance. So-”

 

Pyrrha interjected as she set her shield back on the bench. “So when your fist stops short on someone's aura, it'll punch forward just as fast as you were going?”

 

“And that's where the blade comes in!” Ruby exclaimed, a little too enthusiastically for Pyrrha. “It's retractable, of course, and it fires dust too. I'll probably have it done by the end of the week, and then I can try it out with N- I mean, in combat class!”

 

“That sounds wonderful, Ruby,” Pyrrha said. The low hum of the forge was soothing as she took a polishing cloth and started working on Akouo. She walked into the forge room to make sure the molds were cooling properly. Her heart still twisted slightly whenever she looked at the molds, but Crescent was gone, and she had to keep moving forwards. She didn't have any choice but to move on.

 

Walking back over, she frowned as Pyrrha sighed very audibly. “Hey, are you okay?”

 

“Oh, yes, I'm fine! I just...” She let her cloth slip out of her fingers and onto the wooden table, twirling her ponytail around her hand and staring off into the distance. “Actually, it's Jaune.”

 

“Jaune? Didn't you guys go to Mistral together for break? Did something happen?” Ruby asked, wondering what Jaune, of all people, could have done to make her friend sigh like that.

 

“No, having him along was great. It's just,” Pyrrha said before pausing to compose herself. “Well, we were training on the roof, and then we were dancing, and then we… kissed.”

 

“You..” It took a second for it to register, then Ruby squealed and threw her arms around Pyrrha. “Did he really? That's awesome, what happened? Tell me everything, Yang never tells me any gossip!”

 

Pyrrha laughed, her cheeks flushing as she hugged Ruby back. “I didn't expect you, of all people, to care about this sort of thing! Well, it happened yesterday...”

 

Neo! Neo, did you hear what Pyrrha said?

 

Huh? Neo sounded beleaguered across their bond – Aura bond, we know what it is now – and she sent a questioning push back.

 

Is something wrong?

 

No, just an intensely awkward conversation with these losers. The racist one knows a bit of sign language, but they're all such assholes that I wish he didn't. What's happening?

 

Pyrrha kissed Jaune!

 

I knew it! It's about damn time, too, those two have been falling all over each other all year.

 

Ruby grinned as she listened to Pyrrha describe her kiss with Jaune. “Okay, so what are you guys going to do now?”

 

“Well… I guess I'd like to go on a date, maybe?” Pyrrha blushed and looked away. “Really, it's not a big deal, you don't have to worry about it.”

 

“I'm just glad you guys are happy.” A shadow fell over Ruby's face as she looked down at Milo on the bench below them. “It's my fault that Jaune was having such a hard time last semester, anyways. I don't even know why you would want relationship advice from someone like me.”

 

“Ruby, of course I want you to talk to me about this!” Pyrrha exclaimed as she got to her feet and put her hand on Ruby's shoulder. “I mean, you're my closest friend at Beacon, besides Jaune, even if you did go a little crazy at the end of last semester. Look, Jaune told me about what happened, and- I know you were trying to do the right thing, teaching him even after you figured out his transcripts. I don't blame you for anything, even if your methods are a bit more intense than I might be comfortable with.”

 

“But-”

 

Pyrrha tightened her grip, forcing Ruby to meet her eyes. “Ruby, nobody blames you! We all know what you were going through, so there's no reason to apologize for-”

 

She's wrong. Forcing a fake smile, Ruby said, “No, I wasn't going to say that! How could I give you relationship advice when I've never even had a girlfriend?”

 

Pyrrha blinked. “Girlfriend?”

 

“Yup!” she exclaimed before realizing Pyrrha was staring at her with an appraising expression. “Um, is that weird? I've kinda never really said that out loud. Yang always used to say I was too pure and innocent for all of that.” I guess that isn't really true anymore, now is it? She thought bitterly, fighting to keep her face even.

 

“No, not at all! I just was surprised you even think about sex like th-”

 

Ruby rushed forwards and pressed her hands against Pyrrha's mouth. “Pyrrha, you can't just talk about that like that!”

 

Wait a second, you still think about sex like that?

 

Ruby squeaked as Pyrrha burst out laughing. N-Neo, you were listening to all of that?

 

She blanched as a very naked Neo flickered into view, who smirked at her as she walked towards her. Oh, I'm going to have so much fun tormenting you like this!

 

You can't do that! I thought we agreed-

 

There was a flash of green light, and Neo's illusion vanished from Ruby's field of vision. There was a flash of resentment, then Neo pushed it down and sighed. Aw, you're no fun.

 

“Anyways, do you really think I should ask Jaune out?” Pyrrha asked, and Ruby nodded.

 

“Yeah! He'll totally say yes, he did, um, well...”

 

Pyrrha's eyes sparkled with mirth as Akouo and Milo lifted off of the table and reattached themselves to her back. “Kiss me? You know, I think I will; knowing him, he's probably scared to ask me himself. I'm going to head back up to the dorm, would you like to come with me?”

 

“One second.” Ruby shot back over to her cooling metalwork and checked that everything was okay for her to leave alone. “Yeah, I'm good. Let's go get some rest.”

 


 

The tea kettle began to whistle, piercing through the stuffy hotel room. It was gray, supposedly, but there were so many stains on the faux stainless steel it was hard to tell. The black plastic handle was cool to the touch as Raven pulled the kettle off of the stove and brought it to the table, carefully pouring two cups as she sat down on the creaky wooden chair. Her mask was already resting on the surface, and her sword leaned against the beige wall.

 

A groan came from the bed, and sheets rustled as Qrow pushed himself up off of the mattress. “Huh, wha...” he mumbled as he stared at Raven. “Sis?”

 

I dragged your drunk ass back to the hotel room and made you tea,” she snapped. “If you want to show even the slightest bit of gratitude, get over here and drink it so I can get back to the tribe.” I was supposed to be helping Vernal this morning, but I'm here instead! God damn it, I hate him so much.

 

“Wha're you doing here?” He dragged himself out of bed, holding his head as he stumbled his way to the table.

 

“What, after fifteen years of binge drinking you can't even deal with a hangover?” she mocked him as he slumped down into his seat, pushing down her concern. Seriously, how much did he drink last night?

 

He took a long sip from the cup before setting it down. “I've had a pretty damn crappy two days, okay?” he said, a hint of energy crawling into his speech.

 

Raven stared at him, turning something over that he had said last night in her head. “I have news for you, but you're going to tell me what you were talking about last night before I tell you.”

 

Qrow froze and stared at his tea. “What did I say to you last night?”

 

She narrowed her eyes at him. “You said, 'I found her.' Who did you find?” All these years, he's still easy to read as ever. What is he hiding?

 

Her brother cursed under his breath, downing the rest of his tea and getting to his feet. “I'm going. Thanks for the tea, I guess.” He walked towards the door only to find himself facing a red portal.

 

“Qrow. Tell me now, unless you want to end up in one of my cages.” Raven set her cup down and got to her feet, grabbing her sword. “You should be grateful I even give you and Oz news anymore, so I'd be perfectly happy to stop if you don't want it.”

 

He bowed his head and slammed his fist. “Fuck you, Raven. Tai's going to kill me if he realizes I got you involved in this mess.”

 

“What ar-”

 

“It's Neo.” Qrow's expression was furious as he turned back to her. “I found her, and she's going to get us all killed.”

 

Raven's sword clattered to the floor of the hotel room as she stared at him. A brief spark of hope sparked in her chest as she reached into her pocket and pulled out an old worn dagger in a leather sheath. 'Neopolitan' was imprinted onto the leather she clutched to her chest, tears welling in her eyes. “She's alive?” she whispered. “How could she be alive?”

 

“Oh, she's alive, alright. You'll never guess who she's bonded to now.” Qrow stalked past his sister as he yanked a flask out of his coat and took a long drink.

 

Neo… You're alive? After what happened? Composing herself, Raven's red eyes flashed as she stooped down to pick her sword up. “She- Who has her? I'm going to slaughter them – I'd rather die than let another Augustus use her.” Qrow started quietly chuckling to himself, and she unsheathed her sword and buried the tip in the hotel floor. “Damn it Qrow, tell me!”

 

“Oh, you're not going to like this at all,” he said, and then Raven was holding her blade to his throat.

 

“Qrow Branwen,” she snarled into his ear. “I thought that I had lost both of my daughters, so if you think you can just tell me Neo isn't dead I want answers!

 

“Roman Torchwick had her. He's dead now. Guess who killed him?” Qrow's breath stank of booze, but Raven was too shocked to care.

 

Quietly, she said, “You're telling me that Ruby Rose has Neo's bond.” He nodded. “Ruby Rose. Is controlling Neo. Ruby Rose, the daughter of my ex-husband and ex-partner.”

 

“Yeah, that's what I'm saying.”

 

Raven screamed in wordless rage as her aura flared around her, setting the dust function on max as she launched herself at Qrow. He ducked as she cut through the trashy pullout couch like silly putty, exploding a round of red dust that flung both of them backwards. The hotel wall blew outward, sending the early morning light cascading down his scythe as he sliced down towards her. She ducked as his blade carved a gouge into the floor, kicking him through the wall into the next room over.

 

A family of four cowered as Qrow pushed back off of the opposing wall, swinging back around through the plaster wildly. Raven's eyes flashed as she cut a portal open, and he fell through, unable to stop his momentum.

 

Qrow tumbled onto the wooden floor of the main tent as Vernal screamed in surprise. Raven flew after him, her boot connecting with his face as he flew out the main entrance and into the camp proper. Blade met scythe in a deadly dance as they spun through the main camp, bandits cowering in fear as the watched their leader battle her long lost brother, remembered by just a select few.

 

Raven saw none of it through her blind rage.

 

“Raven, should I do something?” Vernal called from behind her.

 

“Kill him!” she snarled as she met the scythe in midair.

 

The blue sky turned stormy in an instant as their fight continued, rumbling as lightning arced across the sky. A powerful jet of air carried Qrow away from Raven as Vernal rose into the air. A cage of lightning arced around her body as she shot towards him.

 

“I can let you meet!” Qrow yelled as he threw himself to the side, barely dodging the attack. “Rae, listen to me!”

 

His scythe fell to the ground as Vernal lifted him up into the air. Hovering, they drifted back towards Raven, who was breathing heavily as she sheathed her sword. Vernal landed as Qrow struggled against his invisible prison. “There you go, Raven.”

 

Qrow stopped trying to free himself and glared down at her. “Raven, when the hell did you get the spring maiden?”

 

I came to her for guidance and training years ago,” Vernal sneered as his scythe flew into her hand. “She don't own me; that was Ozpin's problem.”

 

“I left the Guardians for a reason, which Vernal happened to agree with,” Raven said as she walked towards him. “I will let you go, Qrow, on two conditions. One, you will tell Neo that she should find somewhere to be alone at midnight on Thursday, in two days. Two, if a host of Atlesian soldiers show up at my gates tomorrow, I will kill them and then kill you. Do you understand?”

 

Qrow coughed as Vernal let him fall to the ground, blood trickling from a cut on his forehead. “What about Ruby?”

 

“Well, I guess Tai is just going have to deal with being angry, isn't he?” she snapped, then turned on her heel. “Tell Oz that the Grimm have been gathering north of Vale, and the White Fang is planning something big. I need to think.” Before Qrow had a chance to respond, she had cut a portal open under him. He vanished, and Vernal threw his scythe into the portal after him.

 

“Raven!” Vernal called as she stomped into her tent, throwing her sword to the side. “Who was that? What's going on?”

 

Raven's entire body shook as she stared bleakly at the floor. Neo's alive. Neo's alive. Neo's been alive for the last seven years, and I've never even tried to check on her. Why did I stay away? Why did I ignore the tag?

 

She hadn't touched that part of her semblance since the last time she had seen Neo – now she stripped away the years and years of aura walls she had constructed around it.

 

Fucking hell… It's still there. It's been there the whole time.

 

Neo, I-

 

“Raven?” the spring maiden asked hesitantly as her tribe leader buried her head in her hands and started to cry. “Are you okay?”

 

“Vernal… How much do you know about my past?”

 


 

Just three more detentions… Only three more detentions… You can handle this, Belladonna.

 

Blake slipped into the cafeteria, her book squeezed tightly against her chest. The lunch line was mercifully quick – most of the rest of Beacon seemed to have already eaten. Nobody else seemed to be eating at their normal table, so she sat down to start eating, grateful for the peace and isolation.

 

“Blake?”

 

…and there was her partner. Exactly the last person she wanted to see when she was trying to think straight. Golden hair, tight shirt, and that magnetic air that drew all of her attention away. Great. “Yang, what's up?”

 

“I, um-” Yang sat down and looked away, an odd expression on her face. “Are you okay?”

 

No, does it look like I'm okay? Of course, I can't talk about it, so what do you expect me to say? Ears curling, she said, “No,” then looked away.

 

“Blake, what's wrong? You've been weird since you and Ruby got in trouble. Is it the protest thing? Is it that stupid boy, because I could totally go and punch him for you?”

 

She doesn't get it at all. “It isn't any of that! Look, maybe sometimes people just aren't okay, okay? Can't you just leave me alone?” she snapped, the last sentence slipping out far harsher than it had sounded in her head.

 

Yang flinched back, a hurt expression crossing her face. “Okay, I get it, forgive me for caring enough about you to ask! You know, you could just tell me what's wrong. I won't judge you, or anything, even if you really did like that boy-”

 

No, I can't just tell you what's wrong! “It's not about Sun, okay? I don't know what your problem is, but you've been acting weird too! You stormed out on us when I was telling you about my day, and now you bring him up every damn time we get into a conversation!” Blake glared at her as she got to her feet. “I mean, do you like him or something? Is that what all of this is about?”

 

“No, why the hell would I like someone like him?” Yang stood as well. “I'm just worried about you, Blake! It feels- It feels like you're going down the same path as Ruby, and I can't lose you like that!”

 

I am nothing like Ruby!”

 

The kids surrounding them fell silent. Yang stared at her with those infuriatingly wide lilac eyes. “Blake...”

 

She couldn't take it anymore, and she couldn't hold herself back. “Maybe you just need to butt out of my life, okay? You don't know anything about my past. You don't have a clue why I care about this protest. You don't know how I feel about Sun. Maybe I do want to date him, huh? What would you do then, stop me? Put me in an even smaller cage than the one I'm already in? You don't have a clue about what's happening to me, Yang!”

 

“Well, maybe I want to!” Yang yelled back as her eyes turned red. “Why the hell do you think I'm asking, because I don't care? I do care, I care about you!”

 

Blake wavered for a moment, desperately wanting to blurt out everything that had happened to her. She hated this, she hated it, she was going to say it, she-

 

"Miss Belladonna, I have offered you a chance for redemption once. I am not one to extend that offer a second time so quickly, but these… special circumstances have forced my hand. Do not mistake me – if you do not learn how to work with others, if you refuse demonstrate resilience towards your goal, if you attempt to cross me or divulge any of this information outside of this room, you will not be attending this school or worse."

 

She was doing this for Yang. If she was kicked out… She would never forgive herself for hurting Yang. She loved Yang to much to ever hurt her.

 

Doing this is going to hurt her.

 

It was too late – she had no choice, no other path out of the cage, and nothing to do but chose the lesser of two evils.

 

“Just leave me alone.”

 

Yang's eyes widened. “Blake, please-”

 

“Just leave me alone!”

 

She dashed out of the cafeteria, her meal forgotten. Ruby and Weiss were talking as she burst into their dorm room, slamming the bathroom door. She fell to her knees and started to cry, the hopelessness she had been pushing down welling up and engulfing her.

 

I'm sorry, Yang. I'm sorry, but this is the only way things can without losing you. I can't lose you.

 

It hurt, she thought, because somehow she was losing her anyways.

 

She was losing the only person she really cared about anymore, and there wasn't a damn thing she could do about it.

 


 

“Hey Jaune?”

 

Jaune stopped reading his comic and rolled over so he could see her. “Yeah, Pyrrha, what's up?” His armor had been set aside, and he was wearing a fuzzy pair of winter solstice socks.

 

“Well… I actually have something to ask you.” She blushed down at her knees, her throat growing tight as she questioned what she was doing. Am I actually going to ask him? Am I ready for this?

 

“Ya know, I actually wanted to ask you something too. You wanna go first?”

 

“Um...” She looked over at Jaune, who was staring at her. “Do you want to go get coffee with me in Vale on Saturday?”

 

“Like a date?” he asked, blushing slightly and sitting up.

 

Pyrrha smiled hopefully. “Um, yeah, like a date.”

 

“Yeah, that sounds totally awesome- wait, damn it!” Jaune's face fell. “I was going to ask you, I was even going to play guitar and all that!”

 

Did that just happen? Pyrrha laughed as he pulled his guitar out from under his bed. “I still want to hear it! I like it when you play guitar!”

 

“Really? I don't know, Nora says that I sound like a mating cow when I-”

 

She rolled her eyes and booped her partner's – no, boyfriend's – nose. “Yeah, because she's Nora. You even listened to her when she said wearing three pairs of socks made you do better on tests!”

 

“Well, I did do bet-”

 

Pyrrha's lips met his, and suddenly the guitar was forgotten on the side of the bed. She had never realized how badly she craved someone who cared about her – her, as a person. Now that she had found him, she never wanted to let him slip away.

 


 

So Blake just ran into the dorm and locked herself in the bathroom?

 

Yup, that's what happened. I figured I probably wasn't the best person to try and comfort her, so I left Yang and Weiss in there with her and came down here, Ruby said to Neo as she slowly pried half of a gauntlet out of the mold. The silvery metal gleamed under the dim lighting as she stepped back and admired her handywork. It's so pretty!

 

I just don't get you sometimes… Neo leaned back as her legs dangled over the edge of the table she was sitting on. Her shirt pulled tighter as purple hair drifted over her shoulder, highlighting- Ruby pinched herself and shook her head clear.

 

This is so unfair.

 

What's unfair?

 

Why did you have to choose a disguise that's so hot?

 

Neo stared at her for a moment. What?

 

Wait, you didn't- Ruby flushed as she turned away to go back to the smaller casting she had done earlier that day. I didn't say that! Forget I said anything!

 

You think I'm hot.

 

She gulped as she turned back to meet her pink eyes. Um, well… kinda? You didn't get that earlier.

 

And I thought you might have noticed that I'm actively trying to stay out of your thoughts.

 

Really? Ruby asked in surprise as Neo laid on her back and made circles with her umbrella in the air.

 

Yeah. Okay, now that I'm actually looking… Oh- Oh wow, that's-

 

Shut up! You're not supposed to see that!

 

Here's what I don't get. You've been seeing me naked in dreams literally since the first day we were bonded. Am I not hot normally?

 

You-

 

Answer very carefully, there's one correct answer and a whole lot of my sword.

 

Ruby shuddered as she slowly pulled an inch of the sword out of its scabbard, pulling a drawer open and taking out a handful of screws. I don't know, I mean… Maybe if you had spent less time trying to drive me insane?

 

I resent that. Psychotic bitches can still be hot, thank you very much. I mean, did you look at that illusion of Cinder I showed you?

 

Oh my god, her dress!

 

With the open back-

 

-and her hair-

 

Ugh, I loved that braid.

 

-and the bow-

 

Have I told you that I really don't understand you sometimes?

 

Mmm.

 

Neo pushed off of the table and leaned over her as she started to piece the easier parts of the gauntlets together. But you have seen me naked since you woke up, so-

 

Well, I mean you are smaller than me – which is totally cute, I mean, and I love the way you look – but as Violet you're taller, and your hair, and your boobs…

 

...Ruby, you're drooling. Also, weren't you complaining about sex yesterday when you were talking to Pyrrha?

 

That was out loud! Besides, you're different.

 

Why, because I'm hot?

 

Yes! I mean, no- Maybe?

 

“I thought I might find you down here, kiddo.” Qrow stuck his hands in the air as Neo's sword rested against his throat. “Woah, I need to talk to you. Rubes, make her stand down.”

 

She doesn't want to talk to you, but clearly your scythe is buried too far up your ass for you to see that.

 

Ruby crossed her arms as she glared at her uncle. “For the record, I don't make Neo do anything. Ever. So forgive me if we're a little distrustful of you after you threatened to murder her, just like the last time you saw her.”

 

Can-

 

No, you can't kill my uncle.

 

“Right...” Qrow never took his eyes off of the blade as he said, “Look, all I'm supposed to do is deliver a message to you, so let's all calm down, okay?”

 

Neo withdrew her blade and waved her hand. Qrow started as words appeared in mid air. 'If you give me a reason to, I will kill you for everything you did to Raven. Ruby won't stop me, either. Spit it out then get out of here.'

 

“You wouldn't let her-”

 

“After yesterday? Absolutely,” Ruby muttered, glaring at her uncle.

 

Qrow's eyes widened, and he violently pulled his flask out of his pocket. She couldn't help but wonder why he had a big bandage across his forehead, or why his clothes were covered in dirt, but quite honestly, she didn't care. “Ruby...”

 

'Do you have something to say?'

 

“Tomorrow night. Be alone outside at 2am.”

 

“Why? Why should we do that?” Ruby asked.

 

Qrow sighed as he rubbed his wound. “There's someone who want to meet the two of you. Guess I'll leave now, it'd be nice if someone lets me know if my niece ever comes back.” Before Ruby or Neo could respond, he had already slunk away from the weapons workshop, leaving nothing but the faint smell of beer behind.

 

Neither of them felt much like talking after that.

 


 

“Blake! Please let us in!” Yang's fist ached as she banged against the door for the millionth time to no response but Blake's faint crying. She felt like screaming – her partner was on the other side of that door, and there wasn't a damn thing she could do! She sank down the door frame until she was on her knees, pressing her forehead to the white paint. “Please...”

 

“I said, go away!”

 

“Tell me what's wrong!” she called back.

 

A dull thud shook the wall. “You're the problem! Just stop asking and leave me alone! You can't help me! You can't save me, so stop trying!”

 

“That's not true!”

 

“Yes it is!”

 

“Blake, I-”

 

“Fuck you, Yang!”

 

Something inside of Yang broke, and she couldn't take it anymore. Bursting into tears, she pushed away from the door and threw herself onto her bed, sobbing into her pillow.

 

This is all my fault – I tried to get to close, I screwed this up. It's my fault she hates me now. She hates me now. Will she even want to be my partner after this? Will she even want to stay on team WBYR?

 

“Yang...” Her body shook as Weiss sat down by her side, pulling her hair out of her face.

 

“Wh-what did I do wrong?” she choked out. “All I did was ask her if she was okay. Why won't she tell me? Why is she in there alone, without anyone else?”

 

Weiss sighed as she leaned against the bedpost. “This isn't your fault, Yang. I'll be the first one to admit that this week – hell, our entire time at Beacon has been less than perfect. I don't know why we're always so ready to go off at each other on a moment's notice.”

 

“But- She wants me to leave her alone! She's my best friend, and she wants me to leave her alone!”

 

Weiss rubbed her back as she said, “I think that if you're really best friends, it doesn't matter if the other person appreciates it or not. All that matters is that you're there for them when they're ready to let them in. You just need to… give her some time, Yang. I'm sure she'll come around, that she'll be ready to talk to you eventually.”

 

“You get so deep sometimes, Weiss,” Yang mumbled into her pillow.

 

“I mean, I'm not the team leader for nothing. Actually, I'm even more glad none of you are team leader now than when we were first formed – I mean, I think I'm the only stable person left on WBYR. You're a mess, Blake's a mess, and Ruby went insane and is somehow almost normal again.”

 

She laughed in spite of herself. “You're not wrong...”

 

Weiss got to her feet with another heavy sigh. Raising her voice so Blake could hear, she said, “Look, guys, I don't know exactly what happened, but I think everyone will feel better if we all get a full nights sleep. Blake, do you think you could come out so we can all shower?”

 

There was no response for a minute, then the door drifted open. Blake's eyeliner had been smeared across her cheeks, and her ears drooped as she avoided looking at either of her teammates. “I'm sorry,” she whispered before throwing her pajamas on and climbing into bed.

 

“I'm not going to shower. You should go, Weiss.”

 

“Are you two okay if I leave you alone?”

 

“Just go.”

 

For what seemed like eternity, Yang laid in bed and stared at the wooden frame of the bunk bed above her. She didn't speak, but she wished Blake would hear her pleas and say something to her, anything. The silence was suffocating until the night mercifully sent her to sleep.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter Sixteen: Innocent

 


 

re:Bound

 

A Fanfiction By Pokefan87

 

Chapter Publish Date: 12/23/17

 


 

Silas was the second. He was the second of the five, but I thought nobody could possibly be worse than him. He made me murder people, he beat me, and he ordered me around like a dog.

 

Neo, this isn't your fault!

 

I was so naive, Ruby. I was so naive to think he was the worst I could possibly have, and I was stupid to have left that night.

 

The blackened husk of the town hall loomed over the desolate village of Sanasaki. Men sang a working song as they quickly erected a wooden wall around the town square. It was good that the wall was going up; it was harder to keep in high spirits when a pile of burning villager corpses bled in the background. People rushed to secure their perimeter, setting fires inside the makeshift camps in the surrounding buildings. It was overcrowded, packed almost – the raiding party had been far bigger than necessary.

 

For a village with stone walls, Sanasaki had been a weak opponent after Neo had stabbed their leader in the back of the neck.

 

The air warped and twirled around her as she unloaded her dinner into a scorched bush. Her dagger was still clutched in her fingers, blood and dirt griming the edges. I killed him. I killed him. I killed him. I killed him. I-

 

Neo, shut up.

 

Neo choked back tears as the green light seized her body, falling to her side and taking deep gasping breaths. She wanted to scream at him, but… What would she even say to Silas? Why did she even want to say it, if he would just beat her for her own thoughts like he always did?

 

Fucking hell. Get in here, now! Are you deaf? How many damn times can you puke after you kill someone? She staggered to her feet as the green pulled her up. She tried to fight back, but just ended up losing control of her body instead. The shoes she had stolen from the town's shoe store right before it had been set on fire were already set in scarlet sheen – she supposed she was lucky Silas let her take new ones at all.

 

The leader of the Ravinere tribe pressed his fist to the blackened stone wall of the town hall's atrium as Neo's body was dragged in the entrance, barking orders at men setting up camp before turning his attention to her. “Come here.”

 

She was expecting the punch, but her head still spun as Silas knocked her to the ground. A plea rose to her lips, but he had ordered her to be silent. No direct thoughts, no talking – just silence, and it was deafening.

 

He kicked her side before turning away, spitting as she cried out in pain. “You're on guard duty again. Lots of Grimm tonight – death always brings them in hordes. Make sure you're the one doing the killing. You can start now.”

 

Patrol that night was hard, harder than it had been in a while. Grimm were swarming the desolate village, and it was all Neo and the other bandits could do to keep them off of the flimsy rubble walls the tribe had hastily erected. Grimm were different than humans – they were mindless, and Neo had no qualms about taking her frustrations out on them. A simple illusion was all she needed to make herself invisible, and her dagger did the rest.

 

Once the hordes had died down, the men retreated back towards the barricade, avoiding her. She had heard the whispers in the tribe. She knew what they thought of her. She was a demon, she was Grimm spawn, and Silas was powerful beyond belief to have chained her. He knew it too, and she was often the person he used to exact punishments to disloyal members of the tribe. All she could do was ignore them, waiting at the edge of the barricade as the last of the men went back in.

 

Suddenly, a familiar red rift split the air beside her in two. She jumped to her feet, shaking her head wildly at the masked woman emerging into the brooding night air. “Should I come back?” Raven whispered, and she froze. Silas said I'm allowed to patrol, so it's okay if I leave… He wants me to guard him tonight, though, but-

 

“Yes.” Raven nodded and stepped back into her portal, which vanished in her stead. Neo's fist clenched the hilt of her dagger; the guards didn't trust her, and Silas didn't need to know that she had left. Once she was certain nobody was watching, she vanished into her illusions and dashed into the woods.

 

This was her favorite time of day – once Silas was gone, she got to unleash her illusions on the world. There were other kids in the tribe, even another twelve year old, but she wasn't allowed to play with them. Stretching her hands out, a glittering blue path appeared before her, dissipating under her new shoes. Her visions pulsed with the racing of her heart, twisting her reality around her. The swirling was her world, and nobody else was allowed to see it.

 

Not even Silas.

 

Oh he had tried, but she always found a way to punish him for it. For all he was arrogant, he was a careless man and didn't often both to monitor her thoughts. When he did, she would barrage him with thoughts and emotions, every shred of hatred and loathing she had built up towards him for the past four years. When he shut her emotions down, forcing them down inside her, she would make his life physically miserable. She would leave his boots out on a rainy day, or hide his sword away. There was only so much he could command her not to do, and she always found a loophole.

 

After a moment, the portal reappeared. Neo flung herself into Raven's waiting arms, tearing up again as she stuffed her face into her armor. Raven held her head tight to her chest, looking from Neo's shoes to her dagger to the thick black plume of smoke billowing from the village. “How many?”

 

“First the leader in the back, then six others,” she whispered, starting to shake as Raven ran her fingers through her matter hair.

 

“I'm sorry.”

 

“...”

 

Raven growled as she stepped back and looked Neo up and down. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out a slightly squished pastry and handed it to her. “Qrow was in Vale today, and I wasn't sure whether he's been letting you eat or not...”

 

She smiled as Neo's eyes turned white. After six years watching her grow up, Raven could recognize Neo's emotions from her eyes easily – white was the rarest, reserved for love, fear, and regret. “More than last week,” she said as she grabbed the treat and quickly devoured it.

 

Raven hissed, sliding her blade out of her scabbard. “I'm going to kill that bastard, I-”

 

“No, you can't!”

 

“And why not?!” Her sword slashed through a tree trunk like butter, sending it to the ground with a thud.

 

Neo ran forwards and caught her sword arm. “I told you before!”

 

“Well what if I don't give a damn? He's killing you, Neo!” Raven said. Her sword tip drifted to the forest floor, resting against the dark underground.

 

Neo shook her head. “I don't wanna lose you, Raven,” she whispered. “I don't want you to be like Silas.”

 

“I would never do that to you. I would never order you around like he does, or starve you, or anything like that.” A hint of desperation crept into her tone as Neo squeezed her eyes shut and turned away.

 

“But it doesn't matter. You would still see my thoughts, and no matter what you would end up controlling me!”

 

“I would ne-”

 

“You would! This would never be the same again. I don't want to lose my mo-”

 

A dull explosion shook the ground, and Neo and Raven spun to face the village. The tribe leader nodded, and she started sprinting back.

 

The walls were burning as she sprinted back through the barricade, unleashing her dagger. Unfamiliar men fought with Silas' men, and she shot as many illusions as she could muster into the fray to generate confusion. The town hall was even more chaotic, but she ignored it all making a beeline for where Silas was.

 

She burst into the bedroom to see a man holding a spear-like weapon standing over his unconscious body. Running on fear and adrenaline, she launched herself at him. I can't let him die!

Twisting, he easily sidestepped her and launched the butt of his spear into her chest. She rolled as she hit the floor.

 

The air swirled around her as she stumbled to her feet, dazed. The man grinned at her as he leaned on his spear, letting the tip sink into Silas' chest. “Ah, I was wondering when you would show up. You and I are going to have so much fun, aren't we” Neopolitan.

 


 

“Yang Xiao Long!”

 

Yang stared at Weiss as she jumped onto the table, balancing on a pile of dished as she pointed at her. “Um, Weiss? What are you doing?”

 

“This morning you've been nothing but quiet, moody, and antisocial!” she exclaimed. “Just because Ruby has gotten better doesn't mean that you can be like this! So, tell us what's wrong!”

 

“Yeah, what she said,” Ruby said, crossing her arms as she jumped up onto the table next to her.

 

She sighed, turning away from her team mates. “Look, it doesn't matter.”

 

“Yang...” Ruby jumped off of the table and slid onto the bench next to her. “Blake is… What Blake is going through isn't your fault. Really.”

 

“She wouldn't even get out of bed this morning.” Yang slammed her fist down on the table. “Why won't she let us help her? Why won't she let me help her? She's destroying herself, and I don't even know why!”

 

“Maybe this is something she has to go through by herself?” Ruby offered. “Yang, you know her better than any of us. If she doesn't want you to help her, maybe it's because you can't…” She trailed off as Yang glared at her.

 

“Ruby, maybe you could let me talk to Yang,” Weiss said, resting a hand on her shoulder.

 

A hurt look crossed Ruby's face. “Sis?” Yang nodded without meeting her eyes. “O-okay, I guess- N-Violet?”

 

Yang's eyes slowly went back to lilac as she watched Ruby and Violet leave the cafeteria together. “I think she's just trying to help,” Weiss offered.

 

“Blake said part of this is Ruby's fault. We can't just do nothing to help Blake! She's hurting, and I won't let her do this to herself!” Yang said.

 

“Which is why I have a plan.”

 

“Huh?”

 

The heiress pulled a flyer from her pocket and slapped it onto the table. “Team CVFY is away on a mission right now, and it's taking longer than expected. Since they're not around to do it, I volunteered Team WBYR to help instead.”

 

“You want us to plan a dance? How exactly does that help Blake?”

 

“Well, she's been super stressed and moody lately, so this will be a great way to relieve stress. Besides, planning the dance will be a wonderful team building exercise.”

 

Yang rolled her eyes. “You just want to plan a dance, don't you?”

 

Weiss shrugged. “Maybe, but this will be good for you too. I think it'll definitely solve your problem.”

 

“What?”

 

“Well, you're going to ask her out to the dance, so yeah, I think it will.” Weiss gave her a smug smile and sat back in her chair, waiting for Yang to process what she had just said.

 

“But- But- You can't just do that!” Yang yelled. “How- Why- She won't want to-”

 

“Yes she will.”

 

“But I can't-”

 

“Yes you can.”

 

“Weiss!” Yang whined, suddenly conscious that JNPR was staring at them.

 

Weiss shook her head. “I won't let either of you mope around like this, and there's no reason why we can't have some fun cheering you up! Now, are you going to help me or am I going need to force you?”

 

Jaune opened his mouth to say something, and Yang cut him off. “Don't even think about it, Vomit Boy.”

 

“Hey!”

 

She turned back to Weiss and sighed. “I'm not going to get out of this, am I?”

 

“Nope! We can start planning right now.”

 


 

“Remember, don't do anything stupid.”

 

Dane rolled his eyes as he pressed a hand to each of his teammates shoulders. Good, both of their disguises are holding strong. Genius, really, for Adam to send me to help these losers. They don't even have to change names and identities because of me. “Look, just don't try to kill Rose or Ice Cream, Gem. Seems like you can summon that much self restraint, at least. I'll be fine.”

 

Emerald glared at him, then huffed and turned away. Mercury glared at him, trying to step forwards before pausing as Dane pressed his claws into his teammate's shirt. “Look, we don't need you, so maybe you could get off of your high horse for a second.”

 

“Oh, don't need me, huh?” Dane hissed at the assassin. “I am the person protecting you from Neopolitan.”

 

“We don't even know if she's still alive, let alone here.”

 

“That's bullshit, you heard Harkan say it just like the rest of us,” he snarled. Mercury shuddered at the thought of the unnatural man. “I am keeping you alive and hidden. I was personally requested by Cinder and Adam to join this mission. I am the one who's about to have a nice little chat with General Ironwood, who invited me, his long lost star pupil, to join him. So how about you-”

 

“Dane, that's enough.” Emerald shoved the two boys apart, unsheathing her weapons enough to make them flinch. “Unless you want to see things that aren't there for the rest of the week, shut up!”

