An eight year old, blonde-haired, lilac-eyed girl softly laughed in her throat from the corridor as she watched the eight year old, dark-haired, amber-eyed, cat-eared Faunus princess escape from her room, again. She compared it to a prison as that was where she was expected to be most of the time hiding away, like her secondary ears she hides in a bow. The young princess named Blake Belladonna, third in-line to the royal throne, behind her middle bother, Yuma, and oldest sister Heather. It was common for the male to rule despite who was first born.
The blonde-haired girl, Yang Xiao Long, was trained from a young age and bred from a precise ancestry, to attack, defend, use her aura and semblance to protect the royal family at all costs. Her mission was to Blake Belladonna personally, first and foremost. She was always trying to sneak away, past the guards and away from all eyes. Yang's mind was always focused on Blake's safety, second priority was the mischief the dynamic duo could get into.
Yang trailed behind, trying to keep her footsteps quiet, but they could never be silent enough to the Faunus princess with her excellent hearing.
“Agh.” She turned to face where the guard was attempting to hide. “Don't you have some poor damsel in distress to save, Xiao Long?” She complained with an eye roll.
“Apologies, Your Majesty.” The knight came out from her not so good hiding spot behind a silver knight decoration and bowed before her. “I cannot allow you to leave the premises of your room without an escort.” The young girl explained.
“Rise.” She sighed “Yang, it's just me, there's no need for formalities.”
“I apologize, Princess Belladonna, but my royal duties to you and country insist on good order and discipline.”
Blake rolled her eyes again at the right answer but one that wasn't completely truthful. “That, and if you don't, my cousin Adam will scold you. Not that he's around at the moment.”
Yang's head fell in defeat because the princess was correct. “And Duke Adam will scold me again.” She repeated her personal reason for being so formal to begin with. “What trouble will you get into today Young Princess Belladonna?”
“Oh please.” She waved her wrist down. “Now, you're sounding like how everyone addresses my older sister. Guard Yang Xiao Long, I order you to address me as Blake.”
“Yes Blake.” She nodded once in understanding. She loved how commanding Blake could be at times just to get her way, but it was usually for something small like how she was addressed, or-.
“I order you to escort me to the family garden.”
“Yes Blake.” She nodded once aggressively. The young guard followed Blake out, hiding in darker areas of shadows as not to be seen as they snuck out. “No visit to Tukson's Library today? I'm surprised you do not wish to attempt to scare Chef Lie Ren. I believe you are a few days overdue.”
“Not today. Chef Lie Ren is waiting in anticipation for something to happen. Not that he ever shows it with how controlled he is. When you expect something to happen, but nothing happens that is the worse anticipation.” The royal cat Faunus shook her head. “I just want a quiet spot to read without secretly being judged by the servants or found by my family for boring and sometimes painful lessons.” She glared at Yang. “And no trying to forcibly get me to attend or trick me. That was a bad idea.”
“Blake, I am ordered by Queen Kali to remind and have you present no matter what. Who would ever think of judging you? Your family loves you. They want the best for you.”
“Yang, I know you're not so naïve. You know what's going on better than anyone around her. You get along with almost everyone in the palace. You know they say things behind my back. Mostly about me being a cat Faunus, even though both my parents are feline Faunus, my father passes for human and most believe he is. That part matters to maintain order. Our world is fragile when it comes to the policies and politics of humans and Faunus co-existing. Humans feel Faunus should be slaves and Faunus see humans as lesser beings as they don't have features that make them adaptable to the outside world.”
Blake continued. “My parents marriage was arranged to bring the two halves of Menagerie into one, solidifying it as a small kingdom. It's only a matter of duty that they had to have heirs to rule the throne. Take Heather for example, born of two cat Faunus, turns out to be a Faunus with no physical attributes. The people of Menagerie think she'll sympathize with humans because of that. My brother Yuma is another prime example, a bat Faunus. He has wings and can glide, but also has hemophilia, If he bleeds his blood won't clot and so he has to have blood transfusions otherwise he'll die. He gets transfusions regularly. People don't even think they're my siblings because they weren't born like me. My mother was forced to get a DNA test done to prove they are my father's children and she didn't have an affair. The kingdom wants to see me on the throne because of it. I look almost like my mom and have similar features to my dad. I am the only child who was born as a visible cat Faunus. Of course I would have to hide my ears in the form of a bow.
