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“Stop, villain!”

 

She was absolutely not supposed to be anywhere near this particular part of town.

 

But then again, no one was supposed to be here.

 

Especially not her brother.

 

Especially not when he was fricking monloguing. 

 

Especially not him in the eye-blinding neon blue tights (he said leggings, she said how was that any better) ruining her shot. 

 

Even The Hand of Justice had to be wincing at the sheer eyesore of her brother's costumes.

 

“Bwahahaha! I have bested all of you...”

 

But at least, he'd wrapped it up quickly and no one would have to see her leave the building.

 

Moving quickly, she picks up her hoverbike's charge and the lighter ones of her art supplies, steadying herself to make the jump to the other building until a chill grips the back of her neck.

 

She pauses for a moment, finding herself looking at the ceiling, she quickly takes a couple paces back, relying on her instincts for the direction and when to stop.

 

The ceiling caving in doesn't really surprise her.

 

The building was condemned after all, she deliberately wasn't thinking of the building caving in like a house of toothpicks, the wood dull and gently tapping her skin on the way to meet gravity. 

 

It's the boy who comes crashing down with it. 

 

A glimpse of the familiar sunshine blonde hair makes her heart thud in its cage as the ground frantically reforms itself, launching Altair into the sky and giving away her location. 

 

She barely has enough time to remember her shield when the Savior focuses his attention on her and starts shooting at her. 

 

The bullets ricochet off the shield but the fact that she needs to stay completely still like thi—wait. 

 

She sometimes imagines that her powers are normal. 

 

Taking a deep breath, she ghosts down the hallway the bullets still hitting the shield but now being absorbed by it; a ticking timebomb of her own imagination. 

 

Just as she's solidifying herself in the realistic way to exist, 

 

“Are you alright, miss?”

 

She stiffened. 

 

That voice was definitely Blue Jay—their resident Mesmer and the oddly kind villain. 

 

Her brother swore up and down that he was faking the kindness that he showed to civilians but even in her hero's outfit, he was still kind of sweet. 

 

Especially when he was around... 

 

“Jay, you're scaring her,” teased Mercy, the small healer with the ability to teleport and cold read. 

 

Which probably meant that Virus was somewhere overhead. 

 

Shit. 

 

She couldn't vanish her way out of it and her sketchbook was on her hoverbike, which left Saber and Lance useless. 

 

Time to use a lesser known power.

 

“I'm absolutely terrified and late. Mostly late,” she snarked as she forced herself to walk past Jay. 

 

“Oh? Where to? Want a criminal escort?”

 

She mockingly winced,

 

“Yikes, sorry. My dad's a police officer.”

 

He used to be.

 

“The police love us.”

 

“I'll bet. But don't the heroes love you more?”

 

“It's mutual, pretty lady with the stars on her cheeks.”

 

She can't help the snorting laugh that escapes her and he beams from beneath his mask, his dark brunet hair alerting her to Qrow's presence.

 

“You should duck,” she warns casually before Auro loses his super-strength and the pillar starts to collapse. 

 

He'll regain it before Jay gets crushed but Mercy will have to take his eyes off her and she'll be able to call her bike and get back to the mansion. 

 

... Luckily she's still got three weeks to finish that art project. 

 

 ⁂

 

“Ick, I got Blue Jay again!”

 

She couldn't help but perk up.

 

Please be the ultra-rare, singing one from that time he broke into that one bank...

 

Baby, it's cold outside...”

 

Cue internal screaming. Accent in full display, he'd sang it in order to distract her brother (and it worked) in order to allow his team to get the money. 

 

“Maybe I should just—”

 

“Give it to me please!,” she blurted, startling the two girls.

 

She recognized Lisa, who was already well used to her antics as an avid cardy, and shyly waved.

 

“Jayu Han, this is Mirae Kong.”

 

They bow to each other and Mirae gingerly hands over the card.

 

Smiling at her gently, she takes the card in both hands, pulling out her polite face, she thanks and bids both of them farewell.

 

And then sprints to the library to go and freak out in peace.

 

Limited edition! Singing! Foil background! They even animated the wink!

 

It was probably on sale for that pack that cost like fifty units... 

 

“This is Wonder Woman level type shit,” she muttered as she flipped to the fifth glossy page in the binder, right between the special addition Virus and Black Sugar. 

 

“That's creepy level shit, y'know?,” Yoongi interjected, giving her a heart attack. 