 

“See, I-”

 

“Mercury, that means you too.”

 

A transport swooped down from overhead, coming to land on the launch pad they were waiting at. Dane gave Mercury a mocking salute, laughing as Emerald held him back. “So long, ladies!” he called as he walked past two Atlesian soldiers into the belly of the transport.

 

Atlas' flagship was a marvel of engineering, a floating fortress casting a deep shadow over the city of Vale below. Dane didn't find it the least bit intimidating. Adam had launched a raid earlier that year to blow one up on the ground, and the sheer number of flaws and security oversights was almost laughable. No, he was tense because of the man he was on his way to meet.

 

“Come in!” Ironwood called as he knocked on the door to his office. Dane held his head high as he walked in, walking over at the general's gesture and sitting down. “Coffee or tea?”

 

He nodded graciously, pouring himself a cup of tea. “General, I appreciate the invitation to meet.”

 

“Please, no need for formalities. You aren't the same meek first year I remember, Dane – you would be a sixth year now, after all. Call me James.”

 

Perfect. Dane bobbed his head. “Of course, James. Could I ask why I'm here?”

 

“I have to admit I was… disappointed to learn that you had dropped out of Atlas Academy to join the White Fang, although it was entirely justified given your circumstances.” Ironwood was too busy staring out at Beacon to notice Dane's face darken. “You were one of my most promising students, so I was very pleased to learn you had left and re-enrolled at Haven Academy.”

 

Now came the lying, something Dane considered himself an expert at. Fighting to drown his anger, he said, “Adam was a brilliant leader and tactician, but I came to realize that such senseless violence was only worsening your kingdom's racism, not bettering it. I returned to my original goal, to become a hunter and protect the faunus from… what happened.”

 

“And I am deeply sorry for my student's actions towards you-”

 

“-so why is he still a student at your academy? Why is he here, for a tournament made for peace?” The handle to Dane's teacup broke, and it fell onto the tray in pieces.

 

Ironwood met his eyes, weighing his words.

 

“Dane, I- It was not my intention to reopen old wounds. I just want to catch up with my former student. Could we put the past behind us, just for a moment?”

 

The past will never go away, Ironwood. You have no idea what we have planned, or how much your racist kingdom is going to suffer for it.

 

Dane smiled, crossing his legs as he leaned back in his chair. “You're right, James. I think I'd like to catch up as well, so let's chat.”

 

And the best part? You're never gonna see it coming.

 


 

“I don't get it.”

 

Ruby stopped scrubbing the blackboard for a moment, turning to look at her teammate. Blake's ears were curled as she stared at the ground. “Huh?” Neo, wake up. I think she wants to talk.

 

It's about damn time. It's been what, three days?

 

“How are you okay with this?” Blake hissed, pushing away from the board to glare at Ruby.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Any of it! Magic is real! Ozpin is an immortal wizard responsible for the creation of a fairytale! You've been walking around with her in your head all semester, which just happens to be a highly illegal aura bond! You went crazy, and now you're normal again!” Blake closed her eyes. “It doesn't make any fucking sense!”

 

Ruby sighed as she sat down on the desk. “But that's the thing. I'm not okay with any of this.”

 

“Then why aren't you showing it?”

 

Neo jumped up from her desk and did a series of cartwheels down to the center of the lecture hall. She's freaking out. We need to calm her down.

 

You're not exactly helping, showoff. Ruby punched Neo's arm lightly as Blake flinched backwards. “Blake-”

 

“What? Why am I even in here with you? Why did I have to hurt Yang to keep this a secret? Why am I- Why am I alone again? Trapped again? I- I-”

 

Ruby jumped off of the desk and hugged Blake as tightly as she could. “Blake, please stop! Just let us talk to you!”

 

“Get away from me!” Blake screeched, and the body in Ruby's arms disappeared in a puff of smoke. “Just- Just stay away!”

 

“I'm not a murderer!”

 

The room fell silent. Ruby took a deep breath as Neo looked at her with a sad half smile. Ruby…

 

Are you okay? Are you okay if I tell her everything?

 

Neo nodded, and Ruby turned back to Blake. “Last September, I was shopping when an armed robbery happened at the store I was in. I had Cr- I had Crescent with me, so I fought back. The leader made it onto a nearby roof, and I followed after him. He tried to make the jump to his getaway airship, but my semblance was faster.”

 

“I never meant to kill Roman Torchwick, but I refused to accept that for a long time.” Ruby took a deep breath, finding the strength to continue as Neo comforted her. “I thought that nobody would ever want to see me again, that I was a monster. But I was wrong, Blake.”

 

“Neo hated me. She hated me for who I was, what I stood for, what I did to Roman. So she took it out on me. She tormented me, made me see illusions of me killing my friends and nightmares every night. She would train me to the point of aura exhaustion, then heal me, over and over again. She wanted me to be a murderer. She wanted me to be a monster. And I couldn't take it anymore. Two nights before Forever Fall, she went to far when we were training, and I snapped.”

 

“Cardin died. Crescent is gone, and I-” Ruby wiped a tear away from her eye. “I'm still moving forwards, because I've seen what we need to beat. I can't stop moving forwards, because if I do I'll just break again. Neo is healing, and so am I. If we aren't okay, then the people we care about are going to get hurt.”

 

“So all those times, when you were tired, or in the Emerald Forest, that was all because of Neo? How can you just let her be around Beacon, then? Why didn't you let Qrow kill-” Blake said before Ruby cut her off.

 

“It's not her fucking fault! You have no idea what her life was like, and you're missing the point! I wasn't okay, and people got hurt! I hurt Yang, I hurt Jaune, I hurt you! Two people are dead, because of me!” Ruby yelled. “And you know what? If I can't move forwards, more people are going to get hurt! More people are going to die! Are you okay with that? Do you even understand that?”

 

“But-”

 

“No, there is no but! I didn't want to interact with other people because I thought I was protecting them! I thought they should stay away from me, that since I was a murderer I was dangerous, but it doesn't work, Blake!”

 

Blake shook her head, backing further away from Ruby and Neo. “But that doesn't answer any of my questions!”

 

Ruby, calm down.

 

No. In a deathly calm tone, Ruby said, “I love Yang, Blake, more than anything. I'm not stupid, I'm not blind, and Neo's been helping me go through all of my memories. Yang never had real friends before Beacon.”

 

“What?” Blake stared at Ruby. “But she's-”

 

“She had friends, sure, but not close ones. Nobody like you. So imagine what it does to her when her best friend tells her to leave her alone.”

 

“Ru-”

 

“She cried for an hour after you finished arguing, last night. Your best friend was crying above you for an hour and you did nothing! That's what happens when you shut yourself off! You know what the worst part about all of this is?”

 

“Bu-”

 

Ruby's aura flickered around her. “You were going to run, that night. You were going to run away and leave all of your friends behind, and according to Ozpin, you were never going to come back. I've done nothing but try to be your friend, Blake! I went after you! I didn't let you go, and I'm sorry for attacking you, but you attacked me first! You heard Ozpin! Do you see why I was keeping secrets? Am I the villian now, when I had a psychopath in my head and a sword at my throat? I'm not a murderer, and none of this was my fault! It wasn't my fucking fault!”

 

The air rang with her screams as she slumped into Neo's arms. Neo glared at Blake with pink eyes, pulling Ruby tight against her body. Losing any last sense of composure, she broke out in tears. Neo, I'm not. I'm not a murderer.

 

Ruby… You never were. I loved Roman, but he was an amoral man. It's what Ozpin and Pyrrha and Yang have been telling you this whole time. None of this was ever your fault. None of it.

 

“But what about the magic, and everything else?” Blake asked.

 

Ruby sniffed and wiped her face. “I don't give a damn. No matter what, I won't let my friends get hurt again. I lost a semester of my life because I pushed myself away from them, but I'm never going to do that again. I'm going to be with Pyrrha, and Yang, and Jaune, and Weiss, and Ren and Nora because I care about them. If you're going to hurt Yang again, if you're going to keep pushing her away, then fuck you.”

 

The bell rang, signaling the end of their detention. Ruby stalked towards the door, followed by Neo. She paused at the exit as Blake ran down to the middle of the room and called, “Ruby, wait!”

 

Ruby's eyes were hard as Neo walked out past her. “I wish I had never gone after you the night that you ran.”

 

The door slammed, and Blake sank to her knees. Alone in the dark room, she curled up into a ball and wept.

 


 

Done.

 

Neo ran her fingers over the silver gauntlets, smirking appreciatively. Are you ready to try them out?

 

Ruby loaded the weapon up with rounds of red dust, which she had borrowed from Weiss earlier. Her hands shook as she slowly slipped them over her hands and onto her wrists. Slim fingers rested on her palms, and she looked up at Neo. I think so. I've got to keep moving forwards, right?

 

Right. What about what Qrow said?

 

We can find somewhere alone. Do you want to go back out to the gardens?

 

Are you okay with that?

 

I don't know, are you going to cut my side open again?

 

Hell no.

 

Beacon's arches loomed over them as they navigated the side of the school, making their way through the landscaping under the watchful full moon. Ruby couldn't help but marvel how different the grounds seemed under an air of friendship rather than servitude. She had never noticed how the starlight reflected off of Neo's pale skin, or how her hair would swing back and forth as she cut a path ahead.

 

Finally, they reached their usual secluded clearing. Ruby pulled out her scroll to check the time: 1:26 am. Well, we'll probably still be out here when it hits two, so… “Woah, that's weird. My dad texted me ten minutes ago.” She opened and read it.

 

Ruby, Oz told me everything. I can't get away from Signal right now, but I'll visit this weekend. Please don't hesitate to call me if you want to talk.”

 

Neo sighed at Ruby's silence as she slid her scroll closed. Look, can we not worry about that right now? Let's just fight, hopefully that'll clear your head a bit.

 

Ruby sighed as she put the scroll down. I mean, it was only a matter of time, right? He was bound to find out eventually.

 

C'mon, let's test those gauntlets out.

 

Ruby nodded as she brought her fists up. Start at normal speed, no semblances?

 

Yeah.

 

Ruby walked towards Neo, experimentally punching out. The gauntlets made a satisfying mechanical thunking noise each time the outer part flew forwards, something Ruby had always loved about Ember Cecila. Once she got close enough, she and Neo began exchanging light blows, getting into a rhythm. Neo relied on avoidance, but Ruby had fought her enough times that she could usually predict her next move and hit her anyways.

 

Also, she could read her thoughts. That helped too.

 

After sparring for a minute, Ruby saw an opening and cocked the gauntlet. Let's try… this! A dust powered blow sent Neo stumbling backward. As she did a cartwheel to regain her balance, Ruby threw her arms out and tested her mobility. Firing rounds off to direct her movement, she sped up until she neared the speed of her semblance, then angled towards Neo. Now, to test the snapback!

 

Neo flew backwards as Ruby's left gauntlet slammed into her shoulder, landing in a bush. Holy crap that thing hurts. What does it do at max speed?

 

I'm… not actually sure. I think it'll be moving about as fast as a bullet, but it's so much bigger, so…

 

Let's test it.

 

On what?

 

Neo shrugged. I'm sure Ozpin would be gracious enough to let us use some of his trees.

 

I'll test it with a round too. Cocking the gauntlets, Ruby took aim at a tree about a hundred meters away. Tapping into her aura, she shot forwards and launched her fist into the bark. The tree buckled under the impact, snapping as the part she had hit flew through another tree and over the cliff edge.

 

Okay, so moral is that a big pointy metal thing moving really fast fucks shit up. Now, let's test the blades.

 

It very quickly became clear that Ruby had no idea how to use the blades attached to her gauntlets. She barely blocked Neo's sword before quickly stepping back and yielding. Okay, I was serious about not wanting you to hurt me again.

 

We can work on it. In the meantime…

 

No close combat against people with pointy sticks?

 

Agreed.

 

There was still a bit left before the time Qrow had mentioned, so Ruby and Neo walked to the edge of the cliff. Sitting down, Neo leaned against Ruby as they watched the starry night sky above, letting their legs swing over the edge below.

 

Ruby?

 

Yeah?

 

I was thinking about what you said to Blake, earlier today, and I- I'm glad that we're friends. I wish I had never-

 

Stop.

 

Huh? Neo looked up at her as Ruby wrapped her arm around her, pulling the smaller girl closer to her. Wh-

 

I don't care about any of that, Neo. I said that we just have to keep moving forwards, right? You were grieving and I don't blame you. I'm just glad for what we have.

 

Neo's eyes sparkled in the starlight, deep white under the broken moon. You're amazing, Rose.

 

So are you, Neo. I love you.

 

Ruby smiled as she leaned further into her partner, at peace in the chilly winter night. Neo's warmth was all she needed to ignore the cold weather, and it was all she needed in the middle of the dark night.

 

What? What did you just say?

 

Ruby's smile faltered as her scroll beeped two am and a cloud drifted across the moon. What did I say? I said… I love you.

 

 

Oh.

Chapter Text

Chapter Seventeen: Hollow

 


 

re:Bound

 

A Fanfiction By Pokefan87

 

Chapter Publish Date: 1/6/18

 


 

The stone slid down the sword's scarlet blade with an uneven screech, colliding with the wood below. Raven's shoulder jarred back on impact. Her fingertips dug harder against the cool surface, hair rocking over her shoulders into her face. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath to calm herself down – she would not appear before anyone as a nervous wreck, and she refused to break her aura of strength, no matter how worthy the reason.

 

“You're still at it.”

 

She sighed at Vernal's curt tone. She pushed herself off of her sword's hilt, ignoring the ache from the lingering indentation.“It's never a question with you, is it?”

 

Vernal sighed, sitting at Raven's side and putting a hand on her shoulder. “Raven, you know you can always talk to me, right?”

 

“I know.”

 

“It's one fifty six.”

 

Raven rose from the bench, pulling her grimm mask up with her. The rim caught on her headscarf, pulling the neat edge out of her hair as the helm jammed against her temple. Staring through the slits, she could be weak; a necessary allowance, when her hands wanted to shake so bad she couldn't let go of her sword's hilt else Vernal would see it. The rise and fall of her chest was erratic, and anger burned at her lack of self control. This is your own fault, so yo don't get to do this, she lashed at herself. You had every moment, every possibility to kill those bastard, and you didn't: this is what you get.

 

“Raven, are-”

 

Her voice amplified in the mask, a hollow effect that always seemed to cause fear. “I trust you with the tribe. I trust you to keep our people safe. You've done well, Vernal, and I don't see why there would be any threat to us tonight.”

 

“Of course.” There was a brief scraping and a rustling of cloth. “Good luck.” Raven nodded, and cold air briefly blew into the tent as Vernal slipped out the main entrance.

 

Raven had never been able to properly explain what her portals felt like. Summer had always said it was like folding into yourself, to which Qrow always groaned about how it made him feel sick every time. Tai… Tai had just walked through like she did and never given it a second thought.

 

Damnit Tai, why does it have to be this way?

 

Beacon hadn't changed in fifteen years. She stepped out onto the grounds, gazing around warily for students or teachers. There were the old arches, the pavilion where Summer had made them do yoga once (Tai had looked great in yoga pants), and the all-too-familiar clock tower looming over the whole school. That was behind her – her portal had pointed her into the forest, slipping into the trees through the shadows toward Beacon Cliff.

 

Raven's breath caught as she saw them.

 

She had never seen Ruby Rose in person before, but Qrow had shown her photographs once. Even from the back, she looked so much like Summer that it felt like a punch to the gut. Her red hood hung lazily below her short black hair, and she was peacefully leaning against Neo's petite frame.

 

Her vision wavered as she saw her, her multicolored hair well kept and longer than she ever remembered seeing it. The combat uniform and her weapon were different, but she looked almost the same as she had seven years ago. How could she say anything to her? What if she really didn't want to see her ever again, like she had been forced to say so many years ago? Was it all her fault?

 

What if she isn't the same person she was when she was sixteen? What if she isn't my Neo anymore?

 

I have to know. If she is, I want her to know too.

 

Raven took a deep breath as Neo stiffened and pulled away from Ruby slightly. Now.

 


 

Now.

 

Qrow gasped as the door to the airship slid open and Beacon Academy spread out in front of them. “Woah, that's so cool!”

 

Raven rolled her eyes as her brother ran out onto the docks, spinning around to take in all of his surroundings. She strode out of the aircraft's belly after him, letting her aura flare slightly around her and her hand stray to her weapon to keep the other new students at a decent distance. “You know why we're here, Qrow, so you better not forget that.”

 

“Father isn't here, relax. No reason we can't have some fun while we're here!” Qrow called as he ran up ahead towards the assembled students ready for the commencement ceremony.

 

“Qrow,” Raven muttered, speeding up to catch up with him. She ignored her surroundings, blowing through a group of students that didn't get out of her way fast enough.

 

If it wasn't for their stupid father, they wouldn't have to go to the damn combat school, filled with all of the idealistic uppity hunters she despised…

 

“Hey! Are you just going to walk away?”

 

Raven sighed and spun around on her heel, glaring at the girl standing behind her. She wore a white hood, and held a long weapon she didn't recognize that was at least a foot taller than her small frame. Her silver eyes stared at her defiantly as she stood in front of a tiny faunus girl sprawled out on the ground. “What do you want?”

 

The girl pulled her hood back, letting her short black hair show. “You just knocked that girl over! Are you just going to walk away without saying sorry?”

 

“Yes.” Raven turned back around and walked away.

 

“So you're a bully, then.”

 

Raven jumped as the girl appeared in front of her in a cloud of white petals. “Who exactly are you?”

 

“My name is Summer Rose,” she snapped, clutching her weapon to her chest. “And you're going to go apologize to that girl. It's the first day of school, and you're already being an asshole.”

 

“Look, Rose. I'm not here to help my fellow hunters or any of that bullshit.” Raven narrowed her eyes and let her sword slip out of its scabbard. “She was in my way. If she can't even keep her balance in an idle encounter, she has no business in a combat school. Now, why don't you get your pigsticker out of my way.”

 

Summer's eyes flared as she twirled her weapon around her body to point it at Raven's chest. “For your information, this is a high caliber rifle and a modified naginata, and I will stop you. Go apologize!”

 

She laughed. “Well, you're stubborn, aren't you? No.” Before Summer could react, she had cut a portal open with her sword and stepped through.

 

Qrow raised an eyebrow at her as she stepped out next to him. “What happened to your semblance being your 'secret weapon?'”

 

“It was nothing, just some annoying girl,” Raven muttered. They stood in the swelling crowd as the headmaster, Professor Ozpin, walked up to the microphone and cleared his throat.

 

“Hello students, and welcome to Beacon Academy!”

 


 

Oh.

 

Ruby caught her breath as she stared straight ahead, not daring to move. No, she couldn't have been thinking that, why would she have been thinking that?

 

I have to go.

 

Neo, wait, no! I didn't mean it, I swear, I-

 

You can't lie to me, Ruby. I can hear your thoughts, I know when you're lying to me. That- That wasn't- I-

 

But-

 

Neo pulled away from Ruby, who sat up after her shoulder rest came out from under her head. Ruby, I'm not going to run away, but I don't want to hurt you and need to think about this. Alone, where you can't hear me.

 

“Neo.”

 

Ruby froze at the unknown voice coming from behind them. A moment of silent agreement passed between them, and she jumped off of the cliff edge and cocked her gauntlets. A woman wearing red in a Grimm mask stood behind them, a long sword at her side. “Who are you?”

 

Neo's sword clattered to the ground, and Ruby spun around to look at her. Shock spread across her face as the woman took her mask off, revealing red eyes and a hopeful smile. Raven? Launching herself forwards, she threw her arms around her, clinging to her red body armor.

 

“You're alive. You're really alive,” Raven whispered as she hugged her back.

 

Ruby let her gauntlets slip back into their unloaded position, feeling uncomfortably close to the mess of emotions writhing inside of Neo. Why is she here? Here was the woman who abandoned Yang, here was the woman who named and cared for Neo, so how was she supposed to feel?

 

What- How- Why- Neo started crying into Raven's chest as the older woman rocked her tightly, hushing her and pulling her hair out of her face.

 

“I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry, Neo. After what he did, I thought you were dead. I found your dagger, and- and- I-” Raven choked back tears, pulling Neo tighter against her.

 

Raven, I- Neo's thoughts froze. I can't talk to her anymore. I'm never going to be able to talk to her again. I- I can't-

 

Neo, I can talk for you.

 

But it won't be the same. Nothing is ever going to be the same again!

 

Neo, she's waiting for you to say something. Do you want to talk through me?

 

No! I want to talk to her myself! I wanna- I-

 

Ruby sighed, desperately wanting to hug Neo herself but terrified of losing the moment. Are you okay if I tell her?

 

I- Just do it.

 

“Raven.”

 

Raven looked up at Ruby, and recognition and anger flashed through her eyes before she fought her expression back to neutral. “Ruby Rose. So you're the one controlling Neo now.”

 

“I don't control her,” she said, harsher than she would have liked. “You need to know that Neo can't talk anymore. She's mute.”

 

Why'd you snap at her?

 

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to! It's just hard, she's Yang's mom and she abandoned her, and I wasn't expecting this!

 

You're going to make her leave again! Neo's voice came wild and fearful across their bond, and Ruby's heart broke. There was nothing she could do to help Neo, nothing she could do to fix her, and it hurt.

 

Raven's eyes widened, and she looked down at Neo for confirmation. Neo's eyes burned with shame as she opened her mouth to show Raven her missing tongue. She gaped, then hugged Neo even tighter than before. “Who did this? Was it him?”

 

Neo nodded into her chestplate, breaking down even further. It was that night.

 

What? “She says it was that night,” Ruby relayed hesitantly, tensing as Raven broke away and drew her sword. The Branwen leader screamed in rage as she shot into the forest, cutting down trees and carving through shrubs with a brutal ease. What night? Neo didn't respond. Ruby rushed forwards as she sank to her knees, only to stop short as a wall of illusionary spikes blocked her path. Neo, talk to me! Please, you can tell me what's wrong!

 

You want to know what's wrong? I haven't seen Raven in seven years because of them, and you're ruining it just as much as they would have!

 

Ruby stumbled backwards, her heart wrenching as the spikes shot towards her and shattered in a wall of blue sparkles. The grass was cool against her cloak, the dew soaking into the red fabric. I'm just worri-

 

Why, because you love me? Her tone was twisted with bitterness. I never thought I would see Raven again. All I want is for you to get out of my fucking head! I don't want you to help me! I just want to have my own thoughts, and if you're just going to ruin this for me, maybe you are like them!

 

No.

 

Huh?

 

Ruby shook her head, tearing up as she crawled backwards away from Neo. You don't mean that. I'm not like them! You said no matter what I could never be like them! I would never do that to you, or anything like what they did!

 

Like how you've been giving me minor orders and never apologizing since you woke up? Like how you knocked me out the night you snapped? Like how you've been slowly leeching out all of my worst memories about them, no matter how hard I try to stop you?

 

I'm not like them!

 

Then stop treating me like it! Neo screamed at her. Stop taking me for granted! This is why I was trying to control you! This is why I was trying to break you! The first fucking second I stopped, you stopped thinking about me and how I feel! If you really love me, then why don't you care about what you're doing to me?

 

You take that back!

 

The green light slammed into Neo's body, flaring bright as she desperately tried to resisted it with all of her will. Giving up, she slumped from the effort, glistening eyes glaring daggers at Ruby. You know what? You're not like them. I think you're worse, because you're just a stupid awkward fifteen year old who only got to play with the big kids because of a pigsticker that's now just a hunk of scrap metal buried next to your dead mother!

 

A brief primal urge to get up and attack Neo swept over Ruby, but she fought it down until she was left with nothing. The fight went out of her body, and she simply slumped further to the ground in tears. It felt as though Neo had just carved a hole through her with every insecurity she knew about her, worse than Cardin or Harkan or even Blake. Her face burned as she curled up, covering her ears to block out her surrounding.

 

Ruby, I- That was uncalled for, I'm sorry.

 

 

I want to go with Raven. Neo's voice wavered, and Ruby could feel her turn away to look out over Beacon Cliff. She paused, waiting for her to say something, but Ruby didn't respond. I need to think. About us. About what you said. All of it. I think… I think I've needed this since Roman died. I need to grieve. I need to think. I need to be alone.

 

 

Please…

 

Raven stalked back out of the woods and sheathed her sword, only to stop short as she took in Ruby on the ground and Neo looking away. “What happened?”

 

Talk through me.

 

What? Really?

 

I don't want to talk to her. Do it.

 

“Raven, I- I want to go with you, for a little bit.”

 

Raven stared at Ruby. “Why would I take you with me?”

 

“Not Ruby, me.” Neo walked up to Raven, her eyes pure white as illusions flickered around her body.

 

“You do?” Raven echoed faintly, before breaking out into a broad genuine smile. “Of course you can, Neo. You always have a home with the tribe, no matter what happens. When do you want to leave?”

 

“Now.” Ruby dug her fingernails into her thigh as she forced herself to relay Neo's words exactly as she said them. “It won't be forever, but I want to tell you everything.” I'll be back – I'll be back soon, but I need a week to myself, Ruby.

 

I'm sorry.

 


 

“How is she?”

 

Weiss sighed as she closed the door behind her, frowning at Yang. “I don't know. She still won't move, and she barely even acknowledged me when I brought her coffee!”

 

“Well, did it have-”

 

“Yes, I put a preposterous amount of sugar in. Of course I know how my team mates like their coffee!” she snapped. Yang leaned against the wall with her arm covering her eyes, and her expression fell. “I'm sorry, Yang. I just don't know how to help her like this.”

 

Yang shook her head. The door creaked open again, and she turned eagerly before the hope drained from her eyes. Deep shadows lined Blake's eyes as she slammed the door shut behind her, walking blankly past her team mates towards the cafeteria. Her hair was disheveled, and Gambol Shoud was already strapped to her back.

 

“Blake, what are you doing?” Yang called after her.

 

Blake turned back and shrugged, a blank look in her eyes. “Ruby's made it pretty clear what she thinks of me. I have to get ready for the protest today.” The cat faunus turned back around only to walk facefirst into one of Weiss' glyphs. She glared up at her. “What was that for?”

 

“Our team mate cried herself to sleep last night, and you're not allowed to pretend like you aren't a part of Team WBYR right now!” Weiss exclaimed. “Have you even looked at yourself in the mirror this morning? Blake, I don't know what the hell is going on with you, but you're not going anywhere until you go take a shower and relax! I refuse to be the sole functional person on my team!”

 

“But-”

 

Weiss glared at her, fed up with all of the drama happening around her. “Blake Belladonna. I don't know what your problem with Ruby is. I don't know what your problem with Yang is. Quite honestly, I don't care. It ends now. Your protest isn't until this afternoon, so go take a shower!” She yanked the door open with a gravity glyph, shoved Blake inside, then locked it with another glyph.

 

“Well, that was frosty,” Yang quipped before Weiss turned on her.

 

“And you!”

 

Yang tried to grin, which just ended up looking like a twisted half smile. “Me?”

 

“Stop worrying so much about Ruby and stop moping! Go eat breakfast and start planning this damn dance!”

 

“I don't have the book, though.”

 

Weiss muttered to herself as she undid her glyph and stomped into the dorm room, grabbing her massive team leader planner that had been gathering dust since the third day of school and shoving it into Yang's arms. “Party planning is in section twenty three. You can blame my father for that.” She took a deep breath as Yang took the book, hanging her head slightly. “Look, Yang… I'm sure Ruby will be okay, so can we stop worrying about her for a second? It'll be good to take your mind off of things, plus I'll be up here with her.”

 

Yang sighed, shaking her head at the book in her arms. “Can I just say how glad I am we stopped you from using old man Jacques' book?”

 

“Are you trying to annoy me?” Weiss asked, her eye twitching.

 

“Relax, Weiss. I'm on it, trust me.” Yang smiled again, and this time it was genuine. “You're a good leader. I don't think I would want anyone else bossing me around but you, Ice Queen. Take care of Rubes for me, will ya?”

 

Sighing, she nodded as her teammate walked away. “Of course I will, silly. What else would I be doing?”

 

The dorm room was dark. Ruby shifted slightly under her covers as Weiss settled down at her desk with her history textbook, turning on only her smallest light so as to not disturb her partner. The shower was on, and two sets of gauntlets peacefully rested on the bookshelf under the window.

 

“Weiss?”

 

She looked up from the book as Pyrrha stuck her head into the room. Putting her finger to her lips, she rose from the desk again and slipped out of the room. They crossed the hall to JNPR's dorm, where Jaune and Nora were peacefully reading and Ren was in a meditative pose on his bed. Pyrrha sat down next Jaune, looking back to the doorway where Weiss lingered. “Weiss, what's going on? We heard the commotion last night, and then Yang was the only one who showed up to breakfast. She said to ask you.”

 

Weiss groaned as she went in and flopped onto Pyrrha's empty bed. “Team drama. It's awful, you shouldn't worry about it. Yang and Blake got into a massive argument, and Ruby and Blake have been at each other'sthroats for ages. Then last night, Ruby comes in sobbing at four am – I don't know, it's a mess.”

 

“Is there anything that we can do?” Jaune asked, leaning forwards. “You guys are our friends, we'd love to help if we can.”

 

“No, I'm the team leader, this is my responsibility,” Weiss said. “Well, actually… Talking to people who seem sane could be nice. What's new with you guys?”

 

Jaune put his comic down. “Well, Pyrrha and I are actually going on a date tomorrow.”

 

Weiss grinned at them, relaxing onto the bed and letting the tenseness slip away. It's not just the rest of them – I need to calm down too. Ruby will still be there in fifteen minutes, but for right now, I just need to relax and talk to my friends so I can still be a good leader tonight“Really? That's wonderful, tell me everything!”

 


 

“Hey, Blake!”

 

“Ah!” Blake stumbled off of the last step out of the air craft, dropping into a roll. Drawing Gambol Shroud, she pointed it at Sun's throat.

 

Sun stumbled backward and threw his hands up. “Woah, woah there! Chill out, it's just me!”

 

Around her, people backed away from her weapon in fear. Her ears flattened against her head in embarrassment, muttering a quick apology to the crowd before quickly walking towards the city. No, I am not going to spend an entire afternoon talking to this idiotic thoughtless boy.

 

“So, has anyone ever told you that you're hotter when you're pointing your sword at someone?” Sun winced at her furious glare and looked away. “Okay, so no jokes. Got it.”

 

“What do you want, Sun?”

 

“Well, you did tell me to come to this protest, so here I am!” He spread his arms wide, giving the entire street a great view of his six pack. An elderly woman whistled at him, and he winked back before Blake hit his arm. “Ow!”

 

“I said you should come, I never said I would go with you!” she exclaimed, her ears flattening against her head as she turned away and walked into the edge of the crowd.

 

Sun scowled before running after her. “Hey, don't be like that? You're just about the only faunus I know in Vale, and I don't wanna stand in the crowd alone.”

 

“Look, can you stop trying to ask me out?” Blake said, spinning around on her heel. “First off, I'm interested in somebody else. Second, I think you already blew your chance at the coffee shop.”

 

“What? No, I already got that, I didn't think this was a date. I mean, yeah, you're hot, but you already shot me down.” Sun shrugged. “I just figured you seemed pretty moody and lonely last time, so chances are you would be this time too if I didn't show up to keep you company.”

 

“I am not moody!”

 

“And there it is! Seriously, you could win an award for it. So, how does this protest thing work anyways?”

 

Blake's hand strayed to her weapon; it would be so satisfying to attack him if there hadn't been a crowd of several hundred unarmed faunus surrounding her. “We gather to show the people of Vale and the world that we won't stand for the injustice and discrimination that killed Tuskon Lupa, and treats us like second class citizens! We're fed up with it, which is something that you Vacuans clearly don't understand.”

 

Sun was silent for a moment, then said, “Well, yeah, I got that part. What does it accomplish?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

He waved his hand at their surroundings. “What does doing this change? Is there a point to being here?”

 

“Of course there is! Nothing will ever change if we just sit back and do nothing, you should know that much!” Blake exclaimed as they made their way towards the stage. “I've been fighting for our equality my entire life.”

 

“But has anything changed?”

 

Blake stared at Sun, who was looking back at her with an intense expression alien to his face. “I-”

 

“Thank you to everyone who came out today!” Blake started and turned towards the stage. On it, a woman with spiraling gazelle horns held a sleek black megaphone. “My name is Lilianne Heath, and I'm here today representing the Vale Union for Faunus Equality! Thank you all for coming, but we are in mourning just as much as we are in protest.”

 

“As all of you probably know, Tukson Lupa was killed on his way to work approximately a week and a half ago. He was not armed, and he never activated his aura when the Vale military stopped him. He made no move to escape, or to fight back.” Lilianne closed her eyes and shook her head. “No. Tukson put his trust in the people who are supposed to protect all of us, and they murdered him in cold blood!”

 

The crowd roared, now swelled to twice the size it had been when they had arrived. Sun turned to Blake and whispered, “She seems like a good speaker.”

 

“She is, Adam and I used to have to negotiate with her before we did raids, back when he would actually think through the consequences of his actions,” Blake muttered back, not taking her eyes away from the speaker on the stage.

 

“Wait, Adam? You don't mean Adam Taurus, do you? The What Fang fanatic?”

 

Blake cursed at herself. Fuck, I totally forgot I hadn't told him. Why does everything in my life have to go to shit right now? “I didn't say anything, forget it.”

 

The speaker had started talking again, but Sun ignored her and zeroed in on Blake. “Wait, Blake, were you a part of the White Fang?”

 

Blake opened and closed her mouth, considering lying before realizing the damage was done. A quick glance at the crowd around her showed no way to get away, so she sighed and turned back to Sun. “Yeah, I was. I used to be, but I left after they got to violent. Don't ask things like that so loudly!”

 

“Right, sorry, forgive me if that's just a little surprising!” he whispered back. “Is that why you care so much about all of this?”

 

“Well, I mean yeah, that's a part of it, but I would still care even if I hadn't been. Don't you?” Blake leaned in closer to him, her stomach twisting as he flinched away slightly. “We were fighting for equality, Sun! I was practically born into it, at the front of every protest, every march, every demonstration. Even after they turned violent, I thought we were still working for what was right.”

 

The speaker paused for a moment, and the crowd erupted into a chorus of cheers. Sun's tail swayed back and forth, staring ahead with his brow furrowed. “So what made you leave then?”

 

Adam. “We were doing a raid on a train. They were going to blow it up with the conductor and crew inside. I stopped them.”

 

“And you're still fighting.” It was a statement, not a question, and Blake just nodded as she turned her attention back to the stage.

 

Blake and Sun didn't talk for the rest of the protest as Lilianne finished her speech and stepped down from the microphone. The crowd buzzed and chanted, pulsing against concrete building and streets with anger and energy. Blake joined in, and to her surprise, so did Sun. When she shot him a questioning look, he grinned and said, “This is a protest, right? I'm protesting!”

