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The Knights of Grimm - Act 4 - Whispers of Arkhonex

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The cold winter air flows across the falling battlefield, rumbles of war reverberate through the cobblestone paths that the blood trickles down. A collection of ants that feast away at the Human and Faunus cadavers that lay scattered, clawed and stabbed and crushed by the armies of Grimm. Hundreds of beasts charge across a gigantic stone bridge built over a cavern, all roaring as they throw their muscular shadowy bodies at their foes. One of the Beowulves digs its claws into the chest of a warrior who cries with agony as it rips him apart. Gnawing at his skin and flesh in order to rip him apart. Blood sprays out from his body as it pulls and rips his body apart as he screams.

That is until the Beowulf clamps its jaws into his throat, viciously thrashing him around until his jugular is torn right off. Spraying claret out and across the black wolf that killed him. The Beowulf rears up on its hind bipedal feet, pulling its arms back to howl to the only partially fractured moon. Nothing compared to what it looks like now, and behind the Beowulf is a battalion of Mammoth-Sized Goliaths approaching the fort with deafening trumpeting roars from their trunks. The roars echo for miles as Nevermores glide overhead, launching Fatal Feathers down into the battlefield beneath them.

Giant black feathered blades come crashing down into the defences, catapults shattered like glass from the impact of such powerful feathers that impact them. Chunks of splintered wood and bent metal thrown through the air, impaling some unfortunate souls trying to defend the main gate. “They’re closing in! We cannot hold them forever!” A Knight wails with fear as the monsters charge, the ground rupturing before him as a massive Deathstalker explodes up from the ground before his very eyes.

With horror flowing in his veins, he screeches with horror until the massive glowing gold stinger comes crashing down and stabs straight through his torso. It swings round and roars, throwing the still screaming man into the horde behind it. Only for him to be swarmed and ripped to shreds by the vile monsters that move closer and closer. Burning boulders are thrown from trebuchets towards the army, exploding with brimstone impacting the Creeps and Beowulves that ceaselessly charge. A man on a massive Ballista turns the titanic weapon with all his might and fires.

The huge bolt flies across the sky and nails a Nevermore through the ribcage, the screeching titan of a Crow plummets down to the ground, slowly disintegrating away into a thick plume of black smoke. But their efforts just seem effortless, because the army of monsters never seem to be faltered by the constant barrage of fire that the Knights unleash upon them. A Knight bellows as he swings his sword across the neck of a Beowulf to kill it, only for a Griffin suddenly grabs him and they both crash through the side of the cobblestone bridge, plummeting to their deaths as they scream.

One soldier staggers back with horror, seeing where his friend once stood, falling to his knees and hiding behind a concrete barrier to cover his ears as he cries. Not all of the weapons are so ancient though – for some of them are actually shooting dust rifles as well at the Grimm. Bolts of electrical dust burn through the bodies of Grimm that continuously charge further and further to the gates. Nailing some of them in their weakest spots.

The chinks in their bony armour plating.

Even some robotic Warriors enter the warzone as well, firing missiles from their shoulders to try and lessen the amount of Grimm that continue to make their attack on the walls of the fortress. The robots that they send forth make the Atlesian Knights look like they are made of paper in comparison, broad shouldered bulky mechanical beasts that march through the walls. Along with a huge mechanical titan with razor sharp feet.

Known as a Warden.

The panels around its triangular body slide apart to reveal the charging red laser that prepares to fire along with the trumpeting horn which challenges the Goliath getting closer and closer. The huge Grimm Mammoth erupts into rage as it lifts its trunk at the Warden whilst the Apostle Robots continue to assist the Knights holding the Grimm back as best they can. The Warden roars, blasting a thick red beam of energy into the head of the Goliath, and the beast roars with pain, staggering back as the burning hot laser carves across one of the massive curved tusks.

The tusk severs, crashing to the bridge with an almighty bang, spreading cracks across the bridge. Chunks of cobblestone plummet off the side of the bridge as the Warden stands it ground. Thick black smoke bleeds from the heavy wound inflicted on the Goliath, but the enraged titan just roars again. And it continues to march towards the gates, with a guttural growl as it moves closer and closer to the gates. Every footfall makes the ground shake, and a Nevermore dives towards the Warden.

The Warden screeches, turning and blasts ten tiny missiles from its back which explode as soon as they make contact with the Nevermore. The huge beast roars with agony, vaporised into black smoke before it could even get close. The Warden remains tall, firing the laser into the Grimm that continue to make their approach, slicing the arched tail of the Deathstalker clean off, which causes the stinger to fall and plunge directly down into the top of the Scorpion’s skull. The shrieking monster is silenced immediately as soon as the stinger impacts the skull, and it collapses to the ground.

The Goliaths roar with fury as they splay their huge black ears out to the enemy, constantly moving towards the fort. “The Warden doesn’t have enough power to take down three Goliaths! What are we going to do?” One of the Knights cries out.

The crying Knight hides behind the concrete barrier, his body shaking erratically with terror, ready to face the end that is coming for them all.

But then...

A man steps out of the fort.

Alone.

With just a sword and shield, slowly approaching the face of the battlefield. One of the Knights taking cover reaches out for him as he approaches. His hair is a greyish blonde with some weathered scars on his body, most likely across his entire body. The strange man wears an impressive suit of armour, one that is crafted with a rare metal named Isomacium. Not only that but it has been carved to represent the skulls of the Grimm, with Beowulf shaped skulls making his shoulder pauldrons, and he wears the helmet that looks like that of a Griffon’s head. He holds the helmet in his hand as he approaches, with the sheathed sword in the other hand. The hand he holds the helmet it has jagged metal claws built into the gauntlet, looking like the claws of an Ursa.

He shows no fear.

Just courage as he approaches, and the Knight screams out his name. “Vyrryk! What are you doing?” He screams, but the warrior known as Vyrryk says nothing.

He just stands before the roaring Goliaths that march on the Fortress. He puts the helmet on with ease, staring through the sockets of the Griffon and he clips it to the shoulder pads that he built.

Then he draws the sword.

It is simple looking, with a blue hilt and a yellow crossguard, and with faintly glowing symbols across the blade, and he holds the sheath in his hand. And it transforms into a shield that also has similar symbols inside.

It is Crocea Mors.

He clenches the hilt tight and his blue eyes glow fiercely, as he walks towards the army of Grimm. He slashes once at five Beowulves, and an almighty blast of lightning erupts from the blade that annihilates all of them in one swing. As a Nevermore comes for him, he swings his shield, and the impact creates a deafening back, and the shockwave spreads cracks across the bridge. As he calmly walks across the bridge, killing the Nevermore immediately with one powerful smash. The huge crow fades away into the realms of time and mater, Vyrryk looks ahead at the ground as Creeps tunnel towards him.

He jumps in the air and stabs the sword downwards, sending flames straight through the ground that completely annihilates all the creatures before they could even burst out of the ground. The Knights are shocked of what they are seeing; he has made more progress on his own than they have in half an hour of fighting. And he does not stop there, as an Ursa Major roars and charges at him, he suddenly vanishes right as it slashes its claws at him. Confused, the Grimm Bear looks around, only for Vyrryk to suddenly stab the blade of Crocea Mors downwards into the back of the Ursa’s head.

The Ursa grumbles with pain, collapsing to the ground, before fading away.

The Grimm begin to fall back.

Except for the three Goliaths on the bridge that roar at him, so he stares them down with the sword and shield in his hands. The Matriarch of the Goliaths charges towards him with a roar, swinging its huge tusk at him, since it is missing the other from when the Warden challenged the titan. Vyrryk sprints at the beast, diving into a combat roll which narrowly avoids the attack as it scrapes the huge bony tusk through the cobblestone. He stabs the sharp blade of Crocea Mors straight into the leg of the Goliath, and it creates a screech of pain.

The Goliath rears up with him still holding onto the hilt of the blade, as it attempts to crush him under its weight. Vyrryk uses the moment as an opportunity, throwing himself into the air as he floats above the Goliath as it slams its huge feet into the ground, nearly breaking the bridge as well. He floats over the creature, and the blue eyes of the warrior glow brighter, as he blasts down towards the Goliath, stabbing it straight through the head. The Goliath roars with agony, and he twists the blade round, taking control of it just by veering it in the direction of the others.

By guiding the head of the Goliath like the joystick of a Bullhead, he smashes the tusk into the side of one of the other Goliaths. The sharp curved tusk carves deep into the thick hide of the Goliath and it roars in pain, black smoke billowing up from the laceration. He pushes the blade forward to force the Goliath into a charge, and it smashes the other towards the edge of the cliff. The Goliath bellows, as it falls, plummeting down into the chasm with a roar, fading away into the gloomy mist beneath, eventually hitting the ground.

Vyrryk turns to see the injured Goliath making a charge into the Matriarch, and it stabs both tusks into the Goliath’s side, making it trumpet out with pain. The Goliath snarls with anger, and with its only tusk it manages to hook the creature by the neck, and then smashing the skull of the Goliath into pillar, which collapses and crushes the Goliath to finish it off.

Finally...

Vyrryk rips Crocea Mors out from the skull of the Matriarch and it stumbles slightly in pain, but still goes to attack him with its trunk with anger. But as Vyrryk rises above the beast, he channels his aura into the blade and the hieroglyphics shine brighter this time, as bright as the sun. He blasts downwards, using his powers to propel himself into the Goliath.

With Crocea Mors extended, he plunges straight through the head of the Matriarch, and he shoots through its head like a bullet. He lands down on the bridge, pressing the blade of the sword into the ground with a shockwave. And the Matriarch collapses to the ground with a groan. And before they know it...

The battle is won.

All the Knights stare at Vyrryk with shock and awe as he rises up, huge clouds of black smoke forming around him as he stands there. The huge Elephants fading away into smoke around him.

He looks at the Knights of the Arc Family and he nods.

Sheathing Crocea Mors into the shield that collapses back into its scabbard form.

“Protect The Sword...”

“It must find the Final Knight.”

The voice echoes through his mind...

And Jaune gasps, sitting upright in the bed that he has been in a stage of recovery in for the past few hours. He pants with sweat trickling down his face, looking around, to see Pyrrha still asleep in the bed next to him, also recovering from their fight against Hyde.

He presses his hand to his head...

Remembering the ghostly words of his great, great grandfather – Vyrryk Arc.

His eyes now turn to Crocea Mors leant against his bed, seeing the glimmering markings still present on the sword.

“What are you?” Jaune questions with curiosity...and fear as well.

The blade Crocea Mors – Yellow Death – has more tricks up its sleeve than he realises.

And perhaps...

So does he.

Chapter Text

Jaune

 

He traces his fingertip across the Isomacium forged blade of Crocea Mors, able to feel every single groove where the ancient Arkhoni Markings have been engraved onto. He can see exactly where the light shimmered from, and every now and then as he touches it, there is a very slight shimmer. It could not be the reflection of the sunlight – since the window and the sun are not in reach of the blade itself.

His large blue eyes focus on the blade...wondering constantly what its secrets are.

Why was it passed down to me?

Who is the Final Knight?

Is it me?

Is it one of my sisters?

Did my parents know about whatever that man said? My great...great grandfather how many times over?

Before he can wonder any further, he lifts his head at Nora and Ren who have both fallen asleep after keeping their eyes on their friends the whole night. Nora mumbles as she sleeps with her head on her boyfriend’s shoulder, then her head slips from his shoulder. And she gasps with a snort as well, looking around as she jolts awake. Then she sees Jaune awake as well, with that same smile on his face as ever.

She takes a powerful inhalation of air when seeing him awake, and she punches Ren in the shoulder – pretty hard as well. “Ow!” Ren exclaims as he presses his hand to his shoulder, snapping back into the realm of the awake. Then he sees Jaune sat upright and his eyes widen with disbelief, and he immediately gets up at the same time as Nora. Whom instantly wraps her arms around him, and he yelps as she squeezes him tight with her freakishly unnaturally strong arms.

“You’re okay! By the gods!” Nora squeaks with ecstatic joy as she bounces up and down like a crazy Kangaroo.

“Hey...love you too Nora...can you please stop crushing me?” Jaune strains as his face starts to turn purple and his voice becomes harder to decipher as he struggles in her grasp.

“Oop!” She squeaks, releasing him and colour returns back into his face and he sighs with relief, looking up at Ren to see him with a kind...yet saddened look on his face. Then he looks at Nora, and sees the same expression.

Neither he or Pyrrha know of what happened in the courtyard.

What Vir Nominis Umbra has done...

“Guys...what’s wrong?” He asks them, and they both sit down beside him with shaken expressions. Their joy did not last long...it was as if that happiness was drained from them the moment that they remembered what happened. The sound of the impacts of that hammer against Oobleck’s head...the shriek that Raven let out when watching her fiancé die right in front of her eyes.

The things that Vir Nominis Umbra can never be undone, they will never forget the punishment he inflicted upon them. Then they hear Pyrrha waking up as well, groaning as she presses her hand to her head as she rolls round and she looks at Jaune first...then seeing Nora and Ren.

But seeing the looks in their eyes...

“Guys?” Pyrrha whimpers fearfully as she looks at them with teary emerald eyes.

Nora is about to say it, but Ren does it for her...so then she does not have to be the one to break the news. He holds her hand gently, rubbing his thumb across the top of her hand. “Vir Nominis Umbra came here...just after you two and Kassius went looking for the meds to help Yang.” Ren reveals and they both look worried. Because they did see him there with Kassius, but they never knew what he did.

“He was with us as well...he told us that he punished us for something...what did he do?” Jaune fearfully asks and that is when he sees Nora rub a tear from her eye.

“He...” Nora stammers tearfully, but Ren is the one that takes the shot.

“He murdered Oobleck, Roy, Nolan...and Taiyang.” He reveals – Jaune and Pyrrha’s eyes both widen with horror and it is like getting stabbed by Kassius all over again. A shockwave of heartbroken emotions flow through his body when hearing those names...and he can literally picture their faces. Oobleck’s...after everything that he had done for them all...as if losing Professor Port wasn’t enough!

He clenches his hand into a fist and he snarls with anger, his eyes squeezed shut. Pyrrha turns and looks at him, clutching the bed cover over her body. “Jaune?” Pyrrha gently speaks as she reaches out to him.

“How?” Jaune questions with a rage fuelled voice and Pyrrha looks increasingly worried. Both Ren and Nora are delighted for them to be alive...but the loss of their friends...it is drowning their joy out with sadness. Jaune grips onto the hilt of Crocea Mors with every ounce of strength in his hand, almost stopping the blood flow in his entire hand. He is shaking with anger, and all he wants to know is how they died.

“Jaune...you don’t –” Nora whimpers fearfully, not of Jaune...but of having to repeat the memories in their heads. How sadistically he murdered them all...they have never witnessed anything like it – something pure evil.

But Jaune needs to know.

“How did they die?” He repeats with his eyes closed, trying to focus his emotions as best he can. He knows that his emotions may grant him strength but he also knows that he cannot let them overpower him...otherwise he will end up like some of their foes that they have to fight. Like Ortega with the loss of Penny and how Hazel turned out with the loss of his own daughter, Amber. But he managed to pull himself out of that darkness that he was trapped inside of.

Ren looks at Nora...and he sighs, then looking at Pyrrha who is scared of the answer that they are beating around the bush about. But they know that they deserve to know the truth, even if it is haunting. “Umbra...took a claw hammer and he...smashed Oobleck’s head in...beat him to death...right in front of us.” Ren stammers as he can hear the sound of the metal hammer crashing against his skull. The wet squelching crunch that ever bang followed up with...enough to send nightmares through his soul.

Jaune flinches and Pyrrha begins to sob, covering her mouth as she hears the words. He never deserved to die like that – nobody deserves to die like that, she would never wish that kind of death upon anybody.

Not even Umbra.

What he deserves is something far more severe.

“Ruby got angry and she aimed her rifle at him...but it didn’t matter, because he used her to kill Nolan. Pulled the trigger for her, and killed him as the bullet went through him.” Nora describes with a trembling voice and Jaune tenses more and more as he hears the way that they died. “Then he just murdered Roy because he felt like it – threw a damn spear through his chest.”

Pyrrha shakes her head...waking up to this news is not what she ever wanted to hear. But then again, after what they witnessed, and that Kassius has vanished out in the wilderness...how will they ever wake up with a happy morning ever again with this as their foe? “And Tai?” Jaune asks, calling him by the nickname that both the Branwen Twins named him by. It still feels surreal for Nora and Ren to come to terms with the fact that they will never see Taiyang again.

Or Oobleck...

How must Ruby and Yang be feeling?

Wherever Ruby has disappeared off to?

Raven and Qrow must be heartbroken as well, both of them lost something very close to them last night. Qrow lost a brother, and Raven lost the love of her life...in a single second...everything she ever dreamt of having...was snatched away from her in an instant. Ren sighs, as he gives Jaune the answer to his question finally. “Vir Nominis Umbra challenged Ruby to a game of his – she never told us what happened where he took her. But she must have failed – because the next moment...Umbra launched one of those goddamn spears through him.” Ren describes.

Still hearing Raven’s cry for the man she loved.

Nora begins to cry as well, having to cover her eyes as she sobs beside Ren, and he gently puts his arm around her, pulling her close to his side as he caresses her ginger hair with his hand. He kisses the top of her head affectionately...

Until he notices that Crocea Mors is beginning to glow brighter instead of shimmering when in the grasp of Jaune. Pyrrha notices it as well, along with the sweat which beads from his pores and the sight of his muscles tensing up and the sound of his breath getting harsher and harsher. Pyrrha would normally be attracted to the sight of Jaune’s body being as muscular as it is...but this is different.

The air is thick with anger and it surrounds him, then his eyes open up slowly as he grits his teeth with fury. “Umbra...” He growls, then he screams with rage and there is a pulse that erupts from the blade of Crocea Mors,  fluttering their hair around, and both Nora and Ren gasp with disbelief from what had just happened there. Pyrrha stares at Jaune with shocked eyes, remembering when she saw something similar happen after Hyde had stabbed her.

The blade glowed and when the swords impacted, there was an incredible shockwave.

Like when he gets angry, the sword seems to channel something through him, or perhaps the other way around? Either way that sword has some mysteries to it – mysteries that they need to find out soon...because if it can help take down Vir Nominis Umbra...they need to know about it. Jaune ends his cry of anguish, enraged that he could not save those who have been butchered by a monster...and after what he saw in the Charred Forest...he cannot even think of what Umbra could be doing to their souls right now.

The only thing they can do now is avenge them.

Is to find the weakness to Vir Nominis Umbra, the chink in his armour...so then they can kill him once and for all.

The aura that swirled from the blade of Crocea Mors fades back into his own and he calms down, still dripping from the hair with sweat. “Damn it...” He sniffles with anguish, sick of failing.

Neither of them decides to ask the question on their minds...because clearly neither Pyrrha or Jaune really have any idea of what the hell is happening with Jaune and Crocea Mors right now.

“There wasn’t anything you could have done, Jaune.” Nora states, and she is confident of that after seeing the epic battle that took place in the courtyard between Ozpin and Umbra.

“Where is he?” Jaune questions, staring at them...and that is where they are faced with the rather perilous task of telling him about the return of a certain individual. An individual both he and Pyrrha do not trust for as far as they can throw him.

“Ozpin...woke up...and challenged him.” Ren reveals...

And the silence that fills the room sends chills through both their bodies at hearing those words. After all these years...he has finally woken up. “Ozpin’s...awake?” Pyrrha fearfully questions and for good reason – Cinder may have been the one to kill her but Ozpin was the reason it all went down that way. He would have sacrificed her future, her own soul to become the Fall Maiden.

“Yes...and...he has a lot to explain.” Nora states as she looks at Ren.

“But he hasn’t said a word, not since...well...” Ren awkwardly says, since everything has gone wrong.

All in one night.

“Since what?” Jaune asks.

“Ruby has gone missing, just like Kassius. We could not track either of them down, they have both vanished off the map. Not even Cinder can track Kassius down, she thinks he might be knocked out.” Ren explains, remembering the things that Cinder had told them about her efforts to try and contact her brother.

“What about Ruby? What do you mean she is gone?” Pyrrha asks fearfully for the safety of her friend. They all are, especially after that letter that she had left behind.

“We found a note on her bed where Oscar had left her to recover...Umbra did something to her. She was being possessed by him at the end of the battle...and...she said he threatened to kill us all. I think she’s ran because she wants to protect us...after the deaths of her dad and everyone else...” Ren sighs as he thinks about her, but Nora shakes her head.

“It isn’t her fault though, it is Umbra messing with her. He is lying to her.” Nora states, but she does not know Umbra as well as both Pyrrha and Jaune do. And they know that there is one thing about Umbra that he never lies about.

And that is that he never lies to begin with.

He tells the truth, just not the full truth at times. Or he will tell others a truth or plant potential ideas into people’s heads.

But he never changes the truth...he never lies...he just misconceives them for those he tells them to.

“He wouldn’t lie.” Jaune states, and they look at him with confusion.

“Huh?” Ren asks.

“Pyrrha and I spent a long time with him in the Charred Forest – he is many things but a liar is not one of them. Whatever happened...Ruby must have messed up and gotten it wrong.” Jaune states, not trying to sound cold towards her, but not lying either. Probably the only good quality that they have seen Vir Nominis Umbra display so far is the fact he never lies to people.

“Ozpin has told us that he is not going to tell us what he has to say until we find Ruby. And then we can have the funeral for everybody that we lost to him.” Ren explains to him, then Jaune sighs, throwing the covers off his body and he slides off the bed and onto his feet. Nora looks at him with worried eyes.

“Jaune?” She asks.

“Where’s Ozpin?” Jaune questions as he sheathes Crocea Mors into the scabbard attached to his belt.

“Jaune he won’t say a word, he is being stubborn.” Ren states.

“I don’t care, where is he? Where is everyone else?” Jaune asks, and he turns to see Pyrrha getting up as well, her armour has been fixed up after the battle against Hyde luckily and her wound has healed. Just another scar to her collection, this time it is on her stomach, same as the one Jaune now has. Along with a couple others, like the slash across his chest from the Beowulf years ago in Mistral. And the burns in areas from the battle he had against Pyrrha when she was under the control of the Onyx Phantom.

Who according to Vir Nominis Umbra is also still alive somewhere...hopefully Ozpin has the answers to that as well.

Ren looks at Nora and he stands back up, opening the door for their friends. “They are in the courtyard, Glynda is trying her best to repair the damage.” Ren tells them.

“Okay...let’s go have a chat with our dear professor.” Jaune states, walking in front of his team, and they follow him.

As a black crow with red eyes and a crystal beam in the tree outside their window watches as they leave.

And it caws, before flying away.

Vir Nominis Umbra is always watching.

Always.

 

Oscar

 

Glynda holds her crop upwards, using her magical semblance to rebuild the damage done to the school’s courtyard, telekinetic energy lifting up huge chunks of rubble and fusing it back together. She has already rebuilt the Colonnades luckily, even after the battle she had against Umbra. She levitates the largest chunks from the tower that was smashed apart during the godly battle between the Soothsayer and the Knight of Vengeance. It fuses back together but she sighs, dropping forward to regain her strength whilst pressing her hands to her knees.

As she regains her strength to continue with the reconstruction after the battle while she still can...Oscar is sat on the edge of the fountain with his hands gripped onto the letter which Ruby had left behind. His hazel coloured eyes staring straight at the words, and while he reads them Hazel is looking at him, then at Ozpin who is knelt down on one knee. They have never noticed before the ways in which he actually did act like a Knight.

Very calm.

And he would always have his mind focused on his objective and nothing else...it is bizarre that they never noticed it before.

Oscar reads ever single word...

Every letter as he pictures the beautiful face of the woman he loves.

 

I'm sorry...

I'm so, so sorry...

This is all my fault, and I never should have gotten anybody into any of this. I let my anger control me and I killed Dew, I was not fast enough to save Gray, Serena and Vos and they all died. And now I Oobleck, Roy and Nolan...even my dad..they're all dead because I failed.

I know you are all my strength.

But he made a threat to me before he left...

He threatened to kill all of you...

He made good on his last threat and I will not challenge that again. I will not allow anyone else to die for me, not after this.

Oscar if you are reading this then please do not come after me.

I am going after that fucking Soothsayer myself.

And I will kill him.

But nobody else will die because of me.

I'm no Huntress anymore.

I am whatever I need to be to kill Vir Nominis Umbra.

I'm sorry.

And I love you all.

- Ruby Rose

 

He knows her handwriting off by heart and this definitely was written by her...and he can even see the tear stains on the paper where she began to cry. Her torment must be eating away at her constantly, and with Torchwick always present in the back of her mind...it must be getting worse and worse without him there to help her. It is killing him – not knowing where she could have gone.

The only consolation he has is that she could not have gotten far.

Hazel sits down beside Oscar and the massive man’s presence completely breaks Oscar’s endless chain of thought that surrounds his girlfriend, and he turns to the large man. “How are you holding up, Oscar?” Hazel asks him, and he looks up at him. It is strange, both he and Cinder have had a child and father relationship with this man.

And once he tried to kill Oscar and she killed his real daughter.

Perhaps people really can change.

Perhaps forgiveness is possible even for the most horrendous of crimes.

Oscar folds the letter up and he presses it down on his lap and he presses his hands to his face as he sits forward, exhaling heavily through the gaps between his fingers. “Goddamn it...this is all such a mess.” He says to Hazel with a trembling voice and the deep gruff voiced man nods his head.

“Hmph...I know...I didn’t know Oobleck...or any of them that well...I’m sorry.” Hazel says to him, and Oscar sighs as he pushes one of his hands through his messy black hair. He cannot help but think on how much of a defeat they have suffered, and not just with the deaths of their friends.

Everything they fought to save, to free...and now they are back at square one. Atlas is under Acolytes of Lien control, Mistral too and the White Fang have fallen back into the old rule with Mazen as their new High Leader. And Vacuo has been completely taken over by the Grimm as well. “How are we supposed to beat something that managed to take down three kingdoms in half an hour? How are we meant to challenge him when after everything we threw at him he just countered it all?”

“Except for Ruby.” Hazel states, and he pauses with a sigh. Most people would be hopeful at that, but Oscar knows Ruby well and he knows that she would never want such a burden to be hung on her shoulders like that. She already has enough to cope with in her own mind, let alone the power that she wields...a power that could kill Umbra.

And even then after she did it he was not killed, they just managed to hurt him.

“Not much of a victory though, is it?” He sighs. “We hurt him...that’s it.” He sighs as he sits there, looking at Ozpin and he looks pretty resentful. “Why the hell is he holding all of it back? Why didn’t you come and save them before he killed Oobleck?” Oscar mutters with anger, and it seems that Hazel is in agreement...perhaps all of them are this time as well. They are sick of him not telling them things, but he seems insistent that Ruby be here for his explanation.

Oscar and Hazel’s attention turns when they see Team J.N.P.R storming towards Ozpin, all four of them with angry looks on their faces. Ozpin just stares down at the ground as he waits, seemingly meditating, and Jaune stands right behind him. “Talk.” Jaune demands with a growling voice, and Ozpin slowly opens his brown eyes, turning them ever so slightly to look in his direction.

“Mr. Arc...I’m glad to see you are awake.” He says.

“Cut the bullshit, talk. Now!” He demands, and Ozpin sighs, taking his cane and standing tall. No longer wearing his cog based Armour that everybody referred to as the Entity of Time – and now wearing his old traditional outfit he always wore.

“I will explain everything when Ruby Rose has returned to us.” Ozpin states.

“Just Ruby? What about Kassius?” Jaune questions sternfully, desperately wanting to punch the Headmaster for countless reasons. Pyrrha may be alive now, but he is still partially responsible for what she endured.

“How do we know he is still on our side? Things did not look particularly promising from your side.” Ozpin asks, and Jaune scoffs with amazement at how quickly he is throwing both Kassius and Hyde under the bus for what happened.

“It wasn’t him, or Hyde! Umbra did something to Hyde, he was not in control.” Jaune explains, remembering it perfectly well.

“And how can we be sure of that?” Ozpin asks him, but then the familiar voice of Kragen Nox appears behind him.

“He is telling the truth, Oz.” Kragen reveals and the Knight of Vengeance turns to the old Silver Eyed Wizard who stands there, with his robes around his body again. He approaches them with his cane in his grasp, and Oscar watches him approach cautiously. At the moment, he is the only one here that knows of what he did back on Menagerie.

Of how Gray, Vos and Serena died, and why.

“I saw the aftermath of their fight, Hyde seemed to come back at the end. He was freaked out and he ran away when I tried to calm him down. Even Cinder cannot find him with her semblance, he could have been captured.” Kragen explains, and they turn to see Cinder leant against the wall.

“If someone gets knocked out I cannot contact them.” Cinder states, worry is clear in her eye as she stands there, twiddling her fingers around. Pyrrha looks at her, and she looks away...she has conflicted thoughts of Cinder right now and so does Jaune. They both respect she is trying to atone but both remember her crimes.

That is not easy to forgive.

“Well...if he has been captured then we must continue without him.” Ozpin states, but Jaune cannot hold it back any longer and he yells with rage. He punches Ozpin straight in the jaw and the Headmaster recoils back with a grunt, staggering across the cobblestone and everyone gasps. Pyrrha grabs his hand and pulls him back, and Ozpin chuckles as he cracks his jaw and stares at Jaune. “Okay...I might have deserved that.”

“Oh trust me I was holding back.” He snarls with anger, fury almost glowing in his blue eyes. Ozpin sighs as he paces back and forth.

“In all honesty? There are only four individuals that are of priority for this explanation. And only three of them are here right now.” Ozpin explains, looking at the trio.

Jaune

Pyrrha

And Oscar

All they are missing is Ruby. “I am sure that Kragen has informed you that the four of you are pivotal in the war that has begun?” Ozpin asks them, and Pyrrha looks at Oscar as he approaches.

“He brought it up.” Oscar answers as he walks over, his hazel eyes trained on the old Warrior, who knows why he is cautious of him.

“Then you must understand why I am holding back until she is here. The information I have is too important for me to risk repeating myself without her here. Umbra could be watching us at this very moment and none of us could know.” Ozpin explains, looking at the many trees that surround them, looking for the Crystal Beaked Crows.

None to be seen for now...

But that does not mean that they are not there.

None of them are thrilled to see him up and walking, especially after the fact that he only seemed to wake up after Taiyang died, and Oobleck, Roy and Nolan before him. But as they all focus their attention on the mysterious professor, Glynda looks to her scroll when she feels it vibrating in her pocket. She pulls it out and she flicks it open, seeing it is call from the Valerian Police Department. With a curious expression, she answers the call since they rarely ever get calls from the police since they handle most small stuff. “Hello, this is Professor Glynda Goodwitch speaking.” Glynda announces, and they all look at her, listening to what she says to them.

But as the officer on the other end speaks to her, Jaune glares at Ozpin who stands tall. Still not saying a word, not until they locate Ruby.

“Arc?” Goodwitch questions, instantly getting Jaune’s attention off Ozpin, his eyes looking surprised, then Glynda looks at Jaune. “Um okay...I will be sure to send some Huntsmen and Huntresses there right away.” Glynda assures, as she ends the call and puts her scroll away.

On the edge of his seat, Jaune asks what rattles in his mind. “Professor? What is going on?” Jaune asks her.

“Do you have a twelve year old sister called Alyssa?” Glynda asks him, and his heart skips a beat when hearing her name. His youngest sister, she is the sweetest of them and now he is terrified to find out why they had to call Goodwitch about this.

“What’s happened to her?” Jaune fearfully asks.

“She’s fine, but she has been found in the streets after there was a fight. Apparently a bunch of armed thugs were found murdered, and she is saying that a Huntress saved her life. She seems certain it was Ruby.” Glynda explains, remembering what the officer had told her. All of them look very hopeful now, just hearing her name gets Oscar ready to locate her.

“Where is she?” Jaune asks, still concerned for his baby sister.

“She’s at a dust shop...it’s...the same one where I first met Ruby.” She points out...the irony as well.

“I know the place.” Jaune assures, since he has passed that place a couple times before.

“I’ll get Blake; she needs to be with us in finding her. Qrow...what about you?” Oscar asks him, but he sighs.

“I need to help my sister...I don’t think she’ll want to see me...especially after what happened to Tai.” He says with a deeply saddened voice, he desperately wants to come with them but after what happened, he is right. He needs to help Raven, and soon they need to track down the Witches in the Restless Marshlands all the way in Mistral.

“It’s okay, we can find her.” Oscar assures as he goes to the Amphitheatre to see Blake, and she is still sat with the Afflicted. Yang is the only one still asleep, passed out technically...she has been stabilised by the medication but it is not enough to save her. It just gives her some strength, but the Witches must know how to make a cure...somehow.

Blake is sat down beside Sun, caressing his blonde hair affectionately, and he is turning his back to his girlfriend. He has tears in his eyes...feeling so much guilt in his bones. “It wasn’t you fault, Sun...He said it himself.” Blake gently whispers to him – seems that he is taking it personally...thinking he is the reason that the four died.

Because he called Umbra a freak to try and lighten the mood as he always did. But she is right – Vir Nominis Umbra was always going to kill them, he just took the opportunity when he could to come back.

But Sun does not see it that way. “If I wasn’t a damn idiot...they would all be alive.” Sun sniffles, tearfully and it is heartbreaking to hear someone usually filled with joy to be crying. Neptune is shaken too; as is Weiss...she is shaking on the spot as she lays there. Still seeing the deaths of them in her head, the sounds of their deaths...the cries that echoed across the courtyard when he murdered Tai and Oobleck.

She kisses his cheek lovingly; pressing her cheek to his gently as she warmly holds him. “Nobody blames you; he was always going to do what he did.” Blake whispers. “I need you Sun...Please don’t let this break you...” She whispers, trying to hold her own tears back. He has always been so supportive for her, now it is the other way around. And it is so strange for her to see him so fragile...and not just physically. She can literally feel his muscles deteriorating from the lack of exercise compared to his normal daily workout routines.

Oscar closes his eyes then he sighs. “Blake?” He calls out, and her black feline ears perk upwards to the sound of his voice. Blake turns to him, seeing the young man standing there.

“Yes, Oscar?” She replies.

“We have a lead on where to find Ruby.” Oscar tells her and her eyes widen, even Sun turns his eyes slightly but refuses to show his face. Refuses to show the tears that stream down his cheeks as he sniffles.

“You do? How?” Blake asks with intense curiosity in her voice, Neptune and Weiss both look interested as well.

“The Police Department, they called Glynda. Jaune’s little sister claims that Ruby just saved her life from a bunch of criminals. All of them are dead though.” Oscar tells her, and Weiss looks increasingly concerned. She never did forget that moment back in Vacuo when Ruby snapped at her because she was hiding stuff from her. Or when she cut down Dew when Team N.D.G.O betrayed them.

Ruby’s Inner Demons are getting worse and worse, because the Ruby they used to know would never callously kill somebody.

Even if they are enemies.

Blake turns and looks at Sun, and she affectionately holds his hand as she kisses him gently on the cheek again. “I’ll be back soon...hopefully with Ruby with us.” Blake assures with her loving voice. He nods ever so slightly, and she stands up, but before she leaves she adds one last statement.

“And Ozpin better have some answers for us.” She states, with narrowed amber feline eyes.

 

Jaune

 

The six of them took a couple of cars to the site of which the Officers reported, Blake and Oscar in one and Team J.N.P.R in the other, all searching for their very dear friend. The two cars decelerate as they approach the Dust Shop that Ruby Rose defended from Torchwick.

And now it has come to light that the man she saved was Umbra all along, just in hiding, most likely causing the events to happen in the first place. He let her go after Roman, which most likely lead to her meeting Glynda and got her to meet Ozpin...and started the whole chain of events. Vir Nominis Umbra was behind it all, and none of them ever expected the joke they had running for so long...to be their ultimate foe after all this time.

They both park up by the other police cars outside the shop, which now has an all new owner. With the Old Man Shopkeep no longer in sight...it sends chills down their spines to come back here. Jaune opens the door with Pyrrha beside him, looking around at the place with nervous expressions. On the way there, they were informed about Old Man Shopkeep, and Ozpin being the Knight of Vengeance.

But there is still so many more questions that Ozpin must answer...but at the moment...their priority is just to find and help their friend. Because that is what family does for their friends...they look out for each other.

They all have their weapons on them, and Nora looks at the shop with Ren beside her. “So this is where it all started?” Nora asks, looking at Blake as she walks past. She sighs, remembering when Ruby showed them where she first met Torchwick when they were looking into the Dust Robberies seven years ago.

“Yes.” Blake answers as she looks at Nora and she looks at her Faunus friend. Nora smiles kindly as she pats her friend’s shoulder.

“Come on, let’s go see what happened here.” Nora says, she does not even need to bring up the problems that Sun is suffering from. Because she knows that Blake is trying her best to help him get over it. Even though it was not his fault in any way, Umbra probably planned on that happening.

Jaune walks towards the yellow tape where the cops have sectioned off the shop, and one of the officers walks up to them. “Excuse me, civilian – you cannot enter here. Crime Scene.” The Officer states as he holds him back.

“We’re from Beacon Academy, Professor Glynda Goodwitch sent us. You asked for some Huntsman to check it out.” Jaune reminds, understanding their caution since they are just wearing casual clothing opposed to armour.

Easy to make that mistake.

Then her small and adorable voice gleefully cheers as he sees her running past the officers to him with a fluffy blanket wrapped round him. “Jaune!” Alyssa happily coos, running right into his arms. She is tiny, with a tiny blonde ponytail and blue eyes just like her brother. She wears – under the blanket – a pink hoodie with the Pumpkin Pete’s Bunny on the breast pocket. She also has her teddy bear constantly in her grasp, and Pyrrha smiles gently with happiness in her eyes. He catches her and he holds her close with relief, seeing with the officers is one of his other sisters.

Her name is Nylah Arc – she is the oldest of the seven sisters...or the six, since Skyler is dead. She has blonde hair too and it is much longer than Jaune’s, but not as long as Yang’s. In fact it is around the same length as Blake’s, curly as well. Her large blue eyes look to her brother, and her Commanding Officer allows her to go speak with him. She is a very beautiful young woman, and she immediately wraps her arms around her brother, relieved to see him. “Hey you two...” Jaune whispers softly as he holds them both close.

“I’ve missed you!” Alyssa squeaks happily, but her naivety does not notice the pain in the eyes of everyone here. But Nylah notices it practically immediately, seeing it in all their eyes.

“Are you okay little brother?” Nylah asks him, and he sighs, grunting as he feels a little pain in his stomach. It is natural for some pains to still be there even after Aura has fixed the damage, but it is like the pain someone feels in a bruise. He looks at Alyssa and then at Nylah...he cannot say fully with her baby sister there...and Nylah might not even believe him. So he just briefs it.

“We’ve suffered a heavy loss.” Jaune tells her, and her eyes widen and she closes her eyes sadly. She may not have known the people that died but she has the respect and care for her brother to feel his pain.

“I’m sorry, bro.” She gently says as she looks at him. Then her eyes drift to Pyrrha Nikos...she is filled with so many questions...but also knows that she would not understand. There is a reason why she chose being a Police Officer above being a Huntress.

“Hello...” Pyrrha sweetly says with a little wave, and then Nora and Ren both do the same. Blake and Oscar also wave too, they must have probably heard some stories over the years from Jaune.

“You’re her...” Nylah gasps with amazement...mostly from how beautiful she is...proud that her brother has found such a perfect partner. But also Jaune has told stories about her, clearly she must have heard about what happened in Beacon all those years ago.

But Jaune did not come here to catch up, perhaps that can be saved for when he goes to visit them again. He crouches down by his youngest sister and he sees the little scuff on her cheek, one that could have been given to her by the thugs. “What happened there, Alyssa? I got the call...did they hurt you?” He asks her with a concerned voice.

“I...um...” She nervously stammers, as she always has as well. “T-Th-They...” She stutters, revealing a little issue that his sister has. Alyssa has always suffered with a stutter since she was born, but that is always due to being stressed out in certain situations. Clearly the trauma is causing her stutter to activate again, until Pyrrha crouches down and she smiles as she reaches into her bag.

“Hello...I’m Pyrrha.” She touchingly greets, and in her handbag that Goodwitch was nice enough to loan her before she purchases her own one is a candy bar. “Do you like sweets?” She asks her with a beautiful smile, truly showing that Pyrrha is completely back now, not a shattered memory of whom she used to be. The mirror of Pyrrha Nikos is fully rebuilt and now she is the girl she was before Cinder had killed her again.

Like a fish, Alyssa is drawn to the candy bar. “Yes...” She nervously coos as she looks at the sweetie.

“Here you go.” She assures with a smile, placing it into the tiny hands of the child, her delicate smooth hands dwarfing Alyssa’s. Jaune smiles happily as he looks at Pyrrha, filled with gratitude that she did that.

“Thank you.” Alyssa adorably thanks with a shy smile as she hides in her blanket, nibbling on the chocolate.

“Pyrrha is my new girlfriend – do you like her?” He then covers his mouth jokingly as if Pyrrha cannot hear her. “You can say no if you like.” He jokes, in which Pyrrha gasps and sarcastically slaps his arm with a smile. The fact that they can put on these smiles for her – in light of what has happened – is impressive enough.

Alyssa giggles, and that is enough to warm the injured hearts of the Huntresses and Huntsmen. “Yes.” Alyssa replies with a happy smile, bouncing up and down with a giggle.

Jaune smiles, and he looks at her hand...noticing something in her clutches. His eyes widen when he realises what it is. “Alyssa...can you show me what that is in your hand, please?” He asks her softly and she smiles, doing so and she opens her palm...and it is what he thought it was.

It is Ruby’s Steel Rose Badge, the one inspired by her mothers.

“Alyssa – why do you have that badge?” Jaune asks her, and she stops nibbling on the sweet that Pyrrha gave her. Both of them look at her, not sternly, just curiously...which gives an answer.

“Huntress...” She shyly answers.

 

Alyssa

 

“What were you even doing out this late?” Jaune questions, his voice echoing through her mind as she remembers.

“I was having a sleepover – r-round a friend’s...” She answers with a stutter, that’s when her memory returns.

The little girl sleeps silently in a sleeping bag in the living room of her friend’s house, with five other kids the same age as her down there too. Two on each sofa, whereas she chose to sleep on the floor, her head resting on her comfy pillow she has. The bag warmly encases her, happily asleep for a few hours.

Until she and she alone was woken up by the sound of somebody screaming down the street. She opens her large blue eyes and she sits upright, rubbing her eyes with her hand, looking around. She can hear nearby yelling and thuds as well, thuds that sound like punches and kicks.

Curious as ever, she gets up as silently as she possibly not to wake her friends up. Not even so then she does not get caught, but just because she is so sweet that she does not want to annoy anybody or disturb them. She is as stealthy as a cat, as she moves towards the back door and she can still hear the shouting. So she sees the key still left in the door and she turns it as quietly as she possibly can.

Every parent’s worst nightmare.

And she is making it a reality for the Arcs, as she opens and closes the door so quietly that nobody would have even noticed. She sneaks her way down the street in the night, with the faint glow of the sun soon rising – she knows that the dawn is about to approach. But she keeps going so then she can investigate what is happening nearby, and why she can hear yelling.

She turns the corner and gasps, hiding behind a motorcycle parked when she sees the dust store. There are five armed thugs, but six motorcycles, meaning one of them is probably elsewhere right now. They all have weapons but only one of them has a gun, pointing it at the head as the dust shop owner. “Please! I don’t want any trouble! Just take the money!” He begs with terror in his voice.

“Oh no buddy boy, we want you to give us the money. Come on!” One of the thugs yells with anger as he punches the man in the face and drags him over the counter to kick him in the face. The man cries out with pain, on the ground with the other store worker that they have been beating on. He is unconscious from the beating that put on him and they all start kicking and punching him over and over again. Whilst one of them starts to take the money from his pockets and from the counter.

But as they punch, one of them notices Alyssa at their bike and he stops. “Whoa! Hold up!” He yells, and they all freeze and look in the same direction he is. And that is when they all saw her, staring straight into her blue eyes.

She gasps, trying to run but she falls, hitting her face against the floor which scuffed it as well. Her skin is scratched and slightly bleeds as she whimpers...she turns to see the men walking towards her. “Well, well...looks like we got ourselves a little spy.” The ringleader chuckles as he stares at the little girl. She shields her eyes with her hand with fear.

“P-Plea-Please do-do-don’t hurt me!” She stutters with terror, beginning to cry, but the men laugh at her impediment like the pathetic pieces of scum that they are.

“W-W-W-Wh-Wh-Why?” One of the men mimics, and they all start to do the same thing, all making sounds to make fun of her impediment. The more she sees it, the more she begins to cry as she hears the bullies she has to deal with at school do the same thing in her head. She sniffles and begins to cry.

But then...

There is a blood curdling screech that echoes from down the alley, the direction of which the sixth member wandered off to. The five men all spin around with bone chilled scared expressions on their faces. The echo passes through the city of Vale for a while until nothing, but silence remains. The Ringleader is the one to break that silence though, aiming his pistol in multiple directions whilst the others hold their melee weapons tight. “Marco! Marco where are you! Are you hurt?” He yells, screaming for his friend.

No response.

“Marco!” He yells again.

Still not response.

“Marco!” He repeats.

“Polo.” The female yet stern voice announces from above and they all gasp, looking up at the roof to see a young woman with a tactical suit of clothing on and a long red cape and hood over her head. Her single silver eye staring down at them all with blood dripping from Crescent Rose.

It is Ruby Rose.

She suddenly fires the rifle and shoots down towards them and immediately cuts the head of one of the thugs clean from his shoulders. A spray of crimson blood shatters into the sky, and Ruby has landed right before them, with gritted teeth on her face. The thug crumples to the floor and his head bounces and rolls across the floor as Ruby stands there.

One of the thugs yells as he runs and swings his baseball bat at her, but she ducks down and spirals round to smash her arm right across his face, spinning the scythe through her fingers as she growls with pure rage, slashing straight across the throat of another. So hard that she cut his machete clean in half in the impact, blood sprays like a fountain from his throat as he staggers back and falls. As another jumps onto her back she dashes away from him and he falls onto the ground, surrounded by red petals.

Ruby suddenly brings the curved blade down with all her might, stabbing straight through his spine and leaving Crescent Rose there, instantly killing him as well, adding to the pool of blood. “Stay there.” She snarls as she ducks down to deliver one powerful punch square in the centre of the Ringleader’s face, making him stagger and breaking his nose. With only two left for her to defeat, she draws her combat dagger that she has sheathed on her leg, and she slashes it across the hand of one of the thugs and she rolls across the back of another.

With an incredible display of skill, she manages to take the knife and carve it straight through his throat, and it his throat hisses with blood as she lands on both feet, only for her to push him to the ground with her boot. The Ringleader rushes towards her and he fires his pistol at her but Ruby ducks, before grabbing the hand that holds the gun and forcing him round, as she then drives the dagger right into his temple. She pushes him across small fighting zone and stabs the blade with his head impaled onto it against the wall, pinning him there and killing him instantly.

Ruby swiftly rips the blade from his head, panting so aggressively.

This is not the Ruby Rose they remember anymore.

Finally she turns to the thug she stabbed, who is still barely alive, choking on his own blood as she walks towards him. Taking out the rest of her anger – and it might not even be all of it – she rips Crescent Rose from his back and he tries to beg for mercy. “P-Please.” He chokes, only for Ruby to transform the scythe into its rifle form. She takes the stock of the rifle, and violently smashes it against the back of his head.

Over and over again.

“Die!”

She hits again.

“Die!”

Every crash sends a jolt through Alyssa as she watches the whole bloody ordeal. “Die!” She cries out, desperately letting her rage that she wants to direct at Vir Nominis Umbra out on these men.

The final one kills the man, putting him out of his misery, then she looks up at Alyssa, seeing her staring at the event that just happened. She sighs, standing tall again, but then she flinches with a snarl as she feels a slight pain in her side where Corsac stabbed her with his knife back on Menagerie. Residing pains still there even afterwards. She turns and looks round, staring at a crow that watches her from the tree with a growl.

But it is not one of Umbra’s, it is just a normal Crow.

Then Alyssa speaks again. “You...you s-saved m-me...” She stutters, her hands still shaking with terror from those men. She may be scared of Ruby because of what she did to them, but she also hopes for Ruby to have a reason. Nobody else would have done what she did. “Wh-Why?” She stutters.

Ruby snarls, sharply turning and glaring at Alyssa, her silver eye glowing fiercely as she stares at her. So harshly that Alyssa gasps fearfully, expecting Ruby to snap at her.

But she doesn’t...

She calms down and sighs, closing her eye, and Alyssa can see how tired Ruby is. Not just physically but mentally. “I guess I can only save people I don’t know...” She sighs, before looking at the young girl again. “Get out of here, girl. It ain’t safe in Vale at night.” She reminds, staring at her as she stands there.

As Alyssa listens to her voice...

It hits her and she gasps, with a smile.

But Ruby is not smiling.

She just stares at her with a cold and cynical expression – and she is only twenty one years old, and she has this sort of mindset now. Ruby just turns and walks away from her, but Alyssa stands back up. “Wait!” She calls, and Ruby stops. “You’re Ruby Rose! That Huntress from B-Beacon! A-Aren’t you?” She stammers, but with excitement this time, because from the stories that Jaune told her.

She became a fan of Ruby.

Ruby stands there, and she looks down at the badge she always wears, and takes it off, staring at her own reflection.

Her answer cuts deep.

“Not anymore.” She replies, dropping the rose onto the ground, and walking away from Alyssa, as a petal drops from behind her and it lands on the rose, before crumbling away.

Alyssa watches as she walks away...

She can see the pain she feels.

 

Jaune

 

He holds the rose in his hand...

Knowing that Ruby is getting worse. He looks at Oscar and can see the concern in his hazel coloured eyes and he looks at Jaune. “This is bad, Jaune.” Oscar states. “She would never kill callously like that, yes she kills people when in major combat situations. But only one had a gun, she would have incapacitated them.” Oscar explains to Jaune, and he knows that is the truth as well.

“Do you think that...Torchwick is starting to get worse for her after what happened?” Ren asks.

“I hope not.” Oscar stammers with fear for the girl he loves.

“She can’t be far.” Blake states as she looks around, seeing the body bags that hold the thugs that she killed.

Jaune stands up and he gently rubs the top of his sister’s head. “I’ll visit soon.” He assures, and she smiles, hugging his leg. Then he looks at Nylah.

“I’ll take her home, my boss has allowed me.” Nylah assures.

“Thank you.” Jaune says with a smile.

Nylah smiles back and she crouches down to her sister as he turns to the team of six he is a part of.

“We need to find her.”

Chapter Text

Yang

 

Darkness...

The cold air brushes across her face as she looks around, terrified wide lilac eyes, seeing the scorched trees that surround her. The crimson tainted dying sky with the completely shattered moon above her head with clouds of thick smoke floating in the sky. Ceaseless screams of terror and agony echo around her as she stands there, and she knows where she is...she even says the words with a trembling voice.

“The Charred Forest...” She gasps, staring at the hundreds of skyscraper tall blackened trees around her. Snowing thick flakes of ash fall upon her and into her stunning blonde hair.

Her eyes gaze down to her arms, almost instinctively, and she can see she has both arms here. Her eyes widen and she gasps when seeing both arms again, until a faint snarling collection of whispers echoes through her mind. For some reason she is wearing her cream coloured dressing gown that she has for the morning...or if she needs to recover from a nightmare. The fluffy gown seems to protect her frail body from nothing in this chilling landscape. Her hair has also been curled slightly as well, making her long beautiful blonde hair wavy. She raises her head slowly to see something in the distance.

A dark entity walking away from her and passing by a destroyed tree.

Curiosity takes the place of fear, so the Sunny Little Dragon begins to follow the entity she just witnessed disappear from her very eyes. The ground is so soft, the soil contaminated with the ashes of countless realms and universes that have been destroyed by him. The screams that make up this realm are so endless, overlapping each other so much, that she cannot even decipher the words that they scream. Distant howls and roars of Grimm echo endlessly, most of the roars are unlike anything she has ever heard.

Like something straight out of hell, titanic monsters ready to be unleashed on their world when Vir Nominis Umbra decrees it to happen.

The land is utterly haunting, devoid of colour and beauty, only replaced with destruction and chaos. But she continues to follow that mysterious entity through the forest, unaware that she is starting to have very similar nightmares that Ruby has had in the past. It is like a nightmare that spreads like a disease. “Yang...” The heartbreakingly familiar voice of Taiyang speaks with a whispering voice into her ear.

She flinches and spins around, finding nothing there. Just the endless expanse of the Charred Forest before her very eyes. “Daddy?” She mutters with fear, her voice breaking at the very mention of his name...for the poor girl still remembers the sight of her father being impaled by a javelin of shadows.

“Tell me Yang...why did you want to become a Huntress?” Oobleck’s distant voice echoes, faint memories pulsating through her mind of the people that they have lost. She continues down this path as she follows the entity, and she continues to walk her eyes are set on a bench. A cloud of ash rises from the ground, forming the shape of young Yang and younger Ruby.

Ruby must have only been five years old here, dancing and playing with her sister. She can still remember this memory, it was when Patch had heavy snowfall one time and it was one of their favourite memories. Playing in all that snow was like a dream for the tiny little Huntresses, whilst Taiyang watched with a smile on his face. With the still alive Summer Rose beside him – only a few weeks before she would die at the hands of Death.

The giggles of both of them enter her memory and it hurts her tender heart, seeing Ruby with two eyes – with a smile on her face. Little does she know how much she has fallen now, taking all her rage out on random criminals that she comes across. Yang continues away from that memory, leaving it behind and the ash memories float away, losing form and carried off in the winds of memory.

Turning the corner on this path of ash and destroyed life, she sees the dark entity standing there with its hands clasped together. A pair of glowing red eyes focused on her, but when she blinks...she gasps as it has changed its form. Now it has taken the form of Adam Taurus again, walking towards her with one hand holding the hilt of Wilt. She gasps as she backs up, just like her nightmare she had when she was still at Patch.

And just like that nightmare, she backs up and looks at her arms, finding that they are now loaded with Ember Celica. She stares at them, it has been a long time since she has seen both of them, ever since the other was abandoned after she lost her arm. But she grits her teeth and musters her rage as her lilac eyes erupt into flaming red irises. She screams with rage, firing the two Gauntlets at Adam as he walks towards her. He does not stop and the shells just pass straight through his ghostly form, only shimmering as they make contact.

Just like before.

She backs up...and an absolutely terrible, excruciating level of pain rushes through her arm, so bad that she cries out and falls to her knee. She looks down with tears in her eyes, to see that her arm is missing now and Ember Celica is gone. She gasps as she stares at the stump where her arm used to be.

Even now...

It still haunts her.

But she has no time to mourn the loss of her arm, when she sees the boots stop right in front of her. She gasps, seeing they are no longer the boots that belong to Adam, so she lifts her head to see who it is. She gasps – for it is him.

The Soothsayer.

Vir Nominis Umbra.

The evil man smirks sinisterly as he stares down at her with a faint tint of red behind those fake brown irises of his. It was always him that gave her nightmares, even that time when she had it on Patch – it was Umbra even then. Messing with her mind in the disguised form of Adam Taurus, knowing that it was make her suffer. “No matter how hard you try, you are just like your sister. A failure – who will never be able to protect the people you love.” Vir Nominis Umbra scorns with a smile on his face.

He sharply spins around and he launches a Javelin of darkness across the domain and Yang screams out with horror as she sees Taiyang on his knees. It plunges deep through his ribcage and he holds back from the impact. Yang reaches out to her father with a wail of heartbreak, desperately trying to save him but she cannot even get to him. Vir Nominis Umbra crouches down beside the broken girl with a grin on his face as he stares at her. “Why continue to fight, sweet beauty? You cannot stop the coming annihilation.” He states with a cold and cruel voice, smiling constantly as he caresses her cheek.

She swings her fist at him but it accomplishes absolutely nothing, just distorts his form. “Leave us alone...” She cries on her knees, but then she looks up to see something utterly soul crushing. Seeing Kassius lying on the ground, with his own sword rammed straight through his chest. Dead with his blood trickling across the ground and touching her hands. She screams with terror, totally freaked out from that...the man she loves uncontrollably...seeing him dead like that...

But she shakes it off, knowing that Vir Nominis Umbra is just playing with her mind. “Get out of my mind!” She screams, pressing her hands to her ears, and he looks down at her with a grin.

“Fight it all you want...you will not survive.” He states, as he suddenly forms a sword and he rams it straight through her heard, and Yang gasps with shock as he pushes her across the floor with the blade sticking out her spine. Blood drips from the blade as she grabs his arm, desperately wanting to survive.

“P-Please...” She stammers.

But he just smirks. “Everything ends, my dear. Tis the natural order of things.” He states, as he forms a second blade with his other hand and he slashes it at her throat.

 

Yang lets out a scream of terror as she wakes up from her terrible nightmare, still feeling that burning pain of feeling a blade being stabbed straight through her heart like that. Still feeling the cold breeze of that dead Realm, covered in the ashes of every soul he has ever claimed.

The sound of her scream gets the attention of Penny and the other Afflicted, Sun has managed to hide his grief by simply wiping the tears away. He remains in his bed though, looking at his friend with concern in his blue eyes. Penny runs up to Yang’s side, relieved to see her awake again, but also worried about whatever nightmare that she just experienced. “Yang...are you okay?” Penny asks her as she checks her temperature with her hand. She is still burning up due to the fever she has contracted.

Just like the others, the medication is starting to stop nothing, just keeps the pain at bay for some time. But the Horridus Morbus pathogen is still flowing through her with ease. Penny then turns her wrist and she gasps when she sees that some of her veins are slightly discoloured, turning black from the plague. And that is not the only concern, her skin around her wrist is darkening too, and there could be more signs underneath her clothing as well. The plague seems to get everywhere in her body.

The blonde haired Huntress stammers as she begins to recover from her nightmare, pressing her hands to her head. “Y-Yeah...just a nightmare.” She stammers, sniffling as she sits there. Weiss looks over at her close friend, coughing as she feels her lungs burning slightly. Qrow opens the doors with his aura up to not contract Horridus Morbus and he looks at Yang. He too is relieved to see her awake.

“Oh thank the gods...you’re awake.” He sighs as he walks towards her, and he immediately wraps his arms around her affectionately. He hugs his niece lovingly, since he is still filled with such grief for the loss of someone he held so close. Like a brother, and another like a friend.

“Hey...Uncle Qrow...” She sniffles, just as heartbroken as her Uncle, the death of her father did cause her to pass out after all. Not just the plague eating away at her body as time kept passing by.

“I was gonna as how you’re feeling...but I think we all know.” He sighs as he stands there with his head held low, still thinking of the death of Taiyang. Victory has never felt further away than it does right now. Yang is barely able to take a breath without feeling that urge to cry, like there is a lump of emotionally scarring energy building within her soul.

“Y-Yeah...” She stammers, brushing the tears from her cheek, and Qrow sighs as he sits down on the edge of her bed. Penny looks at Qrow and she looks just as hurt.

“I was gonna tell Penny and the others but since you’re awake I guess I can tell you in person.” Qrow says to her.

“What are you talking about, Uncle Qrow?” Yang asks with her voice on the edge of breaking down into tears.

“Kragen, Yenna, Architect and I – we are going to track down the Witches in the Restless Marshlands. We went to them recently about the Spring Maiden...they are pit best bet in making a cure for whatever this is.” Qrow explains to her, since those Witches are now their only hope. Even if they cannot be completely trusted.

“What about Mom?” She asks, fully expecting that she would be one of the people going with him. Qrow sighs, scratching the back of his neck.

“She wants to stay here with you...with Tai still on our minds...she just wants to be here for you.” Qrow says, and Yang thinks on that topic...and a name comes to her head. Someone she loves with all her heart is not here right now and she does not know where he is, or where Ruby is.

“Where’s Ruby and Kas? I need to see them.” She sniffles, then Qrow looks at Penny – since that is a troubling topic. Yang can see the look on their faces and dread fills her body, because she was unconscious during the Battle against Vir Nominis Umbra and she has no idea that Ozpin is back either. “No...They can’t be...” She stammers with horror, but Penny calms her down by gently laying her back down on the bed.

“Ssh-Ssh, it’s okay. They’re not dead...well we don’t know...it’s kinda complicated.” Penny stammers as she looks at Qrow, she just nods her head and he nods to her. Qrow walks away from them as Penny takes the responsibility of telling Yang about what happened when she passed out.

“Penny...what’s going on? Where are they?” She asks with fear in her voice.

“We’re not sure, Ruby took off after it all ended. Umbra messed with her head...a lot of things happened after you collapsed, Yang.” Penny states, thinking of that battle that took place.

“What do you mean?” She asks.

“Ozpin woke up – after Taiyang died.” Penny reveals and Yang’s eyes widen with complete and utter disbelief. “He’s a Knight of Grimm, Yang – he is Vengeance, the one that Kragen freed from his Curse? It seems that the Knight learned a few things afterwards. He challenged Umbra and they started fighting...nearly destroyed the school in the process.” Penny explains to Yang – a good thing that they have Glynda here to help repair the damage done to the school. But the scars can be seen in faint cracks in the ceiling when both Umbra and Ozpin came crashing straight through it.

“He’s...one of them?” Yang stammers with shock, and Penny nods her head.

“Yes...he seems to be on our side but he is not saying anything until Ruby is back.” Penny explains, even she looks angry at how Ozpin is acting right now. But then the mention of her sister brings her to the original topic again.

“Penny...where are they?” She asks.

“We aren’t sure, Yang.” She repeats. “Team J.N.P.R, Oscar and Blake are currently searching for Ruby in Vale. They have some leads, hopefully they can convince her to come back...but she doesn’t seem to be doing well.” Penny explains, both her and Yang – and the others are all thinking about Ruby’s mental issues that she is suffering from at the moment with Torchwick flooding her mind.

“And...Kas?” She stammers, and Penny scratches the back of her neck.

“We don’t know – he went with Pyrrha and Jaune to find you and the others some medication to keep the infection at bay for a little while longer. But Jaune and Pyrrha said that Hyde snapped from something – something to do with Merlot. That he just went crazy over something, so bad that even Hyde didn’t even have control.” Penny explains, and Yang looks so worried for the man she loves. “He attacked Pyrrha and Jaune...nearly killed them – but Hyde snapped out of it after he stabbed Jaune.”

“Are they alive?” She asks.

“Yes, just carrying new scars now.” Penny assures.

“Then...what happened next?” Yang stammers fearfully.

“Kragen showed up and tried to calm Hyde down, but he was agitated. He turned and he fled from Beacon...but we fear he has been captured by someone. He is knocked out maybe or something...Cinder wants to try again soon. But we don’t have a clue of where he could be right now.” Penny reveals and Yang begins to cry...

All she wanted to do was hug Kassius...and even he is not here right now. “Why do we always end up being separated?” She questions with a crying voice, and Penny looks at her with a gentle expression.

“What do you mean?” Penny asks and Yang sighs, as she exhales and holds her tears back as best she can.

“I knew Kas for a long time, we were friends before we ever started to...fall for each other.” Yang explains, and Penny nods her head with understanding. It is natural for that to happen, when kids are younger they do not really have those emotions until they get older.

“Didn’t you and he have a relationship before?” Penny inquires.

Yang sighs, and nods her head. “Yes. I was only fifteen but he was seventeen – well it wasn’t really a relationship per-say. We were just dating at the time...but...well...I’ll tell you the whole story.” She sighs as she sits up and begins to tell the tale of their past.

 

Nine Years ago...

The fifteen year old girl, almost sixteen at this point, is sat down in a chair with her blonde hair in a ponytail. The young girl has her arms crossed with a frowning little face, her eyebrows furrowed and eyes staring at her knees. “Yang.” The voice of a teacher speaks, trying to get her attention but she never lifts her head. Yang has a little bruise on her cheek from a fight that she got into over something. Then the teacher touches Yang’s chin with her finger to lift her head so then she looks at her. “Yang.” She repeats, sterner this time, but Yang pulls her head away and looks away from the teacher again.

The teacher lets out a huff as she looks down at her. “What are we gonna do with you? This is the third fight you’ve had in the last week. I’m sick of giving this lecture and I’m sure you’re sick of hearing them.” The teacher states as she looks down at her, but Yang just shakes her head, looking at her with just her eyes, not even turning her head.

“I don’t care.” Yang replies, narrowing her eyes as she stares straight at the teacher. The Teacher nods her head slightly as she exhales through her nose.

“Yes that does seem to be the crux of your problem.” She sighs as she walks away from Yang and to the window, looking out at the school. The sun is beginning to set, and it is in the middle of winter with ice on the roads and frost forming on the rooftops.

“Why am I the one being punished?” Yang questions, looking at the question with frustration.

“Why? You punched Jack in the face and broke his nose.” The teacher reminds, but Yang scoffs.

“He was picking on my little sister.” Yang states, meaning Ruby must not be in detention like she is.

“I told Ruby to go to lunch break, you two only have yourselves to blame.” The teacher states, only seeming to anger Yang more and more.

What kind of logic is that? The kids who are being bullied are the ones that should deserve detention for defending themselves? Or her big sister protecting her?

“How was it her fault? He was pushing her calling her mean names.” Yang defends with angrier eyes, but the teacher just seems insistent on being against Yang and Ruby for some reason.

“Does that give you the right to start throwing punches at a boy two years younger than you?” The teacher grills, but Yang sighs as she looks down at the floor. Then something comes to her mind, a memory of something that the boy called Jack said. Something that just seems to hurt her soul even more as she thinks about it.

“It wasn’t just about my sister.” She confesses, and the teacher turns, looking at her. She walks over to Yang and looks down at her.

“What was it then?” The teacher inquires, Yang looks up at her, but refuses to tell her. Perhaps just because she feels it is none of her business.

“Nothing – you wouldn’t understand.” Yang states, but the teacher seems to try to get this information out of her further.

“Try me.” She challenges.

“I said no.” Yang starkly repeats, staring straight into the eyes of the teacher. The teacher sighs as she turns to walk away from her, but before she leaves the room she stops and looks back at Yang.

“No matter what we try – you seem insistent on following the same sad road as that boy. And your father, your uncle, and your mother.” She states, before shaking her head with disappointment. “What a waste.” She sighs, walking away from Yang and closing the door behind her. The words cut deep for Yang, the teachers here have never liked that Yang has been going to Signal Academy – these people are not fans of the Huntsmen Academies.

Yang fully expects to remain here at the school for another hour, for her detention lasts three hours of staying at this hellhole of a school. She twiddles with her fingers as she huffs and puff through her nose, until the sound of her scroll begins to beep on the table where the teacher had left it. Curious as ever, she gets up and sees there is a message on the scroll of hers.

Look out the window

She does so and she searches for whatever the message was hinting at, then her eyes widen as she gasps with awe. She can see a young man with a black hoodie and his arm waving to her. His blue eyes looking at her from all the way over there. She gasps with a big smile on her face as she presses her hands against the windowsill. “Kas!” She squeaks with joy.

His eyes still blue due to his little disguise he used after he survived the Terror Bird attack, to hide his relation to Cinder the whole time. She looks back at the door and she cannot hear the teacher anywhere near, so she takes the chance and she slides the window open, and vaults over it to get onto the rooftop. “Okay, Yang...let’s do this.” She sighs as she makes her way across the tiles that have been intricately placed across it. Every step that she takes is extremely slippery, making her gasp and have to right her balance as she moves.

Her scroll beeps again and she checks it, seeing another message from Kassius. “Careful, it’s icy.” He warns, making her roll her eyes and smile.

“You don’t say.” She scoffs as she walks across the rooftops, trying to not disturb some of the other students that are also stuck in detention right now. Some are deserving and some are not, just like her. She gets to a point where she must climb so she jumps up and catches onto the top of the brickwork of the building and hauls her much lighter body up. Placing each foot onto a section of brickwork that perfectly helps her get up the side of the wall. As soon as she gets up, she gasps as she feels the floor become extremely slippery due to the frost that has formed from the brittle temperatures.

She struggles as she slips down the tiles, and she reaches with her hand and catches onto a pipe, stopping her from falling off the edge and sending bits of moss and dirt falling off the edge and into the courtyard below. Yang grunts as she hauls herself back up and she looks around.

“No way across...except for the sky bridge. Meaning I need to get back inside – great.” She sighs, as she scales the roof of the building towards a window. She fits her fingers underneath the window and she pulls upwards with all her might, and she manages to open it. The window rises up and locks into place, remaining open so then she can get inside. The warmth is welcoming compared to the cold temperatures outside, and she sneaks along. Keeping her body close to the floor as she approaches the sky bridge.

But as soon as she does, she sees that teacher walking out of a classroom to see the Headmaster of the school walking out from the sky bridge.

Good thing I didn’t try and rush the sky bridge.

The teacher turns when the Headmaster greets her. “Good evening Caitlin.” The Headteacher greets with the respectful bow of his head, but the teacher stops him.

“Connor, did you hear about Xiao Long?” Caitlin asks him, and he sighs.

“I did – she protected her sister from Jack, didn’t she?” Connor presumes as he picks up a file collection and walks towards another room to go over them.

“Yes, but Jack never hit Ruby. I watched Yang and she just started punching him.” Caitlin describes and Yang’s eyes widen with disgust and disbelief.

That wasn’t what happened! He pushed her on the floor and she scuffed her face! You lying bitch.

But it seems that the Headmaster is not as strict and biased as some of the other teachers in this school. “Well, Miss Xiao Long does not strike me as someone who would not attack like that for any reason. I believe Jack probably had it coming, he has always seemed to pick on Ruby because she is sweet.” Connor states as he walks towards the classroom.

“Why do you keep avoiding the truth? Children who go to Signal more than they do here are prone to be more violent.” Caitlin states, sounding more ungrateful for the Huntsmen Academies than ever before. Headmaster Connor sighs as he turns to Caitlin.

“What do you want me to do?” He asks her.

“You know my opinion on the matter.” Caitlin states with the shrug of her shoulders, but Connor laughs it off.

“No, I am not giving up on the two girls like we did with Kassius.” He states.

“The three of them are just as bad as each other! Their father really expected that they could handle this school along with Signal so then they could get a better education. But the damned Combat School is turning them into thugs just as it did that boy.” Caitlin explains to him, and Yang just clenches her hand into a fist with disgust.

The school – Golden Rose Education – is a normal school for children who do not want to become Huntsmen or Huntresses. Since Signal Academy allows students to come whenever they feel they are able to, Taiyang thought it be best to send the three of them to both schools so then they can get a better education. But many teachers here despise the combat schools, and as Caitlin stated, they think they turn children into thugs.

Kassius would get into fights all the time at school to protect both Yang and Ruby, sometimes he would lose – but not very often. Because he refuses to stay down in a fight. Connor stops and he turns to her, with a sigh. “Look, I’ll talk to them both tomorrow. Okay?” He says to her and Caitlin sighs.

“Goodnight, Connor.” She says, and he smiles.