 

“Gah!”

 

After she calmed herself down (and beat him up with some rolled up packet of paper), she retorted, 

 

“Creepier than Taehyung taking pictures of everyone in the school?”

 

“How's this different?”

 

“One, I've never met them before in real life. Two, these cards could be ridiculously expensive in the future. Thirdly, it's calming.”

 

He looked at her unimpressed, 

 

“It's calming to collect collectibles of villains?”

 

“And heroes!”

 

She flipped to pages 1, 3, 7 and 9 respectively, pointing them out, 

 

“Lady Justice, The Hand, Raven and The Knight. See?”

 

(Although technically, the Knight didn't count in that list. 

 

But what was a little self-love?)

 

“Are you two discussing Jayu's weird collectible binder?”

 

“Really, Joonie? You too?,” she whined as he approached their library table, new self-help book in hand, this one cheerily entitled ‘The Subtle Art of Not Being Lawful Good (And Others Ways to Not Suck) ’.

 

“I'll remember this when you download another virus, pervert,” she mouths as soon as he looks at her.

 

As he choked and Yoongi looked at her in askance, she spotted Tae and Hobi looking around for their table and eagerly waved them over.

 

“Such a gap moe...”

 

“What was that, Namjoon?”

 

“Just observing the rare Jayu in her natural habitat.”

 

“Sparkin',” she drawls.

 

“Hey, wifey,” Hobi greets her as he hands her the chocolate-drizzled Superman, the winter special of MacDonnie's.

 

“... I think I might actually have to marry you if you keep this up, Hoseok.”

 

She melts into her chair as she takes a sip of the cool drink, holding up a finger for everyone else to wait for her to finish it before she greeted them. 

 

“… I honestly have never understood how coffee calms you down.”

 

She gives him a relaxed shrug before she stands up and embraces both Taehyung and Hobi.

 

“How are you two?”

 

“Pretty okay.. ” “Better now that I've seen you!”

 

She winced at Hobi,

 

“That bad, huh?”

 

Namjoon let out a silent sigh but she kept her eyes on Hobi until he finally dropped the act. 

 

“... Yeah. I actually got the Superman for free after the machine refused to give me a Coke. And nearly fell on me.”

 

She already knew that Hobi wasn't the type to get frustrated and shake the machine. 

 

“Could someone have passed on their bad luck to you? There are a couple of Black Clovers around here..”

 

Suga hummed and for a few minutes, she considered if he was one of the school's Black Clover.

 

But there was no point in wondering.

 

Excalibur University was one of the few schools that didn't require you to announce your alignment and powers while still allowing both heroes and villains to request more time.

 

“Do you think that it's over, Hobi?,” Namjoon queries and she examines him herself as Hobi nods yes.

 

He looked... Calmer but okay-ish. 

 

No friend of hers would have to settle for okay-ish!

 

“Uh-oh, she's got that look.”

 

Jimin popped in, a mildly terrified Jin in tow, querying, 

 

“What look?”

 

“Do you remember that time she decked that teacher who called Taehyung a retard?”

 

Jimin paused and examined her as she ran through the possibilities—if she went and found the Clover who gave Hobi their luck for the day, she could hypothetically strong-arm them into taking it back.. Or she could get double-whacked. And her luck was already bad enough. 

 

Or—

 

“Please don't punch anyone,” Seokjin begged.

 

“At least, let me get a picture of it,” Taehyung interjected.

 

“I won't need to punch anybody. Not today.”

 

Then she grabbed the nearest book off the shelf: one on vehicles.

 

Perfect.

 

“What are you—you can't summon large items in the library!”

 

She rolled her eyes at Jin; he was such a stickler for rules. 

 

“I also need to check out this book on art principles!”

 

Slamming her hand down on the picture of the bike, she imagines the bike building itself outside of the book, life-sized and already keyed to her signature.

 

“Damn it, Jay—”

 

“So cool!”

 

“Bye-bye,” she hummed as she snapped a helmet onto her head and headed off to meet the one White Clover that absolutely owed her a few favors.

 

 ⁂

 

Kicking down the door to ratty old apartments was something that was deeply satisfying.

 

But expensive.

 

So she mostly reserved it for Alis because he never answered the doorbell and he could absolutely afford to repair the damn door.

 

“Ring-ring, dick.”

 

“I actually hate that I told you that my middle name is Richard.”