 

The protest flew by as Blake lost herself in the people around herself. For the first time since the semester had started, her thoughts about Ruby drifted away as she focused on the protest around her. Too fast, the organizers had begun to pack up and the crowds dispersed, simmering down to a low murmur as the pack of people dissipated into the surrounding streets. “Sun.”

 

“Huh?” Sun started as he ran to catch up to Blake, who had already started heading back to the docks.

 

“I'm sorry for being such a bitch to you earlier,” she said, twirling Gambol Shroud's ribbon around her hand. “It's just… there's a lot going on right now, and I- I think I needed this, to clear my head a bit.”

 

“Wanna talk about it?” Sun stopped and pointed at a cafe they had just passed. “Mighta missed something, but the faunus at the counter makes it seem like we'll be okay there.”

 

Blake paused for a moment, then made a decision. “Sure, why not? Lead the way.” They ordered and found a table, this time cozily tucked in the back nook of the shop. She shrugged her coat off and set her weapon down on top of it. “You really want that latte, don't you?”

 

“Hey, what can I say?” Sun crossed his hands behind his head and leaned back. “I have an appreciation for the finer things in life.”

 

“Right...”

 

Blake sighed as she took her drink from the waiter and took a sip. “I… don't know what to do.”

 

“Is this about your team? Mine's pretty decent, usually – Scarlet can be a bit of a pain sometimes but we're pretty chill.”

 

“No- Well, yeah, it is.” She looked over his sandy hair and ruffled shirt, biting back a sigh. I can't tell him everything. Really, I can't tell him anything. “I already told you about Weiss, right?”

 

Sun nodded. “What about the other two?”

 

What about them? “Well, they're sisters. Ruby and Yang.”

 

“Sisters, huh? What are they like?

 

Blake laughed, shaking her head. “What are they like? God, I-” I don't even know what I can say, about either of them. “Well, Ruby is, well- Do you know anything about Ruby Rose?”

 

He blinked. “You're kidding me. You're telling me you're on the same team as the SDC heiress and the chick who killed that Torchwick guy?”

 

“Yang believes in Ruby, more than anything. According to her, before Beacon, she was sweet and energetic, innocent even. Since then, she's… changed.”

 

Sun leaned forwards, the carefree expression slipping off his face. “Changed… What do you mean by that?”

 

“When she got to Beacon, she was depressed, which was understandable since she had just killed someone. After that, though, she started to get moody. She would lash out at all of us. Yang tried not to show it, but that hurt her the most. Ruby would be violent, sometimes. There was a student, Cardin Winchester, who would bully her. One day, she just… opened her scythe and slammed him into the wall.”

 

“Isn't Cardin Winchester the one who died?”

 

Blake nodded. “Even when Ruby was at her worst, she never stopped trying to be friends with me. I guess- After the White Fang, I was so afraid to be close to other people again, and then she comes along.” Burying her face in her hands, she whispered, “She reminded me so much of Adam, so I assumed… I thought I was right, I thought what I did was justified, but… But it wasn't! I betrayed her trust, and then everything just spiraled from there, and- and-”

 

“Blake.” Sun's electric blue eyes were piercing. “What happened?”

 

“I couldn't sleep, and I notice Ruby wasn't sleeping either. I wanted to know where she was, so I went looking for her. Sun, she was working herself to death. She- That's why she was so tired all the time. I- What did I do?” Blake's eyes prickled with tears, and Sun waved his hand in her face.

 

“Hey, stay with me. What happened?” he repeated.

 

“Her semblance is speed. She was running through a training exercise, using her semblance, at max speed, over and over again to the point of exhaustion,” she whispered, her ears flattening. “I never hated her. I thought she was killing herself. I never wanted to hate her.”

 

“Why was she doing that to herself?” Sun whispered.

 

“I can't tell you. There are so many things I know now that I'm never going to be able to tell anyone. I went to help her. Suddenly, she asked me if I was a Faunus, and I- I panicked. I ran. She ran after me. I attacked her, and she beat me like I was nothing. She's so fast, it's nearly impossible to land a hit on her. She made me promise I wouldn't leave, and she promised she would tell me what was happening in return, but she didn't!”

 

“She lied to you?” Sun asked.

 

“I really am truly sorry that I can't explain to you why this happened, but she was under a lot of pressure. That didn't make it hurt any less, and I hated her for trapping me, for forcing me to stay. I still hate her for making me stay.”

 

“But… You actually wanted to leave them behind? Your friends?”

 

Blake's fist shook as she stared at the table. “I still do, but I can't, and it's my fault.”

 

“Why?”

 

“I hurt people, Sun.” She couldn't bring herself to look at him, to acknowledge his concerned gaze. “That's why I tried to stay distant, because when people get to know me they just get hurt.”

 

“Blake, what happened?”

 

“What happened? Nothing. I called her a monster, and everything was fine for a week. After that, she just… snapped. No warning. No explanation. She just woke up one morning unresponsive and violent. The next day, she was attacked in Forever Fall and went into a coma, and Cardin Winchester was dead.”

 

“Holy shit.”

 

“And after she woke up, our first day back this semester, we blew up at each other.” Blake closed her eyes and shook her head. “She asked why I wasn't wearing my bow. I called her scythe, which was destroyed, a pig sticker. We both got sent to the headmaster's office, and I told them everything, and now I'm trapped. I'm trapped in a tiny cage with nobody but my friends, and it's only a matter of time until I hurt them more than I already have.”

 

Finally she built up the courage to look at Sun, who was gawking at her.

 

“I'm going.”

 

“Blake, wait!” Sun jumped out of his chair and ran after her as she slipped back into the cold January air.

 

“Didn't you listen to me? I hurt everyone I meet, and I hurt the people I care about the most! How could you-” She froze as Sun wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into a tight hug. “Get off of me!”

 

“I don't believe you.” Blake flushed as Sun, who was not letting go of her, shook his head.

 

“Creep! I told you to-” she said, then paused as he released her. “You mean I just poured all of that out to you and you don't believe me?”

 

“Look, Blake, I don't know you very well yet, but you don't hurt everyone you meet.” Sun stared at her seriously. “I mean it. Running away isn't going to solve your problems.”

 

“But I'm right, Sun. Ruby wanted to be my friend, and I made her hate me. I love Yang, but I pushed her away anyways! I told her to get away from me because I was too scared to lie to her and too dumb to tell the truth, and now she wants nothing to do with me, and-” A hand rested on her head, and she looked back at him in stunned silence.

 

“Look, you didn't tell me about Yang yet, but if you love her, how do you think she'll feel if you run away?” Sun asked.

 

“If I… love her?”

 

“Well, yeah, you did just kinda say you love her. I mean, it would explain why you wouldn't want to date me, I get it… Blake?”

 

I… love Yang?

 

Blake backed away from Sun, her eyes slowly widening as she thought back over the last couple of months. Meeting Yang, the Emerald Forest, all the nights studying and training and living and being together, and… and… Fuck.

 

Sun started as Blake sprinted away towards the docks. “Blake, wait! Where are you going?”

 

But if I- If I love Yang-

 

What have I done?

 

“Help!”

 

Blake skidded to a halt, Sun at her heels, at the edge of a crowd of people. Many were holding their scrolls out and filming something in front of them. She gasped as she walked around and saw two Atlesian soldiers holding down and beating a pair of faunus. Her eyes widened, and she asked the person next to her, “Why is nobody doing anything?”

 

“They're Atlesian soldiers, what are we supposed to do?” he responded with wild eyes.

 

Gritting her teeth, Blake dashed forwards and threw herself in between the Atlesian soldiers and the now prone citizens. Ignoring Sun's cries of protest, she activated her aura and said, “Stop! This is illegal!”

 

“The animals were breaking the law, ma'am, and now you're getting in our way,” one of the soldiers spat.

 

Blake's eyes narrowed. “I am a huntress. Tell me what laws they were breaking.”

 

“Really? A pretty little thing like you wouldn't-”

 

“Shut it,” the other soldier said as he elbowed his partner in the side. “We received reports that the White Fang would be attending this protest. These two were suspects, and they were uncooperative.”

 

“Blake, this is dangerous! Activate your aura!” Sun yelled, and she shook her head. I won't give them a reason to attack me!

 

“So you just attacked them because they might be White Fang members? Did they fight back? Did you try to apprehend them non-violently?” Blake hissed as one soldier put his hand to his gun. “Or were you just beating them while they were down?”

 

“It's our job to protect the citizens from terrorists,” the diplomatic soldier said as the other scowled resentfully and let his gun slip back down.

 

“Yeah, well Vale isn't Atlas. Just because your country locks us away in mines doesn't mean you can do that here.” Bitterly, Blake added, “I know General Ironwood personally. I will get both of you stripped of your ranks.” I wish I didn't, but it's true.

 

“Stand down, huntress. You are obstructing official military conduct.”

 

“No.” Blake glared back at the soldiers. “I won't let you hurt these people.”

 

“Terrorists aren't people,” the other soldier growled. “Maybe you're a part of the White Fang too, huh? Is that why you're defending them?”

 

Blake's eyes widened, shock betraying her. “No, I, um-”

 

“I knew it. Get out of the way, animal.”

 

She didn't see the punch coming until it collided with the side of her head. Falling to the ground, the last thing she heard was Sun's shout before the world went black.

 

 

 


 

Ruby's hair had always had red streaks.

 

There was a memory she wrapped around her shaking fingers, the same ghostly tugging that called to her any time she tried to comb through it. Summer's hair had been red too, she had always liked to think, just like she had a kind smile and glowing silver eyes. Her aura parted ways as she dove inwards, searching for the silver core that linked her to her mom. She found the thread, stretched into the distance and devoid of the crackling white and black of Neo's aura.

 

Neo, I'm scared. Where are you? Why aren't you here?

 

She felt so hollow. She felt so cold in the winter air, her cloak billowing behind her in the morning wind. She had never felt more alone in her entire life.

 

The armor around her power broke as she tapped into the silver, letting it pulse outwards into her aura. It didn't all rush out at once this time; she didn't let it. Her eyes burned as the power slipped out in a slow trickle, her scream ripping up the school grounds as she threw her arms and her head back and burned the world around her. Her emptiness escaped in a raging blizzard, ripping in a vicious spiral around her body to mirror the turmoil clenching her chest.

 

What did I do wrong?

 

Rooftop windows had shattered around her, deep gouges in the concrete beside and below her coated crystal white. Below her, rows of trees had been refrosted into icicle pines, staring back up at with mocking shadows. 'This is where you failed. This is where you became one of them.'

 

“I'M NOT!” Ruby screamed as she launched herself off the roof. Cocking her gauntlets, she disintegrated into a cloud of rose petals before slamming her fist through one of the trees. I'LL NEVER BE ONE OF THEM! I WON'T HURT YOU LIKE THAT, NEO!

 

There was no response, no twinge of recognition to salve the emptiness and loathing festering inside of her. Shooting forwards, she took her hurt out on the forest, punching her way through the crystallized trees with burning eyes and a corona of crimson aura flickering around her.

 

“Are ya done destroying school property yet, kiddo?”

 

Ruby skidded to a halt in the middle of her rampage. Her breath came in deep gasps, and she looked down at the ground. “Go away, Qrow.”

“Hey, I just want to talk, okay? I wanted to appol-”

 

“GO AWAY!”

 

Qrow jumped out of the way as Ruby shot past him, then ducked as she rebounded off the tree behind him. Ruby pushed herself harder and faster, letting her aura flow around her body as she landed one, then ten hits on Qrow in furious succession.

 

“Stop!” Qrow yelled as he drew his scythe and cut through where Ruby had been.

 

Her breath caught in her throat as she saw the scythe, only red and burning in Harkan's hands. Baring her teeth, she launched herself at Qrow at max speed, spiraling through the air as she burned through an entire round of shots. Qrow brought his scythe up to counter, but Ruby wasn't angling for him. Backflipping over him, she punched him square in the back and ripped the scythe out of his hands.

 

I won't let you destroy Crescent again!

 

Qrow staggered back to his feet as the scythe spiraled around Ruby's body at a frightening speed. She slammed the scythe's tip into the ground, her eyes glowing with aura. “This is your fault. All of this.”

 

“Ruby, you need to calm down.” Qrow said, raising his hands with as much calm as he could muster. “You're overreacting.”

 

“You told Ozpin. You told Raven. You didn't even talk to me before you tried to FUCKING KILL HER!”

 

“I came to apolog-”

 

“I don't want your stupid apology! I care about her more than I ever did about you! You're not even my real uncle!” A blade of satisfaction twisted in Ruby's gut as Qrow staggered back. “She's gone because of you, and now you're trying to use Crescent against me!”

 

Qrow sprinted out of the way as Ruby launched herself at him in a deadly spiral, desperately trying to escape years of combat training with a scythe. He leaped from tree to tree as she carved her way after him until there was nowhere else to go. Trapped and facing down Ruby's scythe, his form melded like water and he spiraled into the sky.

 

Ruby stopped attacking in stunned shock. Qrow flew towards Ozpin's office, and she collapsed to her knees. Did he just-

 

Qrow's scythe clattered to the decimated garden dirt as she hung her head. She knew this weapon. The first time she held a scythe, hours of practice and countless more helping Qrow modify it in the workshop, practice matches from ages ago. A Grimm and a bleeding leg, saved by her uncle and his scythe.

 

She had wanted to be like Qrow so badly. For years, she would beg him to use it every time he came around. She had modeled Crescent Rose off of this weapon, had her first battle with it against this weapon, gone Grimm hunting with him with their dual scythes.

 

This weapon would never be Crescent Rose.

 

Crescent Rose was never coming back.

 

Ruby doubled over and broke down, cradling her knees as she pressed her forehead to the frozen ground. Why was she so cold? Why was she so empty? Why was she so alone?

 

I'm sorry, Neo.

 

Miss Rose!”

 

She let the darkness take her.

Chapter Text

Chapter Eighteen: Aftershocks

 


 

re:Bound

 

A Fanfiction By Allison Illuminated

 

Chapter Publish Date: 1/13/18

 


 

Beams of light drifted down into the austere hospital wing, spilling down Yang's golden hair. Her head nodded as she slept softly, sitting in a chair between her two teammates. Across from her, Weiss paced back and forth anxiously. Blake's face was bruised and swollen, and she tossed and turned restlessly in her sleep. On the other hand, Ruby expression was disturbed but she slept peacefully.

 

Weiss sighed, staring at her three sleeping teammates. What on earth am I going to do with them?

 

"Miss Schnee, you seem troubled."

 

She laughed bitterly as she turned around to face Professor Ozpin. "Forgive me if two of my teammates are in the hospital wing, and the third refuses to leave their side."

 

"Come with me for a moment, would you? I would like to talk with you, and it wouldn't do to disturb the rest of Team WBYR."

 

Weiss followed Ozpin into a small sitting room directly adjacent to the infirmary, sitting down in a plush red armchair. The tension rushed out of her body, and she hung her head back and sighed. "What do you want to talk about, Professor?"

 

Ozpin poured himself a cup of coffee from the sidebar and sat down across from her. "Weiss, I wanted to discuss your team with you. You have far exceeded my expectations for you, and I thought I might be able to assuage some of your concerns."

 

"What do you mean, exceeded expectations?"

 

He sighed. "I want to be direct with you, because I believe you have proven yourself to be capable and resourceful in the face of your teammate's adversity. When your team originally formed, you were not going to be the leader."

 

Weiss' brain went blank, and she stared at Ozpin. "I don't- I don't understand."

 

"Jacques was always a troubled man, and I was curious when you applied to my school. Your father was not a leader of a team while he was a student at this academy, but that never stopped him from manipulating his way into power. I was concerned that you would follow in his footsteps, so I was originally determined to keep you out of the role of team leader." He smiled at her. "Thankfully, I was mistaken. You have been an exemplary leader."

 

"W-wait, so who was supposed to be the leader instead of me?"

 

"Miss Rose."

 

Weiss gaped at him. "You cannot be serious! Ruby- We love her, but she's moody and violent and unstable! How could she have been a leader? She barely even talks to us, forget about organizing fights and activities and training and-"

 

"I have made more mistakes in my life than anyone on Remnant, Miss Schnee. When Ruby killed Roman Torchwick, something happened that I would not burden you with the details of. I recognized the signs, but I failed to help her. I was too late, and she went into her coma. Then, I let my fear overcome my judgement, and my rash actions broke Ruby's trust in me even further. I am afraid I am at fault for her current predicament, and for that I am deeply regretful."

 

She was speechless, at a complete loss for words as to how to respond. "I don't understand. Why are you telling me this?"

 

"I believe Professor Port once told you that your team's trust is the most important quality in a leader, no?" Weiss nodded, and he said, "That trust is a burden, Weiss. You must understand this; you are not at fault for your teammate's situation. Ruby carries a deeply dangerous burden with her, and Blake and Yang have both been affected by it, more than you may understand. It is your responsibility now to care for them, to lift them up, no matter what happens."

 

Weiss stared up at the headmaster's burning green eyes, shifting in her seat. The weight of his words began to sink in, and she suddenly felt overwhelmed. "Professor, I don't understand. I don't know how to help them! No matter what I do, they just keep getting worse and worse. Can't you just tell me what's wrong?"

 

"Did your father ever educate you on the power of secrets, Weiss?"

 

"Knowledge is power, is that what you mean?"

 

"Not quite. Ruby and Blake both know quite a good deal more than anyone ever should at their age, and, well... The results are obvious. I will not- I refuse to subject you and Miss Xiao Long to that same sentence for the time being."

 

"I don't understand," Weiss echoed faintly.

 

"Help them heal, Weiss." Suddenly, Ozpin sounded old beyond his years. "I have already done too much, and I am afraid my actions, along with the actions of your professors, can only make matters worse at this point. You and Miss Xiao Long may still be able to help them yet. Please, tell Yang what I told you, and help Ruby and Blake work out their differences even though you don't know what they are."

 

"How can you ask so much of me and not even tell me what's going on? How am I supposed to help them when I don't even know what's hurting them?" Weiss exclaimed, standing up from her chair. All of this. This is crazy, and- What is he keeping from me?

 

"Trust them."

 

"What?"

 

Ozpin walked to the door, letting his hand rest on the doorknob. "Professor Port taught you that you have to earn your teammate's trust, but that's only half of it. You must trust that they keep this secret to protect you. You never have to lead alone, Weiss. I hope you can learn to believe that, someday.

 

"Professor Ozpin?" she called as he stepped through the door.

 

"I wish you the best of luck on your dance. Good day." He nodded at her, then walked down the hall away from her without a second glance.

 

Weiss' head spun as she stared at the empty doorframe, trying and failing to understand what she had been told. What secret could possibly be so important that Yang and I can't even know it? If it's a secret, why would he tell me that?

 

Trust.

 

She didn't understand. She couldn't make sense of any of it.

 

When she walked back into the infirmary, Ruby and Blake were both still out but Yang was alert in her chair looking around in confusion. When her eyes rested on the leader, she relaxed slightly. "I was wondering where you had gone."

 

"Look, Yang..." Weiss sighed, strengthening her resolve before turning back to her teammate. "Come with me. I have to tell you something."

 


 

The door opened, and Jaune jumped to the side as Pyrrha stepped out in her casual clothes. "You ready?"

 

"Yeah."

 

At some point, her hand slipped into his as they stood on the airship looking out over Vale. It felt surreal to Pyrrha; she was having a hard time keeping herself present as they talked. This isn't any different that normal, it's just the two of us... alone... on a date.

 

They were on a date! She had been think about this moment, for, well, a while to say the least.

 

The restaurant Jaune had chosen for lunch was a nice place – not exactly formal wear worthy but not fast food either. They blushed as the hostess brought them to a table for two off to one side of the restaurant, Pyrrha hurriedly sitting as Jaune gesture to her seat. They were brought water and menus, then the waiter nodded and walked away.

 

"So."

 

Jaune stared busily at his menu. "Right, so, um, how exactly does this work?"

 

"Well..." If she was being honest, Pyrrha didn't have the slightest clue what was supposed to happen on a date, but she didn't want to tell that to Jaune. "We could talk about something?"

 

"Well, yeah, it's just... You. And me. On a date." He shook his head in amazement. "My sisters would be making so much fun of us right now."

 

She laughed, some of the tension rolling off of her shoulders as she relaxed slightly. "What are your sisters like? We never went to your house when we were in Mistral."

 

Jaune sighed. "I don't even know if they'd want to see me right now. When I came to Beacon, I took the family sword and left nothing but a note.”

 

“I wish I had that many sisters,” Pyrrha said wistfully. “Maybe Mother and Father would have payed a bit less attention to me that way.”

 

“I don't think they like me very much.”

 

“Your sisters?”

 

Jaune laughed, shaking his head. “Nah, they all love me because they get to dress me up all the time. I was talking about your parents. What do you think they'll do when they find out about, well...”

 

“Us? It'll be fine.”

 

“But-”

 

“Jaune.” Pyrrha's hand felt heavy as she reached across the table and settled it onto his arm. “I've been living away from my parents since I was fourteen. I know Mother wants me to marry a proper Mistrali businessman, but there's nothing she can do to me, or us. I have a full ride scholarship to Beacon, my own apartment in my name… There's nothing they can do to me anymore.”

 

“As long as you keep winning tournaments, right?”

 

Pyrrha's face fell, and she looked away. Jaune meant only the best, but it still hurt to hear him say it. “Not even that. I'll- I'll be eighteen in April-”

 

“Ooh, when's your birthday? Nora and I will throw you an awesome party.” His eyes sparkled with enthusiasm, and she smiled and shook her head.

 

“April seventeenth. Anyways, my point is that my parents have no real say in my life, and I would never choose them over you.” Her hair had stared to drift into her face, so she pulled it back and over one shoulder, letting it drape down her gray hoodie. Jaune pulled her hand off his arm and squeezed it, blushing slightly as he did.

 

“You look, um, really really nice when you, well, don't dress all Pyrrha-y – not that you don't look nice like that too! I mean, you just generally look really, really, um... nice.” He trailed off awkwardly, looking down as she squeezed his hand back.

 

“You see me with my hair down every night, Jaune. I would love to keep it like this during the day, but I need my circlet to do my polarity properly. But...” She smiled as she let go of his hand and picked up her menu. “I could wear it down for lunch and class more often if you like it that much.” Flipping through the pages as the waiter walked over, she asked, "What are you getting?"

 

"Um, a hamburger?"

 

"I'll get that too, then." She handed the menu to the waiter, then grinned as Jaune took a long sip from the straw in his water.

 

"So."

 

She followed his gaze to the shady pair of people wearing trench coats across the restaurant, one of whom was balancing a salt shaker on her head. "Are we just going to pretend like we don't see Ren and Nora?"

 

Jaune nodded. "Who knows, maybe if we ignore them for long enough they'll start treating it like a date too..."


"They would make a great couple too, wouldn't they?"

 

The restaurant hummed with the low buzz of conversation as Jaune and Pyrrha fell into a comfortable familiar rhythm of conversation. This really isn't so different from normal, is it?

 

Before she knew it, they were paying the check and leaving the restaurant. She smiled as they passed Ren and Nora, who had shed their coats and were busy squabbling over a bowl of pasta. Jaune rolled his eyes at them, handing Pyrrha her coat as they stepped outside into the cold winter air.

 

They made it back to their dorm in no time. She poked her head into Team WBYR's room. Nobody. Perfect.

 

"Y'know, Ren and Nora aren't back yet," Jaune said hesitantly as he cast his coat aside and walked towards her.

 

"And nobody from WBYR's around..."

 

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

 

"Watch romcoms and cuddle?"

 

"Hell yeah."

 

They kissed for a brief moment, then opened the box of holotapes. Digging through Nora's horror movies and Ren's meditation videos, she pulled out Vacuo Love and pressed play. Both getting onto Jaune's bed, she curled up against him, her heart melting as he put his arm around him.

 

"This was really nice, Jaune."

 

He nodded. "Yeah, can we do this every weekend?"

 

"Anytime. Anytime at all."

 


 

Ruby groggily opened her eyes, her head pounding as she came back to her senses. Neo? What- What happened?

 

Neo was still gone.

 

The stiff bedsheets shifted around her as she sat up, massaging her temple with one hand. Poking at her aura, it seemed like her silver eyes power was back to normal. Sinking back into her pillow, she sighed and covered her eyes.

 

I attacked Uncle Qrow.

 

Tears threatened to overwhelm her again, but she fought them back. Clearly she wasn't in her bed, but did it even matter? Was it even worth being awake?

 

"Ruby? Are you awake?"

 

It was Blake. Why was it always Blake? "Go away."

 

"I can't... I mean, we are kinda both in the infirmary so I don't know where you want me to go..."

 

Huh? Sitting up in her seat, Ruby looked around to see Blake watching her from an adjacent hospital bed. A big splotchy bruise covered the side of her teammate's face, and she covered her mouth to hide her horror. "What- What happened?”

 

“I was at the protest, two Atlesian soldiers were beating up defenseless faunus and I stopped them. They didn't particularly like that.” Blake stared at her hands for a moment, then said, “Ruby, I'm sorry.”

Her concerned expression turned into a glare. “I don't want to hear it.”

 

“Ruby, just hear me out please.”

 

“No! She's gone, Blake.” Ruby looked around and her voice broke. “Neo is gone, and it's your fault.”

 

“What? Where did she go?”

 

“She went back to- back to Raven. I- I guess I'm happy she found her again, but-” Her breath caught in her throat, and she curled up even tighter. “But- I- I don't know if she'll ever want to see me again.”

 

Blake jumped out of her bed and ran to Ruby's side as she broke down into violent sobs. “Ruby, what's wrong? What happened?”

 

“Get away from me!” she yelled, slapping Blake's arm away as she tried to hug her. The other girl ignored her, hugging her tightly as she began to cry as well. “Get away from me...”

 

“Ruby, I- I've been stupid and selfish and- And I should have thought about you and Yang and- I-” Blake shook her head. “I've been so, so stupid, and I'm sorry. I'm sorry for all of it.”

 

Ruby wanted to scream at her, but all that came out was an incoherent babbling mess. “Neo and I were working on weapons, and we were testing it and then we were watching the moon and, and I- I love her, Blake, and she just- she- Raven- She's gone!”

 

“You love her?”

 

“And now you're the only person I can talk to, and- I hate you. I hate you!” Ruby's breath came in shuddering gasps as she clung to her teammate. “It was the first day back! I was trying to be friendly- It was su- supposed- It was supposed to be different! And you just called Cr- Crescent- You called her- you- And them Ozpin and- Now Qrow hates me and Neo hates me and you hate me and-”

 

“I don't hate you, Ruby.”

 

She looked up at Blake, who was staring down at her with a sad smile. “Huh?”

 

“I- I hate being trapped, Ruby, and that's what you did to me.” She shook her head. “That day, in the library- I thought you were going to trust me. I thought you were going to tell me what you were hiding, but you didn't, and- I thought you were going to hurt the rest of us. I thought you were going to hurt Yang. You did hurt Yang.

 

“So did you,” Ruby whispered.

 

“I know, and I- Ruby, I'm sorry.” Blake shook her head. “I can't do this alone anymore. I can't stay trapped like this anymore. I need- I need somebody I can talk to, somebody who can help me, and you're the only person I can go to-”

 

“I tried, Blake!” Ruby exclaimed, pulling away from her teammate. “I tried to be your friend for so long, and you ignored me! Even when Neo was at her worst, I- I didn't stop trying-”

 

“But you never trusted me.” Blake laughed shakily, her ears curling up. “I don't blame you, either. Who would have? Cutting myself off from everyone, hiding who I am, running away when you found out… I was- I thought I was protecting everyone. I thought blocking you and Yang and everyone else out was protecting you, but I wasn't! And then, in the library, I opened up to you for the first time since getting to Beacon and you just- You threw it back in my face, Ruby.”

 

“I...” Ruby's expression was bleak. “Nobody was supposed to find out about her. Nobody was supposed to know about the girl in my head. She hated me, and I hated her, but- There was one night… She woke me up to train at two for the first time, but she was hungry, and… I made her pancakes, and she- She was surprised, like she didn't think anyone would ever do something so nice for her.”

 

“I don't understand. She hurt you, over and over again, even now.” Blake's shoulders sagged. “How can you still love her like that?”

 

“Because...” She trailed off. “Blake, you can't know what it feels like to share your thoughts with somebody. Neo is… well, Neo is everything. We think together during the day and I talk to her in my dreams. She's my mentor, my closest friend, my biggest opponent. She's been there to comfort me when I cry, and saved my life more than once. Even when she hurt me… Even when she was trying to drive me insane… She's my everything, and nothing can change that.”

 

Blake stared at her as she pulled away.

 

“I've never said that out loud before,” Ruby whispered.

 

“Ruby, that's… You're fifteen...”

 

“And she's twenty three, I know. It isn't any better than all of the shitty fucked up stuff that happened to her when she was a kid.” She shook her head, staring out the window at the blue sky. “I didn't even get a chance to realize it before she found out – it just slipped out while we were talking. I can't control what I say to her. I can't lie to her. And I hurt her because of that.”

 

Blake didn't respond, completely unsure how to even begin.

 

“This bond has ruined both of our lives, Blake.” Ruby drew her knees to her chest, rocking back and forth slightly. “I know I was a completely different person before I killed Roman. I don't even know what Beacon would be like now, if I hadn't killed him. I don't know what hers would have been like if it didn't exist.”

 

“How does it even work? Why you, of all people?”

 

“It wasn't just me.”

 

Blake blanched. “What?”

 

“I'm the sixth person she's been bonded to in her life. She's only showed three of them, but- but- They're awful.” Ruby shook her head. “She can't even name them. She won't even think about them unless I prod her. She calls them 'them.' She called me that too, when she left. Am I- am I any better, really?”

 

“Six...” Blake echoed, looking horrified.

 

“I mean, she hasn't had free will her entire life, so how am I any different? I've seen her memories, I've ordered her around, I've hurt her, basically the only thing I haven't done is fucking raped her, but that's probably how she felt when I told her I loved her!” She whipped back around to face Blake, glaring at her look of utter shock. “Don't you hate me now? I'm a monster. I beat Cardin half to death, and I might have killed him if the Grimm hadn't gotten there first. I held Neo in place against her will, made her deactivate her aura, and bludgeoned her so bad that she was unconscious for eighteen hours! I manipulated Jaune, did everything to you, I hurt Yang, I- I don't deserve to be at Beacon. I never did, and I don't even know if I should be a huntress anymore.”

 

“Ruby?”

 

“But it doesn't matter,” she said, the bitter edge to her voice sinking in. “After all, I'm just a stupid awkward fifteen year old who only got to play with the big kids because of a pigsticker that's now just a hunk of scrap metal buried next to my dead mother.”

 

“...”

 

“That's what she said to me, when she left.”

 

Blake was at a complete loss for words, but she pulled Ruby into her arms as she began to wordlessly sob. They sat on the edge of her bed like that until she had calmed down slightly, the grief in her stomach mingling with her self hatred and emptiness. “That's not you, Ruby. That's not who you are.”

 

“But-”

 

“I know who you are, Ruby.” Blake shook her hair out of her face and let go of her. “You're the girl who I was in detention with two days ago. You're the girl who was getting her mind ripped apart and you were worried about Neo. You're the girl who would do anything to protect her friends, even if it meant shutting yourself off. You're the girl who wouldn't stop trying to be friends with me, no matter what. When you snapped… that wasn't you.”

 

“But what if it was, Blake?” Ruby looked scared. She felt scared. “What if that part of me is just waiting to come back again, waiting for me to snap? What if I hurt Neo worse this time? What if I kill her?”

 

To that, Blake had no answer. She stayed by Ruby's side for a while, neither one of them willing to speak before drifting back to her own bed lost in thought.

 

Yang and Weiss came back to an undisturbed scene, just as tranquil as they had left it.

 


 

“Rubes?”

 

Ruby looked up from her scroll to see her dad standing at the entrance of the dorm room. “Hey dad.”

 

Taiyang stepped into the room, sitting down by the low table and taking in the room. “This is the fabled Team WBYR dorm room, huh? It's really clay-zy that you guys are all on the same team, huh?”

 

Ruby groaned. “Daaad, stop! You're worse than Yang!”

 

“Hey, I had to look up what umber was, I can't help it if I'm punny! Seriously, couldn't Oz come up with a better name?” There was an awkward pause. “Why don't you tell me about your team? Who sleeps where, and all?”

 

I don't feel like doing this today. “Why are you really here, Dad?”

 

Tai sighed. “Humor me for a moment, will you? I haven't really talked to you since, well, since your first day at Beacon. I'd love to just have a moment to talk to my daughter.”

 

“Um… Well, I sleep here and Weiss is under me, and then Blake and Yang are over there, I guess...”

 

He waited expectantly for her to say more, then sighed when she didn't. “Look, Rubes, I know about Neo. I've known Neo for longer than you've been alive.”

 

“So what, are you going to be like Uncle Qrow and try to take her away and kill her? Because she's gone.”

 

“No.” Ruby started, and he looked at her with dead conviction. “Ruby, I know too much about Neo to think she's anything but a victim. Both of you are. Qrow's a fucking idiot for letting his year old grievances get in the way, but then again he was probably drunk and not thinking straight.”

 

“I've seen what Neo knows about you. I saw… I saw Mom, when Yang was born.”

 

“Hey, can you come down so I can talk to you face to face? I'd come up, but somehow I don't think those ropes are strong enough to hold the two of us,” he asked, looking up at her. Ruby hesitated for a moment, then swung down from the bed and sat across from him at the table. “How much do you know about Team STRQ?”

 

“Uh… It was you, Mom, Raven, and Qrow, right?”

 

“We were always a little bit hot and cold with each other, really.Top of our class, but Qrow and I mostly goofed off and Raven and Qrow both didn't actually intend to become huntsmen – they were just learning to fight better. Oz had chosen us from the moment we walked into school. Around our third and final year, he approached us and told us everything.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yeah.” He laughed, shaking his head. “Some of us took it better than others. For Summer, it was like every idealistic dream she had coming to life: Fight the evil! Join the echelons of light! Qrow had started to think more like her at that point, so the two of them were totally on board with it. Raven, well, she didn't take the news quite as well. If you're connected to Neo, you probably know what she's like these days better than I do, so you get it, right?”

 

“I- I think so.”

 

Tai put his hand on his backpack, fiddling with the zipper. “Well, after we graduated, we all did work for Oz. Dangerous stuff. By that point, Raven and I were pretty deeply in love, and I think the only real reason she stuck around was because of me. We got married, and then Starling took Neo. Long story short, an eight year old practically tore our team to shreds.”

 

“What happened?”

 

“Well, we all knew how illegal it was. Qrow already hated the tribe at that point, so that just made everything worse. Raven spent less and less time at home, always with the tribe; she was pregnant but she acted like Neo was her only child. Summer and I tried to keep things together, but Branwen fights were always notoriously hard to end. The two of us didn't have anyone else to go to; Raven was practically Summer's only friend after she and Qrow got into a massive fight, and they didn't make up for years. I was losing my wife, and she was losing her only close friend, and well… we...”

 

Ruby's stomach sank as she saw Tai's expression. “Dad, what did you and Mom do?”

 

“You're too young for this, Ruby.” She shot him a look, and he shook his head. “I- You got mixed up in adult stuff about five years earlier than anybody ever should. I still see my little girl, but- We both know you aren't the same innocent kid you were before.”

 

“Dad. What did you do?” Ruby asked with a low voice. Tai looked away and sighed.