“Goodnight, Caitlin.” He returns, closing the door as he heads towards the door on the right which leads to the stairs and to the car park. Yang waits for the perfect opportunity, with Connor out the building she just needs to wait for Caitlin to be out of sight. The teacher wanders around as she picks up some text books that the children were reading today and she takes them into another room, opening and closing the door behind her.

Now’s my chance!

Yang rises from behind the wall and she moves quickly into the room, rolling into a crouch to avoid detection when Caitlin walks into the room again to pick up the rest of the books. Completely unaware that Yang is right there. She picks up the books, and she continues on her way, leaving the room that Yang is in. She gets up and runs towards the doors and she carefully opens them, making her way onto the sky bridge that was her target the whole time.

Remaining low to the ground, she quickly walks across the bridge and further through the school, searching for a way round to where she saw Kassius at. She opens the door and she looks around, she can hear some kids muttering who are here on detention as well. She peers into one room and there is nobody inside. So she walks inside of the classroom and uses its window to her advantage. She opens the window and she climbs out of the building, vaulting over and climbing up the side of the wall.

She learned how to master climbing from some of the lessons that both her father taught her and what some of the teachers taught her in Signal Academy. She reaches up and grabs onto a slightly pushed out brick and uses it to haul her body upwards, placing her feet smartly on individual points. She finally gets back onto the roof, now all she needs to do is follow the roof to the building where she saw Kassius waving at her from.

Carefully jogging across the rooftop to avoid slipping, a breeze of icy cold air rushes right up her back and she gasps from how cold it was. “Ooh! That was cold!” She squeaks, moving further and further towards where Kassius last was. She turns right where the building turns at a sharp angle, and she jumps across the little gap between the two buildings. She lands perfectly, rolling the rest of the energy from the landing off and she looks around, trying to find where he is.

But she cannot see him.

“Kas?” She mutters as she looks for him, until a pair of arms suddenly wrap round her and swing her around with a familiar laugh.

“Ha-ha! How’re you gonna be a Huntress if a loud idiot like me can sneak up on ya?” He jokes as he releases her, and she giggles, shaking her head.

“Alright.” She sighs as she looks at him with a smile.

“Good to see you again, firecracker.” Kassius chuckles, but then his jokey personality shifts as soon as he sees the bruise on Yang’s cheek – just as he did when he saw Yang’s cybernetic arm after their reunion at the Diner. “Wait...what is this?” He asks her as he points at the bruise on her cheek and she sighs. “Seriously? Another fight?” He questions.

“It was nothing.” She brushes off, but Kassius raises his eyebrow.

“Yeah but you promised me and your dad you’d stop getting in so much trouble all the time.” Kassius states as he stands there, and she sighs with frustration.

“He was bullying Ruby.” She states, and Kassius immediately realises why she did it.

“Ah...protective older sister instincts kicking in, huh?” He presumes, kinda knowing what that feels like with Cinder.

“Yeah – he kept saying that my mom abandoned us because we mean nothing to her and Summer is dead because we were too much hassle.” Yang recites, her voice breaking at the mere mention of Summer after everything that happened.

“Yang, Yang – he’s just saying that shit because he knows it annoys you. Just wants attention, all a bully is after all. Just ignore him – that hurts way more than a punch.” Kassius assures.

“You wouldn’t do it that way.” Yang states, and Kassius pauses, knowing that she is dead right as well.

“Yeah well you know the saying – do as I say, not as I do, huh?” He shrugs as he looks at her. Kassius then takes off his stetson and fits it onto Yang’s head and she grunts from how much of her head it takes up. “Hold onto this for me, huh?” He asks her, patting her shoulder. “Now let’s get you out of this shithole.” He says as he walks towards the door that he propped open.

Yang takes off the hat and follows him, she has never really been a big fan of hats – ruins her blonde hair that she loves so much. The two of them walk down the stairs towards the outer gate that leads to the car park. Kassius opens the door and lets her go through – a gentleman through and through. She throws his hat to him and he gasps. “Not a fan of hats?” He asks her.

“Nah, makes my hair go crazy.” Yang states, making Kassius chuckle as he walks with her. He has always been taller than her, and Yang has always been quite a tall girl. She has been five foot nine since she was twelve, and thus school dances were always awkward with kids that were shorter than her. But luckily she didn’t have to worry about that, since it was always either Kassius or Ruby.

The couple walk round the corner and Kassius points at something. “Check it out.” He says and Yang gasps, seeing a motorcycle parked in the corner. It is not Bumblebee but it is the motorcycle that Kassius always rides, the black bike with a growling engine.

“Wow, you finally fixed it up.” She gasps.

Kassius and Yang both found this bike when looking for parts in a scrap yard when building Bumblebee, since they worked on it together. But this is something he has been working on for himself in the meantime. “Uh-Huh, finally got it finished today. Wanna go take a ride? Pick up Ruby and see a movie or something?” He asks, desperately trying to get her to do something with him.

That’s when she catches on, looking at him with suspicious eyes and he pauses. “What?” He asks.

“I know you Kassius – and I know you’d only try and do something like this...when you’re trying to make up for something. Like that time we couldn’t go on that school trip.” She describes, and the school trip she mentioned happed a year or two ago. Ruby and Yang were so excited to go on a school trip with Kassius to Mistral. But when the school decided to cancel the trip since not enough students signed up, he took them to see movies, and had fun instead.

All to make up for that.

Kassius looks at her and he sighs, scratching the back of his neck awkwardly. “Damn you really are perceptive, aren’t you?” He states with a chuckle, then he sighs, lowering his head. “Okay...”

He presses his hands against the seat of his motorcycle, exhaling heavily through his nostrils. “Y’know I signed up to join the Huntsmen Academies?” He asks her.

“Yeah...” She agrees, remembering it well.

“Yeah...well I didn’t get accepted into Beacon – I was accepted into Haven. In Mistral.” He confesses, and the reaction from Yang is enough to hurt. Her eyes widened and he could feel how saddened she is by this news. The two of them had only started to develop feelings for each other, it may have been young love – but it was still love. “I’m sorry, Yang.” He sadly apologises, but Yang wipes a tear away from her cheek and shakes her head.

“No...don’t be. Who knows maybe we could end up there as well when we sign up...” Yang suggests as she looks at him, holding her arm as she looks at the floor. Kassius stands tall and walks over to her, wrapping his arms around her kindly and she does the same.

“Doesn’t mean we won’t see each other again, Yang. I’m sure I’ll get wrapped up in your crazy adventures one day.” He says – and oh boy is he right.

Yang smiles. “I hope so...I’ll miss you. You’re the only one who finds my puns funny.” She jokes, making him chuckle.

“That will be the dullest part of Mistral, I bet.” He says with a chuckle as he approaches the bike. “So...instead of moping on how much time we have left...let’s have some fun, huh? Shall we go get Rubes?” He asks her.

Yang smiles.

“Yeah.” She agrees as she nods her head.

Kassius smiles too...

And it was at that moment.

That his life would change forever.

 

Kassius

 

Somewhere in Vacuo...somehow...

Kassius stands with a few bruises and scuffs on his face with his shirt off that exposes the scars he has collected over the years, including the slashes from the Grimm Terror Bird that nearly killed him years ago. He has the same cocky grin on his face as he always had, just as a fist smashes right into his face and knocks him back. Kassius grunts as he staggers and presses his hands against a rock in the middle of the bone dry desert.

He remains on one knee as his foe holds his arms out, cheering to the others. “Oh yeah! Check me out boys!” He laughs maniacally, clearly one of the Traffickers and not one of the slaves who have their wrists bound by rope and connected to each other. The Leader of the Traffickers – a man named Kelham – is sat on a rock with a blade that looks very similar to the one that Raven uses.

It would make sense of how they manages to get to Vacuo so fast, by using the teleportation ability that those red blades have. Must have used it to get out of Vale fast, but not straight to their base. They must know that the Knights Bannermen are tracking teleportation across Remnant. Especially from all the Bandits with their eyes peeled, for any signs of Bannerman activity in the area.

Kassius chuckles as he wipes the blood from his lip, rising back up with both fists clenched together. “Gonna have to hit harder than that, pal.” He challenges the Bandit, standing tall.

“Come on then, handsome boy!” The Bandit challenges again with his fists raised, bouncing on his toes, whereas Kassius doesn’t.

“Let’s go.” Kassius replies, pacing back and forth on the baking hot sand. They have robbed him of his clothes and only leave him with some cloth trousers, and that is it. Just like the rest of the prisoners, except the women at least have bras on but have skirts on instead of trousers. Kassius paces back and forth, using his hand-to-hand combat training to good use right now. The Bandit rushes forward and swings his fist at him, but Kassius backs up and dodges it.

He immediately returns the favour with one extremely hard punch straight to the Bandit’s jaw, knocking him back, and Kassius quickly kicks him in the side afterwards. The Bandit staggers across the ground with an aggressive grunt, pressing his hand to his side as he gets back up. He snarls with anger, and foolishly goes for a second punch but Kassius blocks with his cybernetic arm. He punches the metal and he screams out with agony, nearly breaking his wrist. The metal twangs from the impact of his fist and the Huntsman immediately grabs him and throws him against the ground.

He gets on top of him and he smashes his fist into the Bandit’s face over and over again. But then the Bandit kicks him in his six-pack to knock him off, rolling backwards and back onto his feet. He paces back and forth as he keeps his fists raised, whilst Kassius doesn’t need to, he can move fast without having to keep his guard up. “Ha-ha! Looks like you’ve had a fair few fights with those scars, huh?” He questions as he points at him.

“I’ve had my fair share our bouts.” He assures, still remembering how agonising it felt as those talons from the Terror Bird dragged across his body and nearly started eating him. The Bandit charges at him and he knees Kassius in the gut and he smashes his elbow down into the back of his neck. Kassius snarls with anger, grabbing him and he sprints with the Bandit in his grasp. He smashes the Bandit into the side of the Carriage that has some loot and some slaves too. The carriage rocks from the impact and the Bandit punches Kassius in the head over and over again.

But having little to no effect on his body. Until he cheats, grabbing a whiskey bottle and smashing it against the side of Kassius’ head. The Huntsman yells with anger and pain, feeling a tiny shard of glass punctured into his skin. He rips it out and drops it onto the floor as the cheating Bandit paces back and forth. “Come on!” He challenges with a laugh. “Winner takes the girls!” He laughs, and Kassius scoffs.

“Already got one waiting for me when I break out of this place, buddy.” Kassius assures.

“Break out? Ha! You ain’t getting outta here!” He laughs.

“Try me.” Kassius replies, as he counters the attack from the Bandit, spinning round and smashing his wrist round across his head to make him stagger. But then the Bandit runs and kicks him in the chest, knocking him into the crowd of Bandits watching. One of them grabs onto him like a zombie and Kassius snarls with annoyance, smashing his elbow against the Bandit holding him. “Hey! Asshole, let go of me!” He yells as he smashes his elbow against him over and over again. The Bandit pushes him towards the one he is fighting and he gets punched right in the nose, so hard it knocks him over.

“I’m gonna kick your ass!” The Bandit laughs as he punches him in the face over and over again. The sand blows up into the side of Kassius’ face, then the Bandit takes both hands and forces his head down into the ground, trying to break his neck.

“Get. Off. Of.” Kassius snarls...then his eyes ignite and he snarls as his voice transforms into the demonic voice of Mr Hyde. “Me!” Hyde roars, immediately smashing his fist right up the jaw of the Bandit, throwing him off his body. Kassius rises back up, no longer under Hyde’s control, only a moment of anger right there. He forces his knees against the shirtless Bandit’s tattooed chest and he snarls at him. “Alright – my turn.” He snarls, throwing fist after fist into the Bandit’s face, breaking his nose and snapping a tooth with every punch delivered.

He goes to do it again, until the metal arm of the same Bandit that took his hat grabs his arm. “Enough!” The Bandit yells.

“Aw come on, Thorn! Lemme finish him!” Trying to get free from Thorn’s grasp, who still has his stetson on his head.

Then the bloodied and bruised Bandit spits at Kassius’ feet. “I’ll track down that girl of yours and beat her to death! I’ll make her mine!” He yells, trying to set Kassius off, but he just scoffs.

“Yeah? Good luck with that, she has handled worse assholes than you.” He assures, finding it hilarious to imagine what Yang would do to him if he even dared touch her hair. But then Kelham comes down and he ends the fight, that he was watching.

“Alright, enough fighting. Let’s keep moving. Tie him back up with the rest and let’s get back on the move!” Kelham orders, yelling at Thorn.

Thorn nods as he pulls Kassius back towards the group of Slaves bound together with Rope. He gets him there and some bandits start tying up his wrists to the others so then they can march them back to their base. “You’re not gonna see your girl again.” He promises.

“We’ll see – and besides – I can promise you one thing.” He says.

“Oh yeah? What’s that?” Thorn asks.

He leans over to his ear with a smirk. “I’m getting my hat back.” He assures with a scoff, and Thorn scowls at him, and takes his Ball Whip and slashes it against his back with force. Kassius grunts as it breaks the skin, feeling the hot pain down his back that his aura manages to heal. However they have implants attached to all the slaves which null down their aura so then they cannot try anything.

“Get moving!” Kelham bellows as he lashes one of the women, making her cry out with pain. The three herds of slaves begin marching across the desert.

No water.

No food.

To get to wherever their base is.

And Kassius is in the middle of all of it.

And only two things are on his mind.

Yang.

And that damn hat.

Chapter Text

Oscar

 

Walking through the city of Vale, Team J.N.P.R, Blake and Oscar continue down the trail to find Ruby before anything worse can possibly happen. He keeps his hands to his side, close to Traveller’s Atrocity, just in case. Vir Nominis Umbra left an impression, a scar that does not seem to be willing to go away any time soon. But the young hazel eyed Time Traveller keeps those emotions at bay as best as he possibly can, focusing on finding the girl he loves.

But as he walks with Blake, he can see that something is shaking her up. Obviously it must surround their true enemy and what he is capable of, so he would not be surprised if it has something to do with that god-awful Soothsayer. “Blake? How are you...holding up?” He asks her, nervously since he can tell that nobody is holding up very well after seeing how Umbra slaughtered Oobleck right in front of them. Smashing his head in with a steel claw hammer was brutal even by his standards.

Blake’s ears are folded downwards, sadly as she thinks on the events that have lead up to this moment. Being framed for the death of Sienna Khan to destabilise the White Fang, Adam’s death, and now the execution of Oobleck, Taiyang and the remaining survivors of Team B.R.N.Z. Words cannot even describe how she feels, how any of them feel after that fall that they have suffered, and they fear that worse failings await every single one of them.

But only some words do come to mind. “Once...I claimed that there was no such thing as pure evil. I was in an argument with Weiss over the White Fang...before I showed them what I am.” Blake explains as her ears move slightly when she remembers them. Oscar looks at her ears – and it is strange for him, since he has never known Blake with the bow despite that he has been told stories about it. The bow that the young Faunus Huntress used to wear all the time to hide who she was from the world.

Oscar keeps his eyes on his friend, and she closes her eyes with a trembled exhale...then she concludes her statement. “I truly believed it...until I met...him.” Blake snarls as she pictures the face of the ruthless Soothsayer himself. That cold and cunning smirk he always has, the jokes he pulls from his sleeve with ease and the prancing about he will do as he murders someone they love. He is a cold and evil bastard, and he must be stopped.

But at the same time...

How?

It is entirely possible that they have not even seen the full extent of his power yet – all the more reason to find Ruby.

As Jaune walks at the head of the group, Pyrrha keeps her hand close to his as she walks, looking at some of the people that pass by. There is an energy in the air now, when once there was calm – now there is dread, the question in the back of everyone’s minds. Mistral, Atlas and Vacuo have been taken over by the enemy in the span of thirty minutes. And Vale is the only location that has not even been touched.

The question is:

When will we suffer the same price? And what will happen to us?

Will we be eaten?

Burned?

Infected?

Ruled over?

She cannot even continue to wonder in the back of her mind, so she just shoves those questions aside and she looks at Jaune. She can see the concern in his eyes, not just for Ruby but for Kassius as well. “Jaune? Are you okay?” She asks her boyfriend with concern in her regal toned voice. Jaune sighs, closing his blue eyes.

“I’m worried, Pyrrha.” Jaune says to her, turning to face her. “Ruby was already struggling long before all of this, Torchwick and Tyrian were stuck in her head...and now she is missing and six thugs have turned up butchered. She never would have done anything like this – and...Well you saw what happened with Hyde. I don’t know what Umbra did to him but he managed to do it with the snap of his fingers.” He explains, sighing as he thinks of his good friend.

The time and effort Kassius put into helping Jaune, Nora and Ren in locating Pyrrha and bringing her home – despite his own personal opinions of Destiny. It forged a strong friendship between him and the entire team, and Pyrrha might not have known him for as long as they have, but eve she has immense respect for the man. Because he strikes her as a very honourable individual with a heart of pure gold.

Unless if you are his enemy, then he can become scarier in an instant.

Pyrrha gently moves her hand to his as they walk and she links her fingers with his, holding his hand as she walks, resting her head on his shoulder lovingly. “We’ll find them – besides Kassius seems like he is pretty clever and resourceful. If he has been captured then I am sure he can find a way out of it.” Pyrrha assures, and Jaune chuckles.

“Yeah – I wonder if he’ll try Operation Smart-Ass again?” He chuckles, making both Ren and Nora giggle. But Pyrrha – bless her soft heart – has absolutely no idea what that means.

“Huh?” She asks, making him chuckle.

“Operation Smart-Ass is a tactic Kas uses to distract people, by essentially being a smart-ass all the time. So I guess that wouldn’t be easy for someone as sarcastic as him.” Jaune explains, remembering how he used that same strategy in Atlas to distract everyone from the sight of Jaune sneaking through the Operations Centre to get to Pyrrha. It is a good tactic, but a risky one as well.

But Kassius doesn’t care, all he and Hyde care about is getting to use some of their most creative and funniest insults that they can come up with. “Wow, no wonder Kassius and Yang are a perfect match.” Pyrrha states with the shrug of her shoulders, and they all chuckle in agreement on her statement.

“Ain’t that the truth?” Oscar chuckles as they follow their little pathway, until they notice a possible clue of which way Ruby has been going. They all stop beside it, and Jaune crouches down, but Ren is the one that can decipher what it is. The Kuroyurian Huntsman crouches down beside his Team Leader and he stares at it, knowing what it is.

Ren’s eyes stare directly at the scuff on the ground, and it looks like it is Ruby’s Scythe scraping through the floor, cutting the ground up in the process. But there is something odd about these scratch marks, and Ren is the one that states it as well – they all know Ruby very well for this to already seem out of character. “It looks like she...was dragging her blade through the tarmac.” Ren states, turning to them and Blake arches a brow with confusion.

“What? Ruby loves Crescent Rose too much...why would she risk damaging the blade like that?” Blake mumbles as she thinks about it.

“Something isn’t right.” Jaune says as he looks around the town with confusion. Clutching her collar with fear she turns to look at Oscar since he knows Ruby better – especially with what she is suffering with in her mind.

“Could...Torchwick be having an effect on her? On her mannerisms?” Nora inquires, remembering some of the things that they have informed them on their friend’s problems. Oscar thinks on the things that Torchwick did...but Blake remembers how he acted so only she could possibly know for sure. Especially since Team J.N.P.R never fought him in person.

“He could...” Blake agrees, fearful for Ruby’s current predicaments in her mind at the moment. She suffered before Umbra had done what he done, but this is only going to make her condition much, much worse.

Jaune turns to look at Ren, whose eyes are examining the road and the damage done to the area from the curvature of her blade. But from the look on his face, it is as if he is not so sure of his previous statement. “Ren? What is it?” He asks him, heart starting to beat harder now from his concern for his old friend. He can still imagine the old days when she was that adorable little girl that helped him find his way through Beacon. It seems so long ago when life was as simple as that – when their biggest troubles was getting to class on time.

Now?

They have a monster that can control the very choices that people make for his own gain. Ren continues to stare at the many scrapes in the ground and he furrows his eyes, becoming a Huntsman in more ways than one. He caresses his finger across the scuffs, because now there is more than once, unlike the initial one that they came across. “Something’s not right here...if it was Ruby dragging Crescent Rose it would be a constant line. This is unlike that, as if there are lots of sharp pieces of metal scuffing the floor over and over again.” He explains to them all, standing up with his head hung low as he watches the ground.

Following the many scuffs, it seems like they are forms of footsteps marching down the path, and there is a patch of soil right ahead of them. Which begs the question – what will the footprints look like. They all know Ruby down to the size of her feet and the style of boots that she wears. Meaning that the footprints in the soil will be enough for Ren and the others to identify whether or not these tracks are even Ruby’s or not.

And even then, they are still pretty disturbing. No civilians or even soldiers leave scrapes in the ground like this; the armour is not designed in that way.

But as they approach the next path towards that patch of soil...their answer is found. Ren crouches down and he touches the footsteps which are ice cold, despite only being an hour old at this point. And there are more than just a set from one individual. There seems to be at least five people here, all with the same jagged looking footsteps. “It’s not her...” Ren tells them with a sigh, until he stops and his eyes widen.

Concern fills the heart of the pleasant soul that belongs to Pyrrha Nikos. “What is it, Ren?” She asks him, and he notices that he was wrong.

“Ruby’s footprints were here...but whoever was here an hour ago messed them up.” He explains.

“What?” Nora questions. “Who would do such a thing?”

Ren’s eyes turn when he senses another clue, a sword that has been left behind by whom it belonged to. It is sharp and fractured, jagged pieces of black steel sticking out all over the place. They all stare at them and Pyrrha’s eyes widen - because she has seen those blades before. “Knights Bannermen.” She gasps.

“Huh?” Nora asks.

“The Knights Bannermen – servants of Vir Nominis Umbra. I have seen them in the Charred Forest, corrupted souls that do his bidding.” Pyrrha explains, her voice shaken at the mere mention of the chilling knights and what it is that they do. The same Knights that Team S.T.R.Q, Cinder and Hazel came across on their travels. And they all saw them when they were at Beacon too.

“They were at the Academy as well...the ones that forced us to our knees, weren’t they?” Blake assumes with a fearful voice.

“Yes.” Pyrrha nods.

“They are going after Ruby too, seems Umbra isn’t finished with her yet.” Ren sighs as he pushes his hand through his long dark hair with pink lines in them. Oscar clenches his hand into a fist out of anger, pacing back and forth.

“When will he just leave her alone? She has suffered enough!” Oscar snarls with anger, but Nora extends her hand to him with a smile of friendship in the hopes to calm him down. They already have one kind soul suffering with rage; they do not need any more of them on their hands.

“Oscar...we’ll find her, it’ll be okay.” She promises with a kind smile, whilst Blake walks over to Ren and crouches down beside him, also examining the marks left behind by the Bannermen that are also pursuing the Silver Eyed Warrior.

“Are the tracks enough for us to figure out where she is going?” Blake asks him, and he lifts his eyes just from seeing some of her prints that have not been obscured. He follows them, and he sees a possible location.

“She looks like she is headed for the docks.” Ren states, and Oscar stops with widened eyes.

“The docks?” Oscar asks them, and the whole team turn to look at him with curiosity.

“Yeah...why?” Ren asks, and Oscar opens his hand that holds the rose badge that Ruby left behind, the one that belonged to her mother – Summer Rose. He sighs and holds it close, lifting his head and opening his eyes.

“I know where she is.” He states.

 

Ruby

 

Completely unaware of the coming threat of the Knights’ Bannermen nearing…

The young woman paces through the busy streets of the Valerian Docks, with her red hood pulled over her head, looking down at the ground constantly. Everyone that walks past her, some which bump against her shoulder just keep moving – completely unaware of who she really is underneath that hood she wears. But even so – her messed up mind continues to affect every single thought that she has.

They’re watching us…

They’re going to hurt us!

Kill us!

Shut up, let her focus!

She’s being so stupid!

She cannot stop him!

It was all your fault…

It is becoming increasingly clear now that Ruby, the once adorable ball of sunshine and happiness, has now realised that she has unlocked a side to her that she never knew existed. She appears to suffer from a form of Psychosis, and it must have been activated either from the deaths of her father, Oobleck, Nolan and Roy – and Port as well – or it was formed from the possession from Vir Nominis Umbra.

Or maybe this is all from Torchwick to torment her mind.

With Crescent Rose collapsed into its deactivated form and attached to her waistline belt, hidden behind her red cape – she is constantly ready to defend herself if anyone tries to challenge her. She listens carefully to her environment around her, sensing the sound of a man on a loudspeaker. “Final crate count for shipment to the island of Patch!” The employee calls out, pacing back and forth on the deck of the ship that prepares to take off.

Both flying and floating vessels are present on this docking bay, and this Transportation Ship is just large enough for her to sneak into the storage bay of the ship.

There it is!

She won’t make it!

Shut up, she can!

Times running out…

The voices are overwhelming, and they all sound just like her with whispering voices – yet these are not her thoughts at all. Meaning her psychological state is crumbling apart faster than they can even comprehend. She hisses with pain from her mind overflowing with all the voices that congregate in her head – all devoid personality and humanity.

Ruby slowly but surely approaches the loading section of the vessel, feeling the vibrations in the air from the powerful engines beginning to fire up for take-off. Countless crates tattooed with the Schnee Dust Company insignia are being loaded onto the ship, with hundreds of shards of crystal. The Huntsman Academies were not the only schools that have stopped working the way they should – even combat Academies and even normal schools have gone silent.

The Acolytes of Lien have taken over the entire planet and the many educational sites alongside them. They have heard that they are using the resources there to create their own Huntsmen that serve them – indoctrinated into believing their fictions. Ruby is no fool, having Huntsmen and Huntresses at their disposal will make those Mercenaries even stronger – they had the technology and the experience to kill them – but creating warriors that can challenge them?

That is something else entirely.

They have an extreme disadvantage in this struggle now, they were already outmatched and outgunned – but with Vir Nominis Umbra at the helm he has now made them be outsmarted as well as the former two.

Ruby walks closer and closer to the ship, noticing that a soldier guarding the entrance is in fact not an Acolyte of Lien though. No tattoo and he is wearing Valerian Armour. She stands in the crowd and with them noticing she disappears, leaving only a couple of red petals behind. The Huntress performs a perfect combat roll as the petals blow past her as she lands, and she immediately takes cover behind one of the crates.

A Valerian Soldier armed with an Assault Rifle loaded with high calibre dust rounds to use if the need arises. Walking with him is a worker on the ship, conversing about the supplies. “We need to deliver at least ten crates worth of dust to every single Combat School across the globe.” The worker explains as he ticks some boxes with his pen, countless areas to fill out on the clipboard.

“Understood, well we have approximately twelve more crates being loaded onto the ship.” The soldier assures.

“Very good, the faster we get this done the better. Don’t want to risk any massive Grimm closing in on our sector.” The worker states with a concerned voice as he sighs, walking off with the soldier. Ruby peers around the crate carefully with one hand kept close to her combat knife sheathed on her leg. Ready to plunge the cold steel blade right into anyone that tries to stop her. Every step she takes is silent as she moves closer and closer to the loading bay. But as she moves she gasps and her single eye widens with shock, immediately diving into an evasive roll.

She lands the dismount behind a wall, and a large Construction Class Paladin marches across the large open platform on the ship that she is standing on. Painted yellow with countless markings for health and safety reasons, unlike the mostly black and white colour scheme that the actual Military paladins has. It was through with the large mechanical arms holding a stack of crates and placing them down. The huge Paladin turns and walks away from where it placed them, the pilot speaks through the radio built into its cockpit.

“This is Paladin – 05, package delivered.” The pilot speaks, taking the Paladin away, and ruby waits for the textbook moment. As soon as the huge mechanical suit walks away, Ruby emerges from her hiding spot with the doors to her destination. The area looks clear so she runs with quiet feet towards it. She slides down to a crouch, scuffing her tactical trousers in the process. She reaches to the door plate and pushes it open, stepping inside. She closes it silently behind her and she sighs, looking around at the hundreds of crates that have been loaded up in here.

She takes a step forward…

…then a cold barrel presses to her temple and she freezes. Her silver eye twitches and the creepy voices in the back of her mind return.

We’re caught!

How did she not see it?

She is such an idiot! One job! That is all she had to worry about and she messed that up!

She always messes things up…it’s the only thing she is good at.

Failure…

Trying her best to ignore the voices, she keeps her hand close to the blade as she stands there, and she slowly turns her head to see who it is that has stopped her. Then her eyes widen with disbelief, since she thought he died when Mistral was destroyed. He is a scrawny man with a Viper-Like pair of eyes and even Viper-Like Scales on his arms and neck.

“Sidewinder…” She mutters with disbelief.

The Hacker that offered to help change Weiss’ identity with the White Ursa machine that he had hidden away. Only for Jacques to show up and mess the whole situation up for the Ice Queen – just like always. “Long time no see, Huntress…See you’ve picked up your fair share of scars along the road.” Sidewinder chuckles as he stares at her eye patch that covers the scar tissue that remains where that glass arrow ruptured her eye.

“Been a long road…see you turned out alright.” Ruby says to him as she stares at the clothes he wears. He now works for the Shipping Companies that help transport supplies across the world.

“Yeah it has – but even if you can call us old friends…you shouldn’t be down here.” Sidewinder tells her, keeping the gun on her head. But he looks back and forth with a sigh. “But I am reasonable – if you leave now I will not tell anyone. Deal?” Sidewinder asks her curiously as he looks at her with a raised eyebrow. Ruby glares at him with a stern scowl, her voice sharp like the serrated blade of her knife.

“No deal, I am getting on this ship, Sidewinder.” Ruby states with a snarling voice, and Sidewinder sighs.

“Look – I respect you, and I thank you for your efforts. And most of all – I am truly sorry for what has happened to you. But at the end of the day it’s my job to make sure we don’t have any stowaways.” Sidewinder explains, acting totally differently to how he acted back in Mistral five years ago before the city was destroyed. He used to be one to live against the law, resided in the lower sections of the city where crime is at an all-time high.

Things have changed.

But so has Ruby, and she retains that cold hard stare on Sidewinder. “I said – I am getting inside.” Ruby snarls viciously, and he sighs.

“I can’t! My job here’ll be finished if I do that!” He argues.

He gasps with shock as Ruby suddenly slams him up against the wall with her knife drawn and the steel blade pressed to his jugular. The impact creates a loud crash but she holds him there with the blade slightly cutting his neck and drawing blood. He gasps as he grapples onto her arm desperately, hoping to survive her attack. Her words might be threatening from his perspective – but even she does not even realise the importance of her following statement. “Do it – or you’re finished.” She orders with a snarl.

The same words that Roman Torchwick used when he threatened the White Fang Soldier to finish loading up the cargo and starting the train when they planned to attack Vale the first time. “O-Okay…” Sidewinder answers, and Ruby pulls the blade hard from his neck and he falls to his knees. Feeling a terrible burning sensation in his neck, he presses his hand to his neck from distress, still feeling some blood leaving his wound.

He coughs and looks at Ruby as she walks away from him. “What happened to you?” He questions as he watches the grown-up warrior walking away.

Ruby walks into the Cargo Bay, but she stops with a sigh, looking back at him. “I’m sorry, Sidewinder…but I’m not that girl anymore.” She sadly answers as she looks back at him, and he looks at her with saddened eyes.

“I can see that…what happened?” He asks her, strangely concerned and Ruby closes her eyes and she answers.

“I failed.” She replies, turning and walking away from the old acquaintance of hers as she approaches some crates that she goes to rest on. But she knows fully well that she will get no sleep on this journey. She jumps up and she takes Crescent Rose from her belt and rests it on her legs as she sits on the crates, stretching her legs back. She lies all the way back and rests her head on a pillow that she found in an open crate. She looks at her knife and she contemplates on the things that she has done when staring at the reflecting blade of steel.

Killing Tyrian by dropping him from the edge of a cliff.

Butchering Dew.

Even Fennec, it might not have been her that delivered the killing blow but she still let her rage take the better of her. She can still feel the consequences of those decisions now, phantom pains in her side where Corsac’s Spiralling Dagger stabbed through her in that battle. She presses her hand to that point and she unzips part of the tactical shirt that she wears and opens the lower region.

She has yet another scar added to her vast collection, a deep stab mark where that terrible dagger punctured straight through her and twisted. She is lucky to be alive from that attack, otherwise she would just be another casualty.

She leans her head back and she sighs, closing her eye as she lays there. Her condition worsening the longer she is away from her friends, her family and the man that she loves. But at the same time, she is terrified of being around them for what could happen as a consequence. Her father is dead and in her eyes, it was because she failed to complete a simple task.

But as she ponders on her many failures…his voice returns.

A sinister yet conniving laugh builds up to her right and she opens her eye and just turns her head to see him staring at her. His spiritual apparition staring straight into her eyes with his black bowling hat with the feather attached to it and long streaks of orange hair hanging loose over one eye. “Do it…or you’re finished…ha-ha, you stealing my lines now, little red? How uncreative, I truly expected better of you.” Torchwick sighs as he shakes his head and pinches the bridge of his nose.

Ruby sighs as she turns her head away from him and looks up at the steel grey ceiling of the ship. “Go away.” She softly says as she stares up at the blank and boring ceiling. Roman chuckles as he sits there, clearly not about to leave anytime soon.

Oh gods, he’s back again!

It’s her fault he’s in our head!

She should have done better.

What more could she have done?

All she does is fail, fail, fail…it is all she knows…

“My, my…Psychosis? I never knew you suffered with that.” Roman chuckles as he looks at her, pressing one hand on his knee as he sits on that crate.

Is he talking about us?

Ruby continues to push the whispery voices from her mind as best she can, but it is not that simple. All the questions of why her Psychosis has made a return though, from it surrounding Vir Nominis Umbra or even Torchwick…none of them are true and the explanation is far simpler than that. And since she has nobody else to talk to about this – she may as well give a revealing explanation. “I have suffered with Psychosis since I was seven…whispers of my own voice in the back of my head. My emotions were confused and I would always end up…seeing things.” Ruby explains.

Fully expecting Torchwick to make some kind of snide remark to her problems…but he doesn’t…he just listens. There has always been some sort of sense of honour about the criminal; it was just extremely hard for people to find. “It started not long after my mom died, and I was torn apart…so bad that I stopped showing emotion at all. And I wasn’t stupid – people just assumed I was too young to understand what was happening…but I knew. I always knew.” Ruby explains as she sits there, feeling the voices coming back.

She didn’t believe you!

Shut up! Yang loves us, why would she betray us?

She tried to ditch us when we arrived at Beacon, why would she care now?

Ruby shakes the thoughts away and she tenses her hands into fists, struggling more and more with every thought that enters her mind. “I had to take Psychosis Pills…Uncle Qrow and Dad knew…but nobody else…it would come back every now and then like it did when I first got to the Emerald Forest. But I haven’t been able to take my pills in a few months because of everything…and now they’re back.” Ruby whimpers as she presses her hands to her head with distress.

Roman looks at her and he nods her head, Ruby turns and glares at him. “What? No witty remark?” She questions as she shrugs her shoulders in her laid down position.

“Why? It seems I am already starting to affect you by the things you have done. The way you killed those thugs? Dew? The way you tried to kill Fennec Albain? You are becoming more and like me! A bloodthirsty lunatic…just embrace your Inner Demons, little red. Then you won’t suffer anymore.” Torchwick explains and Ruby snarls, looking away from him and she strains a cry, feeling the pain of her disorder becoming worse.

The spectre of Roman has only one last message for her. “No matter how far you run…how much longer you continue to deny it…you cannot escape the truth. The truth is…

“…you and I are not very dissimilar to each other.” Roman states.

Ruby spins around and stares at the direction she heard the voice…and there is nothing there…just her surroundings.

But there is something still there.

She’s going to die…

You tried to abandon us in the dark, but we are always here for you

He will hurt you; seek the love of your sister instead

He will win

Vir Nominis Umbra will win.

The voices echo in her mind and tears begin to stream from her eye as she cries with distress from the many voices that speak over each other in her head.

Ruby Rose was never a perfect ball of sunshine.

She has just hidden in, and now it is back with a vengeance.

Yet another thing to torment the gentle girl.

 

Kassius

 

The scorching heat of the sun burns against his skin as he walks across the dunes of the desert, his arms bound together with rough rope to the others being pulled as well. With Bandits on Horses, one of them – Thorn – with Kassius’ hat, takes his ball whip and slashes it down the back of one of the other slaves. He screams with a cry of agony, nearly collapsing as he tries to walk. Blood leaking down his back from the constant barrage of whips hitting his back.

The heat wave is bringing some people to their knees, barely able to walk a few more steps let alone seven miles of desert to get to their destination. Mirages ripple before their very eyes in the distance, creating the false sense of hope when they see the sight of a lake or a tree...but there is in fact nothing at all in the area. Just the vast expanse of the Vacuo Desert, waves of sand dunes for as far as the eye can see.

His amber eyes stare endlessly at the wasteland as he keeps moving as best he can, feeling the sand collapsing underneath him with every single step in which he takes. Sunburn forming all over his unprotected body which also shows the new tattoo that he got recently as well. A large Eagle with its wings splayed out across his back and shoulder blades, hiding some of the scars that he has collected over the years.

Not hiding them out of fear, but just because he wants to for Yang – even though she does not mind them and loves him either way. He just wants her to see something cool on his back instead of some of his bad memories.

But right now his memories are constantly focused on Yang as his objective has become extraordinarily clear. He needs to get back home to her, she needs the man she loves right now and he needs her...both of them have suffered, but Kassius does not even know about Taiyang, Oobleck, Roy and Nolan yet. The explanation of that to him will be very tough, especially since Taiyang took him in when he could have easily just left him to die on Vytal when the Grimm came attacking in force.

Skin feeling tighter and lips hardening from the lack of drink, this is not a good looking situation. But then, Kelham takes his fingers to his mouth and he blows to create a powerful whistling sound and everyone stops. “Water ahead people! Rather not lose our slaves before we even get the pricks there.” Kelham orders on his horse, moving further and further towards the watering hole that he has mentioned.

The group move closer to the summit of the dune and their eyes widen to the marvel of something that is not actually a mirage this time. There is a small pond of water in the caldera of sand beneath them, and some of the bandits laugh with joy as they slide down the dunes towards the source of water. Immediately shovelling water into their mouths with a ravenous thirst controlling them.

The slaves move down the dunes slowly, and Kassius stares at the water, desperately wanting to have some to fill his body with water. It might not kill the agonizing pain that he feels across his body from the sunburn, however there is some comfort in the idea that once he is at his cell he can use his aura to repair any damage done to his body.

And hell he may even have a sexy tan afterwards...he needs to set his priorities straighter.

First his hat and now the idea of a good looking tan.

Well there is always a silver lining everywhere.

Kassius approaches the water and he collapses to his knees and he immediately shovels some water down his gullet. Some of the other slaves do the same, one of them being an older woman to his left and beside her is a younger woman. The young woman, must be the older woman’s granddaughter has a heart shaped head with long emerald green hair and pale skin, despite the burns on her body that she has gained. Due to all slaves wearing hardly any clothing he can see the heart with an arrow shot through it as a tattoo on her waist. She is shapely with a very pretty face that resembles her grandmother.

The older woman is lest ferocious at drinking like her granddaughter, gently scooping the water into her mouth hand at a time. Her hair has turned white but the her eye brows are darkened, meaning her daughter must have once had dark brown hair like her grandmother did. The Grandmother lacks the tattoos but she seems to have the body of either a fitness instructor or an athlete because the signs are there. Muscular tone in her legs and core and she even still seems to be pretty fit despite being around seventy years old.

She looks at her dark blue eyes focus on someone behind Kassius who clips his ear with his hand. “That’s my spot.” The bandit known as Thorn tells him, immediately choosing to challenge him. Kassius turns and he just scoffs at him, shaking his head as he drinks a little bit more.

“Wait your turn, asshole.” Kassius states, and Thorn growls with frustration as he goes to punch him straight in the face. But Kassius catches his fist and stands up swiftly and throws his knee upwards into his gut. Thorn roars in pain and other Bandits sprint at Kassius still bound to the other slaves. But Kelham just sighs and he presses his thumb down on the device he holds and Kassius screams in pain.

The device that is imbedded into his neck activates with a snarl and blasts a powerful force of electricity into his system and he collapses to the ground, writhing around. Thorn gets up, despite being beaten up by a bound and exhausted Huntsman, he acts like he won the fight. “Whoo! That’s right!” He laughs as he throws his fists in the air, and immediately kicks Kassius right in the head with his boot.

The Huntsman grunts in pain, and in anger as he spits blood from his mouth, still tasting the metallic repulsion of blood ever-present. Thorn spits at Kassius and he walks away, as Kassius wipes the drool from his face, slapping the sticky liquid into the sand. “How respectful.” He sarcastically says as he sits up, pressing his hand to his jaw. He looks up to see that older woman and her granddaughter approaching him.

“Are you okay?” She asks him and he sighs, nodding his head.

“Yeah...had worse.” He assures as he holds his cybernetic hand up to the two of them. The granddaughter crouches down and she touches the tender bruise on his cheek. “And who might you two be?” He wonders.

“My name is Nadine.” The older woman tells him, before looking at her granddaughter. “This is my granddaughter – Neryth.” Nadine introduces and Neryth smiles as she nods her head to him.

“You’re either really brave or stupid to take on a bandit when restrained and with one of these little buggers on your neck.” She says, pointing to a similar one implanted into her own one.

“Yeah...noticed that.” He strains after still feeling the electricity flow through his veins like that. He looks at her and he can tell that she has the hots for him, she is literally staring at his abs and some of the scars he has collected. Clearly her thing seems to be scars and muscular dudes that are badasses like her. “So how long have the traffickers had you under their eye?” He asks them.

“Three years...for reasons.” She sighs, but Neryth does not even seem bothered.

“Hmph, I don’t mind having sex with some bandits and people. I don’t need them to chat to me I just need them to have fun.” Neryth shrugs her shoulders, clearly a slave used for Prostitution. Kassius sighs, feeling for her but worse for Nadine since clearly she never wanted Neryth to have a future like this.

“I’m sorry.” Kassius apologises.

“I’m not, some of them are really fun and they don’t hurt me much either because I give em a good time.” She says, still checking him out. “Say...when we get there...wanna screw around?” She asks him suggestively with a grin. But Kassius is loyal and deeply in love with Yang Xiao Long, and would be crazy to cheat on her.

“No thanks, got someone waiting for me.” He says to her, but she looks around and shrugs her shoulders.

“I don’t see your girlfriend. And besides, there is no getting out of here.” She assures.

“There will be. I need to get back to her.” He says with a mutter, thinking of her in every single way...the feeling of her touch, the sound of her voice, the beauty of her face...he needs to get back to her fast.

For all he knows...

Horridus Morbus could have already killed her by now.

“Forgive my granddaughter.” Nadine states as she whacks her on the back of the head with an impressive smack. She yelps from the hard impact of her hand against her head.

“Ow!” She exclaims.

“She has always been a bit of a party-girl.” She says as she plants her hand on her hip.

“What about you? What type of slave are you?” He asks her curiously and she shrugs her shoulders.

“Medical – I was a nurse when they captured me.” Nadine tells him, but then their attention is caught when they hear Kelham’s thunderous voice erupting from the summit of one of the sand dunes. “And speak of the devil, there is the man that captured my daughter and I.” Nadine says as she stares at Kelham.

“Kelham, right?” He asks.

“Correct, leader of the Traffickers. Tends to take most of the prostitutes with him some nights...” She snarls, being as protective as any grandmother should. “He’s a real scumbag.” She snarls with anger as she glares at him, and then Kassius sees Thorn walking over to Kelham with his hat still worn firmly on his head.

They cannot hear the quiet conversation between the two Bandit Leaders, and Thorn looks at the leader who whispers to him. “We have a lot of first timers with us – so make sure they get it. We stop for nothing...and no one.” Kelham states as he stares directly at Kassius who glares right back. Thorn nods and stands right at the edge of the huge sand dune to deliver his message to the large group of Bandits and Slaves alike. Kassius can see different kinds, the Prostitutes seem to have less lashes but that does not count for anything in the bedrooms with these bandits. The workers have the most lashes and scars, forced to work hard, and the fighters have more combat scars than lashes.

Thorn finally speaks.

“If this is your first crossing, then listen up!” Thorn yells, his powerful voice echoing around the desert as he stands at the head of the caldera of sand. “There is absolutely no water for the next few miles until we get back to our base. And remember to keep up, because if you collapse out there, you’re on your own. Move out!” Thorn roars as he holds his pistol above his head and fires it into the sky.

They all walk up the dune and Nadine gasps when she sees the huge expanse of just sand dunes ahead. “Oh by the gods...looks like this’ll be a very long walk.” Nadine says, but Neryth giggles, also wearing a black band around her neck like the other prostitutes.

“Aaaand, hot! If ya smell something sizzling, could be me!” She giggles flirtatiously to Kassius, but he ignores her attempt and just stares ahead, exhaling through his nostrils.

He follows the herd of people towards the Decayed Expanse, marching through baking hot sand to make their way to wherever it is that the Traffickers have made their home at. With the scorching sun watching callously overhead. Hundreds of slaves and around fifty Bandits overall guiding them all with occasional lashes to keep the mass moving at a good pace.

Nadine is right.

This is going to be a very long walk.

The Decayed Expanse has been known to be the harshest land of the Kingdom of Vacuo, harsher than the deserts of Menagerie that were always very extreme. But this is something else entirely, so hot and so dry that nothing can survive out here. Nothing except for the Creatures of Grimm that stalk the landscape, and with this huge group of people...soon they will close in on the Traffickers.

They know it.

With dunes surrounding them and a completely blue cloudless sky, the relentless sun continues to bare down on them all with extreme heat that cooks their skin. Kassius struggles to simply keep his eyes open with the amount of sweat that trickles across his bare body...which makes him wonder how the Bandits must be faring in all that clothing. But they are not the ones being burnt constantly by the sun. But as he looks at the Bandits on their horses, he can see some of them are fighting the elements as best they can as well.

He looks at Nadine and she is shaking her head every now and then to stay upright, as is Neryth, who falls to one knee at one point. But Kassius immediately helps her back up, keeping her moving so then she survives.

Kassius looks up at the sun, praying for some clouds to form to give them some shade for a while but nothing comes. As they continue moving further, Kelham and Thorn are stood on a ridge as they watch the group, also keeping a watchful eye out for any Creatures of Grimm following their trail. There are massive monsters to be aware of out here, from massive worms to Deathstalkers the size of football pitches. His horse grumbles as it shakes its main around to get the heat out as best it can.

Kelham turns to Thorn, who wipes the sweat from his brow. “We’re moving too slow.” Kelham tells him, his deep harsh voice speaking straight into him like the blade of a dagger. Thorn exhales as he pushes his hair back and nods.

“I’ll pick up the pace.” He assures as he turns and he yells at the top of his lungs. “Come on people, let’s move!” He roars and some of the Bandits take their whips and they lash them aggressively. One whip cracks across the back of a teenage male, so hard that he collapses with pain, so much blood leaking from his wound. But he manages to get up, but from how hard that hit it is unlikely he will make it.

And that would be the case when the sun sets, and somehow it still feels just as hot at night despite that it should be as cold as Atlas during winter in Deserts. But Kassius looks down at the ground with Neryth and Nadine at his side, seeing that young man crying on the sand with his whole back covered in blood. “Help...me...” He wheezes, dehydrated and dying from blood loss.

Kassius goes to help but the voice of Bandit gets their attention. “Hey! Keep up!” He yells, pulling them closer with the rope, since he cut the boy loose. Kassius looks back and his eyes widen from what follows them.

Beowulves, foaming at the mouth as they stare at the boy.

He wanted to help him...but he could not, because he cannot fight in the condition he is currently in. The boy rolls over and he cries out with terror. “Please! No! Ahh!” He screams with agony as they jump onto him and begin to devour him, ripping him to shreds piece by piece.

Days pass, sun rises and moon falls, fractured moon rises and sun falls. Over and over again, the same cycle never ceases to repeat itself.

They must be close...

But on their trail...

The Beowulves continue to pick apart that boy’s bloody corpse, stripping the flesh from his bones and breaking the limps to get as much out of them as they can. But as they feast, suddenly a Spiralling Dagger stabs straight through the skull of a Beowulf and kills it instantly. One of the others turns around and its met by a Chainsword Blade that slices the head clean off.

Standing there...

Is Mazen Ursus, staring out at the trail of footsteps headed somewhere. With him is Corsac Albain and some new Elite White Fang at his disposal. One of them looks like a Snake, another like a Boar and there are many soldiers with him as well, with a few Bullheads with plenty of weapons.

Mazen clenches his hand into a fist.

He is going after the White Fang and Faunus prisoners to fight in their war.

A War that has only just begun...

Chapter Text

Qrow

 

The Branwen Huntsman stands with his head pressed to the hilt of his sword, right in front of the body bag that carries his best friend. Zipped up and ready for the funeral, which will only begin once they get Ruby back. Tears trickle down from his eyes as he holds the hilt of his sword tight...

Why?

Why him? He was always the best of us...he was there during Summer’s darkest days, helped Raven and I get out of the Bandit Tribe...

He never blamed Raven for leaving.

He raised two girls, one of which was not even his own.

Why?

Why was it him, and not me?

Anger overcomes him, cocktailing his sorrow into fury and he takes his sword and with a yell he slashes the blade straight through one of the curtains in the library where they are being held for the time being. He immediately grabs one of the bookshelves and he pulls with all his might, taking all that pent up anger in his body out on the inanimate objects around him. The huge stack of books topples over with a heavy crash and smashes against the ground.

Qrow lets out a roar of rage, throwing his sword onto the ground, panting with teary eyes, pressing his hand against the wall to keep his balance. He fights the heartbreak as best he can, until he hears a familiar set of cries down the hallway from him. He turns when he hears her voice...a voice he has not heard crying for a very long time.

Raven.

He walks up the stairs to see her sat down in the corner with her arms hugging her knees as she sobs uncontrollably, her Bandits that survived Vir Nominis Umbra’s attack walk around the outer perimeter, and even they are scared too. They lost twenty soldiers in a couple seconds from an entity that did not even look at them as he wiped them out. He just walked right past them all, letting them all fall dead to the ground.

Qrow approaches his sister and he crouches down beside her, and she lifts her head, face wet with tears as she stares up to her twin brother. Just like when they killed their first ever victims that night when their parents were murdered by those Traffickers that attacked and raided their home. Before being taken in by the Tribe that would later become the Branwen Tribe after the death of its former leader.

Qrow looks at his sister and she sniffles, before trying to breathe leads to her crying again, burying her head in her knees. Qrow reaches out to her and presses his hand to her shoulder. “Raven...I’m – I’m so sorry...” He softly says to her, closing his own tear eyes at the loss of their closest surviving friend.

Because now they are all that remains of Team S.T.R.Q.

Just the Branwen Twins.

And the sad thing is, deep down Raven had a feeling it would end this way. The two Hunters that have semblances that revolve around luck, and the ones that would live would be them. And not the ones that they care for most in the entire world. Both of them have lost someone that they love so deeply now, and the feeling has not changed one bit. A combination of sorrow and anger combined into one.

That feeling – is called grief.

Her shoulders bounce up and down as she cries and Qrow slumps down beside her with a thud, and he reaches into his coat pocket to grab his flask. But he feels nothing, remembering that he vowed to quit drinking after the destruction of the Volcanic Chain Isles...but it is times like this...that make him drink.

So then he can forget it ever happened in the first place.

Then he comes out with a heartbreaking statement, one that even Raven knows cannot be true. “It’s like Summer all over again...he’s dead because of me.” Qrow growls with anger at himself, clenching his hand into a fist with rage, tensing his muscles when he just thinks of Vir Nominis Umbra, the face of the Soothsayer.

Everything they did when fighting him, it amounted to Ozpin just hurting him.

Hurting him.

How do they fight that?

Raven stops crying when she hears Qrow say that and she lifts her head, her eyeliner and makeup smudged down her face from the tears that flow from her eyes and down her cheeks. She turns and looks at him with bloodshot wet eyes, hiccupping tearful breaths. “What?” She questions, breathing thickly.

“My goddamn bad luck charm...it got Summer killed...Ruby probably lost her eye because of me, Sun lost two of his teammates. Then we go to Menagerie...and Port dies, Serena dies, Vos dies and Gray dies. All because...of me...and now Oobleck, Tai...Roy and Nolan.” He stammers with a broken voice as he pictures all of their faces. They were alive literally twelve hours ago...and now they have to live with the fact that they will never see their faces again.

Never hear both teachers berate them on their homework not being handed in on time, not hear Taiyang ever make a pun again with Yang.

A lifetime of happiness.

Snatched away.

In an instant.

Raven stares at her brother and she shakes her head with disagreement in her red eyes. “No.” She states, still with a trembling voice as she feels so much torment in her soul. He turns and looks her in the eyes with confusion.

“Huh?” He questions.

“It was not your fault, brother.” Raven states, but he shakes his head.

“How else do you explain it, sis? I was there for all of it!” He argues.

“Yeah, but I was at that roundup too. Maybe Port and the others did die because of you curse, or maybe it was their time card...I dunno. But Tai?” Raven explains as he stares at him and he stares right back. “That was Umbra...not Ruby...and certainly not you.” Raven explains as she glares at him, and he looks down at the floor. He lifts up his hand and he grasps the necklace of the sideways cross that he wears.

He pulls it so then it unclips and he stares at the silver sideways cross with mournful eyes, rubbing his thumb across it. He sighs heavily as he stares down at it, feeling his bones aching from his sorrow. “Did you know I got this after I lost Summer?” He asks Raven, and she looks at the medallion that he has in his grasp. Staring directly at it, almost seeing his own reflection in the silver. “It is an old tradition...for those who mourn the death of a loved one...” He says as he holds it close, thinking of both her and Taiyang.

“I remember...I was there when you got it...I wanted to be there for you when she died...but after everything, I doubted you would’ve wanted to see me.” Raven explains, and he looks over to her.

“You made up for it in the end, sis.” He assures as he pats her shoulder affectionately. She wants to say thank you, but the emotions she feels are so strong that speaking alone could make her cry.

Raven desperately is trying to find something to change the subject on; just so then she can stop feeling this depression eating away at her like moths devouring clothes on a line. And unfortunately only one thing comes to mind, and it surrounds her daughter and the plague of Horridus Morbus she suffers from.

She turns and looks at her brother. “So...are you gonna speak with the Witches?” She asks him, remembering the three Mysterious Mistraalian Witches in the Restless Marshlands.

“They’re our best hope.” Qrow answers as he shrugs his shoulders.

“Do you really think that they will help us?” She asks him, and he looks at her.

“They don’t really have a choice, that damn plague will destroy the ecosystem no matter what. They have to help us, and if anyone can possibly make a cure – it is them.” Qrow explains, yet even then if Merlot could not make a plague, then there is a heavy chance that the witches cannot. However the Witches have a few things Merlot does not – thousands of years of experience and skills in the dark magic arts.

That has to count for something.

“I hope so...for Yang and her friends...” She sighs as she sits there.

“I just want to be able to save...someone for once.” Qrow sadly says.

Raven and Qrow both stare down at the ground and his sister says something that nearly makes him cry. “We were gonna get married...” She sniffles with so much pain in her voice, and Qrow looks at her with tears welling up in his eyes. She sniffs her nose and she rubs her eye with her sleeve to remove the tears that stream down her cheeks. “We had it all planned out...we’d have the ceremony at Summer’s grave so then she could be there. Everyone would be there; Architect would give out the speech.”

Qrow chuckles. “I’d have loved to see that.” He chuckles, imagining the sight of the Architect reading wedding vows is somehow comedy gold.

But Raven is not laughing; she still is broken by it all. “But now? That goddamned Soothsayer...he snatched it all away. Finally I had a chance for a normal life, one I actually wanted to have. And that son of a bitch...he took the one thing...that could have saved our family. For a game.” Raven snarls with anger, clenching her hand into a fist and Qrow looks up at the ceiling.

He then puts his arm around his sister’s shoulders, and he pulls her to his. She looks at him for a second with confusion but does not fight his embrace. She rests her black haired head on his shoulders, tearfully crying on his shoulder whilst Qrow focuses on one thing in particular. Something both of them can find the strength to keep going for. “He will die for what he has done. Vir Nominis Umbra will pay.” Qrow promises, and she growls and clenches her hand into a fist too.

“Yeah...he will.” She agrees.

The Branwen twins both stare at the body bag that holds their old friend.

They need to find Ruby.

She needs to be there for the goodbye.

 

Ruby

 

The Shipping Freighter finally arrives at the docking yards of the Island of Patch, luckily it did not take long. Only a couple of hours, and Ruby stares out the window of the holding bay. Seeing the sun has risen, and Torchwick is stood by the window with a grin on his face. He chuckles menacingly with his arms crossed, uncrossing them for a second to take his hat off his head. “Tell me, Red – what the hell are you hoping to find back here?” He asks her, but she just rolls her eye and she hops off the crate she has been resting on.

She walks past one crate that has Crescent Rose leant against and she connects it to the magnetic strip on her utility belt around her waist. As she walks, she sees Roman stepping out from round one of the crates that obscures the vision of what is behind. He walks alongside her, as gleeful as he was when still alive. “But really, Red! Is there something on this silly little island? I mean your home was destroyed, remember? The only thing left there is Tyrian’s bones!” He laughs as he walks with her. “Sad...the only thing that you have left as a memory is the man that tortured you!” He giggles playfully, walking around her, almost skipping.

She crouches down and takes cover behind one crate, watching the many people that begin to unload the crates of stuff into the facility that the ship has landed at. But as she watches them, Roman walks round the crate and crouches down right in front of her with a smirk. “Oooh! Is it your mom’s grave you’re visiting? I’m afraid she can’t hear you, the only dead person you can talk to – is me!” He laughs maniacally but she just stares through him and he rolls his eyes with a sigh.

“You’re no fun today.” He says as he walks out from her field of vision.

But as she watches the many guards that take the crates from the holding bay, she hears the voices return with a vengeance.

She thinks she can make it right!

What? How can she make it right? Her father is dead all thanks to her!

What is talking to your mother going to prove? That you failed to save your dad and your mom?

Leave her alone! She has a lot to cope with!

Yeah! Leave her alone!

She has a war raging inside her own mind, voices that sound like her own are just arguing against each other. Some defending her and others are not, but she is trying her best to ignore them as best she can. Taiyang always taught her to focus on some kind of objective to ignore the voices for a while until the medication would kick in. It would also help her ignore any hallucinations that would form and could keep her delusions at bay for some time too.

She keeps her eyes focused on the guards that move around, waiting for the best possible window to move. There are lots of them, some armed with rifles and others with batons. They must work for the Acolytes of Lien now, after everything that has happened, it is not crazy to assume that lots of companies have just fallen to provide for them.

As Ruby waits and waits, she notices one of the guards trips and drops one of the crates. The lid of the crate breaks opens and countless dust crystal are thrown out from the crate and across the floor. Luckily they do not detonate and blow the entire dockyard up, otherwise Ruby would be dead as well.

The employees and guards all panic, storming over to the man that dropped them and he stammers as he stands there. “I-I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to!” He cries out.

“You idiot! You trying to blow us to the moon?” One of the Guards questions as he points right at his face, and pushes him too.

Now! Go now!

Why is she waiting!

Move it!

She takes the perfect opportunity and she uses her semblance, dashing forward in a pulse of petals, running with her body close to the ground and moving right past the guards that surround the one that dropped the crate. She immediately ducks down behind a crate when one of them turns, thinking he saw something. The guard cautiously approaches the crate of which she hides behind and he slowly reaches for his pistol, so Ruby comes up with a plan.

She reaches down at a crystal that fell from the crate and rolled over to where she was. She grasps the green crystal in her hand and rolls it across the floor towards one of the other crates. The sound of a rolling crystal gets his attention and he turns, Ruby takes the chance. She dashes out of sight in a burst of petals, and as soon as he looks back, he just sees some red petals left behind. “Uh...someone bring a bunch of flowers?” He asks.

One of the soldiers turns to him.

“Eh?” He grumbles, looking utterly gormless.

“Look, a bunch of rose petals are just sitting here.” The guard states as he points at the petals left behind. But the other guard just shrugs his shoulders and turns back to the crystals, helping put them all back in the crate that the guard had dropped.

Ruby peers back round the corner of which she dashed to, seeing she has a car that she can steal and use to get to her destination.

Wow those guards are stupid.

For once, Ruby and the voices in her head are actually in agreement. She runs to the car she can see, an open hood military jeep that she can easily jump into. She jumps upwards and lands in the seat, and she sees the keys are still in the ignition. She twists the key and the engine activates and she breathes deep.

She has driven cars before.

But has never passed her driver’s test.

“Just a car...you can handle this Ruby.” She whispers to herself, and she pushes her foot down on the acceleration pedal, and the car takes off ahead, and some of the guards spin round with shocked faces as the car drives off.

The guard that saw her petals stares at the car with widened cars.

“I knew those petals were fishy.”

Escaping view from the guards at the Patch Docks, Ruby keeps her eye on the road, with her scroll being used as a GPS to find the location of which she seeks. Her old home that was destroyed in the fight against Tyrian, and where her old Crescent Rose was destroyed in the blast. She tries her best to block the world out around her, but she can see in the reflection of the rear view mirror is Roman again.

The Spectre of her old enemy is leant back in the chair, with both legs lifted up and crossed over the head of the passenger seat shotgun to Ruby. “So you’re just gonna go after Umbra on your own? You and all your buddies couldn’t land a dent on him the entire time.” Roman scoffs as he sits there, staring straight at Ruby as he speaks. She looks on ahead but his voice does not go away. “You cannot take Umbra down, Red. He is pretty much a god.” Roman states.

“Get out of my head.” Ruby mutters to herself as she drives, keeping her eye on the road as best she can.

“There it is again, you just focus on a single objective but you never question whether or not you can actually achieve it or not. Have you not even pondered in the idea that maybe you cannot win this battle? That Vir Nominis Umbra is beyond what mere mortals are capable of challenging?” Roman asks her, and she grits her teeth together with anger when she hears him asking her that.

“What else do I have left?” She questions, and he raises a brow with pure surprise on his face.

“Wow...you really have changed.” Roman scoffs and she sharply stares at the reflection in her mirror to see him there.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” She questions.

“Once you would have never just thought like that – maybe you should actually be there for your friends? Your family?” He asks her with a scoffs but she just narrows her eye with anger in his direction.

“All I will bring them is pain and suffering. It’s the only thing I am good for.” She argues as she looks on ahead, turning down the crossroads to the left on her journey back home. The car moves up the hill and over a waterfall that crashes down into a chasm below, meaning that they are getting closer to where Taiyang and Summer built their home to move on from. Now destroyed with every single memory that they once had burned to ash.

Ruby once thought that they could survive without those pictures – that they were just paper – but without her dad...now she realises how important those pictures really were.

As the car she stole keeps driving, Roman continues this conversation with Ruby. “Crap – respectfully, Red – that is a load of crap.” He states and she keeps staring ahead. “Your uncle, now he is one that brings pain because of his little semblance. But you? You make questionable decisions but I can help you make them better.” He says, and Ruby tightens her grip on the steering wheel.

For a second there.

For a complete second.

She really thought that Roman was being legitimately kind to her, but as always he always brings it back to her releasing control and letting him take over. “I will never let you use me. You did once...not again.” Ruby snarls with anger, still remembering how she butchered Dew the way she did, all because Roman fed his own blood-thirsty nature into her once kind soul. Her innocence has been tainted by her suffering, and she is becoming something truly scary, it can be seen in her eyes.

“Let these foolish ideas fill your mind, red...but you cannot hide from the truth forever. The truth of what you really are.” Roman says, and Ruby looks up at the reflection in the rear view mirror.

And he is gone.

She sighs as she keeps driving and her eye widens when she sees he location ahead of her. The destroyed home left behind to be overgrown, chunks of wood buried under bushes and grass that has grown across it all. Animal all evacuate the remains of her home and they disappear into the brush as Ruby parks the car there. She opens the door and she steps out, dropping down to the soil as she approaches, hearing the whispers in the back of her head over and over.

She’s getting too close!

Get away!

Why did we come here?

Shut up! Let her grieve!

Ruby walks closer to the destroyed remnants of her childhood home, hearing and feeling the shards of shattered glass crunch underneath her boots as she walks closer. The wood is blackened by the scorching flames that covered their bodies, now infected with flora that has claimed the remains of her home. Her eyes stare at the home and flashing memories echo through her memory, seeing the house once completely intact and perfect.

Then her memory fades and she returns back to the present, seeing it collapsed and blown apart when the fuel canister inside the house exploded. She walks round the house as she stares at the damage, seeing the point of which she was thrown from the explosion, feeling phantom burning pains on her body. She touches the side of her cheek where the faint burn scars can still be seen. The flash in her memory shows the explosion and her being thrown through the air from the blast, her cape and clothes charred and burning, flames melting her skin.

Breaking bones and throwing shrapnel into her delicate sixteen year old body at the time. She looks at the floor and she can see a flash of the sight of her old Crescent Rose, snapped in half from the explosion. Sparks bleeding from the severed wiring that once kept its heart pulsing. She may have an upgraded replacement – but it is still a replacement, and not the original thing.

Her eye moves towards the path of which Yang carried her to, in order to escape Tyrian but the madman never gave up. She can still hear the echoes of his laughing in her mind as she walks down this creepy path. Every step she takes she has the urge to look over her shoulder, fully expecting to see Tyrian sprinting after her. And the sound of the agonising struggle between Yang and him, the sound of Yang crying out with pain hurt so much. But she survived and beat Tyrian bad.

But he did the same to her too.

Gave Yang a parting scar through her eyebrow and a few stab wounds across her body in places during their fight, like right through her hand.

Look behind you!

He’s coming!

He’s behind you!

Ruby instinctively turns and a scream erupts from her lungs as she sees him leap towards her with is pincer blades extended. He slashes them towards her with an insane laugh that echoes through her soul, but as soon as the blade touches her.

He vanishes in a pulse of smoke, and she stands there, shaking with fear. She drops her head downwards, feeling the pain in her heart from how much of a shock that was.

Her Psychosis is getting worse and worse, starting to see hallucinations, not just down to her P.T.S.D. She grasps her long hair that sits down her right shoulder fiddling with the black and red highlighted locks she has. She turns and immediately walks away from the sight of which she remembered seeing him lunge at her.

Then...

She gets to the sight of the final stand.

She sees the grave of Summer Rose before her, sat right at the edge of the cliff where she crouches down and places her hand on the stone that she has found.

Summer Rose

Thus I Kindly Scatter

Ruby feels the cold stone against her palm as she sits before her mother’s grave with tears trickling down from her eye and down her cheek. She sniffles as she sits there, desperately wanting her mother to be there with her. “Mom...” She sniffles as she stares at her mother’s grave, the rose symbol that she once wore but left behind. Obviously there is no response from the gravestone, but she speaks anyway, hoping that Summer can hear her somewhere. “I’m so sorry...Dad...he’s dead because of me.” She sniffles.

Breathless from heartbroken emotions, she finds herself hyperventilating slightly as she sits by her mother’s grave with her hand still pressed to the stone. “It’s all my fault – I made a stupid decision, thought I knew the answer to a simple question when I didn’t. I became arrogant...and he has died because of it.” She says with a shallow voice.

The silence is only contaminated by the smallest sound, the tweet of a bird or the gust of the wind around her on the cliff face. “Oh gods...they must hate me for what I have done...I don’t deserve to be your daughter.” She says as she thinks of the badge that she always wore, the one that reminded her of her mother.

Explaining why she dropped her badge back there with Alyssa – she does not even think she deserves to be Ruby Rose anymore, let alone be a Huntress.

“I don’t know how to do this without you...”

She sobs by her mother’s grave, with so few memories of her she is left alone in this world with a monster about to annihilate their entire universe. Her sister and friends dying from a plague unleashed by that very same foe, and three entire Kingdoms conquered in thirty minutes.

Torchwick is not wrong.

How can we beat him?

And that time the thought was her own.

But as she remains by her mother’s grave, a chillingly familiar voice speaks behind her when she looks over the cliff to see it. The faint sight of Tyrian’s skeleton at the bottom, claimed by nature and forgotten.

But not by everyone.

As she hears the voice behind her, filled with sinister madness. “My little flower...” The voice of Tyrian speaks, and Ruby’s eye widens with legitimate fear. She slowly turns around and she can see him stood there, staring straight at her, also seems to be haunting her mind even in death. Standing tall with his hands on his hips and his scorpion tail arched over his shoulder, yellow eyes focused on her with a maniacal grin on his face. “Did you really think I would be gone forever?” He asks her and she clenches her hand into a fist with anger.

Just seeing him there...

He may be dead but the sight of the hallucination of her old enemy is bringing back her worst memories. The pain she endured in Salem’s Sanctum, when she branded his eye with the Salem Eye Iron in his little torture chamber he had. “Wh-What are you doing in my head?” She whimpers fearfully as she stares at the dead Scorpion Faunus who looks right into her eyes.

He giggles as he stands there, walking back and forth before her very eyes, his feet not even affecting the floor beneath him. “Oh my dear thorned rose – I have always been here, you just tried to block me out. But we both know you cannot run from your memories forever, don’t we?” He asks her with a smirk on his face and she stands up slowly, instinctively keeping her hand close to Crescent Rose.

Even though he is only in her head.

She killed him, she knows she did. She could see the remnants of his skeleton at the bottom of the cliff where she dropped him.

“Leave me alone! You had your fun! Just leave me alone!” She cries out desperately, screaming at something that is not even there.

He chuckles with an intimidating tone as he stands before her, walking ever closer with his eyes focused on her every move. “You cannot escape your past – you should merely accept that we are forever a part of you. And you are not the gentle little flower that you always hoped you could be. You have proven that.” Tyrian explains as he approaches her, still taller and still terrifying to Ruby.

She keeps her head low, trying to look away from the Scorpion Faunus that speaks to her, merely an illusion though. Her Psychosis and P.T.S.D eating away at her more and more, making her suffer constantly. “You’re dead...just stay in the past.” She begs as she looks away from him, and he walks past her, peering over the cliff to see his own bones at the bottom where he fell.

“Ooh...so that’s me now, huh?” Tyrian chuckles, and Ruby stares at him.

“Yeah – forgotten.” Ruby snarls, still keeping some defiance against him.

He turns slowly with a grin, staring straight into her eyes with a smile. “Not entirely, it seems.” He reminds as he looks at her. He seems so real it terrifies Ruby down to her core, seeing him smirk and stand right before her with that giggly voice of his.

“You...you will not torment me anymore.” Ruby states as she stands before him and he chuckles, looking past me.

“I don’t think it is me you should be worrying about, little flower.” Tyrian says, and Ruby stares at his eyes, noticing that they are looking at something behind her. That is when she hears the sound of the doorways between the realms shattering into hers. A crackling bang erupts a couple times, and she sees the dark portals opening up, and five Knights Bannermen emerge from the portal to the Charred Forest.

The same ones that were following her in Vale.