 

He sighed as she held up the peace-offering sandwich,

 

“I've still got 13, huh?”

 

“Oh, absolutely. But we can get you down to twelve after this one!”

 

He rubbed his face, bright red irises tired in his gaunt bronze face, and stood up.

 

She dashed to hand him the cane and snapped her fingers, imagining him in a comfy t-shirt and jeans.

 

“… Didn't feel like imagining my ability, huh?”

 

“That'd be exhausting and plus...”

 

He smirked then, all teeth and cynicism,

 

“Or do your little friends still not know what you can do?”

 

“... They think I can summon things from books.”

 

He whistled lowly as he gripped the cane and they started to head outside. 

 

She knew better than to try and convince him to try teleportation. 

 

“You don't want to correct them?”

 

“... It's easier this way, Alis.”

 

“You aren't very brave for a Knight, you know that kid?”

 

She remains silent as he walks ahead of her and they pass the Hero's Walk.

 

She remains silent as he examines Hobi and finds that someone had taken his good luck, silent as he replaces it with some fresh luck that will last until they get his old luck back.

 

She's silent until she's alone, yellow and white flowers in her shaking grip.

 

Then all at once, she's in her knees wailing in the night.

 

A cowardly Knight, through and through.

 

 ⁂ 

 

If you asked what kind of hero Knight was, you'd get a variety of answers ranging from cute to absolutely terrifying to an incompetent use of news footage. 

 

But barring Old Man Scrappy, everyone else usually agreed that she was a pretty chill heroine.

 

She caught the villains who were actually dangerous to the community, shared playful banter with everyone, joked with civilians and had the least amount of destruction of anyone in the same tier.

 

But that was never enough for Major and Maeweather.

 

They thought she was a traitor and regularly let her know that she was disgracing her parents' deaths by not slaughtering every villain she came across. 

 

Not even her older brother, Croix agreed with her methodology of listening to the people behind the mask.

 

Which is why—

 

“Hey, you good today?,” queried Copycat as he sidestepped Claymore's heavy swing into the pavement followed by her own sting shots.

 

She shrugged before jumpkicking the greyscale Mayor in the face, balancing on the balls of her feet as it exploded into a mass of bright green goo.

 

“You didn't even respond to any of my purr-fect puns!”

 

She sighed as he lunged for her, snapping her right hand to bring back an old construct: her indescribable and indestructible shield. 

 

There were far too many moving parts and colors to even see it properly, much less describe it—a perfect mistake. 

 

He bounces off of it and she quickly took advantage of the scant moments that he was off balance, jabbing him in the stomach and quickly binding the winded villain's hands together. 

 

He looked up at her in shock as she suddenly sank to her knees, the reality rushing in to meet her pain like soda over a cavity, 

 

“No, no. I'm not good, Cat.”

 

Picking herself up, she looks at how much energy she has left—36%.

 

She'll have to hope that Major and Maeweather find Copycat to be an acceptable villain today.

 

If not, she won't be able to rest.

 

She hauls him to his feet and calls her hoverbike, stretching the proportions easily and seating them both. 

 

“... I guess heroes really don't have it easy, huh?”

 

The fact that she really didn't want to take him to jail, that she would rather sleep in the police station than at the Manor, said a lot of things. 

 

Not a single one of them good. 

 

“Just heroes like me.”

 

She waved at the police chief who beamed at her in more than a little relief.

 

Damage had been kept minimal and best of all, she'd actually brought in five villains today. 

 

“Ending shift at 8:30 pm.”

 

“Great job, Knight! You have received a broken arm but anesthetic was administered so as to not—”

 

“Return to default.”

 

“What? That's ill-advised,I don't—”

 

“That's an order, Sadie.”

 

The superhero computer hums unhappily but complies and her arm catches on fire, the pain fucking with her powers.

 

But she's creative. 

 

“Your arm is at peak temperatures but.. According to my sensors, fully healed.”

 

“It's temporary, Sadie. When I go to sleep or pass out, whatever happens first, I'm going to need those painkillers. Don't do it while I'm awake, it'll fuck up my ability to ration out what's real.”

 

“Noted, Knight. Anything else?”

 

“Save this information locally. The cloud could get hacked.”

 

“… Done!”

 

“Encryption active.”

 

“Great! Now that you have checked out, might I suggest some activities to de-stress?”

 

“Give me a few hours.”