 

“The first time Summer and I slept together was about two weeks after Yang was born. I guess she didn't feel the need to take maternity leave, because she had left me in charge of the one week old. Yang didn't want anything but breast milk, and all we had was formula. Summer was staying over to help me. After she had been gone for a week, both of us had lost it and we needed something- Anything to take our minds off of things.”

 

Ruby gaped at him for a moment. “Wait, so- You and Mom cheated on Raven? Does Yang know?” Her mind spun as a million questions flooded around.

 

“No.” Tai's eyes were cast downwards. “I- I'm not proud of it, but I don't regret doing it. I love Raven, but she had so many problems. Her lack of involvement with Yang's life was too much. Then, everything boiled over at once. Qrow and Raven fought over Neo, he was disowned, and that was the last time we ever saw him sober. Raven walked out on me after that, told me she wished she had never married me or had Yang, so Summer came over to comfort me. She portaled in on us having sex. That night, Neo disappeared.”

 

“After that, it was too late. Things were too far gone to fix. Qrow became the middle man for the three of us. We had you, which was the best thing that ever happened to me and your mom. Summer and Qrow still went on missions. Then, when you were six, there was a large scale mobilization of Grimm ready to march on Atlas. Summer and Qrow met them at the entrance to the Grimmlands alone. That night when she left-”

 

“Neo showed me.” Tai's head shot up as he looked at her in confusion. “When we first bonded, she showed me my worst dreams and nightmares every night. The- The night when Mom left and the day Qrow saved me were her two favorites to torment me. I've- I've seen that night, over and over and over again.”

 

His eyes watered, and he pushed away from the table to run around and hug Ruby. Blankly, she stared at the table as he started to cry. “That- That was the worst night of my life. You shouldn't have to see it like that. Nobody should ever be forced to see things like that.”

 

“Why are you telling me this, Dad?” she asked. Why can't I cry right now, Neo? Why am I not angry, or shouting at him for Yang's sake?

 

“I'm telling you because I want you to hear it from my side, not from Raven through Neo. Look, Ruby, Neo… she's a sore subject for all three of us. Please, if you can find it in you, forgive your uncle.”

 

Ruby pulled free of his embrace and walked over to her bunk bed. Reaching under, she pulled out one of Weiss' suitcases and handed him a small square of silk. “He was going to kill her.”

 

“I can't make you forgive him. I don't want to make you forgive him. I'm just saying if you give him a chance and talk it through, he might come around. Trust me, Rubes, I'm in your corner.” Taking the hankerchief, he wiped his face and smiled at her. “Neo went with Raven, didn't she?”

 

Ruby nodded, not meeting his eyes. “We fought right before she left. I- I said something, and she reacted, and now I don't know if she'll ever come back. It feels… empty.”

 

“Well, I have two presents for you. Maybe one'll help you take your minds off of this a bit.”

 

“That's it? You're not angry at me for hiding her, or lying to you, or for attacking Qrow?”

 

Tai shook his head. “Like I said, Ruby. You and Neo are both victims here, and I could never be angry at either of you, even if I do resent her for helping my first marriage fall apart a bit. Besides, I know how the bond works. I know that you and her are going to be… well, it's not exactly a temporary sort of thing. Raven's always treated her like a daughter, so I guess there's no reason why I can't do the same.”

 

Ruby froze. This is really for life, isn't it? Does that mean I'm always going to have to hear her or deal with this emptiness?

 

Is this what she thinks about all the time?

 

She didn't want to dwell on that. “Dad, what are the gifts?”

 

“Well, the first one is already in the room.”

 

“Huh?” Ruby looked around wildly as Tai grinned mischeviously and unzipped his backpack. A furry black and white head poked out the hole, and all of the fears and worries that had been plaguing Ruby went out the window. “ZWEI!”

 

The corgi barked happily and licked her face as she tackle him across the room. She gave him a massive squeeze and grinned as Tai said, “There's my little Rubes! See, I knew it was still in you somewhere!”

 

Ruby gently nuzzled her dog's face before setting him down and glomping her dad. “He can stay here?” Zwei barked and he nodded, and she squealed, “Thank you thank you thank you!”

 

They broke off, and Zwei jumped into Ruby's lap. “So, I heard that you forged a modified Ember Cecila. Wanna show me?”

 

Ruby's face fell slightly, but she nodded and went over to the dresser. Opening the top drawer, she slipped the silver gauntlets onto her wrists. Turning back to Tai, she cocked them, mimed two punches, and slid the blades opened and closed. “I used the original gravity dust design instead of the mechanical one I made for Yang.” Sliding them off, she handed them to him.

 

He gave them a one over, whistling appreciatively at the design before setting them down on the table. “You know these things aren't going to replace Crescent Rose, right?”

 

“I'm never going to remake Crescent!” Ruby exclaimed, clenching her fist as Tai dismissively brushed the gauntlets to the side.

 

“Relax, I never said you should remake Crescent Rose. That doesn't mean you can ignore the facts, though.” Tai met her gaze squarely. “Ruby, you fight gracefully. Your style is filled with spins and side cuts, and you just can't do that if you're punching something. It would take you years to learn how to fight properly the way Yang does. On top of that, you're a pretty damn good sniper, and you can't let that go to waste either.”

 

“So what are you saying?”

 

Tai got to his feet and walked out of the dorm room. He reentered a second later with a big black case. Putting it down on the table, he sighed and said, “This is also for you.”

 

Ruby hesitantly unlatched the case and opened it gently, then gawked at the weapon inside. “What is it?”

 

“Rising Thorn,” Tai said, staring down at the weapon wistfully. “Your mother's weapon.”

 

Gingerly, Ruby pulled the weapon out of the case. “This is an assault rifle, but why does it have such a long barrel and bump stock? Also, why are there two dust cartridge holders?”

 

“Press the button.”

 

Ruby frowned as she pressed the button, then jumped as the weapon transformed in her. The parts collapsed in on themselves, compartmentalizing into tight cylinders before going end to end. The padding on the bump stock slid back to reveal a fifteen inch blade mounted on a six foot tall pole. Her mouth dropped open as she notice the two dust cartridge slots had migrated to opposite ends of the weapon, one by the blade and one by the scope which was toggled with a button towards the top.

 

She turned back to Dad with an awestruck expression. “This… This was Mom's?”

 

“It's a semi-automatic scoped assault rifle and a modified naganita. Believe it or not, you inherited your love of weapons from your mom. Wanna go give it a try?”

 

“Yes! Hold on,” Ruby exclaimed as she switched the weapon back, melting with intense satisfaction at the transformation. Rummaging through Weiss' stuff again, she pulled out four clips of ammo and stuck it on her belt. “Alright, let's go!”

 

“Wait a second.” He grinned at her as he said, “Why don't you bring some red dust down too? From what Yang says, I don't think Weiss'll miss it much.”

 

Ruby matched his grin and pulled out another cartridge. “Am I going to love this?”

 

“Oh, you have no idea.”

 

The training room was full with students working out in their free period. As she walked in holding Rising Thorn, several kids started whispering and getting out of her way. Ruby put her head down as she heard someone whisper “Black Rose” and another kid laugh.

 

“Oi, shut the fuck up about my daugher!” Tai shouted as he walked into the room after her. He walked ahead of her to the shooting range and threw her a pair of glasses and earmuffs. “Are they always such assholes?”

 

“Since my first day.” Not wanting to hear his response, she grabbed a clip and shoved it into the slot. The rifle felt right as she brought the scope to her eye and took aim for the furthest target. The kickback and aiming felt perfect as she punched three bullets through the center target. Setting the safety, she slipped her earmuffs off and turned to him. “It's perfect, Dad.”

 

“Wanna try the naganita?” She grinned as he grabbed a metal training sword and backflipped into the right.

 

Unleashing the blade, Ruby pressed a button to drop the ropes and walked onto the blue mat. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out the red dust cartridge and slid it into the slot by the blade. He raised an eyebrow, and she told him, “Counterbalance, Dad. You know that.”

 

Experimentally, she gave the weapon a few swings, he fingers comfortably slipping onto the soft grip in the center of the blade. Giving the weapon a few experimental twirls, she couldn't help but to marvel at how much it handled like Crescent when she enabled kickback.

 

The spar started slow, letting her test out what worked and what didn't. She couldn't use her downward strike anymore; never again would she be able to kill someone in the way she had Roman. She also couldn't do any of her anchored kicks or blocks anymore, but she had been using them less anyways since she had started getting her semblance under control.

 

No, she was far more interested by the moves that had suddenly become far more effective than before. First off, her slash and side attacks were far more effective, and she was able to execute them far better than before. Also, she could jab straight forwards, which Tai had a hard time dodging. The weapon was perfectly balance, and she was spinning around her dad with semblance powered strikes in no time.

 

Tai held up his fist to stop her, and she skidded to a halt. Letting Thorn's pole rest against the ground, she grinned and breathlessly asked, “How was that?”

 

“Great, but you're forgetting the dust. Try it out.”

 

Ruby frowned at the button by the dust cartridge. “Why is it a toggle and not a trigger?”

 

“You'll see.”

 

Hesitantly, she pressed the button then squealed as the blade lit up red. “The dust infuses the metal?!”

 

He reached over and took the weapon, turning the dust blade off and turning it back into a rifle. His fingers lingered on its dark gray surface before handing it back to her. “I just thought that maybe… if you didn't have a weapon, you might want to have just a bit more of Summer with you, even when nei- for when neither of us can be there for you.”

 

Ruby's eyes watered as set Rising Thorn down and embraced her dad. “Thank you, Dad! It's perfect!”

 

She was still sad about Crescent Rose. She probably would never truly get over the destruction of her weapon, but maybe she could keep moving forwards anyways.

 

I just wish Neo had been here with me to see it.

Chapter Text

Chapter Nineteen: Nebula

 


 

re:Bound

 

A Fanfiction by Allison Illuminated

 

Chapter Publish Date: 1/20/18

 


 

"No. I won't let you hurt these people."

 

"Terrorists aren't people. Maybe you're a part of the White Fang too, huh? Is that why you're defending them?"

 

"No, I, um-"

 

"I knew it. Get out of the way, animal."

 

Her head hurt, buzzing as her eyes strained at the holoscreen's iridescent glow. Her palm pressed into her cheek, mildly uncomfortable but too set to move it away. Blake sighed as she slid the slider back to the beginning of the video, lingering on the still of her prone body with Sun standing over her protecting her. I should find him and thank him for that.

 

The red dot flickered back onto the screen. Glaring at it, she slammed her palm against the screen. The dot simply flew off of the screen and onto the floor, and Blake hissed as she shut the monitor down and whirled around. Catching a glimpse of blonde hair, her expression softened slightly and she walked towards the bookshelf.

 

“Yang? What-”

 

Her partner's expression was troubled as she grabbed her hand. “We need to talk.”

 

Blake's heart picked up at the contact, desire and regret mixing to fuel her dread and curiosity. She hasn't talked to me at all since I went off at her... Is she still angry at me? I- I deserve it, it's my fault for pushing her away. I don't even know why she still would want me around.

 

They stopped in front of an empty classroom, and Yang poked her head in as she let go of her hand. The tingling didn't stop, and Blake looked away from her partner in shame. "C'mon," she said, and they slipped into the darkened room.

 

Blake hesitated at the top of the room as Yang leaned against the lecturn. "Yang, I-"

 

"You were watching the video again." It was a statement, not a question, and Blake nodded in mute acknowledgment. "Blake, you have to stop."

 

"But-"

 

"Come here." She gulped as she saw Yang's hard expression, and meekly complied. Her partner patted the white lectern next to her, so she sat, unable to make eye contact.

 

"I-"

 

"Blake." Yang's lilac eyes flashed. "You told me to stay away from you. And you know what? I did. I figured if you didn't want to talk to me directly, that wouldn't stop me from helping you indirectly. I'm done with that. I'm not going to pretend my partner doesn't exist anymore, and I don't give a shit what you have to say about that."

 

"But-"

 

"Shut up, Belladonna, I'm not done." Yang took a deep breath, shaking her head as she batted Blake's hand away. The evening light cast an amber glow over her coat, which gently draped over the edge of the desk and sent a shallow shadow over her boots below. "Ozpin talked to Weiss, and Weiss talked to me. I don't know what the hell is so bad that neither of us can know, and I sure as hell don't trust Ozpin anymore, but I trust you. I- I thought I lost you, Blake. If it weren't for Weiss, I, well, you know my temper." Yang gave her a wry smile. "But you can't keep pushing everyone away. We need you. I need you."

 

"Ozpin told Weiss?"

 

Yang nodded, raising her hand to rest it on Blake's shoulder before hesitating. "Weiss- Weiss said that this is hurting you, just as bad as Ruby, and- I'm sorry, Blake. I'm sorry I didn't see it before. I just- I just need to know... How bad? What was so bad that you had to push me away?" Her voice trembled slightly, and Blake's heart twisted as the sun dipped behind the windowsill.

 

"It's my fault."

 

"What do you mean?" Blake looked away, and quietly relayed everything that had happened between her and Ruby leading up to the protest, omitting everything she knew about Neo. Yang's expression slowly went from confusion to anger to horror, and by the end her fists were shaking.

 

The silence stretched on after she stopped talking, so she finally exhaled and whispered, “I understand if you- if you don't want us to be friends anymore. It's probably better than I deserve...”

Yang threw herself onto Blake, clinging to her neck and burying her face in her hair. "That's- that's so awful, all of it. I- Why didn't you tell me? I would never stop being your friend, Blake. I could have helped you, or, or, I don't know..." Blake hesitantly hugged her back, not daring to let her hopes get up.

 

"But... I hurt you..."

 

Yang shook her head into her hair. "Idiot."

 

"But-"

 

"You're my partner, and I love you, Blake. It- It hurt, but I wouldn't stop caring about you because of something stupid like that! Idiot!" She pulled away, letting her hand slip down into Blake's. "I know you, Blake. I know you push us away when you're upset. Just... Maybe I need you sometimes, okay? Maybe next time, let me help you, instead of pretending like I don't exist for a week!"

 

Blake's eyes widened. Yang's hand squeezed hers, and suddenly she felt her eyes watering again. "You- you don't care?"

 

Yang gave her a sad smile. The automatic guard lights signaling nighttime blinked on, reflecting against the white desk beneath them. "I wish I could be going through this with you, Blake. I can't keep standing by and watching you destroy yourself like this."

 

"I can't tell you," she murmured, squeezing her hand and getting a squeeze back. "I would if I could, but- But- We're both so fucked up, Yang. Me and Ruby. I wanted to protect you. I thought I was protecting you, until Ruby confronted me. I- I'm sorry." Her eyes slid closed, burning in the cool air-conditioning. "I'm so sorry..."

 

"Blake, I trust you. I trust you to protect me, no matter what happens. I believe you when you tell me I don't want to know. I don't like it, but I believe you. But that doesn't change the fact that I'm telling you that you have to stop watching that damn video.”

 

She sighed, her mind immediately back on the library holoscreen. “How am I supposed to ignore it?”

 

Yang shook her head and sighed. “Is it still going viral?”

 

“Three million views since Friday." Blake gripped her hand tighter, her ears curling slightly. "Yang, they put my name on that video. They know I'm here. What if the White Fang knows that I'm here? What if my parents know that I'm here? What if Adam-"

 

"Stop. Nobody is going to touch you while you're here. Me and Weiss and Ruby will protect you from all of that, so stop worrying about it!"

 

"But you don't know that! You don't know what Adam can do, how he just draws you in and-"

 

Yang snarled, which shocked Blake out of her spiraling and back to reality. "I've told you this before, I'm going to kill that fucker if he ever comes near you again. Nobody is going to hurt you or any of us, and obsessing over a video won't change that!"

 

"But if they find out that I was part of the White Fang-"

 

Her partner let go of her hand and jumped off the table, leaving Blake sitting in fearful confusion. "Blake, I understand how you're feeling right now. You know how my mom, Raven, left me... Okay, what do you look so surprised about? I told you that before."

 

Shit shit shit what am I supposed to tell her about Raven? If she finds out that Ruby's been in contact with us, she'll murder me and Ruby... Hastily, she shook her head and wiped the shock from her face. "No, I just was, um, didn't expect your mom to have anything to do with this."

 

"Oh... Well, anyways," Yang carried on, a slightly troubled look concealed in her eyes. "I never understood why she left, and I was desperate to find her and get my mom back. I used to obsess over it, asking Qrow and Dad and, well, I was seven so it wasn't like I was a master detective or anything. My point is, it had gotten to the point where it was taking over my life, and then one day... One day, I thought I had found something that would lead me straight to her so I loaded Ruby into a wagon and I took her into the woods-"

 

"Oh my god," Blake whispered.

 

"Yeah. Great sister, right?" Yang bit her lip and turned away. "The Grimm came for us, obviously. If Qrow hadn't been there, we both would be dead." A brief moment of heavy silence. "Anyways, my point is if you keep obsessing over this, you're going to end up hurting me and everybody around you."

 

Her hand felt cold without Yang's warm palm pressed against hers, and her heart ached for her missing presence by her side. "I'm not going to stop, Yang! I can't just-"

 

"That's why I'm not telling you to stop." Suddenly they were face to face, her heart rushing from the proximity. "Just... slow down. Please. We're here for you, and we can help you figure all of this out, but we can't help you if you lose yourself in the process."

 

"How?"

 

Yang suddenly looked vulnerable, in a way that she had never seen before. “Well, for starters, you could be my date to the dance in two weeks?”

 

Blake gaped at her. Of all of the things that could have come out of her partner's mouth, that had not been what she was expecting. "You- want to go to the dance with me?"

 

"That's what I said," Yang said, laughing breezily as the question dangled between them. "I- If you don't want to, I understand... Woah!"

 

"Yes! Of course I want to!" She flung herself onto Yang, who caught her in a hug with a disbelieving grin.

 

"Really? I thought you might already be going with Sun..."

 

She rolled her eyes, lightly slapping her on the back of the head. "You're kidding, right? Why would I want to go to with him? I'm lesbian, idiot."

 

"But you read erotica..."

 

"Gay erotica, Yang," Blake muttered, deep scarlet filling her cheeks. "Haven't you read it? You've known about it for what, months?"

 

"Um, no, why would I have read it?"

 

Blake stopped hugging her and pulled away to stare at Yang. "You do, well, you know, right?"

 

"Do what?"

 

"But you're, well, you!" Blake exclaimed, gawking at her confusion. "Oh, come on. You're the hottest girl in our year, you can't be telling me-"

 

"Oh. Oh."

 

“...You've never done it, have you?”

 

Yang covered her face with her hands, unable to look at her. “I don't know, I got the talk from Dad! You met him, you know what he's like...”

 

“Well, maybe we'll get a chance to fix that.”

 

She gasped in mock horror. “Blake Belladonna, are you flirting with me?”

 

Blake's ears twitched as she bit her lip. “Maybe I am. Maybe I've wanted to for a while, even if I didn't realize it until after we fought.” And she did want to, more than anything she had wanted in a long time. The more time she spent with Yang, the more Adam seemed like a distant nightmare waiting to be forgotten.

 

The time and stress slipped away as they talked, closer and closer until their lips met under the fluorescent light. Nothing else matter; for the first time in months, Blake didn't feel quite so alone anymore.

 


 

Foam slowly dripped over the rim of the overflowing edge. Spilling down the side, the delta of coffee and cream trickled into rivulets along the stained metallic surface. The lone teacup rattled as Weiss put the tray down, the spoon gently bumping against the soaking Mistrali Gray teabag.

 

She gave her teammates a warm smile, joining them around their short table. Despite the deep crack splitting the low wood from one corner to the other, it was heartwarming to see Blake and Yang laughing and Ruby's wan smile as she gently stroked Zwei's ears. “Just like everyone likes it. Decaf for me, double expresso for Yang, cream and sugar for Ruby, and tea for Blake.”

 

“Thanks, Weiss.” Yang grabbed her coffee and handed Blake her tea. Weiss grinned as their fingers brushed against each other, holding the contact for a little too long to be accidental.

 

Zwei left Ruby for Weiss' lap as the youngest member of Team WBYR took a long drink. “You're the best leader, Weiss.”

Rolling her eyes, Weiss said, “Well, I try.” Lazily scratching the corgi's head, she leaned back against the desk behind her. “It's nice to see our team looking decent, for once.”

 

“All because of you, Ice Queen,” Yang drawled, earning herself a light kick.

 

“Admit it, you all love me.” The other girl laughed as she let a hint of her old Schnee arrogance slip into her voice, the edge taken off by the sparkling mirth in her tone.

 

Blake looked between them as they both broke out laughing. “When did you two get so close?”

 

“Well, we are planning a dance together...”

Yang shrugged. “She's been keeping me sane.”

 

Ruby made a noise, and all three of them turned to stare at her. “So… all three of you know now, sorta?”

 

“Yeah,” Weiss said, trailing off as Ruby's eyes started watering. “Ruby, you don't have to cry… None of us blame you for anything that's happened. We're just glad that you finally told us what's wrong, so we can help you through it now.”

 

Yang got up and sat down next to Ruby, letting her cry into her shoulder. “Rubes, we're here for you. We don't care what's happening we just want you to feel better.”

 

“Ruby.” Sniffing, she looked up at Blake. “I know everything, and you've never stopped being amazing. Even with all of the things that've happened, you've never stopped trying to help and protect us.”

 

“How can you all still want me here? Why- Why don't you hate me for- for...”

 

“We're Team WBYR, Ruby.” Weiss reached over and took Ruby's hand, Yang holding her tighter and Blake smiling from across the table. “And you're my partner. The three of you are more like family to me than anyone else in the world. That's all that matters.”

 

“I don't understand,” she whispered as her shoulders shook, surrounded by her team.

 

“You don't have to,” Yang murmured as she pulled Ruby's hair out of her face. “We're here to support you, no matter what. We've been here this whole time.”

 

A far off beeping sounded faintly in the door, and Weiss slipped out of the room as Ruby sobbed her heart out. A few minutes later, she came back with a plate of warm chocolate chip cookies and a glass of milk. “Cookies and cream in your coffee, the things I do for you Ruby Rose...”

 

Ruby's eyes glowed, and her partner shook her head in disbelief. “I'm sorry I never really was a part of the team last semester, Weiss...”

 

“You were doing the best you could,” she said before pulling her leadership book down off the desk. “Come on, we've got two weeks to plan this dance. Let's do it!”

 

Together at the table, Weiss glowed with pride as they worked their way through decorations and music. They were a team – her team – and for the first time they felt whole.

 


 

Ruby shifted the mask over her nose. The spray paint rattled as she shook it, the carefully set paper outline filling up with crimson paint. Peeling the template back, she grinned at the fresh rose emblem emblazoned on the side of her second gauntlet. Setting the paint down, she picked the cardboard her weapons rested on and carried them to a nearby rack to dry off.

 

"I thought that were going to use Rising Thorn from now on."

 

Ruby looked up as Pyrrha lifted Milo off the table with her polarity and set it to the grindstone. "Nah, I think I'm going to use both. I don't want to be helpless if I get disarmed ever again. Didn't you just sharpen Milo a week ago?"

 

Pyrrha grinned at her. "He's gotten better and better at fighting since we started working before break. I mean, he's not as good as me but I think he'll do just fine. Besides, Crocea Mors is just about the sturdiest weapon I've ever fought against."

 

"How was your second date?"

 

The other girl's eyes sparkled as she leaned in towards her. "The movie was awful and we were in the back, so we just made out the whole time."

 

Ruby snorted, making a face. "You and Jaune together is so weird."

 

"Have you seen Blake and Yang getting cozy together recently?" Pyrrha asked, then paused as Ruby's face fell. "What's wrong?"

 

"Everything's just been getting so much better. We've stopped fighting, it's just... Violet had to go to Mistral for a while, and... And I really really miss her and I wish she would come back."

 

Pyrrha rested her hand on her shoulder as Ruby took a shuddering sigh. "I'm sure she'll be back soon, Ruby. I could tell she was important to you while she was here, and the most important people in our lives are never really gone."

 

"Thanks, Pyrrha." Ruby hugged her, then walked over to the wall and grabbed Rising Thorn. Stopping at the door to the weapons room, she looked back and called, "I'm glad that you're my friend."

 

Pyrrha waved, yelling back, "So am I!"

 


 

The message on her scroll had told her to be alone outside at midnight. If it wasn't for the anticipation, Ruby was pretty sure she would have frozen to death already. The weather app said it was twelve degrees outside, but she wasn't sure she believed that. The chill seemed to permeate her world, freezing through her pajama pants and turning Thorn into a icicle pressing against her back.

 

She hadn't dared to hope. She couldn't hope - if she did and it was only Uncle Qrow, or worse, she wasn't sure she would be able to put herself back together.

 

Neo, where are you?

 

As if on cue, the air to her left tore and distorted into a gaping red hole. Suddenly she felt whole again, and white and black aura rushed into her with a million thoughts and questions and feelings. Neo sprinted out of the portal and threw herself onto Ruby, tears streaming as the rush of sensation overwhelmed them both. Ruby I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm-

 

You came back.

 

I shouldn't have said what I said, and I- You told me I love you and I hurt you, and then I left and-

 

Slow down, slow down, there's too much.

 

Neo quieted down for a moment, leaving them clinging together silently under the moonlight. Ruby could feel her going through everything that had happened to her while she was gone. You tried to kill Qrow because of me... God, Ruby, I- It was that bad? What I said... What I said was bad enough to trigger your silver eyes?

 

Ruby mutely nodded, and they sank to the ground together. Neo started hyperventillating slightly, and she sent the best calm she could muster across the bond. Breathe, Neo. Breathe. Please, it's okay, I-

 

You what?

 

A hacking cough interrupted Ruby's sobs, and she hugged Neo even tighter. You- I- Blake told me I wasn't, but... I need to hear it from you, Neo. Is that who I am? Am I really just a stupid awkw-

 

No! Ruby, I- Neo couldn't find the words to say for a moment. I didn't mean any of that. I was just so afraid, afraid of what you wanted from me, afraid that Raven was just going to leave me alone again... You- You... Ruby...

 

What?

 

What you said to Blake... Neo's voice trailed off into terrified wonder, and Ruby pulled away so Neo could see her sad smile.

 

"I mean it, Neo," Ruby whispered. "I meant every word of it."

 

Neo's eyes glistened pure white. "Why?" she mouthed, lost as Ruby slipped her hands into hers.

 

"You're my everything, Neo," Ruby murmured, freely crying even as she wiped at Neo's tears with the edge of her cloak. "You're there for me in my thoughts and in my dreams. You're my mentor, my best friend, my biggest opponent. You're here for me now that I'm crying, and you're the reason I'm still alive. Even when you hurt me... Even when you hated me, when I had just killed Roman, when you wanted to drive me insane... You're my everything, Neo, and nothing can change that."

 

The thread that connected them pulsed, glowing brilliantly with their interconnected auras. Ruby's core radiated with the turmoil of happiness and confusion and fear and love spinning inside of Neo's. There was a feeling of wholeness that had been missing, and now that it had returned the corrosion vanished into the nebulous mix of thoughts, emotions, and memories. Ruby...

 

"That's what I said to Blake," Ruby whispered, their foreheads pressed together as she held Neo's hands tightly. "That's what I wanted to say to you."

 

Neo broke down, falling into Ruby's arms. Quietly, Ruby stroked her hair out of her face as she curled up in her lap, her body shaking uncontrollably as she mentally clung to Ruby. I should have been there. I should have been there for you. I- I- I-

 

Things are working out, Neo. I made up with Blake, and we- we're like a team, now. Weiss, she's brought us all together, and we're going to be okay. Everything is going to be okay.

 

I don't want you to be one of them, Ruby. Meeting you- Meeting you is the best thing that's ever happened to me, even if I was too blinded by grief to see it.

 

You loved Roman.

 

I did, but he was always one of them. He was kind to me, and I know he loved me, but he was always one of them. Even when you cut yourself off, you've never been one of them. You're just Ruby.

 

And you're just Neo.

 

Neo laughed shakily, pushing herself back to a sitting position. You meant it, when you said you love me.

 

I still do.

 

You know how problematic that is right? I mean-

 

You're eight years older than me, we have a mental bond that lets me control you, and we've spend most of the time we've know each other with you trying to make me crazy and me hurting you?

 

Yeah. Pretty much that.

 

I don't know, Neo. Ruby stared at her, losing herself in Neo's eyes as they shifted to light pink and brown. I know you, in a way I don't think I could ever know anyone else. I can't just ignore it, and even if I could, you would still be able to see it.

 

You love me…

 

I do. Ruby might have been surprised at how firmly she said that a year ago – hell, she hadn't even known love really was a year ago. Now, though, she didn't even hesitate.

 

What are we going to do, Ruby?

 

Just… please don't leave me like that again… Ruby started to cry again, and this time Neo held her. It was so empty without you, Neo… It worked out for the better, but- I wanted to go with you. I wanted you here, and you weren't, and-

 

You're freezing, Ruby. Neo pulled her cloak around her shoulders and pulled her to her feet. Come on, I haven't had dinner yet. I can make us more of Nora's pancakes, and then we can have ice cream.

 

I bought neapolitan for you, Ruby said, pulling her cloak tighter to herself as Neo held her hand. The physical contact was reassuring, and tangible proof that Neo was actually there.

 

Raven didn't exactly have refrigerators. Or really electricity at all. I'd rather sleep with Team Douchebag than there, I don't know how she stands it. As they neared the school, Neo sighed and let her illusion slide down her body. Ruby, we should stop holding hands.

 

But-

 

Do you want more rumors about you?

 

I guess you're right.

 

Compared to the freezing January air, Beacon felt like a sauna. Ruby wiped her eyes as they entered the main hall, relishing the glow of happiness and connection she had been missing for the past week. So, you've seen everything that happened here. What happened with Ravem?

 

I could just show you after you go to sleep.

 

Nah, that's no fun. I want to hear about it from you. Ruby bumped into her, accidentally poking her with Rising Thorn. Neo did a double take when she saw the weapon.

 

So that's Summer's weapon?

 

Ruby slung the assault rifle off her back and rested the bump stock on her shoulder. It's literally the coolest thing I've ever seen in my entire life. Check this out! The gun transformed into the naganita, the blade glowing blue as Ruby activated the ice dust cartridge. Activating her semblance, she sprinted through one of the basic katas Tai had shown her then turned it back into an assault rifle and re-sheathed it.

 

You're going to destroy Grimm with that thing.

 

That's the plan.

 

Ruby's body seemed to move faster than her mind, her heart beating furiously as they reached the kitchen. In the end, she ended up doing most of the cooking as Neo lounged on the couch making snarky comments.

 

It wasn't until they were seated across from each other eating that Ruby finally brought the conversation back to what they were both thinking but refusing to say. So, is that it? Can we- Are we going back to normal, just like that?

 

Is this normal anymore? Has this ever been normal? What do you want?

 

What did she want? I love this, Neo. Over winter break, after I had woken up… Just being around you, talking to you… I don't know how it fell apart so fast. Why does what happened before have to affect anything? Why do my feelings for you have to affect anything?

 

They don't. Neo had dumped a big scoop of ice cream on top of her pancakes, and she was ravenously making her way through the stack. I- You've seen my “childhood,” Ruby. What I had was pathetic. Getting to be with you, just having things be normal for once in my life… This is more than I ever could have asked for.

 

So what does that make us?

 

Neo must have heard the longing in her question, because she smiled sadly and shook her head. Friends, for right now at least, but not like how we were. I'm tired of us walking on eggshells around each other, Ruby. Can- Can we promise that we'll tell each other everything, no matter what? I just want to live normally, even if it's only for a little bit.

 

Fine, but under one condition.

 

What?

 

Neo, will you go with me to the dance in five days?

 

Neo smirked at her, and Ruby smiled back at the familiar expression. What if I've just been seducing you this whole time, and this is just bearing the fruits of my labor?

 

So yes?

 

Yes, Rose. You're still as dense as ever. As Neo ate the last bite of her food, Ruby ran around the table and wrapped her arms around Neo

 

Alright! Are you ready to rock the dance floor, my totally platonic best friend who just happens to be extremely sexy?

 

Oh, don't forget the telepathy!

 

How could I?

 

That night, as Neo tucked her into her bed, Ruby felt whole again. She had no nightmares or dreams that night, only peaceful sleep.

 

Everything was going to be alright. As long as she had her friends and Neo by her side, it felt as though nothing could go wrong.

 


 

“Hello? Cinder?”

 

“Hello Emerald. I trust everything has been going according to plan?”

 

“Yes, of course.”

 

“And how are the faunus and the other girl?”

 

“I don't know why you want to work with the White Fang. He's a stupid asshole, but Ironwood loves him for some reason. The other girl, Violet Rose, she went back to Mistral and just came back. She doesn't spend any time with us.”

 

“Dane serves a purpose, and it would be… wise of us to make him feel important.”

 

“I have to admit… After Roman died, I wasn't sure whether we would be able to come back, but the new plan is working even better than the old one.”

 

“You and Mercury have done well. I'm proud of how far the two of you have come. Any other students of note?”

 

“Well, Ruby Rose is… they call her Black Rose here. The rumors talk about how she beat up a bully before killing him, and how her scythe and her cloak are stained with Grimm blood. Course, her scythe was destroyed by Harkan, so that's one fewer problems we have to worry about.”

 

“Those are the rumors. What have you seen?”

 

“A scared girl with depression in over her head.”

 

“Anything else?”

 

“Blake Belladonna goes here, but we've already talked about her. Pyrrha Nikos is just as skilled as ever, she's got a boyfriend too. That kid can barely hold his sword. The Schnee brat seems like she has trouble holding her team together, and none of the upperclassmen are particularly exceptional.”

 

There was a brief silence on the other line. “Our plans are moving into place. We will talk more when I pay my visit during the dance. The cards have fallen in our favor, it would seem. Harkan will be pleased. He has informed us that he is… hungry. I'm sure you understand.”

 

“Y-Yeah, Merc and I will see you soon.”

 

“Oh, and Emerald?”

 

“Yeah, Cinder?”

 

“It's… nice to hear your voice. Watts is rather horrible company alone.”

 

“It's nice to talk to you too Cinder!”

 

“Goodbye, Emerald. Don't forget your mission.”

 

“Of course. Bye Cinder. Hopefully we can talk again soon...”

 

Mercury shook his head as he leaned against the wall. “She hung up on you, didn't she?”

 

Emerald glared at him, turning to stare back up at Beacon's illuminated form. “Come on, we have work to do.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty: Radiance

 


 

re:Bound

 

A Fanfiction by Allison Illuminated

 

Chapter Publish Date: 1/27/18

 


 

You don't want to talk to him.

 

I don't know what I can say.

 

Ruby searched for a mirror in the bronze, for an excuse, as if finding herself at that moment would make her any less lost. Distortion stretched her into a murky brown streak, twisting around the engraved J and falling away at the edges. The metal was cold to touch, taller than her; a heavy-handed melody from Team JNPR's dorm room seemed to echo through the plaque into the hallway.

 

A hand rested on her shoulder, and Neo nodded to towards the doorknob. Yes you do. You've been worrying about this for days, so let's just get it over with.

 

We both owe him an apology, for... Well-

 

She shook her head, illusory energy flickering around her hand where she was touching Ruby. I- Yeah. I'm not even sure why I thought making Jaune into our whipping boy was a good idea.