She spins round and Tyrian is gone, just another phantom that is forged into her soul to torment her every single day. Ruby grits her teeth with anger, turning back to the Knights Bannermen that emerge from the portals with swords, axes and hammers in their grasp, ready to fight her. She reaches to Crescent Rose and draws the powerful weapon, transforming it into its Scythe form as she stands in front of her mother’s grave.

Rose petals trail from her cape as she stands there and she snarls, staring the Bannermen down as they stand there. The Captain of the group points at Ruby with its battleaxe. “Kill her!” The monstrous entity roars, much bigger than the others, and the four others charge towards her. Ruby dashes towards them and she slides under the blade of one of the Bannermen, and it just misses her head.

She rolls and she swiftly spins Crescent Rose round, firing the sniper rifle behind her and she rides the recoil with a furious battle cry. She slashes straight at the Bannerman and it snarls with anger, as the blade cuts across the armour and sparks burst from the impact. It staggers but instantly swings the sword back around, narrowly missing as Ruby moves back. She then hooks the sword onto her curved blade and she twists round with force. The arm of the Bannerman snaps from the pressure built up in the metal armour that builds the skeletal entity. The twang echoes and the Bannerman snarls with pain, only for Ruby kick the sword from its loosened grasp.

She roars with rage, rotating the scythe round with all her might and stabbing the huge curved blade straight through the side of the Bannerman’s skull, killing it instantly. She fires the sniper rifle and uses the recoil to rip the head clean off the entity’s shoulders. The body of the Bannerman explodes from the inside, then collapses into itself as they always do. It creates a powerful roar of rage as it is taken back to the Charred Forest, the head sucked from the blade that it was stuck to.

Ruby turns and she gasps, seeing that Captain roar as it slams its battle axe downwards at her, only just missing her and tearing up the ground.

Behind you!

Her voices in her head may torment her but they do also have their uses, like in combat they help her avoid danger at all costs. The Bannerman with the mace swings it straight at her face, and she ducks down, rushing into the abdomen of the entity with her shoulder. The Bannerman grunts, staggering back from the smaller yet strong young woman charging her shoulder into it. She takes Crescent Rose and she scrapes it through the ground and she slashes upwards, cutting through the chest plates of the Bannerman.

Sparks erupt from the contact of the blade against the armour, and it snarls, spiralling all the way around the curvaceous blade of Crescent Rose, and she immediately jumps in the air and kicks the Bannerman in the side of the head. But as she lands, one of the enemies with a hammer smashes it right against the side of her head with force.

She falls to the ground, stunned with blood leaking down the side of her head for a second until her aura quickly fixes the damage made to her head. Her head throbs with pain, almost killed from that hit if not for the aura immediately repairing the damage made. The Bannerman slowly walks towards her with a snarl, holding the hammer in its hands, then the voices cry out to Ruby.

Get up!

He’s coming! Get up, Ruby!

Get up!

Get up!

Ruby grits her teeth with fury and she pushes her hands against the soil and grass, reaching down to her knife on her leg with a snarl. The Bannerman swings downwards with full force but she dashes away in a burst of petals, and she appears right behind the Knight. She screeches with furor, stabbing the blade straight through the back of the Bannerman’s head so hard that she kills it instantly. It implodes immediately, and Ruby rolls across the floor as she falls from the Bannerman as it collapses away.

She grabs onto Crescent Rose and she spins round, firing a round towards one of the other Knights Bannermen that charges towards her with a pair of axes. She fires the sniper round and it deflects the bullet with the blade of the axe, swinging straight at her. She ducks down, then immediately rolls to her left when it brings its right arm downwards with full force. The axe head smashes into the ground and gets caught in the roots. The Bannerman struggles to pull the axe from the soil with anger, but as it turns, it is met by the blade of Crescent Rose.

She slashes straight across the chest and immediately brings the huge weapon round in a blur of red as she carves right through the middle as she slams it downwards. The Bannerman erupts with a flash, a dark imploding singularity devours its body to send it back whence it came from.

The Bannerman she faced earlier with the mace swings at her again, and she cartwheels out of the way, and she uses an attack she has never done before. Since she has grown stronger she is able to pull off the attack, she spins round and launches Crescent Rose towards the Bannerman. The huge scythe spirals round at great speeds like a spinning propeller and slices the Bannerman clean in half, finishing that one off instantaneously.

With only one Bannerman remaining, she spins round to find the Captain rushing towards her and swinging that battleaxe straight at her. But she ducks under the attack and she draws her knife since Crescent Rose is imbedded in a tree right now. She jumps up and stabs her knife into the Captain’s back and it lets out a roar with pain. It staggers around and reaches for her, but then she jumps off and her eye glows.

She reaches out her hand and the silver energy latches onto the Isomacium fused into Crescent Rose 2.0, and it flies from the tree and spins through the air towards her. The scythe slices straight through the captain and kills it instantly, collapsing into itself with a deafening roar.

Ruby lands on the grass, holding Crescent Rose in her hand, and she exhales with exhaustion. The Knights Bannermen that has been following her are now dead, but she knows that Umbra will never leave her alone.

Until...

A voice she loves but fears speaks.

“Ruby?” Oscar says, and she gasps with fear, turning.

And they have found her.

 

Salem

 

The Dark Queen stares across her domain, feeling strong again now that she is back home.

The huge shards of Shadow Dust protrude out from the ground like the old bones of some kind of massive creature that died off millions of years ago. The huge Grimm Dragon is landed on the roof of the building of her Sanctum, looking at her as she stands there, and she looks up at it. The Dragon softly grumbles as it looks at her, and she smiles, reaching her pale hand up to the Creature of Grimm to touch its jaw gently. “Our time is coming, old friend. I promise.” She assures with a smile, looking back out at their landscape.

Destroyed and ancient buildings in the distance of the mysterious deep purple landscape with the Fractured Moon watching overhead. Her red eyes shimmer faintly as she stares off into the distance, but she turns slowly when she hears the doors opening behind her. And she has guests that emerge from the doors which opened.

Neopolitan and Kannix Volantis – once the Spectre – walk in first, still guests in her Sanctum and they look to her. But they are not the only ones, for the Knights of Grimm emerge as well with their weapons sheathed and their eyes focused on the dark queen. No sign of Vir Nominis Umbra, meaning she has the floor here, and her Dragon takes off from the building, making the whole room shake.

The Seer floats beside her throne as she walks towards it, and she takes her seat, gesturing her hand to allow the others to take their seats. The Knights of Grimm, however, do not, they remain stood. Death with both his armoured hands resting atop the pommel of Ferrum Arctus. Kannix and Neo on the other hand oblige willingly and take their seats.

Salem turns and sees that there is another guest as well.

The Lord of the Wood.

The huge Leshen stands there, its snapped Antler showing that it is indeed the same Leshen. It stands in the corner, with its head lowered but the burning coals for eyes still glow, meaning that he is listening.

Salem looks to them all, placing her hands on the table. “I have heard of the reports of what happened in Beacon Academy last night – it seems Ozpin is indeed alive.” Salem explains, apparently aware that he is also the Knight of Vengeance.

“I do not know how it could be possible, Wymerus was freed from his curse by Kragen Nox. It should not be plausible for his soul to still reside on Remnant.” Death explains as he speaks, hardly even moving from his stance, whereas Fear chuckles.

“I know how – he must have used the Relic of Creation in Mistral to create himself a brand new form. New identity, everything.” Fear explains as he paces back and forth.

“What about the fact that he is also a Traveller? I didn’t know Wymerus had the gift.” Starla asks with curiosity.

“Wymerus has been alive for a very long time now, it is not ridiculous to presume that he has learned a few things along the way.” Salem explains to them all, staying rather calm over the subject of Ozpin not only being alive but actually awake now and back on their enemy’s side.

“Or he used the Relic to grant him the powers.” Fury suggests.

“Perhaps – but that does not matter right now, we cannot change the past. The question is – how do we proceed. Vir Nominis Umbra has already executed four of their allies and four others were killed in Menagerie.” Salem agrees as she nods her head, thinking on the matters at hand. Kannix looks at her and he adds another point.

“Along with Adam Taurus and Fennec Albain.” He states.

“They are merely pawns, the White Fang will fall. They cannot hope to defeat our forces on their own.” Salem states.

“Do not underestimate the smaller things, Salem. They can surprise you.” He assures, thinking of Ruby Rose and her power that she has. He never expected her to be able to transform into a massive Big Bad Wolf from anger alone, all down to her Spirit Animal Form activating at the right time.

“Well, with Horridus Morbus giving us a bigger advantage against the opposition, our enemies are going to focus on finding a cure. Something that our dear Doctor Archer Merlot seems to have been looking for as well.” Salem explains.

“In Arkhonex.” Kannix adds.

“Correct, the city of which he has managed to hide inside of so perfectly.” She says, but not out of frustration, but out of legitimate admiration.

“Merlot has betrayed us, and Admiral Ortega is a concern.” Death states.

“How so?” She asks.

“He is merely motivated by the revival of his daughter, but with Merlot out of the picture now, his dedication to the cause is...unclear.” Death explains to her and she ponders on it.

“Well...we shall keep an eye on the dear Admiral, then. Jacques and Whitley Schnee however have been of a great help already, however the Atlesian Vault is more complicated than we initially thought.” Salem explains.

“Aye, I have seen it myself.” Kannix agrees and so does Neo.

“Explain.” Death demands.

“Well they have impressive security measures, measures that no doubt only Ozpin actually knows the codes to. Now that Ironwood is dead.” Kannix explains to him.

“Can’t we hack through?” Loss asks.

“No, we have tried every rule in the book and nothing gets through. And it seems to be made of Isomacium, nothing we throw at the doors, the walls, anything. Nothing is getting inside that Vault unless we get those Access Codes.” Kannix explains to everyone in the room.

“Hmm...well perhaps we shall wait for them to get there first.” Salem states, thinking smartly as well.

“Let Ozpin open the Vault and sneak in?” Fear presumes.

“Correct, we get inside. Grab the Relic, and escape before they even notice.” She explains to them, showing her strategic mind at play. A very lethal strategic mind as well.

“What of the Silver Eyed Girl and the other three? Umbra has stated that they are a threat.” Death asks.

“They are a target and we have already sent Knights Bannerman to her position. They should handle her easily.”

But then...

The voice emerges from behind the doors...

Whistling.

"A grin as candid as children, as sweet as bee honey,"

"His voice kind and sharp, as the blade of a razor,"

"Brings you from elder to youth, within the blink of an eye."

"Wishes be granted, be it: love, riches or luck,"

"His face like a mirror, fear shall consume you,"

"Anger through truth, loss through acceptance."

"For the end of your journey, Death will come for you,"

"Charcoal Cities, come waiting for you,"

"The Soothsayer shall wait, for his voice will control you,"

"Torment and Control, till the moon will shatter..."

They all fall silent and they turn, Neo’s eyes wide with fear as she sees the doors open up and he emerges. Walking inside in the form of the Soothsayer, his hands held together with a smirk always on his cruel and evil face. “Tsk, tsk, tsk...Salem my Executioner – I truly thought you would be wiser than that.” He sighs as he walks into the room, and everyone stands up.

Even Salem.

He walks past them all slowly as he looks at her. “Those Bannermen you sent have already been destroyed by Miss Rose – you really should stop thinking she is no threat. Underestimating an enemy is the first step towards destruction.” Vir Nominis Umbra advises as he walks towards her.

Salem stares at him as he walks past every chair that is at her table she has had built for her. The Seer whispers softly as it looks at him approach and he stops right beside the Seer, looking at them all. “However we have a new plan.” Vir Nominis Umbra reveals, and Salem looks at him.

“And that is?” Death asks.

“Knights of Grimm – you will continue your search for the Winter Maiden. We know the identities of Fall and Spring – and Summer is...well...” He sadistically chuckles as his eyes ignite as he stares to them all. Those who were not present, other than the Lord of the Wood, widen their eyes with shock when they see him using the Summer Maiden’s powers. After he killed and eradicated her soul, devouring her very life essence.

Stealing the power for himself, for he does not have gender when he is not human, or even alive in some cases.

“Locate the Winter Maiden, and then we can begin the fall.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains and they nod their heads.

He then turns to his Proxies – Neo and Kannix. “Neo, Kannix – I want the two of you to go after our foes. Their journeys are bound with ours, I want you to make sure they do not have it easy.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains.

Kannix nods and so does Neo.

Then...

He turns to Salem.

“And you, my dear...” He softly says, caressing her chin with his thumb, but she snarls and looks away from him.

“You will use the Grimm and search for Merlot.” He orders.

He looks to them all and he just claps his hands together. “Go on! Chop! Chop!” They all turn and make their leave, the Knights of Grimm all transform into their beast forms. The Bat, Nevermore, Wyvern and Dove all fly out from the building, whilst Neo and Kannix bow their heads and also leave the room.

Leaving only him and Salem inside.

He looks at her and he smirks. “Haven’t you got somewhere to be?” He asks her.

She scowls at him and he continues to smile, knowing she hates having her power sucked away like that. But she turns and walks away from him.

He chuckles menacingly, and he jumps onto her throne, resting both legs on one of the armrests as he lies down on it. He pulls an apple out from his satchel on his leg, red skin covering the apple.

He bites down into it and chews it.

Smirking as he does it.

The Enemy are making their next move...

Chapter Text

Ruby

 

“No...”

Her soft trembling voice hangs on her wobbling bottom lip as she stares at the man she loves with all her heart, desperately wishing him not to be where he stands. Or her close friends as well, seeing Team J.N.P.R and Blake with him. Her heart pounds harder and harder as her eye becomes raw, red with tears welling up within it as she stands there. Her breath starting to hyperventilate as she staggers back from them, hearing the voices in the back of her mind getting worse.

You’re gonna hurt ‘em!

You’re gonna kill ‘em!

Stay away from them!

They’ll die because of your failures!

“No...Stay away...” She whimpers fearfully of their safety, staggering away from them as she presses her hands to her head. Oscar slowly walks towards her, not in an intimidating way but in a very gentle way. She tries to run away, but she can’t, she just shrivels up as he walks towards her, sensing her emotions forcing her away from the people she loves. Terrified that they will die because of her just as Taiyang did – in her eyes.

“Ruby...please come home.” Oscar whispers affectionately as he walks towards her with his hands open to her, just wanting to her to come to her.

The others don’t get involved for this part, because they know that only Oscar can really calm her down. But it hurts for all of them to see Ruby so scared of just being near them, feeling so certain that she is the one responsible for everyone that died by Umbra’s hand. “Please Ruby...” Blake softly begs as she stands there with the others, all of them wanting her to come back with them.

“No! Stay away from me! I’ll only bring you pain!” She yells as she steps back from Oscar, pointing at him with tears beginning to stream down her face. Her delicate voice croaks whenever she speaks, falling apart from her emotions that flow through her veins. Jaune looks around, making sure that there are no more Knights Bannermen around them, but it seems that the ones they caught Ruby destroying were the only ones.

“You could never bring us pain, Ruby.” He assures as he walks towards her, but she shakes her head, the closer he gets she presses her hands to her head, letting out a cry of what sounds like pain. But it is her desperately trying to fight the voices and the delusions that are fed into her head by her Psychosis.

He’ll die because of you!

Run away!

Don’t run away, he loves you!

They will all die if you follow them!

Vir Nominis Umbra is right!

“No! They’re right! Stay away from me!” She cries, sobbing now as she tries to run away, but Oscar catches her in his embrace. He wraps his arms around her and he rests his head by the side of hers, holding her close as she cries. She struggles, fighting to break free from him but she cannot – not because he is holding her tight – but because deep down she does not want to.

Finally...

She stops fighting her grief and she begins to sob uncontrollably, tears pouring from her silver eye as she stands there, hanging her head low. “It’s okay, Ruby...and I am so sorry.” He whispers to her, gently rocking her back and forth in his loving hug he has her in. It brings a tear to Nora’s eye when she hears her crying like that, like any friend they just want to help her and stop her from crying.

“He’s dead...because of me...” Ruby hiccups with sadness as she cries, her tears trickling down and dropping down into the soil and grass with a splash. Oscar just holds her close, his warm embrace helping her let out her tears...

And somehow...

The voices have been silenced by his embrace alone.

As he holds her he closes his wet and hot red eyes, the emotions that he can feel through the aura connection affects him too. “No...It wasn’t you.” He softly whispers to her, in her ear so then only she can hear him. Team J.N.P.R and Blake give the couple their time, but they remain nearby, staying by the trees as he talks to her. She sniffles, trying to breathe through her sharp intakes of air, looking up to the sun with her tears glistening in the light.

“It was...” She gasps, panting through exhaustion – emotional fatigue coursing across her body. “Umbra challenged me to decipher what his name meant – and I thought he was the Brother of Darkness...and I was wrong.” She sniffles as she begins to cry again, remembering the times he would tickle her and make her laugh. When he would tuck her in at night and read her bedtime stories.

Even after Summer died.

He was always there for her.

The father that Qrow could never be, and that is why he left her with him. But as her memories flash before her, she then remembers every time she ever got mad at him. Whenever she would claim he was a terrible dad or when she left with just a note and not saying goodbye.

She never said goodbye...

And now she never will.

Because of him.

“He had to put up with two little girls – who took him for granted for so long...and now?” She cries as she stares at the sun, before she falls to her knees in the dirt, crying to the floor uncontrollably. Oscar fights his own tears as best he can, because he cared for Taiyang as well – and because poor Kassius has no idea either. He was like a father to him too when he saved him and took him into their little family.

How will they tell him?

For now he focuses on the love of his life, walking round and kneeling down in front of her. He holds her by the head and he looks right at her, seeing the heartbreak on her face. He gently caresses her cheek, moving the locks of black and red hair from her silver eye so then she can fully see his face. “He loved you – with all his heart. He knew you never meant the things you said, not really. You were a kid, kids say stupid things sometimes. I know I did to my Aunt.” He says to her, his voice soft and cracking as well.

“But your Aunt is still here.” Ruby shakes her head, her gentle voice so weak.

“I know – but I don’t know for how much longer. I regret leaving the way I did, I never told her I left when Ozpin convinced me to find Qrow in Mistral.” Oscar explains, remembering that long trek, and when he first ever met Hazel and the warning Ozpin gave along with it. He then looks up at her and he moves his hand through her hair, holding her close. “But you are not at fault for what happened, Ruby. How were you supposed to know that he was not the Brother of Darkness? We all thought the same thing! Even Kragen did, and he has been around for thousands of years.”

“I was supposed to be correct! It was the challenge, I failed and he died! How is that not my fault, Oscar?” She questions, sniffling uncontrollably.

“Because you did not – send the spear through him.” Oscar states, flinching when he remembers the horrific sight. “Only he did.”

“Then what about the others? That was all because you guys came to rescue me and we took the relics. Three lives for three relics – that’s what he said!” Ruby argues.

“What choice did we have? Let Salem use them and take full control over the world? This is all part of that cunning bastard’s game, Ruby. He wants you to fall like this, he wants you to run so then he can kill you himself.” He explains, horrified at the mere thought of that happening to her as well.

He sniffles now as well. “If – If that happened to you...I-I don’t even know what I would do...I’d be...lost...” He weakly says, lowering his head down, before lifting it and pressing his head to hers.

“I can’t lose you...” He whispers to her, closing his eyes.

The shattered heart of Ruby Rose warms when she feels him close, and somehow the shards come back together slowly. She puts her arms round him and she presses her head to his, closing her eye. Her red aura and his green one both faintly glow when they do that, their melded auras connecting together. “Don’t leave me...please.” She cries, she opens her eye and looks right into his eyes.

“Never...” He assures.

He pulls her closer and he presses his lips to hers, and she finally pulls herself closer to him, warmly embracing him as they share their moment. Their kiss lasts for a few seconds before it breaks, and she sniffs, wiping the tears from her cheek. “Do you know?” She asks him.

“The voices?” He asks her, and she looks shocked. “I could hear them when I walked to you...how long?” He asks her, she sniffles as he sits there and lets her lean against him.

“Since I was seven.” She answers, and then he looks at her.

“Why didn’t you ever tell me?” He asks, and she sighs.

“My Psychosis – I was always too frightened to confess to everyone about it – because I didn’t want people asking questions. Because whenever I thought about it, I’d hear the whispers again.” She explains, still unable to hear them right now. It is as if being near Oscar has been muffling them somehow.

“You wanted to forget...didn’t you?” He asks her, and she nods her head.

“Something like that.” She agrees, soothed by the feeling of his hand gently caressing her long black and red hair.

Ruby looks up at him with a sigh. “What do we do, Oscar? Without dad...I don’t even know...” She suffers, feeling that ever present pain in her heart whenever she pictures her father’s face. Then Oscar decides to break it to her, about the Funeral.

“We’re preparing a funeral...to say goodbye to them. I told them to hold it back until I brought you home – I could never forgive myself if we had a funeral for them and you were not there.” Oscar explains and she closes her eye sadly.

“I – I’ve never been good at funerals.” She dejects, but he shakes his head.

Then he makes the risky decision to show the other reason – not Oscar’s reason for coming after her – but Ozpin’s. “Well Ozpin wants you back too – but for a different reason to mine.” He explains as he holds her close. Ruby narrows her eye, still not even close to trusting him after everything that has happened.

“What does he want?” She questions.

Then the others walk over, seeing that it is a better moment for them to speak to her. “He wants you to be there for when he explains – a few things. He hasn’t said what.” Blake explains, and Ruby looks up at her with a smile. It is as if she did not even hear what Blake told her, just seeing her friends there is enough to put a smile on her saddened face. Jaune smiles gently as he looks at her.

“Hey, Crater-Face.” He chuckles, using her old nickname and she scoffs.

“Sure that nickname is in taste considering this?” She asks as she points at her eye patch and Jaune scratches the back of his neck.

“Ooh...guess not.” He agrees awkwardly, as Pyrrha crouches down beside her with a smile, placing her hand on Ruby’s knee kindly.

“We’re here for you, Ruby. You don’t have to run away.” She says to her, and Blake smiles too.

“I’m certain that if the others could move they would be here right now.” Ren assures with a smile on his face. Nora smiles too to her close friend. But their kindness, their love for their friend, it just scares Ruby because of the threat that Umbra made towards her. Because he knows that Ruby is not afraid of dying for her friends, but her friends dying for or because of her?

That is different.

“You never heard what Umbra said to me when he possessed me...he threatened to make you all suffer and die just to hurt me.” Ruby explains with a cry, covering her eye with her hand to hide the tears.

“Let him.” Nora states and Ruby looks up at her fearfully. The Valkyrie shrugs her shoulders with a grin. “The devil can eat me up as much as he wants, but he will definitely spit me right back out after how much of a pain of an ass I can be.” Nora states with a smile, making Ruby laugh and Oscar smiles with gratitude.

“Yeah, let the bald bastard try. At least we’ve all got good heads of hair.” Jaune scoffs as he flicks his blonde hair back slightly. He then playfully bats Pyrrha’s wolf tail and she gasps, before narrowing her eyes at him and he chuckles.

“Silly.” Pyrrha mutters.

“He can try and divide us but he won’t.” Blake promises as she also sits down beside Ruby and leans against her shoulder. “We are family – and family looks out for each other.” Blake states as she looks at her with her feline amber eyes. Nora and Ren sit down with the others and so does Jaune, all there for Ruby so then she can recover from her heartbreak. Ren looks over at Ruby and he sighs, since he has seen this type of rage she suffers with before.

“I know how you feel, Ruby.” He says to her, and the black and red haired girl looks at him. “When the Nuckelavee killed my parents – all I ever wanted to do for years was kill the thing. I nearly let my rage get myself and even all of you killed – in the end – I didn’t kill it for revenge.” He explains. “I did it to protect the people I care for.” He says with a smile.

“But he is after me.” Ruby says, the Knights’ Bannermen that came after her are enough proof of this fact.

“And me.” Oscar adds.

“Me too.” Jaune too.

“He’s been after me for ages.” Pyrrha agrees, and Ruby looks to the three other wildcards that Umbra just cannot predict, he cannot control the choices of.

“Whether you like it or not, Rubes – we’re a package deal. All of us – if he wants you, he’s gonna have to go through all of us.” Jaune explains, but Ruby shakes her head.

“I don’t want anyone dying for me.” She argues.

“And I don’t really wanna die...” Nora states with the shrug of her shoulders. “But it’s a risk of being a Huntress I guess.”

“You are not responsible for any of this, honey.” Oscar says to her, as he has repeated over and over. “It is Vir Nominis Umbra and his sick little game he has been playing. And the only way we will learn how to stop him is by hearing what Ozpin has to say. I don’t trust him either, but he is a Knight of Grimm – one that is free from his curse. And he has learned a lot over the past few years, and he might know some things about Umbra. About how to free the other Knights of Grimm. Even the Demons like the Lord of the Wood and the Onyx Phantom.” Oscar lists, explaining his reasons very carefully.

“What was your plan? To run off and challenge him to a 1v1?” Jaune questions, and Ruby looks at him with a sad expression.

“The only way we beat him.” Pyrrha says as she holds Ruby’s hand. “Is together.” She concludes, then Ruby feels Oscar place his hand over Pyrrha’s. Then Jaune, then Blake, then Ren and then Nora.

All of them place their hands atop each other, united together as a unit.

“Together...or not at all.” Oscar says with a gentle smile.

As they take their hands away, Oscar gently places her Rose Badge onto her hand and she sees it with a gasp, but not of relief. “No...I can’t wear that.” She dejects, putting it on the floor, unable to look at it.

“Why? It was your mothers.” Oscar says as he looks at her.

“I know – and I wore it because I vowed to be a Huntress like she was. But I am not like her.” Ruby states.

“How?” Jaune asks.

“Because...Because she never failed to save people...not like I have.” She says.

“Ruby, we said –”

“I know what you said!” She snaps and they all are taken aback by that sudden outburst that Ruby stifles quickly to calm herself down. “I am not talking about Dad...I mean...Serena, Vos and Gray...Port...even Dew...I am not a Huntress. Huntresses do not fail like that or kill in cold blood. I am not like my mother – and maybe I am not supposed to be.” Ruby explains, confusing them of what she means by all this.

“What are you saying?” Blake asks.

“Maybe...being a Huntress is what is holding me back. Maybe to fight him – I need to be worse. Fight fire with fire.” She explains, clenching her hand into a fist, then Oscar’s eyes widen.

“You mean let Torchwick take over? Gods no, he will never let go.” Oscar argues against the idea.

“No – I – I don’t know what I mean exactly – I just can’t fight like I used to. You saw how our enemies fight, they play on our emotions. Maybe I need to learn to find the middle ground or something.” Ruby mumbles, even she is not overly sure of what she is talking about right now.

“Ruby, that is dangerous. It could be what Umbra wants.” Jaune warns.

“Yeah, or it could be the opposite.” Ruby states with the shrug of her shoulders. They all sigh, since this is a conversation with another time – specifically after Ozpin has explained the things he needs to say.

“Come on, Ruby. Let’s take you home.” Oscar gently says to her, holding her hand as he helps her to stand back up. She sighs, giving in and accepting the fact she must go with them. She walks over, but Jaune has to say one thing.

A very simple thing.

“Thank you, Ruby.” Jaune says, then Ruby stops to turn and look at her old friend.

“For...what?” She asks him, wiping some of her tears from her eyes.

“For saving my little sister.” He says with a smile, and Ruby thinks back, remembering the little blonde haired girl that she rescued from the thugs in Vale. The ones that she was taking her anger out on.

“That was your sister?” She asks him.

“Yup – Alyssa. She is...somewhat a fan of you from the stories I told.” Jaune answers with a smirk.

“What stories?” She asks nervously, since not all are...dignified.

“A wide range.” He smirks, making his team giggle and chortle.

“Oh no...”

 

Kassius

 

Unaware of the White Fang currently following his trail...

Kassius wanders with the rest of the herd across the desert of Vacuo, luckily not attacked by any massive Grimm along the way. And by the looks of it, their home has been set up on a border between the Jungle of Vacuo and the Desert. And the structure on this border is gigantic...and not from this generation of builders.

It is some sort of Arkhoni Coliseum.

Utterly massive in size and incredible for someone to stare at, half of it has been consumed by the deserts but most of it is relatively intact. The huge circular coliseum is partially fractured with some holes in the titanic piece of architecture that looks like a combination of Roman and Victorian – even Egyptian in areas. The Arkhoni always created very intriguing structures before this generation of Humans and Faunus ever existed.

Covered with weathered scars from all the wind and rain erosion it has suffered over the years, it is incredible that it is still in such a prime condition. Kassius gazes at the Arena with stunned eyes, before feeling his wrists be yanked by the rope wrapped around his arms. He grunts as he is pulled across the sand towards the border of the Decayed Expanse, to the Forgotten Forests of Vacuo. So mysterious are these Jungle Woods, and so strangely placed right next to a devoid of water desert.

Covered with sunburn, he for once cannot wait to be put into his cell just to embrace the shade. And since they are going to be secure, his aura can actually be used to fully repair any damage done to his body from the sun. “Welcome to the home of the Traffickers you worthless hunks of flesh.” Kelham scoffs as he rides past them on his horse. “Here you will do as we command – whether you are to fight in the arena, work...or pleasure our hard working men and women.” He says with a wink, staring at one of the young women there.

She whimpers fearfully, looking away from the older man’s gaze as he trots past, then he approaches Kassius as he is pulled along. “I’ve noticed a few of our girls checking you out, boy. Maybe I’ll let them have some fun with you.” Kelham says, but Kassius glares at him with a snarl.

“I’ll kill them if you even dare it.” He snarls, and he raises a brow at the prisoner.

“Why’s that? Being a source of pleasure for some very pretty women would be seen as a pro for most slaves. It’s the least you lot deserve.” Kelham states as he rides around him.

“I have someone waiting for me back home.” Kassius replies, constantly loyal to Yang no matter what. His loyalty to her astounds Kelham.

“She is a lucky lady to have someone so loyal, I’m impressed.” He says with a scoff.

“What? You’re surprised not everyone chooses to sleep with every single girl he sets his eyes on?” Kassius challenges with a growl, staring up at the leader of the Traffickers. Normally he would get a kick in the jaw from a Bandit if he said something like that – yet Kelham just seems to be impressed by his courage to say that to him, despite his current circumstances.

“You’re a fighter alright. I think you’d do quite well around here.” Kelham says with a muffled chuckle before he scratches the back of shoulder with his hand.

“I would never sink to the level of Living Traffickers.” Kassius snarls, glaring at him as he is taken closer and closer to the entrance of the Coliseum.

“And yet...here you are.” Kelham scoffs, riding on ahead with a laugh as he approaches the head of the herd of slaves. Kassius sighs, looking at his feet as he is taken closer and closer to the gates. Then Neryth leans over to Kassius’ ear, despite him always saying that he is loyal to his loving girlfriend, she still seems to have a thing for him.

“I mean...she doesn’t have to know.” Neryth flirts, but Kassius just gives her a sudden and very hard stare, straight through her soul. So hard in fact that she actually sees the faint flicker of orange in his amber eyes when Hyde has an effect from his anger.

“I will not cheat on her.” Kassius sternly states, setting the bar right there.

Neryth rolls her eyes with disappointment. “Argh, Kassius you’re so old-fashioned.” Neryth sighs as she walks on ahead. Kassius watches her move past then looks at her grandmother – Nadine – who constantly looks so disappointed in her.

“I wished she could be better.” Nadine sighs as she keeps walking to catch up with them, she too looks thinner just from the walk with sunburn across her body. Kassius looks on ahead when he hears the sound of Kelham calling up to the guards at the Gate.

“Open up! We got fresh meat!” Kelham roars, and he hears the voice of one of the guards chuckle.

“Goodie – been wanting some more fighters.” The guard says as he pulls the lever and the huge metal barred door slowly rises up, revealing the inside of the huge fortress that they have taken over. Lots and lots of slaves that work with tools to repair the Coliseum, and they have hundreds of workers. Seems that as the guard said that they mainly want slaves for entertainment now.

Gladiators opposed to workers, ones that are strong opposed to weaklings that are only good for rebuilding the Coliseum. The sound of whips cracking lashes down the backs of the slaves echo throughout the place as they enter, hearing cries of agony from the poor men and women forced to do this. Kassius walks by a large stage and his eyes widen from what he sees.

Three hanging corpses, lynched up by the throat and left to die in front of everyone as a dark reminder. Left with them are signs that have been nailed onto them with charcoal written words in them.

Thief

Killer

Lazy

“They killed a man just for being lazy? That is all kinds of cruel.” Kassius says as he keeps moving and Nadine sighs as she looks at their bodies.

“He wasn’t lazy, he was just whipped so many times that he could not stand anymore. So they hanged him.” Nadine explains, somehow making his death sound all the more worse. That they are the reason he died and pinned his crime as laziness. These people are really testing the patience of both Kassius and Hyde right now. He even hears the voice of Hyde in the back of his head comment on all of this.

“I so wanna set off right now.” Hyde says with anger, but Kassius subconsciously manages to calm his inner demon.

“Calm down, Hyde. We’ll get ourselves killed if we do that...we need to wait for the perfect opportunity.” Kassius subconsciously says to Hyde, and the statement does ease his anger for a while.

The herd is split off, the few worker slaves are taken to one section, Nadine one of them since she works in the hospital with a few other nurse slaves. They begin to move down the path towards the next section, and the sound of moaning and laughter can clearly mean that this is where the Prostitutes are kept. Unlike the others, the Prostitutes are taken and immediately cut loose, and Neryth smirks as she walks up to one of the Bandits. She literally grabs him right by the balls and he yelps as she does it with a smile. “C’mon, handsome. Wanna have some fun, been a long journey.” She whispers and he grins.

He goes with her into the Brothel that they have made, entering it immediately to join the sounds of pleasure. Kassius just keeps moving, ignoring the sounds that echo from within, as he and the remaining slaves are taken towards the Gladiator Cells.

The doors are pushed open by Thorn and he pulls them in. With the chips keeping them under their control, the Bandits take each of the slaves and cut them loose. Before throwing them into their cells. Thorn grabs Kassius and yanks him away, and Kassius scoffs. “Alright! Calm yourself!” Kassius cockily scoffs as Thorn moves him towards his cell. It is in the corner and he opens the gate made of metal bars and he cuts his rope bindings, kicking him into the cell. Kassius crashes into the stone floor with a grunt.

“Welcome to your new home, Prince Charming.” Thorn scoffs, and Kassius laughs.

“Man, five stars! Where’s the toilet, by the way?” He asks, and Thorn chuckles as he shuts the door and locks the heavy bolt in.

“You’re looking at it.” Thorn says, and Kassius looks around at the cell, jokingly acting like a fool.

“Oh, I get it.” Kassius snaps his fingers as he points at him. He then suddenly swings his cybernetic fist straight into the lock to break free. But as soon as his fist hits the door, the impact throws him right back and he slides up against the cold stone wall. Thorn chuckles, walking over to the bars and grabbing onto them.

“Nice try, pretty boy. This shit’s Isomacium – you ain’t getting out of here. So you best forget about that pretty girl of yours – because you’ll never see her again. So for your sake? Have some fun with the girls while you can, they have the hots for Gladiators.” Thorn suggests with a grin, but Kassius snarls at him like a rabid dog.

“I am getting out of here. And I am getting my hat back.” Kassius promises, his snarl turning into  a grin. Thorn looks up at the hat he wears and he scoffs, tilting it slightly.

“Have fun.” Thorn says, turning and walking away from him.

Kassius lets out a heavy sigh, sitting and pressing his back to the wall. He tenses and he feels his aura beginning to regenerate around the burns he suffered on the journey here.

By the gods these burns hurt like a bitch...

He groans as he sees some of his skin beginning to peel already, across the scars he has collected across his body over time. The crackling orangey red aura moves across his body, slowly healing up the burns he endured, turning the red blemishes into a tanned brown instead and killing the pain that he experienced.

He closes his eyes with relief to be freed from his pain.

But as he sits there...his eyes slowly open, and he sees someone sat on the bed next to him. Someone that nobody else can actually see.

Wearing his black and red suit with his top hat and the walking cane on his lap, his grin has faded away and he just looks at the floor. Now he looks far less monstrous than he used to look, because instead of having yellow jagged teeth, they are normal white ones now. And his skin is humanoid too – perhaps him coming to terms with his existence has helped him change his form. But his eyes are still a fiery red as always, but he looks calm.

A projection in Kassius’ mind – Hyde looks over to him.

Hyde sighs as he sits there. “This is all my fault...I’m so sorry.” Hyde apologises, truly showing how much he has actually changed now. But there is so much conflict in him, finding out that he is actually a demon must have been the worst revelation possible for him. Kassius shakes his head when he looks at the other half of who he is.

“It isn’t your fault Hyde – you didn’t know. And it was Umbra, he took control of you.” Kassius explains, since he can partially remember how Hyde panicked when Umbra’s control fled from their bodies.

“But I should have been able to control myself, Kassius. Don’t you understand my concerns with this now? Vir Nominis Umbra managed to take control of me and used me to attack Jaune and Pyrrha...they could be dead for all we know...” Hyde stammers as he buries his face in his hands. Kassius looks over at Hyde, feeling so much for the entity that once brought him so much torment.

Even now it is shocking to Kassius to see Hyde with so much humanity.

“...they’re not dead. Kragen was there and he was getting them to Yenna – she must have been able to heal them. Help them recover from what we did.” Kassius says.

“You mean what I did?” Hyde presumes.

“No – I was still a part of it...I shouldn’t have fed my anger into you, otherwise that would’ve never happened.” Kassius explains as he sits there.

“After everything we went through to improve my – behaviour – and that is what I do...because I’m...a demon.” He stammers as he thinks of the very word, the revelation that he was given. Kassius looks over at him, hearing him say that and a curious question comes to mind.

“Do you really remember nothing?” He asks him.

“No! Nothing – I just remember being bound to you when you were a baby...but...” He stammers as he sits there, thinking and thinking as he looks into his memories. Kassius raises a brow as he looks over at Hyde.

“But what?” Kassius asks.

“I dunno...I feel like there is something there...he called me the Ebony Berserker...and that does sound familiar.” He admits for some reason, but he cannot place why he remembers hearing that name.

“He seemed to know you, Hyde.” Kassius says.

“I know – and that is what frightens me.” Hyde says with a sigh as he thinks on it. Kassius leans his head back against the wall and he closes his eyes.

“Well...maybe we can find answers together once we get the hell out of this godforsaken desert.” Kassius sighs as he closes his eyes.

The two of them enter a deep sleep, ready for whatever the Traffickers may have planned for them tomorrow.

Best to lay low and play it safe.

No doubt Kelham will throw him into the Ring tomorrow to fight as a Gladiator.

 

Ruby

 

She sits in the car whilst Jaune drives it with his hand on the wheel, her hand on her cheek as she stares out at the window at the cars that they drive past. Everyone is just going about their business, either aware of everything that has happened and trying to ignore it – or just blissfully foolish. Oscar sits in the middle of the pickup back seats, whilst Nora and Ren in the very back with their eyes keeping open for any signs of danger. Whilst Blake is sat beside Oscar on the other side, Pyrrha next to Jaune in the front passenger seat.

They are returning back to Beacon with Ruby to say goodbye to everyone that they have lost. But as she stares out, she looks at the rear view mirror and her eye widens. Where Oscar sits, he has been replaced with Tyrian, smirking as he looks at her. “All you will bring these good people is pain, my little flower.” Tyrian chuckles with a gleeful and maniacal smile on his face. She looks away from the mirror but as she does she literally just sees in the reflection of the wing mirror to see Pyrrha replaced with Torchwick.

“We can protect you, Ruby. We can keep you safe – all you need to do is hand over the controls and let us take over. Nothing will stand in your way them.” Roman assures with a sinister smirk on his face. She flinches from the pain she feels in her head from the constant hallucinations that she suffers from, until Oscar’s hand touches her shoulder and she looks at him. He has a smile – obviously knowing that she is struggling more and more with her hallucinations.

“You okay?” He asks her softly and she sighs, nodding her head.

“As okay as I can be...I guess.” She sadly says as she looks down at her knees with a glassy eye.

“Okay...we’re here.” Jaune says as he decelerates up at the front of Beacon Academy. The car slows to a halt, and they all step out of the car when they open their doors. Ruby looks at the school...and now it just feels so...empty...with everything that they have lost. But already she can see the damages have been rebuilt thanks to Glynda, the physical ones to the school anyway.

But when they approach...

The body bags have been taken.

And nobody is here.

“Where is everyone?” Ren asks as he looks around, until they hear the familiar voice of the Architect behind them.

“Come with me.”

 

Moments later...

The covered bodies of those who died have been gently set onto their own personal floating boats being sent off onto the river that feeds into the Valerian Ocean. All of them slowly begin to make their journey away from the cruel world that they were so viciously taken from, and to the gentle afterlife which awaits them.

Taiyang Xiao Long

Doctor Bartholomew Oobleck

Professor Peter Port

Roy Stallion

Nolan Porfirio

Brawnz Ni

May Zedong

Serena Raye

Gray Malachite

Vos Wolstonton

Ten souls all sent off, all killed and taken too soon from this world being tormented by the rule of Vir Nominis Umbra. As the boats begin to float away, Qrow stands tall as he reads a goodbye speech to all those that they lost.

“We shared many laughs...many tears...many arguments – but no matter what we were always family. Together we could part the clouds with our strength, and without you in our loving hands...it will never be the same.” He begins.

Ruby stands with her candle in her hands, for it is a Silver Eyed Warrior Tradition in this funeral to send off the souls of those that were lost. There are even the bodies that could not be recovered like Serena, Vos and Gray but even all the other Silver Eyed Warriors that never returned. Even the Branwen Bandits that were killed by Vir Nominis Umbra are given the send-off as well. Ruby sniffles as she holds her candle with her message thoughtfully decided for her father specifically.

“But now you go to a better place than this cruel one, a place where loving hands will always greet you. Where the warrior’s song will always sing, and where you shall forever smile.” Qrow continues to read out.

Kragen stands with his head low and his own candle in his grasp with his cane in the other, Yenna at his side with saddened eyes. The Architect also has a candle as well, along with Penny and everyone else. Hazel stands there, and with them are the afflicted as well, for even they should be able to say goodbye – whether infected or not.

And Ozpin stands behind them all with his head held low.

“It is a far better place you go to...than I have ever known.” Qrow concludes as a tear trickles from his eye, holding his candle close when he looks over to his sister and then his daughter. But the sad truth is...that her father died yesterday – her real father, not the one that conceived her with her mother.

Her daddy.

Ruby sniffles as she crouches down to the mouth of the river and she whispers to the candle to give her message to the soul of her father, her voice nearly breaking down into tears when she says it. “Forgive me...dad...” She softly says, as she places the candle onto the water and letting the current carry it away. Yang stands beside her sister with tearful eyes and she does the same, whispering her own message and sending it off.

They all do, every single person sends their candle off so then it can join all of them in their journey to the afterlife. A beautiful goodbye ceremony, as multiple gentle candles lit with a tiny flame carry off with the bodies of those that they lost.

None of them even realise that there is a hidden person watching and paying their respects to this funeral.

It is Death.

He stands in the distance, far from view with his red eyes watching the event with his head held low. And he is not actually the only one, for emerging behind him are the other Knights of Grimm. Fear, Loss and Fury all stand in the distance with their heads respectfully bowed to their fallen foes.

Especially honourable of Krekras to do so, since he did kill Gray, Serena and Vos – and here he stands to pay his respects to them as they leave this world.

Ruby stands tall as she watches the many bodies move off into the distance with her tears trailing down her cheek. “I’m...so sorry, Dad...” She sniffles as she watches them sail away from their view. “I always thought I was like Mom...but...I’m nothing like her.” She says sombrely as she looks down at the floor with tears in her eye.

Qrow looks at his daughter with affectionate eyes and he reaches out to her with his hand, hoping to comfort her. But then he realises that he was never a father to her, her real father just floated away from view. So he takes his hand away from her back slowly and he lowers his head.

But then...

Of all the people...

Raven walks over to Ruby and she places her hand on Ruby’s shoulder, managing to fight back her own sorrow just to help her niece. “I was there when you were born...” Raven begins and Ruby looks up at her slowly. “You were born prematurely, Qrow was terrified of being near to you because of his semblance. He feared you wouldn’t make it.” Raven says as she looks at Ruby.

She closes her eyes as a tear build up in her eye, then she turns to the river that moves towards the sea, no longer able to see her fiancé’s boat anymore. “But Tai...he never doubted you...either of you.” Raven assures as she looks at both of Taiyang’s girls with a smile. “He always knew that you would have the strength to make gods run scared...and by the looks of it...he was right.” Raven says with a smile.

“He killed him...” Ruby sadly sniffles, but Raven smiles.

“To get to you – because he is scared.” Raven tells her, crouching down to look her in the eyes, same with her daughter. “Both of you are stronger than you know – and he always knew you could stop him. And so do I.” She says with a smile.

They all spend a couple more seconds to take in the moment as they say goodbye.

Kragen with his head respectfully bowed as he thinks on the three poor souls that he sacrificed and whether or not it was worth it. Perhaps Ruby and Oscar were right – perhaps they could have beaten Death.

But it does not matter anymore.

Ozpin stands there and slowly turns his head, seeing the Knights of Grimm in the distance watching the funeral. They slowly turn and they walk away, paid their respects to their fallen foes.

Returning to their task at hand.

As he looks forward again, Ruby stares straight at him.

“It’s time I told you all the truth.”

Chapter Text

Ozpin

 

The impending tick of the clocks inside of the Amphitheatre is all that they can hear in the dead silence.

Everyone has been gathered, making sure their auras are still up to protect themselves from the Horridus Morbus contagion that the Afflicted suffer with. Ozpin – uncharacteristically – is sat at the edge of the stage where he used to give out his speeches. Now he is just sat there with one leg hanging over the edge and the other bent up as he rests his arm on it. He looks at them all, since they are all ready to hear it.

The truth...

Hazel stands the furthest from Ozpin with his huge arms crossed and his eyes glaring straight at the man sat there. Even Glynda looks suspicious of Ozpin, after everything that they have been through together – she never even knew that he is the Knight of Vengeance the whole time.

“So...” Ruby begins, looking up at Ozpin with her single silver eye narrowed. “What’s the truth?” Ruby inquires as she looks up at him, her hand tightly clenched into a fist, the same as Jaune as he sits with Pyrrha at his side, her head resting on his shoulder. Raven is sat beside her brother with her sword sat on her lap as she taps the blade, waiting for the man to finally speak of what is going on.

“The truth...” Ozpin chuckles softly as he sits there. “Something I have kept from so many for centuries...I am the Knight of Vengeance, you saw that during that...terrible night.” Ozpin explains to them all, some of them still flinch at the memory. They may have been able to send off their lost ones in a way that gives them honour and closure – but that does not make it hurt any less.

“Why did you never tell us?” Glynda questions, her fist clenched. “Tell Ironwood or the other Headmasters? Tell Qrow?”

Ozpin turns and looks at her. “Because I could not risk revealing my identity with him always watching.”

“Him – you mean, Vir Nominis Umbra?” Weiss asks fearfully of that name.

“That is correct...” He sighs, and then looks over to Kragen. “I was once a man named Wymerus Ozymandius – Captain of the Dauntless when Arkhonex was still in its power. I was young then, and I lost my family to people I could never get revenge on. Vir Nominis Umbra saw that as an opportunity and most likely altered the events so then we would find him on the Volcanic Chain Isles.” He explains, as he lifts up his cane and he holds it in both hands after letting his bent up leg drop down over the edge of the stage.

“What happened to your old weapon? The stories of the Knights of Grimm always told of the weapons you were given...they were cursed by him, right?” Blake asks curiously.

“Yes – mine was a mace forged with the power of the storm itself. Named Fata Mihi Vindicta – Higher Arkhoni for Fate of Revenge.” Ozpin tells them; able to picture the weapon as perfectly as when he had it.

“Then what happened to it?” Ren asks.

“Well – when Kragen managed to break my bonds to the weapon, I destroyed it. But deep down it is still a part of me...” He says with a sigh.”

“What do you mean by that?” Qrow asks.

“It is unfortunately of no coincidence I believe...that the reason I could awaken my body when I did...was because of the deaths of Taiyang, Oobleck, Roy and Nolan.” He guiltily admits with his head held low, and Yang’s eyes widen with sadness which changes into rage.

“What do you mean? You best keep talking.” Yang growls with anger, until her thrusting movement upwards causes her to cough in pain. Ruby helps her big sister sit back down and eventually her wheezing coughs subside.

“I was trying to awaken my body the whole time Vir Nominis Umbra arrived, desperately trying to save you. But only my urge to avenge them was what reactivated my form...meaning that no matter what, I am still his monster deep down. I can just control it...more or less” He sighs as he stares at his own open palm, before closing it into a fist from his sense of failure to not save them in time.

Then, Kragen stands up as he looks at the man that was once Wymerus – who looks completely different now.

“How...how can you be here? We freed you – you should be at peace, old friend.” Kragen states as he stares at Ozpin – strange to see even the wise Silver Eyed Knight totally lost for words for once. Ozpin looks at him and he stands up, walking around the stage as he speaks to them all.

“I could have been – but just as I said before, my curse of revenge never left me. You merely broke my bonds to the curse that controlled me, allowing me to control it now.” Ozpin explains as he walks around the stage with his hand using his cane as he always did. “When you managed to convince me that I am more than what the curse was...helped me by showing me the graves of those who I sought revenge on...I could see more clearly. And when I faded to the next world – I was faced with a choice.”

He stops and swivels round to look to them all, holding one hand out. “End my existence to rest in peace.” He states with one hand raised, like he is showing that option, and then holding his other hand up. “Or return and help destroy the entity that wishes to bring the end of everything.” Ozpin adds.

Both arms drop back down to his side. “I chose the latter.” Ozpin tells them all, and Kragen stares at him with shock – takes a very determined soul to turn down the chance to feel at peace to return back to the cold and monstrous world he left. “My duty was not finished and it still remains the same – I will never be at peace until Vir Nominis Umbra is destroyed.”

“So you directed your curse towards him instead the rest of the world?” Cinder asks.

“Yes.” He confirms.

“But you look so different than I remember.” The Architect says to him as he looks at him from where he stands, his rifle leant against the wall.

“Well when I returned I was faced with an opportunity. I managed to find the four Relics that Kragen had hidden in that tree.” Ozpin explains, looking over to him. Kragen’s silver eyes widen from when he remembers that battle that suddenly ignited, the night when he and Yenna were torn apart for thousands of years.

Until now.

“I spent decades learning how to use those Relics, and when I finally did...I used the Relic of Creation to build myself a brand new form. The form you see before you is indeed that body – the body of Ozpin.” He explains, his hands held out to them all – created by the Relic of Creation.

“Then how did they end up in the Academies?” Nora asks.

“Well the Academies and the Kingdoms never existed for a very long time; I and many others started them up. Kragen included – but I hid my true colours from you the whole time.” Ozpin explains, looking over to the man who stares at him. The look in his eyes shows that he truly had no idea that Ozpin was his old friend the whole time in a brand new body to hide the truth. “I had to hide the truth, become absorbed into my own lie – because Vir Nominis Umbra was always there. But with every decision I made I could tell he was starting to catch onto what I really was.”

“Wait...do you mean that the Battle of Beacon?” Before Jaune can even finish, he answers.

“Yes – that was when Vir Nominis Umbra realised who I really was, and launched an assault on the school. We were lucky that I did not reveal too much to you.” Ozpin explains.

“I think it would have helped if we knew what the real enemy was.” Ruby dejects.

“Yeah! Why the hell did you have us focused on Salem when she too is but a pawn in his game?” Sun questions with an angered voice, yet Ozpin just stands there with his never shifting calm expression.

“I could not risk it – he is always watching. He is probably watching right now, his many little crows always listen to what we say. It is how he can be everywhere at once and know everything about everyone.” Ozpin explains, sending chills down all their spines – Pyrrha can even hear the faint howls of the screaming souls trapped in the Charred Forest in her memory. “And believe me when I say – if I told you all the truth about Vir Nominis Umbra, the Battle of Beacon would have been much worse.” He warns.

“How worse?” Neptune asks with a fearful voice.

“Nobody would have survived his attack.” Ozpin explains, painting a very scary picture for them all of what they are up against. They have always known that their true foe is unlike anything they have ever faced before – but thinking about it like this...truly puts things in perspective.

“Why does he not just kill us all then? He wiped out twenty of my forces without even looking at them. Why does he not just do the same to us?” Raven questions, wisely as well.

“Because it would take the thrill of the fight away from him – he likes having worthy adversaries so then he can kill them all in his own way. Or because he wants to use us to complete our Universe’s story.” He explains to all of them, and it makes him sound like he is some kind of author writing his own story.

Oscar looks over at Ozpin and his eyes narrow, since he always knew him as the Spirit of Time itself, there are so many questions he has on his mind now. “So what? The whole story of you being born at the end of the world...was that also a lie?” He questions.

“I am afraid so – I had to tell these lies in order to throw him off. If any of you were to figure out that I was alive then Umbra could track me down. I had to throw him off the scent.” Ozpin explains to them all.

“So if you are the Knight of Vengeance...are you infinite just like the other Knights of Grimm?” Pyrrha inquires softly as she looks at him, he looks across the room to her to answer her query.

“No – that is another property that the curse has on the Knights. Once the curse is broken, so is our inability to end. I have also created a physical form, meaning I can die just as easily as any of you.” Ozpin explains, in which Cinder begins to ponder on that thought. The battle they had in the Vault...

“Then...how did you survive...you know...” She awkwardly asks him, looking through her fringe of hair over her blinded eye.

“You collapsed the roof of the Vault onto me, that is true. But I never forgot the fact that you let me live, so when you left I changed form and I fled to a regeneration pod I found in Vale.” Ozpin explains to her, remembering the end of that battle so clearly.

“Changed form?” Penny inquires.

“My Spirit Animal form is that of a Green Hummingbird.” He says, and Oscar’s eyes widen and so do Jaune’s. Both of them remember seeing that Hummingbird multiple times in the past, and now it all makes sense. The Hummingbird has always been a symbol of time itself. “I must say, I am proud of you for changing.” He says.

“If that is the case then why did you shun me? After I lost...” She stammers, remembering the horrible memory of Kassius getting mauled by the Terror Bird Grimm when they were kids. He may have survived but the memory will never fade away.

“That is because I went through time...spoiled the future I guess you could say. I saw how your future would turn out – so I decided I had to play the part of your own personal devil. Until you would meet the real monster.” Ozpin explains to her, in which answers some questions but also raises even more questions. This one specifically coming from Kragen.

“That’s another thing – how the hell did you get the power of the Travellers? Surely it was not from the Relic.” Kragen questions.

“In fact it was – I needed to create an ability that I could use to plan ahead to find a way to stop our enemy. Took me a long time to learn how to use it...” Then he stops and looks to Oscar. “Not everything I told you that day was false, Oscar. The story of when I tried to change the past was true – and it was not the only time I tried to do so.”

“What do you mean?” Oscar asks.

“Well once I tried to protect a village from a Grimm attack before Arkhonex fell – but instead my actions actually caused the attack in the first place.” Ozpin reveals and Oscar’s eyes widen in horror. “Sometimes even when our motives are to commit good deeds...we can cause the bad ones to happen in the same moment.” He sighs, his brown eyes turning to face Pyrrha and Jaune, sending a chill through her spine.

Jaune can finally ask his question. “Why did you do it?” Jaune questions, and Glynda looks at him.

“You know why, we told you.” Glynda attempts to defend, but Ozpin holds up his hand, to silence her.

“No, Glynda. He is right to be angry with me for what happened, and it was wrong.” He says with a saddened expression for what happened that night. “The truth is, Jaune Arc – is that I was desperate. I knew that Vir Nominis Umbra was catching onto my tail, he had Salem command Cinder to attack Amber.” He says, and Hazel releases a soft snarl that gets Oscar’s attention as he turns. “He was working his way to launch a full scale assault, Mountain Glenn and all the Grimm congregating around the area – the signs were clear.” Ozpin continues to explain.

“So you forced the powers onto Pyrrha.” Jaune growls.

Fully expecting Ozpin to defend himself with some sort of statement like ­I gave her a choice and she chose...Jaune stood there ready for it. But yet again, Ozpin’s response to that gives him a chill. “Yes.” He states, and they all stare at him with shock. “I gave her an ultimatum that I knew she could never refuse...because I wanted to get the power out of Amber and make sure that Pyrrha got somewhere safe to hide it.” Ozpin explains, before he looks at Cinder slowly. “But no matter how hard I tried – the events still happened.”

Jaune looks at Pyrrha, seeing the look in her eyes that reminds him of that day when she spoke to him about Destiny. Like such a heavy burden has been weighed down on her shoulders at all times. Jaune crushes his eyes shut before asking the question that haunts him, so he stares the Professor right in the eyes. “Did you know?” He questions.

“Know what?” Ozpin asks him for he seeks clarification.

“That Pyrrha was gonna die that night?” He clarifies with a croak in his voice, even though she sits beside him...alive...it still hurts to picture it. Pyrrha gently holds his hand as she looks at him with a smile.

“Yes...I did. Yet I still had hoped I could change the past by telling her to find Glynda, Qrow and James. But time has a way of forcing events to happen the way that they must happen.” Ozpin explains to them all, raising another question.

“Wait, how far back did you go?” Penny questions with her green eyes open wide. Ozpin looks at them all and he sighs, turning his eyes to Oscar.

“What I told you – was not a full lie – because when I used my powers are went forward in time...but I did not realise how far I went.” Ozpin explains, and Oscar looks fearful.

“The Shivering Dominion...you saw it didn’t you?” He asks.

“Yes – I was not born in that moment and I never saw my parents frozen in time before my very eyes. But I was taken to a frozen point in time – like an important marker...” He stammers as he pictures the moment in his eyes.

“What did you see?” Ruby asks him.

“The world frozen in ice and smothered with snow, Beacon Academy invaded and destroyed by the Grimm. Vir Nominis Umbra stood on the tower with his three Demonic Children at his side...and multiple brave warriors fighting to the death at the fountain outside.” Ozpin explains to them all, and Ruby looks behind her at the area too. Seeing exactly where Ozpin is describing.

“Who were the warriors?” Weiss asks, and Ozpin truthfully answers.

Some of you.”

The answer gives them all chills, knowing that by using the word some...that means that most of them will die before that moment ever comes. “I will not say who is not there...because I do not wish to have that plague your minds. I know better than anyone what it is like to know where you future will lead – it is not as useful as you might think.” Ozpin states, Glynda and Qrow can see the pain in his eyes.

And as if Ruby’s fears were not enough...now she knows that more people she cares for will die before this moment ever comes. Even she could die before it even arrives. “Do...do we win?” Ruby asks, and Ozpin just stares at her.

“I don’t know.” He replies.

“How can you not know?” Yang questions.

“There are some things in this world that I simply do not wish to know.” Ozpin states, looking down at the floor. “And many memories I wish I could forget forever – but alas they remain for the rest of time.” He states as he sighs, looking down at the ground with his cane beneath his hands.

“Wait...” Nora says, and she slowly looks at Ozpin with a worried expression. “Demonic Children?” She asks him with confusion.

Why wouldn’t he call them the Knights of Grimm?

Unless...

He is talking about something else.

Ozpin nods his head as he walks back and forth. “The Onyx Brotherhood.” He reveals and Pyrrha stares at him wide-eyed when hearing that word...onyx...the Onyx Phantom. “There were originally four Demons that he created to serve him. The Lord of the Wood.” He begins, and Nora gasps when she realises that the Leshen that has hunted her for so many years is actually one of these demons. “The Onyx Phantom.” Pyrrha flinches at the mere mention of the entity’s name. “The Ebony Berserker – or as you all know him, Hyde.” He says and Yang’s eyes widen with disbelief. “And the Whisperer.”

The Whisperer...

Of all of them that is the only one of these entity’s that they have not even met yet. “Hyde is one of them?” Yang fearfully questions.

“He used to be.” Ozpin answers.

“Hold up, he used to be? The how come he does not remember?” Ruby asks.

“I can tell you.” Ozpin assures.

He paces back and forth as he begins to explain the legends behind the Onyx Brotherhood, the four Higher Demons that Vir Nominis Umbra had forged. “The Whisperer is the first and the wisest of the Onyx Brothers, then the Lord of the Wood followed. The Whisperer has always been a sadistic and evil entity, one that is a master of blending in with his surroundings and using his words to manipulate people to his will. Whereas the Lord of the Wood is the only one that is not evil, other than Hyde obviously.” Ozpin explains.

“Yeah? I beg to differ.” Nora scoffs, touching the place on her chest where she still feels that scarred handprint of the Lord of the Wood.

“The bond you have with the Lord of the Wood has no malice in it, that is merely down to the fact you touched the totem. The Lord of the Wood is more like an animal than an entity, he merely does his duty – if you had never touched that totem he would have never cursed you. He might have even helped you find your parents.” Ozpin explains and Nora’s cyan eyes widen with disbelief.

“What?” She questions.

“The Lord of the Wood has been known to help children that never touched his totems or harmed his landscape, holding their hands to guide them to the nearest town. He only attacks people if they are armed or harm his totems or the territory his totems are placed.” Ozpin explains to them all, really making sense as well behind how the Lord of the Wood operates. It never struck them as a Grimm but also not a demon...like a machine almost.

“But the Onyx Phantom is dead – I killed her.” Pyrrha states.

“No – you merely destroyed the fragment that was bonded to your soul. That is why it appeared as a darker form of yourself – the Phantom always reveals itself as a darker version of the person it speaks to. If it speaks to Blake it will be the opposite to what she really is – if it spoke to Sun he would see the same. Usual characteristics are black hair and orange eyes.” Ozpin explains, and the description is exactly what they have all seen. Even the Assassin’s form had the same sort of look, even when Neo was acting as her.

“And...Hyde?” Yang questions.

“Yes...the Ebony Berserker, or as he is now named as Mr Hyde – he is in fact the youngest of the Demons. Created to ignite rage and feed of that anger on anyone he would possess, bringing war everywhere he would go with that anger. However over time he developed a conscience, when he possessed a child he began to question why he was doing this. Umbra could sense the betrayal coming and when he did...he banished the Berserker. Bound him to the firstborn of future person he would bind a contract with – wiping the Berserker’s memory until he would remember to be a demon.” Ozpin explains to them all, revealing the truth behind Hyde as well.

Or the Ebony Berserker.

“When we saw Hyde yesterday, he kept muttering that he was not a demon.” Jaune remembers, Yang looks at him with so much concern both for the man she loves and even the demon trapped inside him.

“Then his memory is returning...perhaps if Kassius can free himself from wherever he is now Hyde can tell us something very interesting.” Ozpin states.

A silence fills the room for some time, just of people comprehending that there are now four Demons that they have to handle. “The Whisperer...I never heard of him.” Ruby says.

“You wouldn’t, I have never even encountered the entity. I have merely heard the whispers once...he hides in the darkness and manipulates people.” Ozpin says to them all.

“If you know all this...then surely you must know what Umbra is.” Weiss presumes, but even Ozpin does not know exactly what he is.

“No...But I do have a theory.” He says as he walks around.

“That’s better than what we had earlier.” The Architect says as he shrugs his mechanical shoulders.

“Okay...let’s hear it.” Oscar says as he sits forward, listening to what Ozpin’s theory on Vir Nominis Umbra could be.

“I believe – that he is the embodiment of Evil itself.” He says as he walks back and forth, they all stare at him with a confused expression.

“You mean to claim he could be Evil in the flesh?” Jaune asks with confusion.

“Everything I have seen him do is because he enjoys it, and as he has made clear, he does it all because he chooses to. He creates deals and contracts with those that end with them losing their souls. I believe that could be a possibility of what he is – however I have been wrong before, I may be wrong about this too.” He states.

“Okay...what weaknesses does he have?” Qrow inquires.

“Unknown.” He replies, shocking all of them.

“Surely he must have a weakness.” Ruby denies.

“Not many – I have fought him in the past and you saw what he was capable of yesterday. The only time I have ever seen him be weakened was yesterday when Ruby used her Silver Eyes on him...I have never seen that happen before.” Ozpin explains, looking right at Ruby.

“Indeed – not only this but her powers are beyond any I have ever seen.” Kragen agrees with the firm nod of his head. “When we were training she managed to lift up to twenty huge boulders on her second try with ease...no Silver Eyed Warrior has been capable of such a feat before.”

“But...I don’t know how I did that.” She stammers.

“And she changed into Fenrir – the Legendary Big Bad Wolf.” The Architect adds, even giving a name to the huge wolf that she became as well. “I have never seen that Spirit Animal before.”

“Fenrir?” Jaune asks.

“An Ancient Giant Wolf from a long lost Universe.” Ozpin states, and imagining entire Universes being lost and forgotten terrifies them.

“Umbra...did he destroy it?” Ruby asks, remembering what she saw in that Visionary Book, seeing all those worlds being completely destroyed and reduced to not even ash. She never forgot the horrifying image of Vir Nominis Umbra at the end there.

“Yes...he did...one of the many he destroyed.” Ozpin answers, and that one sends gasps through the Amphitheatre.

“Wait...what? He destroys entire Universes?” Weiss whimpers with terror, only adding more weight to how much of a monster they are up against.

“You will want to listen carefully to what I am about to tell you all because I will not repeat myself.” Ozpin advises, so everyone – even Hazel – listens extra carefully. “I once found an Old Visionary Book that is now burned to dust from a battle I had against Fury. What I saw...was similar to what Ruby had seen, except it was more complete.” He explains to them all. “I saw the stars disappearing in the sky and the moon shattering completely and once it did, the Grimm came through the sky like a storm of endless demons. They flooded the world I saw it from and attacked everything that moved.”

“In this Universe, the people there did not have the same abilities that we had, did not have auras or semblances or even dust. They were easy pickings for the Grimm and their cities were wiped out. Umbra then used the stars as weapons, causing them all to supernova at the same time, wiping out everything in that universe. Every single person, animal, plant, fungus...even strand of bacteria. Nothing survived.” He explains to them all, really creating a helpless picture for them all.

Ozpin looks out the window at the stars and the moon and he exhales. “The stars have already started to vanish and the moon is breaking apart faster and faster. We are running out of time.” Ozpin explains, then Ruby looks out the window and she gasps.

He is right.

There are less stars than there used to be three years ago for example. There used to be billions of stars out there.

But now...

There are so many less.

“Vir Nominis Umbra has been destroying Universes for so long now I doubt he even remembers which one he initially even comes from anymore. Even parallel universes to our own – for example a version where Ruby never fell in love with Oscar is a universe of its own. One that Umbra could have already destroyed and we have no idea.” He states, giving them all the chills at the idea of it.

“If there are infinite universes...then why does he try to destroy them all?” Winter asks with a fearful voice.

“I believe he may want to see if Infinite really is forever.” Ozpin states, a scary idea. Ozpin continues on with his explanation of what he has learned over the many, many years. “But I do know that not everything from those past Universes is forgotten – we have been fighting the remnants of past universes for as long as we can remember.” He explains.

“What?” Qrow questions.

“The Creatures of Grimm? They are echoes from forgotten Universes – the Nuckelavee, the Taijitus, the Kraken...countless other forms of Grimm are merely creatures taken from each Universe he has conquered and turned into merely shadows of what they once were.” Ozpin tells them.

“The Knights Bannermen...they’re people?” Ruby asks fearfully and he nods his head.

“Nothing more than echoes of who they all once were.” Ozpin concurs.

“And Salem? What was she?” Oscar asks, and Ozpin pauses, standing there with what appears to be guilt in his eyes. He sighs as he lowers his head, placing both hands atop his cane.

“My...greatest failure.” He shamefully says as he lowers his head down.

“What did you do?” Glynda sternly questions, then Ruby looks at Kragen, who looks just as ashamed as well. Clearly he knew who Salem used to be as well.

“You all know she was once a Silver Eyed Warrior, correct?” Ozpin asks.

“Yeah.” They all respond.

“Well – when Pyrrha Nikos’ Great Ancestor, Cynthia Nikos helped start the Silver Eyed Order with Kragen...I came to her...under the control of Vir Nominis Umbra still.” He sadly reveals as he closes his eyes and Oscar stares at him. He still remembers Cynthia and how she fell in love with him – he was the one that took him to her as well. “She was loyal to the cause...but she was heartbroken and the monster in me fed off that. I offered her the stone...the one in her head...and after a moment she accepted.”

“And became Salem...” Qrow softly says as he fits all the pieces together.

“She is the way she is because of you?” Raven sternfully snarls, but Qrow just presses his hand to her chest to stop her from storming towards him.

“Yes – and it is my greatest regret...one I so desperately wish I could change. But alas – the past cannot be changed...I may just end up causing it to happen in the first place.” Ozpin shamefully tells them all, practically spilling his darkest secret to them all. Something none of them ever expected him to actually do.

And then...

Silence falls again.

So many minds trying to process everything that Ozpin has informed them all on. Except for one thing. Ruby looks up at him, the final question she wants answered. “Why are we different?” She asks him, and he looks down at her, then to Oscar, then to Jaune and finally to Pyrrha. “You said that he has destroyed countless Universes...why are we so different?” She asks him.

“I do not know why – but I know how.” Ozpin says.

“How do you know all this?” Oscar questions before Ozpin even answers Ruby’s question.

“When I was under Umbra’s control I learned a great deal from him, that and a few thousand years of searching for answers...it gives you a lot.” Ozpin assures.

Yet Oscar still does not feel over convinced by that answer.

“Vir Nominis Umbra knows how to manipulate the future choices for individuals in every single Universe...yet here we are and the four of you stand. Your choices somehow always manage to go around the ones that Umbra has placed for you.” He explains.

“When?” Ruby asks.

“The arrow Death shot at you was meant to kill you there and then, Pyrrha Nikos was meant to become his slave, but she broke free from the Onyx Phantom and his control. Jaune was meant to die in a miscarriage many years ago but you survived, then you survived the Major Ursa attack in Forever Fall. And Oscar – you were never meant to find these people – yet of all the people I happened to bond to you when I began repairs on my form.” Ozpin explains to him.

“Wait...you never meant to find me?” He asks.

“Not in that sense, dispersed my aura and it happened to find you...but as soon as I realised your importance, I had to help you. I had to guide you to find Ruby.”

“Why?”

“For that prophecy?” Ruby asks, remembering the one of a Traveller and a Silver Eyed Warriors’ child bringing peace once and for all.

“Maybe...I do not tend to focus on Prophecies too much. Because your four have clearly been able to prove most of them wrong.” Ozpin explains.

“But why us?” Ruby asks him.

“I don’t know – perhaps the Gods have plans for you yet.” He states.

Ruby sits back down, as she thinks on all of this, the Onyx Brotherhood, past Universes destroyed, the truth of what the Grimm are, Ozpin being the Knight of Vengeance and how he became Ozpin. Even Salem...it explains why she was so determined to kill Ozpin when Ruby was captured by her five years ago.

Ozpin sighs as he sits back down, feeling so much of a weight lifted from his body. “Well...there you have it. Now you know the truth.” Ozpin tells them all as he sits there, and what a truth it was.

But...