You are the only human who doesn't judge me, my father, or my mother, even though she doesn't like you because you are human. Me being a princess who doesn't quite follow the rules, is a Faunus, and being royal, you treat me like everyone else.” She smiled. “You don't change your attitude or demeanor because it's me.”
“I'm not the only human. My father guards the king and he is growing on Queen Kali steadily. Nobody knows how Future King Yuma wasn't born of feline descent. Faunus DNA is complicated. Your father, King Ghira, never once doubted your mother. The nobles wanted a DNA test done as soon as they saw that Prince human as a bat Faunus. Your sister will have a hard battle gaining respect because she doesn't look like a Faunus. Your parents love each other greatly. I've only seen love like that once and it didn't last.”
Yang continued after taking a breath. “I just don't get what the big deal is between the conflict of humans and Faunus. Some could pass off as human while others have ears, tails, antlers, or something had makes them unique, something that adds something extra to them. I mean they're almost like humans, but cooler. I really hate the fact you are forced to hide your second ears at every gathering, event, family picture taken, and even roaming about. Queen Kali does not have the same torture in order to prove she is a Faunus to keep the peace. Your feline ears are as much apart of you as your human ears are. Only certain people are allowed to know about them. I just don't get why it's hushed.”
“Yang, while I appreciate the statement, not everyone thinks like you do. Also, you wish you were a Faunus for the features humans don't have.” She smirked. “Not to mention you are a Faunus sympathizer. Some might even call you biased against humans.”
“Yes!” She claimed excitedly bringing her hand down in a fist bump. “Could you imagine how much better I could be at protecting you if I had night vision, fangs, claws and possibly super hearing? I hope I would be a dragon Faunus...or a lion Faunus! Something cool like that.” She grinned. “It's not my fault I think Faunus awesome! I mean look at me, a regular human.”
“Actually, it is your fault you are biased for Faunus.” Blake pointed out. “I would call you anything but regular. I mean Yang, you light yourself on fire. You have punches that level thick trees. Your hand-to-hand combat style is rivaled by very few. But, just because you can light yourself on fire, does not mean you'll be able to breath fire or have horns. I do think a lion Faunus does suit you. Though, sometimes very rare, they are associated with cowardice. That is the opposite of you. You are strength.”
“I can dream. My father doesn't call me Sunny Little Dragon for nothing.” She smiled. “You really think I would be a lion Faunus.”
“You are reading too much into this conversation.” She couldn't help smile and laugh to herself.
Yang interlocked her finger behind her head now that they were in the clear and she could walk beside her. “I hope I never understand racist humans.” Blake smiled at her comment. “We've reached the clearing. I'll just-ahem-let you be then. I'll be in the tree line if you need me.”
“Yang, I'll always have a spot available for you to join me, if you want.” She allowed Yang to have that option as she knew how seriously she took her job. Even if she ordered her to stay beside her, Yang would protest as it she felt it would hinder her line of sight.
“I appreciate the offer princess, but it's hard to see around the area if I'm only able to see two hundred and seventy degrees around you as opposed to three hundred and sixty, plus I want a birds eye view to see distance. It would be limited in my sector line of sight.”
Blake knew that was the right answer, but it wasn't the complete answer, nor the answer she wanted to hear. “And because you want to look professional by staying hidden as we both know it will be a matter of time until someone starts looking for me, most likely Adam. Why are you so afraid of him anyway?”
“And yes, all that which you said. I'm not scared of Duke Adam. I'm afraid of his rank, power and authority it's gotten to his head as he can strip me of my title, deeds to any lands that allow me to stay around the palace, and displace me from being your guard as he's threatened on occasion. If it weren't for King Ghira, he would've done that already. Even Queen Kali see's reason in me staying around. He's is power hungry. To have someone else protect you would prove senseless. You hardly trust anyone as it is.”