 

You tried to make me make you kill him that first day, too.

 

Eh, he doesn't need to ever know about that. Neo grinned, leaning on Ruby with her elbow perched on Ruby's shoulder. Besides, I've spent too much time around Team JNPR to kill him now. There's something adorable about how clueless he is, plus he and Pyrrha are cute together.

 

Ruby held back a snicker, and Neo rolled her eyes at her. Her friend's hair spilled over her shoulder, noticeably longer than it had been when she had left. There was something else though, something she couldn't quite seem to grasp. Maybe it was the way Neo was holding herself, or the mix of positive emotions she felt from her, but... You've changed, I think.

 

Warmth flooded Ruby, and a blush rose to her cheeks as Neo slung her arm around her neck and let her emotions trickle into Ruby's thoughts. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe I'm just glad not to be alone anymore. One of her eyes turned white, and she smirked slightly. That's your fault, you know.

 

I should just do it. Yeah. Are you going to come in with me or no?

 

Nah. Yang and Weiss are off planning the dance, so I'm going to go play with Zwei! She flashed Ruby an innocent look, and she couldn't help but to laugh out loud.

 

And Blake?

 

Are you kidding me? Two of her least favorite things in the same room, she'll probably think we're conspiring against her!

 

Are you?

 

Neo burst with childish energy as she exclaimed, Obviously! I'll be around, Zwei and I are going on a top secret mission to put catnip in all of the tuna.

 

Ruby sighed happily as Neo bounced away into her dorm room. I'm so glad she's getting better. Less depressed about Roman, less angry at me, less hung up on her past...

 

Jaune was hunched over his guitar as she turned the doorknob and slipped into the room. He hammered on the strings, missing a beat or a note here and there, but clearly lost in his own world. She watched him for a moment, the way his straw colored hair fell into his face as his foot tapped out a haphazard beat on the threadbare carpet. I- How could I have ever been so mean to him? How was I so oblivious to the people in front of me, that I let Neo convince me that I needed him as a pawn?

 

Closing the door, she cleared her throat. "Um, hi Jaune..."

 

Jaune's head shot up, clearly startled, and he fumbled with his instrument for a moment before setting it down on the bed beside him. "R-Ruby? What are you doing in here?"

 

"Um..." Ruby traced a line across the floor with her foot, regretting letting Neo talk her into doing this. "I was actually hoping that maybe we could talk, if you don't mind."

 

He stared at her for a moment, then shrugged and looked out the window. "Fine, I don't care. Just, make it fast, okay?"

 

Hesitantly, she made her way toward her bed. When she angled to sit next to him, he pulled his guitar next to him to block the surface. Instead, she settled on Pyrrha's bed across from him, folding her hands in her lap. "...I wanted to apologize. For everything, what I said, what I did."

 

"I don't get it." Jaune's expression was cold, and his fists dug into the mattress beneath him. "Pyrrha and Yang both talk about you all the time, about how amazing you are and how hard Beacon and killing that thief have been for you. I've tried to be nice to you, but since the first day I've met you you've been ignoring me. I just figured that you were just Yang's little sister, and if you didn't want to be friends with me then I would still be nice to you because she's my friend, not you."

 

"Oh," Ruby whispered

 

He wasn't done. "The seven of us, my team and yours, we've been giving you every opportunity to join us and you never take it. And then, when you found out my secret, suddenly you're waking me up at four am and beating me when I failed your crazy training, with your weird aura thing and your scary eyes... And now you just expect me to forgive you?"

 

"I don't know." Ruby stared at her feet, unable to meet his eyes. She didn't know what she could say to him – talking about Neo was out of the question. The silence stretched on, and after a bit Jaune picked his guitar back up and began strumming again as he waited for her to talk. "You seem different."

 

"Confidence, I guess, not like you know me well enough to care."

 

She winced at the bitterness he directed at her. "What changed?"

 

"Pyrrha," he answered simply.

 

"You guys make a cute couple."

 

"Thanks, I guess."

 

Ruby sighed, the words she needed to say finally coming to mind. "You're right. I was awful to you, and you don't have to forgive me. I... wasn't myself last semester, but this semester is different. Jaune, from what Pyrrha says, you're a really great guy. I think if things had gone a bit differently we could have been really good friends. If you ever change your mind, I'm right across the hall."

 

Jaune sighed and looked away. "I don't know, Ruby. You say things are going to be different, but... I don't know if I believe you. We're not blind to how dysfunctional your team is. Maybe I'll believe you when I see it. Just... Pyrrha trusts you, for some reason. If you hurt her, you'll pay for it."

 

"I would never," she whispered, disheartened as his eyes fell. "I'm sorry, Jaune."

 

"So am I, Ruby. So am I."

 


 

Ruby, hurry up! How are you still in the bathroom?

 

I'm coming, I'm coming! Ruby tucked her towel back onto the rack, shaking out her wet hair. Her cotton pajamas were soft to the touch as she pulled them over her head. Stepping out of the bathroom, she turned the lights out behind her, walking to the common room. Were you watching me?

 

Oh, come on. We both know I see your memories as soon as you make them unless you purposefully block me out. Besides, I've seen you naked plenty.

 

Ruby rolled her eyes as she walked over to the couch and slumped down next to Neo. I never said that I had a problem with it. I just- No. You didn't. A familiar scent wafted over from the kitchen, almost to good to be true.

 

Neo grinned at her. You know I did.

 

Ruby squealed as she jumped up and pressed her nose against the oven door. You made me cookies? Using Yang's recipe!?

 

I knew you'd be happy, she said smugly as Ruby threw her arms around her, sending her a rapid fire stream of excitement and incoherent explanations which slowly settled into a steady glow of happiness.

 

Thank you, she finally made out after calming down slightly. Rolling off of Neo, she grabbed the edge of the blanket and slid her feet underneath, curling her toes as the warmth enveloped her legs. A porticoed pane over the sink reflected the dimly lit alcoves that dotted Beacon's hallways, too dark to see the wizened oaks growing outside. Sitting still was comfort food, watching the slow rise of cookies together. After a few minutes, Neo's head drooped to rest on Ruby's shoulder. Her hair smelled like strawberries in a spring breeze, and the even rise and fall of her chest soothed Ruby's lingering aches from their training session.

 

Eventually, the cookies finished baking, by which time Neo had long since fallen asleep. Ruby gently extricated herself from her embrace and slid the baking sheet out of the oven. Pouring herself a glass of milk, the cookies melted in her mouth as she quietly watched her sleep.

 

Soft light spilled across her face, peacefully drifting into shadows and pooling at the tip of her nose. Deep sienna hair cascaded down her chest, coming to rest on her upturned fingertips, arms splayed, elbows nested against her chest. A small smile graced her face, free of intention and fear, hopeful to the night.

 

Finishing off the plate, she settled onto the couch, nestling against her back as she pulled the blanket over and let her eyes drift shut. When she finally made it to sleep, Neo was waiting for her, lying in a meadow of summer wildflowers. “What took you so long?” she asked, her voice musical. Ruby's heart ached every time she heard it, knowing that she would never be able to use it beyond their dreams.

 

“You're beautiful,” she said, settling down in the grass beside her.

 

The world flickered for a moment, before Neo murmured, “You don't really mean that, though, You've seen me, seen my scars...”

 

She trailed off as Ruby gently showed her the image of what she had just seen. “You look so happy in your sleep.”

 

“This is really how you see me?” Neo rolled over and reached out, delighting at the spark as their fingers brushed against each other.

 

Ruby just smiled at her. “You came back, Neo. You're really back. I was so scared when you left.”

 

“I told you I was going to come back, idiot,” she whispered. “Didn't you listen to me?”

 

“Neo.” The breeze carried the petals around them into the sky as their hands intertwined. This is what I wanted, the first time. Together in summer… This… This is perfect.

 

“Yeah?”

 

Staring into the deep white pools of Neo's eyes, Ruby reached out with all her heart and everything she had. “I love you.”

 

And Neo reached back, reached out and took Ruby's life in her own, and held it with the weight of her world. “I'm here now, Rose. I'll always be here for you, no matter what happens. Do you remember what I said to you, the first day we arrived back at Beacon?”

 

You don't have to be alone anymore. “I remember.”

 

“I wanted you to live normally. I wanted you to get to be with your sister, and to make friends, and to not let me ruin your life any more than I already had.” Ruby gasped as memories flooded into her head, of intent and plans. Neo closed her eyes, tensing in shame. “I was going to let you settle in, and then I was going to leave. I was going to go murder the rest of Roman's men and maybe Cinder, then go find Raven. I was going to, if Blake hadn't stopped us.”

 

“You were just going to leave?”

 

Neo flickered in her embrace. “Yeah.

 

“Why didn't you?” Ruby felt raw, open; Neo knew her, her mind, her thoughts, and suddenly they were back at the edge of the cliff, watching the broken moon and dangling their feet over the edge.

 

“I thought leaving would free you. I thought leaving would free me, but that wasn't right.” Neo squeezed her hand, and Ruby squeezed back. “It's so easy to be with you, to make you happy, to hurt you, but I'm a mess, Ruby. I've killed so many people because of them, I can't even say their names out loud, and you've given me all of you but I'm still to scared to show you Roman or Au- Au- Augustus.

 

Augustus. The name hung heavy in the air between them, carrying a heavy significance Ruby couldn't ignore. “Was he the fourth? Was he the him that Raven mentioned?” When Neo nodded, Ruby drew her closer to her chest. “Neo, you don't have to tell me anything you don't want to.”

 

“But I want to. I told you, I want to tell you everything.” Neo twisted a blade of grass around her finger, deep in thought. “I want you to know me, like I know you. We're never going to be normal, Ruby. Unless one of us dies, this is going to be the rest of our lives. I don't deserve you. You deserve better than this.”

 

"I don't get it. If- If this is what you wanted, to leave me to live my own life, then why... Why did you come back?"

 

"I was so afraid, Ruby," she whispered. "I thought I was falling into the same trap again, where they would order me around and take away my freedom and make me feel things, things that I didn't truly feel. And when you confessed to me, I was so confused. I didn't know what I felt, but it didn't go away when I left with Raven. I talked to her, about everything. I've told her things I can't even bring myself to think about with you. I thought it would go away, but it only got worse without you around."

 

The thought already burned in Ruby's mind, but she wanted to hear Neo say it. She wanted to hear Neo, to be her light. "Why? Why me?"

 

"You told me you love me, that night." Neo smiled at her, the same gentle smile she had worn sleeping on the couch. "And I ran away, because I was too scared to say 'so do I.' I won't run away anymore. I won't leave you alone again."

 

“I love you, Neo,” Ruby murmured, silver on white, red on pink.

 

“So do I, Ruby.”

 

So do I.

 


 

One, two, three!

 

Ruby and Neo let go of the tablecloth, letting it drift down to come to a rest on the circular cocktail table. Stepping back, they admired their handywork.

 

Beacon's great hall was fully decked out for the formal dance. Blake drapes stretched across the windows, and the last rays of sun filtered through. A wide ring of tables with light gray coverings surrounded the vinyl dance floor, two massive speakers flanking the stylized DJ table. A wide buffet was set out across one wall, and the rest of team WBYRJNPR was hard at work putting the final touches together.

 

Good teamwork?

 

Hell yeah. They high fived as Weiss stepped into the center of the dance floor and cleared her throat into her megaphone.

 

“Alright everyone, we've got less than an hour to finish this, and it's got to be perfect! Ruby and Violet, if you're done with the table cloths then start putting the centerpieces together! Ren, make Nora stop eating all of the hor d'oeuvres! Blake, Yang, I don't know what you're doing behind that table but you're supposed to be choosing the music!”

 

“We are!” Yang yelled as she popped her head up from behind the table, her tone undercut by her mischievous smile and a quiet laugh from Blake. “Get your mind out of the gutter, Ice Queen!”

 

“Hey! I'm in charge of this dance, so you better be taking this seriously, Yang!” Weiss yelled in the megaphone.

 

“Oh, please, when am I ever anything but serious?” Yang yelled back as a hand snaked up and pulled her back down in a fit of laughter.

 

“Why do I even bother?” Weiss asked herself, before calling, “and Jaune and Pyrrha – where did they go?” She looked around the room before spotting them behind a balloon covered column, pressed against the colorful streamers. “Guys! What did I stay? Stay focused!”

 

Pyrrha just grinned and waved at her as they broke apart. “We're sorry, Weiss!” Jaune sighed wistfully and ran his hand through his mussed hair. Glaring at them, Weiss groaned and stomped over to a box of decorations.

 

Neo, can you do the centerpieces for a second?

 

Mhm.

 

Weiss' head snapped up, and she frowned as Ruby walked towards her. “Aren't you supposed to be doing centerpieces?”

 

“Nah, it's fine. Ne- Violet's got it.”

 

Weiss shot her a funny look as she pulled herself up to sit on the table. “You've been in an unusually good mood today. Did something happen?”

 

Ruby smiled to herself as she thought back to the night before, shooting Neo a furtive look. “Nope,” she said, popping the p. Weiss raised her scarred eyebrow at her, the old wound tensing white across her forehead.

 

“So you don't want to tell me. Got it.” She reached into the box and pulled out a stack of doilies. “I'm glad you feel better, though. Yang and I were worried that we would have to drag you here, or something.”

 

She helped her partner pull the rest of the stuff out of the box. “It's going to be fine, Weiss. You and Yang did awesome, so why are you so stressed?”

 

“I know that, dunce.” Weiss shoved her lightly, rolling her eyes as Ruby snickered and pushed her back. “It's nice to have my partner back again. I thought I had you, then you had to go and get yourself in a coma.”

 

Ruby didn't want to ruin the mood, but the question had been lingering since Weiss and Yang had told her what they knew. “And you-”

 

“Shh.” Weiss draped a finger over Ruby's lips, shaking her head. “You're my partner, and unlike Blake and Yang, I haven't been completely oblivious to how you feel. I'll admit, six months ago I was ready to let you walk off Beacon Cliff and die, but now, well...”

 

“Now you're our leader?”

 

“Yeah. It's weird, you know. I used to hate my father's leadership workshops, but now I get it. I disagree with just about everything he ever taught us, but...” Weiss caught her eyes. “It's hard to believe now that I ever let stupid things like race and your age get in the way of my team. I trust you, Ruby. You and Blake will tell us your big secret someday, but for now I'm just glad that everything seems like it's back to normal.”

 

Hugging her, Ruby said, "You're the best leader, Weiss."

 

Weiss hugged her back before they broke apart and turned back to the decorations. "You know, you're a pretty good partner too when you're sane. C'mon, help me with the rest of this. We've got a dance to throw."

 


 

The red heels glared at her from her bed, lying idly as if to mock her. How could shoes be so pointy and shiny? Neo, should I wear these heels?

 

Why the hell are you asking me?

 

Neo snapped at her. Ruby could feel her nerves, so she didn't think anything of it.

 

Because I'm wearing this stupid thing for you, and if you don't want me to wear them I won't.

 

Oh. Um... Neo wasn't doing a very good job of keeping her deliberation from Ruby, and she couldn't help but laugh.

 

You really do like me being taller than you, don't you?

 

That's- I never said-

 

Ruby shot her a mental image of slipping the red heels on, groaning as she shoved her feet into the narrow shoes. It's fine, I'm dressing up for you anyways. She pushed off of Weiss' bed and got to her feet. Wobbling and sticking her arms out to keep her balance, she shakily walked over to the mirror and grimaced at her reflection. Ugh, I hate dresses.

 

Shut up, you look pretty. Besides, you're the one who wears a combat skirt all the time!

 

But that's different!

 

Are you ready? I'm waiting outside.

 

One second… Ruby slipped her scroll into the pocket of her dressing and turning the lights of her dorm room off – Weiss, Yang, and Blake had all gone ahead to greet people already. Alright, I'm… The door swung open, revealing Neo standing in the hallway waiting.

 

She wore a white dress, made of an airy fabric that drifted around her legs. Pink lace adorned the edges, and the bodice hugged her breasts and covered her shoulders. Her pink and brown hair swirled together in a messy bun, and she wore red lip gloss and two different colors of eyeliner.

 

Neo stared at the ground, tracing the carpet with her knee high white boot. I used to dress up for them, so I had lots of custom made dresses and makeup at Roman's apartment. Nobody had been there in months, I had Raven help me break in and get the extra key. I wasn't sure if you would like it…

 

A shiver ran down Ruby's spine, her chest tightening as she gawked at Neo. Never had she seen her so feminine – not in dreams, and certainly not awake. The dress was revealing in new ways, like how she could trace the gentle curves of her hips or the hopeful shimmer in her pink and white eyes. You look like a girl…

 

She received an eye roll, which annoyed her sometimes but now made her stomach turn with desperate anticipation. I always look like a girl, Ruby.

 

No, but I mean like a girly girl, like-

 

And you're wearing a dress, what else is new?

 

Ruby carefully stepped out of her room and took Neo's hand in her own, relishing in the light blush that crossed her face. You're beautiful.

 

So are you.

 

But I'm not. I mean, look at me! I look like a twelve year old playing dress up in my parent's closet, and these stupid heels – how does Weiss live in these things? And then you're, well, you! You're so pretty, and you actually look like a woman and I'm just a teenager and-

 

Heat flashed between the two girls as Neo stepped forwards to come chest to chest with her, gently pushing a finger against her lips. She looked up at Ruby, vulnerable in a way that stirred a deep protectiveness in her chest. Last night, you showed me how you see me. Let me show you how I see you.

 

She blinked, and suddenly she was looking up at herself. Neo stepped back, and Ruby stared at the unfamiliar girl before her. Something deep shone in her silver eyes, awkwardly clutching her arms to hide her chest, a deep blush emblazoning her cheeks. There was a glow about her, red aura highlighting her petite frame like a corona of dust.

 

Ruby, you're beautiful, and I won't let you think anything otherwise. Neo slipped her hand into Ruby's as she fell back into her own body, dazed. C'mon, are we going to stand in the hallway all night or are we going to this dance?

 

 

A wave of deep calm washed over Ruby as she admired Neo, letting the shorter girl lead her down the hall towards the great hall. Yeah. I think I'm ready to dance.

 

 


 

"And done."

 

Yang sat back in her chair with a satisfied sigh as Blake hovered the cursor over the start button. "Ready?"

 

She nodded, and Blake pressed the key. The entire room was silenced as a single drum beat blasted from the oversized speakers. Yang met her partner's eyes with a wild grin, and Blake grinned back as she offered her the megaphone. Standing up on her chair, she cleared her throat as the beat slowly built up, before pausing for a momentary lull at the climax of the build up. A hush fell across the crowd as she caught Yang's thumbs up and responding in kind.

 

Taking a deep breath, Yang shook her hair out and yelled into the megaphone. "Who's ready to get this party started?!" The beat dropped, and the crowd of students went wild as EDM exploded from the speakers and rose across the vinyl floor. She mic dropped the megaphone and collapsed back into the chair, kicking her feet up onto the DJ table.

 

"We did good," Blake said as she rested a hand on Yang's arm.

 

"All of it was for you, Blake. You can blame Weiss for that."

 

Her partner scooted their chairs closer together, and they spent the next few songs leaning against each other watching the dance below. Once the initial excitement had worn off a bit, Blake offered Yang her hand. "Wanna dance?"

 

"You know I do," she said with a grin as she let her partner sweep her away onto the dance floor.

 

They lost themselves in the music and each other as the dance music slowly made way to slower songs. Swaying back and forth, Yang's arms wrapped around Blake, it was the perfect moment to-

 

"Hey Blake! How's it going?"

 

Yang and Blake broke out of their private reverie and turned to face the two boys that had addressed Blake. One was nearly shirtless with a waving tail holding a punch cup, and the other had blue hair that just screamed "I'm trying really hard right now."

 

Blake smiled at them as she looped her arm through Yang's. "Hey Sun, I wasn't sure if I'd see you tonight. Yang, this is Sun. Sun, Yang.” So this is Sun! I hate him already.

 

Sun shot Yang a cheeky grin as her eyes flashed red. "Hey, calm down, I wouldn't even dream of asking her out again. Besides, she's clearly taken." He turned back to Blake and shrugged. "After we heard that you and your team were throwing it, we figured we had to check it out! This is my friend, Neptune."

 

"Yo." Yang burst out laughing as Neptune threw them a two fingered salute, and Blake rolled her eyes as he gave her a confused look. "What?"

 

She and Blake exchanged a knowing look, before Blake asked, “So, you two are together? You make a cute couple.”

 

“Nah, but thanks. Neptune's my bro, we're on the best all male team from Haven,” Sun said, slinging his arm around Neptune's shoulder.

 

“I'm straight,” Neptune said, shrugging apologetically.

 

“Ah, please, everyone's at least a little bit bi. I know you'll come around on me eventually,” Sun said with a wink, and Neptune laughed.

 

“Dude, I've told you, Scarlet's totally into you.”

 

Blake stifled a giggle as Yang laughed harder. “Sun, do you just hit on everyone you meet?”

 

“Nah, just smoldering cat ladies and guys with blue hair and hot abs- Ow!” Sun winced as Neptune and Yang both slugged him at the same time. “Anyways, assuming your possessive girlfriend over here doesn't kill me first, wanna dance for a bit Blake? Platonic, obviously. Figure I still owe you one for the coffee shop.”

 

Turning to Yang, Blake pulled her towards her and whispered, “Are you going to get weird and jealous again if I dance with him?”

 

“You can see his abs, Blake!” Yang hissed, eyeing Sun who had turned back to Neptune.

 

“And what about his abs?”

 

“They're nice abs, I don't know!”

 

“But you like my abs better, right?”

 

“Yes, but-” Blake's eyes sparkled with mirth, and Yang frowned. “He's you're friend, right?”

 

“Pretty much, yeah.”

 

“Tell him I'll punch him through the roof if he touches you,” she acquiesced.

 

Blake kissed her softly before taking a step back. “Have I ever told you that you're hot when you get possessive?”

 

Yang's mind went blank as Blake and Sun walked away talking onto the dance floor. In the days since they had reconciled, it had been a whirlwind of kissing and dance planning and training and more kissing, and it was better than she had ever dreamed. Blake was present, and besides the video, which was still gaining traction, she had never seen her partner happier.

 

Neptune grinned at her as she slowly realized she was just standing there staring off into space. “Seems like you've got someone special there.”

 

Yang beamed back, too high on the lingering taste of her partner's lips to get annoyed at him. He really is way too cool. “Yeah, I really think I do.” She caught a sign of Weiss standing alone in the upper galley. “Hey, I've gotta go. Nice to meet you, Neptune.”

 

“Yeah, you too,” he said, waving at her as she walked towards the nearest staircase in search of her leader.

 


 

Weiss leaned against the wooden bannister, letting her hand run across the length of the wood. Her heels pressed into the carpeted balcony as she stared down at the party below, deep in thought.

 

“We really did it, huh?”

 

She nodded as Yang walked up besides her, propping her elbow up on the balcony. “Yes, I would say it came together quite well.”

 

“Thanks to you, of course.” She didn't respond, and her teammate sighed and grabbed her hand. “Weiss, what's really wrong? Why are you up here alone?”

 

“It's… It's nothing.” Weiss looked away from Yang, their white dresses blending against each other. “I'm just watching the dance, that's all.”

 

“Weiss, I know something is wrong. You can just tell me, you know.” Yang poked her, and Weiss shook her head and sighed.

 

“You and Blake are adorable together, you know.”

 

Yang's eyes widened. “Are you-”

 

“You and Blake. Jaune and Pyrrha. Ren and Nora have always been inseparable. And that just leaves, well,” Weiss gave her a bitter half smile. “Me.”

 

“And Ruby is… well, Ruby, huh.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Yang pulled her into a tight hug, and Weiss let some of the tension she had been holding back loose and relaxed into her teammate's arms. “Weiss, you're my best friend. You know that you can tell me anything, and I'm always here for you.”

 

“Am I really a good leader, Yang?”

 

“Are you kidding me? Yes, Weiss, you're amazing!”

 

Weiss let go of Yang, and she held her left wrist with her other hand. “My entire life, my father has been training and grooming me to become the next heiress of the Schnee Dust Company. I guess on some level, when I came here… I was hoping that maybe I would get to be a part of the team for once, instead of in charge of everything.”

 

“Weiss...”

 

She shook her head and kept talking. “Don't get me wrong – Professor Port and Professor Ozpin have definitely made me into a better leader, but… Wasn't this the only reason Father let me into Beacon in the first place? To learn how to lead people and to use his big book to plan glitzy parties? It's just… Keeping all of us together for the last semester has been so exhausting, Yang. Watching Ruby spiral, and you and Blake going down with her. It's not your fault, but I've been the one who's had to pick up the pieces. You know that I sing, right?”

 

Yang nodded mutely.

 

Weiss took a deep breath and slowly began to sing. Her voice was quiet compared to the music blasting from the speakers below, but Yang could hear every lyric loud and clear.

 

“Who am I to complain?

My life's been spared so much pain

Born with all that I need

My comforts all guaranteed

 

So what's the problem

What's keeping me

From moving forward

It's hard to see

 

I should be free now

I should be fine

But the life I fought for

Still isn't mine

 

Some believe in fairy stories

And the ghosts that they can't see

I know that I could do so much

If I could just believe in me

Mirror mirror

Tell me something

Can I stop my fall?

 

Years of scorn will leave you cold

'Forget your dreams do what you're told'

When disapproval's all you're shown

The safest place becomes alone

 

And isolation's

The price you pay

And every friendship

Is pushed away

 

But bit by bit now

A step each day

I'm slowly starting

To find my way

 

Some believe in fairy stories

And the ghosts that they can't see

I know that I could do so much

If I could just believe in me

Mirror mirror

I'll tell you something

I think I might change it all...”

 

Weiss let out a breath she hadn't realized she had been holding in, turning back to Yang. Her teammate stared at her, her expression broken, before flinging her arms around Weiss again. “You're not alone. You're never alone, Weiss. We're here for you, I'm here for you,” she whispered fiercely.

 

Weiss' shoulders began to shake, and her fingers grasped at the sleeves of Yang's dress. “You're so lucky, Yang. You have- You have a partner who loves you, and I don't even have a partner at all. Ruby's never been there. That first night after we were assigned teams, when I was the only one in the entire school who didn't have a partner, I cried myself to sleep. Even after she came… She left me alone in the Emerald Forest for thirty five minutes. I tried, I tried to help us come together, I tried to teach us, I tried team building, I tried, and she just drifted and then so did Blake, and you were the only one helping me keep us together, then this semester after they fought you and Blake fought, and then I was the only one who stopped us from falling apart all together.”

 

“You're not alone,” Yang echoed, but it seemed to ring hollow by the electronic pounding ringing across the party.

 

“But I am. I've never felt more alone in my entire life,” Weiss whispered, before sinking to her knees and bursting into tears. “I try so hard to be a good leader. I know more than you guys think, so that I can help when you need it. But I'm a leader, not a team mate. Not a friend, really. You're the only person I've talked to in more than small talk and commands since I've gotten here, and you know nothing about me.”

 

“Weiss, that's not true!” Yang said, holding her as she produced a handkerchief from her pocket and noisily blew her nose.

 

“What do you know about my family? About my hobbies? About my past?”

 

“I…”

 

“All I wanted when I came to Beacon was to be normal. I just wanted to be free of my father, and all of that. This was never what I wanted. I just wanted to get to be a normal kid for once in my life, but this… The responsibility, keeping us together…” Weiss pulled her knees to her chest, a strangled sob escaping into her hands. “I can't do this anymore, Yang. I can't.”

 

Yang ran her fingers through Weiss' tight ponytail, squeezing her tight and shaking her head. “Shh… Shh… I'm here for you, Weiss. It's okay, it's all going to be okay. Blake and I made up, Ruby and Blake made up, nothing bad is going to happen. It's okay for you to relax, to not worry about being a leader for one day, to tell us things. You can rely on us, Weiss. We're here for you, even Ruby.”

 

“That's- that's what Ozpin said, but- How?” Her voice broke as she leaned against Yang. “You fell apart, Yang. All three of you did. If I hadn't been there for you-”

 

“Just because you're here for us doesn't mean we can't be here for you, silly,” Yang murmured. “You don't have to be perfect, and you don't have to hide who you are and how you feel from us! You don't have to be alone anymore.”

 

Weiss didn't have anything else to say, so they simply held each other for a while, drifting high above the glitz and thrum of the party they had spent so much time and effort to put together. Yang was her rock, she was cast adrift, but maybe, just maybe, WBYR was finding their way to shore.

 

You don't have to be alone anymore.

 


 

Later, throbbing base had made way for soft ballads. Couples slowly swayed back and forth across the dance floor, Destiny Blue softly crooning through the speakers. Jaune hummed along to the music as he and Pyrrha rocked back and forth on the dance floor.

 

“You really do like this music, don't you?” Pyrrha teased, years of practice and formal balls keeping her upright as she dodged Jaune's awkward feet in her heels. Thanks Mom, I suppose all of those awful dance lessons really did come in handy one day.

 

“Hey, it's nice, okay?” he said, pulling at his tuxedo collar with a lopsided grin. “Besides, it feels special now, kinda.”

 

“We were flying, weren't we?”

 

“What can I say? You're magnetic,” Jaune quipped, laughing as she rolled her eyes.

 

Pyrrha spun him around, letting him fall back into her arms and leaning towards him. “Don't start sounding like Yang on me now.”

 

Weakly, he protested, “Shouldn't I be the one dipping you?”

 

Kissing him, Pyrrha pulled him back up into a standing position. “I'm surprised your sisters never taught you how to dance.”

 

“Well, they did, just not formal stuff like this.” His face flushed as he muttered, “They liked putting me in tutus and making me try their ballet routines.” She burst out laughing. “Hey, it's not that funny!”

 

“I'm sorry, it's just, well…” Pyrrha pressed her hand against his chest. “I don't care that you have so many sisters, Jaune. I think you're a wonderfully masculine guy, and not knowing how to lead doesn't change that. You would look amazing in a dress, though.”

 

Jaune gulped. “I, um, may have a few pictures on my scroll my sisters took of me while they were playing dress up with me. Besides, Ren would look way better in a dress than I would.”

 

“He would.” They both turned to look at Ren and Nora, who were happily dancing off to the side of the dance floor. “They would make a great couple, wouldn't they?”

 

“Yeah...”

 

They danced for a while longer, Jaune deep in thought as Pyrrha watched him. Finally, she poked his arm and asked, “Is there something wrong?”

 

“What? No, of course not! These past two weeks have been, well, amazing really. I just never want this night to end.”

 

Pyrrha lifted his chin up to look him in the eyes. “Then don't think about endings. Let's just be here and now, okay?”

 

“I'm just… I never thought I would have a close friend here, let alone someone like you Pyrrha.” Jaune closed his eyes, soaking in her presence and the music around them. “I'm just so scared that somehow it'll all slip away, that none of this has been real.”

 

“Jaune.” He stared at her as she kissed him again. “I'm real. This is real. Neither of us are going to lose each other.”

 

“You promise?” he asked, his tone raw as the final notes of the song faded away and the next began.

 

“Yeah. I won't let anything take this away from us,” Pyrrha said. Dancing with Jaune, kissing under the cafeteria lights, pressed together like nothing in the world could take it away… This would be a night she would remember for the rest of her life.

 

I promise.

 


 

Baby, it's time to make up your mind

I think that tonight is when our stars align...”

 

The music faded away behind Ruby and Neo as they broke out onto the balcony, spinning around and laughing in the cold January air. Illusions flowed in the air around Neo like water, curling and spiraling into the sky. I can't believe Yang actually played Casey Lee Williams for you.

 

She's not emo! It's art, I tell you, art!

 

Right, because This Will Be The Day isn't angsty at all.

 

Ruby laughed as she leaned against the balcony and stared up at Beacon's shining tower. The school rose into the sky, burning bright against the dark and the shattered moon above. It's so pretty.

 

Thank you, Ruby.

 

For what?

 

Staring at Neo in the dark, her white dress softly glowing by the moonlight, Ruby couldn't help but remember how she had thought her to be like a doll. Dressed up, she looked like a scene from a storybook, the princess trapped in the tower waiting for her bride to come. It was such a far cry from the dark memory, pinning the other girl to rock as they hid from Harkan in the Emerald Forest.Then, Ruby had wondered how Neo could be so beautiful yet so broken. Once, the laughing girl at her side had been an illusion, a mystery, a puzzle to be solved.

 

Now she understood: it was the scars, the vulnerability, the turmoil boiling under the surface that made her seem so beautiful, so fragile yet powerful.

 

Everything.

 

Ruby stepped towards Neo, then paused as she flinched back. Neo?

 

You want to kiss me.

 

She considered denying it before remembering Neo could hear her thoughts. Yeah, I do. You're beautiful, and tonight has been perfect. You don't want to, do you?

 

Neo sighed regretfully as her eyes shifted colors, fingering the lacy edge of her dress. You- You deserve to know why I have such a big problem with intimacy, and all of that. It's- I don't want to ruin this, and I- Kissing is, I-

 

It's fine, you don't have to do anything you don't want to do. Ruby smiled and took her hand instead. I can wait until you're ready to show me everything, Neo. I won't pressure you, and I won't order you around anymore. You deserve better than that.

 

Thank you… Wait, d o you see that?

 

See what?

 

Look at the base of the CCT.

 

Ruby squinted at the door to the communications tower. What about it?

 

The guard is lying face down in the bush.

 

They exchanged a glance as Ruby nodded – sure enough, there was no guard by the door, and she could make out the green visor in the shrubbery. What do we do?

 

Use your semblance and figure out what's happening. I'll get Ozpin if it's bad. Neo grabbed the back of Ruby's dress right as she was about to launch herself off the balcony. Take off your heels, Rose. You aren't a fucking Schnee, be smart. You might have to fight.

 

Ruby kicked her heels off. Thanks, Neo.

 

Good luck. I'll be right behind you.

 

Climbing onto the edge of the balcony, she squeezed Neo's hand one more time before launching herself into the night sky. Moments later, she reformed from the cloud of rose petals at the base of the CCT and ran to the bush. Tapping the guard's shoulder, she muttered, “Please be okay, please be okay, please be okay.” When he didn't respond, she rolled his body over in the bush and immediately regretted it.

 

The man's helmet had been down, and a hole had been melted in the plastic in the shape of a handprint, along with his face below. Ruby dropped the body and staggered backwards, looking around wildly to find three more guards slumped behind columns and in other bushes. Dead. They're all dead.

 

Ruby's combat locker slammed into the ground next to her. Opening it up, she cursed as she found nothing but her gauntlets in the silver compartment. No time to worry about that, I have to stop whoever is inside. Jamming the weapons onto her wrists, she sprinted into the tower. Bodies were littered around the interior, victims of a bloody killing spree. The smell of charred flesh filled the air – from the look of it, some of the guards had been attempting to run away.

 

Holy fuck. Ozpin is coming, he's- Be careful, please.

 

Ruby's stomach turned as she stepped into the elevator. Closing her eyes to ignore the bodies on either side of her, she let the lift carry her to the communications deck. Stepping out, she cocked her gauntlets and opened her eyes.

 

We're too late.

 

Smashed computer screens. Another body draped across the main desk. Small fires burning away at the carpet all around the room.

 

Ruby.