 

 ⁂ 

 

“From now on, Knight will take on the serious patrols and Qrow will help her during the night,” dictated the Mayor, shaking her from her exhausted reverie. 

 

“Wait, what?!” 

 

“Order! Order!”

 

It wasn't just her who was indignant—the other heroes who needed the media exposure in order to gain rank, the ones who needed the money per villain, they were pretty pissed off that the Mayor had pretty much all but given her an unfair monopoly on first response. 

 

She was just pissed off because he knew she didn't take that many hours because she was still in school. 

 

Heroing was intense work and with powers like hers, control was garnered by being well-rested and at peace. 

 

This was the opposite of peace. 

 

Luckily the vast majority of heroes knew who to actually blame for this change in schedule and steered clear. 

 

As for the rest, her resting bitch face did the work for her until the meeting ended. 

 

“So. What have they got on you, Mr. Mayor?”

 

“I assure you that there were no villains responsible for my decision, Miss Knight.”

 

“That's not what I asked.”

 

“I'm sorry, Knight but I've got paperwork—”

 

“This city will be in danger. You won't be able to stop me when I'm out of control.”

 

“Is that a threat?”

 

She shook her head, eyes narrowing, 

 

“It's a promise. Do you think that the part of the forest that doesn't exist happened purposefully or when I couldn't handle anymore?”

 

“... Its still too late. Go home and get some rest.” 

 

He walked out of the Hall and Croix flinched back as she kicked the desk after him. 

 

“Did you know that they were going to pull this shit?!”

 

“... Uh.”

 

He never answered the simple questions and she didn't feel like waiting him out like she usually did, 

 

“They know full well that if I snap, it will be a disaster-level event! You can't negate me at 20%, you couldn't negate me at 5!”

 

She whirled back and paced the other way, knowing that the next meeting would be the Villainous Circle in an hour, 

 

“Why the hell are they so hellbent on making me suffer?!”

 

“Because you don't act like a real hero, kiddo. All you have to do is—”

 

“I've told you once, I've told you a million times. I'm not getting rid of the villains like that. Mom and Dad didn't kill. I won't either. At least not while I can avoid it.”

 

“You could give them a merciful death,” he offered. 

 

She glared at him, fully pissed. 

 

“I'm not pulling a damn Titan out of my ass, Croix! This isn't a comic book and I'm not God and Judge over all those villains!”

 

“Then Mo—Major and Maeweather won't stop.”

 

 ⁂ 

 

And they didn't. 

 

“This isn't even important!—no offense, Virus and Mercy.”

 

They both made placating gestures of agreement as K continued to cut into the glass of the storefront. 

 

On second thought... 

 

“What are you guys even doing?”

 

“Robbing the Gucci store,” Virus hummed, his voice modification crackling in humor. 

 

“Don't tell the hero,” hissed Auro; apparently still not over the time she'd punched him in the face. 

 

He honestly needed to get a new hobby. 

 

“Is it a birthday present?,” she yawned as she set Saber on attack mode. 

 

“Yeah, it's Virus's birthday soon. Wanted to stock up—are you sitting down right now?”

 

“You're the third attack today, I need to rest a bit.”

 

Her restrictor bracelets were actually starting to hurt quite a bit but when she turned them over, they declared her stability at 45%.

 

She was fine. 

 

“Alright, time to stop you!”

 

“Have fun, princess Knight!”

 

She was still able to do her job—

 

When there's trouble, you know who to call!”

 

Why she got an English ringtone set as her hero alert, she'd never know. 

 

But—

 

“Hello, my hero!,” sang Blue Jay, a little breathless, his dark hair flopping as he dodged. 

 

She was fine. 

 

33% stability. 

 

Saber was starting to phase in and out of reality, her control of his sword arm spotty at best, until she had no choice but to dismiss him. 

 

“Aww, you want another private dance?”

 

Jay continued to batter at her mental shields, the weight of the suggestion heavy and soothing like a winter coat. 

 

She doesn't have the energy to draw this out anymore. 

 

She needs to take a nap. 

 

She needs to stop—

 

She doesn't notice the strike until its in her throat and stealing her oxygen and she's on the ground, choking. 

 

Black spots swarm her vision as she tries to take a breath in.

 

She can't.

 

She can't.

 

She can't.

 

“Yes, you can,” a familiar voice insists, rubbing circles on her back as involuntary tears well up in her eyes.

 

“Come on, take a breath in for me. Just one. ”

 

She obeys, hesitant as her throat is still painfully tight but relieved as she can in fact begin to breathe in again.