They still do not know what Vir Nominis Umbra really is and how to beat him, only a theory and that Ruby could be the weakness that they seek. “Okay...then what now? What’s the next step?” Jaune asks.

“Well, the first is to find a cure for Horridus Morbus.” Ozpin states, and Yang looks up at him.

“Really?” She asks with confusion, considering what the real threat is.

“Yes – I may be the Knight of Vengeance but I am still your headmaster. And thus your safety is still my priority.” Ozpin assures with a kind smile, and for the first time in quite a while – that is just like the Ozpin that they remember.

“Then where do we start?” Ren asks.

“Well – Qrow, Kragen, Architect and Yenna already have a plan. To find the Witches of the Restless Marshlands and get their help. They are the best curers the world has left to combat this plague – we will find out if they can and whatever it is that they need to craft one.” Ozpin explains.

“Then what?” Sun asks with a strained voice.

“Then we locate the Visionary Books, learn as much as we can about the Knights and Vir Nominis Umbra. If we can break the curses that the Knights are bound to just as I was, they hopefully will help us. Then...we will hopefully find a way to beat him.” Ozpin explains.

“Merlot found something...Vir Nominis Umbra has ordered his death and his forces have turned against the Doctor but they cannot locate him.” Jaune remembers, since Umbra did mention that Merlot found something...so did Yuma.

“Then we will have to find him before Vir Nominis Umbra does.”

 

Kassius

 

Sat down in the cold dark cell he has been thrown into, Kassius keeps his eyes shut as he rests.

The Fractured Moon floats above the home of the Traffickers in the middle of the night, like the watchful eye of the gods. The sky is cloudless, and Kassius has not even noticed the things that Ozpin has warned the others of. The slowly diminishing amount of stars can be seen here too, and the Fractured Moon is worsening, more chunks breaking away from it and floating away.

Once the Moon shatters...

The end will arrive.

However the coming apocalypse is not what Kassius will need to worry about, as suddenly his door bursts open and Thorn storms in towards him. “Get up!” He yells, grabbing him and smacking some cuffs onto his wrists.

“Argh! Alright, easy! Ah...” Kassius groans as he is taken out from his cell. “I was having a really good dream too.” He sighs as Thorn keeps pushing him across the hallway past the cells. Where a few other Gladiators are forcefully being shoved out from their cells and towards the gate that is being prepared constantly.

“Keep ‘em coming! This should be a good fight!” He laughs, and Kassius sighs.

“Great...a fight at this time? You guys do crappy showings, ya know.” He jokes.

“You won’t be making jokes in a minute.” Thorn states.

“Ooh, I wouldn’t hold your breath pal.” Kassius assures with an ever-present grin on his face.

Thorn shoves him further as he moves him and some other Gladiators towards the door at the end of the hall. The one that leads into the armoury where they are able to choose what weapons that they will be using. Thorn opens the door and pushes Kassius into there after he takes off his cuffs, then the others follow him inside.

Kassius looks around and he chuckles. “Wow...what a shithole.” He scoffs, it literally looks like they kept animals in here. Hay everywhere and the stench of crap in the air that makes a couple people gag with disgust.

“You best get used to it, cause you’ll be seeing it a lot. Good luck.” Thorn says as he forcefully slams the door shut and locks it. Kassius cracks his neck and he walks over to the weapons, picking up a couple of swords.

Not Lash Equinox but it will do.

As he checks them out, one of the other Gladiators stumbles over to Kassius and prods his much more muscular arm. “Hey! I wanna that sword!” The man slurs, but Kassius just scoffs.

“Get your own.” Kassius advises as he grabs a chest garb, leather and bone plated piece that is like a bandolier. It covers over his left peck and he takes a kilt made from bur hide and fur around his waist. He also picks up a pair of boots too, nothing like what he normally wears but it will get the job done.

“Nah! It’s mine!” He slurs again, as he swings his fist at Kassius, but he just steps out the way and he falls flat on his face. Kassius stares down at the pathetic excuse of a man and he just chuckles.

“Wow.” He says, just walking away from him as he spins his swords through his fingers. Not used to how light these blades are, but then again there are no mechanical pieces inside to make it shift and fold – or even combine into a spear.

It’s weird...

As he stands there another Gladiator pokes his shoulder and Kassius turns to look at the nervous young man. “Um...I know you’re a Huntsman...I’m not...Could you...Let me win?” He asks nervously but Kassius just scoffs.

“And get punished myself? Sorry pal, I ain’t a hero.” Kassius states as he stands his ground, waiting for the doors to open up.

“Please! I don’t wanna die!” He cries out.

“Trust me, if I fake it and you live, you’ll suffer a fate worse than death.” Kassius assures, he knows Bandits and they would probably make an example of him just as they did to those people they hanged.

Except it would probably be whole lot grislier.

“Damn you...you Huntsmen are heartless beasts!” The Gladiator cries out with terror, shaking erratically as he stumbles away. Kassius just ignores that comment, he feels for the poor lad but all he cares about is getting out of here and getting back home to Beacon to Yang. Nothing else matters.

Except for his hat.

“Ladies, Gentlemen! Why I am excited for this little show we have!” The familiar voice of Kelham roars from outside the room that the Gladiators all stand inside of. Kassius cracks his neck and swivels his shoulder round in that chest clothing he wears, whilst a couple people just stay in their underwear or get different clothes to wear. “We got two Huntsmen here in this fight! I wonder which will win!”

Kassius stands there, listening to his words.

Two Huntsmen?

I don’t recognise anyone here...and none of them even look like Huntsmen.

Who is Kelham talking about?

“Let’s show off these scumbags, shall we?” Kelham roars.

“Rude.” Kassius mumbles as the doors begin to open up into the arena. Kassius walks out first and is greeted by welcoming boos and fruit being thrown at him. Kassius however – being the smartass that he is – just cheers with his arms in the air as a tomato hits his chest. “Yeah! Many thanks, love you all!” He sarcastically cheers to himself.

The other Gladiators are not as...crazy...as Kassius seems as he catches a tomato and takes a bite out of it. Immediately spitting it out since he hates tomatoes anyway.

“Now! Let us reveal our next contestant!” Kelham roars.

Kassius readies himself, no longer joking around as he holds the swords the same way he holds Lash Equinox. One pointed at the enemy and the other crossed horizontally to deflect any attacks.

“He is our reigning champion!” Kelham cheers with the crowd as the door begins to open up before Kassius.

“Never beaten!”

“He is...the legendary...”

The doors open up and he emerges from the darkness, dragging his weapon across the sand as he approaches the arena. He has burnt-orange hair that used to be combed backwards with a slight peak at the front, and indigo eyes. His hair now is longer and covers his ears, messy and unkempt. He also has grown a bristly burnt orange beard too. He wears silver-grey armour with gold trim. The chest plate sports a bird with its wings outstretched. Underneath the armour, he wears a black shirt with red trimmings and black pants with a red belt tied around his waist.

He drags his huge mace across the sand with his indigo eyes focused on Kassius.

“Cardin! Winchester!” Kelham roars and the crowd cheer with him.

Immediately...

Kassius’ eyes widen from all the stories Jaune has told of this man.

And only two words form.

“Holy shit...”

Chapter Text

Kassius

 

“Winchester!”

“Winchester!

“Winchester!”

The Crowd of Bandits all roar in unison, cheering the surname of the Huntsman that stands before the other gladiators in the arena. Kassius stands tall with his two swords held firmly in his grasp as he sees Cardin pacing back and forth, dragging his huge metal mace through the sand, and almost looking feral. From the stories that Kassius heard, he was more of an asshole than a creature like he seems at the moment. He also has some new scars on his arms as well that he never had before, and weathering scars on his skin as well, clearly from the sun and the sandstorms that Vacuo suffers from.

Sat down atop the booth that he found, made with ancient Arkhoni architecture, Kelham watches as the battle begins. He has multiple Prostitutes with him as well, Neryth being one of them with a giggly smile on her face as the Bandit Leader bites a chunk out of a chicken leg he has roasted. “Ooh...who do you think’ll win, Kellie?” She asks him as she seductively bites his ear, and he doesn’t even flinch.

“Dunno...can’t wait to see.” Kelham chuckles as he throws the chewed leg onto the floor, resting both his legs onto the barriers that keep people from falling over the edge.

Back at the bottom of the Arena, Kassius stands still with his swords in his hands, waiting for the match to start as everyone moves out across the arena to their positions. Most of the Gladiators are getting as far as they can from the Huntsman since they know that they do not stand a chance against him in combat. Cardin stands still with his hand holding his mace in one eye, his hair covers over one eye until he flicks it back round so then he can stare at his foes. “So this is Cardin Winchester, huh?” Kassius mutters to himself.

“Let the battle begin in three!”

The weaker gladiators shake on the spot with sweat beading down their skin whilst there are some that are calm and others that look utterly insane, bouncing on the spot. Some with hammers and others with knives. Kassius just remains calm, focusing his senses, he has fought against much, much worse odds in the past.

“Two!”

Cardin tightens his grip on his mace with a snarl.

“One!” Kelham roars before one of his bandits blows a huge horn that echoes for miles, with a triumphant bellow. Cardin walks forward, and Kassius spins his swords through his fingers as he prepares to fight.

It is clear who the Huntsmen are.

Since everyone else just charges towards each other like animals or runs away from the fight to try and escape.

Whereas Cardin and Kassius both wait.

The gladiators scream with bloodthirsty rage as they smash into each other, as soon as their bodies and weapons collide there is a thunderous uproar from the crowd. Kassius can feel the reverberations through the floor just from the pounding cheers and beats from the crowd as they stop their feet against the floor. The Huntsman with the Split Personality turns his head when a man sprints at him, screaming like a lunatic. Kassius just steps aside to dodge the swing of his hammer that smashes into the ground.

Kassius slashes across the chest of the Gladiator, spilling his blood across the floor as he screams, before he plunges the curved blade of his other cutlass straight through the Gladiator’s ribcage. He gasps with agony before Kassius twists the blade to finish him off, pushing his boot against is corpse.

He turns...to meet the mace of Cardin Winchester that crashes right into his chest, sending him flying and smashing straight across the circular walls of the arena. The walls buckle and crumble, chunks of concrete and adobe sandstone crumble from where Kassius smashed through. Pieces of rebar hang out from the walls, dust pluming from the place of contact. Kassius grunts as he rolls across the floor, some cuts and bruises across his body and even some lacerations. Wounds that his fiery orange aura swiftly regenerates immediately, closing up his wounds, leaving only a few stains of claret on his chest and arm.

Kassius cracks his neck before wiping some of the dust and sand from his body, turning to see Cardin walking towards him with a glare. The huge Huntsman turns to one of the Gladiators who attempts to fight him, jumping towards him with one dagger thrusting forward towards him. Cardin yells with rage, grabbing the Gladiator by the throat, turning on his heel to smash the man into the floor. The dull thud accompanied with a crunch erupts from where he crashed into the ground from Cardin’s attack. He wheezes in pain on the ground, only for Cardin to finish him off with his mace, smashing it downwards into his head – killing him instantly.

Kassius cracks his neck as he stands tall, ready to fight again as he picks his swords back up. He walks past the many Gladiators that fight against each other. Even terrified souls thrown in here against their will, being stabbed to death on the floor by others with knives, spears and hacked apart by axes. Their blood-curdling screams echo across the arena, only met by the cheers of the similarly blood thirsty viewers in the arena crowds. Blood soaks the sand along with the corpses of brutally murdered people.

But Kassius has seen it all before.

And by the looks of it, so has Cardin. A lot has changed since Beacon was destroyed, and it seems he has changed quite a lot. Cardin flicks the blood from the mace of his, running towards Kassius this time, jumping in the air with his mace held above his head. The red crystal inside activates with a heated flash of fire. He bellows as he swings it downwards, smashing it down into the ground where Kassius was stood with all his might. When the Mace hits the ground, a huge fiery explosion ignites through the sand, creating a chasm of destruction, scorching the ground beneath them. The Huntsman he fights against rolls out of the way, instantly spiralling round to slash Cardin across his side.

Cardin grunts, his orange aura protecting him as always, flickering around that wound. He swiftly spins round to smash the mace downwards at Kassius again. The massive mace crashes down into the ground with a heavy bang, an attack Kassius dodged as he bounced back. Instantly rushing forward to jump up and smash his knee up into Cardin’s jaw to cause him to stagger. Cardin roars with anger as he staggers back, as Kassius slashes his cutlass across his leg to bring him down to one knee.

Kassius thunders a yell as he slams both blades downwards at Cardin, only for the Winchester Huntsman to hold up his mace, stopping the two blades. Kassius stares into his eyes with gritted teeth, holding him down. “So you’re Cardin Winchester? I thought you’d be taller!” He laughs, receiving a roar from Cardin as he tightens his grip, Kassius turns his attention to the red crystal within the man’s mace. His eyes widen when he sees the red energy channelling into flames as he blasts fire out and it wraps around the mace.

Cardin pulls the mace away from Kassius and spins all the way around, smashing the mace into his chest. Kassius grunts, thrown into another wall, lodged inside it this time with his arms hooked into the rebar and concrete. Cardin stands up, his eyes focused on Kassius. “I don’t believe we’ve met before.” Cardin states as he walks towards him.

“We haven’t, but I know Jaune!” He yells, and Cardin stops walking when he says that, his eyes widen with disbelief when he hears his name. Showing what appears to be relief in his eyes opposed to anger.

“He’s alive?” He asks.

“Last I saw him he was!” Kassius yells back as he tries to free himself, Cardin stands tall with his eyes focused onto his mace as he stands there.

“As much as I’d love to stand and chat, we still need to fight.” He says.

“Well then...if we both survive...then I guess we’ll chat later.” Kassius chuckles, somehow making friends with Cardin even when trying to beat him in combat. Cardin smirks, but he spins round when another Gladiator charges at him with a spear, trying to skewer him like a kabob. Cardin catches the wooden spear in his huge hand and pulls the Gladiator round and throws him straight into the others. The Gladiator screams as he clatters into the side of another, winding him in the process. One of the others manages to pick up a Crossbow and loads a bolt into it. The weak man has to put the ranged weapon on the group and use his leg to help pull the limbs of the weapon back so then he can serve the bolt into the chamber.

Cardin walks towards the three Gladiators, two of them getting back up after his attack he made on them. The Crossbow User finally loads it and he struggles to lift it up, aiming it straight at Cardin to fire. He fires the bolt but Cardin spins his mace through his fingers to deflect the bolt – the wooden arrow shatters upon contact with his mace, and then he accelerates into a charge. The Crossbow firer screams with fear as he turns to run away, whilst the other Gladiators pick up some weapons left on the ground to fight.

One picks up a Battleaxe whilst the other picks up a sword and they both run towards the huge man. The Axe-Man jumps at Cardin to cut downwards onto his aura but Cardin ducks and dodges his attack, smashing his mace straight into his chest. The metal hooks in the mace puncture into his ribs, keeping the screaming man stuck to the weapon. Cardin smashes him downwards and rips the mace from his crushed chest, instantly thrusting his armoured shoulder into the sword.

The blade snaps against the shoulder pauldron, sparks burst outwards from the breaking of the sword, shards of metal thrown across the area. Cardin swiftly takes is fist and ploughs it straight into the Gladiator’s face, before swiping his mace across his legs to knock him onto the ground. Finally he takes his mace and smashes it down into his head, crushing the skull and splattering blood everywhere.

The crowd erupt with a monstrous cheer from seeing such a grisly death. Blood drips from the mace and Cardin sighs as he flicks it off, turning to see that man that fled. Running away desperately and trying to climb his way out.

Kelham watches as some of the people try and escape and a smirk grows across his face, so he turns on his chair to look at Thorne. “Looks like we got some cowards.” Kelham says and Thorn chuckles.

“Unleash the beasts!” Thorn bellows, and the man on the gate turns with terrified eyes as a pen rises up from underneath the ground. The concrete and sandstone floor shifts open to reveal a cage with a creature inside. But this is not actually a Creature of Grimm, it is a form of Vacuo Wildlife. A huge Lion-Like animal but with crocodilian skin and razor sharp teeth. The legs of some kind of dog or cheetah and the muscle of a Lion or Tiger, it turns its flaring orange eyes to the desperate man attempting escape.

The monster roars with furor, charging towards where he screams with terror, standing beneath the climbing man now. “Please! I wanna go home!” He wails, only for the creature to start to place its claws limbs onto the metal fence, climbing up behind him with a growl. He looks down and he cries with horror as it bites down onto his leg and pulls him down. “No! Please! Argh! Help me! Please!” He screams with agony as the creature throws him into the floor, blood leaking from his lacerated and shredded leg. The huge monster prowls behind him, the taste of blood covering its jaws as it closes in. His cries for help go unnoticed, and the monster jumps onto him, his screams drowned out both by the sadistic cheers of the crowd and the haunting growls of the monster.

It claws and rips at his body, ripping chunks from him and disembowelling him on the sand, shaking him around in its crocodilian jaws. His screams are muffled when the creature slowly closes its jaws around his neck, and ripping his head from his shoulders. A fountain of red sprays into the air as the creature begins to devour him inch by inch. “The Faeli Suchus!” Kelham cheers as he watches the beast feasting on his remains.

From behind the fences, one of the Bandits fires a shock round into the Suchus’ side, making it roar with pain and rage, spinning round to stare at him with teeth gritted together and blood drooling down its jaws. To keep it focused on killing the others opposed to feasting on its first victim.

Kassius continues to struggle, trapped inside the wall where Cardin had smashed him into, forcing his arms as hard as he can to break free from his current predicament. He looks around to see the Suchus stalking across the field of battle, seeking out the weakest link. Setting its eyes onto him and snarling as it approaches. “Oh you’ve gotta be kidding me!” Kassius exclaims as he pushes his metal arm as hard as he can against the concrete and metal. “You have not come this far to get eaten in a goddamn wall!” He roars as the Suchus charges towards him with a monstrous roar.

Kassius finally breaks his arm free from the metal and he jumps out from the wall that he was imprisoned inside of, landing on his feet. The charging Faeli Suchus jumps towards him with a monstrous roar to savagely attack him. Only for Kassius to uppercut the monster with his cybernetic fist, causing it to grunt and be thrown a few feet from where he was standing. The Suchus crashes to the ground with a snarl, its armoured scales scraping across the ground.

Kassius glances down to where his swords are...

They have been snapped in two, from Cardin’s attack. Leaving him with nothing more than his fists. “Alright then...guess we’re doing this the old fashioned way.” Kassius chuckles as he cracks his knuckles when the Suchus stumbles back up with a guttural hiss. The huge creature paces back and forth, sizing Kassius up and determining how best to take him on. Kassius keeps his eyes focused on it, every single move it makes, these things are still Crocodilian in nature, meaning that can exert extremely fast and powerful attacks.

Blood stains the white teeth of the Faeli Suchus, drooling that man’s blood into the soil. Kassius’ heart is in his mouth, fighting people is one thing but challenging a creature like this with no weapon is something else. The growling grows and grows, then it attacks, lunging forward and snapping its jaws at him, but Kassius moves out the way at the perfect moment. He smartly lands a punch with his metal fist too, causing it to stumble from that attack, but it does not back down.

It immediately attacks again, charging forward and smashing its head into Kassius, so hard it throws him onto the ground. Kassius slides across the sand from the beast’s attack, but it quickly jumps onto him, pinning him down against the sand, growling as it goes to bite him in the head. But Kassius holds his metal arm upwards to stop the jaws, and the teeth bite down onto it. The teeth scrape across the metal and his aura crackles where it constantly gets attacked.

Kassius strains as it shakes him around like a chew toy, reaching out for anything he can use as weapon against the creature. He finally catches onto a rock that chills out on the floor next to him, best opportunity he has. Kassius grabs onto it and roars with rage, smashing the rock straight into the Suchus’ eye, so hard that blood actually squirts out from its head. The creature stumbles away from Kassius with a growl as the blood trickles down the side of its scaly head.

Most animals would back down.

But this thing does not.

It just continues to snarl at Kassius as it prepares to attack once more.

Across the arena from Kassius, Cardin gets hit across the chest finally by a competent enemy in the area. A huge brute of a man with a huge war hammer that crashes into Cardin’s chest plate. He grunts as he is thrown back and crashes across the ground. He tumbles and tumbles until he slams his mace into the floor to slow himself down. The large man charges towards him with a couple other guys as well. Cardin cracks his neck and he charges at them too, unleashing his semblance upon them all.

A semblance called the Wickerman’s Rage.

He tenses his body and roars with fury, as the crystal inside his mace ignites and blasts energy through his entire body. His skin burns and turns black like charcoal with crackling embers trailing through the cracks in his body. His eyes glow red as he roars, sprinting towards them as he uses his Semblance, smashing the mace into the chest of one of the Gladiators. The single impact kills him instantaneously, flames ignite across his body as he falls to the floor, and the scent of burnt flesh fills the air.

The next one to try and attack the Wickerman is met by the mace that falls downwards and crushes his skull, blood pours down his shoulders from where the mace had ended up lodged. Cardin releases the mace and with a bellow he starts punching the men with an animalistic vigour, pound for pound he beats them down. Arching his huge muscular arms all the way back to deliver undeniably lethal punches.

The Winchester Huntsman’s semblance is ironic – for he is an effigy to his own sins in his life, an effigy that never burns to dust.

Cardin’s punches are well placed and skilled, three fast hits to the lower abdomen of one of the Gladiators and then one hard punch straight to the face. Every single time he hits them he blasts the flames across his body into them, burning them alive and spreading his Wickerman Traits to others. The large man swings his hammer at Cardin but the Huntsman catches the huge hammer in his massive hand, channelling the flames into the palm of his hand to melt the metal down. His semblance looks similar to Kassius’ except his cracks have expanded into burning his whole body and he does not even feel it.

Whereas Kassius’ has another mind entirely.

Cardin pulls the hammer from the fist of the man that wielded it and throws a powerful hit into his chest. He jumps high in the air and he lands on the last other Gladiator’s chest and he punches him repeatedly in the face over and over again. Flames igniting with every punch that he delivers, until finally the Gladiator is dead on the floor with his skull partially collapsed from how hard those punches were.

Cardin rises back up, and he disengages his semblance, staggering slightly and his aura immediately repairs the damage. His blackened skin flushes back with Caucasian skin and the cracks fade away. He reaches down to pick up his Mace and he turns to see Kassius still fighting the Suchus without a weapon.

Locke slides underneath the jaws of the Suchus and he grabs its open jaws with both hands, pulling it across the ground and punching it in the head with force. The Faeli Suchus roars with anger, slashing its sharp claws across Kassius’ chest, knocking him over. The deep cuts quickly heal on his pecks and shoulder thanks to his aura. The Suchus snarls as it jumps towards him and bites hard into his shoulder.

Kassius roars with furious pain as it drags him across the floor, the teeth digging hard into his flesh even with his aura fighting to repair it. It shakes him around viciously, attempting to rip chunks out of him. As it keeps bashing him into the floor, Kassius pushes his hands against the floor as he grits his teeth. His eyes glow brighter and brighter and the cracks begin to burn through the faint marks on his body where they have come through in the past. Multiple lines that ignite with fire when angered enough.

“Get off of us!” Hyde bellows as he takes control, a blast of hot energy erupts from Kassius’ body and it throws the Suchus from Kassius’ back, with some of his blood coating its jagged teeth in its huge snouted jaws. It snarls as it lands on the ground, dragging its heavy scaly tail the sandy ground as it watches him, feeling the still warm sand beneath its feet. Drawing energy from it to make fast attacks – it is more dangerous in the day since it can absorb heat and energy from the scorching hot sun.

The Suchus watches as Hyde takes temporary control over Kassius to beat this thing, since he can fight just as viciously as this monster can. The markings have all ignited across his body, across his human arm in places, over his pecks and down his shoulder blades. Normally that is not seen, since usually it is just around his eyes that the cracks burn through. Embers trail out from the fissures that have been formed and the Suchus roars as it lunges at Hyde.

He jumps at the creature and he grabs it, tackling it into the ground. He thrusts his cybernetic fist into the face of the Suchus over and over again, breaking some teeth from its jaws. It crawls away from him to catch its breath, but Hyde grapples onto the long tail and drags it right back. It roars with frustration until Hyde digs Kassius’ hands into its mouth, holding onto the teeth. It shrieks with pain as he slowly pushes the jaws apart, opening its mouth wide as it roars.

Then...

Bang!

Hyde twists the whole skull of the Faeli Suchus and there is an Earth Shattering crunch from the sound of its neck and even the jaw bone snapping from the action. The roars are silenced instantaneously – giving the animal a quick death at least. It was humane, for a Demon.

Hyde releases the cadaver of the Suchus and it slumps to the ground with a heavy muffled thud, its head crashing against the floor. Hyde relinquishes control and Kassius shakes off the residual pains from the scars igniting again. “Thanks for the help, buddy.” Kassius whispers to Hyde.

“Any time...you were taking too long as well.” Hyde jokes.

“Cocky.” Kassius scoffs, until he turns to see that Cardin stands across the battlefield from him. Dead Gladiators around them all and one dead beast that was unleashed to them. Both of them know that they must fight each other – luckily they have just met, so there is not much holding each other back. Kassius turns his attention to a sword on the ground from one of the dead Gladiators, so he crouches down and picks it up, spinning it through his fingers.

Prefer having two...

Well I guess beggars can’t be choosers.

Cardin roars as he charges straight at Kassius and he jumps extremely high in the air with his black mace held above his head with both hands clasped to the grip. Kassius rolls out of the way when the crystal ignites and blasts a huge explosion through the ground, throwing chunks of concrete and adobe into the air. The dust blows into his face but Kassius slashes his sword sideways at Cardin. Winchester grunts, spiralling round with his mace to swing at Kassius with force, spinning it through his fingers when Kassius ducks and swings it upwards.

It thwacks against Kassius’ chest, throwing him up in the air with a couple of deep gashes across his chest from the sharp prongs in the mace. Kassius crashes against the ground as Cardin charges towards him. Locke stands up quickly and throws the sword at Cardin and it pins through his mace, not breaking the crystal but perfectly getting caught inside it. Pinning it to the wall behind him. Cardin refuses to let go as his mace is carried off and gets stuck to the wall by the sword which Kassius had thrown.

He pulls but it refuses to come free, he snarls and turns back to Kassius, both of them now only using their fists. Perfectly equal now opposed to the situation that Kassius was in earlier with no proper weapon to use.

Kassius raises his fists as Cardin cracks his neck, walking towards him and raising his own. The two of them pace around each other with their eyes focused on one another, ignoring the roars of the crowd. Cardin attacks first, and that was his first mistake – Kassius moves aside and grabs onto Cardin’s arm, pulling it downwards and using his leg to keep his arm down there. Kassius yells as he punches Cardin across the face multiple times with both his human and metal fists.

Cardin takes multiple hits from the Vytal Huntsman, ones that even his aura cannot shake the dazed effect that his fists inflict upon him. Cardin growls with rage as he tenses his muscles and he throws his arm up that Kassius had his foot pressed onto. Kassius summersaults into the air and crashes onto his back. The sand beneath him blasts away from the force of his impact, Cardin rises up and he swings his fist downwards at Kassius’ head.

He rolls out of the way, and as soon as he gets up he lands a precise kick against the side of Cardin’s head. Seems not all of Cardin has changed, he seems to struggle a bit in Hand-to-Hand combat, opposed to Kassius who has become a master at it, like Sun and Ren as well. Cardin rolls from the impact of Kassius’ boot that smashed against his head, but he tumbles back to his feet, seeing Kassius stood before him with his fists still held up, pacing back and forth. Cardin grits his teeth as he glares at the Huntsman, running at him again, always making the first attack.

Cardin strikes hard and fast, swinging his huge fists forward at Kassius, who backs and veers to avoid each fist thrown his way. He pushes one fist aside and he smacks both hands against his ears, stunning him for a second. He takes that second to jump up and slam his knee upwards into Cardin’s jaw to make him stumble. He rolls under his legs when Cardin punches downwards to knock the Huntsman down. Kassius rises back up and jumps onto his back, hooking his arm around Cardin’s neck, pulling him back.

Cardin lets out a bark of anger, reaching back with his massive arms to try and grapple onto Kassius. The spider monkey like Huntsman pushes his feet against Cardin’s back, rolling the landing off and sliding across the sand, staring straight at him. Cardin growls with anger, his attention turned to a spear on the floor, the same one he caught earlier. He yells with fury, grabbing it and throwing it straight at Kassius.

His eyes widen as the spear smashes into his chest, his aura protects him from being impaled but the impact launches him back, falling on his chest. The spear snaps upon contact with Kassius’ chest, the spear head rolling across the floor. Cardin smirks, running at Kassius, and this time he has the upper hand. He kicks Kassius in the side to roll him onto his back, and he starts to punch him over and over again in the fact.

Then...

One punch breaks his aura, and Cardin stops when he sees the orange crackle across Kassius’ body.

He could finish him right now...

Why doesn’t he?

Jaune...

He knows what I did to him...he must be a friend of his...I...I can’t...

He grunts as he pulls his fist back, stepping off him as he looks at Kassius. Kelham stands up, pushing Neryth off his lap as he walks over to the edge of his platform, staring down at Cardin. “What are you waiting for, Cardin? Finish him off!” Kelham bellows, but Cardin looks at Kassius and he sighs, shaking his head.

“He’s beat – let him live.” Cardin says to Kelham, looking up at where he stands.

“You know the rules – only one man is left standing.” Kelham states.

“Sure – but wouldn’t two deadly Huntsmen be worth more than one?” Cardin asks him, and it is clear that Cardin has been here for a while now. And he knows how to talk to men like Kelham, since all that he sees when he stares at them is – how much lien will he get for them?

A small grin forms on Kelham’s face as he watches the defeated Kassius roll onto his side with a grunt. For all his skill and tactics...Cardin was simply stronger and luckier.

And had a thicker aura and did not have to take on a Faeli Suchus on his own with no weapons.

Kelham nods his head, turning to Thorn behind him with a girl sat on his lap, touching him up in places. “Take them away – turns out the brute has a point.” Kelham chuckles as he picks up his horn of wine and he finishes it off.

Cardin looks down at Kassius who lays there with a groan, bruised and battered from their fight. “You fought well...reminded me of Yang actually.” Cardin says with a chuckle, surprising that he actually remembers them.

Kassius scoffs. “Well...she is my girlfriend.” Kassius admits, making Cardin chuckle as well.

“Small world.” Cardin says to him as the Bandits approach. Cardin just pushes one of them out of the way, since he knows where to go.

Kassius looks up and he sees Thorn dropping down with a thruster on his back, softening the landing as he drops down in front of Kassius. Still wearing his hat as he approaches with a smirk. “Nightie night, handsome.” Thorn chuckles.

Thorn stamps down onto Kassius’ face.

Knocking him unconscious.

 

Ortega

 

Parallel to Kassius’ predicament, the ice cold air of Atlas sends a slight chill up the Admiral’s spine as he stands inside of an elevator with his hands behind his back. His head held low like any high ranking soldier would, along with a couple of Acolytes of the Coin soldiers at his side as well. With his chrome revolver holstered on his hip, he waits for the elevator to reach the right level.

Eventually it does with a bing, and the doors open up for him. He walks out, and the two soldiers follow him with their rifles in their hands. The Admiral is far from defenceless, he does not need to have two soldiers guarding him. But it is more for appearances – an attacker would be more intimidated if he was on his own – be more of a shock when he can actually kick the living hell out of said attacker if he made his strike right now.

But that is unlikely considering where he is going.

He walks through the Schnee Manor with his hands behind his back as always, his brown eyes glance over at some of the pictures that are on the walls – and to his surprise they are all still the same ones that were there before. Even after everything that Jacques and Whitley have done, everything that has happened to the Schnee Family...he still keeps their faces on the walls.

Perhaps for a constant reminder of his own failure?

It matters not, Ortega just keeps walking onwards with his two soldiers. He approaches the door to his office, and he looks over his shoulder at the two soldiers with him. “Clancy, Parker. Wait here, this’ll just take a moment.” Ortega says to them, even showing that he knows the names of two random Mercenaries that work for him. It is highly possible that he knows the names of all his soldiers.

Because he respects them.

Ortega clears his throat and he knocks on the door with his hand. “Come in.” The muffled voice of Jacques Schnee speaks up, thus Ortega pushes the door open and enters, closing it behind him. Sat at his desk as ever is Weiss’ Father – his hands clasped together on the desk as Darren walks into the room. His well kempt ice white moustache concealing his lip, and a conniving look in his blue eyes. “Ah Ortega, always precisely on time.” Jacques chuckles with a grin behind the facial hair.

“I try my best.” Ortega replies as he stops at the head of his desk. “You summoned me here, what is it you want?” He asks him.

“Straight to the point too, one of the many thinks I have always admired about you.” Jacques says to him with a smirk, Ortega turns slightly when he senses the presence of a third individual in here. That individual being the shadow of his father – Whitley Schnee, one arm tucked behind his back as always.

“I like to get to business right away – helps me get it done faster.” Ortega explains, looking right back to the cold businessman.

“Well, since you are indeed here. We have a new source of intrigue, one I would like my son to accompany you on.” Jacques begins to explain, getting rather suspicious look from the Admiral when he turns to Whitley.

“What does that mean?” Ortega questions.

“Our – employer I guess you could call him – has informed me of a new development that stands as an interest for us.” Jacques states, as he takes out his scroll and opens it to show the holographic image. It shows an Auction Date that is being set up in the coming days...and on the Auction list is a familiar name.

Nikos Family Crown

Beginning bid: 25,000 Lien

Being Sold By: The Ackerman Trading Corporation

It also shows an attached photograph of the crown on a pedestal where it is being advertised for any investors or businessmen. A very valuable artefact to have, especially from such a renowned family. Seeing the photograph sends a jolt of anger through his body, still feeling great resentment towards Pyrrha Nikos for the death of his daughter, even though she is alive but as a machine.

Yet he still does not see her that way.

And Merlot is his best chance of getting her back.

“That’s...” He slowly says, before Jacques answers for him.

“Pyrrha Nikos’ circlet.” Jacques states.

Ortega stares past the crown at Jacques who waves the hologram aside so then they can actually see each other. “What interest is that crown to us? Want it as a trophy?” Ortega questions with a scoff.

“If only – no, no...I’m afraid there is actually significant importance behind this circlet. You see Vir Nominis Umbra has informed me that this Circlet has ancient wisdom from the Arkhoni on it...wisdom that may help us locate Arkhonex’s location.” Jacques explains to the Admiral.

“I don’t get it, if he knows all this...if he really did help destroy Arkhonex and is as old as he claims...then how come we need to find it? Why doesn’t he just take us there?” Ortega questions.

“Because he wants to see us locate it – remember this is like a big game to him.” Whitley reminds with his arms now crossed.

“I’m afraid I believe my son is right, he may know the location of this lost city...but he refuses to tell us. As said, it is entirely probable he wants us to find it – wants us to learn I guess.” He scoffs.

“What a fantastic teacher.” Ortega sarcastically mutters, clearly not very fond of the Soothsayer.

“He isn’t perfect but he is who we have – now, I want Whitley to go and purchase this artefact. With the S.D.C funds we can easily afford this crown, however I fully expect my daughters and her friends to somehow learn of this as well. They always end up interfering with our business. So I want you to send a good leader there with plenty of soldiers to guard the area. As soon as you spot any of those brats you take them out.” Jacques explains.

Confused around one certain point though. “Why am I not going then?” Ortega questions.

“Because I need you aboard the Drift of Wandering Star – keeping an eye on the forces and making sure we are secure. With the White Fang against us we need to stay vigilant.” Jacques explains to him, and Ortega sighs.

“As you wish...I will inform one of my lieutenants to oversee the exchange.” Ortega assures as he walks out of the room and closes the door behind him.

Jacques sits there, watching the door before looking to his son.

“He does seem...problematic at the moment, doesn’t he father?” Whitley asks him.

“He does...” Jacques agrees.

“I guess we need to keep an eye on him...his deal with Merlot may make him a threat.” Whitley states.

“If he tries anything we eliminate him, as simple as that.” He states.

“Let us hope so.”

 

Kassius

 

A throbbing pain beats into the side of his head as he begins to wake up with a groan, slowly sitting up on the floor where he was dumped. Hearing the monotonous sound of a ball hitting the wall over and over again. His vision fuzzy from the concussion he suffered from Cardin, he shakes his head as he regains his strength, sitting upright as he looks around.

His cell is different, bigger and not so much of a dump anymore. As he looks around he realises he is not alone in the cell, and sat on the other bed in here is Cardin. He is laid back with a tennis ball that he was given, throwing it against the wall and letting it bounce back into his hand. Repeating this little cycle over and over again from his boredom that eats away at him. The Winchester Huntsman looks over at him, seeing he is awake finally and he chuckles. “Hey, you’re awake. Starting to worry that you were dead.”

Kassius groans as he sits up and leans against the stone wall next to his bed. “How long’ve I been out?” Kassius asks, pressing his metal hand to his head, each plate of metal intricately moving as a normal hand would.

“About five hours now.” Cardin answers and Kassius groans.

“Shit...I need to get out of this shithole.” Kassius says as he stands up, grabbing onto the Isomacium Bars that keep him from getting out.

“Don’t bother, I’ve tried breaking those bars, even with my semblance. Nothing breaks through that stuff.” Cardin assures.

“It’s Isomacium...seen it before...” Kassius sighs, letting go of the bars, then he turns to Cardin. “We good?” He asks him.

“Let you live didn’t I?” Cardin replies with the shrug of his shoulders. Kassius bounces his eyebrows up and down once, turning and walking around the cell.

“Cardin Winchester...must admit you were the last person to meet in here.” Kassius says to him, and Cardin scoffs.

“Yeah well, I didn’t think I’d be fighting a competent foe today. Guess today is all about surprises.” He says to him. “And if you know me...then clearly Jaune has told you about...me.” He sighs, sounding guilt as well when he says it.

“Oh he told me all about it...preying on his weaknesses for your own gain. Trying to get him to hurt Pyrrha, though? Stupid mistake.” Kassius chuckles, and Cardin chuckles as well.

“Too bad she’s gone.” He sighs, totally unaware of...everything.

Kassius begins with informing him on the elephant in the room. “She’s alive.” Kassius tells him, getting a surprised and shocked expression from Cardin.

“What? How?” Cardin questions with disbelief in his eyes.

“Long story...in short, she was brought back by an evil being, was possessed by Jaune managed to bring her back...I spent five years with him, Nora and Ren tracking her down...and...” He stammers, feeling his hand shake just at thinking about what happened.

“Then what?” Cardin asks.

“Then something happened recently...I lost control...my semblance...I attacked them both and the last thing I remember before being grabbed by Kelham was having their blood on my hands...I don’t even know if they are alive.” Kassius sighs with grief as he slumps down to the floor with a guilty sigh.

“Guess we both have made our fair share of mistakes.” Cardin says.

“That’s putting it lightly.” Kassius chuckles as he sits there.

Cardin has so many questions on his mind, he never remembered seeing him at Beacon Academy – but that is because he was never there – he also never remembered Yang having a boyfriend at the time. “You said Yang’s your girlfriend?” Cardin asks him.

“Yeah, why?” He replies.

“Oh nothing...I just thought she was into chicks for a while.” Cardin admits, making Kassius chuckle.

“I heard that a lot.” Kassius agrees with a smirk on his face.

“Well...congrats man, you’ve got one smoking hot girlfriend.” Cardin compliments with a chuckle, but all this talk of the girl he loves gets him worried again. He does not even know if she is still alive back home at Beacon.

“I don’t even know if she is alive...” He stammers.

“Wait what? What else did I miss?” Cardin questions, and Kassius sits forward with a sigh again.

“Do you know about what happened at Vacuo? The Horridus Morbus plague unleashed?” He asks him.

“No...I was grabbed...haven’t heard anything since.” Cardin says to him, meaning that must be why Team R.W.B.Y, Oscar, Winter, Neptune and Sun could never track him down when investigating what happened. And that is another question that Kassius has for Cardin, surrounding everything that happened with the death of the Vacuo Headmaster and the Pyromancer...and his team...

But, he deserves to know what happened. “Well...a plague was set off in Vacuo...and Yang was there. With Weiss, Sun and Neptune as well. They were looking for you after what happened with the Headmaster. Ruby, Blake, Winter and Ruby’s Boyfriend Oscar were there but they left for other reasons.” Kassius explains, remembering when he was briefed, and Cardin has an expression Kassius never expected from the stories.

Empathy.

“I’m...sorry.” He apologises with a soft voice.

“Last I saw of her...she was looking bad, the virus was messing her up.” Kassius says, before the stress gets to him and he punches the Isomacium Bar with his fist, this time it does not throw him back. He is just taking the stress out on the bars. “I need to get the hell out! I need to know she is okay...” He defeatedly groans, pressing his head to the bars.

“She’ll be fine, she is the toughest chick I’ve ever met. Second to her being Nora Valkyrie...then probably Coco Adel. Get those three in a room and you don’t stand a chance.” He chuckles, making Kassius chuckle too.

“I don’t even know what happened...I just know that...he was there.” Kassius mutters, clearly talking about Vir Nominis Umbra. His voice is not one that you can forget, and neither is his presence.

“He?” Cardin asks.

“Man...you are in for one hell of a story.” Kassius chuckles.

He sits down and he sighs, looking around the room. “Hang on...” He realises when he looks around at the cell he is in. “Where are we? This isn’t my cell.”

“You’re in my cell.” Cardin tells him.

“Uh...why?” Kassius asks.

“Dunno, guess they just felt like tossing you in here with my ass.” Cardin chuckles.

“Wait so how did you end up here? Last Ruby told us you were nowhere to be seen.” Kassius questions, and Cardin puts the ball down on the floor and he sighs.

“I uh...well...do you know about...what happened?” He asks him.

“You mean your team or the headmaster?” Kassius questions, making Cardin flinch.

“Yes.” He sharply answers, since both happened, and from the way he answered Kassius decides to hold back.

“Go on.” Kassius says, letting him continue with his story.

“Well, I was on the run after...I killed them.” He sighs, looking at his own fist with resentment towards himself. Feeling so much grief over what he did to his own team. Kassius can tell that there is more to what happened than they even realise, layers that clearly Cardin is not comfortable talking about. “I was jumped when I was in hiding, knocked out by one of these.” Cardin says as he points to the electrical shocking disk on his neck, same as Kassius.

“I noticed...what is it?” Kassius asks.

“They use it to keep us under their control – stop us from going crazy.” Cardin explains as he taps the little disk that has been implanted into him.

“Great.” Kassius sighs.

“Next thing? I woke up here. A Gladiator in their ring, Kelham was gonna ransom me to the authorities but he found a better value of my life in slavery.” Cardin explains to him.

“Sounds like a real saint.” Kassius scoffs.

“That’s putting it mildly.” Cardin chuckles.

Kassius leans against the wall, staring out at the opening in the wall where he can see the Fractured Moon, looking much worse than it did four years ago. It is barely even a moon anymore.

“We’re gonna get out of here.” Kassius promises.

“Yeah? How’s that?” Cardin asks him.

“No idea – I’ll figure it out along the way.” Kassius states.

“Improvisation? No wonder Jaune likes you.” Cardin chuckles, making Kassius chuckle too.

“Name’s Kassius by the way.” Kassius introduces.

“Nice to meet you.”

Chapter Text

Qrow

 

“Are you ready?” The voice of Kragen Nox asks the Branwen Brother, feeling his heart pounding heavily. Going back to the Witches of the Restless Marshlands is extremely dangerous, they may have helped them but there is no guarantee that they will repeat the offer. The Witches are unpredictable and have been known to kill people as soon as they enter their lands. Qrow knows how dangerous the Undertakers can be, since one nearly killed him in the past.

But at the same time – Kragen, Yenna and the Architect are all Arkhoni; henceforth there is the chance that they may listen to what they have to offer.

Arkhoni to Arkhoni.

That is, of course, if there is no bad blood between the Spring Maiden, the Architect and the Silver Eyed Warrior. Qrow finishes sharpening the blade of his sword and scythe crossbreed with the whetstone that his sister had lent him. He sighs as he concludes the session of sharpening the blade, standing up with the sword in his grasp. “Yeah...let’s hope that the Witches are seeing visitors today.” He says as he sheathes his sword onto his belt.

“We will teleport outside of the swamp; chances are high that the Knights’ Bannermen will pursue us when they sense the pulse.” The Architect warns, loading a fresh power cell into his rifle as he holds it in one hand, whereas Yenna walks over to them with her hands clenched into fists. Ready to battle against whatever waits for them beyond the doorway.

“I hope that they will listen to us, they are our last hope.” Yenna states.

“They let you go, and they hide from Umbra. This plague will destroy the entire ecosystem if we do not stop it. This is in their best interests too.” Qrow states as he stands in the room with the three other members going with him. However despite bringing up this very valid point, Yenna shows signs of discomfort.

“We have not seen signs of this plague infecting the natural wildlife, Qrow. They do not care about Humanity or the Faunus. They just want to look out for the natural world.” She reminds.

“Well – they best remember that if Umbra wins then everything dies. Their beloved Mother Nature included.” Qrow states, sounding pretty stern as well.

“Be on guard, they will have their sentries in the Swamp, awaiting command. And you do not want to get in a fight with an Undertaker – they are extremely dangerous.” Kragen reminds, and Qrow scoffs, touching the scar on his chest where the feral Undertaker had struck him with its shovel. The same wound that was infected when he passed out in the swamp and nearly died, if not for the Witches’ Undertaker that retrieved them and brought them to the sisters for them to cure him.

“Trust me, I know.” Qrow assures, pressing his fingers to where the scar is, remembering the roar it made and the pain that flushed across his body when that sharp shovel made its mark on him.

“The Witches of the Restless Marshlands claim to be women of their word, so let us pray that they have not changed their minds.” The Architect says, standing ready.

“Okay...open the portal, Architect.” Qrow says to him with a nod, and the mechanical man does the same in reply. Electrical energy channels through the chassis of his body and he holds his hand out, blasting bolt of energy towards the open space. It pulsates and rips a hole in space time, allowing them to walk straight through and access the edge of the swamp. Qrow walks through first, but before he does he looks back to the others in the room – Ozpin and Glynda to be exact. “We’ll be back, with the Witches.”

“How do you know?” Glynda asks.

“Because if they don’t then we either come back without them...or we don’t come back at all.” He says, hinting that they will either kill the Witches or be killed by them. Time will tell what will happen next, and Qrow walks through the doorway that leads to the Infamous Restless Marshlands. He steps out, and the stench of the countryside returns with it as he looks around, the scent of manure fills the air along with decaying animals.

Qrow’s eyes widen from what he sees just as the others follow and the portal closes behind the Architect. It is a Grimm – a Creep in fact – devouring the remains of a Deer. Pushing its head into the belly of the dead animal with blood everywhere, feasting on its organs and every inch of its body. Using its bipedal clawed foot to keep the cadaver still as it feasts on the remains, which shocks them all.

“What the hell? Grimm never even touch the wildlife...why the hell are they attacking them now?” Qrow questions with actual fear in his voice.

“Why is it eating the Deer? They don’t have a digestive system.” Yenna reminds as she stares at the monster eating such a sweet and peaceful creature.

“Yeah...they rip people apart and eat people but immediately expel us...why the hell is it bothering?” The Architect agrees, then Kragen looks up to sky where he can see the distant Fractured Moon in the sky, even though it is daytime.

“We’re running out of time – the moon has been breaking apart at a faster rate, look.” He points out as he stares at the intimidating moon.

“The extinction event is coming; we need to find the Witches. The Knights Bannermen may have already come for them.” Qrow realises as he draws his sword and walks towards the Creep. The creature pulls its bloodied head from the Deer and instantly bellows at them with the claret drooling from its jaws. But Qrow just slashes its head off in one swing, killing it instantly.

The Grimm are back and in full strength, this was all part of Vir Nominis Umbra’s plan. Now the Grimm come back and are even more aggressive than ever, killing everything that moves on Remnant. And not just Human or Faunus anymore – everything.

The Architect walks at the very front of the four with his rifle pressed to his shoulder, since they can all tell that something is not right. The bog usually is filled with life and sounds, albeit not the friendliest of life forms since there are Alligators, Poisonous Frogs and Snakes lurking around here normally. But there is nothing, not a single tweet from a bird or even the croaking from one little Amphibian. “This isn’t right; from the two times I came here it was flourishing with life. Now though, it’s silent.” Qrow comments as he keeps his sword held tightly in his hand.

Then...

They all freeze in the same position, hearing the faint caw of crows around them. They all look up to the trees to see them watching their every move.

Red eyes and crystal beaks.

Either Vir Nominis Umbra or the Lord of the Wood is watching them right now, and then they all caw at the exact same time and take off. Yenna sniffs the air just as they move and her eyes widen upon noticing the thick black smoke that rises into the sky from a certain point. “Wood smoke...” She whispers as she stares at the tower of smoke which rises into the sky.

“There’s a fire! The Witches could be under attack!” Kragen yells.

“Then we need to save them! They are our only chance to cure the disease!” Qrow replies with a similarly worried voice. The four of them accelerate instantly into full sprinting, barging through the branches which dangle from the trees, forcefully pulling their boots from the mud as they run. The only one unaffected by the surroundings of the Restless Marshlands is the Architect since his pistons allow him to move practically unfazed.

The closer they get the more troubling it gets from the crackling of burning trees nearby as the fog that surrounds them begins to build and build. Then, they see the flames and their eyes widen with horror.

It is the hut that the Witches had lived inside of.

Flames roaring violently from inside and their potions completely destroyed inside, so many animals charred and burned to death in the thick mud where disease has riddled their bodies where they fell. The many runes have been damaged, something very powerful has attacked here, and so they all stand at the ready, for the fog begins to build up around them as they stand there. Yenna’s eyes ignite with her Spring Maiden powers and the Architect engages his visor to search for any signs of movement in the swamp.

There is movement everywhere in three hundred degrees.

“We’ve been surrounded.” The Architect warns.

“Do you see the Sisters?” Qrow asks him, so the mechanical man searches the entire bog for signs of people – either alive or dead. And the response is either worrying or filling them with relief.

“Nothing, not a sign. They may have escaped.” The Architect comments, keeping his rifle up and the systems scanning like the radar on a submarine. Kragen spins his staff through his fingers, watching and listening as carefully as he can as the four stand back to back in the building fog. Qrow grits his teeth, eyes narrowed with tension as they await the coming attack.

“Did you think me defeated?” A chillingly familiar voice suddenly yells from all around them, impossible to pinpoint the source. As if the wind itself was speaking to them – but the voice somehow belonged to Yenna. They all stare at her, but she is not the one that even spoke, meaning something is mimicking her.

“Who are you?” Kragen bellows.

“Where are the Witches?” Qrow also yells with anger in his gravelly voice, but the rather demonic sounding voice that replicates the tones of Yenna just laughs around them. It sends chills down their spines as it circles them.

“Gone from here...but we will find them. Their time hiding is over, the Moon is breaking apart and the end is coming. Nothing can stop it.” The voice snarls, and Kragen narrows his silver eyes.

“I repeat! Who are you?” Kragen bellows, and from the fog the voice transforms with demonic snarls into his own voice, far more sinister than his own.

“You tell me.” The voice says, as it emerges from the fog before them. Opposed to his whitish clothing and hair, the hair is black and so is the clothing. With glowing fiery orange eyes and cracks formed across his entire body, embers of energy trailing from the right hand side of his body too...

From Pyrrha’s description, this is very familiar.

“Onyx Phantom...” Kragen gasps with widened eyes as it stands before him with a replica of his own staff in its hand, also channelling fiery energy through the ebony stick.

“In the flesh – or yours I guess we could say. Did Pyrrha Nikos really think me dead just yet? Oh no...She merely forced me from controlling her...but our fates are still bound.” The Onyx Phantom assures with a grin, speaking through Kragen’s voice that it mimics, pacing around them all, keeping the fiery orange eyes locked onto them at all times.

“Why are you doing this?” Yenna yells with rage in her strident voice, and the Onyx Phantom grins as it turns and shifts into a similarly evil version of herself. Also carrying the same traits, the crumbling ashes leaving her body and a pair of glowing orange eyes that seem to burn too.

“My, my sweet Yenna...I would have thought you would have understood now that dear old Professor Ozpin has informed you. We are here to destroy everything you have ever loved...and then move onto the next to continue our cycle.” The Onyx Phantom explains with her hands held out as she circles them, eyes glowing with flames burning around the irises as she smirks. She even mirrors the others, Qrow and the Architect. The Architect’s blue visor replaced with a cracked and scorched version that glows the same colour.

The Entity that Pyrrha had hoped would be gone from Remnant, yet here it stands.

“Why? Why now?” Qrow questions, since they have never appeared before, so the entity smirks as it takes his form, black clothing that burns away on the right side of his body just as the others did.

“Your window of peace has passed now, Warrior Servant. Your battle fought and done, and now you will join the rest of the fallen in our ranks. Then we will find the witches.” The Onyx Phantom states with smirk on his face, drawing a similar but flame coated version of his sword. Then Kragen raises an eyebrow at a certain word that the Demonic Entity had said just then.

We?” He asks, then the caws of the crows builds up behind them as they all come crashing down in a plume of thick black smoke and it forms right behind them. It immediately slashes its huge jagged sharpened bark hands at them, hard and fast enough to cut down trees in a single swing. Kragen crosses his arms over to fortify his aura barrier to stop the hit, sliding across the muddy ground as a result of the move.

The Onyx Phantom laughs monstrously as it suddenly lashes straight at the person it has copied the form of, spiralling through the air to hack straight through his aura. But Qrow deflects the Higher Demon’s attacks with his sword but still takes a kick straight to the jawbone which knocks him straight to the muddy floor. As he pushes his hand against the mud, the Onyx Phantom roars and throws his clenched fist directly into the chest of the Huntsman.

The impact creates an almighty boom and shockwave that scares all the birds from their trees, and he crashes straight against the tree behind him, one of the only that was not destroyed when thrown through them. Shards of wood blasted everywhere from the impact of the Former Bandit Tribesman, and he rolls through the dirt, most of it sticking to his skin and his clothes. He spits the dirty mud from his face and turns to see the Architect swinging his metal fist at the enemy Demon. It catches his hand and chuckles with awe, staring at the metal plates and then the Demon shifts back into its evil version of him again. “How incredibly disappointing for a High Tech Bot.” The Onyx Phantom scoffs, before twisting his arm and swinging round all the way to throw the mechanical person through the air, who crashes straight through a hut of the Witches’.

Whereas Yenna and Kragen both take on the Lord of the Wood that walks towards them, with crows calling out constantly as he summons them, pointing at the couple with his curved bark finger, and they all blast into them. The impact of that many blood thirsty little birds crashing into their chests blasts them across the bog as well, splitting them up in the fight. Qrow coughs as he focuses onto the Onyx Phantom walking towards them, taking his form once more and dragging the sword through the mud.

“Y’know...I was hoping that just for one second we could just have a normal day.” The Architect scoffs, whilst the aging Huntsman pushes his sword into the mud to get back up with a forced laugh.

“Yeah...I know what you mean.” He agrees as the Onyx Phantom unexpectedly blasts towards them at great speeds, moving as fast as the wind at one moment. It roars as it slashes the sword that Qrow uses across his red aura, knocking him down again. He slides across the mud and the Phantom jumps up into the air and lands down right on top of him. He and it slide through the mud as the Demon forces him into the mud, then throwing one hell of a powerful punch straight into his face with all its might. Qrow grunts from the powerful punches, this is unlike anything he has faced other than Umbra – the Phantom is so fast and aggressive.

This begs the question...

The Lord of the Wood is slow but powerful

The Onyx Phantom is fast but aggressive

Hyde clearly must have used rage when he fought when he was the Ebony Berserker

Umbra is essentially a God above all of them

Leaving the final question – what is the mysterious Whisperer capable of?

“Oh it has been so long since I killed last! That damned Pyrrha Nikos was always such a pain to control!” The Onyx Phantom snarls as it forces Qrow’s head into the mud with its hand, and Qrow can feel the burning hot heat from the burning up skin that covers the entity that attacks. “I wonder how the story will end for your beloved daughter?” The Phantom wonders as it holds both fists above its head, that represents Qrow but the dark side of him.

Qrow roars with fury, punching the Phantom in the chest to get it off him, and then the Architect throws his huge metal body into its side, tumbling with it and catching its heels. The Architect bellows, swinging the Demon round and smashing it straight through a burning tree with all his might, before smashing it against a rocky cliff face. Yet the Onyx Phantom does not even seem to be hurt in the slightest by any of this, just laughing away.

Polar opposite of the Lord of the Wood simply from how much it talks.

The Onyx Phantom gets pinned up by the Architect whom stares straight into the eyes of the Qrow Replica, which shifts into the form of himself, staring at his own inner demon. “That’s the Architect I was looking for!” He laughs; smashing its head into the Architect’s to throw him back. The metal man falls back before the Phantom kicks him straight in the side of the head; so far it throws him through the bog, muddy water splashing up across his poncho and metal body as he falls through it. 

The Onyx Phantom shoots towards him at great speeds, almost like a bullet that arches its arm back and punches towards him. The Architect growls, taking his rifle in one hand and spinning round, pulling the trigger just as the barrel touches the mirror image of himself. The charged up bullet impacts the metallic armour plating with a resounding bang, and the impact throws the Phantom straight towards Qrow. He slashes his sword across the body of the Phantom, then stabs the blade through its chest to pin it into the ground.

The Onyx Phantom chuckles as it stares into his eyes with a smile, taking Qrow’s form again. It is like whenever he engages one of them he takes the form of them. “Ooh, seems the birdie is coming out to play.” He chuckles menacingly, wrapping his legs around Qrow’s arms and sword, twisting the blade inside of itself and not even wincing, since it cannot feel pain. It suddenly kicks Qrow in the chest with both feet, throwing him into the air and leaving the sword stabbed through its ribs.

The Onyx Phantom pulls itself upwards, literally straight through the sword and causing its body to flicker slightly with fragments of matter bursting out within, only to reconstruct the split body formed from escaping the sword. The Onyx Phantom grasps the hilt of Qrow’s sword and launches it straight towards Qrow whose eyes widen when he sees that blade coming straight for him. He rolls out of the way and the sword stabs straight into the tree next to him, wobbling where it had landed.

The Onyx Phantom forms his sword in its hand and blasts straight at him, moving so fast that the ground sets alight, meaning the Phantom must be the one responsible for the fire. It instantly slashes the fire covered blade of its demonic version of his sword at Qrow, whom rolls aside and punches the Demon in the side of its head. Qrow quickly transforms into Crow form to get round the Demon as it swings at him, swiftly returning to his human form, extending his hand to catch his pinned sword.

Qrow bellows, ripping it from the tree so hard that the entire tree severs and collapses behind him, crashing into the ground as Qrow slashes the blade straight into the Demon’s face. The impact slices the head that mimics his own clean in half, embers burning and trailing from the wound. Until the embers seem to rewind and form back in the place of which it has been cut clean. Immediately slashing the brimstone sword aggressively at Qrow over and over again, scraping it straight across his, and holding him steady. “We’ve already devoured the pretty soul of the Summer Maiden! We know of the others, but the Winter Maiden is hidden from our sight! Where is she?” The Onyx Phantom bellows, seems that they are also looking for the Maidens, not just the Knights of Grimm.

But the news of what has happened to the Summer Maiden shocks Qrow to the point of rage, as he fires the dual shotguns in his sword into the head of the Onyx Phantom. It does not have any real damage on the demon but allows it to stagger back from him. It snarls, until it hears the Architect charging up his rifle to fire at fully automatic.

The Architect roars with fury as he holds the trigger down, and unleashes a typhoon of dust charged bullets towards the Phantom, in which it grins, darting in a zigzagged motion towards the Architect. As soon as it reaches him, it swings its fist at the metal man, but he transforms his rifle into blade form and slashes the hand clean from its wrist.

The Onyx Phantom stares at the stump and it chuckles as the embers just continue to reconstruct the metal hand. “You are both good fighters, but will have to do better than that. Care to try again?” The Onyx Phantom challenges with hands held out.

“Sure...got all day!” He yells, blasting the thrusters in his metal legs to tackle the Onyx Phantom, carrying it across the bog and crashing down into the muddy floor.

 

Yenna

 

The cloud of smoke and the razor sharp crystal beaks of the crows slash across her aura as she covers her face with her hands. She grits her teeth with fury but before she even uses her powers, a bright white light burns the crows to ashes and their many crystal beaks all come crashing down into the mud. The light fades and the Lord of the Wood staggers back, as Kragen staggers, his eyes trailing with silver energy. However unlike Ruby he has mastered his abilities and does not pass out, but no matter what it still tires him out for a moment.

The Lord of the Wood growls as it rises up, looking up to see the Architect with the Onyx Phantom in his hand, smashing him down into the ground with Qrow following in his Spirit Animal form. The Architect smashes down with the Phantom into the ground with enough force to make the ground shake. Yenna snarls as she channels the power of nature up around her, forming the two blades she always uses from the roots in the ground and using fire and ice to forge the blades together into Obsidian.

She immediately leaps towards the Lord of the Wood who crosses his bark arms together to block her attack, which creates a loud metallic bang from the impact, and then the Leshen turns round to slash her straight across her aura with its massive bark hand across her face. Her aura heals the deep wounds immediately and leaves no scars but that does not mean that it didn’t hurt. The Leshen’s arms suddenly shift before their very eyes, for it has more tricks up its sleeve than they realise.

Pieces of bark slide across the body of the Lord of the Wood, allowing it to move faster this time and it even sheds some of it for this purpose. It forms a pair of flails connected with powerful roots and made from the cores of trees and the structures of rock, spikes of wood protruding from each flail. It suddenly starts to swing them violently towards both of them, tearing up the landscape with every single swing that the long flails make, crackling and crunching as they move.

One of the flails smashes straight into Yenna’s chest and throws her back across the ground, crashing straight through one of the Runic Pillars that the Witches had built. The Undertaker is also nowhere to be seen right now either. The Lord of the Wood spins one of the huge flails over its head and swings straight at Kragen, who rolls out the way and channels his silver eyed power into his Isomacium Staff he carries. He rushes towards the twelve foot tall Leshen and he ducks down, dodging the attack from the monster and rises up, smacking the mace across the back of its head to make it stagger.

But as he backs up from the next attack as it swings one of these flails downwards, it launches one of them towards him and this one wraps around his arm and Kragen yells in pain as he feels the roots tighten across his hand. It squeezes tight enough to stop the blood flow in his whole arm, turning the skin purple for a few seconds. Yenna blasts towards the Lord of the Wood and she stabs both of the her swords straight into the chest of the Lord of the Wood, before ripping one out and carving it right through the roots that crush her beloved’s arm.

Releasing the Silver Eyed Warrior, she continues to stab the Lord of the Wood in the chest over and over again, until suddenly the ribs open up and a swarm of crows erupt out from the chest of the massive Leshen which still has a curse on Nora. The crows push Yenna from its massive hulking mass and then it rolls out of her way when she blasts flames from her hand, something none of them have ever seen a Leshen do.

By shedding and shifting the armour, it has indeed made the Lord of the Wood far more nimble than before. It lands on both feet and rises up quickly too, but the patience and calm nature of the Lord of the Wood remains, it simply can avoid some of their attacks better now, not having to always resort to using magic to escape their attacks. Yenna paces back and forth with her swords in her hands, staring the Lord of the Wood down. “What are you doing here? What do you want?” She yells.

But as always.

The Lord of the Wood stays silent.

It merely forms a new weapon where she cut the flail, and it appears to be some form of war axe that sharpens itself by the sudden strikes on the rocks next to the Leshen. The impacts sharpen the axe and it walks towards her again, so she throws one of her conjured blades towards the Lord of the Wood, but then it vanishes into the flock of crows. The caws surround her and she looks around, holding her hand out so the sword comes flying back to her palm, and it does.

Kragen rises back up too, looking around.

But then it suddenly lands right behind Yenna and grabs her by the head and she gasps as it lifts her off the floor and throws her across the bog again. She crashes down into the mud, ruining her long black hair and covering her face with the wet soil. It would have stabbed her right then and there if it were not for her activated aura protecting her from such attacks in the first place.

But as she looks up, she gasps when she sees the Onyx Phantom blasting towards her after launching the Architect through the house of the Three Witches and kicking Qrow into one of the cliff faces that surrounds the bog that they hid in. The Onyx Phantom grabs her by the throat and she gasps for air as the Phantom transforms into its demonic version of herself. Her burning orange eyes glare up into her actual violet ones. “Ah! I was hoping we could chat!” The Onyx Phantom laughs as it slams her straight into the bog with force, splashing the disease filled muddy water up into the air before it kicks her in her side, causing her to slide through the shallow muddy lake where Alligators once lived.

The Bayou erupts into the air, splashing violently from the Spring Maiden who has been launched straight through the thick mud and through a couple of growing trees. She groans, wiping the mud from her face as she presses her hand to one of the felled trees beside her. “Do you know the fate of the sweet Summer Maiden, Ayla? We eviscerated her soul, caused her to feel every second of pain she has ever experienced in her whole life – in her final moment. And ooh yes her wails of mercy were ever so delicious, like the cherry on the sundae.” The Onyx Phantom laughs.

Ayla?

No...She didn’t deserve that...she was pure!

Yenna grits her teeth with fury, her eyes slowly igniting with violet flames as her fury burns hotter and hotter. The Onyx Phantom smirks as she stands there, staring into her eyes curiously. “Did I hit a nerve?” She asks.

“You tell me!” She explodes, grabbing the whole tree and swinging the thing round like a baseball bat, her Maiden Powers allowing her to pick up a solid tree like it is nothing. The tree explodes against the Onyx Phantom and sends it flying across the bog and back towards the battle the others have against the Lord of the Wood. She grabs what remains of the broken tree and she roars with fury as she blasts towards the Onyx Phantom and smashes the tree against the Demon’s chest, blasting both of them through the home of the Witches.

The small burning hut ruptures into huge splinters of wood and shards of glass, mushrooms of thick black smoke from the contained pressure of the house finally released. She smashes the Phantom into the cliff face behind the house and the whole tree she pinned the Phantom with crumbles apart and immediately sends her fist into the face of the Demonic Entity. She punches it in the head over and over again, but then it takes both elbows and ploughs them downwards into her spine, bringing her down to her knees.

The Onyx Phantom laughs with excitement, thrilled to finally be fighting herself again. “Oh you have no idea how free I feel! Being trapped inside that girl’s body was so monotonous...but this? I have never felt so alive! Ironic I guess, isn’t it?” She scoffs as she stares down at Yenna, who stares right back, eyes still burning with violet flames.

“No wonder Pyrrha hated you...you talk way too much.” Yenna states, as she suddenly throws an uppercut to the Onyx Phantom’s jaw, but the Demon dashes out the way of her next strike and delivers around thirty punches in a single second to precise areas on Yenna’s chest and stomach. Yenna takes a second to swing but the Phantom instantly headbutts her so hard it blasts her into the cliff face. Huge roots from trees above trapping her.

The Onyx Phantom stares at her with a grin on her face. “We will take your power my dear, but first...I think we will enjoy tormenting your friends in the Charred Forest with sweet little Ayla.” The Onyx Phantom taunts with a wink as she walks away from Yenna.

Then...

A fury that Cinder has not actually learned yet overcomes her, which ignites violet flames across her entire body, not burning her clothing since it has been specially designed not to burn from her flames. She lets out a defiant and berserk scream as she shatters the entire cliff with this ignition of fury, blasting right towards the Onyx Phantom and punching her straight in the face, so hard that the mimicked form it had flickers for a second, She grabs onto the Phantom and smashes it straight into the floor before picking her up and punching right down into her chest.

“That’s more like it! Let out the fury of a scorned lady!” The Onyx Phantom cheers as Yenna grabs her by the legs and throws her right into the Lord of the Wood before it could smash a huge stone and wood hammer down onto Qrow’s head. The two Demons crash across the ground and Kragen stares at Yenna with a smile, seeing her using her powers to her full strength against them.

The Lord of the Wood rises up and looks at the shattering cliff face, as trees collapse down the edge from her fury, plummeting down and crashing down into the sky. “Now!” Qrow yells as he rushes forward and kicks the Lord of the Wood in the head, before rolling back to avoid a huge boulder that falls from the cliff face. The Lord of the Wood blasts huge roots from underground and rips the boulder apart, launching them at the Huntsmen and Maiden. Qrow spins his sword through his fingers and cuts the rock apart into little pieces before shifting the sword into Scythe Form and leaping right at the Lord.

He hooks the huge curved blade around its huge bark torso, smashing it into the bayou. But as soon as he goes to behead the Leshen it vanishes into Crows, swirling around the clash as Kragen slams his staff across the head of the Onyx Phantom over and over again at great speeds, and then the Phantom punches him straight in the face. The impact makes him stumble but as he comes round he lets out a powerful battle cry and blasts a thick beam of white light across the bayou that burns across the body of the Onyx Phantom. The white energy flows from his eyes and then the Architect thrusts forward whilst the Onyx Phantom is stunned, smashing his metal knee into its chest.

He takes his sword and slashes it across the chest of the entity before stabbing it straight in the ribs and blasts bolts of electricity through it, which still has little effect. Only angering the Higher Demon more and more, but at first he did do damage.

It is the Silver Eyes, it seems to weaken the Demons enough to do damage, but only Ruby can do the same for Umbra for whatever reason.

The Onyx Phantom growls as it smashes its elbow against the side of the Architects head, who gets lifted off the floor by massive roots that emerge from the ground, lifting him up and smashing him down into the floor with force. The Architect grunts in pain from that impact, until Yenna shoots towards the Lord of the Wood, punching the huge Leshen in the skull with her burning fist. With her magical powers she does something similar that the Lord of the Wood managed, summoning roots from beneath her and that crawl up her body and around her arm, then she lunges them towards the Onyx Phantom.

The roots wrap around the neck of the Onyx Phantom, and the Spring Maiden swings the Demon through the many trees in the swamp, shattering the forest and dealing immense damage to the cruel entity that attacked their allies. The Onyx Phantom crashes into the ground, tumbling and sliding to a halt, only to blast forward and to smash her fist into Yenna’s chest to launch her back from the two Demons. Then the Lord of the Wood holds its sharp hand out and huge roots rise up and wrap around the four Huntsmen and Maiden, and they strain with anger as the two Demons stand before them.

“Why do you even bother fighting? Even if you manage to destroy our bodies, we will just be back. We are beyond anything your meagre minds can possibly understand!” The Onyx Phantom yells, only for a new voice to appear.

“Care to wager on that?” The female voice of the Sorceress suddenly erupts from behind them, and as soon as the Phantom turns, the Undertaker suddenly rises from the ground. It was buried the entire time, just waiting for its masters to activate it. It stands tall, towering above the Demon and it holds its huge sharpened shovel in one hand.