“That's because you're the only one I trust. You wanted to know me for me. Everyone else pretends to, well most of them.” The princess counted on her fingers. “Scaring Miss Scarlatina into thinking you've drown in your bath, only to scare her from a hiding spot. Terrifying Mr. Rodenta by hiding in a vent then blasting it open with your gantlet shotgun. Terrorize Mrs. Peach as she tries to set the table, you're not allowed to have any fun, being a kid must be so hard.” Her voice sarcastic as she rolled her amber eyes.
“The only reason your father is as soft as he is in only giving us 'the look', is because according to my father, they were the same way, but worse. You've made your point though. That was unprofessional of me and it was wrong of me to not talk you out of it instead of joining you. That is for my own personal development and I need to do better as your personal body guard.” She started to walk toward a climbing tree.
“Yang, I'm glad we did those things together. We're kids. We should be allowed to have some fun before it's all stripped away from us. And you're so much more to me than just a personal guard. You're my friend, my best friend. I don't have or trust anyone as much as I trust you. I'm the one who got you into trouble with my father, mother and Adam in the first place.”
“You're also the one who bailed me out of trouble with your fiancé, King Ghira, and Queen Kali. You're a princess, it's expected of you to read boring books of authors who are dead rather than have fun and spent time with the living.” Yang joked.
“Shut up.” The cat Faunus laughed.
“I'm going to climb this tree now, so the cat won't get stuck later and I'll have to get you down or call the fire department.” She counted herself lucky she could joke with Blake, a royal princess, about being a cat Faunus with cat-like features and tendencies.
“That was one time and my hair was stuck. It's better than falling out of a dying tree.”
“Hey, I know what signs to look for so I don't fall. It was only one time. ”
The princess rolled her eyes. “Whatever you say.”
The blonde started to climb the fifty foot trunk while Blake took her seat on top of a fallen tree Yang secretly created for her noticing she sat in the same spot every time, leaving an indent in the grass. She maneuvered it where a branch was able to support her back. It was a natural seat, not anything from the castle. It was stress and anxiety free. It was like the environment around her. Quiet, still, a place where she could quietly read without the disturbance of people walking by or the chatter of mouths, just the quiet noises of the almost natural forest that made up part of the garden.
Yang always knew how to spoil her without being over-bearing the majority of the time. The princess wished her personal guard would join the seat beside her, but she took her job too seriously in her mind. Both of them knew Blake liked having her alone time without any of the palace distractions. The alone time she was granted anyway. While she was reading and Yang was nearby, Yang was quiet, only requesting that she would read aloud.
Yang sat up with her back against the trunk watching the young girl read. While she did want to join her, she had a job to do and the princess was engaged to her cousin Adam to keep the bloodline royal. Blake was third in-line to be Queen of Menagerie, her brother wasn't expected to live very long with his blood ailment, may fifteen and he was ten now. To speak of him dying was treason. Most likely, Future Queen Heather would be in charge, if her loyalty to the Faunus subjugation wasn't constantly in question. If everything goes well, Princess Blake would be able to marry whomever she pleases, as long a she has either her parent's, brother or sister's blessing. Whoever would be in charge during that time.
About three hours later, Yang spotted a small dot of red and tress swaying around effortlessly despite the thick brush and lack of wind. It was obviously Adam and his sword, Wilt, cutting away at anything in his path as he walked to his 'prize'. As a warning, Yang chirped five times of a melody that could be confused with a bird. The first and last beats being the longest with the middle four only half a beat. “Chhiirrpp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chhiirrpp.” It was the signal to let the princess know exactly who was coming and if she wished to hide. King Ghira, Queen Kali and Duke Adam were specialized while everyone else had a generic one as they rarely visited, if ever.
Blake responded with three longer notes in acknowledgment. The first and last were the same octave while the one in the middle was higher pitched. “Ooooo, ooooo, ooooo.” It amazed her how well Yang could see without being as Faunus as she didn't pick up anything with her hearing. She'd be that much better if she were a Faunus.
Minutes later, she heard a twig snap behind her and her ears twitched in response. She knew exactly who it was and would not give him the satisfaction of reacting to whatever he planned. She heard the 'intruder' creep closer, no doubt with his sword in hand. He dashed directly behind her and brought the red blade to her neck as if he was going to kill her.