 

 

Ruby, listen to me! Close your eyes! Looking at it more is only going to make it worse.

 

Numb, Ruby let her eyes slip shut. She stood still for a minute, the heat slowly growing until Neo grabbed her hand and pulled her back into the elevator. They're dead. All of them are dead.

 

It's okay, I'm here. Fuck. I can handle this stuff, why did I let you go ahead of me? Fuck!

 

"Miss Rose." Ruby stared blankly at the ground as Ozpin addressed her. "Tell me exactly what you saw."

 

"We were on the balcony, and we spotted a man in the bushes," Ruby said in monotone, too deeply shocked to protest as Neo pushed calm and hope across their bond. "His face was burned off, just like all the other guards, and the tower is on fire."

 

Cinder. It must have been Cinder. Cinder Fall, the psychotic fire bitch I showed you. I could have killed her. I should have killed her. Roman and I fought about it, he made me stay away from her, but she's the only one who could have done that.

 

"Cinder," Ruby muttered, Neo showing her the illusory woman she had seen before. She was the hot one, right.

 

Was that a fucking pun?

 

"How do you know that name?" There was a dangerous tone in Ozpin's voice that seemed to command them to turn to face him. His aura briefly flickered green around his body, and the elevator screeched to a halt.

 

Fuck, let me talk through you.

 

Ruby let her head droop as Neo evenly met the headmaster's furious glare. "Cinder Fall hired Roman to rob dust shops. All I know about her is that she had fire powers, she works for someone else, and she's a crazy psychotic bitch with enough power that Roman was fairly convinced she was going to succeed at the goals she refused to tell us. She sent him to rob Dust Before Dawn. She was his backup. She's the reason he's fucking dead."

 

"Roman Torchwick was working for Cinder Fall?" the headmaster whispered, his eyes widening as he looked at the wreckage around him. "I- I wish you would have trusted me enough to tell me that before now, Neopolitan. This- I have to tell Glynda, James, and Qrow."

 

"What does this mean?" Ruby/Neo asked, the question spinning in both of their minds.

 

Ozpin drew himself up to his full standing position. "Cinder Fall is the Fall Maiden. That's the information Qrow was able to deliver to us after his mission. If she was here, then that means that we've already failed." He released the power he was exerting on the elevator, and the doors slipped opened. "Dead. No ordinary guard stands a chance against a maiden."

 

"This isn't your fault, either of you," Neo said, Ruby's voice harsher than she had ever heard.

 

The look Ozpin gave them was immeasurably old. "I'm afraid that you're wrong, Neopolitan. Perhaps one day I will explain, but this is my fault, and my folly. You two should not have had to witness this. Please, return to the dance or your dorm room. The staff will clean up this mess. I will not this sorrow burden any other students."

 

"But it's okay for it to burden us?" Ruby asked, raising her head as tears threatened the corners of her eyes.

 

"Your bond, the knowledge you carry, is a burden greater than any other student at this academy," Ozpin said as they exited the CCT. "And for that, I am deeply sorry. I must go. Please do not linger."

 

Ruby didn't remember what exactly happened for the rest of the night. Perhaps it was the lingering scent of strawberry shampoo, or crying her eyes out into Neo's chest as they curled up together on her bed.

 

What she did remember in startling, vicious clarity was the vision Neo showed her that night.

 


 

Neo remembered when she had picked out the dress.

 

Three liked to take her places, to walk her around the broken burnt villages from their raids and make her do things. One time, they had found a relatively intact boutique – the owner had fled, and the store was removed from the town square and relatively intact. He had walked her down the row of dresses, occasionally making her strip and try on a new one.

 

The blue fabric was ripped down the middle, violent jags of cotton sitting harsh against her bruised skin. A cut on her side bled the sky purple, seeping into the folds. She laid on the bed where Three had left her after the attack had started, too lost, too numb to do anything more than slowly redress and pull a strip of the dress tight against the wound.

 

Screams came from beyond the tent, clashes and explosions ripping through their camp. The bed was soft, luxury even, stolen from the home of a rich man who had built too far from the kingdoms. It was her prison, and it had been for the nearly six months since Silas had been murdered.

 

Don't leave the bed, he had growled, leering at her as he grabbed his spear and left the tent. I'm not done with you yet for today.

 

The twelve year old didn't have the energy to talk, or even to cry. He had ordered her to shut up when he started with her, and his obedience command had come after she struggled for a moment. An exhaustion pervaded her body, and her head hurt. She was hungry - it had been five days since she had last seen Raven, and there was always the uncertainty that her mother might never come back again.

 

No, she would lay on the bed and wait. There was no alternative, no other option, only the green.

 

Neo, they're overwhelming us! Get up and fight!

 

Her eyes squeezed shut as she was dragged to her feet, her side and pelvis burning out the rest of her dull aches. Grabbing her dagger, she flew out of the tent in her tattered dress, holding her dagger in trembling hands. A circle of men stood in the middle of the camp, and one noticed her and jumped out of the way as she came barreling through.

 

Three knelt in the dirt, his spear kicked to the side as another man stood tall over him. The man wore tight purple legionate armor, his hair shaved back into a tidy crewcut. He laughed as Neo stumbled into the center of the circle, knocking aside her pitiful attempt to attack him. “And here she is! Look at him, the fucking little child molester. Too busy raping his own slave to defend his camp! Is this the man you want to follow? Luckily for you, all of you have just become prisoners of my tribe, and if you act like the obedient little shits you all are, maybe I'll let you stick around.”

 

“She's mine, Augustine,” Three spat, and Augustine spun a roundhouse kick into his head and sent him flying into the dirt.

 

“No. You are nothing in the world but a groveling worm cowering in the dirt. Be grateful that I have the mercy to end your life quickly.”

 

Neo curled up into a ball and blocked her vision, but none of that stopped the excruciating pain that rocked her body as Augustine drew his morning star and plunged the spiked tip through Three's skull.

 

And Augustine's life was horrible, and she knew everything about him. Everything.

 

She gasped as he lifted her chin up with two fingers. Oh, Neo, don't you worry. I would never treat you like that scum did. Everything is going to be just… fine.

 

It wasn't until she looked up into his predatory smile that she realized she was screaming.

 


 

“I still wonder what the police tape around the CCT was, though,” Weiss said as she, Yang, and Blake walked up to the dorm room. Opening the door, she stepped inside and collapsed onto her bed, kicking her heels across the room. “I'm exhausted.”

 

Yang lingered in the doorway, watching her partner and her girlfriend as they relaxed and started changing into pajamas. Blake had found her and Weiss on the second level after a while, and they had spent the rest of the dance talking and making Weiss feel better. “Is everybody okay?”

 

“Yes, I think I'm going to be okay,” Weiss said with a wry smile, slipping her nightgown over her head and flopping back onto her sheets. “Thank you, Yang.”

 

“I'm going to go get us water, I'll be back,” she said. Closing the door behind her, she walked by a sleepy Jaune and Pyrrha and into the kitchen. She froze halfway to the glasses as she heard a noise behind her. Is that… crying?

 

Yang turned around, then froze. Ruby and Violet were curled up against each other on the couch, both desperately sobbing into the other's arms. The scene felt disturbingly intimate, as if she was interrupting something other people weren't supposed to see. Torn between comforting her sister and her discomfort at the way her forehead was pressed against Violet's and the red aura glowing around her body, she turned and ran back to the dorm room.

 

Blake sat straight up in her bed as she burst in. “What's wrong?”

 

“Ruby and Violet are crying on the couch in the common room, and I don't know why,” Yang said, turning to run back out out of the room.

 

“Shit,” Blake muttered, then called, “Yang, wait!”

 

“What do you mean, wait? My sister is crying out there!”

 

She sighed, getting to her feet and walking up to Yang. “I think I need to be the one to talk to her.”

 

Yang stared at her until Weiss quietly spoke up. “Your secret… It has something to do with Violet, doesn't it?” The look on Blake's face must have betrayed what she was thinking, because Weiss sighed. “I thought so. After she left, Ruby withdrew and I suspected it might have something to do with that, but watching them at the dance… Cousins don't dance together like that.”

 

“Wait, Violet isn't actually Ruby's cousin?” Yang asked. “You mean I've been jealous of her since the semester started for no reason?”

 

“Shh!” Blake hissed, hesitating then nodding slightly. “Please, just… you can't tell anyone about this, okay?”

 

“Huh. Y'know, that actually explains a lot.” Yang stepped to the side and let Blake run out into the hallway. Sliding into the kitchen, she ran to Ruby's side and shook the two girls awake. “Ruby, Neo, what's wrong? What happened?”

 

“Blake?” Ruby mumbled. “What's happening?”

 

“You were crying in your sleep,” Blake said as she pulled Ruby to her feet. “Come on, I don't know what's wrong but you'll feel better if you sleep in your own bed.”

 

“Neo,” her teammate mumbled, her red dress rumpled around her knees.

 

She sighed and offered Neo her other hand. “Neo, do you want to sleep with Ruby in our room tonight?”

 

Illusions flickered wildly around Neo as she nodded, staggering to her feet and clinging to Ruby's arm.

 

Yang and Weiss were waiting as Blake led the two girls into the room. There were no words that needed to be exchanged – the rest of Team WBYR buried Ruby and Neo in a group hug and let them cry until they were ready to go to sleep.

 

In that moment, it didn't matter what was wrong, or who knew the secret and who didn't. All that mattered was that they were together, and nobody had any intention of letting go.

 

Uncertainly, a hollow moon span in the balance.

 


 

Cinder was at Beacon. Oz let her slip under his grip, and I won't make the same mistake.

 

Ironwood stood alone on his bridge, stoically watching as the grand Vytal Coliseum drifted into Vale airspace, towering over the peaceful city below.

 

I will not fail these people, Ozpin. I will not let Salem win, and we will not fall. I will protect those that he has failed. No harm will come to the people of Vale under my watch.

 

This, I swear.

 


 

The phone rang once, then twice, then hung dead in the warm night air.

 

“I told you Kali, she probably changed her scroll number. It's been years after all.” Ghira paced back and forth across his study as Kali dropped her scroll and leaned back in his chair.

 

“I know, honey. Should we try the CCT?” she asked, not willing to give up. “The articles say she's a student at Beacon, so we could reach her there.”

 

“I suppose it couldn't hurt.”

 

This time, the line didn't ring and went straight to an automated message. “Hello, you've reached the Vale CCT. We're currently offline, leave a message.”

 

Ghira and Kali exchanged a hopeful smile at the beep, and Kali leaned in towards the mic. “Hi, we'd like to speak to out daughter, Blake Belladonna, who's a student at Beacon Academy. If she asks, could you tell her that we've been invited to come to Vale to speak at the protest being planned for during the Vytal Festival? Thank you.”

 

She hung up, and Ghira smiled at her. “We're finally going to see our little Blake again.”

 

“Yeah.” Kali smiled warmly at the family picture in the center of the desk. “I can't wait.”

 

End of Volume Two

 


 

Date Completed: 1/27/18

 

Chapters: 10

 

Word Count: 55k+

 

Comments: 55

 

Kudos: 116

 

Bookmarks: 18

 

Subscriptions: 38

 

Hits: 3008 

 

 

Collections: 1

 


 

re:Bound Volume Two Soundtrack

 

HEARTHFIRE: Throne to the Wolves – Our Hollow, Our Home (Heartsick)

 

CHECKMATE: Time to Say Goodbye – Casey Lee Williams (RWBY Vol. 2 Soundtrack)

 

BEAUTY AND THE BURDEN: Watching as I Fall – Mike Shinoda (Post Traumatic)

 

PERFECTLY FINE: I Don't Know Why – Imagine Dragons (Evolve)

 

WHIPLASH: Sleepwalking – Bring Me The Horizon (Sempiternal)

 

INNOCENT: With You – Linkin Park (Hybrid Theory)

 

HOLLOW: Don't Go – Bring Me The Horizon (There Is A Hell…)

 

AFTERSHOCKS: Waking Up – Dangerkids (Collapse)

 

NEBULA: All Alright - .fun (Some Nights)

 

RADIANCE: Mirror Mirror Part II – Casey Lee Williams (RWBY Vol. 3 Soundtrack)

 

ENDING: Shine – Casey Lee Williams (RWBY Vol. 2 Soundtrack)

 

STREAM THE SOUNDTRACK ON MY YT CHANEL – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqE4toeyXKYj_Lpu2PqoP5SLVk0BRZeJ1

 


 

ONE MORE GIFT – Check out my concept sketches for Rising Thorn on my Tumblr!

 

Find me at AllisonIlluminated or check out the link! - https://allisonilluminated.tumblr.com/post/169971919268/rising-thorn-rebound-concept-art-excerpted-from

Chapter Text

Volume Three, Chapter One: Ambush

 


 

re:Bound

 

A Fanfiction by Allison Illuminated

 

Chapter Publish Date: 2/3/18

 


 

Disclaimer: I don't own RWBY, and I am not affiliated with Rooster Teeth in any way.

 


 

Trigger Warnings: This work will contain imagery of violence, major character death, bullying, discrimination, abuse, racism, and depression alongside non-graphic mentions of rape, underage sex, and sexual abuse.

 


 

There is no reflection in the dark.

 

Rearrange the pieces – this is a new game. The chessboard is falling, a dust shop window shattered in the dark, black and white illusions melting into the sky. Run and catch the jagged edge, or don't; the blood has already soaked into the depths and twisted humanity's vision too far to ever truly see. Funny how the world seems to melt away, so focused on the receding sky that they never notice the twisting depths below. And when they hit bottom, jolted rudely awake-

 

In these shadows, aura is the only light of Fall.

 


 

Darkness was slow to the open clearing. Dusk had long since fallen, tendrils of spring mist curling around clover leaves in an ephemeral gesture of protection. No, it would do no good, nothing to stop festering claws from crushing the budding plants underfoot as the Grimm pushed through the tangled brambles and into the meadow.

 

The Beowulves halted as the alpha paused mid-stride, its mask rising to face the full moon in confusion. A single crimson petal drifted down to earth, wafting along with the warm breeze before dissipating against the grass underfoot. The Alpha narrowed its beady red eyes, turning back to the path ahead. Flinching, a surprised growl was the last sound to escape its throat as a cloud of petals shot towards the pack.

 

Ruby yelled as she kicked off of the old oak from which she had silently been watching the pack, spiraling into a cloud of rose petals. Using her semblance, the cloud split into thirds, swirling tighter and tighter around the Alpha's hulking frame. Before the Grimm could react, she had carried it into the sky, reforming and drawing Rising Thorn. Her silver eyes glowed in the moonlight, tattered red fabric billowing out into the sky.

 

Metal met black ichor, and a single gunshot sent them hurtling towards the ground.

 

Smoke blew away from the huntress-in-training, her hood falling away from her head to reveal her raven black hair. Rising to her feet, she pulled her naginata out of the grassy dirt and spun into a ready position. Stunned, the pack of Beowulves stared at her before snapping out of their stupor and charging her.

 

Neo?

 

I'm on my way.

 

The corner on her mouth tilted upwards into a self assured smirk, then Ruby sprung into action.

 

Hands flying apart, she yanked both triggers at once. Aura exploded into red rage as she catapulted into the leading Grimm's mask and cut a deadly dust-fueled swathe through the pack. The mass recoiled in momentary panic and tried to regroup, but there was no leader to guide them and no master to save them now.

 

Rising Thorn collapsed in on itself as Ruby spun the blade around to rest on her shoulder just as the dusteel covering slid over. The collapsible barrel slid outwards as the scope popped up, the hilt's thin plates sliding together to form the receiver. She took a deep breath, tensing as the front sight clicked into place. Reaching up, she cocked the extended magazine.

 

There was no need for her sights. The enemy was in every direction, and she was shooting to kill.

 

Semblance powered, her finger jammed against the trigger. The clearing burst into explosive gunfire as lines of Grimm were mowed down with unearthly shrieks of pain. One clip, then two, reloading faster than her eyes could register, the monsters faded into nothingness. Smoke and mist twisted together, settling into a tranquil miasma that skimmed the forest floor.

 

Deep breath in. Shuddering sigh out.

 

The tremors had been faint while the small fry had surrounded her, and now she looked up at one of the biggest Ursa she had ever seen. Stark spikes jutted through its crusty fur, a faint trail of hellish anger leaking from the corner of its mouth. Rearing back on its hind legs, the Grimm roared, sending Ruby's cloak wavering behind her as she took careful aim.

 

Gunfire collided uselessly with the Ursa's matted fur. Ruby paced back, letting Rising Thorn fall to her side and extend back into her naginata as it matched her steps. Breath for breath, wary against the stars, she pushed against the rancid stench and-

 

The Ursa burst towards her, lunging out with reckless swipe. Ruby burst to one side, backflipping under a log as the beast tore through the trees around them. Firing a gauntlet blast to her side, she used her momentum to pull into a tight spiral, vaulting over it with the butt of her shaft and raking her blade down its other flank.

 

Screeching, the Grimm rolled toward her. Her semblance let her dive away from the jagged shards of bone only to be knocked to the ground by its muscular hindleg. She bounced against the dewy grass, her aura flickering around her as her shoulder jammed painfully against a rock. Scraping her hand against the dirt, she slid into a three point landing. Gathering her aura around her, she met the Ursa's charge with a head on lunge, twisting past its reckless swipe and sinking her blade into its shoulder. Reversing her trajectory against its collarbone, she activated her fire dust and yanked her weapon away with a chunk of black flesh.

 

Incensed, it charged her with depredatory furor, its wound painting the ground below black with blood. Darting in and out of its claws, she tore at its chest to little avail. The Ursa slowly pushed her onto the defensive, circling inwards with a single minded focus on its prey. Turning too late to dodge a blow, Ruby brought Rising Thorn up in a two hand grip to block the downwards crush of its forelegs. The overwhelming strength of the Grimm weighed down on her – she only had a moment to act.

 

She blinked, and red flecks of aura speckled her silver eyes.

 

This ends now.

 

Slamming down on where Ruby had been, the beast shrieked in pain as her blade sunk into its neck. She lost her grip on her weapon as the Ursa thrashed about, going to the ground before the Grimm. Her smirk never left her face as it rose to its full height, her weapon slowly letting its lifeforce leak from its neck.

 

Bringing her hands down to her sides, she cocked her gauntlets and shot into motion.

 

Disoriented and in pain, the Ursa couldn't keep pace with her as she circled around it, faster and faster, pushing her semblance to its max. Finally, she found her chance and fell in on the beast. Explosive punches ripped into the Ursa's side, and it collapsed as Ruby flipped onto its bony fur. Ripping Rising Thorn out of its neck, she pinned down the head and sent her blade through the Ursa's eye.

 

Neo leaned against a tree as she sank into a cloud of black mist, crossing her arms. What happened to you needing my help?

 

Who ever said I needed your help? Stooping down, she picked up her weapon, transformed it, and slipped the rifle back under her cloak. Maybe I just wanted to show off Rising Thorn.

 

Oh, will you ever shut up about your weapon? Laughing, she pushed off of the tree and walked up to Ruby, reaching out and wiping a stray bit of dirt from her forehead. We've sparred every day in the last three months since you've gotten her, and you're still not over how cool it is.

 

But it is! Ruby protested, earning herself a flick from Neo.

 

Only you, Rose. C'mon, our watch is over, let's head back to camp.

 

She nodded, giving the clearing one last wary glance. There were so many of them… and so close to Vale, too.

 

Don't dwell on it. Neo slipped her hand in Ruby's and pulled her away. If we worry about it too much, it'll only attract more Grimm, and that's the last thing we need right now.

 


 

The campfire blazed, sparks drifted into the warm April air. Weiss nodded to Yang as she deposited a pile of logs by the fire. “Thank you, that should be enough to last the night.”

 

Yang sat down next to Blake and shrugged. “No big deal. You'd probably get crushed under all the weight anyways, and I'd never make Blake do it.”

 

“Hey! I'll have you know I could carry heavy stuff if I wanted to!” she said indignantly as her teammate burst out laughing. Blake leaned against her shoulder, and Weiss smiled at the couple as she tossed one of the logs onto the fire.

 

“You'd never make me do it, huh?” Blake said as Yang pulled her sleeping bag closer.

 

“'Course not, Kitty Cat.”

 

“Y'know, I still don't get why she get to call you that and I don't.”

 

Dane's muscle top showed off his leopard fur as he collapsed lazily onto his own sleeping back. Yang rolled her eyes at him, kicking him lightly with her foot. “That's because you're an asshole, Dane, and I'm her girlfriend.”

 

The faunus laughed, crossing his arms behind his head. “Guilty as charged, Blondie. If I didn't know better, I'd think we were paired up on this mission just for your lovely team to bask in my wit.”

 

Weiss snorted, eliciting a laugh from Blake. “Oh, get over yourself. You know we're happy to be paired up with Team BLVE, especially considering how many Grimm are around.”

 

It had been three months since the dance, and WBYR and BLVE had been assigned to a joint first combat mission to investigate a hotspot of Grimm activity near Vale. It was only April, but the semester felt like it had flashed by to Weiss. Training, slowly coaxing Ruby out of her shell, watching Jaune and Pyrrha as well as Blake and Yang getting closer…

 

She glanced over to Emmy and Merc, who were quietly talking apart from the campfire. “What's up with them anyways?”

 

Dane leaned in towards the fire, and WBY followed his lead. “Don't let them know I told you this, but Emmy and Merc are kinda… antisocial. Like, really really awkward.”

 

“Ri-ight, so you've decided to grace us with your presence,” Blake quipped, Yang nudging her slightly.

 

“What can I say, you guys are interesting.” Dane flashed them his teeth, which were a little too pointy for Weiss' liking. “'sides, that's why were in Vale in the first place, right? Inter-team bonding?”

 

“Something like that, yeah.” Weiss leaned back and picked up her scroll as it buzzed. “Ruby and Violet are on their way back.”

 

“Are you guys excited for the Vytal Festival?” Dane asked as she leaned back and traced the constellations with her finger.

 

Yang and Blake exchanged a glance, and Blake's left ear twitched as she leaned further into Yang's embrace. “Actually, we're not going to be fighting in the tournament.”

 

Dane blinked, a mask of stunned shock coming across his face. “What?”

 

“Oh, come on, you're a faunus.” Blake's expression darkened. “You must know about the protests and the riots. You've seen all of the coverage on the killings. There's no way you don't know about the march.”

 

“Well, yeah, but I didn't think you would be attending the March for Faunus Rights over participating in the most prestigious combat tournament on Remnant,” he said, a bit flustered.

 

Her eyes narrowed at Dane, and Weiss shot Blake a glance. “Calm down, we're on a mission and we don't want to attract Grimm. Dane, we're not just attending this protest. Blake's parents are speaking there, and we've been assigned to help some professional huntsmen secure the event on her request. Practically all of Vale will either be at the tournament or the protest, so we volunteered.”

 

Dane quirked an eyebrow, and Blake glared at him. “Don't you care about this at all? We both knew Tukson, how can you not want to attend this march?”

 

“I've seen plenty of racism in my life,” he growled, his fur rippling as he flexed his arm. “And I am doing my part fighting against it. I'm not blind. Things are changing in Vale for us, and this protest will bring that to a head.”

 

“I don't get it, Cat Boy.” Dane hissed at Yang as she stared at him coolly. “If you care so much about this protest, why aren't you going?”

 

“Yang. Blake. Dane. If you don't chill out, we will be fighting Beowulves for the rest of the night,” Weiss snapped, shutting them up for a moment.

 

Dane took a deep breath, shooting a glace at Emmy and Merc behind him. “I've been driven out of the huntsmen academies once. I won't give up this oppurtunity, and I intend to fight in this tournament, one way or another.”

 

Driven out? Weiss didn't get a chance to ask him what he had meant by that before Ruby shot into the clearing and tossed herself onto her sleeping bag. “We're back!”

 

“We noticed!” Merc called as Emmy punched him lightly in the arm.

 

Weiss stared at her partner – how could she possibly be okay getting dirt on her bedroll like that? “Ruby, you're filthy.”

 

Her partner pulled herself into a sitting position as she grumbled, “Well, I was fine until the fucking Ursa showed up.”

 

Weiss poked her as Violet slipped out out from the trees and sat beside Ruby. "Language. I'm not sure if Dane can handle it."

 

Ruby stuck her tongue out, before glancing at Violet for long enough to make everyone else uncomfortable. Weiss, used to their weirdness, poked her again. Ruby snapped away from her cousin and frowned. "There were even more tonight then there were this morning. I took down three packs of Beowulves, a couple of Boarbatusks, and an Ursa Major, and N- Violet ran into a lot of Grimm too."

 

"It feels so wrong." Blake shook her head, Yang squeezing her shoulder for comfort. "We're barely five miles from Vale's wall. There shouldn't be any Grimm her, let alone in this concentration. Something's happening out here – I just wish we knew what."

 

Violet tossed Ruby her scroll, and Ruby looked down and said, "Violet says that it's not worth worrying over, but the sooner Emmy, Merc, and Dane start their watch, the better."

 

"We just need to wait for- and never mind! Here's the egomaniac himself."

 

“Students! Sitting around the merry campfire after a hearty fight, how quaint!” Professor Port bellowed as he strode out of the woods. Ruby pulled a face and turned to Violet again, the two losing themselves in their own world again. Seriously, could they be any more obvious about it? It's almost like they're asking for the rest of BLVE to find out.

 

Getting to her feet and setting aside her endless question about the thinly veiled secret, Weiss nodded to the professor. “Professor Port, if you're back, we're ready to switch the watch and go to bed.”

 

“Wonderful!” he exclaimed, his mustache twitching excitedly. “The Grimm are certainly excitable tonight, so do be carefully. I assume you've done an exemplary job keeping the camp in order, Ms. Schnee?”

 

“Of course, sir,” Weiss said, a hint of pride creeping into her voice. She would never forget Port's advice that night he had found her crying in the library, and was glad the professor thought she had improved.

 

“We'll start out watch right away,” Mercury said as he and Emmy rose to their feet. “You can count on us. Dane, come.”

 

“Fuck you too, Merc!” Dane snapped back, before jumping as Weiss poked his fur. “What was that, Ice Queen?”

 

“Well, that was for cursing. I'm not about to only scold Ruby for that, you know. And this-” Weiss kicked his ankle with her heel. “-is for calling me Ice Queen.”

 

Dane smirked at her as he got to his feet. “Would you prefer if I called you Snow Angel?”

 

“Why-” He laughed as he ran into the woods after his teammates, leaving Weiss standing watching him go with clenched fists. “Come back here, you insolent brat!”

 

“Oh Weiss?”

 

“What?!”

 

Yang grinned at her. “If you don't cool down, you might attract the Grimm, and we wouldn't want that, now would we?”

 

Weiss gawked at her, before sitting back down on her sleeping bag in a huff. “I don't even know why I bother with the lot of you. This is a combat mission, we are in a Grimm infested forest, and-”

 

“Breathe, Weiss.” Blake let go of Yang, and she walked to her side and sat down next to her. “You're doing a great job leading us, so it's okay if you relax a bit.”

 

She met her best friend's eyes, taking a deep breath and smoothing out her combat skirt. “Thank you, Yang.”

 

“Anytime.”

Professor Port cleared his throat. “Well then, unless you'd like me to regale you with my dashing tales of-”

 

“Thanks, but no thanks Professor,” Blake said as Yang sat back at her side. “You might scare us so much that the Grimm would come.”

 

“Why, but of course! The creatures of Grimm are-” His speech was interrupted as Yang burst out laughing. “You jest, of course. In that case, I, Professor Port-”

 

“We know who you are, Professor,” Ruby said, causing her entire team to stare at her.

 

Port blinked, scratching his mustache in brief confusion. “Oh. Right. I, um- Away to the tent!”

 

Yang shook her head as he squeezed through the tent flap. “So, Rubes, what's the occasion?”

 

“Did you say you fought an Ursa Major?” Weiss asked over her teammate, and Ruby nodded. “Alone?”

 

Violet nodded with an exasperated sigh as Ruby laughed nervously. “Um, yeah. Ne- Violet was going to help me but she didn't get there fast enough.”

 

A scroll flew at Weiss, and she caught it and read the written text aloud. “'She killed an eight foot tall Ursa in less than two minutes by punching it in the side and stabbing it in the eye.' Y'know, Ruby, sometimes I wonder if you even need the rest of us.”

 

“Violet's a good teacher,” Ruby said, flushing as she pressed her hand to the scar on her side – the same place she had come in with the massive wound the morning she had snapped. Weiss had made a point of not asking Ruby about that day since she had learned of the secret's existence, but it was hard to stop herself sometimes. “Besides, having a team is nice.”

 

“This is just our first mission, too,” Blake offered. “This is what the next two years of our life is going to be like.”

 

“Yeah, Team WBYR is sticking together!” Yang cheered, earning a genuine smile from Weiss.

 

“Don't worry, Ruby. None of us are going anywhere.”

 


 

“I just don't get it! How can those stupid kids be so happy all the time?!”

 

Mercury jumped back as Emerald took an angry swipe at a nearby bush with her weapon. “Woah, chill out, we're done with them. Just forget about it, okay?”

 

“I don't mind them,” Dane said with a nonchalant shrug, earning himself a glare from Emerald.

 

“And you!” she exclaimed, narrowing her red eyes. “You were supposed to tell us all of your orders. Did Adam tell you to spy on them, huh?”

 

“Has it ever occurred to you that some people talk because they, oh, I don't know, actually enjoy other people's complany?” he snarked back.

 

The moon was hidden beyond the foliage as Mercury followed the map on his scroll to the agreed rendez-vous spot. “Can you shut up and let me navigate in piece?” he called back to them, but they were too deep in their argument to notice.

 

“You can't seriously like them, can you?”

 

“They're nice kids with their heart in the right place,” he said. “It's a pity they're in our way, I think I'd have them stick around otherwise. Unlike you, I have the capacity to form real friendships, so how about you go bitch at Mercury instead of bothering me?”

 

Emerald's hand shot to the hilt of her other sickle. “Listen, mutt-”

 

“Leopord, actually,” Dane said blandly, keeping his voice even from years of practice. “Kinda hard to mistake it, I do have spots after all. Now, I'm not sure how your mom fucked a gemstone, but I'm sure we could repeat the process with you-”

 

“Alright, I have an idea,” Mercury growled as he turned to face his bickering teammates. “How about you listen to your leader and shut the fuck up for five minutes so we don't get lost in this forest?”

 

“Yes, si-”

 

Dane flew backwards into a tree as Mercury kicked him in the face. “I told you, shut up!”

 

He groaned as he picked himself up off the ground, growling as Emerald stuck her tongue out at him. Falling into a single file line, they picked their way through the underbrush, killing small Grimm along the way with contemptuous ease. Finally, they made it to the location, a small secluded depression where two men were waiting.

 

Dane ran forwards and fell to his knee before Adam, fully aware of Mercury and Emerald staring daggers into his back. “Adam, sir.”

 

“So this is the… Dane I understand to be so essential to our plans.” Dane rose as his commander gave him the gesture, and turned with deep foreboding to the cloaked man beside him. His deep raspy voice sent shivers down Dane's spine, and he did his best not to let it show. “I was expecting more, although given his commander I'm not entirely surprised.”

 

Dane bit back a retort as Adam stepped forwards. “I am the high commander of Vale's faunus! You will show me more respect than that!”

 

“I will respect who I please,” the man snarled. “I am a far more powerful faunus than you could ever hope to be. You hardly cling to your control of one fifth of an unstable insurgent group!”

 

Adam and Dane both winced as Emerald scoffed and stepped forewards. “Harkan. Where is Cinder?”

 

“I must admit, Mercury, I wasn't entirely sure you knew how to read a map, but I suppose you showed me wrong.”

 

Every head in the clearing turned as Cinder Fall strode into the clearing. A thin trail of fire streamed from her eyes, and her tight red dress left Dane furiously staring at a nearby tree. He was, far and away, the least important person in this clearing and he knew it.

 

“Cinder!” Emerald exclaimed, starting forewards to hug her.

 

The Fall Maiden stopped her with a gesture, meeting Harkan's gaze. “Are you prepared?”

 

“Our… surprise is waiting at my command. The Rose intercepted some of my Beowulf, but not all of them. I can smell them,” he snarled, his tone shifting as an inhuman hunger flickered through his eyes. “It would be so easy… Let me slaughter the students. Their blood is waiting to be spilled.”

 

“Our goal is not to kill them, yet,” Cinder snapped. Dane didn't miss the faint flicker of revulsion that disappeared into flames a moment later. Huh, so Fire Bitch is human. Shocker.

 

“And what exactly is our goal here?” Adam hissed.

 

A hacking laugh rolled through the clearing, Harkan's impossible white face pitched to the sky. “Fear. They will fear the power amassing at their gates. They will fear that a team of nine hunters on an easy mission are sent home early. Most importantly, Ozpin will learn to fear me once more, and then I will feed.”

 

Cinder nodded. “I came to collect Mercury and Emerald. You will not reveal yourself until their airlift has arrived. Dane will return to the students, and I believe you have business in Vale Adam?”

 

Adam nodded, and looked to him. “Do not fail you brothers and sisters in the White Fang.”

 

Dane nodded, then two fingers rested under his chin and tilted his head upwards. Cinder Fall smouldered – there was no other way he could think to describe her. “Ever since the plans have changed, we have put a great deal of faith in you, Dane Lilac. You would do well to remember that.”

 

“I was promised revenge,” he growled back, unwilling to budge as the hot fingertips below his chin slowly began to burn his skin.

 

“And you'll get it,” Cinder said, dropping her fingers and turning away. “Launch the assault. I expect you'll have three minutes to make it back to the camp before their help arrives. As far as you know, Mercury and Emerald were separated from you by an overwhelmingly powerful Grimm and slaughtered, their bodies desecrated beyond retrieval.”

 

“Understo-”

 

Dane jumped back and reached for his weapon as a Beowulf slunk out from the underbrush. Surprisingly, it made no move to attack – it wasn't until it walked up to Harkan that he understood.

 

Turning on his heel, he set off in a dead sprint back from the way he had come.

 

A lone howl rang split the sky, and the forest began to shake.

 


 

She's so beautiful.

 

Blake sat by the fading firelight, watching Yang as she peacefully slept. Stress made her insomnia worse, and on a mission she had plenty of it. Her girlfriend's long blonde hair drifted across her sleeping bag even as she brushed it out of her face. She sighed in contemplative admiration, reflecting on the whirlwind of the last three months of her life.

 

Being with Yang was everything she could have hoped for, but at the same time it felt no different than the time she had known her partner before they had gotten together. Yang, as it turned out, knew everything about Vale, and they had gone on a whirlwind tour of all the best restaurants and nightclubs in the city. Even as she had watched the video of the soldiers assaulting her go viral, her time with Yang had been the best of her life so far. She couldn't remember being so happy with, well, everything since the last time she had been to Menagerie.

 

God, my parents are arriving this week. Are they going to like Yang? Should we take them to meet Tai? Tai likes me, that's a good sign, right?

 

Ironic, how nothing in her struggle for faunus rights worked until she stopped fighting for it. One moment they had nothing, and now the mess that had started with Tukson's shooting had spiraled into a full out movement. It hadn't really struck Blake how momentous the march was going to be until March, when her father had told her the true reason for their visit – he had been invited to give a speech as the former leader of the White Fang.