 

“Good job,” is the last thing that she hears before she tumbles into the unconscious.

 

 ⁂

 

“Wake up. Wake up! Wake up—”

 

“She was unconscious, please—”

 

She flinched in her sleep.

 

It was like she knew that from the moment she reopened her eyes what he had to do.

 

She was at 25% stability.

 

Major reset the bracelet to read 55% and called it in.

 

All that was left was the last person.

 

“You said you had a minor adjustment to the plan, right?”

 

“I certainly did, Maeweather.”

 

 ⁂

 

There were clouds over the moon.

 

But the stars glinted at her, sparkling in the peaceful nearly midnight sky.

 

“Around here is where we got the call,” Qrow kept adjusting his face mask excitedly like he was a little kid in front of an ice cream truck.

 

It was a nice thing to see her brother excited about heroism again.

 

It was like he'd lost it after what happened to their parents.

 

Which was understandable but civilians needed something to look up to, so why couldn't he have just pretended?

 

(like her)

 

“30th Boulevard, Midnight District? Yah, mister!? Mister?”

 

She called down the alleys they passed, deeper into the Sinister's territory than she truly felt comfortable with.

 

What if she accidentally made them monsters?!

 

But there's a possibility that someone could be seriously hurt—

 

The sound of pained groaning catches her attention and she snaps her head to the fourth alley where a limp body lays in a pool of blood.

 

Dashing over, she let out a quiet whistle as she scanned for any sign of life left.

 

Zilch.

 

“That explains what happened to the witn—”

 

An iron grip on her wrist prevents her from getting up and creepy factor aside, she's relieved.

 

She's always hated having to report deaths—people liked to think that she'd kill civilians out of some kind of sick boredom.

 

“Hello? Can you hear me? Tell me what happened to you?”

 

“Qr.. Kr..”

 

“The Kruge? Krum?”

 

“Qro—”

 

A gun shot interrupts his sentence and as blood splatters onto her face like hot oil, she can't bring herself to believe the facts in front of her.

 

“Ma... Major? Qrow? Was it Qrow?!”

 

She's frantically asking a dead body for answers now.

 

“You and I both know how death works in the real world, little sister.”

 

“You didn't.. ”

 

She hears the safety click off of the gun.

 

He did.

 

She attempts to move but he snaps his fingers and she tumbles back to Earth. 

 

Powerless. 

 

Helpless. 

 

Weak. 

 

“You were possessed,” she hopes.

 

“No. I'm just finally awake.”

 

“So this is just you.”

 

He raised the gun to her head

 

“... I didn't know you had it in you, Croix.”

 

“Don't look at me like that. You brought this upon yourself, Knight.”

 

“Can't call me my real name now? Did I mean that little to you, bro bro?”

 

“Jayu.. No. You know what they'll do to me.”

 

“Please, spare me the bull. You were their favorite. Why even kill them?”

 

“You're stronger. All you had to do was obey them. Catch the villains, rough a few up, put some in the hospital—”

 

“Mom and Dad would never—”

 

“Mom and Dad are dead, Jayu! We're on our own!”

 

“... I thought we had each other.”

 

“I can't save you from yourself.”

 

“But you can kill me?”

 

“It'd be worse to let you die by the hands of some stranger, wouldn't it? I'm doing you a favor.”

 

“A favor?,” she echoed incredulously, life inching its way back into her limbs slowly. 

 

“... Yes. I'm sorry.”

 

“For what?”

 

“For this. For not being a good older brother. For all the times we fought. I knew what you wanted and I didn't help you.”

 

She really didn't have a response ready for crazy older brothers who thought they were helping. 

 

“I'm sorry too.”

 

He kicked her over to meet his empty gaze, finally.

 

“Why?”

 

“Because I can see the hero inside you crying too. Croix, you do this, Qrow is a traitor. You do this, heroes won't want you, villains won't either. You'll burn your way out.”

 

They stare at each other for a moment, her heroic speech ringing in the air around them before—

 

He chuckled.

 

“You're right.”

 

He set his mask on fire.

 

And her heart stopped as he pulled on the plague doctor mask of M, the newest addition to the Sinister, the notorious murder guild the next city over.

 

“Qrow has to die too, little sister.”

 

“… no,” she whispered.

 

“Good night, Knight.”

 

A shot rings out into the waiting embrace of darkness.