“See, now what if I was a danger to you? You make it too easy for the enemy humans to kidnap and or kill you.” He gave her cheek a quick peck and sheathe his weapon.”
“I was warned you were arriving and chose not to move. I'm not alone, as much I want to be.” She referred to Adam rather than Yang. “If you were an enemy, you'd be dead.”
“Then where is your personal guard?” He asked with malice. He refused to say her name. It would only solidify her existence as human garbage.
“She's in a tree. Yang let me know you coming. If you want to sneak up on me, at least try to be quiet. I heard you coming. Your sword's results aren't silent either.”
“Alright, but not much gets past you. Will you come back to the palace with me?” Yang started climbing down, recognizing the familiar glint in his eyes.
“I'm reading. I'm not ready to go back yet. After I finish this chapter.” And the one after.
“What about your lessons?” He tried asking nicely.
“They're not for another hour. Yang keeps track of the time.”
“I'm sure your guard is bored, sitting around doing nothing, let's go.”
“No.” She stood firm.
He grabbed her bicep aggressively forcing her to stand. “That wasn't a request Blake. Come back with me.” Adam growled in his throat.
“Hey!” Suddenly, Adam was forced to let go as a rock came whizzing past him, narrowing missing. Yang sent a rock that was meant to miss the target, but not by much. “Princess Belladonna is not ready to return to the palace Duke of Weasel-ton.”
“How dare you!? It's Weaselton!” He snapped at Yang stomping toward her until he was inches from her face where he snorted through his nostrils. “Blake, did you see that!? Your guard just attacked me! Me! The Future King of Menagerie!”
Blake crossed her arms. “I didn't see anything. She threw a rock in my general direction because of a huge bug that was coming after me and managed to squish it. You're not the future king Adam, I'm only the princess. Yuma is first in line. You're duke. Goodbye Adam.” Blake always felt stronger telling him off with Yang around or defending her.
He flared his nostrils right in Yang's face knowing she was the reason for Blake's bravery. “You'll regret that.” The goat Faunus promised.
“Maybe.” Yang shrugged. “Right now I don't, Your Royal Heine.” The guard bowed respectfully. Adam stomped off in anger knowing he wasn't going to win this battle. When he was gone, Yang felt her knees wobble and collapsed on the ground. She had no doubt Adam would make good on his threat. Only reason she was still around, was because of King Ghira's kindness and Queen Kali's reasoning of the only person Blake would talk or listen to. They would even go as far as to defend her as she has no quarrels with anyone, humans or Faunus, Adam being the exception. Blake would try to be there to plead her case but she wasn't sure how well or if the Belladonna parents would listen. They'd rather hear Adam and Yang's side first.
“Yang!” Blake rushed to her. Yang remembered how to breathe again. The princess knelt beside her, a concerned a hand on her shoulder. “Are you okay?”
She hated making Blake worry. “You're...you're gonna...get your dress all dirty...” She managed. “I should be the one asking you that.”
“I'm fine.” She stated quickly, too quickly.
Yang didn't believe her for a second and gently reached for her arm before she could pull away. She pulled the periwinkle ruffles of her dress up to reveal nasty yellow fingertip-like bruises. “Blake, you have to tell your parents.” Yang wouldn't dare break her promise of telling them herself which she was reluctant to make no less keep. “This is the second time this week. He's getting worse. It could get out of hand-.” She chided herself for the pun.
“It's not even bad Yang. It doesn't hurt.”
“No Blake, this is how it starts. It will escalate and get worse. I get nervous every time he comes around and points his sword at your throat even though it's a joke. I get you love him, but what he's doing isn't love. I can't protect you from him forever.”
Blake stood and faced her. “I don't need your help! I can take care of myself! Just because we're engaged, doesn't mean I love him or want to be with him!”
Yang kept her voice calm as she stood. “You'd marry someone else if you could?”