“Leave this place!” The Undertaker bellows, swinging the shovel straight across the Onyx Phantom’s face, throwing the Demon across the Bayou, and then stabbing the shovel straight into the chest of the Lord of the Wood. The Leshen snarls with anger and pain, staggering back as the others break free from their confinement in roots. The Alchemist walks forward and reaches down to her pouch, throwing a potion towards the Lord of the Wood. The Undertaker steps aside and the potion shatters against its body, blasting icy cold mist across its body.

The Lord of the Wood groans, staring at them with a snarl as it reaches out towards them, slowly stumbling across the ground to try and grab the Alchemist. But then the ice freezes over the huge Leshen, and she looks over to the Undertaker and she merely nods. The Undertaker pulls the shovel from the chest of the Lord of the Wood, and then swings it with all its might across its head.

Shattering the demon into a thousand pieces.

Sending it back to the Charred Forest, only for them to fight it once more.

The Onyx Phantom comes charging back and swings at the Enchantress but she ducks down and she blasts a pulse of magic into the Demon’s chest, knocking it back, and then the Sorcerer casts a spell, forming a glowing blue wolf that charges towards the Onyx Phantom and bites onto its neck. The Onyx Phantom snarls in pain as the Wolf throws it down into the ground, and then the Alchemist throws another potion, this one blasts powerful magic energy around the Onyx Phantom, restraining the arms with lightning to keep it still.

The Demon growls with annoyance as it stares up at the three Witches who have bested it when they least expected it.

The Undertaker also stands with them, rotten skin covering its body with a creepy smile carved into its face as it stares down at it with the shovel stabbed into the ground. The Onyx Phantom then giggles menacingly as it takes the shape of the Sorceress, staring into her eyes with a grin. The three young looking yet ancient witches stare right back. “You think you can run from it? You can’t...the end is nigh...look up at the stars and the moon. Your universe is nearing a great collapse.” The Onyx Phantom laughs maniacally.

“It didn’t destroy the Arkhoni, we will survive it again.” The Sorceress states, but that just makes the Onyx Phantom grin insanely with a laugh.

“You think that little empire was our campaign? Oh Sorceress, you misunderstand that what you all experienced was just a taste. The full course is coming soon and I doubt you will make it to desert.” The Onyx Phantom chuckles maniacally as the others break loose; and Yenna has calmed down and extinguished the violet flames around her body. “When the Moon Shatters, our numbers will be so vast we will darken the light of the sun and all life will die. And when nothing is left to challenge us? Everything will burn...nothing of your universe...memories or your culture will remain. Nothing more than ashes in a forgotten wind.”

His words send chills down their spines, destroying the world is one thing...but wiping an entire Universe clean is another thing entirely. “You cannot run from it, cannot fight it...cannot hide from it...so why do you try?” He asks.

The Sorceress conjures a magical sword formed from aura in her hand that glows blue with her eyes and she narrows her eyes. “It’s what the sentient do.” She answers, before slashing the neck of the Onyx Phantom swiftly, and then the Demon shatters away into crows that caw and all fly away from the Bayou...

And finally...

Silence.

The Grimm have retreated from the forest now that the Demons have left.

Qrow sighs with relief now that the Onyx Phantom and the Lord of the Wood have been destroyed, enemies they did not expect to face off against just when they had the task of talking to the Witches to worry about. But with all the destruction, things do seem to be in their favour now. “Good to see you’re not dead.” Qrow says to them as he wipes the dirt from his jacket and his shirt. The three Witches and the Undertaker turn to him and they do not seem to have the same expressions that they had the last time. The Enchantress is not trying to woo him anymore, for they have lost their home.

“Cannot say the same for our home.” The Enchantress sadly comments as she touches the dead flowers with tearful eyes, seeing the many dead birds that fell when those demons arrived.

“What the hell were they doing here? I thought the Grimm couldn’t enter because of your spells.” Qrow presumes as he approaches, but the Sorceress shakes her head.

“This was beyond anything our magic could hold – those two demons? The Onyx Phantom and the Lord of the Wood? They use dark magic, magic that can easily break through our fields that hide the Grimm.” The Sorceress explains, and then the Alchemist presses her hand to her breast.

“As you can see, the Demons were ruthless in their assault on our home. They must have known our place of hiding for a while.” The Alchemist sighs.

“What about the Grimm eating animals? I thought they never touched the native wildlife, only Humans and Faunus were their prey.” Yenna points out as she flicks her long black hair over her shoulder again after that grisly fight.

“I believe it may have something to do with what the Onyx Phantom was speaking of – the Wiping of the Canvas.” The Enchantress states.

Wiping of the Canvas?” Qrow asks, but Kragen answers before they do.

“The legend of Umbra wiping everything out.” He simply translates.

“The Omens have been speaking of the time for a eons, along with the other prophecy of the Silver Eyed One and the Traveller’s Child bringing peace at last to Remnant. Whether the child is the one that brings the peace or merely the birth of said child is to be seen.” The Sorceress states as she shrugs her shoulders, before she notices that Kragen, Architect and Yenna are actually here. “Hello again...’tis been a long time.”

“Seems dear Yenna reunited with you after all.” The Alchemist comments with a smile.

“Yeah, she was the one that found us however.” Kragen chuckles as he looks at her.

“Well...we need to come together now more than ever I guess.” She says with a sigh.

“Agreed – we knew you were coming before the Demons arrived to eradicate us. Clearly they must know why.” The Sorceress states.

“Yes, what is it that you seek?” The Enchantress curiously asks, and then Qrow looks to the others with a sigh. Hopefully they know of a possible cure to save Yang and the others.

“A plague was unleashed on Vacuo and Menagerie, and four of our friends have been infected with the strain – my niece included.” Qrow tells them, and the three Witches look rather concerned at just hearing a plague was unleashed.

“We have cured many pathogens but we will need more details – do you know the name of it?” The Alchemist asks them, and the name gives them chills.

“Horridus Morbus.” Qrow answers.

They all can see the dread in the eyes of the Witches, just hearing the very name of such a disease brings fear to their eyes. “The Horrid Disease has returned? I thought we eradicated all traces of it.” The Sorceress says with confusion.

“You did – in Arkhonex. But it appears that this is an evolved strain, one that has also been modified by our enemies to take over the Atlesian Military. It can be activated on command...and we have seen the effects of what this evolved strain does to people.” Kragen explains, remembering the horde they witnessed in Menagerie of corrupted Faunus infected with the plague as test subjects.

“What kind of effects?” The Enchantress inquires curiously.

“Reanimation.” Yenna answers and the Sorceress looks down at the floor, muttering.

“Necromancy?” She wonders.

“Not just Necromancy, the plague corrupts the D.N.A of the host into practically nothing...turning them into Grimm Hybrids. Feral and they kill anything that moves.” The Architect describes, and that shows real fear in their eyes, and the Alchemist turns away with fear present.

“I’ve never heard of a disease like this.” She says.

“Vir Nominis Umbra – it must have been him.” The Sorceress presumes.

“It was, he admitted it.” Qrow assures.

“You’ve spoken?” The Enchantress questions and he shudders.

“He executed four of our friends...the father of my niece included.” Qrow tells them briefly and the three witches express their sympathy by simply bowing their heads.

“You wish for us to craft a cure?” The Sorceress asks.

“Is it possible?” Kragen asks them.

“Well, we will need to see two infected subjects. One male and one female, we must analyse the effects on their bodies. And these individuals will have to be willing to...expose all of their bodies. We cannot leave even a millimetre unobserved – for it could be crucial.” The Sorceress explains, and warns at the same time.

Qrow thinks to himself on people who may be willing.

I doubt Sun would be against stripping off in front of three young looking women, but Yang or Weiss? Yang maybe...but...I dunno...we’ll ask them.

“Okay, we will ask them when we get back. Do you need any help with anything?” Qrow asks them.

“No...We will go now. There is nothing left here anyway.” The Sorceress sadly states as she looks at what remains of their home. Destroyed and practically extinct, all the animals that they swore to protect.

Gone.

The Alchemist crouches down beside a dead rabbit, and she gently closes its eyes. “They will pay for this.” She snarls.

The Architect opens a portal with his hand and Qrow looks back to them. “Well, we can start by curing this plague.” He says to them and she sighs, nodding her head.

“Yes...let us leave this place.” The Alchemist agrees as she stands up and follows her two sisters through the portal that leads back to Beacon Academy.

As they enter the completely different environment, the three of them look around at the huge courtyard with the out of place Undertaker at their side.

“So this is Beacon Academy?

How...

Bland.” The Sorceress groans, used to the smells of the Restless Marshlands.

But now with the Witches onboard.

They are one step closer to curing the Horridus Morbus Pathogen.

Chapter Text

Kassius

 

He paces back and forth down the Isomacium bars of their cell, like a dog waiting to pounce the moment finds a way out of this compartment. His amber eyes are narrowed constantly as he moves up and down the cell walls, whilst Cardin just throws his bouncy ball against the wall constantly. Repeatedly catching it in his hand when it rebounds back to him. Whereas the Huntsman named Locke finds himself constantly on edge, waiting for them to get dragged out or something. Always ready to start a fight or something like that.

Cardin glances over to Kassius with merely his eyes as he catches the ball in his large hand. He sighs, sitting up from his bed as Kassius slows down, gripping the bars with both his hands. “Are you gonna be pacing around all night?” Cardin curiously inquires Kassius, as he looks out to the window which reveals the falling sun and the rising Fractured Moon. Kassius looks back at him, his metal hand still holding onto the Isomacium forged bar.

“There’s gotta be a weakness.” Kassius says, pulling the bar with his hand, but even the concrete does not crack or move.

“Trust me pal – that shit doesn’t break. I have thrown myself at it countless times and it has not moved an inch. Hate to say it buddy, but we are stuck here.” Cardin informs with a heavy sigh.

“Quit being such a defeatist – we’re getting out of this godforsaken hell hole.” Kassius states, Cardin looks down to the floor with sunken eyes.

“Maybe some people should stay in cells.” He sighs.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Kassius questions, looking back to the Winchester Huntsman on his bed who bounces the ball up and down against the floor as he sits there, one leg hanging over the edge slightly. Cardin stares back at him with grief very clear in his eyes.

“It means I deserve this...what I did to my own team...even to the Headmaster and that Pyromancer. I should be dead – but I guess rotting away in a cell is a more deserving punishment for a piece of shit like myself.” Cardin mournfully tells Kassius, so much grief and depression bursting from his voice and heart.

“Quit moping then. You’re not the only piece of shit that failed their team, you know.” Kassius informs as he looks over his shoulder at Cardin, which gets his attention. “Do you see me giving up?”

“What happened? What went wrong?” Cardin inquires, and Kassius sighs as he lowers his head. He has not had to tell this story in quite a long time, yet the memories feel so fresh even now. He may have accepted what happened but it does not mean he has forgotten – he has just found another place for it. A place he has gone back digging to so then he can fill Cardin in on his own past.

“Gods...what didn’t go wrong?” Kassius sighs, turning away from the Isomacium bars and he sits down on his own bed, pressing his hands against his legs. “My team – Team K.R.D.V, Cordovan. Kassius, Rajah, Draven...and Vetra.” He describes, even though he has moved on from her death and is fully committed to Yang – it does not mean that he does not stammer at the mere mention of her name.

Cardin quickly catches onto that. “Did you and um...Vetra...have a thing? Before you met Yang?” Cardin inquires, clearly unaware of their long and pretty complicated history together.

“No...I knew Yang long before Vetra, we did start...kinda dating...I dunno it was a silly fling at first. We only kissed back then, never got far till I moved to Mistral.” Kassius informs, the whole past between the two of them is beyond awkward. But it was real just as it is now, realer than what he had with Vetra, but that does not make that fake either.

Love is a complicated thing, can either bring happiness or can bring destruction.

“Damn dude – crazy shit huh?” Cardin chuckles, making Kassius chuckle too.

“Oh yeah, could sum up my life that statement.” Kassius replies as he taps his knees, with a slight metallic sound effect as his metal digits impact the kneecap on his leg.

“So...what happened?” Cardin inquires with worry in his voice for his cellmate.

“Well – an old friend of ours, who turned out to be one of the White Fang, was manipulated by our enemies. The Knight of Fear actually, y’know the one I’m talking about.” Kassius states as he gestures his fingers to him.

“Yeah, from the Fable of the Four Knights, right? The ones you’ve been fighting.” Cardin presumes as he pictures the terrifying entity which uses fear to his advantage. The rotten flesh across its monstrous body and the huge torn wings of the titanic side Bat that would soar across the night sky.

“Yep, and after that – he used her to draw my team out into the open. We were in the forests of Mistral, middle of nowhere – and I got a message from Ilia to speak to her. Apparently she was close by, but she wasn’t there at all. When I returned, I saw my team being slaughtered by an assassin called the Onyx Phantom.” He tells, and Cardin’s eyes widen when he hears him say that. Something he could relate to but not in the same way as Kassius, for in his situation he was the Onyx Phantom.

“I’m...sorry.” Cardin softly apologises with mournful eyes.

“I saw her die right in front of me. And when Death showed up to take me when I lost my arm...I saw their bodies rot from his presence.” Kassius adds, and Cardin feels like he is hearing some sort of moment from a horror story, making him gasp and shudder in the same moment. Cardin might not know Kassius very well, but hearing about the things he has gone through, it really does make him realise how similar he really is to him.

Both of them have suffered greatly.

“By the gods...” Cardin gasps, barely able to grasp the monsters that are the Knights of Grimm, the things that they are capable of. Yet he has not even heard of the terrifying things that Vir Nominis Umbra is capable of, cutting down twenty soldiers without swinging or even glancing at them.

“Yeah...I think it was all part of his plan, part of Umbra’s plan. He used me to try and kill Pyrrha and Jaune, used Hyde. And here I am now.” Kassius chuckles as he holds out both his arms, feeling such guilt at how Vir Nominis Umbra has managed to manipulated both him and Hyde so easily. He sits forward with his hands clasped together and his head held low with an exhalation through his nostrils.

“Sounds...like you’ve had it pretty rough.” Cardin says to him, and Kassius just takes a forced sniff through his nose.

“Yeah.” He answers.

They both sit in silence, contemplating on their own failures, even though Kassius did not fail, he was merely manipulated by something far more powerful than himself. Everything is a chapter in some cruel story written by a False God and they are its characters, characters with fates and plots decided, and their futures seem bleaker by the day.

Cardin lifts his head and looks over at him. “We’ve both lost things, Cardin – maybe for different reasons, but we have both lost.” Kassius explains as he looks over to Winchester. “I miss Vetra, I miss my team – I regret not being able to save them but I have moved on from blaming myself for it. Yang showed me that – helped me move on. And now? I am gonna fight like hell to survive, for her...and for them.” Kassius explains as he stands up and walks over to the Isomacium Bars on the wall that blocks their escape.

“So what do you wanna do, Cardin? Fight? Or roll over?” Kassius inquires curiously as he pulls on the bars again, full knowing he cannot break them with his hands, but that is the whole point. He will not die in here, he will not rot in here, and he will get back to Yang.

Because she would do it for him.

Cardin sits there, eyeing the ball in his hand that he wants to bounce against the floor, like a stress toy of some kind. He bounces it up into his hand with a sigh. “I respect what you are saying – but – it’s not the same.” Cardin states, and Kassius looks back.

“How? How are we not in the same situation right now Cardin?” Kassius asks him, and he sighs.

“Because you didn’t murder your team.” Cardin corrects, staring straight at Kassius with hot tears welling up in his eyes. Kassius looks back at him with saddened eyes, and he lowers his head, understanding what he means. Kassius may have blamed himself for what happened, but he was not the one that stabbed his girlfriend in the heart. Cardin exhales, throwing the ball across the cell and it bounces all the way back and into his own hand. He turns and rolls over with a sigh, staring at the wall. “I gonna go to sleep – I’d recommend you do the same.”

Kassius sighs, looking down to the floor with his hand still gripping onto the Isomacium bar, tensing at the thoughts of his own memories. As he stands there, something catches his attention down the hallway, hearing a couple of bandits chatting away.

“Have you heard about that Black Market Auction in the Fallingwater Estate on the far side of the Forest?” One of the Bandits asks.

“No, they have another going on?” He asks.

“Oh yeah, some really cool expensive stuff being sold there. Some old weapons, a Nikos Circlet from back in the day, a shield.”

He continues to list some of the stuff that he heard and Kassius’ eyes widen when he hears the mention of a Nikos Circlet...Pyrrha wore a circlet. And it was taken away from the sight, and then they found a photograph of it on Auction. The photograph must have been from that Estate that these bandits are talking about. Must be a well-known place for criminals to purchase valuable – black market – products.

“We could make a hell of a bounty robbing that place.” One of the guards chuckles, but the other scoffs, as they both start to walk away.

“Yeah right, the Acolytes of Lien guard the estate. No one gets in or out.” The other Bandit says, before leaving his field of hearing. He sighs with frustration, but his curiosity has been piqued.

He stares through the bars, and then he closes his eyes.

He has not tried doing this in a very long time.

He thinks very carefully of her face and he mutters to himself. “Sapphire...if you can hear me...connect with me.” Kassius whispers as he thinks of his twin sister.

Miles away, inside of her Dorm Room as the Witches begin to enter and set up their laboratory to try and formulate a cure for Horridus Morbus, Cinder lifts her head with a widened eye. With her mask on the side of her face taken off, the scars from the Silver Flames have healed up nicely and the eye itself is even starting to heal. However it will take some more time until she can see with both of them.

As she lifts her head, she can hear his voice whispering in her own head.

C’mon, sis...please let me know you’re out there

She exhales, deciding to use the semblance she has hated using for so long, closing her own eyes as she connects to him. Kassius opens his eyes and they glow just as hers do, and then his surroundings transform around him, his Spiritual Body being yanked from his own body for a few moments. He looks around, seeing the cell crumbling and the ashes of his surroundings shift into the colours of her dorm, the bed that she sits on and the open window where the sun shines in the sky.

A strange sight since the land around him has dropped into night.

He sets his eyes on his younger twin sister, seeing her looking up at him and she sighs. “I see you bro...but you’re really far away from us. How the hell did you end up all the way in Vacuo?” She questions with utter confusion in her voice.

“Kelham – he has a sword like Raven’s, red blade. He can open portals with it, managed to get us all the way to this Arkhoni Arena real quick.” Kassius explains to her, pacing around the room with his hand pressed to his head. “Man...still never got used to this.” He says as he recovers from the feeling of having his soul sucked out to where his sister is. Like being shot across the world in a rocket, G-Forces still have some kind of an effect.

“Honestly I’m still figuring shit out too.” Cinder agrees as she looks up at him. Kassius looks at her eye where she has taken the patch off and he smiles as he sees how better she looks.

“Wow...you look way better now, sis. Didn’t think your eye would recover after what happened.” Kassius compliments with a smile, and Cinder smiles back.

“Thanks...opening it is still pretty hard but it’s getting there.” Cinder assures with a smile as she even tries opening her damaged eye. The lids part for a few seconds, revealing the wounded iris on the inside where the amber has faded slightly. However when it is able to open again, the colour should return along with her full sight. Kassius stands there, and finally the question on his mind bursts.

“Yang? Is she okay?” He desperately asks her as he steps over to her, but she nods her head.

“Don’t worry she and the others are perfectly fine – well as fine as they can be considering.” Cinder assures, and he feels such a weight become lifted from his heart. “She passed out but we managed to find the medicine before it could progress any further. She is awake now.”

“Yes...oh gods...you have no idea what that means to me.” Kassius sighs with pure relief, giving a sweet smile to his sister.

“But...there have been some complications.” Cinder begins, knowing she must tell him about Taiyang’s death; however, that is not the thing that he goes to.

“What happened? Jaune and Pyrrha? Are they okay?” Kassius immediately asks afterwards with fearfulness, and then another voice appears beside him.

“Please...are they?” Hyde stammers, both Cinder and Kassius look at him with shock. This may be the first time ever that Cinder has ever seen Hyde in the flesh – or spiritual flesh – her amber eye widens and even the other one partially opens as well.

“Hyde? Wow...I never realised that Kassius’ drawings were really so accurate.” She states with a soft spoken voice as she stares at the entity that walks into the room before her eyes, summoned as holographic ghosts of Aura.

But both Hyde and Kassius look so worried for their health after the fight, truly displaying the progression that Hyde has had in his personality. “They’re okay.” Cinder assures, and they both gasp with relief, and Kassius presses his hand to his chest. He even sits down beside her, his aura form presses down against the bed with a cold exterior of energy trailing from him.

“Oh...thank the gods.” He sighs with relief as Hyde leans against the wall and takes his hat from his head as he stands there, feeling so much relief in his body.

“Are they, are they awake?” Hyde asks with a worried voice.

“Yes, they went out looking for Ruby...after...” Cinder pauses, when she thinks of Taiyang and everyone that has died. Her pause tunnels into their heads as they turn to see her with upset clear in her amber eye.

“After what?” Hyde asks.

“Sapphire...what happened?” He asks with fear now in his voice when Cinder begins to tear up and softly sob, sniffling with tears running down from her eyes and her cheeks. She lifts her head with a bloodshot single open eye.

“Umbra...” She softly stammers, worried to know what her brother’s reaction to their deaths will be like.

But he needs to know.

“He killed...Tai...Oobleck...Roy and Nolan...they’re all gone.” Cinder tells him.

Kassius feels his blood turn cold and his body sink with fear as he stares down at the floor, muttering to himself as he sits there. Hyde looks around, pressing his hands to his spectral head, unable to comprehend the revelation made for him. Feeling their stomachs become sick and their heads turn heavy with pain.

“No...no...no...”

“He killed them all as punishment for what we did.” Cinder tearfully adds, rubbing the wet residue on her cheeks and around her eyes. She cannot even bare to look at Kassius, for Taiyang was as much of a father to him as he was to Ruby and Yang. He saved him and raised him...

“I could have saved him...” He softly stammers as he presses his hands to his head, squeezing his eyes shut as the heat behind the scleras builds and builds up with his crushed emotions in his body.

“Kassius there was nothing any of us could have done, even Ozpin could not return until they all died. He desperately tried but he couldn’t – must have all been part of Umbra’s plan.” She stammers as she bites her nail. Kassius cannot even begin to comprehend what she is talking about, Ozpin returning and Umbra controlling their futures? All that rattles in his mind is the fact that he is dead.

“All I did was go to get some meds for Yang and the others...” Kassius mutters, feeling he could have saved them.

“If you didn’t find those supplies they would be dead as well – none of us could beat Umbra. Even all of us combined did not do a scratch, well until Ruby used her Silver Eyes on him.” Cinder explains, getting their attentions taken off the death of Taiyang for a second. Knowing that their arch enemy has a weakness? That is enough to get them to focus for now, but the anger still resides in Kassius.

“What do you mean, her silver eyes? What did she do?” Hyde asks curiously, since he is still recollecting his memories. Cinder looks at him, and she cannot help but wonder about his past and everything that he once was – and if he is still that monster. Yet clearly from his kindness he is showing right now and the fact he is not trying to savagely attack her – he has changed a lot.

“Ruby snapped, after Umbra killed them a big battle followed. Ozpin, Kragen, Yenna and myself started fighting against the Knights of Grimm and Umbra but in the end we all worked together. Nearly restrained him but he still broke free. Then Ruby blasted her silver eyes out and it pushed him back from her and it did something to him...because when Ozpin smacked him in the head with his mace, it actually hurt him.” Cinder explains, and that makes their eyes widen with disbelief, since clearly from how she has described their battle against Umbra, he did not feel anything before that.

“That’s...some advantage I guess.” Hyde softly states as he taps his lip as he walks back and forth.

“Hyde...” She softly begins, and he stops, his eyes glancing round his shoulder?

“Yes?” He replies.

“Ozpin told us what you are – the Ebony Berserker?” She asks him and Kassius sighs.

“Sapphire, wait...” But Hyde interrupts him.

“No, no – it’s fine.” Hyde assures as he holds his hand out to him, and he approaches his sister, crouching down to look her in the eyes. “I swear on my soul – demonic or not – I do not remember anything of what I was and I do not intend on returning to it. You all showed me a better path, and if I did betray him then...I must have had a good reason.” Hyde explains and she sighs.

“He did say that you may begin to remember now that you know...do you remember anything of your past yet?” Cinder curiously inquires, something that now makes Kassius intrigued. The Demonic Entity searches through his mind for any clear memories of his past but none of them even seem to awaken for him, only feelings and glimpses of what he once was.

“Not...not really – I mean I have felt anger at times, a type of anger I have never experienced. And...I keep seeing...this ridge...”

They all stare at him curiously of what he means by that. “A ridge?” Kassius asks, wondering what he implies.

“Charred trees all around me and a landmass shattering and rising into the sky...with a completely shattered moon overhead.” Hyde describes, shaking the memories from his head so then he can be free from them. They all know exactly what that realm is that he is describing – it is the Charred Forest. “Maybe they will come back...”

“If they do – then you could help us destroy Umbra once and for all. You were one of his lieutenants, Hyde – you are not his puppet anymore...but together we can tear him down.” Cinder states and Kassius nods to him.

“If I remember anything else then I will tell you.” Hyde promises with a bleak smile on his face, very different to the smirk he would usually use when showing his avatar.

“Thank you Hyde – I am so proud too, of how far you have come.” Cinder kindly says to him, and Hyde chuckles as he pats her shoulder...and she could actually feel his hand. Not as burning hot as she had imagined, it actually felt...Human.

“Right back at ya, little sis.” He assures, standing up and walking back to the other bed and he sits down with his leg crossed over the other. Both their eyes move over to Kassius, seeing him still so hurt from the death of Taiyang. But as always he pushes his own personal feelings aside and he lifts his head, looking over at his sister.

“So...what’s the next step?” Kassius asks her.

Cinder sits up and she sighs, standing up now and she walks over to the window with Kassius and she points to the courtyard and the Amphitheatre. His eyes narrow before widening when he sees the Undertaker standing guard, the horrifying malformation of creatures into this entity with a rusted shovel in its hand. “What the fu-”

“It’s called the Undertaker, a Construct created by the Three Witches. Remember what Qrow told us about them?” Cinder asks him.

“Yeah.” Kassius answers with the nod of his head.

“Well we have been forced to turn to them for help in curing Horridus Morbus.” She explains and both of them stare at her with shocked eyes.

“Witches? You mean dark magic?” They both ask at the same time, chuckling at how similar their minds are now. Cinder sighs as she rubs her brow, turning back to them both.

“Fight fire with fire, I guess. The Witches are going to examine two of the afflicted; bets are on Yang and Sun. When they know what they are dealing with, they’ll tell us what comes next and whether they can cure them.” Cinder explains, and Kassius feels his heart begin to hammer, because he desperately wants to be there for his girlfriend. “She’ll be fine; I’ve seen the Witches and I heard what happened. They were attacked by Umbra’s forces, so they have no other choice but to aid us now.”

“You can’t trust Witches like them, Cinder. I’ve heard stories of what they are capable of.” Kassius states.

“I know, so have I...and they are not far off my own sins.” She states and he sighs, looking away from her.

“That was Salem – not you.” Kassius reminds.

“If you will try and tell me not to blame myself then stop trying to find ways to blame yourself, you hypocrite.” Cinder scoffs, making Kassius chuckle at how right she really is.

“Guess that is a bad habit of mine, isn’t it?” Kassius sighs as he scratches the back of his neck awkwardly.

“That’s the understatement of the century.” Hyde chuckles, Kassius cocks his neck round and glares at him with frustrated eyes. “What? It’s a valid point.”

“Yeah but you didn’t have to say it.” Kassius sighs as he gestures his hands.

“Then – when we know what to do next we will free you.” Cinder assures, but both Kassius and Hyde shake their heads.

“No no, we’ll find our own way out. This place is crawling with Traffickers.” Kassius explains to her, and she sighs.

“Then...what’s your plan?” She asks him.

“Not a clue, haven’t thought that far ahead. But I’ll figure something out; planning never did really suit me.” Kassius chuckles as he looks out the window beside his sister. She scoffs with a soft giggle.

“No it hasn’t...okay...I’ll tell the others that you’re okay, Yang will be relieved to know.” Cinder assures him with a gentle smile, one that would be considered uncharacteristic from her when Team R.W.B.Y first met her as their foe.

“Thanks – I’ll contact you again when we break out.” Kassius assures, and then she catches onto something.

“We?” Cinder asks him.

“What am I? Dog shit?” Hyde questions with an insulted voice as he holds out his hands.

“No, no...Just...you guys are on your own.” She reminds.

“Well – tell Team R.W.B.Y, Oscar, Sun and Neptune that I have ended up in the same cell as Cardin Winchester. And things don’t seem to be everything they appear to.” Kassius informs and Cinder’s amber eye widens, even her other slightly widens as well, as wide as it can go.

“O-Okay...I’ll tell them you found him. How the hell did he end up there?” She asks.

“They grabbed him when he escaped the City of Vacuo – guess it was beneficial for his sake, huh?” Kassius scoffs sarcastically since Horridus Morbus was unleashed practically minutes after he escaped.

“Yeah, lucky bastard.” Cinder scoffs.

“Okay – stay safe, little sis.” Kassius reminds with a smile and she nods.

“You too, big brother.” She smiles back.

Kassius feels his Astral Form get pulled right back to his real body, the landscape crumbling around him and transforming back into the cell that he was inside of beforehand. And Cardin still asleep on the bed. Kassius has ended up leant against the wall, since his body slumped down after his Astral Body left and went to Cinder. He does not even bother standing up, because he feels such a weight of grief on his shoulders. A weight so heavy that he just remains there.

Tai...

“He’ll pay for this, Kassius.” Hyde promises and Kassius grasps the sand beneath his hand and crushes it.

“Yeah...he will.”

 

Yang

 

She rests her head against the pillow of her bed, long soft blonde hair gently warming her cheek as she lays there. Weiss, Sun and Neptune also resting on their beds with steady heartbeats on their life support monitors, and with the two Branwen Hunters sat down inside as well. Qrow with his sword leaning against the wall and Raven with her Odachi sat across her lap. As Yang lies there, she just thinks of the man she loves so much, wanting to feel his hands around her, his lips on hers...the warmth of his body.

The doors open up and she glances over to see Cinder walking into the room. “Okay...I have good news and bad news.” Cinder begins as she stands at the foot of the steps, getting their attention, Yang does not turn though, and it is mainly Qrow and Raven that look at her.

“Oh yeah? How so?” Qrow inquires.

“Kassius is alive.” Cinder announces, and Yang’s lilac eyes burst open and she sits up faster than she has ever sat up in her entire life. She stares straight at the Fall Maiden, desperate for more information.

“He is?” She gasps with joy in her body.

“Yes, he managed to reach out to me and I spoke with him.” Cinder assures and she sighs with pure relief, leaning back and hitting the bed again.

“Well...where is he?” Weiss asks.

“Yeah.” Neptune agrees.

“Well that’s the bad news; he is all the way in Vacuo.” Cinder reveals, bewildering them on how that is even possible.

“Huh?” Yang questions with concern returning to her tender voice again.

“How the hell did he end up there?” Raven questions with total confusion in her voice and face, able to put her grief aside for her daughter’s benefit after all.

“He said he has been taken by the Traffickers, and that their leader – a dude called Kelham – has a sword like yours. Able to open portals with it and go anywhere he wants.” Cinder explains to her, Raven pauses and stares at Qrow with widened eyes. They never forgot the name of those Bandits, the ones that murdered her parents and the ones that Qrow and her were forced to kill when they were merely children.

“The Traffickers...” Raven snarls.

“Aren’t they...” Sun softly begins, remembering hearing the story that she and her brother told.

“The ones that killed our mom and dad, yes.” Qrow answers with the firm nod of his head.

“They are pretty well known bandits, for slave trade and being pretty deadly bandits. But if Kassius is in there then he can get himself out – they are not Huntsmen after all.” Raven explains, confident that he will escape their base.

“And...he found Cardin.” Cinder reveals, and a chilling silence fills the room as they stare at her. None of them forgot what they saw him do in Vacuo with that mace, killing the Headmaster, Pyromancer and the rest of his team before disappearing off the map.

“So that’s where’s he’s been.” Neptune mutters.

“He also said that some things are not as they seem with him.” Cinder explains.

“What does that mean?” Weiss inquires.

“Not a clue, I don’t think he knows everything yet otherwise he would have said so.” Cinder states as she walks in and sits down on the edge of Yang’s bed. Yang would have nudged away from her old foe if it were five years ago, but so much has changed that she barely moves her legs. But only so then she does not sit on them.

“So...he is okay?” Yang nervously asks her.

“He looked fine – pissed off that he got captured in the first place – but fine.” Cinder states with a small chuckle in her voice since she knows Kassius so well. Yang giggles a little bit too, happy to know the love of her life has not allowed these scumbags to change him that much.

But before any other comments can even be made...

The doors open up and the light from the sun fills the room and they all turn, to see a more intimidating sight. The three Witches stand before them in the doorway, walking into the Amphitheatre slowly with their eyes examining every nook and cranny. Constantly looking repulsed by the modern architecture and lack of natural life around them. “So artificial and bland.” The Enchantress shudders as she touches a paper plant in the corner, feeling not a single shred of life within it.

The Sorceress sets her eyes on the four infected individuals in their beds, hearing their steady heartbeats from here and not at all from the heart monitor. Behind them are Ruby and Blake who follow into the room with Oscar behind them. Ruby watches their every move as does Blake, whereas Oscar is just walking behind them, making sure that nobody else tries to start with them. Witches have attained quite a distrusting reputation for casting curses on those who they deem deserving and burning the crops of Villages merely because they can thanks to their gifts.

However these Witches intently seem focused on business, to cure them no matter what. “We have established our laboratory in the room in the back over there.” The Alchemist states as he points to one of the doorways to an office.

Oobleck’s Office.

“That’s Doctor Oobleck’s Office.” Weiss states as she follows the finger of the young looking Alchemist, despite the fact that they are actually thousands of years old. However that is the case when someone takes magical potions that restore people to their youthful bodies forever.

“I heard he lost his life a few nights ago, we apologise for you losses. It appears this doctor was very well acquainted with alchemy himself.” The Alchemist states with a smile as she stares at the doorway to the room that they have transformed for their own needs.

“Were you...gentle with his belongings?” Raven inquires.

“Yes, and we ordered the Undertaker to be careful in rebuilding his office in another empty room that we found.” The Sorceress promises with respect in her voice. They are definitely not what they were expecting, they may have been informed that they are not old looking – but they never expected the Witches to be so respectful to them.

“Thank you.” Raven softly says with a smile as she stands there, but it seems that the Witches are completely focused on getting straight to business as fast as they can.

“So the four of you are the ones afflicted by the Horridus Morbus Pathogen, correct?” The Sorceress inquires curiously as she walks forward with her youngest sister – the Enchantress. She walks past Sun and she smiles, running her finger across his chest, and normally he would wink playfully. But he just stares at her, and then Blake narrows her eyes at the Enchantress.

“She best not try anything.” Blake whispers to Ruby, and the young Silver Eyed Warrior turns to her friend and pats her back. She is really fighting to be there for her friends, starting to get over that lapse in judgement that she had.

“Pretty aren’t they? At least it will not be haunting individuals we will have to examine...like that one really fat man.” The Enchantress shudders at the memory, but the afflicted still look uncomfortable. As always the Sorceress stays on the topic at hand.

“I am afraid we will have to examine two of you – one male and one female. We would like to start with a woman first.” The Sorceress states as she steps forward and looks at them.

“W-What does examining...mean?” Yang nervously asks.

“Yeah...you’re not gonna stick something up my butt are you?” Sun nervously asks and causing Weiss to shudder at the thought of it.

“No no – merely observing with our eyes and maybe touching your skin in areas we need to check for any rot.” The Alchemist explains, sounding very professional, and even the flirtatious Enchantress changes her tone immediately as she stands before them.

“Do not worry – you are now our patients, your welfare is our priority. However we will need to see every inch of you, to see how far the infection has spread. How it spreads and the damage it has done, therefore we can plan on how to formulate a cure that will definitely work without any side effects. Unless damage has already been done of course.” The Enchantress explains to them, but that does not make their situation any less uncomfortable.

“We understand your discomfort – but two of you must agree if you want us to formulate a cure for this pathogen.” The Sorceress reminds.

Yang clutches the edge of her bed sheets and she flinches as she touches her side...so she sighs, looking at Weiss to see her looking very, very scared to show herself like that. She has only ever shown her body naked to Neptune, as has Yang to Kassius. However Yang is a little more confident than Weiss is – but not as confident as she would have been in her younger days.

Yang sighs, pressing her hands to the mattress to stand up, stumbling for a second but Raven immediately catches her daughter in her hands. She looks right at her with caring motherly eyes, for she is the only parent she has left. “You sure about this?” Raven asks her with a concerned voice, and Yang flinches from the pain that rushes across her side.

“Mhm...if it helps us make a cure...then I’ll do it. It will only be for a few minutes, right?” Yang asks with a scared voice.

“Longest? Two minutes.” The Sorceress promises.

Yang exhales, her voice shaky as she stands in her mother’s kind embrace. “We will examine Miss Xiao Long first, and then we will examine whichever Young Man is willing to do the same.” The Alchemist says to everyone in the room with her hands behind her back as she approaches their lab. Yang looks at her mother and Raven lifts her chin up with a small smile on her face.

“You can do this.” Raven promises with a smile, and Yang smiles a tiny bit back to her mother, and Raven kisses her forehead. Yang turns away from her mother and follows the Witches to their lab, the Sorceress waiting for her to enter with the door held open.

Yang enters the room; it is quite dark and honestly pretty Gothic with all the candles and herbal scents that hang from the ceiling. Hard to believe that this was once Oobleck’s Office, now transformed into a highly dark ages looking room of sorcery, alchemy and enchantment. With glyph markings on the ground to summon the dark powers and tomes stacked up, seems the Undertaker retrieved as much as it could from the remnants of their home.

The Sorceress locks the door and she steps round Yang as she stands there, still with her arms over her chest even with her gown on. The three Witches stand before her, but none of them look demanding of her. They know that this is a lot to ask of someone they have just met, especially someone who feels as vulnerable as her right now. “My dear...I understand your fear towards us. We are Witches and we have not really gained the best reputation across the Four Kingdoms. But we are here to help you – it is as we said, you are all our patients, and as doctors your welfare is our only priority.” The Sorceress assures with a smile.

“So...whenever you are ready, we will begin our examination. It will take perhaps a minute or two, maybe even less than that.” The Alchemist promises.

Yang looks down to her gown, and she feels her whole body shivering with fear and nervousness, hands rattling as she touches the tied up fluffy belt around her. She slowly undoes the tie, and she lets it go loose.

She closes her eyes with a sigh, and releases...feeling the weight around her drop and the cold touch her skin as she stands before the three Witches. They approach her slowly but gently to not worry her, and they stare at the marks across her unclothed body. Her once sun-tanned skin has turned pale from the lack of sunlight and her muscle definition has decreased extremely. Sweat however still beads from the pores in her skin, despite feeling ice cold right now with her bare feet touching the stone.

The Alchemist immediately notices the biggest and most prominent sign of the plague in her system. “Major discolouring in her veins and arteries, mostly around her torso and her legs.” She describes aloud, and she shudders when she feels the Enchantress approach her.

“I am going to press my finger to this dark bruise around your back, is that okay?” The Enchantress professionally asks her.

“Y-Yes...” Yang stammers nervously, and the hand of the Enchantress ever so gently presses to the bruise and Yang gasps with pain from the fiery hotness that shoots through her body from the pressure.

“I’m sorry – okay, appears that the bruising is in the muscles, not just the skin.” The Enchantress deduces when she hears Yang’s reaction to feeling that bruise be pressed inwards like that. Yang actually starts to feel light headed from the discomfort she feels of having to stand here like a mannequin for the Witches to examine her completely. The Sorceress stands in front of her, seeing the many discoloured marks across her once unmarked body.

Around her globes is significant dark bruising, along with between her legs as well, meaning the female reproductive organs have partially been damaged as well. Or at least they have been partially damaged, and not completely ruined. “Significant marks around her reproductive organs...and perhaps even other organs as well from the locations of some of these bruises.” She describes just from seeing bruises alone.

These Witches have learned a lot about infections and damaged organs in their time. Then suddenly, a warm blanket gently wraps around the naked girl and she gasps with relief, shutting her eyes. “It’s okay, it’s over.” The Alchemist promises, helping her sit down on the floor. Yang begins to sob, letting all that stress out in tear form as she sits down on the floor. The three Witches crouch down with their patient, looking at her with gentle expressions.

“Well done, sweetheart. You were very brave.” The Sorceress assures with a smile on her face with her black hair over her shoulder.

Yang does not answer, she just softly cries with tears streaming down her cheeks from her eyes, before she wipes them away and regains her courage, exhaling. “I’m sorry...” She sniffles.

“It’s perfectly normal, dear.” The Enchantress assures and the Sorceress smiles.

“Not exactly what you were imagining, are we?” She presumes.

“No...not at all.” Yang softly agrees.

“How did you? Ugly old hags with no teeth? Tell the truth we’ve heard worse.” The Enchantress promises.

“Well...I dunno I thought you would be...umm...meaner?” Yang sweetly says to them, making the three of them softly laugh.

“You are a sweet soul, such a shame this had to fall upon you, Miss Xiao Long.” The Alchemist kindly says to her, stroking her long blonde hair affectionately.

“S-So...what now?” Yang asks with her tears calming down now that she has this ordeal has finally ended. The longest minute she has ever had to experience in her life.

“Well, we still need to examine one of your male friends inside, either one of them will do. However I think that injecting the potion into your bloodstream will be the best course of action so far. And the infection looks very similar to the old strain we cured back in Arkhonex, just more aggressive. Maybe the same formula just with a few more catalysts inside?” The Sorceress discusses to her sisters after explaining the situation with Yang.

“Yes, probably the best choice we have.” The Alchemist agrees.

There is a short silence, then the Sorceress leans forward to Yang, touching her hands so then she looks up at her. “Yang...I am going to be honest with you now, we do not believe holding secrets from our patients is the right thing to do. When examining you I noticed vast bruising around your breasts and vagina...meaning your reproductive organs have taken a hit.” She informs, worrying Yang.

“What do you mean?” She fearfully asks, and the Sorceress asks.

“If we do manage to cure you – there is a 50/50 possible chance that you may never be able to have children of your own.”

This tragic revelation shoots through Yang’s heart like a bullet, her lilac eyes widen with heartbreak, for she has always wanted to be a mother of her own one day. To be the mother for Kassius’ child maybe when all of this is over. This has created a terrible outcome for that possibility, an outcome that makes her lip tremble. “I-I under-stand...” She tearfully responds with her head held low. “But...there is an equal chance...that I might?”

“Yes, 50/50 chance. At the end of the day there is only so much that aura can repair.” The Enchantress says to her, agreeing with Yang and her oldest sister.

“We hope that your condition will be positive though, and we will cure you. I promise.” The Sorceress assures with a smile.

“Thank you.” Yang softly says.

The three of them stand up and they help take Yang outside after wrapping her gown back around her body and letting her return to her friends. Shaken from what she has learned about the chance of her never having children, when she sits down in her chair she is frozen with shock.

Weiss approaches her friend and sits down beside her, looking at her with her long white hair hanging over her eye. “Yang? How was it? Are you okay? Did they...hurt you?” Weiss nervously asks, but Yang shakes her head.

“No...they were kind and professional. But...” She stammers, still trying to comprehend this news.

“What is it?” Weiss asks, but before Yang answers the Sorceress turns to the two men.

“So...which one of you has decided?” The Sorceress inquires, to see Neptune and Sun sat there, deciding in the most Sun and Neptune way they have ever seen.

Rock Paper Scissors.

They both repeat the same pattern over and over again, but Sun loses, hitting rock every time and becoming very predictable for Neptune. “Fine...Guess it’s me.” He sighs, standing up and turning to Blake. He holds her hands and he pulls her in for a gentle hug, caressing her hair. “Don’t worry I’ll be fine.” He assures.

“They won’t hurt him, Blake. I promise.” Yang assures with a smile, and the three Witches nod their heads honourably to her. Blake sighs and she lets go of Sun as he approaches the three Witches.

“Ooh, a handsome knight!” The Enchantress giggles, as if outside that room she is a totally different person.

“Sorry ladies but this hunk of meat is taken.” Sun jokes as he follows them inside, and Blake sighs, feeling her heart pounding before she follows Ruby over to see how Yang is doing. She is not blind, and neither is her little sister, they can tell that Yang has something on her mind, and it is what the Witches told her. Ruby sits down next to her and Blake stands before her, before crouching down to look less imposing to the girl who used to look so much bigger than them.

“Yang? What’s wrong?” Ruby asks her softly, and Blake feels her hand shaking and her pulse pounding.

“I...” Yang stammers, fighting the tears. “I might never have children.”

Their eyes widen when she says that, and Ruby lowers her head sadly, knowing how much Yang has wanted children all her life. She has always been a mother to Ruby and has practically been perfect for the role. She is loving and kind, yet can be stubborn when needing to be disciplining – along with protective as well. And yet they have never seen her look so vulnerable, something that even gets Neptune to come over to her. “What do you mean?” Weiss delicately asks her.

“They told me, that my body has been damaged to the point where there is a 50/50 chance...either I can have kids, or I can never have kids.” She sniffles; just that cruel half-half difference can mean so much. Either the shattering of an entire family or the birth of one.

“I-I’m so sorry, Yang...but hey look on the bright side...there is still a fifty percent chance you and Kassius could have a baby.” Neptune replies, always looking on the bright side.

“Or fifty percent I could not.” Yang reminds, but Weiss shakes her head, somehow still being the Ice Queen even now.

“Oh come on, Yang – stop moping.” Weiss demands, surprising all of them for how she can say that in her current situation. “So what if it’s 50/50?”

Yang stares at her with confusion. “Weiss? What are you saying?” She sniffles quietly.

“So what? Focus on the future, I get that – but with the future looking as bleak as it is now? Don’t worry about that – because if you psych yourself up throughout all of this mess and then at the end you might realise your infertile...it will crush you. But if you accept the chances...if you just accept it...then maybe you’ll be surprised.” Weiss suggests with a small smile on her face.

“I...I guess I can see what you mean...it’s just...a little raw right now.” Yang says with a heavy sigh.

“So, do they think they can make a cure?” Ruby asks her sister.

“They sounded pretty confident but they still need to check Sun over, make sure he is similar to myself before deciding.” Yang explains to them all.

“I guess it is a good thing Sun went in there...he is a Faunus after all, might help make the cure universal for both races.” Blake states, just finding ways to be comfortable with it.

“Were they...weird?” Ruby curiously asks.

“No actually, just like doctors – asked my permission before they pressed any bruises – they really surprised me.” Yang states with a smile on her face.

“They definitely look younger than I remember...and hotter.” Neptune teases, getting a smack from Weiss on his arm. “Ow!”

“Dolt.”

A couple minutes pass by, after the Witches spoke with Sun and finished their examination of how far the plague has travelled in his body, Sun emerges in the same gown he entered with. Looking a little bit like Yang when it comes to expressions, just not as hurt as she was. Seems his diagnosis was not as sad as what Yang has to live with at the moment.

And in that time, Ozpin has brought everyone into the Amphitheatre to hear what the Witches have to say about crafting a cure. The Three Witches stand at the head of the stage with their hands behind their backs as they look out to all the Huntsmen and Huntresses in the room. “We have come up with a viable formula to cure Horridus Morbus.” The Sorceress announces, bringing so much hope to the afflicted and everyone else in the room.

“We have decided it would be best to inject the potion through syringes opposed to oral ingestion – anyone against this?” The Enchantress asks curiously.

Nobody raises their hands.

“Good, no phobias to worry about then.” She says with a smile on her face.

“So what’s next?” Pyrrha asks.

“Well – that’s the thing; this strain of Horridus Morbus is similar yet more aggressive than the one that struck Arkhonex thousands of years ago. However we can still use a very similar formula, just with a stronger catalyst. Now we and the Undertaker can collect the other materials, but there is another ingredient that we cannot find here or anywhere else in charted lands on Remnant.” The Alchemist explains to them all, walking up and down the edge of the stage as she explains, for she is the one in charge of crafting potions and other alchemical formulas.

“What do we need?” Ozpin asks them as he stands at the end of the room.

“It is called an Aphax Violet, a form of flower that exists in the Embered Grove.” The Alchemist answers as she forms a magical replica of the plant, one that lacks the same properties that the real thing has. It is a beautiful flower, one that glows an extraordinary violet colour with what looks like aura trailing from its feathers.

The eyes of the Arkhoni in the room widen when they hear the name of its location.

“The Embered Grove? That means...” Kragen mutters.

“It can only be found in the Lost Empire of Arkhonex.” The Sorceress states as she looks to them all, and that sends chills down their spines. “Now we would send a portal there...if its location was ever remembered. It has been thousands of years, and even still there is a magical barrier that prevents natural teleportation inside. Only Dark Magic beyond our recognition can enter the city, for the concentration of Grimm there is astronomical in size.” The Sorceress explains to them all, and the name of the location is one they knew they would hear again.

Arkhonex...

“We can protect the school; we can cast countless spells to protect the place and your soldiers, Raven Branwen.” The Enchantress assures, and Raven nods.

“I’m done hiding.” Raven assures, and her brother smiles to see her sister coming back.

“Very good, we will provide powerful potions to our patients, allow them to walk again and actually get outside. We have spells that can trap it inside you and refrain it from spreading.” The Alchemist states, and they look overjoyed to know that they can actually feel the sun again.

“I will be going with you.” Ozpin assures, looking to them all...but none of them fully trust him right now. Hazel grits his teeth as he glares at Ozpin.

“Then I am staying here.” Hazel snarls as he walks away from Ozpin and to the corner of the room. “I owe them.”

Sun stares at him with narrowed eyes but he hides it by looking away from the murderer of his mother and father. “I am staying too, I can make sure everything stays as normal as they possibly can.” Glynda assures as she walks over to that side of the room as well.

However everyone else?

They stay right where they stand, and Winter nods to Weiss as she readies her blades. “Then it is agreed – we will all begin our search for Arkhonex today...question is where do we start?” Kragen wonders as he looks around, and Jaune looks at the blade of his sword. At the faint markings of Arkhoni design and then at the bracelet that the Architect made for them to translate Higher Arkhoni.

“I...I want to visit my family.” Jaune states, getting Ozpin’s attention. “I had a dream...and I think it was about my ancestors. We own an estate; I want to see if there is anything there. Pyrrha’s mom is there too.” Jaune states as he looks to her and her emerald eyes widen.

“She’s alive?” She gasps.

“Yes.” Jaune kindly assures with a smile. Pyrrha feels her heart warm with relief to know her mother is still alive thanks to his own family.

“We’ll come too.” Ren and Nora agree.

“Us too.” Ruby, Oscar and Blake agree too as they stand to their side.

“This is a family and personal matter – the rest of us will go over our strategy whilst you find what you can...and reconnect with your families.” Ozpin states with a firm nod with his head. None of them fully trust him, but they respect his willingness to let them go like that.

“Thank you.” Jaune says to him, and he nods.

“I guess the search for a Lost Empire begins.” Ruby nervously chuckles as she shrugs her shoulders.

 

Kassius

 

With his eyes closed, embracing his own sleep, his body finally feels relaxed. But filled with grief for the loss of Taiyang Xiao Long.

But as he sleeps there, a silhouette approaches the cell door of their room, and she reaches out to the handle, slowly opening it with a smile on her face. With a tied back brown ponytail, she slowly and stealthily approaches him, wearing loosely fit clothes. “Hey there, handsome man...wanna have some fun?” She coos as she goes to undo the belt around his trousers, since he still wears the armour he wore from the fight.

Suddenly his cold metal hand shoots up and grabs her straight by the neck and she gasps for air as the growling Huntsman lifts his head, revealing his amber eyes. They are not glowing – both him and Hyde are doing this. He rises up as he lifts her off the floor, dwarfing her in height and in muscular size too. She kicks and writhes in his choking grip, causing her lips to turn purple from a lack of air. “I told you...not...to...try it.” He snarls with fury in his eyes, the anger of a man who lost his father figure and taking it out on her.

“P-Please...” She strains as she grabs his metal arm, but then Kassius stares down the cell and into the hallway to see Thorn stood there with a grin on his face, arms crossed as he stares with his hat on his head.

“Wanna watch her throat get crushed?” He snarls almost ferally.

Thorn stares at him, but he just scoffs and looks away. “Go ahead, prove you’re a big tough handsome hero.” He coos sarcastically.

Kassius glares at him with gritted teeth and anger, but then he closes his eyes and scoffs.

“See...you really haven’t been paying attention, have you Thorn?” Kassius curiously asks him with her choking in his metal hand.

Thorn stares at him.

“I’m not...a hero.” Kassius states, and Cardin wakes up, turning to see Kassius choking the woman out in his hand. His eyes widen, from what Kassius does next.

He snaps her neck, breaking the vertebrae and crushing her jugular in the process with a thunderous crunch that causes Thorn to jolt with fear from how ruthless Kassius can be when pissed off.

If you are his friend, he will kill and die for you.

If you are the love of his life, he will kill for you and die for you.

If you are his enemy?

He will tear you apart.

Kassius throws the corpse of the girl onto the ground, her face turned purple from inability to breathe, and the force of her neck being broken with the squeeze of his hand has caused the blood vessels in her eyes to burst. Blood leaks from her eyes and the scleras has turned from white to red as she lays there, blood rupturing from her ears.

Kassius glares at Thorn with furious amber eyes, and the Bandit is terrified of him, as he turns away so calmly and sits back down in the corner. Even Cardin is pretty scared of Kassius right now, seeing what he just did so callously.

“What the hell, Kassius?” Cardin whimpers.

“I told them – I will not cheat on her – and I will get out of here.” Kassius states as he stares at the man wearing his hat, then he points right at his face with the metal hand that just took that woman’s life. “And I will get that hat back.”

Thorn snarls and he opens the door quickly to drag her corpse from the cell, and swiftly slamming it shut. He did not even bother trying to escape then because he knew it would be a stupid idea, he’d have no chance.

Thorn drags her corpse away from the scene of her death and Cardin sits back down as Kassius sits there. “Your loyalty is inspiring, dude...I would have let her bang me.” Cardin scoffs as he sits down, but Kassius closes his eyes with a sigh.

“All I want is to get out of this shithole.” Kassius sighs.

A man emerges from the darkness to his left.

And he speaks.

“Be careful what you wish for.” He says, and the voice is too familiar and his eyes widen. Kassius swiftly turns his head and his heart nearly stops for a second.

There he stands.

Shaved head.

Brown eyes.

Hands held together, and a sinister smirk.

Vir Nominis Umbra.

Chapter Text

Kassius

 

He’d be lying if he claimed he was not scared, seeing Vir Nominis Umbra emerging from the darkness like that. Hands held together and that cunning smirk on his face, brown eyes staring directly into his amber ones.

Kassius glares straight back at the mysterious entity that is Vir Nominis Umbra, voice trembling slightly but combined with so much hatred for what he has done to the man he saw as a father figure. And for the deaths of Oobleck, Roy and Nolan as well. “You...what the hell are you doing here?” Kassius sternfully questions, causing Cardin to roll over with a confused and tired expression.

“Huh? Who’re you talking to?” Cardin grumbles, tracking Kassius’ line of vision to also see the Soothsayer standing there, in the darkness behind the stairs to the courtyard above. Cardin narrows his eyes, sitting upwards slowly to speak to him. “Who the hell are you?” Cardin questions as he presses one hand to his knee, able to see the trepidation on Kassius’ face right now.

Vir Nominis Umbra chuckles, tapping his fingers together, as he stares to the two Huntsmen in the cell. “Vir Nominis Umbra – also known as the Soothsayer – at your service.” He greets, bowing before the two of them with a smirk, and Kassius stands up quickly, faster than Cardin does. Winchester suddenly realises that the name that Kassius had mentioned was no lie, the entity really does exist – but he looks nothing like what he imagined. For something he has described with so much fear, he never expected him to look so friendly and human.

Vir Nominis Umbra walks forward, yet his hands stay held together, fingertips touching each other as he moves. “We meet again – and yet this time you can actually speak to me, Kassius. From what I can see – looks like you are in quite the pickle aren’t you?” Vir Nominis Umbra asks him as he approaches their cell, looking at the Isomacium Bars, a metal he could most likely snap as easily as they could snap a twig. But he does not – he clearly does not tend to broadcast his powers to his enemies, leaving them at a severe disadvantage.

“Yet suddenly I feel so much safer behind these bars now.” Kassius sarcastically scoffs as he stares at the Soothsayer, making the entity chuckle softly.

“Perhaps – but after my little performance back at Beacon Academy – I think maybe you know that these bars cannot protect you from me if I wanted to kill either of you.” Vir Nominis Umbra reminds with that conniving grin on his face. Kassius stares straight into the eyes of the devil himself and within those irises he sees absolutely nothing, no soul – nothing.

Just his own reflection in the gloss.

“How the hell did you get in here?” Cardin naively asks him, completely unaware that Vir Nominis Umbra can literally appear anywhere at any time, even be in more than one location at the exact same time. Time and physical forms are of no boundaries to him, just tools for his own sick pleasure. But as Vir Nominis Umbra always does – with his cruelly sarcastic sense of humour – he gives a pretty vague answer for the uneducated Huntsman.

“Long story, it’d bore you. Although I would prefer to focus on a more pressing matter – such as getting the two of you out of this pig sty.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains with the shrug of his shoulders, leaning against the pillar in the centre of the room, crossing his arms. He looks over to the two of them with a smile. “Because you both wish to leave this place – do you not?” He inquires.

“Sure, but how the hell can you do anything to help us?” Cardin asks, only for Kassius to sharply give him a glare.

“What the hell are you doing?” Kassius sternly whispers, grabbing onto Cardin’s arm and pulling him away from the Soothsayer. Vir Nominis Umbra remains still whilst the two have a small little argument over letting him assist them.

“You’re the one who wants to get back to your pretty girlfriend – why the hell are you so content on staying here?” Cardin questions, causing Kassius to press his hands to his head with frustration. Levels of frustration so high that he nearly pulls his hair out, whereas Umbra just watches them with a small smirk on his face.

“Have you not listened to a word I have said? That bastard is our enemy! He will use us for his own gain and once we of no use he will kill us – just like he killed Oobleck and Taiyang.” Kassius explains and Cardin’s eyes widen after hearing the name of one of his teaches on the list of the dead, so he looks past Kassius to see Umbra standing there.

“Oobleck is dead? How did you know?” Cardin fearfully asks.

“Long story – in short my sister can contact me no matter where I am and she told me what happened when Hyde was in control...Umbra won, just leave it at that.” Kassius explains, staring back to the Soothsayer who waits for the Huntsman to speak directly towards him.

“Then why does he want to help us?” Cardin questions.

“How the hell should I know? He’s the Soothsayer not me! But whatever it is, he would never free us unless he wants something in return.” Kassius explains, for he knows this entity well enough, not as well as Jaune or Pyrrha do now, but he has heard his fair share of stories about him from plenty of sources.

“Very true – Mr Locke – I am a merchant after all, and thus I do hope you will return the favour if you wish to leave this place.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains, still playing the role of just a mere merchant despite the fact that they all know who he really is. Perhaps he just does it because he finds it entertaining for his own sake.

“Of course – can’t expect to get something for nothing.” Cardin says as he holds onto the bars, leaving Kassius looking increasingly concerned.

“Cardin – we cannot trust him.” Kassius warns, but as always Umbra knows how to use words to sway people.

“No you shouldn’t trust me – only a fool would trust a merchant – however, I do believe you would be of better use to the world outside of this cell than inside it.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains, walking right up to the cell and staring at both of them. “So...do you want my help?” Vir Nominis Umbra asks them.

Kassius stammers, unsure of what will happen if he agrees, yet he is so right – they are of no help to anyone when trapped in here, and if Umbra can free them then the situation is fixed. But as Vir Nominis Umbra just said, they should never trust him because he could be holding back important details. “How do I know you won’t double cross us?” Kassius questions, desperate for some assurances.

“Double cross? Double crossing is merely when someone turns against the other who trusted them – you do not. But I will not lie.” He promises with a smile on his face, one that is crossing the line between reassuring and intimidating.

Kassius presses his hands against his head as he paces back and forth, whilst Cardin looks right at him. This is the only opportunity they have had so far, and Kassius knows that when Umbra says he can get them out, this whole place will be destroyed in the process. “How long will we have?” Cardin asks him.

“If you agree? One minute and thirty seconds precisely.” Vir Nominis Umbra answers.

We will be free from this cell in ninety seconds if we agree...

We cannot turn the offer down, no matter what Umbra is capable of.

Cardin looks at Kassius, who is fighting with Hyde in his own head, hearing his voice in his own head, most likely heard by Vir Nominis Umbra. “We cannot! The bastard is smart, he is preying on your love for Yang!” Hyde warns, and in his head Kassius speaks in return to the demon trapped in his body.

“I know – but he could free us.” Kassius reminds him.

“I get that, but after last time? What will stop him from taking control of me again?” Hyde stammers fearfully as he remembers that day when he completely lost control of his own mind and Kassius’ body, nearly killing Jaune and Pyrrha in the process. “I do not want to hurt any more innocent or good people. Only bad.” Hyde states.

How he has changed.

“Is it a deal, Kassius Archer Locke?” Vir Nominis Umbra asks him, and Kassius stops with widened eyes when he hears him say his full name, a middle name he never even knew he had. His middle name is his father’s first name – Archer Merlot. Kassius turns and stares at Vir Nominis Umbra with widened eyes. “I know more about you than you realise, son.” Vir Nominis Umbra states with his hands held together, tapping in the rhythm of his chilling song that he probably created.

“I...I...” He stammers as he stands there, back pressed to the wall.

“It’s our best chance, Kassius.” Cardin states, and Kassius gives in with a defeated sigh.

“Fine – but I do not want to be dragged into anything you have cooked up!” Kassius demands.

“It’s a deal – once you are both free we will reconvene at the crossroads of the Pilgrim’s Beacon, a nearby church in the forest. There I will offer you a potential...temporary alliance.” Vir Nominis Umbra hints, which Cardin gets intrigued by, yet Kassius just looks more and more concerned.

Vir Nominis Umbra walks back slowly with a smirk on his face. “Good luck – you’re going to need it.” He assures, before vanishing into a flock of black crows that caw constantly, flying up the stairs and out of the area, leaving their area. Kassius feels nauseous with fear of what they have just agreed to, he knows that they would have better odds of surviving a guillotine than making a deal with Vir Nominis Umbra and surviving.

What does he want from us?

“Shit...Shit!” Kassius yells with anger and fear as he presses his hands hard against his head, muttering to himself as he paces back and forth, unable to get the thoughts free from his mind. “What the hell have we just done? We just signed our own goddamn death warrant and gave it to that Soothsayer piece of shit!” Kassius exclaims as he paces back and forth. Cardin stares at him with confused eyes.

“Is that the guy you were talking about?” Cardin nervously asks him.

“No, it’s the old Emperor of Mistral – of course it was him. And you just ate it right out of his hand!” Kassius argues as he slumps down to his bed, resting his elbows on his legs.

“Kassius – we can argue about this later but don’t you remember what he just said? We have ninety minutes until we are free. We need to stay focused and get to where they have our weapons stored.” Cardin explains to Kassius as he flicks the Isomacium bars that prevent them from leaving into the outside world beyond this cell.

“Do you know where that is?” Kassius asks him.

“Yeah – problem is it is on the other side of the damned coliseum – I hope Umbra’s plan to get us out is good because those guards need to be distracted.” Cardin explains as he looks up the steps to where it leads to the ground level. Until he turns and he sees a Bandit storming towards their cell with an annoyed look on his face.

“Oi! Shut your traps you filthy scabs!” The Bandit spits, slamming his baton against the bars where Cardin had wrapped his fingers around. Cardin steps back and the bang from the Isomacium rings loud, but Kassius continues to ponder on what Umbra said. That they will get out in ninety minutes.

So far they have lost approximately one whole minute.

Kassius cracks his neck and he stops worrying and focuses on the bigger matter at hand – their escape with the help of their true enemy.

Alright – Operation Smart-Ass in effect.

Kassius stands tall, laces his fingers together and pushes them outwards to click them – despite the fact that one arm is metal but he doesn’t really care. He approaches the bars and he smirks at the Bandit yelling at them. “Hey so I’m wondering are these cells five stars...or four?” Kassius wonders as he leans his arm against the metal bars, getting a puzzled look from the Bandit as a response.

“Back off asswipe! You’re lucky you’re not in the ground.” The Bandit growls with annoyance.

“Gosh after a welcome this warm, who wouldn’t wanna just stay forever?” Kassius squeaks with laughter, and Cardin chuckles a little, able to tell that Kassius is just distracting him, hoping Umbra’s plan will be...explosive.

“Man you are insufferable.” The Bandit groans.

“Yep. And for two hundred lien, you get to hear my greatest joke! Ready for the punch line? And a one, and a two and a!” Before he finishes the bandit whacks the bars of the cell wall to get him to back off. Kassius gasps, amber eyes bulging from his face.

“I swear to god, I will pay you fourteen and a half lien to shut up.” The Bandit groans as he fiddles in his pocket, just feeding into Kassius’ smartass of a mouth.

“Fourteen lien? And a half? Wow I’m already planning my retirement.” Kassius sighs with fake joy, planting his hands on his hips as he stares up at the ceiling like he is posing heroically for the camera.

“Dude if you think all this talk is gonna make me let you out, you’re wrong. You’re not going anywhere.” The Bandit states with a defeated voice.

“Well in that case I want a box of Pumpkin Pete’s Marshmallows, a video game for my scroll which needs recharging actually...aaaaaand let’s see...oh yeah – a Pony!” Kassius cheers, acting like a little kid with his unending sarcastic statements, just causing the bandit to explode with rage at his quick wittedness.

“Oh by the gods, will you be quiet!” The Bandit yells with desperation, but Kassius refuses to let up, he can even hear Hyde snickering in the back of his head.

“No wonder Yang fell in love with you, you’re perfect for each other.” Cardin chuckles as he watches, only wishing he had a bag of popcorn with him, seeing how Kassius is managing to make a man lose his mind from his relentless smartass personality eat away at him.

“You two are never getting out, how many times must I say it? Not even the gods are getting you out.” The Bandit states, rubbing his brow.

“Well it looks like we are in luck! Because I am the messenger of the gods, and I am here to free this good chap from his shackles!” Kassius cheers in an over the top posh voice, before he raises his hand and swings it in a Karate Chop motion into the bar. “HAIYAH!” Kassius cries out, and his hand smashes against the Isomacium and creates a soft bang, hardly even denting the metal or even making a sound. Pain shockwaves up his arm and he gasps with agony from how much that hurt. “Ow...” He winces softly as he grabs his hand and bounces around.

The Bandit scoffs as Kassius grabs his hand, bouncing on the spot like a little kid. “’Bout time you shut up.”

“You know buddy – we are getting out of here.” Kassius assures as he stands tall again, shaking the pain from his hand.

“No you’re not!”

“Yes we are.”

“No you’re not!”

“Yeah we are!”

“No you’re –”

Suddenly the ceiling above him explodes as a missile shoots into the building and the explosion blows the Isomacium door off, and the Bandit gets buried underneath the rubble. The large heavy chunks of concrete land on his head, splattering blood everywhere, killing him instantly, body still twitching from the shock. Kassius stands there by the open door and he looks at the body. “Told ya.” Kassius states as he and Cardin both run out from their cell, but as they approach the stairs, they see a Bullhead with a familiar symbol painted on the side of its hull.

The blood red Beowulf with three slash marks through it.

“White Fang...Umbra’s got a funny way of freeing his prisoners.” Kassius scoffs as he looks around, seeing the Bandits rushing around desperately to find their weapons. Kassius turns to Cardin, since he has been here longer than Locke has. “Alright, where’re we going, Winchester?”

Cardin stretches out his arm and points at a tent across the coliseum past many guards that stand in their way. But as they stare at it, Kassius notices a familiar pair of individuals in one of the Bullheads.

The huge man jumps down with his armour strapped on and a huge Chainsword growling with thick black smoke billowing out from the engine that chugs. His full faced mask with glowing red visors around his eyes and a rocket launcher strapped round his torso, he is here to bring destruction to the Traffickers. Mazen looks around, and for once Kassius actually doesn’t want to stop him – these Bandits are monsters so they deserve everything that they get.

Landing down beside him is Corsac, his hood still pulled up and both Spiral Daggers in his hands, charges up with fire dust, prepared to bring destruction with the new High leader of the White Fang. He also has new Elite White Fang soldiers at his side, one of them is a young woman with a serpent like look to her body. Very slender with arching orange eyes and a forked tongue, hissing softly with a pair of knives with poison coating the blades.

Beside her is Hyena Faunus, one that also looks insane from the mad laughter that they can here from all the way over here, with small rounded ears poking through his brown hair. His eyes are bright yellow that look like they glow in the dark as well. He holds a pair of hammers, ready to bludgeon anyone in his path, in which he charges off immediately. Another is a Warthog Faunus, with curved tusks protruding from his jaws and muscular features on his body, with thick fur around his neck, like a mane.

Then a third drops down, quite similar to Yuma in fact, however instead of being a bat he appears to be an Eagle. He has huge feathered wings that stretch out from his back with mechanical legs with razor sharp talons attached to the bottom of his toes, digging into the back of one of the soldiers, who wails in agony as he falls face first to the floor, blood pouring from his wounds. He draws his bow and he pulls it back, and the arrow transforms with flames igniting around it. He fires it towards one of the Bandits fighting across the Coliseum from them, and it hits him in the spine, igniting his clothes and flesh.

The Bandit wails in agony, flailing around to try and put out the flames but his life ends as he  falls into a pit of highly explosive barrels. That explode and throw chunks of debris burning constantly into the air.

Cardin and Kassius both watch as the Elite Faunus arrive, with Mazen Ursus leading the charge as the High Leader after the death of Adam Taurus. “Mazen...alright let the White Fang handle the Traffickers. Let’s just get to where our weapons are and get our gear.” Kassius explains, and Cardin nods.

“Got your back.” Cardin assures, and Kassius gives him a surprised look.

“Cardin Winchester taking orders?” He chuckles.

“I can be a team player, Kassius.” He reminds with a smirk.

 

Mazen

 

Mazen walks slowly with his Chainsword held tightly in his hand, ready to attack any of the Bandits that challenge him. Corsac walks with him, and the Fox Brother turns his head when he spots a Bandit charging towards him with a mace held above his head, screaming idiotically. Corsac ducks down then pushes up ninety degrees, driving both his daggers into the Bandit’s Chest, pushing him back before ripping them from his chest. The Bandit gasps in agony as his blood squirts from his two punctured wounds, limping back as he presses his hands to the bloodies holes. The sanguine fluid drooling down his hands as he stands there.

Corsac roars, jumping and slamming both his feet down into the Bandit’s chest to knock him to the floor. With both blades he drives them straight into the eyes of the Bandit, his screams of burning agony echo past him until he twists them. The Bandit’s body jolts and he gargles, killed with ruptured eyes in his face, blood everywhere. Corsac has more ferocity now after the death of his youngest twin brother, with his fists clenched and teeth gritted together, he is furious.