 

I was looking forwards to the tournament, but this is more important. We're going to be protecting tens of thousands of faunus, and we have to be ready.

 

But for now…

 

Blake shuffled her sleeping bag closer to Yang's; she wasn't anywhere close to sleepy, but she craved the physical contact and her partner's warmth. The forest seemed to growl around her, restless under the starry- No, I think the forest in actually growling.

 

“Wake up!” Blake screamed, jumping to her feet and ripping Gambol Shroud out of its sheathe. A huge Grimm burst out of the woods headed straight for the campfire. Letting her instincts take control, Blake launched herself at the beast, then made a shadow clone at the last second possible. It roared as its paw was covered with thick eyes, skidding to stop just short of the sleeping bag as she rose to her feet.

 

Yang screamed as she woke up to find a black paw inches from her head, exploding out of bed as Ruby and Neo made a dash for their weapons. Weiss was already standing with Myrtenaster cocked and ready, staring at the monster in horror. “What is that thing?”

 

“That, huntresses, is a Beringel. Get away from it and call for help! If a Grimm of that size and rarity is here, then something is deeply wrong here!” Port drew his axe as Weiss, Yang, and Blake all sprinted behind the veteran hunter, Yang fumbling with her scroll as Weiss aimed her rapier at the Grimm. “Miss Rose! Get back here!”

 

“Ruby, what are you doing?” Yang yelled as Ruby and Neo flew at the Beringel with their respective blade. Turning faster than should have been possible for a creature of its size, the Grimm swatted through where they had been. Ruby's triple cloud of rose petals reformed as Neo's sword sunk into the Beringel's neck and Ruby's naginata cut and lodged in its shoulder, right as it rolled backwards, nearly crushing her underneath.

 

“We can fight this!” Ruby yelled as Neo collided with a tree, sinking to the ground before slowly getting to her feet.

 

Weiss' response was drowned out by a chorus of Beowulf howls. Dane burst into the clearing with wild eyes, his weapon clutched in his grip. “There's a horde coming, we have to go!”

 

“They can have an airship here in three minutes,” Yang said as the first of the Beowulves burst from the trees. “Ruby, we need your cover fire! Get over here!”

 

Ruby was far more occupied with keeping the Beringel away from Neo, desperately fending off its blunt swings as the dazed girl behind her rose. Just as she was about to stumble over her, a fireball crashed into the beast and bowled it over three smaller Grimm, which were dropping like flies under the combined fire from her three teammates and Dane.

 

Professor Port stooped down and helped Neo up, then turned to Ruby. All traces of grandiose had disappeared from his face. “Miss Rose. When I tell you to run, you run!”

 

Gulping, Ruby grabbed Neo and sprinted to her teammate's side. “Weiss, get ammo ready!” Transforming Rising Thorn, she took aim at the approaching swarm of Grimm and pulled the trigger.

 

“Ruby, you're an idiot! Sometimes you actually need to follow orders!” Weiss yelled, holding out three extra clips as Ruby started mowing down Grimm and reloading at superhuman speeds.

 

Yang had her scroll pressed to her ear again as Blake shot the Beowulves that had tried to circle around their back. “Are you okay?” she asked urgently.

 

Letting her scroll drop, Yang nodded. “We have to move! They can't land an airship here, we have to go to the nearest clearing! Follow me! Professor!”

 

“Go ahead! I've got this under control!” Port shouted back, rolling under a wild swipe and launching another fireball into the Grimm's chest.

 

“I'll find the best spot!” Ruby yelled and vanished in a cloud of petals, leaving an entire flank uncovered.

 

“Ruby, you can't just leave, you have to cover for us!” Weiss screeched as she and Dane went back to back to stop the Grimm from reaching Neo, who was still dazed in the center of their tight circle. “Where are Emerald and Mercury?”

 

Dane's back went rigid. “We got split up. When I found them, their bodies were barely recognizable. They died. My teammates are dead.”

 

Weiss' head spun, and Blake and Yang both gasped in horror as the implications of his statements. Ruby reappeared in the circle and picked up Neo. “Follow me!”

 

Professor Port broke off from engaging the Beringel and sprinted after them as Ruby ran through the forest towards an open clearing. It smashed through trees after them, bellowing as smaller Grimm raced past it and nipped at their heels.

 

A floodlight shone down on the clearing, and Ruby shot into the aircraft with Neo as it landed and the doors opened. The rest of her team and Dane came racing in after her, and Port came stumbling in the rear.

 

“Where did the Grimm go?” Yang called as the engines started to pickup again.

 

“No, who's that?” Weiss asked, watching as a black cloaked man stepped from the edge of the forest into the clearing.

 

Ruby screamed as his cloak fell away, revealing a stark white face and a massive broadsword that the man slowly drew as they lifted off the ground. “He's here! We have to move! We have to get out of here!”

 

“He?”

 

“Harkan! He's the one that attacked me in Forever Fall!”

 

“What?! Go faster!”

 

The transport kicked up to max speed as Harkan lifted his sword up and plunged it into the ground. The earth seemed to seize beneath him before exploding outwards into an expanding sphere of eerie blue light. Blake's eyes widened – the energy was moving faster than them. “Weiss, can your glyphs move us faster?”

 

Weiss nodded, thrusting the tip of her rapier into the metal floor and creating a massive gravity glyph holding all seven of them in place. Pointing back to the expanding sphere of blue, she ricocheted the aircraft faster and faster as the energy picked up speed. The wings rattled dangerously as the hull groaned under the increased pressure. “What is that?”

 

“I don't know, but it's bad!” Ruby yelled back as Weiss slumped. “Can you keep going?”

 

“No, I only have enough left to hold the gravity glyph! This will have to be enough.”

 

The blue gained on them, starting to peter out yet gaining speed. Finally it faded away, the tail of the bullhead barely clearing the energy's final reach. Weiss collapsed to the floor in exhaustion, and everyone cried out in alarm as they were thrown against the back wall of the passenger compartment, the open door sliding shut with a hiss.

 

Yang and Port ran to Weiss' side as the plane leveled out and began slowing to a reasonable speed. “Miss Schnee, are you okay?” he asked, tapping her shoulder.

 

Her eyes blinked open groggily, and she slurred, “I'm okay, talk to Dane.”

 

Yang stayed by her leader's side as everybody else in the plane turned to Dane. “Mr. Lilac. What happened on your watch, and where are Ms. Silver and Mr. Blaise?”

 

A deeply disturbed and haunted look was plastered across his face as he murmured, “We were separated. I found their bodies. They're dead.”

“Dead?” Ruby whispered, before her eyes widened. “Harkan- His semblance, he has the power to destroy electronics. What if that blast-”

 

“EMP, electromagnetic pulse. He was trying to blow out aircraft out of the sky.” Professor Port closed his eyes and bowed his head. “We are all lucky to be alive right now, children. Let us not forget that, not when that- that thing has just claimed two young hunters.”

 

“We- we're just going to leave their bodies out there for the Grimm?” Blake asked, sending a ripple through the muted shock that hung over the room.

 

“There was nothing left to salvage,” Dane muttered. “They're just… gone. My team. Gone. Left me here alone.”

 

Ruby let out a strangled half sob and hugged Violet, who was staring blankly at the wall before her. Blake watched her, the horrified feeling in her gut twisting as she knew the true implications of the gesture. Running across the interior, she threw her arms around the bonded girls and whispered, “It's okay, you're still here, he didn't get you.”

 

“No, it's not! It's not okay! Emmy and Merc are d-dead!” Ruby whispered. “He was here. He was here for us.”

 


 

Cinder found Harkan watching the sky with a malicious smirk. “The plan?”

 

“Went off without a hitch.”

 

“And they are alive?”

 

Harkan nodded. “Tell your master she did well. You are an adequate pawn for her plans.”

 

Biting back a shriek of rage, she bowed stiffly. “We will be ready, when the day comes.”

 

“Oh, of that I have no doubt. I… Well, I have been ready for this for a very long time. Do not disappoint me, Miss Fall. I think you'll find I don't take it kindly, and you...” Harkan grinned eerily at her. “I've never tasted a maiden's powers before, have I?”

 

From the branches of a nearby tree, a crow took flight, spiraling away into the air above. All Cinder could here echoing in her ears was the hollow laughter, shaking her to her core.

Chapter Text

Volume Three, Chapter Two: Strength of Void

 


 

re:Bound

 

A Fanfiction by Allison Illuminated

 

Chapter Publish Date: 2/10/18

 


 

No, I'm not going to calm down!

 

Ruby released her controls on her aura even further. She was red, explosive – Rising Thorn bit through the cool air of the training room only to collide with another dusteel blade with a resounding clash.

 

Neo's pink eyes burned as she leaned in on their locked blade. And I told you, there was nothing we could do! If you deplete your aura right now I'm not going to heal you; I'll just drag you to the hospital wing and leave you there!

 

Don't you care? The sparring came natural – both girls knew the other's moves so well the combat became more akin to a dance. She didn't hold back, putting the full force of her semblance behind her swings. A flurry of blows and illusions burst across the room as they blew off steam. They're dead!

 

Neo cartwheeled under a lunge and kicked at Ruby's stomach, sending her staggering back. Her sword flicked back and forth as she stalked after her. Of course I care, I lived with them for three months! But sometimes, Rose, deaths aren't your fault! You should know that better than anyone, so stop fucking blaming yourself!

 

If I had-

 

You were asleep. Unless strength means single-handedly beating a horde of Grimm sleepwalking, which it doesn't, there was no way we could have stopped this!

 

Ruby kicked further into her semblance, spiraling around Neo as a cloud of petals. Reforming above Neo, she stabbed downwards only for her blade to meet Neo's parasol. It's not fair! It was a training mission! People don't die on training missions!

 

Neo spun her umbrella, throwing Ruby off as she brought her weapon back to her side. She skidded away, coming to a full stop as Neo's shoulders sagged and her countenance fell. Yeah, well clearly sometimes they do.

 

Rising Thorn fell out of her hands, slowly tumbling to the ground and clattering against the floor. They stared at each other, then fell into a tight standing hug. She had grown an inch in the past semester, and now Neo could comfortably nest her head against Ruby's neck. Neo's arms wrapped tight around her waist, and Ruby held one hand against Neo's head and the other at her back. Harkan. He killed them.

 

I know. I'm putting you in danger. Everyone around is in danger, because of me.

 

“So if you two are done trying to kill each other...”

 

They sprung apart, a warm blush highlighting Ruby's cheeks. She turned to face Weiss. “Aah, Weiss! We were, um- I- What did you want again?”

 

It took one look at her leader's face to see that Weiss Schnee was not happy. “What the hell was that, out there? Were you trying to get killed?!”

 

Are you fucking kidding me?!

 

Ruby froze as Weiss advanced on her, wilting under her icy blue glare. “What do you mean?”

 

“Ruby Rose, I told you twice to listen to me, and you ignored me! Do you understand how much of a dangerous reckless stupid idiotic idea it was to take a Beringel head on!? Do you!?” Weiss yelled.

 

“I had no choice-”

 

“Oh, you had no choice, huh?” Weiss snapped. “What if you had died too? You aren't a solo huntress, Ruby. You're on a team, and I am the leader! You've been ignoring my instructions all semester, and this is what happens when you don't listen! I'm sick of it! If you want to be a part of Team WBYR, you have to act like it! Blake, Yang, and I have been working on teamwork for eight months, and you throw any battle plan we have right out the window the second you unleash Rising Thorn!”

 

“I was being a huntress!” Neo caught her wrist before she could go for her weapon, then squeezed when she tried to break free of the grip. “That thing almost crushed Yang! Why the hell would we retreat and circle up against something that big? There's a reason we slept with our weapons by our sides – so we could fight if something like this happened!”

 

“We aren't ready to handle a Grimm that strong! If Professor Port hadn't been there-”

“Yeah, what if he hadn't been there? That thing was strong enough to take all six of us down in a single swing back to back like that! It's our job to be strong enough! Violet and I could have handled it!”

 

“Yeah, you could have handled it, just like Merc and Emmy could have handled it.” Weiss' voice cracked, and Ruby shut up as another wave of regret and anger ripped at her chest. “I thought you were going to get killed. I thought I was going to have to bury my partner too.”

 

“Weiss...” Neo let go of her and gently picked her weapon up as silence hung heavy between the partners. “I'm sorry...”

 

“Well, maybe you should consider showing it for once.” Weiss turned away, walking towards the exit. “We've been together in the dorm – maybe you should hang out with your team for once instead of having your secret romance with your fake cousin for once.” She slammed the door shut behind her, leaving Ruby and Neo gaping in her wake.

 

You have to go apologize.

 

Are you going to come?

 

No. When Ruby hesitated, she shook her head. She needs you more than I do right now. I've seen plenty of death. I'll be fine.

 

But you're not fine.

 

I will be. Besides, it's not like I'm going anywhere, idiot. A flickering illusory Neo appeared next to the real one, and both nodded at the door. Go.

 

If it hadn't been for the faint crying coming from a nearby alcove, Ruby might have sprinted past Weiss. She skidded to a halt, backtracking to find her partner curled up on the floor by a marble statue. Without thinking, she sunk down the cold stone next to her, Neo's illusion watching by her side. Should I say something?

 

Uh… Maybe just let her spit it out herself? She'll talk to you, probably.

 

Sure enough, Weiss slowly started to calm down, leaned ever so slightly against her tucked-in knees. Ruby tried to remember what Yang did whenever she cried – hushing Weiss, she brushed her ponytail out of her face and leaning back.

 

“I failed.”

 

“You didn't fail,” she whispered. “You were a great leader! You took action, and you did the best you could.”

 

“You don't get it, Ruby.” Weiss' gaze was distant, her clenched fist white against her knees. “You're not a leader - you're a hero. You go after crime lords alone and take massive Grimm head-on. You can't understand what it really means to have a team, to lead a team. Remnant needs people like you, but there is a time and a place for that. This was a training mission, I was in charge, and now two people are dead. That's a failure. Running away is a failure, and it's my fault because as a leader, it's my job to keep all of you safe – and yes, that includes you.”

 

“Weiss...”

 

The Schnee heiress sighed, her head pressing back against the statue. “You don't know what it was like, growing up with my father. I've been training to be a leader my entire life, and this is what happens the first time I get a real chance to prove myself. I'm eighteen now. I'm not a kid anymore, and I can't afford to screw up like this because people get hurt!”

 

Ruby caught Weiss' fist before she could slam it into the stone. “No. This wasn't your fault.”

 

Tell her what I told you.

 

“Didn't you listen to a thing I just said?” Weiss exclaimed, whipping around to shoot her a furious glare. “I told you, you don't understand-”

 

“And I'm telling you that you're wrong.” She let go of Weiss' fist, gently resting her hand on the floor. “You were asleep, Emmy and Merc were ambushed, and we had no idea how strong the Grimm were. We both know that wasn't the first year Grimm clearing mission we signed up for. Nobody is going to blame you for this.”

 

“But-”

 

“Look, Weiss, we both know I'm a terrible partner. Thing is, it's still my job to support you, just like it's yours to do the same thing for me, so listen to me. If you hadn't been leading our team, we probably would have fallen apart months ago. You're amazing, and this wasn't your fault.”

 

Weiss deflated, hanging her head and letting her knees slide away from her chest. “I- I guess you're right.”

 

Sighing, Ruby pushed herself into a standing position and offered her hand out. “You're right. We should be together right now, as a team.”

 

She pulled Weiss up, and the heiress met her defeated gaze. “We're still here, and that's what matters. C'mon, we've already left Yang and Blake alone for too long, god knows what they've been doing alone.”

 

Ruby smiled slightly as Neo's illusion slipped her spectral hand into her other. “Yeah. Let's go home.”

 


 

Clouds shifted the shadows, rain violently pelting the airship's window. Dane stared blankly at the storm raging outside, lost in thought as a teacup was placed in front of him. He was not here, no – his thoughts were still on the desperate chaos of the Grimm and the pulsing blue light racing to catch up with the bullhead.

 

That was the power Fire Bitch and Pale Face have… Adam, what have you gotten the White Fang into?

 

Growing up in Atlas, the Grimm had always seemed so distant. Between the military and hunters, he had never seen a Grimm until he joined Atlas Academy – even then, it was only on carefully controlled training missions. It hadn't been until he left the academy and traveled to Vale to find the White Fang that he understood how destructive and vicious the creatures truly were beyond safe walls.

 

But this, how the Grimm had swarmed and attacked on cue… It felt wrong, deeply wrong, and he would be lying to himself if he said he wasn't afraid.

 

And that fear made grief all the easier to fake.

 

“Dane, I am deeply sorry for your loss. If we had known the Grimm would gather in such high concentrations, we would never have sent your team and Team WBYR in to fight.” General Ironwood settled into a chair across from him, picking up his own teacup.

 

Dane left his untouched. "I understand, sir."

 

"Are you alright?"

 

"No." He let the silence stretch on for a moment, then said, "Sir, the Grimm... They were like nothing that I've ever seen in my life, and so close to the city. It felt like something is happening, something big..."

 

Ironwood's eyes widened, just like Dane knew he would. He's so predictable, it's almost funny. "Do you have proof for that?"

 

"That man... The one who created the EMP... Who was he?" he asked, careful to keep his tone level.

 

"He..." Ironwood's frown deepened, and he rose to his feet and walked to the stormy window. "That was a man named Harkan... His semblance allows him to disable and destroy electrical objects, and that was a physical manifestation of it."

 

Destroying ele- Holy shit, that's an overpowered semblance. Then again, it's so specific... "They're dead. Half of my team dead, just like that..."

 

"This is the burden we carry with us every day." The general bowed his head, lacing his fingers together behind his back. "We are protectors, and people look to us to guarantee their safety. We put ourselves in harm's way instead of those who are not able to do the same."

 

"Now it's just me and Violet," Dane said, a hint of true bitterness creeping into his tone. Emerald and Mercury were no charmers, but there was a professional quality to their relationship he appreciated. Violet, on the other hand, was a mystery on a mystery - mute, inseparable from her cousin Ruby Rose, brilliant in the training room. She was the only person who had managed to even match up to the Black Rose in the time he'd been at Beacon, and their fights were a true spectacle to watch.

 

Ironwood's shoulders stiffened, almost imperceptibly, and Dane narrowed his eyes.

 

He already knew Violet had a secret, and that it had something to do with Ruby; clearly, Ironwood was in on the know.

 

"Actually, Ozpin has informed me that he won't allow a two-person team to room together at Beacon. That's why I called you up here, actually - to check up on you and to tell you your new team assignment."

 

Dane blinked. "What?"

 

"As I'm sure you're aware, Cardin Winchester tragically lost his life last November, and his team has been left with three people ever since. Your new teammates will be Dove, Russel, and Sky."

 

"You're kidding, right?" he asked, the edge of his lip pushing up as Ironwood shook his head. "My teammates are dead, and you're putting me with a C-class team of disgraced leaderless bullies?! Racist too, if I understand it right."

 

"Dane-"

 

He ignored the warning in the general's voice, pushing his fury down and changing the subject. Of course, things are exactly the same as they were before. "And what exactly are you planning on doing with Violet?"

 

"I believe Ozpin intends for her to room with Team WBYR. I understand she works well with them." Ironwood turned around and met Dane's expression with a stern ultimatum. "You are grieving, Dane, but we must keep moving forward. If you don't have a full four-person team, you won't be able to compete in the Vytal festival. You have a promising career ahead of you, and we are doing our best to facilitate that."

 

"And what about her? Team WBYR isn't going to be in the Vytal Festival, don't you care about her 'future career' too?" he hissed, pitying how bad Ironwood was at concealing his thoughts.

 

"Violet had already expressed interesting in joining Team WBYR in keeping the peace at the Faunus Rights march. We decided this was the best course of action - surely you can understand that."

 

Dane rose to his feet, setting the teacup down as his face fell into a deeper scowl. "And this is already happening, huh. I guess there isn't much else for us to talk about today, is there?"

 

"I am sorry. You have my assurance that we will increase our troop presence in Vale, and another tragedy like this will not happen under my watch.”

 

“Sure.” Like you have any idea what's happening in this kingdom. Dane stalked towards the door, pulling it open to the surprise of the Atlesian soldier standing outside.

 

“Oh, and Dane?”

 

He fought his face back to a reasonable position, then turned back to the office. Ironwood watched him with concern, and Dane nearly growled at the look of utter sincerity. Why is he so hard to hate sometimes? “What?”

 

“If you ever want to talk, my ship is always open.”

 

He paused, then nodded, a slow smile crossing his face. “I'll keep that in mind, General. I hope you don't mind if I take you up on that, sometimes.”

 

“Not at all.” The door swung shut, and James sank down at his desk and put his head in his hands. “Not at all...”

 


 

After Augustus took me, I didn't see Raven for a while. I'm not sure why – all I know was that when she came back, she was… different. Maybe it was the look in her eyes, maybe it was something about the way she walked, held herself. I guess that was ten years ago, now.

 

And Augustus?

 

I was afraid at first, but for that first couple of months, he was nice to me. I was well-fed, for the first time since Starling I got good training, real clothes… It wasn't until I found Raven again that things started to change...

 

Trees brushed the sky purple, smoke rising from campfires into the night air. The guard never had a chance to yawn as the blade met his throat. Neo ripped her knife out, the air rippling as she concentrated on maintaining her invisibility.

 

Now thirteen, her long hair fell down her back. She wore an old pair of beige combat fatigues – the pants were infinitely easier to fight in than any other combat outfit she had ever had, plus it was comfortable. Augustine had given her personal permission to slaughter any of his men who tried to make a move on her, and she took greater pride in her combat prowess than ever before in her life.

 

Tonight, though, she was on an assassination mission.

 

With the guard dead, it was easy to let her guard down for a moment and slip into the camp. She still struggled with her invisibility illusion – it took a lot of concentration to project her semblance onto her body. Once in, she shot to the shadows and slunk towards the main tent where she knew the leader of this particular bandit tribe would be.

 

Augustine wasn't content with just his tribe. No, he wanted to lead all of the bandit tribes on Anima, and Neo was his right-hand girl.

 

The tent was silent. She had done this before; as a little kid, killing the leader's entire family had made her vomit, but now she hardened her emotions and sunk the blade in without a second thought. He had commanded her to do it, and she had no reason to disobey: Augustine treated her well, and it wasn't like she had a choice anyways.

 

The chief choked on his own blood. As if on cue, screams came from the main camp. Neo sprung away from his bedside, making a break for the back entrance. I don't know what that is, but I don't want to be here to find out.

 

Slinking through the shadows, she stopped short and frowned. On the other hand, I need to figure out who's attacking this tribe, or else he'll just send me out to figure it out anyways. Turning back, she crouched behind a tent and watched the battle in the center of the camp.

 

Bandits fought bandits, bloody combat that sent people to the ground and knocked tents aside. The resident tribe was slowly driven backward, pushed into a semicircle around the main tent for their last stand. The other tribe began to advance, only to stop as a dark figure strode forward and yelled, “Hold your attack.”

 

Neo's breath caught in her throat – she didn't bear to hope, to believe the woman with raven hair and a Grimm mask could be Raven. Before she knew it, she was running out from the shadows and throwing herself at the Nevermore Queen. “Raven!”

 

Both tribes stared as Raven caught her defensive blow in midair and whispered, “Neo?”

 

Their weapons clattered to the ground as Neo burst into tears, clinging to Raven as the men around them whispered to each other. “H-he was so awful...”

 

“It's really you...” the bandit leader murmured in stunned disbelief, then she started to shake with visible fury as a strange blue haze surrounded her body. Neo was too overcome with emotion to put together any reasonable question. “Is he-”

 

“Dead. Augustine is better, but...” Neo sniffed, squeezing Raven tighter. “I missed you.”

 

Raven ran her fingers through her hair, shaking her head. “You've gotten so much taller…”

 

“Hey, can somebody tell me what the fuck is going on?”

 

The speaker was one of the defeated tribe's men – both tribes were awkwardly standing around with their weapons drawn. Before Raven could react, Neo broke away from her and turned to the man. “Oh, you want to know what's going on?”

 

The man gulped and braced his sword as illusions slowly began to spiral around Neo's body. “I, um… yes?”

 

“What's happening,” she snarled, her pleasant expression of disinterest turning ugly as her smirk deepened, “is your leader is dead in his room, choking in a pool of his own blood, while I just found my mom for the first time in a year. Guess what you just did? Interrupted it.”

 

“Th- the Nevermore Queen is your mom?” the man squeaked, and Neo shrugged as her eyes shifted colors. “Ho-”

 

The man never got a chance to finish his question before she launched herself at him. Illusion spiraled around him, and he fell to the ground with a terrified whimper before she sent her blade through his neck. The rest of the defeated men stumbled backward as she casually let go of the dead man's shoulder and kicked his body to one side. “Anyone else feel like pissing me off? Why are you even carrying your weapons? I told you, your leader is dead.”

 

Neo turned back to Raven, spinning her dagger in her hand. She was staring appraisingly and gave her a warm smile and nod. “You've gotten so strong, Neo. I'm impressed.”

 

“Well, Augustus has been giving me real training again, unlike him. All he ever did was use me as his sex toy,” she said, falling back into Raven's arms as she gave the gesture for her tribe to restrain the remaining men.

 

Raven shook her head, her raw anger abating slightly. “I should have killed him. I had a chance to kill him.”

 

“Where were you?” Neo asked, her voice carrying a year of anger and desperation. “Why did you stop coming? Why weren't you there when he would make me stay on the bed for a week while he was traveling? Why?”

 

“Summer died.” Raven looked away from her, stooping down to pick up her sword. Sliding it into her scabbard, she said, “I was there – Qrow told me to come, that they were desperate. There was a big Grimm invasion, we almost made up, and then she stopped it but it killed her.”

 

“Oh.” Neo had memories of Summer – she visited Raven often, and she used to give Neo cookies sometimes.

 

“I didn't go to the funeral. There was a raid, and I didn't want to see Tai.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“And then there was a- there was a woman, and she had a power, and now I have that power, and it's…” Raven shuddered again, glowing a slight blue before fighting it down again. “It took me a long time before I learned to control it. I'm sorry, Neo – I couldn't risk losing control or revealing it. I should have come anyway.”

 

Before she could say anything else, her body glowed green as one of Augustus' commands triggered: get in and out as fast as possible unless something important comes up or you have to fight, and even then, don't linger. She gave Raven a sad smile and another hug. “I have to go. Will you come see me, now?”

 

“Of course I will,” Raven murmured into her hair, letting her go and meeting her eyes. “I'm just glad that you're okay.”

 

“Promise.” Neo reached out and grabbed her gauntlet. “Promise that you won't leave me alone like that again.”

 

Raven stared for a moment, then nodded. “Of course I won't. I promise.”

 


 

“Okay, Jaune, where exactly are we going?”

 

Pyrrha couldn't keep the stupid grin off of her face as Jaune led her through Beacon's halls blindfolded. She had known this was coming – her boyfriend wasn't exactly a good liar – but she was pretending like she didn't for his sake. She felt the warm spring air as they left the school building, and grass tickled her ankles.

 

“Oh, nowhere in particular… It's just a SURPRISE!”

 

Jaune pulled the blindfold off her face, and she laughed in delight as Ren, Nora, and Team WBYR all cheered “Surprise!” along with Jaune.

 

“Happy birthday!” Ruby yelled, and Pyrrha caught her best friend in a hug as she looked back at Jaune.

 

“Did you do all of this?”

 

He grinned, scratching the back of his neck with a sheepish grin. “I told you I was going to throw you a party, didn't I?”

 

“I helped!!” Nora shouted as she pulled a party hat over an unamused Ren's head.

 

“And Nora helped too, yeah.” Ruby let go of Pyrrha, and she stepped into Jaune's waiting embrace as he planted a kiss on her cheek. "Happy eighteenth birthday, Pyr. C'mon, Nora said she would eat the entire cake if we don't get there first!"

 

She laughed, letting him wrap an arm around her waist and guide her towards the food table. Leaning in, she murmured into his ear, "Thank you."

 

Yang leaned against the table as she took in the cake - chocolate frosting, vanilla cake, and so many sprinkles it seemed like the cake was going to collapse under the weight. "Happy birthday!"

 

Pyrrha bust out laughing at the sight of the cake. "I take it Nora did this too?"

 

"Actually, I'm pretty sure it was Ruby and Violet, and, well, you've seen how she gets around sugar." Pushing off of the white tablecloth, she winked at Jaune as she pulled her into a hug. "Sorry, vomit boy, you can't have her all to yourself today."

 

"Hey, maybe I just don't like airships," he bantered back good-naturedly as he cut two pieces from the cake. "Besides, I'm sure Blake is keeping you plenty busy."

 

"You know it."

 

Pyrrha cast a glance at Blake and Weiss, who were deep in conversation off to the side. "What's up with them today?"

 

"Oh, the usual." Yang shrugged, throwing them a casual gesture as she cut herself her own piece of cake. "Blake refuses to stop stressing out about her parents, and Weiss is still depressed about the mission. It's weird when Ruby is somehow more functional and normal than half our team."

 

"It's nice." Pyrrha smiled at Ruby, who was laughing with Nora as Ren groaned in exasperation. "She was depressed for a long time, so I think it's wonderful to see her like this."

 

"You've been a good friend for her," Yang said, her playful grin betraying her serious tone. "Thank you."

 

“She does look happier, doesn't she?”

 

Jaune stared at Ruby, and Pyrrha's heart sank as she saw a familiar cold glint in his eyes. Reaching out, she touched his shoulder. “You still haven't forgiven her?”

 

He didn't answer her, and she sighed as Yang poked Jaune. “C'mon, it's been months. Obviously she's gotten better, go give Rubes another chance.”

 

“You're her sister, you're, like, contractually obligated to say that,” Jaune muttered.

 

“Jaune...”

 

He shot Pyrrha a look, his face visibly softening as he shifted towards her. “Look, I just don't know. She looks better, sure, but when she gets angry her eyes still get red and she still loses control. She's snapped twice, and when it happens again, I'm worried someone else will get seriously hurt. She scares me. Watching you two around her scares me.” Yang opened her mouth in protest, and he cut her off with a gesture. “Yeah, I get it, sister and best friend. Just don't ask me to be friends with her.”

 

Yang looked ready to argue, but Pyrrha cut her off with a glance. Instead, she kissed Jaune and said, “Thank you for putting all of this together. I never had real birthday parties as a kid, this is amazing.”

 

He flushed slightly. “I wanted to make it bigger, but it ended up only being the eight of us...”

 

“Jaune.” Yang had slipped off to talk to Blake and Weiss. She pressed her forehead to her boyfriend's, taking his hands in hers and stared into his blue eyes. “You have no idea how grateful I am for all of this. A year ago, my birthday was a reheated dinner and a store-bought cake alone at home because my parents were out of town. Now I have friends, and you. Even if you had forgotten, that would have been enough.”

 

“I would never have forgotten,” Jaune whispered, rocking back and forth with the breeze.

 

“Nora said you asked Ren to remind you five times.”

 

“Okay, so maaaybe I forgot a little, but still...”

 

She sighed, relaxing into his embrace. “They called me today, you know.”

 

“Your parents?”

 

“Yeah. They wished me a happy birthday, then informed me of their expectations for me in the Vytal Festival.”

 

Jaune frowned, then leaned in and kissed her. “It's your birthday, we can worry about all of that tomorrow.”

 

“Wait, you ate the cake before we sang to you?” Weiss exclaimed. “That's literally not how birthdays are supposed to work!”

 

“Ooh, are we going to sing now?” Nora asked with an evil grin, whipping the megaphone from the dance out from under the table.

 

Pyrrha let Jaune sweep her towards the table, her heart singing with happiness. Surrounded by everyone she loved, basking in the late spring sun… This was perfect, like nothing she had ever felt before, and she wanted this moment to last forever.

Chapter Text

Chapter Twenty Three: Family Ties


re:Bound

A Fanfiction by Allison Illuminated

Chapter Publish Date: 2/25/18


"Hello~ We'll take one strawberry sundae with hot fudge, rainbow sprinkles, whipped cream, two cherries, and one of the cute little umbrellas you put on the margaritas - actually, I'd take one of those too-"

The man at the cash register raised an eyebrow at Yang, who was casually leaning against the glass ice cream case. "I think you're a little young for that, Miss."

She shrugged, surveying the flavors below her elbow. "Gotcha… So I want that, and then we'll also take one scoop of chocolate in a cup."

Yang looked back over her shoulder to beam at Blake. Her girlfriend rolled her eyes, ears gently curling as she leaned against a nearby pole. "You get that every time, huh?" she teased as Yang dug into her pockets and pulled out some lien.

"There's no such thing as too much ice cream!" she exclaimed, extending the card to the cashier with two fingers. The cashier blushed as she gave him a saucy wink. "She's with me, so give her a little extra, 'kay?"

Spinning around, she presented Blake with her ice cream. Her partner laughed, accepting it and lead them to a metal table with a wide umbrella. The ice cream stand stood by the wharf of Vale's commercial district, and they had a wide vista with cerulean waves and the gold-tinted clouds of late afternoon. "That sounded like something Ruby would say."

"You know what they say, you can't reason with a cookie addiction." Yang swung her chair around the table so her legs rested beside Blake's in perfect position to watch ships drifting across the horizon.

Blake smiled, and Yang was drawn towards her happy beauty. Her hand lingered on her partner's neck as they pulled out of the kiss. "Thank you," her partner murmured.

"Hey, it's my job to spoil you," she said. "Besides, nothing like a little sugar to take the edge off of things."

It wasn't obvious, but she could still trace the deep rings under Blake's eyes. They had both put on makeup that morning; Yang never wore make-up, but she desperately wanted to make a good impression on Blake's parents so she had thrown on some eyeliner and lip gloss. Weiss had laughed when she had seen her, to her mortification, then had spent the next ten minutes helping her fix it. Blake, on the other hand, had spent nearly an hour concealing all signs of her insomnia on top of her usual date makeup.

Yang bit her lip as Blake licked ice cream off the small plastic spoon, wondering not for the first time how she had managed to get such a hot girlfriend. At Signal, all of the guys had been disgusting around her, and the girls all assumed she was straight. There had been a mousy girl with oversized glasses and a nice smile when she was fourteen, Pearl Smith, but her parents had stopped them after one date.

She probably would have broken up with Pearl anyways. Even when they had been together, she had treated her with a quiet reverence – their lone kiss, stolen behind the combat arena, igniting nothing within her. It had been nothing like this: Blake, who got her like nobody she had ever met before, who could keep up with her in combat and got her humor, who was perfect…

A finger brushed against her cheek, and Yang started as Blake wiped the rogue strawberry ice cream from her lips and nose. "What were you thinking about?"

Truthfully, she said, "How amazing you are."

"You should pay more attention when you eat." Blake grinned at her as she popped her finger into her mouth. "Besides, I think your sundae is melting."

Yang's eyes lit up, and she jumped out of her seat and grabbed a thin white straw from the nearby condiment stand. Sauntering back to her seat, she slipped the plastic into her treat. "Well, they call it strawberry for a reason, don't they?" A delighted laugh slipped out of Blake's mouth before she could hold it back, and Yang's heart glowed as she leaned to the side and took a long exaggerated sip from the sundae. I love how she loves my stupid puns. I love this so much.