All arguing stopped and silence hung in the air. Blake thought about the answer, the truthful answer. Yang deserved that much. “I...I don't know.” Her ears would've flattened against her skull if they could've as her eyes were glued to the ground. After several minutes, she found her answer, raised her head and locked eyes with lilac. “I mean, I know I'm only eight, Yang. At sixteen if Yuma or Heather choose not to be married, I will be wed in an arranged marriage with Adam, possibly. It's just a lot to think about. Spending the rest of my life with one person seems like a long time and too much to handle. Not to mention I'm expected to produce an heir or two by the age of eighteen. It's just feels like...”
“Your life really isn't yours. It's just run by other people.”
“Exactly! I don't even know how I feel about children. I'm just a child myself.”
“Blake, look at me.” Yang gently held her hand. “You're not the queen, you're a princess, Princess Blake Belladonna, the sassiest, sarcastic, most famous eye roller and glare giver in all of Menagerie, except maybe second if you count Queen Kali. She's scary when she wants to be.” Blake rolled her eyes. “Point is, you get a choice on who you want to marry where Future King Yuma and Queen Heather don't. You get to decided if you do or don't want children. Let your older siblings take care of the hard part. That burden is not yours to bare.”
Blake smiled at her and hugged her. “Thanks Yang. You're the best body guard and friend a princess could ever ask for.”
“You're the Yin to my Yang.” She smiled back. She stroked her hair and rubbed her back in a circle. “One life... Is not a long time...” Blake felt safe and warm in her arms, relaxing completely and almost giving into one of her feline urges. “When you're waiting...for a small sign. Patience... is hard to find. Shadows... Seem to fill your life. Don't be disappointed. Don't let your heart break. Don't spend another minute in this way. It's ok~ay. Dry your eyes now ba-by. Broken wings won't hold you down. You'll take flight soon ba-by. You'll be lifted up and you'll be there-ere-ere. “You ready to head back to the palace?”
“I guess I can't disappear forever.” They made the trek back.
Before they even saw it, Blake knew something was wrong. “Yang, something's not right. I smell smoke and gunpowder like after you fire Ember Celica. I think I hear faint screams.”
“Wait here!” Yang told her with urgency. She climbed up one of the tall trees and saw black smoke rising from the where the Imperial Castle of Menagerie stood. Her eyes widened in fear. Blake was right. Blake! Her one sole mission in life, to protect her. She quickly climbed down. “Blake, we have to go.” She reached for her hand only for Blake to fight her as she ran ahead. “Blake!” She activated her gauntlets, Ember Celica , as she ran after her. For that moment, she hated how Blake was a natural runner as much as she liked to sit quietly and read.
Blake ran inside not thinking about anything else. “Mom! Dad!” She cried out. Gunshots rang out, painfully ringing in her ears. People screamed in fear as they attempted for an exit. Glass shattered all around the stained glass windows. “Mom, dad!”
“Blake! We have to get out of here!” She tried to force the princess out.
“No! Not until we find my parents!” The dark-haired girl ran around several more corridors crying out for her parents. They found themselves in the ballroom where most of the chaos ensured. Yang swallowed hard at the sight before her. She was thankful Blake didn't see the sight that would haunt her for years. Everyone living in the palace tried to scurry to safety. Those who tried to escape outside, were met with armed, civilians with guns. She grabbed Blake's hand as it would be predictable what would happen next and didn't want Blake to see. They ran along another corridor into hiding.
They were too late as they were spotted by a taller figure with red hair and a white mask that hid his face. “Release the princess to me and I'll spare you.” He snarled. “Refuse and I will make it hurt.” He narrowed his eyes through the slits in his mask though they couldn't see.
“Never!” Yang shouted back. Putting up a brave front. “White Fang...” She knew a little bit history with them. Peace turned into controlled violence. She didn't think they would breach the walls in the Faunus paradise of Menagerie, no less the palace. She knew this is where they originated from, but they had no reason...to be here... “You brought the hateful humans here...” You were the one who falsely accused King Ghira of broken promises he never made. You're the insider threat... You're the traitor! You did this! I will have your blood for bringing plague upon the royal family!” Yang fired off one of her gauntlets. His red sword absorbed the shot. His hair and outfit glowed red. “You too...” Her eyes widened. It was that moment she realized Adam wasn't normal. He was like her, and she knew she was out matched. She gripped Blake's hand harder as they ran, ran to a safer place, a place they could escape.