Always wanting to get revenge.

Whereas Mazen walks forward as two of the men charge straight at him, but Mazen just grabs one of them by the throat and he slashes the Chainsword across the chest of the other Bandit. The barbed teeth cut clean through his armour plating and churns up his flesh, grinding the bones down with blood spraying everywhere. He still holds the Bandit by the neck, slowly squeezing the life force from him, until there is a crunch from him crushing his windpipe, throwing him down the stairs.

The body of the Bandit tumbles down the stone steps, and one of the Bandits running towards them trips over his body, his face hitting and scraping across the sharp steps. He grunts in pain, only to die from the feeling of the Chainsword being pushed down his back. Mazen has used hardly any energy as he keeps moving forward, looking around. “White Fang!” Mazen bellows through his mask, looking around to all the Faunus Soldiers that storm the Coliseum that the Traffickers have taken over. “Clear out these pests and find our brothers and sisters!” Mazen bellows as he holds his Chainsword above his head.

“What about the Human Prisoners?” Corsac asks him as he stares at some human slaves cowering in terror of their fates being undecided. Mazen stares at them and he sighs, walking right past them.

“Do not harm them, let them find their own path.” Mazen orders, but the Eagle Faunus lands down beside him with confusion.

“What? They would abandon us just like they did before!” He questions, almost disrespectfully, but Mazen just stares him down.

“Then we must be better – we came here to free our people. Let the humans find their own way.” Mazen orders, walking past him as he snarls, charging up his Chainsword to make his attack. He grabs onto the Chainsword with both hands and he swings it downwards with fury, slashing straight across the head of one of the Bandits that rushes towards him. Blood scatters across the area as he walks forward. He stands at the centre of the battlefield and he turns to his Elite Faunus.

He speaks with a powerful voice, turning to the Eagle Faunus first. “Arkaas!” Mazen bellows, getting the Elite’s attention, staring at him with large blue eyes and ruffling his white and gold feathers. “Search for as many Faunus Prisoners as you can, Kaa go with him.” Mazen orders as he stands tall.

“Understood.” Arkaas agrees with the firm nod of his head, taking his bow and spreading his wings out, swinging them as he takes off into the air. Kaa follows him in the same direction, whereas Mazen stays and turns to the Hyena and the Warthog.

“Kardas, Anto – I want the two of you to go after the Bandits. Wipe them out.” Mazen orders, and the Hyena Faunus known as Kardas laughs maniacally as he holds both his hammers in his hands, with a maniacal smirk on his face as he laughs, whereas Anto the Warthog is calmer but just as vicious.

“Gladly!” Kardas laughs, as he charges towards the Bandits that run towards him. He jumps at them and he takes both his hammers, smashing them repeatedly into the skull of the Bandit he landed on. The Bandit tries to scream but his head caves in before he even has the chance to, blood splattering all over Kardas already, whereas Anto takes his axe and he slams it straight into the neck of the bandit, before ripping it out and hitting him again and again until his head flies off his shoulders.

Mazen looks away from his vicious soldiers and looks to his second in command – Corsac Albain, the last of the Albains left. “And us?” Corsac asks.

“We will track down the leader of these Bandits and we will kill him.” Mazen answers, clenching his hand into a fist and their eyes move up to the balcony above the arena itself, where he was sat when Kassius was inside of that arena the previous day. Mazen walks with Corsac, and overhead they see Kaa climbing up the pillar that leads to the very top of second floor, where Arkaas just flies towards. He spins through the air as he folds his wings away, and he draws his bow as he rotates round, firing an arrow that stabs straight into the chest of one of the Bandits.

The Bandit grunts, falling to the floor, and as the Eagle Faunus lands, Kaa climbs up and she charges forward with her two poisonous daggers in her hands, and she throws one of them into the chest of the victim. He immediately vomits and chokes in agony, falling to one knee, only for her to run at him and stab him right up the neck with her other blade, before pulling the first from his chest. He roars in pain as he falls to the floor, and she jumps up and wraps he slender legs around the next Bandit’s neck.

She and him both fall to the floor and she winks at him with a smile, her Viper-Like eyes staring into his. “You boys like girls huh? I’ll give you some fun.” Kaa promises as she opens her cleavage slightly to show her femininity, only for her mouth to open and her canines to fold out like the fangs of a snake. The Bandit’s eyes widen with horror and he screams as she plunges her fangs into his neck, pumping venom into his system. She rises up with blood around her mouth, before grabbing the other Bandit running at her by the neck. She twirls round and presses her body to his, looking up at him. “Hey there, handsome.” She coos, planting a kiss on him.

He jolts, as he feels a burning feeling travel from his lips and into his blood stream, only at the worst moment does he realise that Kaa wears poisonous lipstick. She truly lives up to the reputation of being a Serpentine Faunus, she has the venom and the cunning to take people down with ease.

Arkaas soars overhead and his metal legs extend as he grabs onto the shoulders of a Bandit, who screams in pain as the talons dig into his shoulders, he carries him in the air, staring down at him with a maniacal smirk on his face. “Going down?” He asks him, releasing him into a pit of feral dogs used in the Arenas.

“No! Help me!” He wails as the dogs swarm around him, savagely ripping him apart with barks and growls, ripping chunks of flesh from his bones as we wails for help. Dying slowly and painfully to the teeth and claws of the dogs that they starved for their own pleasures. Arkaas grins, before he flies towards a bunch of cages. The cages have Working Slaves trapped inside and he shoots the mechanism that keeps all of the cages locked.

“Stay if you wish to fight for the White Fang, leave if you want to be free!” Arkaas demands, yelling both to Humans and Faunus who want freedom. He turns and he draws his bow back when he sees a Bandit with a rifle aimed at him, so he fires and sends a bullet flying right towards him. Arkaas spins through the air, using his wings to his advantage to avoid that bullet. It shoots past him but the Eagle draws his bow back and fires it towards the soldier, and the arrow shoots straight into his eye. The Bandit dies instantly, and he plummets off the side of the platform, crashing into the ground below with a thunderous bang.

Across the Coliseum from them...

A bandit screams in terror as he gets dragged behind a door by Kardas who drops his hammers and personally beats this man to death with his own hands. His insanity is rivalled only to Tyrian’s, and even then he is not that far off. He punches him so fast and so hard that the blood begins to pool out from round the corner, crushing his head after he pushes his thumbs into the man’s eyes. He writhes and screams in agony as Kardas squashes his head like a melon, blood splattering everywhere.

He turns and picks up his hammer and he throws it straight into the back of a fleeing Bandit, the head of the hammer breaks his spine pretty much instantaneously, bringing him to the ground and crying in terror and in agony. He crawls with desperation, and Kardas bashes his head in with the hammer over and over again until his head is a pulpy mess on the floor. He laughs maniacally as he holds his arms back, screaming to the night sky. Blood drops off his brown hair as he stands tall, giggling constantly with his reflective yellow eyes searching for more Bandits to kill. He leaves the prisoners alone, per Mazen’s order that he gave him before he went in search for Kelham.

He keeps walking but he turns his head when he sees Anto slamming his axe into the head of a Bandit over and over again. Anto turns, charging forward at great speed and stabbing his tusk straight into the neck of the Bandit, causing him to choke on his own blood. Anto lifts him up before ripping him from the tusk, throwing him on the floor. These Elite Faunus are far more deranged than the last ones that he had, they were more like soldiers.

But these?

They are more like prisoners of war – who lost their minds.

The Elite Butchers continue to slaughter the Bandits like cows in a farm, just far less humane than anything that a farmer would do. They are showing themselves like the monsters that humanity fear them as.

Away from where they are, Mazen and Corsac keep moving, and the Last Albain charges towards the Bandits that protect the entrance to where Kelham must be hiding. He takes both his blades and he jumps towards him, stabbing them straight into the chest of one of the Bandits, killing him instantly. He ducks down to avoid the Highwayman’s swing, only for Mazen to grab him by the head with his huge hand. With all his might, Mazen cracks his head against the wall with force, blood spraying up the side of the wall from the impact. His dead hunk of meat slumps to the floor, blood pouring from the side of his head as Mazen keeps walking.

The two of them keep moving up, and it looks like most of the Bandits are gone, Thorn included. Mazen walks up the steps more and more, seeing a Bandit crawling with fear, only for Corsac to stab him in the heart to finish him off. Whereas Mazen just keeps walking up the spiralling stairs. His heavy footfalls are always so familiar, because he has such a hulking body, walking up these steps with that Chainsword in his hand.

Finally, he reaches the door and he pushes it open to see Kelham standing in his office. His back turned to Mazen and a smirk on his face, his sword resting on his chair. “It’s over, Kelham. Release our people.” Mazen demands with a snarling voice, but Kelham just chuckles.

“Y’know...I was wondering when you would turn up, old friend.” He scoffs, turning to face him with his eyes focusing onto the mask.

“You’ve grown old.” Mazen scoffs.

“I’d presume the same of you – if I could see past that mask of yours.” He states as he shrugs his shoulders. Kelham sighs with his hands at his side, turning to the coffee machine as Corsac enters. “Care for a coffee?” He asks him, but Mazen doesn’t answer, so he looks at Corsac. “What about you, Foxie?”

“Your time trafficking people is over, Kelham.” Corsac states, but he just chuckles as he pours himself a cup of black coffee with no sugars at all.

“Ah, straight to the point huh? See why Mazen likes you, no fun at parties obviously.” He chuckles as he takes his coffee and drinks it slightly, exhaling as he leans against his table. Constantly calm as he stares Mazen down. “So – how’s Adam doing?”

“He is dead.” Mazen answers coldly, and Kelham sighs.

“What a shame...I always did like him.” Kelham states, as he turns his neck to reveal the scales of his a lizard.

He is a Faunus.

And used to be part of the White Fang.

“Did he at least get young lass to marry him?” Kelham wonders, picturing the face of Blake Belladonna when she was younger – and how he is out of the loop.

“Blake Belladonna killed him – betrayed him and all of us. We are going to destroy Atlas and will rebuild a new trust between Humanity and Faunus.” Mazen explains, showing that he does not fight for the extermination of Humanity, but for what he has always fought for.

Equality.

“So what? You can only be equal when Atlas is out of the picture? What stops Humans from treating our kind any worse simply because of what we did?” Kelham wonders as he fiddles with his coffee.

“They will understand, it has been taken over by Jacques Schnee and the Acolytes of Lien, we would be doing them a favour.” Mazen explains as he stands before him, walking closer into the room, but Kelham does not look worried at all, with his fingers close to his red Khopesh on the chair beside him.

“A favour? Please – Humans never forget and are vengeful, just as we are.” He states.

“At least we haven’t fallen to selling people, Kelham.” Corsac reminds with a snarl in his voice, but all he does his shrug his shoulders.

“Slave Trade sells well, everyone likes a servant you know.” Kelham chuckles.

“Our people were treated as slaves for long enough. No more – we will take what the Traffickers have and we will move onto the next Slave Camp. But I will not let you escape this time.” Mazen states, but Kelham drops his coffee on the floor, the black hot liquid pours everywhere.

“Try and stop me.” Kelham chuckles as he swiftly grabs the hilt of his Khopesh and slices the air behind him, forming a red and black portal behind him. “See you around, Mazen.” Kelham departs as he jumps through the portal backwards, smirking all the way through as the portal closes behind him. Mazen swung at the worst moment, the portal collapsing just as it would have touched him.

Defeatedly, Mazen growls as he clenches his hands tight. “Damn it.”

 

Kassius

 

The Traffickers have fallen, with the White Fang storming in and gunning every single one that they spot down, and the Elite Faunus hacking them all down one by one...for once the two of them are actually on the same side as the White Fang. But that does not mean that they will risk being spotted by them. Kassius and Cardin keep low to the ground, for they can see the tent where their weapons are being stored along with their gear.

Cardin can see his armour he has always worn along with his mace, and Kassius can see his clothes and his jacket just shoved in the corner with both Lash Equinox and Vulcan Nox sat there too. Meaning they can get to their weapons, real question is how the hell are they even getting out of here. They both look back and forth as they charge towards their weapons and clothes. They have no time to get changed yet, so they are wearing their Arena gear for now.

They shove their clothes into some bags and they run with their weapons towards a gate that is still open that some bandits are using to escape. But are being shot down by the White Fang that wait outside. They cannot escape that way, so they turn to run back to the centre.

But when they turn...

They see Mazen standing at the end of the path.

He stares straight at them, and after the last confrontation that Kassius had with Mazen, it followed up with a fight between them. However Corsac is not there, and Mazen has not even drawn his Chainsword. Then, Mazen raises his fingers to the comms in his helmet to communicate with a specific regiment of White Fang. “East Gate – we have some prisoners escaping, hold fire.” Mazen orders, and Kassius’ eyes widen.

All Mazen does is nod.

Kassius never expected that, so in return he nods back and they both turn and run in that direction. As they turn the corner out of Mazen’s sight, Corsac steps round the corner, unaware that a friend of the killer of his brother was right there. “Mazen? Are you alright?” He asks.

“Yes – fine.” Mazen assures, as he turns and walks away.

He let them go.

Kassius and Cardin keep running further and further, but when they do they both gasp from who they see in the dirt with blood all over them. It is the body of Neryth, the prostitute granddaughter of Nadine, the medic. They both crouch down, and it looks like she was shot, in the back of the head. She never even knew what hit her.

Kassius sighs, closing her eyes so then she can rest, until they hear a cough next to them. They both walk over and they see a second person still alive, but dying. It is Nadine, and she has also been shot, in the stomach and she is bleeding out. “Oh no...Hold on Nadine.” Kassius whispers to her as he crouches down, holding her hand as Cardin presses his hands against the bullet wound she suffered.

She coughs but then she softly laughs. “How you have changed, Cardin...never thought you would be here...trying to save me.” She laughs softly. Cardin nervously laughs as he also tries to help her.

“Try not to move, you’re going to be okay.” Cardin promises as he keeps her still. But she sits up slowly, content with her fate, setting her eyes on the body of her granddaughter.

“No...this is where...I get off.” Nadine assures with a soft spoken voice, wincing in pain as she holds the hand of Cardin with her elderly ones.

“C’mon don’t talk like that. You’re gonna survive this.” Kassius promises.

“Kassius – I am an old woman, I am not going to survive a bullet wound.” She softly says to him with a smile, caressing his cheek. “You really are such a handsome young boy...promise me you will find your girlfriend?” She asks him with a smile.

“I...I will...” He promises with a kind smile.

Nadine looks up to the vast expanse of stars above her head and she sighs, even she has noticed that there are less of them now than there were years ago. But this is not down to pollution – the Vacuo Desert has always had incredible displays at night. With the Moon breaking apart more and more with every day that passes by – every star goes out with it.

Soon the Shivering Dominion will arrive, and the end of their universe will follow if they do not stop Vir Nominis Umbra.

“Who did this to you, Nadine?” Kassius asks her with a nervous voice. She coughs in pain, feeling the blood in her body leaving with every second.

“Thorn...” She answers, and Kassius grits his teeth with anger when he pictures his face, as does Cardin. “He still has your hat.” She jokes.

“Well...when I kill him it’ll be for more than that.” Kassius promises with stern eyes, searching the treeline for him, seeing the footprints that trail into the woods.

Kassius continues to hold her hand with his human one,  making sure that she does not die alone. “What a beautiful night...” She softly says to them, as she looks at Kassius. “Never give in on your family...either of you...family is all we have.” She softly says to both of them, before she grabs onto Cardin and pulls him close.

“Cardin...you have to believe again.” She whispers, before he hears the sound of her breath leaving her body, and the muscles loosening  and her pulse coming to an end. Kassius’ eyes sink when Nadine dies in their arms, her pupils dilating as the light leaves her soul. They both hang their heads sadly.

Then Kassius clenches his hand into a fist.

“Thorn...we will kill him for this.” Kassius snarls.

“But what about her?” Cardin asks, and he looks down at their bodies, and they wish that they could bury them.

“I guess...we should hope that Mazen does it for us.” Kassius states, and Cardin looks at him with saddened eyes. He holds his Mace in his hands, and Kassius tightens his grip when he draws Lash Equinox.

“We kill Thorn – then we find Umbra.” Cardin states.

“Done.” Kassius agrees.

They both set off, following the tracks that move away from where Nadine and Neryth were found, and they can only hope the White Fang will have the honour to bury two human prisoners that never deserved to become slaves. They both continue through the thick forest, the border between the desert and the forest is completely hidden, for it suddenly transforms on a perfect line. Kassius and Cardin both follow the blood trail further through the forest.

And as they travel, they hear the snarls of Grimm around them, barking and hissing. Charging from the brush are Beowulves and other kinds of smaller Grimm. Kassius ducks down as Cardin swings his mace round and smashes it straight across the skull of the Beowulf, killing it instantly. Kassius slashes his sword across the throat of a charging Creep then he spins the other blade of Lash Equinox downwards and through the roof of its head. Killing it swiftly, before he turns and fires Vulcan Nox and nails a Beowulf in the eye.

Cardin roars as he jumps in the air, mace held over his head and he activates the red dust crystal inside, creating a powerful explosion that throws the Grimm into the air. Kassius throws Lash Equinox and it stabs into the chest of an Ursa. The huge Bear grunts in pain but the grunt follows with a deep growl, lumbering towards them to swing its clawed paw at them. Cardin rolls underneath the swing and he smashes the Mace into its belly, causing it to hunch forward, but Kassius jumps off Cardin’s back, catching his sword and he slams them both together.

The metal shifts and the two swords combine together, two long blades extending outwards to form a double ended spear that he can launch straight into the skull of the Ursa that they battle. The Ursa roars but its bellow is immediately silenced by its outcry. They can hear the hoops of rare Vacuo Grimm named Mandrills, large monkeys with black fur and white crests over their snouts, huge curved canines that can plunge deep into flesh. The Mandrill roar as they jump through the trees to attack them.

Cardin grabs one by the neck and he crushes its throat with his hand before throwing it into another, then swinging his mace downwards and crushing the other that leaps at him. Kassius spirals his spear through his fingers, slashing three of them out of the air before thrusting upwards to stab through the gut of one that leaps at him. Black smoke surrounds them as they continuously cuts down the Creatures of Grimm drawn to their anger of the death of Nadine.

Cardin crushes the last of them with his mace, fury in his eyes but he never unleashed the Wickerman’s Fury, staring at his own reflection only to be repulsed by the puddle, and walking away from his own manifestation. Kassius watches him as he keeps walking, but then they hear the cry of a familiar voice.

Thorn.

They push through the brush, and they find him – and he is hardly even worth fighting. His leg ripped to shreds from the Grimm that must have been drawn from his terror to the hate of two men. He still wears Kassius’ stetson, and blood pools out as rain begins to fall from the weather change in the rainforest. He coughs in pain as he stares at Kassius. “P-Please...help me...” He begs with a terrified voice.

Kassius and Cardin both glare at him, and they were relishing the idea of killing him.

But now?

He is not worth it.

Not with the distant Grimm closing in on the kill, not even looking at them, just sensing the fear of one Bandit bleeding out. “C’mon man...I have contacts! I can help you.”

But they both say nothing.

Kassius walks over to him, and he reaches down to his stetson and he takes it off his head, batting the water from the crest of the hat. He slowly puts it back on, and he glares right into Thorn’s eyes. “Told you I’d get it back.” Kassius snarls, turning and walking away from him, and Cardin does not even question it.

“W-Wait! Please help me!” He begs, but Cardin stops and looks back at him.

“Did you give Neryth of Nadine help?” Cardin asks him, staring at the gun with no bullets left on the floor. They say nothing more, turning and walking away from Thorn as the Grimm close in on him. He whimpers with terror in the puddle, his back pressed up to the tree.

“Please! No! Help! No! Ahhh!” He wails as the Grimm leap at him, and they ignore the sounds of his wails and the horrific sound of flesh tearing, bones breaking and blood filling the puddles. His hand twitches as his screams become muffled under the sheer amount of Grimm that feast on him, ripping flesh and skin away, disembowelling him and crushing bones.

They both just keep walking.

His blood taints the muddy water, and on that night.

The Traffickers were no more.

Kassius and Cardin both keep walking, in the hopes of coming across this Crossroads that Vir Nominis Umbra had mentioned. Yet both of them felt such a feeling of closure from killing that evil bastard, because they never had to lift a finger. All Kassius did was take his hat back, and they left him behind to be fed on by the Grimm.

Cardin looks at Kassius, seeing that anger on his face again. “You okay?” He asks him.

“Yeah – let’s just keep moving and find a way out of here.” Kassius states.

“Okay...” Cardin agrees, until suddenly they hear the sound of branches breaking around them. Both of them draw their weapons, rainfall pattering against the leaves and ground, and the brim of Kassius’ Stetson. Icy cold, and the constant sound of something moving through the bushes gets closer and closer.

“Do you hear that?” Kassius asks him.

“Yeah...it’s close.” Cardin agrees.

“Be ready.” Kassius warns, since in here it could be an animal, not just a Creature of Grimm. But in the dark and in the middle of a storm, the lightning and the thunder makes their situation far more dangerous.

Rustling gets louder and louder, along with twigs snapping nearby, and Kassius looks around, figuring out where it is.

Behind us!

Kassius and Cardin both spin round and Kassius aims Vulcan Nox, turning on the flashlight built into the firearm and what is about to jump out at them.

Except it is not an animal or a Grimm.

She is a young woman with medium-brown skin and dark-red eyes. Her hair is a light, mint-green cut with a straight fringe and bangs, as well as two long locks on each side, in the back. She wears two bronze-coloured rings on her middle fingers as well as a pair of high-heeled shoes. With three claw marks across her side, blood running down her hand and her leg, she has been wounded as well.

Kassius and Cardin both widen their eyes in utter disbelief when they realise who this woman is.

Her mint green cut hair is messier than they remember and she no longer has any makeup on for how long she has been on the run.

She is pale too, sick most likely.

Panting heavily.

Kassius says her name with disbelief. “Emerald?”

Emerald stares back, but then her eyes roll into the back of her head.

And she collapses, passing out from the pain.

Chapter Text

Kassius

 

Cardin smashes his shoulder straight through a wooden door, which has been weathered down over the years by the elements. He stumbles inside as the door swings open, breaking the lock that held it shut. He steps aside so then Kassius get gat in, carrying the unconscious body of Emerald in his arms, still bleeding pretty heavily from her would. A wound that really needs treating right now. He paces over to one of the wooden pews inside, for the building that they have found is a church.

Little do they even know that they have practically stumbled onto the location of where they were to meet with Vir Nominis Umbra. Probably part of his plan all along, finding Emerald and getting her to safety. Emerald’s blood leaks down onto Kassius’ metal hand as he sets her down, and then onto the oak seat that they have laid her down onto. “Shit...she needs bandaging.” Kassius mutters as he looks around. “Stitches too! If you can find any medical alcohol then that would be good too.” Kassius calls as he walks away from Emerald, searching through the cabinets left behind. This place must have been attacked by the Grimm years ago due to the slashes in the wood and the smashed windows.

Cardin walks round one of the pews and his eyes widen when he sees the remnants of a skeleton lying there, crushed ribs and torn off limbs, stains of blood all over the floor. There were clearly still people inside of this church. He looks up to see the statue of a young woman with her hands held up over her head as she looks up to the stars. It appears to be one of the many old Religions that are dead now, a religion of which that worshipped the Maidens as Goddesses. But after Ozpin and his Inner Circle came about, they made certain to keep the Maidens in hiding and make sure that nobody ever remembered them.

But the shards of their forgotten past still remain.

Cardin glances down to the weak Emerald Sustrai on the floor, softly groaning in pain from the three slash marks across her curved side. There is so much blood right now, leaking down the side of the pew in long warm stringy streams of claret. But as he stares at her, flashing memories come back in his mind, seeing the footage of Penny being ripped apart, Coco being tricked by her in their fight with Yatsuhashi and Mercury. The time where Yang broke Mercury’s leg – or so everyone thought she did – because of her.

She is the reason Beacon fell, why so many good Huntsmen and Huntresses lost their lives and the rest fled into hiding to survive. He tightens his grip on his mace, feeling like he should kill her right now before she betrays them as well. “Why the hell are we even helping her after everything she has done?” Cardin questions with a deep snarl, staring straight at the green haired Huntress on the pew. Kassius stops rifling through the different medications and things he has come across inside of the cabinets of the Monk’s Quarters. They have always kept medical supplies inside, and by the looks of it there are still some inside that are in date. Meaning that the Church was still being used, perhaps five years ago when everything was going wrong.

It would not be crazy to assume, the world was falling apart and people were losing faith. Maybe that is what happened here, people were massacred by the Grimm because they sensed their dread, sorrow and grief. Nothing crueller than the Grimm, because they feed off negative emotions, meaning even after an attack, there is always the chance of a second starting because of recovery emotions.

Kassius looks back at Cardin with his amber eyes, staring straight at him through the opened up doorway. “What?” Kassius questions, seeing Cardin ready to club her to death with his massive mace.

“She caused the Battle of Beacon to start in the first place, so many people died because of her. Why are we helping her after what she did?” He snarls with anger, ready to kill him. Kassius narrows his eyes as he steps out from the Monk’s Quarters.

“I didn’t kill you after what I heard.” He reminds, crossing his arms, and Cardin stares at him.

“If I remember correctly I spared you.” Cardin states, remembering how he was the one that won that fight.

“Only because I didn’t let the monster inside me come out, if I did you wouldn’t be standing here right now.” Kassius explains as he walks round him and he crouches down beside Emerald, feeling her skin getting colder and colder. But there is nothing he can do for her until they clean and fix up her wound. He presses the back of his hand to her head, and she feels like a furnace – she has definitely gained a fever as well.

It is not looking good for Emerald right now.

“Come on...we need to find some meds for her.” Kassius explains, brushing past Cardin but then he shakes his head.

“Why is this so important to you?” Cardin questions, turning round as Kassius passes him. He stops, then turns to look at Winchester.

“What do you mean?” He questions.

“Saving her life? You know she is on the enemy’s side.” Cardin reminds.

“Not anymore, I dunno if you haven’t noticed by she has been on the run for five years. And if Grimm are attacking her then she is no longer on Umbra’s side, or Salem’s.” Kassius explains, pointing outside to wherever Umbra could be. He could be watching them at this very second with his Crow Spies listening to every single word that they say.

“You’re not answering my question, Kassius.” Cardin states with narrowed eyes, Kassius sighs because he knows the answer could cause issues between the two of them. But he deserves to know.

“My sister would never forgive me, I’m not blind and not deaf – she loves Emerald and I want to get her back to her.” Kassius explains, and any other man would smile to see how kind and selfless Kassius is being. But Cardin catches on immediately, because of the three there was only one other girl excluding Emerald.

“Cinder? Cinder Fall is your goddamn sister?” Cardin yells with anger as he swings mace with fury to his side, walking towards Kassius who sighs, and rubbing his brow.

“That isn’t her real  name – but yeah – she’s my younger twin sister.” Kassius explains, since the age gap between them is only a few weeks. Cardin bites his lip with anger, tensing up constantly at this revelation.

“She destroyed Beacon! How can you possibly side with the bitch?” Cardin yells.

“Hey! Watch your tone, Cardin. She has changed, she wants to atone for the things she has done and she is trying her damndest to make it right! Do not ever call her that again!” Kassius bellows, his eyes glowing fiery orange for a second there, Hyde nearly took control and with their current situation as dire as it is right now, the last thing they need is to start fighting in a church with Emerald bleeding out.

“You weren’t there! You never saw the destruction I saw!” Cardin yells.

“I was at Haven! Of course I did! The attack was way worse there, casualties reached the thousands because of how far reaching the damn place is! There are still hundreds of dead bodies still undiscovered! Don’t tell me I don’t know what destruction looks like.” Kassius defends with anger in his voice, clenching his metal hand into a fist. Cardin shakes his head in disgust, nothing is getting into his thick skull. He turns and glares at Emerald, and he yells with fury.

“She needs to die!” He roars, swinging the mace downwards towards her head, but Kassius catches the mace with his metal arm and pulls it from his grasp, throwing it across the room before punching Cardin in the jaw with his other fist. Cardin howls, lunging forward and tackling Kassius to the ground, punching him in the face over and over again. Each punch causes Kassius’ rage to build and build. Cracks burn across his face as Hyde takes over and the Demonic Entity lets out a horrifying demented scream as he swings Kassius’ metal fist straight up and into Cardin’s jaw, throwing him into the air and crashing back down onto the ground.

Hyde rises back up, fists clenched and teeth gritted with snarling pants of breath, ready to start fighting. Cardin rises back up, looking almost as vicious as the entity that has taken over Kassius.

But...

They stop fighting, for they both notice something unnaturally chilling.

It is silent.

But mot silence that normal people are used to, because they would still hear the rustles of leaves, the breeze of the wind or the creaks of wood of the building settling.

Even the clock tick.

But there is nothing, like someone just hit the mute button on the television. Hyde relinquishes control and Kassius shudders slightly as he feels the demonic soul retreat back into him. Cardin looks at Emerald and there are droplets of blood hanging where they have fallen, not going any further. The cracked scars on Kassius’ face heal up as his amber aura repairs the damage, them he turns to the clock behind them.

It has stopped at 6:00 am.

It was ticking earlier.

Time has just stopped around them, that is when they hear the caws of crows, ravens and jackdaws outside of the church at the entrance. Then the whistling manifests outside, the whistling of a very familiar tune.

"A grin as candid as children, as sweet as bee honey,"

"His voice kind and sharp, as the blade of a razor,"

"Brings you from elder to youth, within the blink of an eye."

"Wishes be granted, be it: love, riches or luck,"

"His face like a mirror, fear shall consume you,"

"Anger through truth, loss through acceptance."

"For the end of your journey, Death will come for you,"

"Charcoal Cities, come waiting for you,"

"The Soothsayer shall wait, for his voice will control you,"

"Torment and Control, till the moon will shatter..."

It’s him...

He is here.

Kassius and Cardin both run to the doors of the church and they push them open, they swing open but as they exit they jarringly jolt back to how they were. Like they are in a constant time loop, and they look around as they hear the whistling that manifests from beyond their universe, their reality. Crows, Ravens and Jackdaws – all with glowing red eyes and crystal beaks – stare straight at them from the trees and the roof of the church.

Then they turn, and see him sat on the tombstone of a grave with one leg crossed over the other and a smirk on his face. Pretty symbolic, him sitting on a Grave like that. “Having a cute little spat, are we?” Vir Nominis Umbra wonders as he stares at the two of them – yet neither seem to be in a joking mood.

“You knew we would end up here, didn’t you?” Kassius questions with narrowed amber eyes.

“Of course I did – made sure dear old Emerald Sustrai was in the area so then a Beowulf would attack her, giving her some pretty extreme wounds. You having such a warm heart, Mr Locke – I knew you would have to pick her up and carry her to any building you came across. But I doubt you ever noticed the crossroads, did you?” Vir Nominis Umbra wonders, and Kassius looks down to see that exactly, four roads crossing apart at the same point just where the Church is. Vir Nominis Umbra chuckles sinisterly as he sits on the head of the gravestone.

“All part of your plan.” Cardin scoffs, but Kassius crosses his arms as he stares at him.

“How exactly did you help us? Seemed like the White Fang were headed their way to the Traffickers long before you showed up.” Kassius questions with confusion.

“Indeed, but your escape? I made it possible, altering the future possibilities of how the battle could go. If I wished that shell could have gone straight into your cell and killed both of you. Time and future events are like the pages of a scrap book, can be altered whenever you wish. This is not the first time I have done this for you either.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains, Kassius raises his brow with curiosity.

“Uh-huh? When?” He inquires.

“When you were searching for the bodies of your team five years ago, I knew you lost something only one fair soul could ever bring back. I found Yang Xiao Long tending a campfire one night and guided her to find the same motel you found – you finding your beloved. I made it possible, and now I have helped you again – so I feel you may owe me something in return.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains with a smirk, but Kassius grits his teeth with anger, staring at Cardin.

Kassius was right, what have they gotten themselves into? “We haven’t agreed to anything yet, remember – we only agreed to meet you here. Something we unintentionally happened to stumble into as well.” Kassius reminds as he looks around at the graveyard of which Vir Nominis Umbra has found a seat upon one gravestone.

“The way you freed us by the way? Pretty effective reminder of what you’re capable of.” Cardin states, if anything he is complimenting the Soothsayer.

“That was the purpose of it.” Vir Nominis Umbra agrees with the firm nod of his head, lifting his head to stare at the clouds, the frozen raindrops by their heads and the lightning flash every present in the dark clouds. “Incidentally – I find it quite funny how no matter what Universe I come across, there are always souls there who have this inner compunction to repay debts of gratitude.”

Kassius stares at the Soothsayer, weary of whatever it is he has planned, Vir Nominis Umbra is a master wordsmith and can catch anybody off guard with the way he says things. “Humans, Faunus – elves all races I’ve met.” Vir Nominis Umbra lists a few off the top of his head, even naming a race none of them have ever heard of – must have been a race of people from a now extinct universe. “You really must explain that to me, one day.”

Kassius ponders on the things he says, and no matter how many times he hears it – the power that this entity wields truly is beyond anybody’s comprehension. “As for the here and now – tell me, how did you manage with the White Fang and the Traffickers?” Vir Nominis Umbra asks them both, Kassius scratches the back of his neck as he answers him.

“Y’know I was kinda hoping for a less – dangerous escape. The White Fang and us aren’t exactly the greatest of buddies.” Kassius describes with a chuckle.

“Yet Mazen Ursus let you go – seems he has more honour than Corsac Albain or any other White Fang member I have seen.” Vir Nominis Umbra reminds with a smirk on  his face, sounding like he actually admires the Bear Faunus.

“Still – some of those White Fang members are total lunatics.” Kassius describes, remembering the sight of seeing Kardas, Kaa, Arkaas and Anto decimating the Bandits in that coliseum in horrifically brutal ways. Bashing their heads until they caved in.

“Indeed – Mazen Ursus freed them from an Insane Asylum a few months ago before he began his attack on the Bank, before you captured him. Sometimes you need unpredictable madness to destroy your enemies.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains, perhaps speaking from experience in his own past. “However dear old Mazen Ursus and his madmen are not the focus of which I am here to discuss with you.”

“Oh yeah? And what is?” Kassius asks him.

“I have always enjoyed reading the stories of real people – true human or Faunus lives, because you know that none of it has been orchestrated by the minds of a deranged author in their own fantasy. True tales are just fascinating – and one comes to mind that I know will interest you.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains to Kassius with his hands on his lap.

He scowls at the Soothsayer, still listening because he knows he cannot even harm him – despite how much he wants him to pay for what happened to Taiyang. “It’s about a man – worse than most – a liar and a cheat with a mind like a palace. A man that refuses to pay his debts.” Vir Nominis Umbra describes to him, but Kassius just scoffs, not feeling intrigued in the slightest.

“Why do you think this will interest me? I have known plenty of liars and cheats in my life.” Kassius states, but Umbra pushes his palms against the tombstone to stand up, and he approaches the two of them, his hands closing together – fingers touching.

“For he has wronged you as well – for many years. His name is Doctor Archer Merlot.” Vir Nominis Umbra reveals.

A chill runs through Kassius when hearing that name, the name that he also bears in the centre of his own – a middle name he never even knew he had in the first place. “Merlot? Isn’t that the dude Team R.W.B.Y and J.N.P.R met on their training mission? Crazy scientist, right?” Cardin curiously inquires.

“And Kassius Locke’s father, a man who preferred his wife would keep her Maiden Name opposed to being plagued by his own.” Vir Nominis Umbra adds, Cardin stares at Kassius with widened eyes, the surprises just keep coming and coming.

“What else don’t I know about you?” Cardin questions.

“That – is personal.” Kassius states to both of them, yet Umbra does not really seem to care about it. “What the hell did my father do to piss you off? Not like I give a damn, I only found out a few days ago.”

“Please, Kassius – you can lie to Cardin but you cannot lie to me. The little conversation you had with your father was none of my choosing, for he has learned information that he was never meant to uncover. And I know how your mind works, you believe in forgiveness ever since you spared Ilia Amitola from your own revenge. I know you want to help your father – but I am afraid that is not possible anymore.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains, able to understand the mind of Kassius Locke with ease – he knows everything about him.

“Then why the hell are you telling me this? If you do know as much about me as you claim then you know that I would never work for you – or even dare kill my father. I have been searching for him for years, and now that I know he has been sacrificing his own future to help our own, the least I owe the man is the chance to have a future of his own.” Kassius explains to him, getting a chuckle in response from Umbra.

“You are sweet, seems that Miss Xiao Long really has rubbed off on you. But as I said – Merlot’s story is coming to an end, however I cannot locate him.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains.

“Why?” Cardin questions.

“Before I tell you – there is something you should know about your father. Archer Merlot did wilfully and maliciously conspire with me for his own gain, not caring for your own future, Kassius. He made a deal with me and I bound the remnants of a destroyed son of mine as punishment for him, and as a way to keep Merlot in check. Do you want to know why he made a deal with me? Because he wanted to have power, money and everything else he ever wanted to stand above the rest of the world.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains as he walks towards him, but Kassius narrows his eyes.

“Yeah – and yet you can’t locate him. When I spoke with my father he never seemed like any of the things you pin him as. Who is to say that maybe your strength is waning?” Kassius wonders curiously, and Umbra chuckles at the little threat made towards him.

“Clearly you don’t like Kassius’ dad – what did he do to you?” Cardin wonders curiously, staying on topic despite Kassius’ defensive nature towards the father he hardly even knows.

“He betrayed my trust – went digging into the dregs of old memories to find a way to kill me. Something I cannot allow now he has found something – and thus I have decided to remove him from the picture and replace him with new scientists. Ones that do not share his desire to remain moral.” Vir Nominis Umbra describes with a scoff, and Kassius remembers what Merlot told him about the test subjects. He never wanted them to the Faunus, that was all part of Jacques’s orders. And now they are trying to kill him anyway, no honour among liars it seems. “Now that our pact has reached its conclusion, he has hidden himself away in a location I cannot find. Shirking his obligation to pay the debt he made.”

“You want us to kill my father? If you think I’d agree then clearly you don’t know who you are talking to.” Kassius states with animosity present in his eyes.

“Of course I do not want you to kill your father. I do not ask you to anything – you are in luck. I am offering you the chance to save your father – from me.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains as he walks around the two of them.

The last time Kassius has ever felt this puzzled is trying to figure out why Yang was annoyed at him. “Wait...what?”

“I know you would never cut down your father – and I am not here to turn you into my personal little proxies like I did with Neopolitan and Kannix Volantis. No, no, no – not at all. You see I have already provided you with a third ally, one who will be eternally grateful to you if you revive her to good health – and since she is in love with your sister. The opportunity to see her again is another piece of motivation.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains as he circles them with his hands always held closely together.

“Wait a minute – what are you saying?” Cardin questions in confusion.

“We both have similar desires right now – so I will aid you from time to time to locate your father. You will have to locate the Lost City of Arkhonex of course which will be a challenge in itself, however I do believe you already have another lead.” Vir Nominis Umbra says to him.

“Yeah? Where?” Kassius asks him as Vir Nominis Umbra stands ahead of them, he smirks and he pulls something out from one of his magical pouches. He turns and casually chucks a photograph to them.

“Catch.” He says, and Kassius catches the picture in his hand and his eyes widen, so do Cardin’s.

“Pyrrha’s Circlet...” Kassius mutters, then he remembers what he heard that Bandit mentioned before they got out of their cell.

“Have you heard about that Black Market Auction in the Fallingwater Estate on the far side of the Forest?” One of the Bandits asks.

“No, they have another going on?” He asks.

“Oh yeah, some really cool expensive stuff being sold there. Some old weapons, a Nikos Circlet from back in the day, a shield.”

“Fallingwater Estate...that’s nearby isn’t it?” Kassius mutters as he looks at the picture of her circlet where it is currently being held on Auction.

“The Arkhoni were fond of leaving hidden messages on their artefacts, such as locations and riddles. Like a little treasure hunt.” Umbra giggles as he rubs his hands together with excitement.

“Why the hell do you want us to do this? You have an entire army at your side.” Cardin questions with confusion in his voice.

“Aye, that I do. However I do enjoy seeing horse races – and I like to bet on which ones will win first. The same thing goes here, I want to know whether my allies or my enemies will locate Archer first.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains with his hands held out with a smile on his face.

“Is that all this is to you, a game?” Kassius questions with anger in his eyes.

“Of course it is! After all this is all part of my plan – but make no mistake as a travelling merchant I have many wares on offer whenever you need them. For I can either be your worst nightmare or your greatest ally.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains as he looks out at the landscape that stretches out before their eyes.

“Wares? What like?” Cardin asks him.

“They could be simple things needed to surpass a problem – or they could be rewards. Such as a bottomless wine glass, perhaps a satchel where you can pull out whatever you dream of. Unending youth, mind faster than lightning!” Vir Nominis Umbra lists, his eyes turn to Cardin with a grin. “Romantic prowess to charm all womankind?” He asks him, something even Cardin could not resist.

“Sure sounds generous – and you freed us so then you can help us along the way? Not exactly what I was expecting of you. Sure you won’t want anything else in return?” Kassius questions, still expecting him to turn on them.

“Oh believe me – once our business is concluded we will return to the fun of being enemies. However do not think it will be easy for you, I still lead my armies and they will become problems for you. As you have learned – I like to see the conflict between your family of warriors against my alliance. But what do I expect from you? Just one thing – Honesty.” Vir Nominis Umbra answers with a cunning smirk on his face.

His honesty is admirable, telling them that this alliance is extremely temporary and that he will not keep the Acolytes and the Grimm at bay for them. He still wants to enjoy the sight of seeing them battle against his foes.

Then a new question comes to Kassius’ mind, one both he and Hyde would like to know the answer to. “What did you do for my father? Break him out of a prison too?” Kassius wonders.

“In a way. I remember that day quite well, a night just like tonight too – storm set in with lightning crackling the skies. Winds so harsh that could tear the clothes from your body in one gust. Merlot summoned me out of desperation – and his wishes I admit were selfless once. He wanted me to help his wife as best I could, but I refused to take the disease from her. So I gave her good fortune and a longer life, but the tumour would return. But as time went on, his demands grew more selfish by the day, wanting money, power and control over his business.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains.

“So you bound a monster to him?” Cardin questions.

“Watch it.” Kassius states with a snarl, defending the demon in him.

“The Ebony Berserker betrayed me, decided he wanted to become a benevolent spirit opposed to what I created him as. So I fractured his memory and bound the husk to you – his firstborn son. And assured the daughter would not fare any better – but he agreed anyway.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains, but Kassius has been thinking on this...and he actually understands.

“Yeah – to get you to trust him, think you have him wrapped around your finger.” Kassius chuckles as he stares into his brown eyes.

“Maybe, maybe not. The man is who he is today thanks only to me. Yet after everything he betrays me, shuns everything I did for him and enters a location where I cannot find him. Thus leaving me no choice but to use my armies to locate him personally – which is where I hope you can come in.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains.

“So you do want us to do this.” Kassius states.

“I never said I didn’t – however there is nothing refraining you from leaving now and going back to Beacon to your beautiful girlfriend. Of course – it is all your choice, speak with your sister, talk it over. She may have something very surprising to say.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains with a smirk on his face.

Kassius sighs, because despite how much he wants to be there for Yang, he also knows that his father as risk. “Say we agree – what do we do?” Kassius asks him.

“To start with – why don’t we go to Fallingwater Estate, see if we can get our hands on dear old Pyrrha Nikos’ circlet. After that? Then we will improvise.” Vir Nominis Umbra says to him with a smile, walking past him.

“How will we get in? Don’t you need invitations?” Kassius asks him.

“Indeed.” He answers, throwing seven invitations with blank spots for names for them. But there are only three of them right now and one is currently incapacitated.

“Seven? There’s three of us.” Cardin points out.

“For now – didn’t your girlfriend, Kassius, tell you of another team out there who may help you?” Vir Nominis Umbra asks him, and Kassius thinks back to that day. He sighs, not wanting others involved in this business.

“We’ll see.” Kassius states, looking right at him.

“That is all I ask.” Vir Nominis Umbra says with a smile. He turns and goes to walk away from them, but Kassius has one last statement.

“Where you off to now? Off to torment some other poor soul? Like Tai?” Kassius snarls, the Soothsayer turns and he smirks, holding his hand up.

“Perhaps.” He replies, snapping his fingers. The storm continues around them, rain falling hard and the lightning crackling above their heads. Umbra vanishes as soon as time resumes into a bunch of crows that caw, and the other Servants of Corvus rise into the sky, leaving the scene. Kassius presses his hand to his head, feeling stressed out.

“Damn it...” He sighs, walking inside of the church again, and when he looks at Emerald something really surprises him.

Her wounds have healed, three scars across her side and she has stabilised.

With one note left behind.

Good luck Kassius!

V.N.U

 

Mazen

 

The Traffickers have fallen for good this time, the ghostly remains of their home no longer carrying the Bandits that once held the slaves. Both Human and Faunus either freed or given the choice to join the White Fang, except for the Humans of course. They were only freed to find their own future. Something not all of the White Fang agree with at the moment, some of them pacing back and forth with rifles in their hands. Mazen stands tall as he looks to all the former slaves being tended to, Bunny Faunus having their ears be mended by some of the White Fang medics they have on the field.

Arkaas glides down towards Mazen and he extends his wings, decelerating before he lands on his metal legs. The metal talons scrape across the Adobe Floor as he approaches the new High Leader who has his arms behind his back. “Boss – all the Traffickers bar their leader are dead. He escaped.” Arkaas reports, but clearly Mazen already knows as he nods his head.

“I know – I saw him get away, nothing we could do. He used a portal to escape.” Mazen states, and Arkaas sighs.

“I’ve always hated portals.” Arkaas groans, but the quiet Mazen Ursus just walks forward to one of the slaves – a child by the looks of it. She has a cowl over her face, half of her face has been burned by the savages that held her here. He crouches down and he caresses her other cheek, looking at her.

“Hello, sweetheart. It’s okay, you don’t need to be afraid anymore – the Traffickers are gone for good this time.” Mazen assures, but the little girl still sniffles fearfully, hugging the teddy bear a White Fang had given her. Mazen points to his mask that he wears with his finger curiously. “Is it my mask? Is it frightening you?” He asks her.

She sniffles still, but that is not what scares her – Mazen however does not know that yet. “I’m afraid I cannot take it off – it is a little curse of mine. You see these?” He asks her, turning to the side and pointing to a few pipes connected to the mask and they feed into his armour that he wears. “I have had breathing issues for a very long time – of I take this off I could die. My old one was faulty but this one is much better.” Mazen chuckles, smiling behind his mask that he reveals to be very important to him.

The little girl yelps and looks away, hiding behind the blanket that has been wrapped around her, whimpering with fear. Mazen turns and sees what frightens her, and it all makes sense. It is nothing to do with the mask he wears, but the man behind him. Kardas – the Hyena Faunus – is viciously slashing a machete into the body of a dead Bandit over and over again with a deranged laugh behind his voice.

Mazen snarls, rising up and yelling with his deep and powerful voice. “Kardas!” He yells, and the Faunus stops with blood leaking down the once grey blade of his machete. “That’s enough.” He softly speaks, staring straight into the yellow eyes of the Faunus. Kardas growls, kicking the dead Bandit once more before he walks away from the body of the man. Mazen sighs – he clearly knows that keeping a bunch of Convicts under control is going to be difficult but he needs to be able to.

He turns to Arkaas who walks over to him with his bow in his hand, his bright feathered wings folded back behind him. “We are grateful for you freeing us from that prison – but you have to understand that sometimes you cannot control some people.” Arkaas reminds, Mazen stares at him with deep sigh.

“Of all the people arrested you are probably the most sane of them all – why the hell were you in there?” Mazen inquires curiously, Arkaas sighs as he walks with the huge Bear Faunus, past the many Faunus that are being healed by the doctors that came with them.

“Lived in the Mistraalian Mountains, until the Branwen Tribe came along and wiped out my people. I went after them, but they moved camp and I could never find them. So I started killing every human I came across – I got good at it.” He explains as he walks, almost like he enjoys it, something Mazen even comments on.

“You sound like you enjoy killing humans.” Mazen states with worry in his voice.

“I do – don’t you?” He asks him, so calmly that it answers Mazen’s initial query instantly about how he ended up there. He is so insane that it does not make him manic like the others, he is calm and accepted, and he finds joy in killing Humans.

“No – I don’t take joy in any of this. I just want there to be equality, but as long as Atlas keeps ruling the way it does, our people will always be treated like slaves.” Mazen growls with anger, directing the hatred of humanity most Faunus have onto the Atlesians entirely. Something Arkaas does not appear to agree with in any sense.

“Look around you, High Leader. Humanity has always wanted us to be their slaves, they all have to die.” Arkaas explains, but Mazen glares right at him with narrowed eyes behind his mask.

“Kelham is a Faunus.” He reminds, walking ahead of him with his fists constantly clenched.

“How did you know him?” Arkaas asks and he stops, turning to look at him. “Corsac mentioned you knew him, how so? Was he once part of the White Fang?” He curiously inquires.

“Once – he was an old friend of mine.” Mazen informs as he steps over the dead body of one of the Traffickers, whereas Arkaas just walks across his body, stepping on his chest before the floor.

“An old friend?” He questions.

“Yes – but his methods were so extreme that Ghira Belladonna excommunicated him from the White Fang, nearly did the same for Adam before Sienna Khan took over.” Mazen explains, remembering that day very vividly, the things that Kelham did would scare most people.

“Then he started the Traffickers?” Arkaas presumes.

“No – then he joined the Acolytes of Lien – but from what I heard Ortega also found his methods to be too extreme. So the same was done there as well – after that he decided to create his own little organisation. One that specialised in kidnapping people of any race and selling them to the highest bidder. It started as Prostitution and Work Labour, but eventually he broadened his horizons to add arenas to the collection. Guessing that is when he found this place.” Mazen explains as he looks around at the place with a sigh, disgusted at what he has become.

“Maybe extreme methods are best – to rid the world of humanity forever.” Arkaas suggests, constantly taking it back to wiping out mankind, an idea that nearly destroyed Adam Taurus.

“We are not wiping out an entire race.” Mazen repeats.

“Why? They would do the same to us.” Arkaas reminds.

“In the past, yes – but not anymore...not with the monsters at our door.” Mazen explains, but Arkaas scoffs.

“The Knights of Grimm? Please they are a myth.” He scoffs.

Mazen stops in his tracks, the dead silence from the huge man admittedly frightens the besotted fool. Mazen turns and glares at him through the glowing red slits in his helmet and he walks towards him, grabbing his shoulder. “I was at Menagerie when Fury attacked, when Ghira and Kali Belladonna lost their lives. I saw what one Knight was capable of, and now I know that there are stronger threats. Believe me when I say – that we have bigger threats than just humans.” Mazen assures, pushing him away, and walking ahead.

Arkaas remains still, shocked from what he told him. “Tell the rest of the forces we are preparing to move out, still many other locations were Faunus are being held.” Mazen orders as he walks up the stairs to look out at the landscape, determining where to go next.

“For the White Fang.” Arkaas agrees.

Mazen sighs, for there is part of him that wishes that maybe...just maybe...that footage could have been a lie.

Maybe Adam was right.

“Maybe...” He mutters softly to himself.

 

Emerald

 

The nightmares of her past might never leave her.

Mercury stands before her very eyes with a smile, before the black blade of Ferrum Arctus suddenly protrudes through his chest so hard that it lifts him off the floor as Death thrusts him upwards. Feeling her heart sink she nearly collapsed to the floor with horror when seeing him die like that.

After everything that they have been through.

She ran.

Ran as fast and as far as she possibly could, with the Grimm converging on her constantly. Feeling her heart burning from exhaustion, she knew she had to fight them as they kept chasing her, the howls of the monsters of Grimm would never silence. She span round and swung her chained scythes across their heads, beheading the Grimm Beowulves behind her, killing them instantly. The ground explodes beneath her as a huge Deathstalker suddenly erupts beneath her, trying to grab onto her with its pincers.

As she flies up into the air from the eruption, her red eyes focus onto the body of a large Nevermore. Thinking quickly she launched one of her hooked scythes across the Sanctum and into the leg of the Nevermore, causing it to roar in pain, but it carried her off across the landscape, of destroyed buildings and cities that must be thousands of years old.

She held on for what must have been days until the hook slid from its chest, and she fell...

Fell into the sea.

She returns back to the land of the living with a gasp, her eyes bursting open, red irises darting around with terror as she tries to figure out where she is. “Cinder?” She fearfully cries out, looking for her, only for her brother – Kassius Locke to gently press her down.

“Ssh, it’s okay...she’s fine.” Kassius whispers gently with an assuring voice, and she lies back down with a soft blanket wrapped around her and a pillow that they found so then she can be comfortable. “Just rest, you really need it.” Kassius says to her, she keeps looking around though with confusion.

“W-Where am I?” She stammers.

“A church, not really sure where. Somewhere in the Vacuo Wildlands.” Kassius answers, and she groans, pressing her hand to her head.

“Gods...wait...Kassius? What the hell are you...why are you?” She stammers, but Kassius presses his finger to her lips to stop her.

“Short version? We got captured by the Traffickers, an enemy who is on our side at the moment helped us out. Then we found you, limping lucidly in the forest with three claw marks.” Kassius describes as he pokes her dark skin on the curved side of her body, still wearing the same clothes she has always worn. She flinches and looks down, only seeing three scars. “Yeah – that enemy of ours I think healed you.” Kassius says.

“Who?” Emerald stammers.

“Heard of Vir Nominis Umbra?” He asks her.

“No.” She replies.

“Oof, you’ve got a lot to catch up on.” Kassius chuckles as he scratches the back of his head awkwardly. Emerald slowly starts to sit up with a groan, feeling her head throbbing from dehydration. Kassius slides over a bottle of water that they collected, found the empty kids bottle in the office. It is full of rainwater, not the nicest but it will have to do. She takes a sip of the water and it quickly makes her feel better. “Well we can fill you in later – I still need to contact Sapphire about all this.” Kassius explains.

“Who?” Emerald inquires.

“Oh gods – Cinder.” He replies, since nobody bar him knows that unless he tells them. “She created a false identity because she never wanted to be known as the Locke Daughter that betrayed the family – not like there was much to betray in the first place.” He scoffs.

Emerald still looks utterly bewildered. “Cinder – is my little twin sister.” Kassius tells her and she sits there, pressing her palm to her head with a groan.

“Gods...I really need to figure out what is going on...” She groans.

“Well – I could help you out there if you want.” He begins as he sits back.

He begins to tell her the tale of everything that she has missed so far, she might know about the Knights of Grimm but she doesn’t know that the Volcanic Chain Isles were destroyed and they won for five years. She does not know about Umbra, or Horridus Morbus.

Adam.

Atlas.

Acolytes of Lien.

She has a big tale ahead of her.

Chapter Text

Jaune

 

He walks across the dirt path that moves towards the old Estate of where he was born, taken a Bullhead all the way here from Beacon, leaving prints of his shoes behind in the dirt. Beside him walks Pyrrha, then behind him are the others. Ren, Nora, Ruby, Blake and Oscar – even though they are headed to where Jaune’s family lives, they still find themselves on edge. With the Knights Bannermen stalking the realm they have to be ready for absolutely anything. At the moment they do not seem to have their scent because they have not used a teleport to get here, but the presence of the Four could be enough to draw them closer.

It has been years since he has actually come back to this place, he has seen his parents on other occasions but never back at his home.

The Arc Estate.

Like the Nikos Family, the Arcs have a large home, however the Arcs is much larger and very different. It is more like a whole small town, but it feels so empty and abandoned. Houses and stables around them completely abandoned – there are not many Arcs left, only his family really. His Uncle and Aunt were both killed by Grimm not long after the death of Skyler Arc, and the threat of an attack is always close.

Nora walks past a stable and she looks at the tree beside where the horses were once kept, seeing something carved into the stump of the tree itself. She narrows her cyan eyes at what is there, and it is just two letters.

C and M

From what they have heard Jaune does not have any members in his family that have names beginning like that – unless it is Crocea Mors? Ren cannot help but eye the sword sheathed onto Jaune’s leg; there is something very important about the blade he uses. Kragen and Ozpin both have made this very clear, which is why they have come here. Not just so then Jaune can see his remaining family, but to learn about his heritage some more.

Ruby looks around before she turns straight to Jaune curiously as she brushes some of her hair from her eye. “Um...are you sure that they’re here? There are no horses here.” She asks him curiously, but Jaune answers with a pretty cold voice, not towards her but more like it is directed towards the family.

“They’re home...they’re always home.” Jaune assures as he keeps walking towards the Manor House, one that makes the Nikos Estate look tiny in comparison. It is made from concrete with lime plastering rendered across the flesh of the building. With golden paint across the pillars where the huge balcony above the two big doors stretching across – this clearly used to be a very wealthy place. However now it looks so overgrown, with huge weeds growing everywhere across the building, caressing the pillars and shrouding the windows. Lights still on inside, Jaune was right – someone is clearly home.

The question is who?

“Why are there so many houses?” Oscar curiously asks, and Jaune sighs.

“Our family used to be really wealthy many years ago, but now it is just my bloodline...everyone else either died or packed up and left. My parents are insistent of keeping it standing...for whatever reason.” He sighs, scratching the back of his head as he walks, tensing his arms. The others might not know it, but Pyrrha never did forget what Jaune told her about his parents. About how they never believed in him, never expected him to become a Huntsman. The cool autumn breeze flows through the land, past the empty swings that dangle from the branch of the large tree that stands beside it. The squeaking hinges of the swing creak back and forth.

Pyrrha stretches her hand out to Jaune’s holding it affectionately and he feels the pressure of her palm on his. “Are you okay?” She softly asks him, walking close to him. Jaune looks at her and there are signs of nervousness in his eyes, but not because of Pyrrha – because of his home for some reason.

“I – uh – I haven’t been back here since...Skyler died...and after seeing what I saw...when Umbra...” He stammers, still hearing her older sister’s screams of tormented agony as the Grimm devoured her alive in the back of his mind. The horrors committed by the False God will never leave him, and seeing what he did to her, the one he always looked up to...nearly broke him.

Pyrrha closes her eyes with sadness for her beloved, for she knows why he is struggling – his memories have been tarnished with nothing more than the depressing ones of his sister never returning home from a mission. Something Ruby can relate to all too well, just with her mother opposed to her sister. Blake’s cat ears flick up when she hears the flapping of Pigeon wings fluttering away from the trees – even birds have become intimidating for them now after seeing their enemy and his many forms. The Lord of the Wood as well, taking the same abilities as Umbra.

Jaune approaches the doors...but then he stops, and his eyes turn to the graveyard that they built for the fallen. He sighs as he walks towards it slowly with his hands at his side. “Jaune?” Blake asks him, but Ruby is no fool, none of them are – they know what he is going to look at. Jaune approaches the three graves in the small fenced off section, leaves blown over the surface of where they have made their empty graves for there was nothing to bury. They made two for Skyler, one by the pond where she would always visit...and one here at their home.

Skyler Arc

  • Loving Daughter and Sister

Idas Arc

  • Loving Uncle and Brother

Felicia Arc

  • Loving Aunt

He crouches down by the graves and he sweeps the pile of wilted leaves from their surface, clearing them so then they never get buried and forgotten. They have not been touched in quite a while it seems, Jaune crouches by their graves with shallow eyes. Pyrrha stands beside him and she gently rests her hand on his shoulder, just being there for him. Nora and Ren do the same, standing and just merely being around their friend they care for so deeply. Nora looks up at Ren with a tiny smile, and she interlinks her fingers with his, squeezing onto his hand as she lovingly holds him.

Ruby hangs her head honourably as does Blake, whilst Oscar holds is hands behind his back, everyone remaining silent as they pay their respects. Jaune exhales a cold breath, white mist trailing from parted lips as he lifts his head. “Okay...c’mon. Let’s go see them.” He sighs as he rises up and he walks away from the graves of his lost family members, approaching the front doors of his home, Ruby and the others behind him.

He holds up his hand and he clutches onto the metal handle that he slams against the thick wooden door three times. The echoing booms from each swing echo and reverberate through their bodies as they wait. But as they do this, they all notice the door is unlocked, so Jaune opens it with a sigh.

Like he has seen it all before.

He pushes the door open and he steps inside, faced with the sight of his father sat down in a large rocking chair with a mug of coffee on the arm of his chair. He sits forward and stares at his son, resembling the same features just with white hair instead of blonde. A bristly white beard around his mouth and a pair of old and experienced blue eyes. A scar across his right eyebrow that causes it to part slightly. His voice is deep and guttural, a bit like Qrow’s voice in fact, yet it still sounds a bit like Jaune’s voice. “Welcome home, son.”

The speech of his father almost sounds a bit resentful and Jaune stares right back at his father, a man of whom he has rarely seen after the death of his sister – it was mostly his other sisters he stayed in contact with. Jaune walks into the living room with his friends as he looks around at the place, only a few lights are actually on. “How long have you known that we were here?” Jaune asks him curiously, since he looks like he was waiting for him to knock on that door. His father chuckles at that.

“You’re not as stealthy as you like to believe you are, I saw you walking in through the front gates from here.” His comments as he crosses his arms where he sits. His name is Demetrius Arc, he was a Huntsman but he retired and took a job as a contractor – clearly that has not been going so well. Most of the power is off so then they can save the lien that they have left, after everything that has happened recently. Prices have gone through the roof by the corporations, especially in the Dust Trade – meaning that the new Dam built in Vale is the best source of electricity. Despite that it does not provide the greatest output in comparison to the Dust energised Power Stations.

“Well – it’s been a while.” Jaune sighs as he stands there, and Demetrius presses his hands to the arms of his chair as he rises back up.

“It has – five years...five years since you last came here, after Skyler died.” Demetrius reminds him and Jaune sighs, looking away from his father at the mere mention of his older sister who lost her life.

“I know...I’m...I’m sorry, but things have been...pretty hectic.” He sighs as he slumps his shoulders forward, then looking at Pyrrha, in which Demetrius does the same thing. He looks at her, then at the others in the house with him.

“I presume these are some of those friends you mentioned in your letter a couple of years ago?” Demetrius asks him curiously, and Jaune sighs awkwardly since Pyrrha is standing right next to him. He mentioned that Pyrrha died and how close he has to her, so this will be a hell of a thing to bring up. But before he can, another voice appears from the kitchen, with the smell of some meat being cooked in there.

“Honey? Who is it?” She calls, and Demetrius turns to the kitchen.

“Come see for yourself.” Demetrius replies, so she does so – the sound of plates being set down on the table echoes from that direction. Then they hear her slippers slapping across the wooden floor, towards the open archway between the living room and the dining room. She stands before them and her eyes bulge from their sockets, freezing like a Deer in headlights, almost dropping the glass in her hand when she sees Jaune standing there, mouth agape.

“Hey...mom...it’s been a while...” Jaune nervously waves his hand to her, and she immediately sets the glass down and she walks towards him, instantly wrapping him up in a warm hug, tearfully laughing with happiness. Clearly his mother is happier to see him than his father – but Demetrius knows his son, and the fact he has not come back in five years and suddenly appears here now with his weapons and armour, along with multiple friends...that means he is not here for a family visit.

It is business.

She releases her son and she checks him over immediately, worried for anything that may have happened to him. “Are you hurt? What happened, you haven’t been injured have you?” She stammers, checking his armour and even round it to see a few cuts in his shirt but nothing extreme. Well nothing she can see – there is the whole thing of being stabbed in the chest by his own sword thanks to Kassius – and getting burned by lightning when he fought his possessed girlfriend...

Aaaaaaand being tormented by a monstrously evil entity.

But apart from that he is fine.

“I’m fine...I’m fine mom, I mean I have collected my fair share of scars thanks to this line of work and...Everything that has happened...but...” He sighs as he presses his hand to his head, thinking on everyone they have lost. Even before Oobleck and Taiyang, Scarlet David and Sage, Professor Port, Ilia...

Don’t know if I should tell them yet, they have always wanted me to stay away from the Huntsmen Academies for some reason.

His mother quickly hugs him again, kissing his cheek affectionately for how she has missed him so, clearly his father has missed him too but he has every reason to be annoyed with him for how little he has actually come home to visit. His mother – Cassandra Arc – is much shorter than he husband, with a slim waist and long blonde hair like her older husband who used to have similarly coloured hair. The age gap between the parents is not very large, just she has aged better than the father since she does not appear to have any grey hairs yet and still looks pretty young considering the fact she is pushing fifty soon.

Cassandra looks to all his friends and a smile grows on her face with joy, she walks up to Ren and Nora first, her hand stretched out. “Hello, my name is Cassandra Arc – I am his mother, as you can probably tell.” She greets with a smile, looking at them all.

“Hello, I’m Nora Valkyrie.” She greets as she primly arches her arms in a curtsy pose, like a ballerina.

“Lie Ren.” Ren greets with the bow of his head.

“I’m Blake Belladonna.”

“Ruby Rose.”

“Hi there, I’m Oscar Pine.”

Then she turns to the red headed girlfriend of his who stammers before she clears her throat and she is about to speak – but Cassandra knows exactly who she is. “Pyrrha Nikos.” She softly gasps with disbelief in her large blue eyes, even Demetrius looks extremely shocked to see that they recognise her.

“Y-You know me?” She asks them curiously.

“Why of course – Jaune sent many letters about you before...well...before Beacon fell.” Cassandra explains to her with a smile on her face, Pyrrha looks at Jaune with a gentle and loving smile. “He thought the world of you.” She blushes and so does Jaune, unable to hide the love they have for one another.

“I thought...” Demetrius stammers as he looks at her, trying to find the words. “I thought you died during the Battle.”

Pyrrha lowers her head with a saddened expression, having to remember what it felt like to have an arrow shot through her and burned alive...it brings back bad memories – especially where she ended up afterwards. “Yes...but...well it’s a long story. In short I guess I can sum it up as our enemy brought me back, but I managed to break free from him.” Pyrrha explains, leaving the two parents speechlessly confused of what she means by that.

“Yeah first time hearing it is pretty crazy, but it’s the truth.” Nora assures as she scratches the back of her head.

Jaune stands there, sighing since he knows he never came here to reminisce, something his father swiftly catches onto.

“It is good to see you, son...but you come here with your friends and you are armed to the teeth – this cannot be for family matters, is it?” Demetrius presumes, wanting to get to the point as quickly as they can. Jaune sighs, since his father has always been the sharpest, able to see through the loving family emotions that his wife cannot see past.

“Look, Dad – we really need your help.” Jaune sighs as he steps forward towards his father, but that just seems to infuriate him.

“Oh there it is! You don’t show up for years, don’t ever turn up to help your family who were also grieving, and the one time you do it is for your own sake.” Demetrius snarls with anger as he paces back and forth in the living room, getting the others worried for Jaune’s sake. At the end of the day they do not know this man and they will defend Jaune if he even tries anything against him. Cassandra clutches onto her other hand nervously as Demetrius yells at their son.

“Dem...Honey, please.” She softly begs him, but clearly he does not seem to be as forgiving to their son as she is.

“No, why should we help him when he was never here when the family needed him?” Demetrius questions with anger in his voice.

But Jaune just keeps trying to get him to see reason. “Dad...” He grumbles, but Demetrius still doesn’t listen to him.

“Your little sister gets picked on every day at school because of her condition, and where are you to help her when she looks up to you the most?” The questions with more anger in his voice, but Jaune gives in and he draws the blade of Crocea Mors, and he shows it to his father, showing the glyphs.

“Will you shut up and look?” Jaune demands as he holds the blade horizontally, revealing the glowing blue hieroglyphics across the old sword that he holds. He might know that this sword is from the time of the Arkhoni, but that does not mean he understands what that means exactly. The way Demetrius stares at the shimmering blue Arkhoni Hieroglyphics...there is recognition, something that he and the Arc Family know of very well apparently. He steps back from the sword, and Jaune lowers the blade down to his scabbard, sliding it inside.

“Shit...” Demetrius sighs as he looks away from his son and he paces back and forth, whereas Cassandra looks terrified of those glyphs that shine across the Isomacium blade of Crocea Mors. They know what they mean, but perhaps there is more they know than they even realise.

“Shit? What does that mean?” Nora inquires curiously as she steps forward.

“It means it is time for you to know the truth, son.” He sighs, and Jaune stammers, looking at Pyrrha with confusion before looking to his father again.

“The truth? What the hell does that mean?” He fearfully questions as he stands there.

“There is something you must see...” Demetrius says as he turns and he grabs his internally fluffy coat and throws it over his shirted body, leather on the exterior. He walks towards the rear door past the kitchen and he opens it, revealing the long pathway through the main hall of the house. He stands by the door with his hand stretched outwards. “Come.”

They look at each other, then Jaune looks to his mother who also puts on a warm dressing gown over her body – since it is cold outside. “Where are we going?” Jaune inquires.

“The Graveyard – there is something there you must see.” Demetrius answers as Cassandra catches up to him, also standing in the doorway – so they decide to follow. The band of warriors leave the kitchen and they enter the large hall, where a large central staircase rises up the middle of the room, then splits off into two separate staircases. One heading right and the other left, onto the second floor above their heads that leads to the many other rooms. However this is not the way they are headed, they are headed to the next door, the one he opens up and lets them all walk through first.

He closes it, and walks with them, across the driveway and towards the large garden that is connected to a graveyard that has been here for many, many years. They can tell just by the moss and erosion on the gravestones left behind to honour the fallen. This is the Arc Graveyard – where the hundreds of Arc relatives have been buried, so then they can rest in the peaceful night, hearing the song of owls hooting and insects chirping. Ren looks at the many names on them, and the many different dates.

Some reach back hundreds of years, hell some are even in the thousands. So some of these graves belonged to the Arcs when Arkhonex was still around. This place is much older than they ever could have imagined. Some of the names have been eroded away over the years or have been smudged off by the rain that has fallen on them – yet they are still tended to by the Arcs that remain by their side. The two Arcs that walk in front of Jaune hold their hands, and he can hear the sound of his mother breathing with a tremble inside – she is afraid.

Jaune looks at Pyrrha, who still holds his hand too with a gentle smile on her face. “You okay?” She softly asks him.

“Yeah...didn’t expect this, honestly.” He admits as he keeps walking, Ruby behind him looks around as she walks, but as she walks she senses her mind beginning to burn as Torchwick forms beside her. She looks over to the graves and sees him sat on top of one them with one leg crossed over the other.

“So this is the blonde haired idiot’s home, huh? No wonder he never came back here – looks like a proper misery.” Roman scoffs, but Ruby ignores him, as best she can as she walks, keeping her eye focused on the friends that walk ahead of her, but the more she moves her Psychosis begins to eat away at her more and more.

She’s going to fail, something is going to go wrong.

Nothing is gonna go wrong, leave her alone.

She is confused, why is she confused?

Why are you confused, Ruby?

There’s nothing to be confused about.

She isn’t confused! Stop annoying her!