Electricity arced between their fingers as Blake reached for the straw and pulled the sundae to the middle of the table. "I guess I'll just have to try it, then."

Yang relinquished the straw, quirking an eyebrow at the empty bowl by her girlfriend's side. "What happened to not wanting too much?"

"Oh, you know..." Blake mimicked her pose as she took a long sip from the straw, making her blush. "I thought there was no such thing as too much ice cream?"

A foghorn blasted across the port, and both of their heads shot up to look at the wharf. A four-deck ship with a long bow and a Mistrali symbol adorning the side drifted to the dock, people lined across the deck waving down at the pier below.

Yang took Blake's now-stiffened hand and gently squeezed. "Hey, it's going to be fine, I promise. C'mon, let's go wait for them, okay?"

"Yeah," Blake said faintly, then shook her head and repeated, "Yeah, it'll be fine. I don't think they've been in Vale since I was twelve, we shouldn't keep them waiting." They rose to their feet and brought the last remnants of ice cream to the garbage can, then started towards the pier. She pulled Blake towards her as they walked, rubbing her back and planting a kiss on her cheek.

If Yang was being honest with herself, she felt just as nervous as Blake. Sure, they were Blake's parents, but… Blake had a dad and a mom, who – according to her stories – made up an actually functional family together. She pushed down the lump in her throat, ignoring the searing memory of saying goodbye to Summer for the last time and held on to Blake tighter. She doesn't need my issues right now. We're dealing with her long-lost family, not my shitty mom, so I've got to stay strong for her.

The gangplank carried down all manner of people: sailors reuniting with their family, tearful meetings from people across the globe. She tightened her grip on Blake's hand, and the other girl exhaled and did the same. A woman with short black hair and pierced cat ears stopped short halfway down the gangplank, then ran the rest of the way down. Yang let go of Blake's hand and stepped to the side as Blake's mom embraced her, warmth lingering on her palm. "Mom?" her partner whispered, then fiercely hugged the older woman back.

"Blake!" A massive man wearing armor ran over to embrace the pair.

Yang viciously stomped out her pangs of jealousy as she watched her partner reunite with her family. Summer is dead and Mom is gone. Get over it and support your girlfriend.

The Belladonnas broke apart, and there was an awkward pause as nobody seemed to have words to fill the silence. Finally, Blake caught her supportive glance and said, "Um, hi Mom. Dad."

Blake's mom held herself back for a moment, then threw herself on her daughter again. "Oh, Blake, we saw the video and just didn't know… You hadn't said anything for years, and we were starting to worry that you were dead, and- and-"

"We were surprised, to say the least," her dad offered. "Although, you were never one to stop fighting, so perhaps we shouldn't have been."

Blake's ears flattened. She looked down, pulling her arm from behind to the back of her hip. "I- I left the White Fang. You were right about Adam. I should have listened to you, I- I wish- I'm so sorry."

Hmm…  So obviously her mom is a cat, and her dad- Is he like a  bear  or something? He's so big, and he's got that chest hair – probably claws too – huh, I really don't know. Cat Mom and  Bear  Dad?

Bear Dad shook his head. "Blake… We've never faulted you for staying with the Fang. Your mother and I are just glad that you're okay."

Blake's lip trembled. "So you're not mad at me?"

"Of course we aren't mad!" Cat Mom exclaimed. "We're so glad that you're safe and that we've finally found you again!"

Blake caught her breath in disbelief. Looking from parent to parent, she promptly broke out into tears.

Yang had to hold herself back as both of Blake's parents rushed to her side, her heart breaking as she watched. She doesn't need me right now. Meanwhile, Bear Dad was gently stroking Blake's ears and murmuring, "There, there. It's okay, we're here now."

She sniffed and wiped her eye, eyeliner coming off in a black smudge. "I wasn't supposed to cry..." Before Cat Mom could say anything, she shook her head and broke away. "I want to tell you guys everything, or at least everything I can. I was stupid to stay away for so long. I'm sorry."

"Well, we're not going anywhere," Bear Dad said with a warm smile. "Why don't we find a nice restaurant and get some dinner? I'd love some time to reconnect with my daughter."

Sniffing, Blake mumbled, "T-that sounds nice."

"We could get Mistrali food," Cat Mom suggested. "I know how much you like their fish..."

The faintest hint of a smile dusted the edges of her frown. Sunlight dimmed behind the ocean liner, tinting the sky purple and orange. "That sounds nice..."

"So, should we go?" her dad asked, placing one hand on each of their shoulders.

Blake from one parent to the other and Yang tensed as conflict raced through her eyes. Finally, her partner sighed and said, "Actually… there's someone you need to meet first." She turned and gestured to Yang, who blushed. "This is Yang, my partner and, um, girlfriend. Yang, these are my parents."

Blank disbelief "Girlfriend?" Bear Dad echoed, shaking his head in shock. Blake shot her a look, so she grinned and nodded.

"Hi Mr. and Mrs. Belladona," she said, feeling tiny under his judgmental glare. "Nice to meet you."

Cat Mom was the first to recover, a warm smile replacing her shock. "Well, we knew you weren't straight but this is certainly unexpected. Please, dear, call me Kali, and my husband is Ghira."

Ghira coughed pointedly. "I think Mr. Belladonna is just fine."

"Ghira!" Kali lightly hit his arm, shaking her head with a bemused expression.

Blake walked to Yang's side, her fingers brushing against Yang's. The touch was rigid, and she immediately took her hand. Leaning in, she whispered, "See, I told you it would be fine." Tension drained from Blake's stance alongside some of her worries – everything was going to be fine. I'm here for you, Blake.

"Mom, Dad, do you mind if Yang has dinner with us?"

"Of course not," Kali said, even as Ghira's face made it very clear that he did, in fact, mind. Yang grinned, catching a familiar determined glint in her partner's eyes. Sorry, Bear Dad, but I don't think Blake would let you say no even if you wanted to.

All three turned to her dad, who made a gruff noise as he deflated. "I suppose if you really are dating my daughter..."

As they left the docks and caught a cab to a restaurant, Yang stuck close to Blake's side. They made small talk, avoiding heavy conversations as they got out at a nice Mistrali place and took their seats.

The restaurant was decorated in traditional fashion – tables made from carved maple and red wallpaper that danced by the candlelight. They sat two and two, so Yang found herself avoiding Ghira's scrutinizing gaze. A waiter came by and took their order, then they found themselves alone once more.

"So, I guess you're probably wondering how I ended up at Beacon, huh," Blake offered hesitantly.

"That is one of our… many questions, yes," Ghira said.

Kali pursed her lips, unfolding her napkin and smoothing it out on her lap. "Maybe you should start from the last time we saw you."

Blake took a deep breath. "Yeah. Yeah, that sounds like a good idea. So, I guess after you guys went back to Menagerie..."

Yang listened intently as Blake recounted her time in the White Fang. She had heard her story before, of course, but parts of it were new to her. Names she didn't recognize were thrown across the table – one that came up repeatedly was a girl named Illia. She pretended not to notice both of Blake's parents shooting her looks every time somebody mentioned Illia's name. Finally, she interrupted Blake and asked, "Who's Illia?"

"You don't know who Illia is?" Kali asked. "But she's Blake's best friend-"

"Not anymore." Everyone turned back to Blake, who looked down at her plate. "A year and a half ago, everything started to change. Adam, he… Things started to change, and I was almost seventeen- I didn't see what was really happening, I thought I knew what I wanted, so Adam and I… He..."

Ghira's eyes widened, and he slowly set his glass down on the table. "Blake, are you telling me that you and Adam..."

"I was so, so stupid." Blake squeezed her eyes shut, holding Yang's hand harder under the table. "I didn't- He had been my teacher and role model for so long, I thought he was strength, or justice, but- First he started taking me only on his personal missions. I stopping getting to lead team missions, and the rest of my team dispersed back into the Fang. After that, he started cutting me off from the rest of the leadership, and I moved into his tent. I haven't talked to Illia in a year since our friendship collapsed; she never even told me why, but I know Adam did something..."

"You never told me about her," Yang murmured, fighting her temper down. "Was that when he started… you know..."

"Hitting me? Yeah."

Ice cubes clattered against glass, and Ghira growled as Kali's eyes narrowed to slits. "I trusted Taurus! I thought he was good man!"

Bitterly, Blake said, "Yeah, so did I."

Kali wiped tears from her eye again. "Blake, I- We- If we had known..."

"I got out of it, though. We were going to blow up a SDC train, a manned one. Adam had gotten so callous… I told him we couldn't kill all those people, and he- There was a distraction, so I ran ahead and disconnected the passenger cars from the cargo and just… ran."

"Oh, Blake..."

Yang found Blake's hand under the table, and Blake shot her an appreciative look. "I wasn't ready to face you guys, or anyone really, after that. Beacon- There was a scholarship, and I was living in a shelter in Vale with no money. I had no reason not to apply, and it was full-ride too. Well, I got in, which is how I ended up at Beacon."

Their food came and Blake was suddenly very distracted by a steaming roasted tuna in front of her. Yang had ordered fried beef strips, and she devoured her plate then picked at Blake's. Ghira poked at his food politely, but Kali didn't even bother pretending to eat as she stared down at her plate with a bleak expression. If I was mad when Blake told me, I can't even imagine how they must feel…

"Tell us about Beacon." Ghira rested his hand on Kali's, pushing his food away from him. "We can deal with- with that later, but I'd love to hear the rest of your story too. Obviously, Yang is on your team, but tell me about it."

Blake blinked and her frown deepened. Yang knew exactly what she was thinking. She laughed shakily and said, "Beacon hasn't exactly been the… smoothest. Well, really it's been a total mess."

The look of devastation on Kali's face deepened. "What do you mean?"

"Well, our team is kinda dysfunctional," Yang said, and Blake nodded in agreement.

"Well, there's me and Yang, and- and… God, I don't even know which one is more complicated to explain." Blake looked back at her, and she shook her head to indicate that she didn't know either.

"Just choose one, Blake." Ghira sighed and leaned back in his seat. Flagging a waiter over, he grumbled, "I think my wife and I both need a glass of red, please." The waiter nodded and hurried off as Blake frowned.

"Weiss?"

Yang's brow scrunched for a moment, then she nodded. Ruby is so much more complicated… I don't know what the secret is, let alone how Blake would even begin explaining it, since she knows… "Yeah, start with Weiss."

Blake's ears twitched, and she pushed her plate away. "So… We're on Team WBYR, and, um… Well, you met Yang, obviously, and there's me… And then there's our leader, who- Ugh, how am I even supposed to say this?"

"Honey, we won't care," Kali said, reaching across the table to rest a hand on Blake's arm.

"O-okay then." Biting her lip, Blake straightened herself out. "Our leader is Weiss Schnee. And yeah, Schnee like she's the heiress to the SDC."

Kali pulled her hand back as her face settled into a deep scowl. "Okay, so maybe we do care a little bit."

"And she's the reason you don't like Beacon?" Ghira growled. "What did she say to you?"

"Nothing! Mom, Dad, she's not racist at all, chill out!"

Staring at the ice cubes in her glass, Yang said, "Weiss… she can be frosty sometimes, but she tries so hard to be the best leader possible for us. She's my best friend, she's amazing."

"Honestly, she's the only reason Team WBYR is still together at all." Blake met each of her parent's eyes in turn. "Yeah, she's a Schnee. We don't really care. Is that a problem?"

Kali gaped at them, then she and Ghira turned to exchange a glance. "N-no, I suppose not."

"So… If a Schnee isn't even the hardest person to explain on your team, who's the last person?"

"Well, it's really two people now," Yang mused as Blake's ears flattened.

"How much do you follow Vale news?" she asked, pulling her napkin around her glass.

Kali and Ghira exchanged a wary look. "A lot, dear. Your father is the chieftain, after all, so we stay up to date on things."

"Then you know about what happened to Roman Torchwick, right?" Yang leaned forwards, holding back a sigh as Blake tensed again.

Stiffening, Blake's dad's eyes widened. "He was killed… by a fifteen-year-old huntress in training. But- She's too young!"

"Ruby Rose. Our fourth teammate."

"And my sister."

The lowlight flickered across the empty plates as they sat in quiet contemplation. Finally, Ghira asked, "What happened?"

Blake and Yang exchanged another glance, then launched into a heavily edited accounting of their time at Beacon. They ran over the start of Beacon, Ruby's crash, Violet (told exclusively by Yang at Blake's prompting), how they had gotten together, the dance and aftermath, and finally the disastrous mission from last week. By the end, Blake's parents sat in mute silence, trying to process what they had just been told.

"Here's your check, ma'am."

Kali absentmindedly took the leather booklet from the waiter. "I'm sorry, Blake. We should- I wish we had been here for you, all this time."

Suddenly, Yang felt even guiltier for her initial jealousy of Blake's parents. Blake hasn't really had a mom either… I'm such a selfish bitch.

"It's okay, Mom." She reached across the table and took the other woman's hands, earning a sniffle from her mom. "If all of this had never happened, I would never have met Yang or Weiss. Even Ruby has gotten a lot better now."

"I'm sure your mom and I have, well, more questions than I can keep track of, but it's getting late." Ghira exhaled, placing a hand on top of his wife and daughters. "Come now, let's talk of happier things."

Yang watched as the Belladonnas had their moment, a niggling of jealousy creeping in ever so slightly. No, she wasn't going to think of that tonight. Tonight is for Blake, and it's going better than either of us expected. I'm just glad my girlfriend has her family back – that's enough of me.

I just wish Mom was still around…


"...and then the table broke, and the cake landed right on Weiss' head!"

Raven burst into laughter, pulling her hair back out of her face as she leaned over her finished dinner. Neo was already in hysterics, holding up a finger as she flew through her camera roll and pulled a video up on her phone. The Branwen leader watched it then laughed ever harder, which made Ruby join them. "Oh… Oh my god, what did she do after that?" she asked breathlessly.

"You know Weiss, she stomped off in a huff." Neo's illusory writing danced in the air, flickering as she clutched her sides. "Then Ruby ran after her and tried to eat a piece out of her hair-"

"It was cake!" Ruby exclaimed, crossing her arms over her chest. "I didn't get a piece, what else was I supposed to do?"

"So Ice Queen tried to throw a piece at her, and she caught it  with her mouth  and ate it!"

"That's what super speed is for," Ruby said with a smug grin, pointing finger guns at Neo and Raven and sending them all into another round of laughter.

Massaging her face, Raven took a deep breath and shook her head. "You're so much like Summer, Ruby…"

Calming down, Ruby sighed and shook her hair out of her face. Ugh, who knew growing your hair out was such a pain? Bet it sucks for Yang.

Yeah, I don't envy her or Raven. Yours isn't even that bad, give it another six months. Neo picked her glass of tequila and downed it, leaning back in her chair.

Even though Ruby knew Neo was nearly a decade older than her, it was still weird watching her drink like an adult. She could feel the alcohol in her system, blurring her thoughts ever so slightly. Ruby could feel the buzz too – when Neo drank she lost some control over her emotions and ended up showing Ruby way more than usual.

Sighing, Ruby looked up to see Raven's wistful gaze fixated on both of them. In the three months since she had met Yang and Neo's mom, she had come to understand that look almost always nostalgia. "You say that a lot, Aunt Raven. What was Mom like?"

"Haven't you heard about her from Tai a million times?"

Ruby ignored the bitter edge to Raven's voice, a peaceful sadness stirring in her chest. "But I wanna hear it from you too. Dad doesn't talk about either of you, much. I get to know you, but I can't know Mom like this. Really, the only clear memories I have of her aren't even mine, they're Neo's."

Simple warmth flowed through Ruby's veins. Neo gave her a warm smile, leaning against her and nesting her head against Ruby's neck. They didn't need words; she understood the impossible co-mingling of happiness and pain and responded with nothing but pride.

"Tai..." Raven sighed and readjusted the mask at her side. The restaurant hummed with late evening activity; they sat at a table secluded in the back corner. "I don't see why not. What do you want to know?"

"Everything," Ruby said simply.

A picture was presented to her, and she took it. It showed Team STRQ, like the one Yang carried with her only far more casual. Summer laughed as she leaned against Raven, her white hood down around her neck. Tai and Qrow sat on the grass too, Ruby's dad talking to the girls as her uncle exchanged a knowing smile with Raven.

She didn't know what to feel. I wish Mom was still alive. I wish Dad would laugh like that. I wish things with Qrow would go back to the way they used to be.

I know, Ruby. I'm just glad Raven is here for us. Neo traced Summer's outline on the page with one finger. You really look just like her.

"Summer was one of the nicest people I've ever met," Raven said, smiling at her and Neo. "She was one of those people who becomes a huntress because they really want to do right for the world, out of the kindness of their heart. She also was one of the best leaders I've ever met, let alone had – she was strict when we needed it. I don't think we would have made it through all three years of Beacon without her."

"She sounds like Weiss..." Ruby murmured, Neo's warmth and strawberry conditioner making her eyes droop slightly.

Raven checked her watch and sighed. "It's almost midnight, and you're both falling asleep. I should portal you back to Blake now..."

"But I wanna hear more about Mom," Ruby mumbled.

Shaking her head, her aunt gave her a warm smile as she got to her feet. "There will be other nights, and I have to get back to the tribe. Besides, I'll be around, so you'll get plenty of other chances."

The night air was warm, Remnant's broken moon glowing softly in the stardust. Ruby yawned as she stumbled out of the restaurant with Neo's arm firmly wrapped around her waist. They broke apart, and she said, "Thank you, Aunt Raven."

"Of course." Raven pulled Neo into a tight hug, then did the same with Ruby. "Maybe I'll get to meet Weiss, someday."

"You could, though. You could come back with us, you-"

Ruby…

Anger flashed in Raven's eyes for a moment, then her shoulders sagged. "I wish I could, Ruby. I really do. But I made a promise to Tai that I would stay away from Yang, and I intend to keep it."

"Good night, Mom," Neo's writing read. "I love you."

"I love you too," Raven whispered, then stepped to the side and cut a portal open. "I'll see you soon."

Waving goodnight to her, Ruby took Neo's hand and led her into the red mist.

Raven was standoffish with her for the first two weeks after Neo had returned. One night in March, Neo had stopped before going to visit Raven and informed her that she and Ruby were a package deal now and that Raven would have to learn to be around Ruby. After Raven started making a deliberate effort to get to know her, she had found that she really, really liked the Branwen woman, and not just because of Neo's feelings towards her.

She's like Qrow, her mind whispered – she stomped that thought into the nether. No, it's too late for me to forgive him. He's done too much.

Where Ruby's relationship with her aunt had blossomed, her relationship with Qrow had all but withered to nothing. Soon after the dance, Ozpin had sent him on another long mission. When he had come back two weeks ago, it had been like he was a stranger. Sometimes he still waved to her or tried to say hi, but more often than not they passed each other in Beacon's hallways without a second glance.

Somewhere, the warmth still lingered on her cloak with the faint scent of motor oil and alcohol, twisting and fading in the mist.

She ignored the sadness as Beacon came into sharp focus. Books racked the library walls, spines illuminated by the dim light and the glow of holoscreens. Blake jumped in surprise as they emerged from the portal. "Oh, it's you guys."

Ruby frowned. Is her voice scratchy?

Yeah, and her eyeliner's all over the place.

"Did your parents go okay?" she asked hesitantly. Blake didn't respond, staring past her distantly. On instinct, she rushed forwards and embraced her teammate, frowning as she returned it. I don't like this. "What happened?"

"Nothing happened," Blake snapped, hugging her harder. "They came, I cried, Yang and I went to dinner with them, and we walked them back to the hotel room."

Blake's shoulders started to shake, and Ruby pulled her hair back, whispering, "Then why are you crying?"

"Yang's too good for me."

Bullshit. Blake snorted, so Ruby knew Neo must have written it out for her benefit.

"She didn't tell me, but it was obvious that she was jealous. It was so, so obvious." She shook her head, digging her fingers into Ruby's cloak. "She's lost two moms, and suddenly both of my parents come back, and I could just feel it. So there I was, telling my parents complete lies about my fucked-up life and she's just there being quiet and supportive like the perfect girlfriend-"

"Blake..."

Her teammate wasn't finished. "I was hurting her, Ruby. And the worst part? I was sitting there the whole time knowing perfectly well that you and Neo were off with Raven, and I can't fucking tell her. She's told me everything about her life, and I'm hiding the fact I know her own mom better than she does!" Blake ripped herself out of Ruby's embrace and backed away.

"Blake, you know Raven promised Dad to stay away from Yang..." Ruby said, but Blake shook her head.

"Can you even imagine what she's gonna do when she finds out, Ruby?" Blake's eyes were wild and a low hiss escaped from her throat. "Her sister and her girlfriend, conspiring to keep her mom a secret from her. And that's not counting the aura bonded serial killer who Raven just happens to treat more like a daughter than Yang!"

"We can't tell her!" Ruby shouted back, trying to soothe the wave of hurt that rolled off of Neo. She's just angry, she's lashing out. You know she didn't mean it. "You know what the consequences are! This is dangerous, look at what happened to Cardin and Emmy and Merc! We have to-"

"You know what?" Blake snapped. "All I know is Yang gave me everything she had today because I was hurting and needed her support. She was hurting too, and I could end it but I did nothing because of a stupid secret and your stupid issues. Maybe I don't give a fuck."

Before Ruby could respond, she had stormed out of the darkened library, leaving her and Neo alone with the books. They exchanged a glance. Should we go after her?

Neo shook her head. She's right, it is fucked up. I think we should give her space.

I know, it's just…

We both agree with her, but staying up stressing about it won't make it any better.  Besides, this is Blake we're talking about. With her insomnia, we'll be up till four and that won't help anything. C'mon, let's go sleep.

Team WBYR's dorm room was quiet. Her pajamas slowly warming up against her body, she stood in the middle of the room watching her sister sleep. Yang's hair always goes everywhere at night… Sighing, she glazed over Blake's empty bed and Weiss, who was peacefully sleeping in the bottom bunk of their new bunk beds.

Ruby had fought hard to keep her suspension bed, even after Neo had started sleeping with her. After one of the four ropes had snapped in the middle of the night last month, though, Weiss, Ruby, and Neo had a brand new, extremely sturdy bunk bed.

At least I still get my canopy, she thought, affectionately tracing the white fabric draped over her bed.

Rose, move over. Neo clambered into bed next to her, wearing her spare set of pajamas. Ruby pulled herself toward the wall, humming as she rolled to come face to face with the other girl.

I miss Mom.

Neo interlocked their fingers, pressing their foreheads together. I know. I'm just glad that you and Raven are getting along well now.

Me too. Neo's eyes were white as Ruby whispered, "I love you," her heart sighing with satisfaction

So do I.

Almost on instinct, Ruby leaned further in towards her, entranced by the petite curves of her rosy lips and her body's warm pull. Before she could get too close, Neo flinched back and Ruby stopped short. Fuck… I'm sorry, Neo.

No, don't be. You don't understand how much I want this, want you-

Actually, I sorta do, I can kinda read your thoughts and stuff.

Neo rolled her eyes, reaching up and lightly flicking her forehead. Shut up. It's just…

It reminds you of them, when I try to kiss you?

Rolling onto her back, Neo groaned. I know, I know it's been three months and we still haven't kissed, it's just… Yeah, I can't stop thinking it's just like what they used to do, and- and-

Suddenly, Ruby had an idea, and a broad smile split her face. Well, what if you do it instead of me?

Huh?

Well, the problem is that me trying to kiss you reminds you of them, right? So what if you kiss me, instead of me trying to kiss you.

Neo blinked. Well, fuck.

What?

That's really fucking obvious! How did it take us three months to think of that?

I dunno, you have your problems and I didn't know how sex worked until you explained it to me in graphic detail in Port's class last fall.

Oh, oh yeah. Ruby winced as Neo gave her a predatory smirk. That was fun. Sometimes torturing you was just painful for both of us, but I don't regret doing that at all. Still, though…

So, do you want to try? In spite of herself, there was a slight quaver to Ruby's voice, and she could feel that same fear in Neo.

S-sure. They paused for a moment, both of them waiting for a moment that wasn't coming. What exactly do I do?

Ruby stared at her. Kiss me? Isn't that kinda obvious?

Oh. Right. Neo flushed scarlet as she rolled off of her back and tentatively took hold of Ruby's hand.

Come on, Neo. A hint of impatience crept into her tone, something inside her telling her she needed this right nowI know you know how to be in control. Where's the Neo that shoved me out of bed at two to train me? Where's the Neo that-

But I wasn't in control then. You were, even if you didn't know it, and I don't-

Please? Ruby's eyes felt hot, and the ache in her chest burned unbearably. We both want this, so don't think about it, okay?

But what if I- What if I don't know how?

I can help you, but only if you actually do it!

Isn't that controlling me, though?

Ruby bit back a strangled sob. I don't know, but being in between like this hurts.

Neo was silent, her thought process concealed behind a hastily erected mental barrier. Finally, she said, I want to try.

Taking a deep breath, Ruby nodded. Okay. So… um…

Excellent instructions, Rose. I'm really just showing you with kisses here.

Shut up, I don't know how this works! I've never kissed anybody or anything!

Why am I letting a kiss virgin show me how to do this? Neo asked exasperatedly. Look, first we grab each other's hands.

Okay… Their other hands met, palms pressed together in a tight embrace. Then what?

Roll onto your back.

A small smile crept across Ruby's face as she realized what was happening. Rolling over, electricity arced up and down her body as Neo shifted on top of her. The backs of her hands pressed into the mattress as loose pink and brown hair spilled down into her face. The sliver of light peered through her canopy onto Neo's face, highlighting the petite curve of her nose and the soft glow of her white eyes. And what do you want me to do now?

And now- Neo stopped in stunned shock as she realized what she was doing. Wait, I-

Nope. Ruby stuck her tongue out at the girl above her, aching at the comfortable pressure on her body. You did this, Neo. You do know how to take control, I just had to annoy it out of you. So, what do you want me to do now?

A flurry of emotions spun across their bond as Neo kept staring at her in disbelief. I- Finally, she smiled. I love you, Ruby.

So do I.

Slowly, Neo leaned down and closed her eyes. The kiss was warm, hopeful, everything and nothing Ruby could ever have dreamed it to be. Everything about Neo was perfect, from the way their minds crashed together to the way their bodies intertwined.

Neo's lips flushed as they broke apart breathlessly, shining with vitality. Like that?

Yeah. Ruby's fingers curled tighter around Neo's, and smiled up at her. Just like that.

I'm going to kiss you again, Neo said, her tone questioning whether they had ever been so connected or could ever find it again.

Ruby's silver eyes shimmered, and she held on with everything she had. Yeah, I think I'd like that.

The second kiss was different, somehow. The urgency was replaced by something longer, lasting, lingering after they broke away. Neo relaxed her grip and let herself sink down to rest on top of Ruby, her breath coming in short pants. The exhilaration… Ruby wanted to capture it and never let go, but settled for hugging her tighter to her chest. That was amazing.

Thank you. The thought was a whisper, and they rolled over onto their sides to face each other once again. That- I've never felt anything like that. Just… thank you.

Ruby couldn't respond before yawning, nesting her chin above Neo's brow. Yeah…

Laughing, Neo closed her eyes and pressed her arms to her chest. Go to sleep, Ruby. I'll still be here for you tonight.

It was too late to respond; Ruby had already fallen into a deep contented sleep, never letting Neo slip out of her arms.

Chapter Text

Volume Three, Chapter Four: Arrival


re:Bound

A Fanfiction by Allison Illuminated

Chapter Publish Date: 3/4/18


Dark night. Short breaths. Broken moon.

She shot through the streets of Mistral, her path lit by traditional streetlights coated with grime and wear. Houses burned around her; her legs pounded the ground with a raging intensity, narrowing in on the woman burning in the air. The maiden's eyes raged as she stretched out a hand. Ducking, she launched herself over the gout of flame and struck the maiden flat in the chest with a kick.

Flinching back, the other woman grabbed her foot and threw her to the ground in a column of flame. Unable to carry on, she blacked out… "K.O.!"

Ruby groaned in defeat as a victory screen flashed across the holoscreen. Tossing her controller to one side, she flopped onto her back and stretched her arms out. "No fair! I was totally gonna win that round!" she grumbled.

Super speed can't help you now! Neo said, sticking her tongue out at her. I've spent way too much time gaming for you to ever beat me, Rose!

"That was AWESOME!" Nora yelled before she could respond. "I call next game! Violet, you're going down." She jumped off of Blake's bed and snatched Ruby's controller before she could demand a rematch.

Oh, it's on!

Most of Teams WBYRR and JNPR were clustered around Ruby and Yang's shared holoscreen. Blake was off in the library again, and Jaune and Pyrrha had sequestered themselves away in the other dorm room, leaving everyone else to a competitive afternoon of Semblance of Combat III. Ren lounged on Yang's bed reading a book, and Ruby joined Weiss and her sister on Weiss' bed to watch Neo and Nora square off.

"I want a rematch…" Ruby whined, leaning against Yang who poked her.

"It's okay, sis. Not all of us can be as good as Violet at fighting games."

Weiss shook her head in exasperation. "I don't understand. It's a perfectly nice day, so why are we all sitting here playing video games?"

"I'm pretty sure it's a combination of stress relief, escapism, competitive spirit, and sugar," Ren mused as he flipped a page.

Weiss stared at him, shocked that Ren had spoken at all. "Um, yeah. Sure. My point was, shouldn't we all go outside and enjoy this dreadful game outside?"

"YOU FIEND! I WILL SMITE YOU WITH THE POWER OF PANCAKES AND LIGHTNING!"

And that's a point for me!

Realizing she wasn't getting her controller back anytime soon, Ruby swung her legs back and forth and stared at the underside of her mattress. "I wanna talk to Pyrrha," she complained, bumping her shoulder into Yang's. "Why do she and Jaune have to fuck all the time?"

"Ruby!" Yang and Weiss yelled.

She shrugged. "What, that's what they're doing, right? What do you want me to say?"

Oh, you can talk about fucking as much as you want…

Ruby flushed deep red, earning her even more critical looks from her sister and leader. N-Neo- Shut up! I- Don't-

You're the one who said it, not me.

"Nah, they haven't gotten that far," Nora said dismissively, kicking her feet as she and Neo fought out an intense second point. "Jaune's too clueless to figure it out and Pyrrha's too passive to get him to do it." Weiss shot her a look and she shrugged. "She complains to me a lot."

Nodding, Ren added, "And Jaune to I."

A shadow passed by the window, and Weiss stiffened as Ruby saw the tail end of a colorful streamer flutter past. "No, it can't be." Weiss jumped to her feet and ran to the window. Pressing her nose against the glass, she gasped.

"Weiss, what's wrong?" Yang asked. Spinning on her heel, Weiss sprinted out of the dorm room and Yang ran after her.

Ruby hesitated. Half of her wanted to stay and watch the end of Neo and Nora's game, but she also wanted to run after Weiss. In the end, she yelled "Wait for me!" and sprinted after the rest of her team.

Line Break

Weiss had been right about one thing – it was a gorgeous May day, as Beacon's gardens were in full bloom. Ruby caught up to Yang and Weiss in a cloud of rose petals as they sprinted down the docks towards an Atlesian ship that had just landed

Yang bumped into Weiss as they stopped short of the airship. "What's going on? Why did you run off?"

"Yeah, Weiss, what's happening?" Ruby asked, but the heiress gave no response.

The doors to the airship slid down, revealing a regal woman with white hair in an Atlesian military outfit. Weiss gasped, and Ruby's eyes widened. Is that… Weiss' mom? The woman strode down the ramp, and she and Yang both took a step backward. She's scary!

The woman halted before Weiss, gesturing for the two soldiers flanking her to stop. "Weiss. I must admit, I was under the impression that you hadn't gotten my message, so I am pleasantly surprised to find you waiting for me."

"Winter, what are you doing here? What message?" Weiss exclaimed, waving a hand at their surroundings.

"So you didn't receive it. I see." Winter waited for a moment, then raised an eyebrow. "What, that's it? I would have at least expected an 'It's so good to see you, sister!' out of you. I can't say this is any more professional, though..."

"Sister?!"

"No, I am glad to see you! This is just… unexpected," Weiss stammered, clearly doing her best to collect herself. "I lost my scroll in a combat mission last month, and I haven't had the time to redo all of my contacts yet. So, why exactly are you here?"

"Classified."

"Oh. Right. Um… How long are you staying, then?"

"Classified." Weiss frowned, eliciting a sigh from Winter. "I was hoping you had simply failed to respond, Weiss. I didn't intend to surprise you. How have you been?"

Weiss opened her mouth then closed it again, and Ruby and Yang exchanged a worried glance behind her back. Yang stepped forwards to say something, but Weiss held her back. She shook her head curtly, then turned back to her sister. "I've been fine, thank you."

Winter's gaze narrowed, but she didn't press further. "And you must be Yang Xiao Long and Ruby Rose. I've heard stories about you both."

Ruby wilted as Winter turned to scrutinize her, half a dozen different awful stories Weiss could have told her sister springing to mind. "I bet they weren't all that great, huh?" she muttered, not meeting Winter's eyes.

"It's been an… interesting year," Weiss offered.

Yang rested a comforting hand on her shoulder and beamed at Winter. "Nice to meet you, Winter!" she said. "Weiss told me all about you."

For the first time since landing, Winter gave them a genuine smile. "And my sister has droned on and on about her best friend. I wish to thank you for taking an interest in my sister."

"Hey, it's the least I can do. Weiss' been there for me just as much as I have for her, so it's no big deal." Yang shot Weiss a sunny smile, which was returned by the heiress.

"Well, I have business with the general and your headmaster. But, seeing as I'm early, why don't you take me to your quarters?" Winter asked. Ruby clenched her fists at the mention of Ozpin, but fought her anger down. Now's not the time to worry about any of that.

"Really?"

"Yes, I wish to inspect them to see if they are up to my personal standards."

"Of course. Just so you know, the bunk beds have gotten much safer ever since I convinced Ruby to let me replace them," Weiss said with a hint of pride.

"Bunk beds?" Winter echoed as she started to walk, gesturing for her sister to follow.

Ruby and Yang hung back to let them go ahead. "So, what did ya think of her, Rubes?"

"She's like Weiss was at the beginning of Beacon," she muttered. "Only scarier. I can just picture her using that stupid leadership book Weiss has." They both shuddered at the thought.

"God, I'm so glad she got over that." Yang motioned forwards, and they started after Weiss. "Remember when she kept trying to make us do that stupid history stuff on a Saturday and I blew up at her? Good thing she changed after that, I was about ready to punch her..."

That day stood clear in Ruby's memory; without thinking, she said, "Yeah, but I think she went and cried in the library after that..."

Yang stopped short and stared at her. "What?"

"You didn't know that?"

"No, of course not!" she cried indignantly. "I made her cry? And she told you but not me?"

Ruby didn't know what to say. No, Weiss didn't tell me, Neo showed me. Damn, I screwed up. Uh… Unable to come up with a good lie, she had no choice but to say, "After she ran off, Professor Port found her and that's when he gave her that leadership talk she mentions sometimes."

Shock and hurt flickered through Yang's lilac eyes. Before she could respond, there was a loud crash and a shriek from up ahead. Yang shot her a look that clearly said, "We're going to talk about this later," then they ran towards the commotion.

"Yeah, I'm talking to you, Ice Queen."

Winter threw a hand