Yang sprinted up the stairs with Blake trailing close behind, still linked. The guy hot on their trail growling in anger all the while with threats he intends to keep. Yang locked the door and barracked them inside the familiar room, Blake's bedroom “Blake, you have to listen to me.” She sat the terrified princess down in an attempt to get her attention and focus on her instead of all the destruction around them. The princess was in shock. Her pupils dilated and she panted heavily for breath. “Blake, snap out of it!” She shook her.
“What was that!?” She asked out of fear and pulled the blonde girl into her or her into Yang. It was all a blur. “He just absorbed your gunshot-?” There was a loud bang against the door as a bullet was stopped by the furniture.
“Blake, there isn't time. I'll find you, and I will explain everything. Don't trust him. Don't go with him.” She moved a large painted self-portrait of Blake, the princess hated it and now to Yang it has served its purpose. “Go through the tunnels and run. Run as far and as fast as you can. Don't look back, don't stop until you know you're safe. I'll come find you when this is all over. I'll come back for you, I promise.” She wasn't going to tell her, if she survived. Even if it took the next life, she'd find Blake again.
“No!” She held tighter. “I'm not leaving without you!” She already doesn't know the fate of her parents. She can't lose Yang as well.
“You have to, I'll buy time for you to escape. Don't look back, just keep running. Keep going until you can't go anymore.” There wasn't time as Yang could almost see the aggressor. He couldn't know where Blake was.
“How will I find you!?” She asked out of desperation.
“Escape Menagerie. Sail or fly to Vale.
“I'm not leaving without you!” She gripped her tan jacket tightly pulling her closer.
Yang held her for a second, making a memory. She stood up and opened the vent. “Yes you are. Go!” She pushed Blake inside who tried to push it back open for Yang to escape with her. She used her strength of pain that she felt and pushed it shut, knocking Blake back by several feet and locked it from the outside as she moved the portrait back.
“Finally!” The male made a hole just big enough for him to slide in. “You're mine!” He looked around and noticed someone was absent. “Where's the princess!?”
“She's gone. Long gone! Far away! I'm your opponent.”
“Aaaaahhhhh!” He angrily yelled.
Blake ran through the vent. It was large enough for her to stand up in. As she ran, she tried to process everything that happened thus far. The guy in the mask was somehow involved in her family's demise by rallying humans. Her family home, the only place she ever knew is on fire and being destroyed. Unarmed civilians were being shot and killed by unknown assailants. She had no idea where her family was, or even if they were safe. That man could somehow not only block bullets from Yang's powerful gauntlet's, but could also absorb the shot and glow red.
Even with her night-vision, it was still hard for her to see in the dark vent. Her best friend and body guard whom she assumed never kept secrets from her, somehow knew about this secret passage not even Blake knew about in her own room. They could've used this to escape on a regular basis. She was running. Yang should be with her, she told her to run. Something about finding her in Vale. Was that Yang's home? She never mentioned it before. Blake always assumed she was born in Menagerie. Her father, Taiyang, protected her father and they were close friends. Humans were rare as they weren't welcomed on the island Faunus paradise by many. What else was her best friend not telling her? She'd have to ask when they met again.
Blake hit the exit with her small frame and fell backwards landing on her butt. She tried pushing it open a few times, but it wouldn't budge. She felt along the metal wall and pressed what felt to be a button. The wall opened and she slipped into the crowd as they ran. The scared Faunus felt renewed with adrenaline as she made her way to the docks. The only way off Menagerie was either by boat or by bullhead. She kept running like Yang said. As fast as her legs would take her. Be damned the cool night desert air as it burned her lungs. The scattered moon lighting her way.
Suddenly, in front of her were two Faunus she knew. The Albain twins, Corsac and Fennec. Both foxes, one had ears while the other had a tail. She didn't exactly trust them.
“We've been waiting for you, princess.” One of them said.
“Our High Leader will be most pleased.”
Her world went black.