Ruby shakes her head slightly, and Oscar notices, looking at her and he holds her hand gently, and his presence has always calmed that flame that burns her constantly. She shudders, either from the cold or from the many voices that argue inside her head at all times. “Ruby...if this is getting worse we can get you some medication.” Oscar says to her, but Ruby shakes her head.

“It won’t work – not anymore.” She states, staring ahead as she ignores her own suffering as best as she can. Ahead of them, Nora looks around at the trees, fully expecting to see the Lord of the Wood watching her but she cannot see it there. All she sees are the trees and all she hears are the hoots of gentle owls in the branches. Ren looks at her and he puts his arm round her shoulders, holding her close before he kisses the top of her head.

“Are you okay, Nora?” He asks her with love present in his voice, Nora smiles as she buries her head further into his warmth.

“Better now.” She assures with a beaming smile on her face.

As Jaune walks, he feels Pyrrha’s hand slip from his after she notices something, and she freezes in place with a shocked pair of eyes. Jaune looks at his hand with confusion, before he looks at where she was. “Pyrrha?” He asks, but then he stops with a sigh and his eyes sink. The others stop and so do his parents, looking back to see Pyrrha standing there.

She stands at the foot of a gravestone.

She stares at the name inscribed on its marble surface.

Pyrrha Nikos

Age: 17

Loving friend

She stares at her own grave, something no soul should ever have to experience, staring at their own gravestone. Jaune approaches her, whilst the others look at the pair as they stand there. Pyrrha finds herself worrying her lip with the edge of tears coming from her soul, but she fights it as best as she can, cold breath retreating from her firm lips. “You...made a grave...for me?” She asks him as she turns to look at the man she loves, who stammers too.

“I...I never did come home after Beacon fell...couldn’t face it...but I wrote a letter to Mom and Dad. I told them about what happened...and what happened to you.” Jaune explains, and the tearful Pyrrha Nikos looks into his eyes. “I think they knew...how I felt about you, and I bet they figured out you felt the same way long before my dumb ass ever figured it out.” He chuckles, getting a light punch on the shoulder from Pyrrha as she giggles. “They said they made a grave for you...so I could...be there for you when I came home.” Jaune explains with a heavy and saddened sigh.

Even though she may be alive...the pain of the night has never left either of them.

And it never will.

Pyrrha holds his hand affectionately as she leans her head on his shoulder, closing her eyes as she stands in this moment with him. Finally she and he are together at last, but they can never truly be happy until they stop Vir Nominis Umbra – they will never be safe.

Otherwise there will be no grave left to remember them by.

She exhales, wiping a tear from her cheek as she stares at her grave, looking at Jaune then kissing him lovingly on the lips, and he returns the kiss as well, his arm round her waist. Cassandra tears up, finally seeing her baby boy with a woman he loves – and by the gods is she a beautiful one too. They break their tender kiss and they exhale, Pyrrha looking at him with a toothless smile. “C’mon.” She says to him with a smile, holding his hand as she pulls him away from her grave.

Time to move on from their past mistakes.

They follow Demetrius and Cassandra to wherever it is they want Jaune to see, so Jaune steps up to his father’s shoulder – feeling a bit guilty for never turning up. “Dad...I’m sorry...” He sadly says, and Demetrius looks at him as he continues. “...I should have come back here...but...after Skyler...then what happened to Pyrrha, spending the amount of time I did trying to find her...I just couldn’t face coming home.” Jaune sighs as he walks alongside his much bigger father. Demetrius looks down to his son, and he sighs.

“I know – you’re not a bad person, I was just...upset that I never got to see you. Only had to read letters from you.” He sighs as he walks, and Cassandra looks at him with a smile.

“You proved me wrong though.” Cassandra tells him, and he looks at her with a raised eyebrow.

“About what?” Jaune inquires.

“You didn’t move back home – you proved me wrong.” She says with a proud smile on her face, an expression he never expected from her since she never wanted him to go there more than her husband.

“But...you hate the Huntsmen Academies. You called them barbaric.” Jaune states as he looks at her.

“I know – and I stand by those words...but I will always support you not the Academies. You’re my baby boy – my only baby boy – you could never disappoint me.” She tells him, and it feels like a weight – no – a tumour has been removed from him, that has been eating away at him for years. Believing that his parents never believed in him for so long, only to find out they always supported him?

It makes it all seem worth it.

Finally they arrive at the location that Demetrius and Cassandra wanted them to come and see – it is a Tomb by the looks of it, one with a huge tombstone above it. It has a large stone statue atop the surface, carved by impressive stoneworkers that have forged a brave looking knight with a very familiar sword held in both hands, pressed into the ground. They have the exact same hieroglyphics that are on Crocea Mors.

Because it is Crocea Mors.

Demetrius extends his hand and he swipes his palm across the dust that has settled across the name of the Tombstone, and he reveals the name of the person of which this tomb belongs to.

Vyrryk Arc

The man that Jaune saw in that dream after he was stabbed by Hyde at the end of the second Battle of Beacon. He walks towards it and he presses his hand to the stone with utter disbelief, that the man he saw in his dream has been here in his childhood memories this whole time. “I saw him...Vyrryk..in my dream.” He stammers as he looks to his friends since they know of this dream he had before waking up. Demetrius looks at Jaune and he places his hand on his shoulder.

“Jaune – draw Crocea Mors.” Demetrius advises, so he does as his father commands him to, drawing the blade in one perfect motion, the ring of the sword resonating through the air. The light from the Fractured Moon reflects off the perfectly forged blade, and he looks to his father. Cassandra crouches down and she blows the dust and the leaves from some sort of keystone  on a chunk of marble that stands at the huge memoriam of the warrior. “Slot the blade of Crocea Mors into the keyhole.”

Jaune does so, turning the blade downwards and he slowly plunges the blade into the keystone, and it fits perfectly, all the way down to the hilt, and it locks into place. Everyone watches with anticipation of what will happen next. “Now what?” Jaune asks his father.

“Turn the blade ninety degrees clockwise.” Demetrius answers, and Jaune looks down to the hilt and he exhales. He grips the crossguard of the sword like he holds onto the handles of a wheel and he does that, with a bit of force it turns and locks in. A loud mechanical crunch erupts from within the mechanism before them and Jaune gasps, pulling the blade slowly from the Keystone as many pieces of stone begin to slowly shift before his very eyes. He steps back to stand beside Pyrrha and Ruby as they watch.

The ground opens up before them, huge chunks of stone sliding away underneath the ground, transforming like a mechanical marvel. Thousands of years old and it still works just as it would all those years ago. “Whoa...” Nora gasps with disbelief as she stares at the opening, where there is a staircase heading underground.

“Mom? Dad? What is this?” Jaune stammers with concern, and they both look at him.

“Your destiny.” Cassandra answers, as she and his father walk down the steps and into the crypt that has been built beneath their very heads. They all hang on the word that Cassandra used – for it has not brought them the best fortune in the past years – but they need to know what it is that they have been hiding for all these years. Jaune has so many questions rattling around in his mind.

Who is Vyrryk Arc and why is he so important?

How long have my parents known about this for?

Why are they only showing this now?

Why are they talking about Destiny?

He will not find any answers to his queries if he just stands there, so he follows his parents into the Cryptum that stands beneath them, everyone slowly following him down. Cobwebs dangle everywhere down here from the dusty stone architecture, but as they walk the low ceiling rises the further down they get, and as they turn round the curve in the stairs, it gets more and more dramatic.

Statues built into the walls with swords held in their hands, however these are not the same blades as Crocea Mors, these are older Arkhoni Blades, obviously did not serve them very well back in the day. The wind howls through the dark cave like system that has been built underneath the residency of the Arc Family for thousands of years. But the further they move, they finally reach the point of which they never expected to see.

It is a large circular room, one that looks like it used to be some kind of Safehouse back in the days of Arkhonex, it could have been on top of the ground once before time caused it to become buried. Seems the Arkhoni had measures for that as well, creating walls that could withstand the weight of the world shifting around it. But instead of a large round table in the centre of the room, there is another statue very similar to the last. Also of Vyrryk Arc with another person beside him with a bow in her hands with a pet Wolf at their side.

They look...

So similar to the people that stand on the fountain in the Middle of Beacon Academy, however the clothing is very different. Vyrryk wears a handmade suit of armour that is meant to look like it is made of Grimm – the helmet based off the skull of a Griffin for example and his gauntlets have the claws of an Ursa Major. Cassandra and Demetrius stand at the base of the statue with their hands behind their backs, once being merely parents it is like they have just become loyal Knights.

They have been waiting for this day.

“Mom? Dad...what is this?” Jaune asks them yet again, and finally they answer him.

“This is the next step for you, my son – our family has been waiting for your birth ever since the fall of the Last Empire. Because that Sword was built – for you.” Demetrius reveals, and Jaune’s eyes widen with utter disbelief as he stares at the blade.

“B-But...I saw Vyrryk using this sword in my dream.” He stammers.

“Yes, because he was the first to wield it, as every Arc with a Semblance has wielded it.” He explains to him.

“What do you mean?” Pyrrha inquires.

“Crocea Mors holds an ancient spell in it, one that is linked to the Isomacium it was forged out of.” Cassandra begins to explain, she still seems afraid but not for her own sake but for her son’s. As any mother should do. “You see the sword collects the semblances of the warriors that have used them, like an archive, and when the warrior dies their semblances and knowledge is passed into the sword.” She explains to him.

“What?” Ruby questions with confusion.

“But...why? Why is it meant for me?” He stammers.

“Any Arc is able to use the abilities of the sword however it can only be used a finite amount of times, unleashing the power of the Arc Heritage onto its foes. However it is believed that you may harness a gift that allows you to use our Heritage’s strength to a limitless amount of times.” Demetrius explains to his son who looks utterly shocked.

“You mean...my Semblance?” He asks with disbelief in his voice.

“Perhaps – we do not know the complete truth of what this means, but every Arc has been ordered to protect the sword and pass it down the family until you – Jaune Arc – would possess it.” Demetrius clarifies as he stands before him, turning to a panel on a pedestal and he presses his hand onto it. “You are searching for Arkhonex, aren’t you?” He asks.

“How did you know that?” Blake asks.

“Because the Blade has started to commune with Jaune, causing him to have visions of the past of our family name. All the way back to Vyrryk Arc.” Demetrius explains, whilst Cassandra stays quiet because of her concern for her son’s safety. The ground beside him opens, circular panels rotating round as a new pedestal rises up, and this is the most unexpected revelation of them all.

Sat on the Pedestal.

Is a Visionary Book, with the Arc Crescent imprinted on the cover, then it opens up with a handprint available the same size as Jaune’s. “That’s...a Visionary Book?” Ren questions with awe.

“Why – no – how have you got a Visionary Book?” Oscar also questions with shock in his voice.

“It has been hidden down here ever since Arkhonex and its Empire collapsed into Ruin, we have been keeping these secrets until this day. As much as I wish we could be a normal family living a normal life – we were ordered to wait until this day to have you read the Book.” Demetrius explains, turning to see his wife sniffling in upset as Jaune stands there.

“Mom? What’s wrong?” Jaune asks her.

“I...This is why I never wanted you to be a Huntsman...the weight put on your shoulders by dead men and women...it isn’t fair.” She sniffles as she rubs tears from her eyes, but Jaune walks over to her and he wraps his arms around her, calming her down.

“It’s okay, mom – I’m not carrying this burden alone...I have my friends...and I have my family.” He says to her gently as he holds her close, she warmly hugs him back. Demetrius smiles as he looks at his son caring for his mother – at least he still does love his family, proving him wrong. Jaune releases his mother and he caresses her shoulders, wiping a tear from her cheek. “And you know me – I’m stubborn as hell.” Jaune chuckles, making his mother giggle.

“Yes you are.” She laughs, also making his friends laugh too. Jaune turns to his father and he walks over to him with a sigh, holding the blade in his hands.

“I...Are you sure I am meant for this? Are you sure it’s me?” He asks his father, since he and him did not start this reunion off very well. Demetrius smiles, starting to understand why he has not been able to come home for the past five years – because he has been doing his duty as a Huntsman. Making him the perfect choice, and definitely the one that has been told of down the line.

“I’m certain.” Demetrius promises with a smile.

“Wait...how could they have known about Jaune? Arkhonex and its Empire...wasn’t it thousands of years ago?” Ruby inquires.

“I am not clear on the details, many of them have been lost over the years since then – but his name has always come up. And the family has made sure to only name him after the birth of a son that has been named. My father only told me after Jaune was born.” Demetrius explains to him, and they all seem to understand the logic.

“So then a parent doesn’t just name their kid Jaune, right?” Nora presumes.

“Precisely, the parents of the child must never know of the prophecy until the child is actually born.” He explains, which could explain why they have had so many children. So many daughters until they finally had a son, that happened to be Jaune Arc.

The Blonde Knight sets his eyes onto the Visionary Book, and he approaches it, hearing the whispers from the old magic used to create it calling out to him. “What is on this Book?” Jaune asks.

“I don’t know.” Demetrius replies, getting confused faces from them all. “Nobody has been able to access it before – it is meant for your eyes only.” Demetrius explains to him, and they all step back. He exhales, knowing he needs to see what is waiting for him on the other side of this book.

“Okay...guess I’m going in.” Jaune exhales, looking at his mother, then his father – then his girlfriend. “Wish me luck.”

She smiles and she nods to him, Jaune turns and faces the page with the handprint waiting for him. Wearily he lifts the palm and exhales, then thrusts forward and presses his hand onto it. The magic plunges into his blood stream, forming the protective magical barrier around him as it feeds the memories into his mind.

Then...

Everything transforms before his very eyes, and it feels as if his body, mind and personality changes.

He becomes someone else in this memory, instead of watching it.

He becomes...

Vyrryk Arc.

 

Vyrryk

 

Green slopes of beauty bump across the landscape with a stunning expanse of sapphire Blue Ocean stretching out for as far as the eye can see. With flowers blooming, cloudless blue skies with the stunning sun in the sky and clean air – a young man aims down the sight of his bow and arrow. His finger aims right at a Deer that stands in the grass, looking around as it walks around, eating the grass at its hooves. He keeps the bowstring drawn as he aims the feathered arrow with his blue eye, blonde streaks of hair dangling over one eye.

He breathes slowly and carefully, before he releases the string and lets the arrow shoot towards the Deer.

But it misses, flying off into the distance and the Doe panics, fleeing from the area, disappearing down the slope of the hill to find its friends. The young man sighs with frustration, lowering the bow as he rises up, hearing the joyous laughter of a same-aged young woman beside him, giggling at his failure. Walking towards him, clad in a deep brown leather corset tied round her core and a hazel coloured undershirt woven from cloth, fully sleeved and forming a V-Neck, showing a small scar over her right breast from a knife that has been sewn up.

She has long wavy brown hair and stunning honey coloured irises inside seductive almond shaped eyes, and a beautiful smile with pearly white teeth. She has a single bronze metal bracer on her right arm with an Archer’s Glove that covers her three fingers for the use of the bowstring and she has the quiver strapped round her torso, hanging diagonally on her back. She has curves in her body of a super model and long elegant legs covered up in deep brown leather trousers with a Carver’s Knife attached to the belt with a coin pouch hooked onto it round her waist.

She continues to giggle at him as he stands up. “That was rubbish!” She giggles with a well-spoken accent, and he sighs.

“Alright, alright – it wasn’t that bad.” He claims as he rears back. The young man with blue eyes and blonde hair looks just like Jaune just with a different accent due to the times that they live in, and his clothes are very different. Like her he is not wearing a suit of armour, he wears  cloth shirt with a pair of black trousers on, the only weapon he has with him is a single sword sat on the picnic blanket on the green grass with a few baskets with fruit and bread in it.

“That was one of the worst shots I have ever seen.” She scoffs as she grabs the bow from his hand and he gasps at how she just snatches it from him.

“My my, Claudia! I wouldn’t think a little stable-girl would be so daring.” He chuckles with a smirk, but her reply is just as cheeky.

“Ooh, and I would have expected a Duke’s Son to be a better shot than that!” Claudia replies with a laugh in her voice, so he sucks his lips before he grabs Claudia and they both fall back onto the grass.

She lands on top of him with a smile on her face as she caresses his cheek. “Talk to a Lord like that?” He jokingly asks her, so she flirtatiously smirks at her lover.

“Oh no...You gonna arrest me?” She asks him, tilting her head curiously, and he chuckles.

“Maybe to my quarters? Who knows what could happen?” He flirts with a smile, and she giggles as she leans closer to his lips, closing her eyes.

“Mmm, I wouldn’t call that a punishment, milord.” She whispers before she kisses him affectionately on the lips. He reaches round her, moving his fingers through her brown hair as he kisses her, feeling her warm hands caressing his chest. She eventually takes a breath as she pants with a chuckle, every kiss they have ever shared is a breath taker.

She sighs as she lays with him, pressing her head to his. “I wish we could do this more often, Vyrryk.” She sighs, revealing him to be the legend that has statues everywhere of him. He caresses her brown hair as she lies there, and she looks up at him with a smile.

“So do I, but you know what this life is like...falling for a guy like me.” He sighs, and she sighs to, resting her head against his chest, holding his hand.

“I know – you have responsibilities being the son of a Duke.” She sighs, snuggling up to him, but then he looks at her and he caresses her cheek with his hand. She looks up at him with a smile.

“I still love you, Claudia – doesn’t matter who they marry me to. It’s just a contract.” He says to her, but she sighs since she holds onto him.

“Yeah but...I don’t want some other bitch to have her grubby mitts all over you.” Claudia says to him, and he chuckles as she says that.

“It would only be to make an heir – as long as my father doesn’t learn of us it will be fine.” He assures as he kisses her nose.

They both sit there on the field, listening to the tweeting birds and the sound of adorable fluffy Bumblebees flying around and pollinating the many flowers around the large field of grass before their eyes. “I could live here forever.” She says to him as she reaches over to the basket and picks a grape from the collection inside and she eats one of them. Claudia rarely even gets to eat fruits, it is mostly some pieces of bread or just an apple, since she comes from a poor background and is a stable-girl.

Vyrryk chuckles, a man who does not want the titles of which he has been bestowed. “Maybe we could one day.” He suggests, but she just scoffs at the ridiculousness of the idea, so unlikely to happen.

“Yeah like your father would ever allow you to run off with a stable-girl.” She comments, wisely since she knows how the system works. But Jaune has very similar traits to Vyrryk that are not just physical attributes – but also personality-wise. For Jaune also tends to be a bit of a rebel sometimes, he does not always like running the way the world would want him to. And Vyrryk is no different, when he wants to do something he will fight to get it – and his goal is to marry Claudia and be free from his father’s eye.

“No really, one day we could be free from that place – build a home, get married – have a baby...or two...or three...or...”

“Alright I’m not a brood mother.” She giggles as she rests her head on his chest as she lays there.

He looks off at the ocean as he caresses her long brown hair. “But really...some day? I want to run away with you.” He whispers into her ear and she smiles, squeezing his hand.

“You best hold me to that.” She replies, standing up and she helps him up, pulling him up to his feet. “But we do have duties...” She sighs with disappointment as she holds his hands.

“I know – I’ll see you later, okay?” He asks her.

“Later.” She agrees with a smile, kissing him firmly on the lips. The kiss feels like it could last for eternity. When they break the kiss they close their eyes and gently press their heads together. Vyrryk walks over to the now folded up blanket, and he holds it between his arm and his torso, carrying the basket in the same hand. He approaches his horse and he hooks the handle onto the hook on the saddle, along with the blanket. He thrusts his body up onto the saddle of the horse and he looks to the woman he wishes to be his wife.

Claudia Barrett

They both ride off towards the city that stretches out for as far as the eye can see...

Arkhonex

The largest civilisation ever created by the people of Remnant, a city that almost took over an entire continent and was filled with people. Once it was anyway, this was a time before chaos consumed this beautiful place. But even the prettiest flowers can be poisonous, and Arkhonex was no exception. They ride towards the walls and there are hanging corpses from Gallows outside, warnings to any that would betray their laws that they held so dearly.

They both approach the gates as they sit on their horses, and the guardsman looks at the two of them. “State your business.” The Guardsman demands.

“Returning home to Sunhelm Watch.” Vyrryk answers to the Guardsman.

“Name?” He asks.

“Vyrryk Arc.” He answers, and the guardsman looks at Claudia.

“And you, girl?” He asks her.

“Claudia Barrett.” She answers, both speaking clearly. He looks at them, and clearly they have both left the walls in the past quite a lot.

“Dangerous Creatures of Grimm left untamed out there, best be careful.” He advises, knowing that they are likely to go again.

“We’ll be sure to keep our eyes peeled.” Vyrryk assures, the Guardsman looks back and he calls out to the operatives of the gate.

“Open the gate!” He yells, and on cue the huge chains begin to rotate round, lifting the heavy Isomacium gate up so then the horses can make their entry through the walls. Unlike the city of Ephai, Arkhonex did have walls – which is most likely why it was an absolute bloodbath when it fell. Because as they ride in, they see what is for them a normality – creatures of Grimm being used under the spell created by the Witches of the Restless Marshlands to possess them to do their bidding.

Until it didn’t, and they all turned feral and attacked everything in sight.

There was approximately ten thousand Grimm within these walls.

The casualties were...astronomical...oceans of blood covering the streets and screams filled the air.

They both ride through the city, for in the centre there are incredible skyscrapers towering so high that they nearly pierce through the clouds. With people riding Nevermores like they are flying plains, there are also aircraft too, and vehicles. It is bizarre how their style seems mostly medieval, yet their technology seems to rival the technology available now. And the buildings are nothing like they are now, sturdy and able to withstand so much punishment.

Claudia and Vyrryk keep riding, right past the docks where Oscar would arrive at a few years later to first meet Vir Nominis Umbra and Cynthia Nikos. Their horses bray as they keep charging across the streets where people go about their business, prostitutes in the streets trying to woo potential customers, and criminals waiting to make their attacks. However they would never dare attack a Duke’s son, however Claudia is the one at risk.

But then again – she is deadlier than she looks, that knife and bow are not there for show – she knows how to use them. And Vyrryk knows how to use that sword he has on his back, unlike people nowadays that have them at their leg, people back in Arkhonex wore the scabbards on their backs like a quiver. The two of them ride past a pair of Boarbatusks being used like horses, pulling large carts with their bodies, grunting and snorting constantly as they move. Instead of glowing red they glow blue instead, due to the curse that possesses them.

The pair charge across a bridge, where young Aqua-Faunus swim around with their membranes that help them swim well – and unlike people nowadays, not only do they swim in rivers but they tend to swim completely unclothed. Something that is considered a crime nowadays – strange how the smallest things that are the norm in the past become illegal. Prostitution and Drug Trade was legal back in Arkhonex, mostly because the politicians enjoyed both.

However if two people of the same gender have sex? They would suffer the worst fates, such as torture, hanged drawn and quartered, fed to Grimm, hanged by the neck until dead – and many other worse things. Women were also not treated overly fairly in this time, not given rights to vote and were treated as lesser beings. Claudia has had to suffer with it for years, so did Starla Schnee – treated as sexual objects by the men or just as marital objects. She has had many men try and rape her in the past – those men lost their genitalia as a consequence.

However her relationship with Vyrryk is just as dangerous as what Krekras and Starla had, because cheating is considered a crime if you were female. The men are let off, but the women are punished – a cruel fate, one that was improved in the new world.

Even the prettiest flowers can be poisonous.

They both ride across the bridge, and eventually they arrive at the gates of the fortress inside of the city – the city is so large that there are forts and farmlands inside of it. The gates open up immediately for them because they can recognise his face a mile off. Their horses trot their way into the fort and they dismount, guiding them towards the stables where they live. Claudia stands there and she smiles to her lover, kissing him lovingly before he walks away from her, beginning her work as her Uncle approaches her.

He knows of their relationship but he stays quiet for both their sakes, because the father of Vyrryk?

Not an overly nice man, obsessed with his image.

“Hey there, darling.” He greets, and she smiles.

“Hey, dad.” She replies, taking a sponge and cleaning the horse that Vyrryk was riding.

“So...how did it go?” He asks her, and she fully knows what he is getting at. She looks at him with a smile as she flicks her hair over her shoulder.

“Pretty well – I mean Vyrryk is still a shit shot but hey, it is what it is, isn’t it?” She giggles as she cleans the hooves of the horse that sniffs her head. “Hey.” She whispers as she strokes the mane of the beautiful animal. She may not be from a powerful house like Vyrryk is, but she still enjoys her job. She loves Horses, finds them to be beautiful animals, far more honest than most people in the world, and far less dangerous too.

“Well I shan’t ask for details on why you took a bit longer to collect those grapes and get those pelts.” He chuckles, and she blushes, but he is not mad – in fact he admires her for her bravery to do this. But also worries about the dangers, again not of the man she loves but of his father. “Just be careful.”

“I am – and I love him, father...and he loves me, he said so.” She assures, and he smiles.

“I can tell he does – it is not him that worries me.” He says as he looks past her and then at the stairs that lead up to the main building in the fort, where they can see him. A large man with a lion pelt around his shoulders and narrowed eyes glaring right at her – he has known for a while but cannot act on it.

Not until he marries.

Vyrryk walks up the steps to his father, waiting to hear the scolding from him that is most likely coming very soon. He presses his palms upon the wooden balcony as he looks around. “Just come out and say it.” He sighs, ready for his words and they come very swiftly from his powerful voice.

His name is Ezekiel Arc – the father of Vyrryk Arc and a very powerful man, one who is completely focused on keeping his ego be at the top of the family name. He does not even believe in love, only in contracts formed from marriage – ones that bring in lots of coin and help build alliances in case of conflict arising against them. He has a bristly white beard and white hair with deep blue eyes, a common trait for the Arcs to have. “Why do you insist on sleeping around with that whore?” He snarls, getting a sharp glare from Vyrryk.

“Watch your mouth, father.” He snaps, getting a slow glare from his father who stares straight into his soul. “She may be a stable-girl but she is more than that.” He assures.

“I care not for what you think she is – I care for what she is. A stable-girl, with absolutely no relations of importance. A father who can hardly even read his own handwriting and a mother who has as much intelligence as a vegetable. Nothing to bring to the family, just eye candy and nothing more.” He states with a scowl, which angers him constantly.

“Why can’t you let me be happy?” Vyrryk questions.

“You can be happy – forget her and find somebody suitable to marry, there are countless beautiful young women out there with powerful families. Take the Schnees, I’ve heard that Starla Schnee has a cousin who is very shapely, has a powerful family too.” He suggests.

“The Schnees? Please, too uptight.” He scoffs, causing his father to bite his lip with frustration at his way of thinking.

“Alright, how about the Nikos Family?” He wonders.

“They have been our Bannermen for decades, you know as well as I do that it is stupid idea to try and morph them into the Arcs. They are smart.” Vyrryk states as he shrugs his shoulders, but his father only sees this as his attempts stay with Claudia.

“Well we have the Varr Skaal House visiting today, and I know that O’Donna has a stunning princess she wishes to marry someday. Blonde hair, brown eyes, very beautiful, I think her name is Yvette Varr Skaal – why not her?” He asks him, but he sighs as he shakes his head.

“There’s really no convincing you is there?” He asks him.

“No – because you must do what you house demands.” Ezekiel states, turning and walking away from him towards his house. He presses his hands to the railing with a sigh, looking across the fortress to see Claudia looking at him.

He sighs, feeling so defeated that he cannot just have what he wants. He reaches into his pocket and he stares at a small collection of markings of Higher Arkhoni, something that is not translates by the Visionary Book for some reason.

He stares at it and he sighs.

“Has to be something here...something that can help us get away from this place.” He sighs, clutching it tighter.

As he stands there, the landscape shatters and crumbles around him as the memory comes to an end as he looks at his hand clenched with those symbols engraved into the paper.

And then...

The memory fades away.

 

Jaune

 

The protective barrier throws him back, right into the arms of Pyrrha and Ruby who catch him, since the Visionary Books always seem to do that to the reader. He gasps and pants as he stands in their arms. “Shh, it’s okay...what did you see?” Pyrrha softly asks him as they let him sit down for a second, witnessing all those memories from a Visionary Book really can be draining for the user. Demetrius and Cassandra both crouch down as they listen to what Jaune has to say.

“I...I saw Vyrryk Arc, well no it’s...it’s like I was him, it was different. I wasn’t me but I could still remember everything that I saw. He was with this woman, a Stable-Girl called Claudia Barrett and he was struggling because he was in love with her. And didn’t want to marry any other higher class woman, just wanted her.” Jaune explains to them all, shaking it off, whereas Demetrius and Cassandra have absolutely no idea of what any of this means.

And whether this woman with the bow is indeed Claudia or not, it could be Yvette, he has not even seen her yet in the Visionary Book.

“Anything else?” Oscar asks him.

Then it hits him.

The markings!

“Get me a piece of paper and a pencil, I need to draw it while it’s still in my mind.” He stammers, so Oscar reaches into his pocket and luckily he has a piece of pen, whereas Blake pulls out a journal she has. She rips out a page and hands it to Jaune whilst Oscar gives him the pen. He quickly sketches what he saw in Vyrryk’s hand, it must be the reason he needed to see this, not just his past. Those symbols are important.

He sketches them quickly, then his genius mind activates, looking at the bracelet that the Architect made them. He holds his hand out and it activates, emitting the blue beam of light over the hieroglyphics he has drawn.

The database copies them and then forms the words before their very eyes so they can translate it.

It works extremely well, good old Architect and his crazy good technology.

Chapel of Dawn’s Vengeance

“Chapel of Dawn’s Vengeance? What does that mean?” Ren wonders as he looks at them – yet again Jaune’s parents are totally clueless.

But it is Oscar that puts it together, remembering some things from two words.

“Chapel...Dawn...wait a minute what was the name of that group that Kragen mentioned were causing chaos back in Arkhonex? Didn’t he call them the Congregation of Dawn?” Oscar asks them with curiosity, then Nora snaps her fingers with a smile and she nods her head.

“He damn did, didn’t he?” She agrees.

“Congregation of Dawn? They were these Religious Fanatics, right? Served Salem when she was created.” Ruby mutters as she walks back and forth.

“If the Vyrryk had markings to a Chapel that belonged to the Congregation of Dawn...then they are involved in all this...how?” Blake wonders as she bounces the ideas around her mind as Jaune stands up.

“That’s a damn good question.”

Chapter Text

Cinder

 

She stares at him, and the memories taste as fresh as they were when they happened, stood by the elevator that would head down to the vault. Ozpin stands at the other side of the room with both his hands resting atop the rounded crest of his cane, brown eyes staring straight at her as she stares right back. She does not trust him, none of them really trust him, but for good reason. He is not what would be considered the most trustworthy of individuals, especially when thinking about how much of a mystery he is. And the fact that he is a Knight of Grimm, the Knight of Vengeance and absolutely nobody knew.

Until Vir Nominis Umbra figured it out, and destroyed Beacon as a method to rid him, which failed nonetheless. She exhales as she stares at him with her one fully functional amber eye, one arm grasping onto her other arm. “Was it really seven years ago?” She asks him as they both stare at the elevator, no longer empty with smashed open doors when Pyrrha used the cubicle to shoot up there. However the memories of this elevator shaft, the vault that lies beneath them is still as strong as ever.

“It really was...” He sighs as he looks at the elevator, tapping his digits on the metal head of the cane. “Time flies, doesn’t it?” He chuckles, Cinder scoffs as she looks over at him.

“Ironic, coming from you.” She reminds, making the Professor chuckle.

“Hmm, funnily enough that was not intentional at all.” He assures, realising the fact he accidentally made a pun considering how Oscar knew him at the time. As the mysterious entity known as Time.

“Why did you never tell Oscar? I understand never telling us...but why not even him? You did share a mind, how come he never caught on?” She asks him, Ozpin nods his head, pacing around the room slowly with his cane being used like a walking stick.

“Well, I have learned that I can block certain memories from the host I am forced to bind my aura to. I chose Oscar because we shared similar goals...and once we were both very similar people. When I was a younger...better man.” Ozpin explains, thinking back to the time when he used to be Wymerus Ozymandius, the Captain of the Dauntless and later becoming the Knight of Vengeance because of Axzura Vex.

“But why? Did you not trust him?” Cinder inquires.

“No, it’s that I could not trust myself. The things I know and the truth of what I am is something that no boy should ever learn. I know things that the world would never want to understand...I learned my fair share from Vir Nominis Umbra.” He assures with the firm voice he speaks through.

Cinder leans against the wall and bends her knee and leg back, pressing the soul of her foot against the surface. She brushes her long black hair over her shoulder and she sighs with frustration. “By the gods, I really need to take a shower.” She sighs, trying her best to keep her hair from covering her face, since it doesn’t smell great and she has never really had the time to do so. Ozpin looks at her, and she is so much different compared to who she was when they fought down there. He smiles softly.

“I’m proud.” He says to her, she pauses and her eye widens with shock, looking at him with confused disbelief.

“Huh? You’re...proud? Of what?” Cinder asks him, nervous.

“How you have changed, you fell down a dark path yet you clawed yourself out and back into the light. Very few have that kind of strength – hell it took me decades to break free from Umbra, you managed to do it in a few months. That is no simple feat.” He compliments with a smile as he stands there, looking over to her. She blushes slightly, even acts adorable...something nobody would expect from the once murderous and psychotic Cinder Fall.

“Well...I haven’t earned their respect yet, I don’t deserve it after everything I have done.” She sighs as she turns and walks towards the door, looking through the creaking open door where she can hear the Witches speaking with Glynda outside. Where Penny also stands there as she speaks. She sighs, no matter what she does she never feels like she has done enough to earn their respect, the sense of family they all feel.

“Have they demanded you leave yet?” Ozpin asks her curiously, standing in the same form and pose he always does. She raises a black brow and turns to look at him with confusion.

“What?” She questions.

“Have they demanded you leave, yet?” He asks her.

“Well...no...But they should.” She states.

“Why? Why should they shun you after everything you have done to atone for your sins?” Ozpin asks her as he walks towards her now, walking with his cane at his side, using it like a third leg. Cinder stammers when she turns to look at him with the inability to find an answer. She hears the voice of Penny and she turns to look at her through the crack in the door.

“Do you think we can make a cure?” Penny asks the Witches from outside, sounding so concerned for the safety of her friends.

“If we can get our hands on some Aphax Violet Flowers from the Embered Grove then I am certain of it – but the hard part is finding Arkhonex.” She explains with a heavy sigh. Cinder closes her eyes and turns to him, remembering the amount of souls that died during the Battle of Beacon because of her. The death of Penny, Pyrrha and countless other souls...even Roman.

“I have killed so many people, played a hand in all of this. Helped that monster get where he is now.” Cinder sadly states, pressing her head to the wall with frustration towards her past sins. Ozpin looks at her, the woman that was partially responsible for the Fall of Beacon nearly seven years ago now...and he has no animosity. Because he knows that she was merely a tool for Vir Nominis Umbra, just as Mercury was...and just as Salem is as well.

Just as he was.

“Cinder...no...Sapphire.” He speaks, her eye widens when hearing somebody other than Kassius actually call her by her real name. She turns and stares at the man behind her with shocked looks in her eye. “Your crimes are nothing compared to my own – I played a hand in destroying an empire that killed...billions. Not hundreds, not thousands...billions.” He explains, and the use of that number truly makes her shudder with understandable dread...but also feeling sorry for the man. “Believe me when I say, if I can come back from the horrors I have done, then so can you. You just have to accept your dark past, and decide how you will change the future.” He explains, walking over to her.

He reaches over and he pushes her black hair from her face and curling it over her shoulder then looking at the dress she still wears that Salem made for her. “And to start? Stop wearing that dress – it is a constant reminder of what Salem did to you. If you want them to really feel you are with them...be like them. Don’t act as Cinder Fall – but as Sapphire Locke.” He advises with a smile on his face and she stammers as she stands there. But then, the dark memories of her past begin to fade away as she realises he is right.

“So...I just...be myself?” She asks him.

“I don’t see the harm in it, if you really want them to accept you. Forgiveness will come in time, but not just from you helping them. Interact with them, talk to them – nobody will ever get to know you if you don’t approach them first.” He states with the shrug of his shoulders. She turns and looks at the window, faintly seeing her own reflection and she sighs, knowing he is right.

“Okay...” She agrees with a smile, and he smiles back, patting her shoulder and walking past her. But before he leaves, she has one more thing to say.

“I’m sorry.” She apologises, and he stops to look at her.

“For what?” He asks.

“For kicking your ass.” She snarkily says with a cheeky grin, making him chuckle at her statement.

“Oh sweetheart – I was letting you win.” He chuckles, walking away from her, and after what they witnessed him do against Vir Nominis Umbra? He could make short work of a Fall Maiden who just learned how to use her powers.

She exhales, and she immediately turns towards the Dormitory Block...deciding to make the changes that she wishes to make. She walks out the door and towards the building, pushing the doors open and walking up the stairs, passing by the many other dorms that are now empty. She stops at her one, and she pushes it open to walk inside, and she closes it behind her. She approaches the mirror and stares at herself, and the first thing she does is take off her patch that covers her damaged eye.

She reveals her face to the mirror and she stares at the burns, the damage done to her eye but seeing it beginning to heal. She exhales through her nose and reaches back to the rear of her dress, and she grips the zipper and slowly pulls it down, feeling it loosen around her slender athletic body. It falls from her, and she feels the air against her bare skin, staring at her shirtless physique...

But her eyes focus onto the scar above her breast, the one of Fury’s Handprint...and just seeing it sends flashes of haunting memories back to her mind. Her screams of horror as he dragged her across the hard grating floor and throwing her into her cell. The burning agony of the magma hot palm pressing against her skin, melting it and pulling it away to leave that terrible scar for the rest of her life. All because she told a lie to Salem, one of the worst things anybody could ever do.

She takes off the remaining clothes on her body and she walks towards the shower and she steps into the glass cubicle, looking up at the shower nozzle and she closes her eye as she turns the knob. Feeling the warm water falling onto her face and trickling across her body, across the scars she has collected in her life. And not just from working with Salem, but from before. She does not have the perfect physique many would expect from such a beautiful looking woman.

As she washes her hair and body, her thoughts always go to Emerald, wondering where she is in the world. Completely unaware that Kassius has actually found her and she is in fact alive and desperately looking for her as well. Things have changed in her life, now she actually wants to have someone...the love she sees around her between people.

Jaune and Pyrrha.

Oscar and Ruby.

Blake and Sun.

Kassius and Yang.

Neptune and Weiss.

Nora and Ren.

So many people around her have love in their hearts, and that is all she wants...is to know what that feeling is like. To be wanted, to feel the warmth of someone against you...she has never been one to shy away from one night stands in the past. She swings both ways after all, hell she even had a one night stand with Mercury once...but Emerald...something always drew them to each other.

Was it the looks?

Was it my voice?

Hell was it the way I acted?

She rubs her hands across her body, washing away her sins as she moves on, washing Cinder Fall away and digging the girl she used to be out from her soul. Eventually she ends her session in the shower, and with steam around her she dries herself off, feeling better and smelling better too. She wraps the towel round her naked body and walks towards the room again.

She exhales as she turns her eyes to her wardrobe and she reaches inside, taking out a black bra and clipping it on over her chest, then a pair of underwear and slipping them on too. Then she opens it to see a familiar costume, but she does not intend to wear it all this time.

It is the same costume she wore when she attended the Vytal Festival. She takes the light beige sleeveless jacket she wore and stares at it...it was the most normal she ever felt when wearing this outfit. However she will not be wearing the sarashi this time, but she will wear everything else. She takes the grey trousers she wore and she slides into them with ease, buckling the belt around her waist and they still fit like a charm, if not a bit looser. She picks up her fingerless gloves and also puts them on, flexing her digits as she looks at them.

Then her eyes focus onto a pair of black boots, not the same she used to wear but it is better than the heels. At least she won’t risk tripping over all the time unlike those glass monstrosities she used to wear. She ties them up and zips the sides up too so they fit nicely, buckling up straps too as they cover most of her calves anyway.

Now she takes out a black sleeveless crop top with a V-Necked section in the middle that she puts on over her chest and zips up the back, fitting comfortably. The black top has a few Mistraalian Bronze linings woven into it too, with a diamond shaped hole in the back that perfectly shows the tattoo on her back she got when using the Grimm Beetle to absorb Amber’s Fall Maiden power. A mark she will never lose, but has no choice but to live with, just as Ozpin has learned to accept what he is.

Finally she takes the beige sleeveless jacket of hers and she pulls it on, sitting it on her torso as she looks at herself. She has some skin revealing but...she has nothing to hide anymore, and never minded that. Her aura is strong and at the end of the day she knows she is a very attractive woman – why hide it? At least that is her way at looking at it, Sapphire Locke would have done the same thing, confident in who she is.

Finally she approaches her table where she sits down and begins to put on her makeup, something she has not done since the infiltration – but now she does it simply because she wants to. Spraying perfume on her person and taking a curler and making her hair take a wavy look, letting the left side of her hair hang over her shoulder and the rest down her back.

Finally...

She is finished.

A new Cinder Fall – or Sapphire Locke.

She will always refer to herself as Cinder, because that has become her identity and she responds to it easier than Sapphire. She has had to live with that name for quite a long time.

She steps outside after finishing up and the sun shines upon her, she looks around and sees Kragen standing there with Ozpin and Yenna. The three of them look at Cinder and they are completely taken aback to see how much she has changed. Wearing a whole new outfit, stylising her hair and clearly taken a shower. She looks like a completely different person, and she walks towards them. Yenna plants a hand on her hip as she sees her approach, looking at her outfit. “Well...this is different.” She says.

“I decided it was time for a change.” She says, looking at Ozpin and winking.

“You’re not wearing the patch.” Kragen points out, seeing the scars and her still healing eye.

“It was time – and besides...I’ve nothing to hide anymore.” She states with the shrug of her shoulders.

“You look good.” Yenna compliments, making Cinder smile sweetly to the compliment she was given, at least Yenna is starting to give Cinder a second chance. But as Cinder stands with them, a familiar voice calls out to her in her mind, sounding ghostly and so distant.

“Sapphire? Can you hear me?” The whispery voice of Kassius calls to her through the bond that they share, since he knows how to contact her. Anyone can do it but it takes immense concentration to establish a link to her – unless you have a strong bond. The three Arkhoni Survivors look at her with curiosity, noticing her eye darting around as she hears that voice.

“Cinder? What is it?” Yenna asks her.

“Kassius...He’s trying to contact me again.” Cinder tells them, and Kragen’s eyes widen since he remembers her doing this before at Menagerie to communicate with Glynda. Attempting to warn them in time about the true nature of Horridus Morbus, only it was too late and Brawnz ravaged poor May.

“Do it, connect with him. We’ll be able to see him like Glynda, right?” He asks her.

“Yeah, I’m able to take a fragile copy of their aura for a few seconds to talk to them wherever I am. Or anyone around me can.” Cinder explains, and then Yenna looks at Kragen.

“Shouldn’t we let Yang in on this? She will want to see him, to know he is okay? Give the girl some hope?” Yenna asks them, and they look at Cinder.

“Sure.” Cinder agrees.

The four of them approach the Amphitheatre where the Afflicted are being held and Yang lays there in her bed, rolled over with her face staring at the wall. Cinder looks over at her and she speaks. “Yang?” Cinder says, the blonde haired Huntress hears the voice of their old foe and now ally – maybe even friend – and she turns over, surprised to see her wearing new clothes and actually looking really clean and pretty.

“You look different, it suits you.” Yang compliments.

I should dress up more often if I get this many compliments.

“It’s Kassius...he’s contacting me...you’ll be able to see him and talk to him.” She assures, and her eyes widen and she nearly inhales her whole tongue from the gasp she made.

“What?” She breathlessly questions.

“My semblance, I can communicate with people by summoning a projection of their Astral Form to where we are. Good way to sending messages without being tapped by anybody.” She states, Yang springs upright and looks at her desperately.

“Please...I need to see if he is okay.” She stammers.

“Well...let’s find out.” Cinder says, as she closes her eyes and she begins to activate her semblance, feeling the bond she has with her brother connecting. Energy of aura flowing through her body and then casting out before her like a hologram...the sound of Yang gasping and standing up is enough proof to know that it has worked and she can see him. Kassius stands before her, and it is hopeful for them to see Kassius wearing his outfit again and with his hat back on.

“Sapphire? Oh thank the gods we’ve got a connection...wait...you changed outfits?” He quickly changes the subject with a surprised expression, she is gonna get that quite a lot apparently. She smiles with a short chuckle, lowering her head as she scratches the back of her neck.

“Well I was convinced.” She says to him, her eye glancing over to Ozpin who looks at Kassius, first time really meeting him. Yang gets up, weakly but Yenna helps her with her arm round the Spring Maiden’s shoulders. She looks up at Kassius and Cinder looks at her then at the oblivious Kassius Locke. “Hey bro? Look left for me.” She asks him, but then he looks to their right, and she rolls her eye with annoyance, making Yang giggle. “My left.” She corrects, then he looks left and his eyes widen and he gasps with relief.

“Oh by the gods...you’re okay.” He gasps, walking over to her, but obviously they cannot feel each other due to the fact it is just a holographic copy of his Astral Body. Yet she still reaches out to his hands, but hers just fade through his translucent ones.

“Hey you...been thinking about you a lot...I’m so happy you’re okay.” Yang sighs, desperately wanting to kiss him and hold onto him and never let go. But alas until he gets back to her that cannot really happen. But Kassius turns and then he stares straight into the brown eyes of Professor Ozpin, letting it really sink in to see that he is back and alive. He walks towards him and stares him down; with narrowed untrusting eyes since he does not believe him being back is a good thing by any means.

“So Sapphire wasn’t joking...you really are back?” Kassius states as he looks him up and down. “And you’re the Knight of Vengeance?”

“I am...I see Sapphire here has gotten you informed?” Ozpin presumes, standing in his memorable pose with both hands pressed atop his cane, and his head held high.

“More or less – Umbra won, right?” He sums up, and Kragen scratches the back of his head.

“Yeah...played us like a fiddle. But thanks to Ruby’s eyes Ozpin managed to hurt Umbra.” Kragen states, and Kassius turns back to the Professor with a shocked expression.

“How bad?” Kassius asks.

“Enough to piss him off and retreat...not before possessing and tormenting Ruby first though. She ran at first but we got her back.” Yenna answers. Cinder looks at Kassius, examining the difference in how he looked the last time they talked this way, and he was in...Gladiator Armour...not his outfit, and he never had his hat back.

“Kassius? Where are you?” She asks him, quickly getting onto the pressing matter. Kassius looks at her, and his heart palpitates hard, since the topic is one that makes him nervous just to think about.

“Well...talking about Umbra...he freed Cardin and I.” He reveals, and all of them react with shocked wide eyes, except for Ozpin – he knows Vir Nominis Umbra better than anyone at the end of the day. This is most likely something he does to get something he wants done without getting his hands dirty.

“What?” Yang fearfully asks him.

“We were in the cell and he showed up out of nowhere, just as he always does. We chatted and then we ended up making a deal to get out and meet with him at a Crossroads by a Church. We managed to get out of there by the skin of our teeth, the Traffickers are gone...wiped out.” Kassius explains to them all, and Yenna does not even look sorry for them. She was captured by them at one point after all, and the things that they did to her mean that they deserve everything they got.

“Good.” Yenna softly says.

“What happened?” Kragen asks him.

“The White Fang attacked, Mazen at the lead...and these new Elite White Fang soldiers he has? They are nothing like that team he had on Menagerie, they’re insane. Like total whack jobs, one of them is a Hyena Faunus and he is near Tyrian level crazy. Another is a snake Faunus, the other a Warthog and the other an Eagle. All of them are nuts.” Kassius describes, shuddering as he remembers what they did to the Traffickers when they attacked the place.

“By the gods...is he really sinking that low?” Yang questions with a strained voice, having to sit down.

“Well he let Cardin and I go, he clearly has changed a bit from when we arrested him. He does not want all of humanity extinct, he let all the prisoners who were human or did not want to join go free. He just wants Atlas destroyed.” Kassius explains as he stands before them in his ghostly Aura form.

“Maybe we did get through to him on some degree.” Kragen mutters.

“Do you think we can convince him to help us against Umbra?” Yenna asks.

“Even if we could, the rest of the Fang are fanatical lunatics like Corsac.” He tells them, and Yang clenches her hand into a fist with anger at the mere mention of his name...after how he stabbed Ruby in the back in Menagerie.

“Well...time will tell.” Kragen says as he leans against the edge of Neptune’s bed, the other Afflicted are all asleep right now. Luckily the Witches gave them some stabilising potions that work way better than the drugs ever did. No sweat at all, no pale skin...however the plague still spreads.

“So what did Umbra want? I know him, he would never let you go unless he expected you would do something in return for him.” Ozpin asks, and he is not far from the truth.

“He offered me a deal – we go after my father, Merlot...still coming to terms with that...and he said he will aid us when necessary. He said he wouldn’t get the Acolytes and Grimm off our backs, but why would he? He gave us our first clue.” He states, and he reaches into his pocket and shows the photograph of Pyrrha’s circlet. All of them recognise it, but none recognise it better than Cinder whose eyes widen with regretful disbelief.

“That’s...” Yang begins.

“Pyrrha’s circlet.” Cinder finishes, remembering how she held it in her palm after burning her body to ashes on Beacon Tower at the end of the Fall.

“Yeah, we found out it is on auction at a nearby Manor protected by the Acolytes called the Fallingwater Estate. Black Market Auction, he even left us suits...and some dresses.” He says, getting a snort from Yang.

“Dresses?” Yang giggles, that is when he breaks the news to Cinder, looking right at her.

“Sapphire...that is where the really good news for you comes.” He reveals and she raises a brow. “We found Emerald.” He reveals and she gasps, eye widening with shock and awe, stepping back with her mouth agape. Heart skipping a beat and eye nearly leaking wet with emotions rampaging through her. “She was injured, attacked by a Beowulf but Umbra seems to have secured her. She’s asleep right now...she’s agreed to help us.” Kassius explains, but then he sighs, looking at Yang. “I just want to see you.” He says to her.

“No...it’s a good idea. Then we will have two teams searching for clues to find Arkhonex. We can keep each other updated.” Yang explains as she takes a seat, Kassius looks at her with concern, crouching down.

“I...I just need to know you’re okay. I hate leaving you like this.” He states, reaching out to her cheek to caress it with his hand but neither feel a thing.

“It’s okay, Kas...the Witches are being good to us...and the potions they make have been great...I mean we still hurt but we can actually move around better.” Yang explains to him with a smile. He smiles back, admiring her courage so much.

“I wish I could be as brave as you.” He lovingly says to her.

“You are...just not as stylish about it.” She jokes.

“Ha-Ha.” He jokingly replies, getting up and looking at Cinder, still coming to grasps that she is alive.

“W-Where has she been?” She stammers.

“Not sure, she was a bit confused when we found her. But she has been on the run for a while, she said she managed to use her weapons to catch a flight on a Nevermore to get out of Salem’s Sanctum and fell in the water, washed up on the beach. She didn’t say much else.” Kassius explains to her, and Cinder smiles.

“Always a way out...she’d always say that.” She says with a smile, remembering Emerald’s quotes so well.

Yenna looks at Kassius, since she heard him mention he has a plan. “So just the three of you are gonna bid on her Circlet? You’ll be going up against rich businessmen, you won’t stand a chance.” Yenna reminds, since she is right too, they do not have the money. Kassius scoffs.

“Who said anything about buying it?” He asks her, then she pauses. Cinder chuckles, looking at Yenna.

“Emerald is a master-thief, best in the business.” She states with a smile.

“It won’t be easy, three people? You’ll need backup.” Yenna states.

“Don’t worry...I have an idea of who to call. Once the C.C.T gets back online.” He sighs.

“It should be soon, Acolytes and Jacques won’t be able to distribute weapons and dust without it. But be careful, they will be hunting us on there.” Ozpin reminds.

“Don’t worry – we’re professionals.” Kassius holds out his hands with a smile, but none of them seem to believe that with the deadpans. Even Yang deadpans him, he looks at her and he slumps his shoulders. “C’mon? I’m professional, right?”

“If professional entails walking into a wall thinking it was a door, then yes.” Yang answers with a grin, and Kassius groans.

“You gonna keep bringing that up for the rest of my life?” He asks her.

“Of course.” Yang replies with a grin.

Ozpin nods his head and taps his cane. “Well...we shan’t keep you any longer...try and contact us after you have the circlet, okay?” Ozpin asks him, and despite the fact he does not trust the Professor, he still nods.

“You got it.” Kassius assures.

“Kas?” Cinder speaks, and he looks at her. “Tell...tell Em...tell her she owes me a drink.” Cinder demands, and he smirks.

“She’ll want to give ya more than that.” He winks and Cinder blushes awkwardly. Kassius looks at Yang and she smiles.

“I love you.” Kassius promises.

“I love you too...now go on...be a dapper hero for us.” She requests.

He tilts his hat to them with a smirk. “Please...look who you’re talking to.” Kassius replies with a chuckle, then his Astral Form fades away and Cinder deactivates her semblance. She sighs...both in exhaustion and relief to know that Emerald is alive...it gives her some hope of finally having someone to love.

“He surely is a character.” Ozpin chuckles, immediately admiring him.

“Yes he is.” Yang lovingly agrees, relieved to see him okay.

 

Jaune

 

A storm has set in over the Kingdom of Vale as the night draws closer to midnight, a storm that must also be at Beacon too. The rumbling of thunder and the distant flickering of lightning stuns the skies. Thick layers of cloud where the raindrops fall, strong winds but not howling.

Inside however it is warm, leaving the sanctum of which the family of warriors were shown, with the knowledge bestowed upon Jaune. Lights shining through the diamond marked windows, the rainwater pattering against the panes and the wood.

The rich smell of spaghetti Bolognese fills the air in the dining room as Jaune helps his mother carry the plates into the room where his father and the rest of his friends are sat down. They look over to see him approaching with an apron on and with his sword and shield resting with theirs in the corner. “Mrs Arc, you really shouldn’t have.” Blake politely says to Cassandra as she approaches her with a plate of spaghetti, setting it down at her place, eyes widening with delight from how lovely it smells.

“Please, it is my pleasure. I was preparing spaghetti anyway, we were hoping to have the rest of the daughters round...but sadly they couldn’t make it. So I guess I should thank you...I’m not buying tonnes of ingredients for nothing.” She laughs, making them chuckle too, and Blake picks up her knife and fork as she begins to eat with the others. Jaune approaches Pyrrha and places her dinner down before her.

“Madam.” He cheekily speaks to her with a wink, and she smiles with a little giggle.

“Thank you, my knight.” She sweetly replies to him, a smile beaming so bright it warms his heart. She looks out the window to see the trickling of rainwater down the window outside, hearing the very faint rumbling of the thunder.

“Hey mom, where’s Alyssa?” Jaune asks Cassandra.

“She stayed round her friend’s house for the past few days, she should be back home soon.” She tells him with a smile, excited to see her reaction of her big brother being at home.

“Hopefully she won’t wander off again.” Ruby hopes as she looks at her plate set down before her eyes, the steam filled with the scent of delight from the Bolognese sauce sat on the strands of pasta.

“Ooh we gave her a stern talking to about that. She was lucky you were there to save her...not sure why you were there though. She said you seemed upset.” Demetrius points out as he sticks his fork into his pasta, whilst Ruby pauses and closes her eye as she thinks on that terrible night. The one where she lost her father and a part of her died there too after what Vir Nominis Umbra did. Oscar looks at her and he gently caresses her knee with his hand, looking to Jaune’s father.

“That night...some bad things happened that night. Lost a lot of good people.” He tells them, and they clearly would rather not pester them on the details of what happened. Demetrius nods his head, understanding that kind of pain since he was a Huntsman once too – so he knows exactly what loss feels like. But they know it just as well, and perhaps more than he could know from what they have lost recently.

“Well – either way, I thank you for saving my daughter’s life. Those thugs got what they deserved.” Demetrius assures with a smile, nodding to Ruby and she looks at him with a small smile. She does not feel proud for killing those men, however nothing stopped her from doing so either...but it is not an alien thing. She cut a man’s head off when they were in Mistral five years ago just to get past him, he was a Mercenary but still a man. Yet nobody shudders at remembering when she did that.

She has never been an innocent soul...she just...never thought she would take as many lives as she had, and feel hardly anything when doing it. It is just the memories of doing so, the questions that will never be answered.

Luckily her tormented mind is pushed away from her memories as Nora squeaks with joy when her spaghetti is delivered to her by Cassandra, clapping her hands together and bouncing in her seat. Whereas Ren is as polite as ever, gently taking it from Cassandra’s mitten covered hands. “Thank you.” He says to her with a smile.

“Tuck in.” Cassandra says to them as she takes her seat and starts to tuck in.

Deep rumbling of thunder echoes across the estate as they eat, the crackling of the fireplace in the dining room keeping them warm and the occasion creak from the house settling in the storm. “Good thing we got inside when we did. That storm came out of nowhere.” Oscar comments as he listens to it outside before eating some of his spaghetti.

“I know, and without the C.C.T there was no warning. Gods forbid a tornado or a hurricane hitting with it down.” Cassandra worries.

“I’m sure they are doing everything they can.” Demetrius assures, holding her hand with a smile.

“I hope so – things have been hectic lately.” She sighs.

“That’s one word for it.” Blake chuckles as she thinks on the things that happened, the invasion of Atlas, the Fall of Vacuo, Horridus Morbus and the infection of Menagerie. So much has happened and fallen apart, even the White Fang are crumbling after the murder of Sienna Khan. Either they don’t know or do not believe it, because if they did believe that footage then they would have never let her enter their home where their child sleeps. Pyrrha smiles as she comes up with a conversation starter – something she has always wanted to know, as his girlfriend Cassandra would definitely be happy to answer her question.

“So...Mrs Arc...any memorable stories of Jaune, when he was little?” She curiously asks, and Jaune groans, his head falling forward as his mother giggles.

“Oh where to begin? He has always been quite the entertaining little baby, haven’t you?” She asks him with a smile, and he groans again.

“Please be merciful...I’ll never hear the end of it.” Jaune groans.

“Well let’s see, there was the time he managed to get stuck inside of the washing machine.” Demetrius remembers, making Cassandra laugh – and Nora chokes on a piece of spaghetti, eyes bulging from their sockets, coughing as she stares at Jaune.

“You what?” Nora questions.

“I am very curious now.” Ren agrees with a chuckle in his voice.

“Oh gods please...” He groans.

“We need to hear this, Jaune.” Ruby giggles, finally smiling again. He sighs as he sits back in his chair and he sets his fork down.

“I was interested in what it was, I crawled in and then my sister closed the door behind me.” Jaune explains, but very briefly.

“Interested? I had to pick you up and carry you out of that damned machine like six times.” Cassandra reminds and he nods his head.

“Yeah...yeah you did.” He sighs, scratching the back of his head awkwardly. Pyrrha giggles with pure happiness at these kinds of story, and Jaune raises his eyebrows. “Oh come on, I was five.”

“Aw...” Pyrrha coos with a precious smile.

He smiles back but then looks to his mother to reply with another story. “Oh yeah, then how about when Nylah managed to set the kitchen on fire when she was trying to make pancakes?” Jaune asks her, and Demetrius groans as he pictures those memories as they come flying right back into his head like a frying pan.

“That took so long to clean up.” He sighs, looking at the gas cookers in the kitchen where it happened. Ren looks utterly befuddled – as the master of cooking pancakes – that is something he has never realised was even possible.

“How?” Ren inquires, making Nora giggle.

“She somehow managed to knock over vegetable oil underneath the frying pan and ignited a fire. Nearly burned the whole house down if Jaune didn’t catch it.” Demetrius explains, able to see the flames now and the panicked yells of Nylah as she tried to put out the flames.

“See, you can be observant! When you’re...not in a washing machine.” Ruby teases, and he sighs.

“You gonna start bringing that up all the time?” He asks her.

“Mhm.” She replies.

“Awesome.” Jaune sarcastically sighs as he eats a meatball covered in Bolognese sauce.

“You were always a very eventful little child, Jaune. Unpredictable at every turn.” Cassandra remarks, thinking about his time at school. “Determined too, never gave up.”

“Well...dunno about that one.” He says, thinking back to the early days when he trained with Pyrrha on the rooftops.

“You have always been stubborn when it came to doing something, and you would never give in if you put your mind to something.” Demetrius chuckles, but Jaune sighs, still thinking of the times of how frustrated Pyrrha must have gotten when trying to help him.

“Well I wasn’t great at it in the beginning...I mean Pyrrha you must have been ripping your hair out over me from how annoying I was.” He chuckles, but she shakes her head with a smile.

“No...I always had faith in you, I knew you would get better. And here you are.” She says with a smile, and he chuckles softly.

“I still haven’t unlocked my semblance...but...from what I saw and what you told me down there...” He says as he looks at his father. “I just hope I am worth it.”

“Of course you are.” Cassandra says with a smile.

“We’ll always have your back, pal.” Oscar assures with a smile, and Jaune smiles back.

“Thanks guys.” He says with a smile, he may have always had a loving family – but he has never truly felt like he could be himself as he could around all of them.

As they eat, Cassandra keeps looking at Pyrrha every few seconds then she leans over to her husband’s ear and she whispers something to him. Pyrrha notices pretty fast, dabbing her mouth with a napkin to remove the sauce, and as the two of them recline from each other they look straight at her. “Miss Nikos...I would like to ask you something...” Cassandra begins, so Pyrrha sets her cutlery down with her full attention directed to them.

“Of course.” She politely obliges.

“Jaune told us...well he wrote to us about it when he was looking for you...about...the Onyx Phantom?” She asks her, and her heart stammers a second when hearing that name, Jaune pauses and looks at his mother with worry in his eyes for what she will ask next.

It is not part of her anymore...

Don’t ask her that.

“Did you ever go back home?” She asks her, and that was the last thing he expected her to ask Pyrrha, so much so that even Pyrrha was taken aback from the unexpected question.

“Um...I did...but at the time it felt so alien to me.” Pyrrha answers, and Cassandra nods her head.

“How much do you remember now, if you don’t mind me asking?” Cassandra asks her curiously.

“Pretty much everything...a few things a blurry, but I remember everything else.” Pyrrha answers.

Cassandra looks at Demetrius and he nods with a smile. As Cassandra draws a breath to speak, the door opens up and they see Alyssa stepping in with her bag dripping wet with a coat on. “I’m h-home.” She stammers, still struggling with her stutter that she struggles with all the time. A voice that Ruby recognises very quickly, and she gets ready for her gasp to see her standing there, she looks down to where her badge should be and it still has not been clipped on. She still has left it back in her dorm room – she might never wear it again because of how she feels...of not being worthy to wear it.

“Alyssa! Finally got home, did Karen get stuck in traffic bringing you home because of the storm?” She asks her curiously.

“Yeah, st-storm made it pretty diff-dif-difficult.” She stammers as she sets her bag down by the fireplace so it can dry, along with her coat. Cassandra has a smile on her face as she waits to see her reaction to seeing Jaune visiting home.

“Honey?” Cassandra softly speaks.

“Yeah?” She replies.

“Come see who came round to visit.” She says to her.

“Who?”  Alyssa asks as she walks round the corner and she gasps with her eyes wide and mouth agape, seeing her big brother standing before her with a smile. “Jaune!” She squeals with happiness, running up to him. He crouches down and catches her in a hug, holding her close and tight.

“Hey there, little one. Staying out of trouble like I asked?” He asks her.

“Trying.” She cutely responds into his shoulder. She looks over his shoulder and she gasps when seeing Pyrrha and Ruby there.

“It’s her! You found her!” She squeaks with happiness when seeing Ruby there.

“Uh-Huh, totally easy to find too.” He sarcastically says as he looks at her, getting a narrowed eye from Ruby.

“Y’know you went missing for a while too, Jaune.” Nora reminds with crossed arms, never forgetting that time after Ruby and Oscar were taken and he lured the Knights and Grimm away from Ruby after losing her eye. Not like it mattered since Death and Tyrian grabbed her anyway and took her to Salem.

Only for Tyrian to die later on, suffering for his sins.

“Yeah, yeah.” Jaune bats away as he talks to his little sister. Cassandra turns back to Pyrrha and she stands up and picks up her umbrella.

“Pyrrha...come with me, please...”

 

Pyrrha

 

The two of them walk out into the night from the house, Pyrrha with a warm coat around her armoured body and so does Cassandra. She holds the umbrella above their heads to shield the rain from landing on their hair, walking towards one of the houses – it has the lights on for some reason. “Um...where are you taking me?” Pyrrha inquires, Cassandra stops and looks at her with a smile.

“You really are beautiful you know? I always wanted Jaune to find someone like you...he always struggled when it came to talking to girls. The poor boy would always over think it and end up messing it up. What did he do that made you like him?” She curiously asks her. Pyrrha smiles, complimented by the gentle words from Cassandra.

“Well...I’m a Nikos, I have lived a life of everyone looking up to me...so much that nobody thought that they were worth me. I became isolated by my fame...but Jaune? He treated me as any other girl...and that really struck a chord in me...that and...well he’s cute.” She admits with a shy smile, blushing at his mother.

“Well...I thank you...and I am sorry for what happened to you in the Battle of Beacon...but you are back now. And that is why I want you to see someone.” She says, walking towards the door of the house.

She knocks her fist against it, and they wait a moment, Pyrrha feels extensively nervous as she stands there.

Then the door opens.

Her eyes widen from who it is, for she looks so similar to herself just older...tears in her emerald eyes as she stares straight at her daughter. Thara Nikos, the mother that she never got to see after she broke free from the Onyx Phantom’s control. Cassandra steps aside as she lets the mother and daughter reunite. “P-Pyrrha? My baby girl?” She breaks down into tears, wrapping her arms around her daughter and she does the same.

Tears of joy stream down their faces in the rain, not even caring about the cold, Cassandra smiles with happiness to finally see Thara smile again. She turns to see everyone standing outside, and Jaune walks towards her with Alyssa at his side. “You...took her in?” He asks her with disbelief, since the last time he saw her was after they left to Beacon when they saved Ruby from the Volcanic Chain Isles.

“Your father and I went to the refugee camp to offer shelter and homes to people who lost theirs. Since our estate is large enough to house them. Thara was one of them, and when we figured out who she was...and who her daughter was to you. We had to take her in...she may as well be family to us.” Cassandra states with a smile on her face.

“What about the other refugees?” Jaune asks her.

“Gone, in the years they all moved on, thanked us for everything we did for them and they earned enough money to buy new houses. We now use this place for that purpose, sheltering those who need it. In times like this? There needs to be more people doing it.” She states with a smile, carrying the soul of the Arcs through and through.

Charity and Kindness.

“Thank you...I didn’t even know she was still alive.” Jaune says with a smile, seeing the two of them still hugging.

“Well...we all deserve a few bits of happy news. I don’t know what happened to all of you, who it was you lost...and I won’t ask. I just wanted there to be some more smiles in your life.” Cassandra kindly says.

“I love you, mom.” He sniffles, wrapping his arms around his mother. Pyrrha looks back to Cassandra and she does the same.

“Thank you...I...” She cannot even form sentences, but Cassandra presses her finger to Pyrrha’s lip to shush her.

“You needn’t say a word, honey...Thara is welcome to stay here indefinitely. We never asked a word of her yet she has helped so much. And we will continue to aid people as best we can.” She assures.

“You’re good people...I knew there was another reason I loved you, Jaune.” She sniffles, immediately holding him and kissing him firmly on the lips. He kisses he back and the tear eyed Thara Nikos smiles as she wipes the tears from her eyes. Just happy to see her baby girl again. Alyssa smiles as she looks at them, then Jaune crouches down to her.

Saddened that he has to tell her this. “As much as we want to...we have to go...” He sighs.

“Already?” She sadly coos.

“I know...but believe it or not I actually have responsibilities now.” Jaune chuckles, getting a confused look from her.

“You?” She asks him and he gasps, making Pyrrha laugh softly, before turning to her mother again.

“Fancy words, little one...I will tickle you till you topple.” He warns, but she giggles in defeat, burying her head in his chest as she hugs him. He caresses her hair affectionately with his hand.

“When will you be b-back?” She asks him, stuttering slightly.

“Soon – I know Pyrrha will want to.” She says.

“You are welcome to come by whenever you want. I understand why you need to go...after what you learned you need to report to Ozpin, don’t you?” Cassandra presumes. Jaune looks up at Pyrrha...

He smiles.

“Y’know what? I think we can stay a bit longer.” He admits, not just for her sake but also to spend more time with his family.

“You can?” Alyssa gasps.

“I’m sure Oz won’t mind.” Jaune states with a smile. Thara stays close to her daughter, following them as they return to the house, to continue to catch up.

Spend time as a family again.

While they still can.

 

Kassius

 

Morning have come in Vacuo, the sun beginning to rise into the sky at last.

The Vytal Huntsman is sat down on the chair whilst Emerald is sketching something behind them on a large piece of paper that they found. Laid out on the pews are the suits and dresses that they found, provided by Vir Nominis Umbra most likely for the Auction they are about to enter. Cardin sighs as he watches Emerald, admittedly not overly fond of having her on the same team as them. “Are you sure we can trust her?” He asks Kassius.

“Look we saved her life, we could have left her in the forest but we didn’t. We carried her all the way over here. And she wants to get back to my sister, so...” Kassius explains as he rubs his mount and face with his metal hand.

“Gods don’t get me started on the fact that Cinder Fall is your frickin sister.” Cardin scoffs.

“Look she is not the monster you think she is.” Kassius defends.

“Think? She destroyed Beacon.” He reminds.

“I know...and you slaughtered your team.” He reminds, Cardin glares at him and he snarls, clenching his hand into a fist when he says that.

“Don’t compare me to her.” He snarls.

“What I’m saying is that you are trying to redeem yourself...so is my sister. And she has been doing a great job so far.” Kassius explains, but before their conversation can go any further the three of them all hear an identical sound three times at once. A beeping sound resounding from their scrolls in their pockets.

They pull them out and are surprised by what is on their screen.

Cross Continental Transmit Service now operational.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

He looks at them all and it has the same message, Kassius chuckles. “Damn...Oz was right.” He chuckles as he remembers what Ozpin said when he spoke to Cinder about the C.C.T being down. “Looks like Jacques has reactivated the network to distribute arms across the Kingdoms.” Kassius states.

“Well we can use it to our advantage.” Cardin states, but Kassius shakes his head.

“Not too much, wouldn’t put it past Jacques to have spies watching the network for names of interest. Like us.” He states.

“You can call those friends of yours.” Cardin states and Kassius gives him a look for a brief second before sighing.

“Yeah...well...first of all let’s talk about a plan.” He states as he stands up and walks over to Emerald. “Em, have you finished the layout?” He asks her.

“As best as I can, I last went there a few years ago. Stole Mistraalian Empress Jewels, got a good bounty off them. Not like it mattered though, the damned Acolytes raided my home and took all the money. Bastards.” She snarls as she steps away from the large piece of paper that they will take with them to change the plan on the fly.

“So, what’re we thinking?” Cardin asks.

“Well the auction is always held in the main hall – meaning most people will be there. But there will be armed guards and waiters all over the place anyway. We will have to play it stealthily, no civilian casualties.” Emerald explains, and Cardin scoffs.

“Coming from you? Wow.” He chuckles with disbelief.

“Cardin.” Kassius sighs.

“Look, I am not gonna double cross you.” She assures.

“You’re a thief, it’s in your blood. And besides why should we trust you? You basically killed Penny.” He reminds.

“What choice did I have? Fail and be killed by Salem? Or worse, Umbra?” She asks him curiously. “Mercury already met that fate.”

“Still.” He sighs.

“What would I gain from betraying you?” She asks him, and he cannot find an answer. “You saved me, and Cinder is on your side now. Meaning I’m with you too.” She assures, leaning forward to the large layout before them.

“So how are we gonna steal it?” Kassius asks curiously, he has never done work like this.

“How would I do it? We split up into two teams, one team...largest team...stays in the ball room. Keeps an eye on the crowd and for any changes and keeps the other informed. The smaller team is the infiltration team, and we get here – the power room.” She explains as she pokes the mark she has written as electrical.

“Cut the power?” Kassius presumes.

“Yep, grab the circlet in the dark.” Emerald states.

“Won’t there be an emergency generator?” Cardin asks.

“Yeah.” Emerald nods.

“So we’ll only have a few seconds of darkness?” He adds.

“Three seconds – easy peasy. I’ve handled worse odds.” Emerald assures with a smirk on her face.

“Well I guess we are lucky here, we do have the best thief in the business.” Kassius chuckles as he pats Emerald on the back.

“When they notice that the crown is gone shit will go down.” Cardin states.

“I know, after that we improvise.” Emerald states.

“Cool, I like the sound of that.” Kassius grins, loving the idea of playing something by ear. He walks over to the suit and he covers it up so it does not get covered in dirt on the way there. He then slides that and the other suits and beautiful dresses into the bag. “We put these on when we get there.”

“Good idea, don’t want them looking dirty. When we get out what then?” Emerald asks.

“We’ll see, Umbra seems to believe this circlet has a secret on it.” Kassius states.

“Well...gonna make the call?” Cardin asks him, Kassius nods as he opens his scroll and searches through his contacts.

“I just hope they’re nearby.”

 

Cinder

 

In the dark rain...

Cinder is sat down underneath a shelter with her dress sat on her lap, staring at it with her amber eyes admiring every single thread that has been woven to make it look like shards of glass. Her amber eye stares down at it with a sigh as she holds it in her hands, turning when she senses a second Maiden approaching her. Yenna walks towards  her with the rain drenching her black hair but she does not even seem to care about it. “Memories...some are dreams...others nightmares.” She says to her, and she sighs.

“Yeah, ain’t that the truth?” Cinder scoffs, Yenna leans against the side of the shelter with her arms crossed.

“I had a feeling you conjured the storm, did you know we can inadvertently change the weather with our emotions? And from this storm...you’re either upset or angry. So what’s up?” She asks her curiously, and Cinder sighs as she looks up at her.

“I wore this dress for  so long...I never realised it was a punishment. Salem branded me...humiliated me...and I accepted it...” She sighs as she stares at the dress. “I never realised how weak I was being...until just now.” She sighs, shaking her head, and closing her eyes.

“I was wrong about you.” Yenna admits, Cinder looks at her with confusion.

“Huh?” She asks her.

“You didn’t kill Amber for power or for fun...you may have thought you did at the time...but you did it because you were scared. Salem threatened you to do it, didn’t she?” Yenna presumes and she sighs.

“She said I have to make myself worthy...or I am just a pawn that can be sacrificed.” She states, remembering what the evil woman said all those years ago. Yenna stares at the dress that was made for her, black and cruel looking – yet still a beautiful looking dress.

“Then why do you still have it?” She asks her.

“I don’t know...I guess I got used to wallowing away in self-pity.” She states. Yenna raises a brow with her question.

“And what now?” She asks her.

Cinder looks at her and stands up, walking to the edge of the cliff and the ocean that crashes against the rocks beneath. She holds the dress over the edge as she answers. “I’m done hiding...time to fight.” She states, releasing the dress and letting the wind carry it away from her. The black dress fades away from her vision, disappearing into the dark of night and falling into the sea.

A weight is lifted from her when she let that thing go and she exhales with relief, feeling the cold rain falling and trickling across her body.

Then...the rain begins to stop slowly and the wind calms down.

Yenna smiles. “Come on...get some rest.” Yenna requests and she exhales with a shaky breath.

“Yeah...I’m ready now.” She states, following Yenna. Finally feeling free of her past mistakes.

Free of Salem.

Free of Cinder Fall.

Chapter Text

Kassius

 

Twelve hours later…

They have arrived at the location, luckily it is not that difficult to find, since there are tarmac roads across the desert that plenty of cars and horses travel across. After some waiting at a bus stop, one finally arrived. Not many people on it since Vacuo is practically abandoned now, but luckily there are still lots of little areas across the Kingdom still populated with people. Multiple villages and large towns, but with Vacuo completely invaded by the Grimm Horde, it has caused the Kingdom to collapse into disarray.

But they cannot fix that now, all they can hope for now is to get into Fallingwater Estate and steal Pyrrha’s Circlet from the Auction before some other rich criminal gets their greasy hands all over it. Stood on the edge of a cliff are Kassius and Cardin, with Kassius on the lower area and staring at the map that Emerald managed to draw. Luckily just by looking at the shape of the huge manor, it has not changed much, but they could have moved things around.

But as she told them, trying to steal from the storage area is suicide, the amount of security in there makes it impossible to get inside incognito.

Even for her too.

The Mansion is gigantic, with four guard towers stationed around it armed with four Acolytes of Lien Snipers, they have really made their security tighter in hiring them. Especially when it comes down to who they are being funded by, this could also lead to a confrontation. On the heavily rendered concrete walls are four bannered flags – all four of them are each individual Kingdoms. Vale, Mistral, Vacuo and Atlas are all imprinted on the fabric, the wind letting them flutter. At the car park there are lots and lots of criminals arriving at the auction to see what they can purchase from the archive of valuables.

Above Kassius is Cardin with a pair of binoculars in his hands, analysing the situation from up top, watching everything that moves down there. From the many soldiers that pace around with rifles in their hands and wearing the black and red suits with golden accents that they wore when in disguise back in Mistral five years ago. Also, some of them are wearing red tinted glasses, with hats on their heads too. Just like the thugs that Junior had packed in his nightclub when Yang was searching for clues.

As Kassius fiddles with the map to find a good way in he looks up at Cardin above him. “See anything yet?” He asks him curiously, staring at him with sapphire blue eyes. Many forget that he has learned the ability to change his eye colour on command by simply using his aura to manifest a different colour. Managed to get him by many situations in the past, why not now?

“Nothing more than a lot of scumbags dressed up for the party.” Cardin scoffs, before a doubt enters his mind, tilting the binoculars to his left slightly as he peers down at Kassius. “And…no sign from Emerald yet.” He reminds, and Kassius just ignores his comment as he flicks the paper to straighten it out from the wind that blew across it.

“There’s still plenty of time, she probably got held up.” He defends, looking down at the map. He traces his metal finger across the yellowish paper that Emerald found to sketch this map on. He follows the outer section to where he can pinpoint a way inside without raising any suspicions by the guards. He looks across the carpark to see the point of which that has left him so curious – across small area of woodland by the right side of the manor and the waterfall’s edge where the manor has been built is a window at the very top.

That is where they are waiting for Emerald to give the signal. “Why are we waiting on her again? She has access, after all. You managed to make some perfectly believable I.Ds too that can trick their scanners.” Cardin questions, a good question too.

“So, we don’t arouse suspicion, if we all enter as a big group out of nowhere it blows our cover. I had to make our cover stories as different as possible, so you and I need to act like we just met. If we all enter at the same time chatting like we have known each other for a few days, they could suspect us of attempting a heist. These guys are very, very paranoid, remember?” He explains to Cardin, looking up at him with his now blue eyes shrouding his amber ones.

“Yeah, are you sure that just by changing your eye colour it will trick the scanners – and – the guards? Didn’t you say that the Acolytes of Lien have been fighting against you for five years now? They’ll probably remember you.” Cardin states, but he shakes his head.

“Trust me, these Mercenaries are not the same soldiers. I’ve seen them before, they are just thugs used as guards. Yang whooped their asses when Junior hired a bunch of them to guard his Nightclub years ago.” Kassius explains as he waits for the right moment, folding up the map after memorising the path to where Emerald should be waiting for them. Cardin sighs, scratching the wig on his head that he has been forced to wear, a black wig with slightly windswept hair.

“Gods…how do people wear these things? They itch like hell.” He groans with frustration. “Even a wig will be enough?”

“Emerald has always said that the simplest disguises are sometimes the best. And hey, do you really think our chances would be better if we waltzed in like a bunch of Bank Robbers with masks on?” He questions with a raised eyebrow, so Cardin tilts his head in agreement, unable to disagree with his logic there.

“Fair enough.” He admits, as he hops down from the upper rock that he has been knelt down on, watching the place with those binoculars. Cardin cracks his shoulders then he straightens the sleeves of his suit as he stands there, waiting for the signal of when to go in at the right time. “Remind me, what’s my cover name again?” Cardin inquires.

“You’re name is Jonathan Crimsie, you are a weapons dealer from Vacuo. Stick by that and you’ll be fine, I even made sure you have some little reports in there. Emerald is more helpful at this stuff than I realised, I’m just more creative than her.” He chuckles, taking the binoculars from his hand.

“And you and Emerald?” He asks him curiously.

“Me? My name is Alistair Crane, I’m a drug lord from Mistral who wants to try my luck on the auctions. Emerald is a Prostitute Distributor.” Kassius answers, getting a shocked look from Cardin at the profession she has.

“What happened to being on her side?” He questions.

“It was her idea, not mine. She chose the name. Alison Thame. She said she’s used that one plenty of times and gotten away unscathed.” Kassius explains with the shrug of his shoulders, and Cardin exhales as he bounces on the spot, thinking of things pretty much constantly. Cardin sighs as he looks across the area to see what appears to be the storage room, able to see some Acolytes hauling a few crates inside.

“Shame we can’t get inside…imagine what goods they got tucked away in there.” Cardin wishes as he stares at the building, practically drooling with anticipation. Kassius raises a brow in confusion as he looks at Cardin.

“Let’s…y’know…focus on Pyrrha’s circlet, yeah?” He asks him, and Cardin chuckles.

“I dunno, you sure you don’t wanna pick something up for the pretty girlfriend?” He teases with the bump of his elbow onto Kassius. Locke chuckles, shaking his head as he walks towards the road and path that leads towards the carpark.

“Funny…but c’mon let’s just keep it simple, yeah?” Kassius requests as he looks back at him, but Cardin sighs as he starts to follow him.

“Yeah, simple!” He scoffs, and Kassius rolls his fake blue eyes as he turns to Cardin walking up to him. “It’d be a whole lot simpler if Emerald weren’t here.” Kassius sighs, seeing that Cardin still has his reservations about working alongside one of their old enemies, unable to forget the hand she played in the destruction of their academy.

“Cardin…” He sighs, but Cardin stretches his arms out towards the Manor.

“We could be inside already.” He scoffs.

“Not cleanly.” Kassius reminds as he walks ahead of Cardin, but stops when he hears no footsteps behind him, looking back with a sigh.

“Have you even thought of a backup plan in case Emerald…oh I dunno…gets cold feet?” He wonders curiously, but Kassius shakes his head.

“It’s Emerald, she would never turn down a heist.” Kassius reminds.

“Or if she got recognised? I doubt a brown wig will be enough to sway the guards with the bounty on her head. Much less mine.” He reminds, since Kassius in fact has no bounty on his head at the moment. But those two do because of their past decisions and what they have done in their lives.

“Emerald knows this place like the back of her hand, we would never stand a chance without her. Trust me, I have had my fair share of odd jobs in my life, but nothing like a heist.” Kassius explains, they really might be one of the most underprepared teams of all time with how they are approaching this situation.

Cardin bites his lip as he bounces his hand up and down slightly, filled with worry right now. Kassius sighs as he pinches the bridge of his nose, shaking his head as he speaks through his hand. “Alright fine…go ahead, say it.” Kassius prepares, knowing exactly where he is gonna go with this conversation, with her being a master thief and the lack of trust he has on her. He finally cracks, waving his hands slightly as he speaks.

“What if she steals the circlet for herself?” Cardin questions, one that Kassius answers swiftly.

“Not in a million years.” Kassius replies.

“You said it yourself! Emerald Sustrai, this is the same Emerald we’re talking about here, right?” Cardin asks him as he walks up to Kassius with his finger pointing right at him.

“Look I know she double-crossed you guys in the past, I get that…but not us.” Kassius reminds, but he shakes his head and points straight at him.

“Not. Your. Sister.” He reminds with stern eyes, and Kassius sighs as he walks away from Cardin, sick of people never giving his sister a second chance. But at the same time, he can understand why, he was never at Beacon, he never felt the stabbing pain of a betrayal that happened that day.

“Look I know she had a hand in what happened.” Kassius says as he stands up, but Cardin steps back with a scoff.

“Biggest understatement I have ever heard.” He scoffs, she did manipulate both Yang and Pyrrha with her semblance, she may as well have been the one to open the doors and let the riot in. Kassius walks up to him as he speaks, trying to calm this situation down as best he can.

“But I trust her, okay? She helped save Oscar and tried to save Ruby when they were captured.” Kassius reminds, and Cardin sighs, closing his eyes as he stands tall. He nods his head, since Kassius gave him some details on what poor Ruby had to endure and the damage that it has had to her personality since then. Kassius taps Cardin’s shoulder with his hand to get him to look at him. “I just need you to trust her too.” He asks him, shrugging his shoulders, and Cardin sighs when he scratches the back of his neck.

“Fine…fine…this is gonna be a real awkward day.” He sighs as he stands with Kassius. The two of them remain in eyeshot of that window as they wait for some kind of signal from Emerald.

“She will come through for us…eventually.” He sighs as he looks at the window constantly. Cardin looks at him and they both wait.

A glint of light shines across Kassius’ eye and he flinches from it, so bright he nearly fell over from the aura of the reflection. He shields the setting sun with his hand as he sees the window, and the faint silhouette of Emerald turning a mirror to reflect the sun’s rays in their direction over and over again so then they see her.

She’s in, and gave the signal as she said she would.

“There, we’re up. See? Trust.” Kassius states as he pats Cardin’s chest with his hand. Cardin sighs before he buttons his jacket up.

“Try not to get too drunk.” He reminds, walking ahead of him, and Kassius chuckles as he follows him.

“I will be keeping an eye on your blood alcohol levels, by the way.” Hyde assures inside Kassius’ head. Subconsciously, Kassius replies the only way he could ever reply to that.

“You’re not my mother.” He states, as they walk down the road towards the carpark and the entrance where the Acolytes of Lien are waiting for them.

The bass can be heard from all the way over here as they approach, lights luminating from within and through the windows, seeing a few people dancing by the windows. Seems that this is not only an Auction but also a nightclub at the same time. But then again, the Auction has not started yet, so they also provide a place for the guests to enjoy themselves whilst they wait. Some waiters arrive in their blue uniforms and with a feather on their ear, something very unique as uniforms go.

Kassius and Cardin both approach the entrance where the soldiers are standing there with scanners, looking nowhere near as professional as the Military Outfit that they are used to. These guys are merely low-cost thugs hired for simple jobs, jobs that the mafias in the Kingdoms like to utilize their skills for. Unless they need proper security or forces, that is when they turn to the highly militarised soldiers in the company. They all have red swords sheathed however they are nothing like the ones that both Adam and Raven have used.

Their swords are known as Blood-Blades, swords that are melded to the auras of its user, and thus their semblances are bound too. Which is why Adam’s semblance was tied to the blade, however the semblance does not fade away and it cannot be removed. Meaning that sword will have the previous owner’s semblance forever unless it is destroyed, and even if it is repaired the semblance is still present within it. Meaning Raven must have either inherited her sword, or killed a man for it. After all she is a Branwen, her semblance relies on her good luck, opposed to her brother’s poor luck.

Kassius and Cardin get in line as they wait, looking at the thugs that scan them and their invites, invites that they luckily have on person. There is also another man there, one they do not recognise – he looks like the owner of the place with a white suit, white tie and white trousers. The dark-skinned man likes white apparently, since even his socks and shoes are tied. Hyde chuckles in the back of Kassius’ mind as he looks at his style. “What a colourful style.” Hyde jokes, making Kassius chortle as he looks at him again.

Cardin leans over to Kassius’ ear and he whispers discretely. “You sure that spray Emerald got her hands on will work?” Cardin asks him, and for once Kassius knows for certain that it will.

“Don’t worry, I’ve used it before. It links to our false identities, so their scanners will say we are the not imposters.” Kassius assures. The spray that she got her hands on is filled with Nano-Technology, it smells like either deodorant or perfume but the technology inside it creates a false D.N.A strand that the scanners will accept. Emerald knows her dealers and they have some extremely impressive equipment for these kinds of jobs.

Not cheap though, good thing they split the costs evenly.

The thugs nod to the guests and they walk up to the owner of the place, shaking his hand. But as they stand there, they feel their small earpieces activate and they hear Emerald speaking through it in a soft voice. “You guys good?” She asks them.

“Yeah, about to walk in.” Kassius replies.

“Who’s the dude in white?” Cardin asks her.

“His name is Solomon Karadin, he is a Drug Lord that has been ruling Vacuo’s Crime Ring for years. He always hosts these events, that’s why I gave us some pretty illegal jobs and cool names.” She explains with the sound of a smile in her voice. Kassius looks past them to the dark-skinned man that shakes the hands of the guests that are allowed through.

“Solomon Karadin…I recognise that name…didn’t he massacre some Council Agents once because they entered his turf?” Kassius asks her in a whispery voice.

“Yeah, you don’t mess with him.” She advises.

“And we’re about to rob from him?” Cardin asks her.

“Well as long as he never realises we were here, it will all be fine, won’t it?” She says to them, before she ends the call. Clearly, she has her eyes on them, because now they are the ones being scanned. The thug aims the scanner at his face and it moves across his face, identifying his name onto the screen of the device.

ALISTAIR CRANE

AGE: 25

DRUG MANUFACTURER

The thug lowers the scanner then he holds his hand out to him. “May I see your invitation, Mr Crane?” He asks him and Kassius nods his head, reaching into his breast pocket and pulling the ticket out and handing it to him. The thug holds it and looks at him before looking at the picture again. The Mercenary nods his head and hands the ticket to one of the girls standing here. The girl is young and appears to be a Faunus with goat horns, wearing quite a revealing dress as well. Clearly this place has some strippers dancing here as well, meaning that this once is responsible for the tickets. “Alright, you’re good – c’mon though.” The Mercenary says as he nods his head and steps aside, and Cardin is up next.

As Cardin gets identified by the Mercenary, Kassius approaches the Drug Lord, keeping his wits about him in order to not get detected. However, he has always been good at staying calm under high pressure situations. He has been in worse situations at the end of the day, this will be no problem. Solomon smiles as he nods his head and extends his hand to Kassius, and he accepts the handshake. “Pleasure to meet you, Mr Crane. Always a fine day when a young man like yourself joins our trade.” He prides with a smile, and Kassius chuckles.

Wanting to punch this criminal in the jaw so badly.

But he keeps his cool. “Pleasure is all mine, Mr Karadin.” Kassius bows his head with an honourable smile.

“I read some of the records about you, heard about that skirmish you were involved in a few years back with the Valerian Police. Tough fight, especially for an eighteen-year-old to handle. I’m impressed.” Karadin applauds with his voice, the accent he has is very similar to that of Kelham. A sharp and rather vicious voice that sounds like it is about to pounce on you at any moment. But that is the natural accent of most people in Vacuo, or at least from the Deserts.

Kassius plays along with the lie, extremely well too.

“Yeah, lost my arm in the process though.” Kassius states as he takes his glove off his metal hand and waves the five metal digits to him.

“I noticed, hell of a thing to pick up. Most likely why you have been doing so well for yourself though, nobody will mess with a man with a cybernetic arm.” He chuckles, and Kassius chuckles in return.

“Well, let’s hope so.” He replies, and Karadin nods his head.

“Well, enjoy your stay, Mr Crane.” He bows and steps aside, and Kassius does the same, walking past him and entering the building. As he walks away he hears Karadin speaking to Cardin, but he too is a good talker. Always has been a good one when it comes down to talking his way through problems. This will be no problem for him, so Kassius walks inside, and he feels the beat of the music in his bones as he looks around the air-conditioned building. The music roars through the gigantic speakers attached to the pillars and walls, many folk and strippers dancing to the electronic music in the air.

As he walks through, he can hear Hyde in the back of his head sounding somewhat disgusted by the music. “What kind of music is this? Aw it’s not that club crap, is it?” He questions with repulsion in his voice, subconsciously Kassius responds to him.

“You have a taste in music?” Kassius asks him in his head.

“Well yeah, I’ve been stuck in your head for so long I kinda have to.” Hyde replies, making Kassius chuckle as they walk towards the spiralling staircase on the right side of the room, the same side that he identified when they planned this mission out.

“You excited to meet our other teammates?” Kassius asks him, Hyde pauses, and he can actually feel the concern.

“Are you? I mean…I remember you saying you never wanted to lead a team again.” Hyde reminds, worried for his host’s safety. However, it is no longer about him being his host, he is no longer a parasite, he is a brother. Kassius sighs as he walks, remembering the faces and voices of his team.

Vetra…

Draven…

Rajah…

They will never stop haunting him. “Yeah…I guess maybe I should be a bit more worried.” He sighs, walking up the concrete steps that curve round. He looks down to see Cardin walking along and chatting to some of the guests here. He has always been quite good at speaking to people and blending in…even if he was a bully back in school. But he is doing fine, better than Kassius maybe since Kassius has not said a word to anyone yet.

Kassius walks across the balcony where there are some more strippers, the main site of which the strippers dance is in the main lobby. With a huge circular bar in the middle and glistening chandeliers, the only thing to make the neon display any prettier is a bunch of nearly naked sexy girls dancing. Kassius has never really been one for Strip clubs however he could never fault the dancers, the strength and skill they must have to dance like that…he would watch them just to admire the art than the beauty. “I don’t get strip clubs…it’s like going to a buffet but you can’t eat anything.” Hyde describes, and Kassius chuckles.

“That might be the best comparison I’ve ever heard.” He chuckles, and Hyde chuckles in his head too.

“I try my best.” He says, Kassius walks past one of the strippers and she strokes her finger across his arm tenderly.

“Wanna lap dance, honey? I’ll give you half price.” She woos, and Kassius chuckles, in awe at the amount of attention he has gotten recently.

“I’m fine thank you, but keep up the good work.” He says to her. Kassius cannot help but notice that this stripper is also a Faunus…in fact not one of them has not been a Faunus. Not only that, but just under the pants around her waist is a brand that has been scarred onto her…

The Traffickers.

He looks away from the pretty Faunus Girl and he sighs as he walks away. “How can a Faunus treat his own kind like that?” Kassius questions with a snarl in his head, everything he has been saying is in his thoughts…avoiding the attention.

“We should’ve killed him.” Hyde states, and Kassius sighs because he wishes that they could have for what he has done. But they never got a chance, and now he has escaped and ended up god knows where. As if Kelham knew the Traffickers would not last forever…he must have a safehouse somewhere prepared for that very day.

Kassius keeps walking, seeing a criminal here with one of the Faunus Slave Dancers on his lap, dancing away as the criminal caresses her body. Kassius walks past him and towards the door that is closed. He looks back, then he opens the door when he sees Cardin following, nodding to him all the way over there.

The music softens, and he looks around as the door closes behind him, he steps inside and sees Emerald standing at the edge of the room by the window. She wears the dress that she has been provided with by Vir Nominis Umbra – the entity has good taste, that much is good about him. She wears a stunning green dress that would match her green hair, if she were not wearing a brown-haired wig right now to help conceal her identity. She has always been using her aura to disguise her eyes too, making them look brown instead of red. The dress looks almost scale-like, glistening in the light with her legs showing through the parting in the heel length skirt, with glass heels on.

Seems she cannot help but take after Cinder in many ways. “Kassius.” She greets with the firm nod of the head, then the sound of another voice hums away in the darkness. He turns to see her, only her bare legs and heels showing in the sunlight and the long bronze skirt hanging over her knees can be seen from the shadows. Kassius looks at her and he cannot help but smile as he approaches her.

“Coco?” He asks, then she speaks.

“I hate auctions…wanna know why?” She asks him, and Kassius chuckles with a smile as he approaches her. She reaches over to the lamp beside her and she pulls the string to turn it on. “They don’t let a girl wear sunglasses indoors.” She sighs with a smile, laughing as she stands up.

It’s Coco Adel.

“It’s been a while, Coco.” Kassius says to her with arms out to her and she laughs in return as she walks up to him.

“Too long, buddy.” She replies, hugging him. She always did say that they could count on her for help at any time. They showed up without question to help rescue Ruby from the Volcanic Chain Isles, and now they are back to help Kassius with his own problems. She pats his back, and she looks so different without her normal gear on. She wears, yet another provided by Umbra, a stunning bronze dress that shows off her left shoulder and arm whereas there is a small elbow length bronze sleeve on her right. The dress covers her body splendidly and she has done her hair differently too – she has let her hair grow out a bit more than it was before. The caramel edges to her locks still remain but they just a little longer now, not as long as Yang’s but longer than they were in the past.

And as always, the sweet smell of caramel scented perfume.

How they have missed her.

He looks past her to see Velvet emerging from round the balcony with a gasp and a smile on her beautiful face, basically skipping to her friend. “Kassius!” She gleefully squeaks, wrapping her arms round him and kicking her also bare legs. Kassius catches onto her then lets her go, she backs up and still acts like the timid little bunny she has always been.

Her dress too is very beautiful as well, with most of her back displayed down to her waist and no sleeves, it is her torso it covers. Seems Umbra is not one to show too much of their bodies off but still give them nice looking clothes to wear at such a public occasion, because none of the women have any clothes that show off cleavage. Nice of him, strange that he decided to make that choice, since he likes to use Lust a lot. Velvet’s dress has accents of scarlet red amongst the creamy colour it mostly has, and she has curled her hair into a wavy form. Really brings out her brown eyes.

Coco and Velvet have answered the call, but no sign of Yatsuhashi and Fox. “Great to see you two again.” Then the door opens behind them and he turns. “Oh yeah…I told you about our fifth member, right?” Kassius asks him as Cardin steps around the corner and he looks at the two of them. Coco and Velvet stare at Cardin, and Velvet shrinks into her shoulders fearfully of her old bully.

“Hey…Coco…Velvet.” He awkwardly greets as Kassius steps aside. When Cardin approaches Coco immediately stands between him and Velvet…but clearly, she is holding her anger back from him.

“By the gods…nearly seven years…” She says as she stares at him…and she cannot help but feel a little sad for him, because he looks so broken and defeated in comparison to the well-kept dickhead that they remembered. His hair is so much longer, and he has grown a beard. Cardin nods his head, both Coco and Velvet can see his guilt in his violet eyes as he stands there.

“Yep.” He says to her, so Coco swallows up her hate and she offers her hand to him.

“Good to see you still alive, Cardin.” She says, how dark the times have become that someone has to say that to an old acquaintance…tis the time they live in now. Where people die pretty much all the time. Cardin holds her hand and shakes it, nodding his head and looking at Velvet.

“Mhm.” Cardin replies to her, and luckily Kassius is the one to break up the awkward reunion.

“Well, why don’t we try and catch up after we get Pyrrha’s circlet back?” Kassius asks them, that’s when Emerald breaks it to him with a sigh.

“Yeah…about that.” Emerald says, and the two guys raise their brows.

“What – What about that?” Cardin inquires nervously as he looks at Kassius.

“It hasn’t been sold already has it?” Kassius worryingly asks him.

“No, no…just it seems that this place has changed a bit since I was last here. C’mon let me show ya.” Emerald says as she walks towards the door and opens it, they all follow the thief out there and they approach the empty table, taking their seats to not seem suspicious. They sit down, and they follow Emerald’s eyes. “Look…the cables on the ceiling? They aren’t going the same way I remember, they must have moved the power room.” Emerald states as she turns to Kassius and Cardin sighs.

“Damn…that just made things a whole lot more difficult.” Cardin says.

“That’s not the only issue, look at the display down there.” Emerald adds as she drinks some of the red wine that she bought. Kassius looks at the pedestals that display multiple artefacts…and one of them is Pyrrha’s Circlet. His eyes widen when he sees that thing there, since it was not meant to be shown off until midnight. It has only just gone nine o’clock at night, the sun has only nearly just fallen behind the horizon. The light starting to fade away into the dark of night.

“Pyrrha’s circlet.” Kassius mutters.

“It would take a big pile of lien to move the lot order like that.” Coco states as she leans her arm against the railing.

“Well there must be some way we can get to it.” Velvet says.

“Hmm…” Kassius ponders, thinking on the ideas he has in his mind, and luckily, he has an ideas when he follows the wires with his eyes. The cables can be followed if discretely. “Okay…plan stays the same. We need the power to go out for a few seconds so then Emerald can grab it. Only two of us should go after the power…” Kassius explains, looking to the team he has put together. He looks at Velvet, she is sneaky, as sneaky as a rabbit after all. “Velvet, I want you with me on this.” Kassius asks her.

“You got it.” Velvet assures with the nod of her head.

“The rest of us?” Coco asks.

“Keep an eye on everything here, let us know if anything happens.” Kassius explains, then he looks at Emerald.

“And I’ll take it when the lights go out?” She presumes.

“Yes.” Kassius assures.

“Sounds good.” Cardin nods as they all stand up, and Coco picks up her glass of wine too, and she walks ahead of them.

“Alright then…Velvet go with Kassius, follow that wire. We’ll hold the fort.” Coco assures.

 

Coco

 

She walks down the steps into the main lobby, with Cardin and Emerald at her side as she looks around the large expanse of guests from gods know how many horrendous acts committed. From Drug Traders to Smugglers to Murders and Thieves, there are so many people that could be locked up in here…they could fill an entire prison. Surrounded by enemies, yet they cannot lay a finger on a single one. Because here they are the ones that are out of place, out of the ordinary. They would not stand a chance, Huntsmen and Huntress or not, they would fall all the same.

Coco slides her bronze painted nails across the railing as her large dark brown eyes scale the environment, not only is she searching for potential problems in the area, but she is also checking for ways out when it all goes to hell. As she makes her way down, Cardin and Emerald follow her, and the green haired Huntress walks up beside Coco. She flicks her long brown her from her eyes and looks at the Fashionista Huntress at her shoulder. “So…uh…there’s no hard feelings between us, right? After our fight in the Vytal Festival?” Emerald asks her as they walk into the lobby, but Coco stops and gives her a pretty stern stare.

She has not forgotten either, she is just keeping her emotions in check to get the job done. Her concerns really are only for Kassius and Velvet because they are her friends, Emerald and Cardin on the other hand? Cardin tormented one of her best friends for months and months, whereas Emerald played a major hand in the destruction of Beacon Academy and the deaths of many people.

How she wants to break their jaws right now for what they did.

But…

She keeps her cool and she just says one word. “Later.” She assures, walking ahead of Emerald and she sighs, making her way towards her position. A group of people talking nearest to the stand of collector’s items at the Auctioneers Stage. As Coco walks, she turns and looks at Cardin who looks around, trying to start conversation.

“So…where’re Yatsuhashi and Fox? I didn’t see them here.” He says, since when they left the bag of four outfits at the agreed spot for their arrival, there were also two suits for those two. Perfectly designed for them. Coco stares at Cardin and she sighs, walking to his ear and speaking softly.

“We’ll talk about that after all this is done…” She says, and Cardin raises a brow with concern.

“Huh? Why?” He asks in a worried voice. Coco pauses and her brown eyes dance round to where he stands, and she exhales through her nostrils.

“We didn’t just agree to help Kassius, it has half the reason…” She hints as she walks away from Cardin and he struggles to piece together what she means. But her tone is all he needed to know, it means that Yatsuhashi and Fox are either dead or are in big trouble, trouble she intends to save them from by helping Kassius. They must have similar goals in mind, goals she has yet to inform them of.

Cardin sighs and he walks away from Coco as she stands there, and she keeps moving through the crowd, politely squeezing past one of the men standing there as she approaches the open space and she plants her hand on her hip as she looks across the area. Content with her location yet concerned with the people on the team for very good reasons, however she is forcing the thoughts from her mind.

Who knows?

Maybe they have changed, Kassius is a trustworthy friend and he has never misjudged someone. Ever since what happened with Ilia Amitola at least, hopefully they are on our side.

But if he lays a finger on Velvet…

I’ll kill him.

Suddenly she feels a barrel press against her spine and she jolts as her eyes widen, hearing a familiar voice behind her. “Hands in the air, Huntress.” The young woman demands with a pretty harsh sounding – yet annoying – voice. She turns around and sees her standing behind her, with short black hair and pale green eyes, highlighted by heavy red makeup. She wears a red strapless dress with black lining.

Her accessories include large red and white feathers above her left ear, black fur hanging off her shoulders and held at the front by a dark grey chain, red gloves, a black bow tied around her waist, and long red boots with very high stiletto heels. A smirk forms on her face as she stares at Coco. “Hi, Coco.” She greets with a wink, and Coco grins back as she turns around and looks right at her.

“Hello Militia Malachite, always a pleasure.” She greets with a smile on her face.

“Yeah, only this time, I undid the strap.” She says as she holds her fingers in the shape of a pistol at her. Coco reaches back when she feels her dress loosen a little, then realises that she just undid a strap and Coco chuckles as she does it back up.

“Well I guess I should be sad that we’re not somewhere more private.” Coco says with a chuckle, and Militia lowers her hand as she stands there. “Strange to see you outside your Acolyte Fatigues.” She says to her and Militia looks at her dress and she nods.

“Yeah, I miss the old days when I could just strut about as a teen and wear this thing. But when the Boss says we need to wear proper uniforms, you do as the admiral asks.” Militia explains with a sigh as she crosses her arms, eyeing Coco up and down as she stares at her curvaceous body. “Looking good by the way.” She compliments, and Coco returns the favour.

“Not so bad yourself.”

Militia smiles, and she steps back, looking around at the place with a heavy sigh. Coco is no fool, if one of the Malachite Twins is here then that means that the other is here…and so is Junior. Somewhere he is in here, it was lucky of Kassius and Yang to come across him when they were not there on the hunt for Ilia. That feels like it was so many years ago, but that also means that there is a person here that will recognise Kassius on site.

However, at the moment, it all seems calm with Militia being here. “I feel so out of place here, can’t tell you how good it feels to see a familiar face around here. Even if you did mistake me with my sister.” She reminds with the tilt of her head and a grin on her face.

“Oh, you don’t seriously still hate me for that, do you?” Coco asks her with the rising of her brow. Militia scoffs as she looks around, but then she starts to walk towards the bar.

“I was on my way to the bar; can I get you something?” She asks her.

“Sure, I’ll have a nice red wine.” She replies with a smirk, and Militia snaps her fingers with a wink.

“I’ll be right back.” She assures as she walks towards the circular bar in the centre of the lobby. Coco crosses her arms and narrows her brown eyes, she may have a pretty interesting past with the Malachite Twins, but she is no fool. Them being here is trouble, serious trouble too.

“Guys? You catch that?” Coco asks into her earpiece.

 

Kassius

 

Velvet keeps her eyes on the ceiling as they follow the wires round, as the two of them keep moving through the halls towards some stairs that look like they are heading into the Wine Cellars and the Kitchens. As Kassius walks alongside her he replies to Coco on the other end. “Yep, sounds like that chick is getting you a drink.” Kassius says to her, before Coco sighs awkwardly.

“Yeah…Militia Malachite is getting me a drink.” She informs, and Kassius slows down when he recognises that name.

“Malachite…wait aren’t those two twins that worked for Junior? Yang fought them once when searching for Raven.” Kassius remembers, he never did forget hearing that story when they were catching up in that Motel after finally reuniting after all those years.

“Yeah, and they have gotten pretty high up in the ranks with Junior since then.” Coco adds, and Kassius curiously ponders over what he heard.

“Uh…Coco…what was that about her sister and her undoing your dress?” Kassius inquires, and Coco chortles, but Velvet groans.

“Please don’t encourage her.” She groans.

“Well…the Malachite Twins and I have a rather…interesting…relationship.” Coco replies as they keep following the cables on the ceiling.

“Relationship?” Kassius inquires.

“Mhm.” Coco hums deliciously, but Velvet shudders.

“Please stop.” She begs, but Kassius being the curious one that she is keeps digging deeper.

“Please go on.” Kassius requests, so Coco provides as asked.

“So, when I met Melanie it was on a mission…and it’s possible we…got a little…sexy one night.” She describes. “She was wild.”

“Stop.” Velvet begs.

“Go on.” Kassius and Hyde both ask at the same time.

“A few nights later though, I ended up with Melanie again and we had sex again…except…it was Militia…and I got the two of them mixed up. It wasn’t long until they both figured it out…I wasn’t against a threesome though.” She admits, and Velvet just pulls her earpiece out.

“Stop it!” Velvet squeaks with disgust, shuddering. “I hate that story.”

Coco laughs on the other end. “I’m sorry little bunny, you know you’re my favourite.” She assures, and Kassius looks over to Velvet.

“She says you’re her favourite.” Kassius tells her and Velvet sighs sarcastically.

“Oh, that’s just a weight off my shoulders.” She jokes as she keeps walking towards the stairs. Kassius chuckles as he walks towards the stairs as well.

“So…back on subject at hand…if they are here then Junior can’t be far behind. Which can’t be good at all.” He sighs as he looks around, and Velvet stops to look back at him.

“Why?” She innocently asks him.

“Because I almost sawed his head in half.” Kassius answers, remembering when they attacked him when he was trying to get revenge on Ilia by killing her. How long ago all that seems now.

“W-Why?” She asks.

“Short version? I was blinded by vengeance and he helped my old enemy get away, and he knew where she was. He wasn’t helping fast enough, so I…sped things up.” Kassius explains, however that is not how things really went down. Sure, that is how it ended, but that was not the why behind the threat he made to the Boss’ life. Velvet is smart, and she does not pry on the story, at least until he decides it is best to tell her.

“Yeah, he’ll definitely remember you…Well he must be down here, I guess we should hope he ends up chatting with me. I’ve always been on pretty good terms with his men.” Coco states.

“Sounds like it.” Kassius chuckles. “Never realised you were into girls.”

“Well…I swing both ways. Whether you have a third limb or not, as long as it’s fun.” She giggles and Kassius rolls his eyes and shakes his head as he keeps moving.

“Alright, well it looks like the power room is through the Wine Cellars. We’ll keep you informed.” Kassius states. “Keep us updated if you can.” Kassius says as they approach the large wooden door.

“I’ll try.” Coco assures, then she and him end their conversation and stand by the door with Velvet.

“You ready?” He asks her.

“Yeah…let’s do this.” She says, opening the door and moving in.

Chapter Text

Velvet

 

She brushes her palm across her long brown hair to see where they are after closing the door behind herself and Kassius. She looks around, walking and sighing when she hears her heels making such a loud sound. She reaches down to them and slips them off her feet, the picking up some quieter worker shoes. The feeling is not as nice as the heels but at least they are stealthier for her small feet. Kassius walks inside and he looks around, whereas the Bunny Faunus can hear more than she can see.

The occasional squeak from a mouse in the cellars get her attention, hearing some running around the stone floor. She gasps in disgust, the low level of hygiene in here is utterly appalling. Apparently even the richest people in the world still do not have the best hygiene, which means that the Kitchen could be even worse. Kassius walks with his head staring up at the ceiling, nearly walking into a wall at one point. “So, what are the odds that the new power room is gonna be on the other side of the complex?” Kassius wonders curiously with Velvet behind him, she sighs as she reaches back and ties her hair into a ponytail to get it out of her eyes.

“Please don’t jinx us, knowing our luck it’ll be on the other side of the Kingdom.” She scoffs, making Kassius chuckle as they keep moving through the area, but as they walk inside they see that the lights aren’t working properly. None of them are working in fact, total darkness has gone and claimed the entire Wine Cellar that they are inside.

“Perfect, no lights…don’t suppose you brought a flashlight?” Kassius wonders, but then Velvet has an idea as she reaches into her dress, since it has two pockets at her midriff. She reaches in and pulls out her scroll, flicking it open and pressing the flashlight button – the light that luminates from the lens is not powerful but it is better than nothing. “Oh yeah, forgot those things have flashlights in them.” Kassius chuckles as he walks ahead of her and Velvet keeps the flashlight on as she walks beside him, her large eyes examining the many kegs of wine in here.

“These kegs…I recognise the brand. It’s from Menagerie.” Velvet deduces, sliding her finger across the dust on the wooden hide of the huge cylinders inside of the dark cellar. Multiple bottles of the same brand stacked on the shelves to be used by the countless guests at the estate right now.

“Well…knowing who these guys are…I doubt they paid for it.” Kassius sighs, still remembering the poor Faunus Slaves sold to the owners of this place by the Traffickers. No honour among criminals, no matter how they do business they will buy anything from each other for their own reasons. Whether it be practical or pleasurable.

“My people rarely had any trade, but the wine distilled in the Vineyards of Menagerie were double the value of any Mistraalian one.” She states with disgust, able to smell the beautiful aroma around them as they walk.

“What makes it so different?” He asks her curiously.

“The grapes and fruits used there, since the temperatures are so tropical they are sweeter than normal. I think it has something to do with the desert heat too, and the risk of sandstorms always made it worth more since entire Vineyards could end up buried.” Velvet explains, surprising Kassius at her deep knowledge of wine, sounding like she is some kind of Wine Connoisseur.

“Didn’t think you knew so much about Wine.” He states, looking at her as they walk, she shrugs her shoulders as she walks.

“My mom and dad used to be Vineyard Owners…” She explains, and his eyes start to sink when he hears the use of past tense language.

“Used to be?” He asks her.

“They passed away a few months ago this year…got sick.” She explains, and Kassius feels his heart start to hurt with the dread of realising that they could have been infected with Horridus Morbus. So, he has to ask her the question without spreading that dread.

“Were they in Menagerie?” Kassius asks her, she looks at him and thankfully shakes her head.

“No, they started a new Vineyard a few years ago in Vale. The old one on Menagerie was buried in a Sandstorm and they lost all the profits. So, they took all they learned and moved to Vale. Managed to buy some security, they both just died in their sleep. Caught Ghost’s Fever. Never felt it, never even realised it until the end…I got my closure and they got theirs. Worse ways for it to go.” She states, and it really makes Kassius feel better knowing that her parents were not in Vacuo or Menagerie when the Horridus Morbus plague was unleashed…especially if she does not even know about the true threat of the plague.

Kassius looks at her, now curious of what that life must have been like. “What was it like? Growing up on a Vineyard? All that wine around…surely you tried some, right?” He curiously asks her, and she giggles at his curious comment.

“No, no…I was a very good girl. Never did touch the wine when it was being made, I rarely drink anyway. I’m silly when I’m drunk.” She shyly admits as she walks with him and Kassius chuckles.

“I’m stupid when I’m drunk, once got so drunk I thought I forgot where my glass was when I was holding it.” Kassius explains with a laugh, faintly remembering that night when he, Sun and Qrow challenged each other to a drinking competition on Yang’s twenty-first birthday. It didn’t really end well for them. “One of the worst hangovers I’ve ever had was that night.” He chuckles when faintly remembering that night, mostly the throbbing headache though…that was the worst of it.

“So, do I…was Yang forgiving?” Velvet curiously inquires, and Kassius chuckles.

“She was…to me anyway. Qrow on the other hand? Not so much.” Kassius chuckles, remembering how she only checked to make sure he was still breathing by shoving his sleeping body on the floor with her foot. Then asking him if he was alive, the groan was enough then she told him to shut up.

“He was a bit of an enabler.” Velvet chuckles as she follows him, Kassius chuckles too.

“Yeah…that’s why we love him though.” He admits, as he walks further into the Wine Cellar, looking around the huge room filled with alcohol. Velvet stares at everything they have, and it disgusts her, her kind and generous mind has always hated when the rich always keep so much from the poor folk he need it more than they do.

“They must have enough food in here to feed a small town.” She states, moving past a crate of expensive wine bottles just sat on the floor with some mice crawling around them, squeaking away. She is not afraid of mice, in fact she finds them quite cute, it is more the fact they are in the Wine Cellar. Meaning they could be in the Kitchens too.

“Or many small towns.” He adds, moving towards what appears to be an open way through the darkness…only for a big keg to block their path. They both deadpan the keg, as if that would give it a brain and convince it to move out of their way.

“Brilliant.” She sighs sarcastically as she stares at it with her pretty brown eyes narrowed. Kassius looks at the cask and curiosity enters his system like the alcoholic fumes that hang in the air from all the fermented grapes inside this cellar. He grabs onto the handles and realises it has wheels, meaning that they can be moved around.

“Oh cool, look out I can move it.” Kassius informs as he drags the cask back slightly, but as he does it he looks back at Velvet with some concern on his mind. “So, should we be worried that Coco is chatting up Militia Malachite? Yang told me about her and her sister, those two can kick some serious ass if they put their minds to it.” Kassius states, he fully trusts Coco to do the right thing, but it has been a long time since any of them spoke to one of the Malachite sisters. Who knows if they have grown intelligent from the last time that Yang thought them, opposed to just being huntresses swayed from the path of justice.

“Oh, don’t worry about Coco, if anyone can talk her way out of something, it’s her.” She assures with a smile, keeping the light in front of Kassius so then he can see what he is doing. He pulls the cask back, hauling it with the strength of his cybernetic arm to move it with ease in comparison to how an average individual would move it.

He takes the large keg filled with wine – from the label inscribed on the metal plaque – it is Eastern Kuanan flavoured Wine. The very smell of it funnels up Kassius’ nose as he pulls the large structure back from their path, getting it out of their way and shoving it in the corner. He stands back with a slight stumble in his step, felling a bit drunk already. “Whoa…starting to get a bit drunk off all the fumes in here.” He chuckles as he looks at Velvet. She softly giggles at the state he is currently in as he walks around in there with a bit of a trip in his step.

“Well at least Coco’s driving.” Velvet reminds…unaware she is drinking too right now. The best choice to drive would most likely be Cardin, that is if he is not off his face right now. The two of them keep walking ahead through the dark and dry cellar, looking for the way through, whilst still following the cables and junction boxes. Then finally they find a closed steel door with the glowing red fire exit symbol above it.

“Yes! A way out.” He says, but before he opens the door, Velvet’s hand grabs onto his and stops him. “What?” He asks her.

“It’s a fire exit, we open that, and we’ll blow it. Alarms everywhere.” She states, and Kassius looks over to see the alarms that are rigged to the door as soon as it is opened. A good system, if a fire is spotted all the person inside would need to do is open the door and the alarm would go off, warning everyone immediately. But in their case right now, one of these doors is the last thing they’d want.

“Crap.” He sighs, stepping away from the door and crossing his arms, tapping his thumb on his lip as he looks around the area. His eyes track the cables and they go through that point, meaning that they must connect to some power pylons outside on its way to the Power Room. But then an idea hits him like a train, he gasps, and his blue tinted fake irises focus onto a grate into a vent. The Kitchens are literally right next to them, meaning they could infiltrate through the kitchen and get outside. The Kitchens are linked to a garage designed for delivery trucks to get in and drop off new ingredients for the food being served.

That’s their way out.

It can help them get around and to the pylons outside, follow them and then they are at the power room. “Got an idea, Velvet I’ll boost you up.” Kassius says as he jogs over to the vent cover above his head and he crouches down with his hands held together to act as a platform. She exhales as she stands there, bouncing on her toes, eying his hands and then the grate above him.

“Okay.” She agrees, she moves towards him at a good pace, jumping onto his hand. He throws her up with force, giving her the boost, exactly what she needed to launch up and catch the grate. She holds on and smacks against the wall slightly, pressing her palm against it and sighs with relief that it did not raise any alarms. She holds on and she taps the different version of her bag that she has underneath her dress, explain the small bulge on her backside. Some would just think that is her shape and that she has a big butt, however it is just a bag hidden there.

She has gotten some looks down there, just not suspicious ones. She taps it and forms a holographic screwdriver in her hand, since she is a mimic she can summon the weapons and tools on command, and clearly, she has stored some of them in different boxes. Perhaps tools in a smaller bag and the weapons in the box.

She takes the screwdriver and she goes to undo them…but they are the wrong screws for this screwdriver. She sighs with annoyance, deforming the screwdriver and searching through in her mind to find the right one. She forms another, and thankfully this one can safely undo the screws. Kassius stands beneath her, looking around to make sure that no guards are entering, but as he stands there he hears the door open and their eyes widen. She gasps just as she gets the grate off. “Get in!” He whispers to her, taking cover in the shadows, ducking down behind a box, luckily his black blazer is enough camouflage in the darkness.

He peers round to see an Acolyte of Lien Mercenary walking into the cellar with his flashlight turned on, looking around as he whistles. He is not here for them at all, he is looking for a pick-me-up, that is not on the menu right now. Seems even Mercenaries are thieves too, crouching down and picking up one of the expensive bottles. “Oh yeah.” He chuckles as he walks out and closes the door behind him.

Kassius scoffs and he stands tall again, looking in that direction. “Drunken idiot.” He shakes his head as he walks over to where Velvet just was. He sees her cute little face appear from the shadows behind the grate and her hands grip it.

“Are you okay?” She softly asks him, sounding like she is always concerned at all times. Kassius gives her the okay with his thumb as he backs up to clamber up the side of the wall to get up to her. He is bigger and stronger than her after all, she is just nimbler and stealthier.

As a little bunny would be.

“Yeah, idiot just wanted to steal a bottle of wine.” Kassius scoffs as he looks over at where he saw him.

“Bit desperate.” Velvet giggles.

“Isn’t he just?” He agrees, Velvet takes the grate off and she crawls back with it slide inside. Kassius rushes forward and jumps, clambering up the wall by scraping his shoe across the brickwork, thrusting upwards slightly. He catches onto the edge and Velvet holds onto his arm yet rough hand, some calluses on his palm from how much he has fought with Lash Equinox…or has beaten enemies to death when he had to.

Something everyone forgets about Kassius, he does not shy away from killing. He is not a hero, heroes will try not to kill – he doesn’t care. If you are against him then he will kill you if you challenge him, that much was certain back at the Coliseum he was captured and held in. Velvet helps pull him into the vent, and he manages to fit in, not as quietly as Velvet did. She is small, whereas he is broad. “Vent was bigger when I looked at it.” Kassius strains as he struggles to fit. He takes the vent cover and attaches it back on, not bothering with the screws.

The two of them crawl ahead, Velvet in front and Kassius behind. They both keep at the same pace, and Velvet looks back at him. “Sorry if my dress...shows anything.” She nervously tells him since she has been in a dress for all of this at the moment. Kassius chuckles, she has nothing to fear, he has self-control.

“Don’t worry, I wouldn’t dare. I’d hate to imagine what Yang would do to me if I did.” He jokes with a chuckle, and Velvet softly giggles too.

“O-Okay.” She giggles, crawling ahead of him, Kassius scratches his five o’clock shadow as he listens through the shaft and they finally get through to see a vent grate. It is right next to Kassius and he peers through when Velvet passes by it, seeing some chefs working inside. A delightful aroma enters their noses as they stare at the many different foods being cooked, from mouth-watering stir fries to bubbling cauldrons of soups in another area of the room. Nearly entire cows being roasted and shredded down, served onto large plates that are taken out by the waiters to the buffet.

They treat their guests well here.

Kassius peers through and focuses onto the door that begins to open into the garage, and one of the trucks reverses back slowly to deliver some more supplies to them. One of the chefs leaves the soup bubbling for a bit as he opens up the back of the truck, catching one of the boxes thrown to him, setting it down on the table as he takes some of the uncooked foods out from within. Others start helping, but then the door opens up and they turn…

And Kassius’ eyes widen.

“How are things going in here?” The voice of Hei Xiong speaks, easily recognisable with his black and red suit with golden accents imprinted on it. And as always one of the Malachite Twins at his side, this time it is Melanie opposed to Militia who is with him right now. Kassius scratches his stubble with an awkward sigh, of all the people who could be here…the one that would recognise Kassius instantly is here.

“Going well, sir. Just about to get the next course in as we speak.” The Head Chef answers, and Junior rubs his hands together with a smile.

“Very good, if there is anything me and my men can do for you, don’t be afraid to ask.” He says to them, he has never really been a threatening man. For a Crime Boss he is actually extremely tame, then again…compared to Vir Nominis Umbra? He is like a child playing with a gun, he has no idea what he is involved in.

“Junior…” Kassius softly growls with anger, since if anyone could blow their cover it would be him. He really got a good look of Kassius’ face when he nearly sawed his skull in half when searching for Ilia five years ago.

“Is he the guy you…nearly killed?” Velvet innocently asks him with concerned eyes, and he nods with a scowl.

“He’s leaving, let’s get in there and knock out the guards.” Kassius states, but she stops him with her hands pressed to his chest, looking him in the eyes. He looks at her and he raises a brow at her.

“Maybe we don’t have to hurt them?” She asks him gently.

“What?” He questions.

“My semblance, I’ve learned how to summon copies of other things. Like this.” She says as she forms a holographic bouncy ball in her delicate hand. Kassius looks at the ball and then at her, still confused of what she is getting at.

“I don’t get it. How does that help us get in there without getting spotted?” He asks her, both speaking in a softly spoken voice. She rolls her eyes playfully as she touches his chin gently and turns his head, pointing with her finger extended from the ball grip and pointing at a corner.

“I throw it in there and it bounces around like crazy for a minute. Long enough for us to get in while they’re panicking over a crazy ball.” She explains, and Kassius chuckles softly at the idea of a bunch of guys desperately trying to stop a bouncy ball from smashing up the place.

“Alright…let’s hope your plan works.” Kassius says, feeling it would be easier to knock them out…but maybe she is right…maybe violence is not always the answer. She waits for the perfect opportunity, when none of them are looking their way. She carefully takes off the grate and gently sets it down beside her leg, holding the bouncy ball. She peers round to the corner where there are tonnes of pans and plates.

Sorry

She flicks her wrist and launches the ball towards that area, and with a squeaky impact it bounces up into the ceiling, then down in the ground…and the panicking chefs are met by a frenzy of bounces confined in the corner, bouncing off one of their faces. Kassius and Velvet both hop down, Kassius politely catching her like the gentleman he is. They both crouch down to avoid detection from the chefs. “Is it a ghost?” One of them wails.

“A ghost? God no, it’s a ball! Just catch it!” The Head Chef yells, slipping over with a yell as he falls on his back. “Ouch.”

Kassius chuckles, and Hyde in the back of his head comments on her genius. “That is the evillest thing I’ve ever seen…I think I am starting to fall in love with this girl.” He chuckles, and Kassius rolls his eyes, whispering to Velvet’s ears.

“I think Hyde is starting to like you.” Kassius informs, and she blushes, moving up carefully, using the many workstations as cover to prevent detection from the many panicking chefs.

“This is a workplace! Stop being an asshole bouncy ball!” One of the chefs yell, the things these chefs are yelling are utterly hilarious. Kassius and Velvet both get outside, and she giggles beside him, barely able to contain her laughter beside him.

“Well…that might be the most ridiculous distraction since Operation Smartass.” Kassius tells her, walking round the building to find the pylons that lead all the way to the power room. However, the building is on the edge of the waterfall and right beneath it is the lobby that they were just inside of. Meaning they need to be extremely careful.

They both start to shimmy across and Velvet looks at Kassius curiously.

“Operation Smartass?” She asks him with a quizzical look on her face.

“Basically, I go full smartass on people to distract THEEEEM!” Kassius suddenly screams as his foot slips on a loose rock, plummeting off the edge of the cliff and waterfall. Velvet gasps and reaches out for him.

“Kassius!” She screams.

Inside of the Lobby however…

Coco speaks to Militia and she looks past Militia to see Kassius falling down the other side of the window with a muffled scream. “aaaAAAaaahhh!” Coco eyes bulge from their sockets gasps and accidentally inhales some of her wine, nearly choking on it. Militia’s eyes burst open and she catches Coco, patting her on the back.

“You alright?” She asks her, as Coco coughs on the drink she just choked on.

“Yup…wrong hole.” She replies, pulling it off perfectly.

“Not the first time you said that, I bet.” Militia jokes.

“Ah-Ha!” Coco laughs, despite the fact her heart just started racing when thinking Kassius just fell to his death. Until relief hits her from her discretely placed earpiece.

“I’m…okay!” Kassius assures, for he is actually hanging onto the edge of the cliff face with his metal hand, dangling off the edge by just a rock he managed to cling onto. Aura or not that fall would kill him. The water from the waterfall patters across his face as he starts to climb up, Velvet peering from above as she tries to help him. He reaches up and grabs onto another piece of rock to get further up, without his swords he cannot use them like picks to get across it easier. So, his hands will have to do, hauling his heavy body up as best as he can, getting closer and closer to Velvet who watches from above, her hand stretched out constantly as he gets closer.

He crawls past the window, away from the view of the guests inside, peering in to see Coco moving with Militia to keep her from seeing Kassius on the other side. The look she gives him is all with her eyes, demanding that he gets a shift on. He jumps up and grabs onto another open piece of rock that is getting looser and looser with every second he hangs off it. So, he swings off and grabs onto a vine that hangs from above, climbing up as quickly as he can before it starts to break. The vine tears, and he jumps, latching onto yet another rock he found, this one not as loose as the other.

He hauls himself up further and further, before finally being able to reach up to Velvet who grabs onto his arm and pulls him up. He stumbles and presses his hands onto the wall with shocked eyes at how close that was. She immediately starts to check him over, making sure he isn’t hurt – being as caring as ever. “Are you okay?” She nervously asks him, but he pats her arm with a smile, hugging her for helping him.

“That…was too close.” He says to her.

“Yeah it was, don’t try something like that again.” She requests.

“Eh, no promises.” Kassius shrugs, shuffling across again with her…but this time she keeps her hand close to him to make sure he does not slip.

 

Coco

 

Despite the event that nearly caused her to choke to death on wine – the fanciest way to die – she has managed to pull off the moment perfectly to not raise suspicion. Militia laughs with her glass between her fingers. “How the hell did Fox survive that?” She asks her with disbelief.

“No idea, the bastard has always managed to survive the strangest things. But he managed to stop the truck.” She states with a chuckle and Militia scratches the back of her head, standing before her.

“And what about the gnome?” She asks.

“You know what? I suspect he stole it.” She admits, making Militia chuckle as she stands there, taking another sip from her glass. Coco does the same and looks past Militia to see Emerald and Cardin both managing their end, Emerald still staying near the pedestals, in a conversation with a bunch of criminals. Whereas Cardin has multiple girls around him, seems he is enjoying himself at least. He might be the most believable person in here right now because he looks like he is actually enjoying himself.

She then looks back to Militia and she backs up slightly as she crosses one leg over the other. “So, any interesting stories with the Acolytes?” She asks the Assassin curiously, and Militia glances over to her and she shrugs her shoulders.

“Just the same old crap. Killing a bunch of people for lien, preferred the old days with Junior honestly.” She states with a sigh.

“Is he here? Haven’t seen him.” Coco asks her.

“Yeah, he’s here, my sister’s with him right now. Damned Admiral’s been running him around like crazy recently, after that Xiao Long Girl and her boyfriend kicked his ass again. Guy really needs to get out this business.” She states with a sigh, sipping some more of her wine, but then she straightens herself like a soldier would.

“Wow…Coco Adel, didn’t expect to see you here.” A familiar voice speaks behind her, Coco raises her brow and turns round to see him stood behind her with a smile on his face. With pushed to the side white hair with a cowlick and his sharp blue eyes staring right at her brown irises. Wearing an expensive suit with one arm held behind his back – she knows exactly who this is.

“Whitley Schnee.” Coco greets, accepting his outstretched hand and shaking it, clearly, he seems to be a bit of a fan of her from how he actually approached her and did not sound intimidating at all. “To what do I owe the pleasure?” She asks him curiously, inside she is exploding and desperately wanting the conversation here to end as fast as possible. Because she has lost feed to the voices of Velvet and Kassius right now…it could be Whitley…he could know.

“You? Please I should be honouring you, I remember seeing the battles you fought in the Vytal Festival. I mean I am not a huge fan of the Huntsmen Academies but who would I be if I turned down some good entertainment. You fought well.” He compliments with a smile, a glass of bourbon in his hand, just like his father.

“Why thank you, could have gone better though. I take it you heard the news about our opponents and their involvement in the Fall of Beacon?” She asks him, playing the role well to not alert Whitley…that is if he is not already alerted.

What if this…Vir Nominis Umbra dude…warned him we’d be here?

What if this is all a trap?

She ignores her thoughts for now but stays ready, they do not have their weapons but that does not mean that cannot take down the soldiers and take their weapons. “Indeed, heard Emerald Sustrai was responsible, messed with people’s heads correct?” He asks her curiously.

“Yeah, did the same to Pyrrha and Yang.” She says to them with a soft yet saddened smile, acting like she has no idea of what happened to them.

“Have you heard any news from Yang Xiao Long? Or any of your old friends?” He asks her curiously, sounding like he is concerned for her and her friends…but Coco is not an idiot. He is testing her, figuring out what side she is on right now. Coco sighs, and she shakes her head.

“Eight years and I’ve heard nothing from them…they could be dead for all I know. But I’ve no idea.” She states with a sad smile.

“You’re team? They’re okay, aren’t they?” Whitley asks her, and she stares at him, fighting the urge to break his nose…and she manages it.

“Yeah…they’re fine. I mean they don’t know I’m here…rather keep it that way. One of us has to break the rules, right?” She scoffs and Whitley chuckles as he looks at the many people standing in here. Who knows what their crimes have been over the years?

“Why are you here, in fact? Doesn’t strike me as your kind of party.” Whitley asks her with curiosity. Coco chuckles as she covers the side of her mouth jokingly.

“Would you believe me if I said the taxi took me to the wrong place?” She jokes and Whitley chuckles. “No…I heard there was this really valuable chess piece here, one of the ones that Ozpin actually used for the Initiation Process. When Beacon fell a bunch of scavengers got some stuff, and that chess piece is worth a few million. I know some guys, and I want to get my guys some comfy homes instead of some shitty apartments in Vale.” She explains, must have had that planned, and it is true too – there is indeed one of those chess pieces here on auction. Not on display at the moment but it will be eventually tonight.

“How selfless of you, and what would you get out of this?” He asks her.

“Please, you think I won’t get myself a fancy house too?” She chuckles.

“How much could that chess piece possibly be worth?” Militia questions with disbelief.

“Well they are selling it here for around 4 million. Before that though I started collecting shares wherever I could, became an investor. Really got up there with the money, gave as much as I could to my team without raising suspicion. Selling that bad boy? Would help them out a whole lot. And get me the house I want – it’s worth like six million lien, can you believe that?” She chuckles as she speaks, and Whitley nods his head. “What about you? Got your eyes on anything particular?” She asks him.

“Perhaps there is…recommend anything for me?” Whitley asks her, stepping forward and Coco chuckles.

“Yeah, like I’d wanna bid against him!” She chuckles, making both of them chuckle in the process. She then looks across the room then points to Pyrrha’s Circlet, acting like that is the first time she has noticed it. “Correct me if I’m wrong though…isn’t that Pyrrha Nikos’ circlet?”

Whitley looks at it and he nods his head. “Yes, I think it is…surprised you wouldn’t wanna buy it…you know, for memorial sakes.” He states with the shrug of his shoulders, also acting like he doesn’t know that Pyrrha is alive now.

Coco shakes her head as she looks at the circlet, acting extremely well too. “Nah…too much bad memories from looking at it. Feel like it would just be…wasted with me, you know? Shame she died, such a nice and pretty girl.” She compliments with a smile.

“That she was.” Whitley agrees, nodding his head.

“So, I heard you now run your father’s business, right?” She asks him.

“My business now.” He answers, still living by that lie that he was the one running the business the whole time when his father disappeared. “But yes, that is now my day job.” He agrees with a sickening smile.

“Ho-Ho that is one helluva day job. I bet you’d be able to buy everything they’ve got on show tonight.” She says to him.

“Well sure…but what’d be the point in that? These days I’m looking for the…good stuff…big scores.” He states as he smiles, then their attention gets caught by the voice of the owner – Solomon Karadin. He stands behind the many pedestals with the artefacts on show for the Black-Market Guests to make their bids on. He holds out his hands and speaks into the microphone as the music begins to die down.

“Good Evening everyone! What a pleasant evening it is outside.” He says with a theatrical voice, Coco crosses her arms and scoffs.

“This oughta be good.” Coco scoffs.

“A pleasant evening of which I feel celebrates the sacrifices we have made to make sure the balance of Remnant remains the same. People in the world these days expect the simplest of things – adventure, entertainment, love – but they never notice how fragile the world really is. They only have to worry about simple luxuries, because people like all of us are the ones that keep the world spinning, do the dirty work that the lesser are too afraid to commit. This gathering is for us – in celebration for our deeds that keep the people filled with brand new experiences. Let there always be a market for the things we do.” He speaks, concluding his speech with his hands held out to the many people who applaud him.

Coco rolls her eyes. “Guy seems a bit full of himself.” She scoffs. Whitley looks at her and he narrows his eyes, suspicion welling in them. “I know when I’m a third wheel, you two have fun tonight.” She says as she tries to get out the conversation and as far from Whitley as she can so then she can get away from the jammer on him.

But Whitley suddenly grabs onto her shoulder to stop her. “One more thing, Coco.” He says, she turns, and he releases her as she faces him. He stares at her and all of a sudden, his personality has taken an unexpected turn. “How’d you find out about it?” He asks her, she raises one of her brows with confusion.

“It? What it are we talking about here, Whitley? The Chess Piece? It was on the internet, not that hard to find you know.” She states with the shrug of her shoulders, Whitley smacks the glass from her hand and she barely even reacts, just stares at her hand then glares at him with anger.

“Cut the bullshit, Adel!” He yells, Solomon pauses, and he stares at Whitley causing a scene, a few gasps rise from the crowd and all eyes are upon them. However, it is all on Whitley, not on Coco…if anything she is more like the victim. “Now I don’t know what you’re up to, but I know you’re lying. But I promise you if anything happens to that Nikos Circlet, you will end up six feet under.” He snarls, until the voice of Solomon rises from the microphone.

“I believe you’ve had enough to drink, sir.” He speaks, giving him his one warning, then Whitley glances up to the many Acolytes of Lien soldiers standing on the higher balcony. It’s clear they are paid by Whitley, not Karadin, because they are not aiming their rifles at him. However, he does not order a shootout, he seems to aim to do things the clean way as best he can, so he nods his head.

“My apologies.” He accepts, wiping the wine from Coco’s nice dress, then he narrows his eyes at her. “You get my point, right?” He asks her, and Coco lowers the hand that was holding the glass.

Coco just nods her head. “Lovely to see you.” She says to him, turning and walking away from him, wiping the wine from her arm with a glare in her eyes. As she gets further the crackling grows and grows, hearing Kassius and Velvet trying to call her.

“Coco? Coco? Are you okay? What’s going on?” Velvet fearfully asks her.

“It’s fine, Velvet…but we got a problem.” She states.

 

Kassius

 

“What is it? We’ve just gotten to the control panel for the power. What kind of problem are we talking about?” Kassius asks as he approaches the gate of which that blocks them from getting to the power controls, whilst Velvet starts searching around for something to break the lock.

“Whitley Schnee is here.” She tells him and Kassius’ eyes widen.

“Aw shit…” He sighs with anger, not only will he recognise Emerald off the bat, but he also has enough money to buy the entire estate and not lose a night’s sleep.

“Aw shit, indeed, Kas. And the bidding has started, so whatever we’re gonna do we better do it fast.” Emerald recommends, still standing as close to the pedestal as she can, with her head down to not get his attention. A wig and an iris colour change are not going to be enough to trick him, he knows what she looks like and he could recognise her a mile away. Cardin paces back and forth, acting all serious now that the bidding has started, all the girls away from him.

“If you’re gonna cut the power now’s a good time to do it, buddy.” Cardin recommends, ready for a fight too.

“We’re gonna need a minute.” Kassius says to them as he looks at Velvet, but she still hasn’t found anything, so now he helps by rummaging through some more boxes inside of the building.

“We don’t have a minute, Kassius.” Coco warns.

“Well buy us some time.” Kassius replies.

“How? You expect me to just whip my dress off and run on the stage nude?” Coco questions, one that little makes Kassius furrow his brow at how weird that was.

“I mean I wouldn’t be against it.” Cardin jokes.

“Oh, suck a cock, Winchester.” Coco replies.

“I dunno, outbid him or something.” Kassius suggests.

“With what? He’s a Schnee!” Coco reminds as she stands there, heart pounding with every second that passes by. “The little shit has already put on two hundred thousand lien.”

Velvet furrows her brow too. “Coco, we’re stealing it.” She reminds.

“What if he calls my bluff?” Coco asks.

“He won’t.” Kassius promises.

“I wouldn’t be so sure; the bastard saw right through my lies. I think he knows I’m up to something, if I dare raise my hand bullets’ll start flying.” Coco explains.

“Then…Emerald or Cardin, one of you guys or both of you try.” Kassius says.

“He knows me, Kassius.” Emerald states.

“You don’t have to say, just hold the racket.” He states, Emerald rotates her racket with the number on it and has a holographic screen on it with the current price of the circlet. She nods her head.

“Okay…” She agrees.

“Same, be less suspicious.” Cardin agrees.

“Just buy us some time, we’ll be in soon.” Kassius assures, looking over to Velvet after shoving the box under the table since he found nothing inside. “Anything?”

“Nothing over here.” She states. “Can’t you use your arm?”

“No, too much force the sensors would sense it as a bomb. A crowbar would be best, not too forceful.” Kassius says as he walks over to another box, rummaging through everything shoved inside. From hammers to circuitry components and other bits of scrap left inside. He sighs, shoving it in there too for there’s nothing in it.

Velvet reaches down into one of the boxes and she feels something…and a wild idea hits her when she pulls her hand out to see a bunch of magnets attached to her arm. She gasps, looking at the detector and she stares at Kassius. “I’ve got an idea!” She cheers, throwing one of the magnets to him. He turns, and it just gets sucked onto his metal arm, he stares at it, since he has taken the blazer off and shows off his metal arm to the world. And the magnet stuck on him.

“That’s just rude.” Kassius says to her.

“Oh shush. Look, put the magnets on the sensor. The magnetic energy will distort its systems for some time.” She explains, putting her two magnets onto the sensor. It starts to flicker as it sits there, but when Kassius rips the one off his arm and puts it on the sensor, it shuts off temporarily.

Meaning now he can use the breaching punch with his Cybernetic Arm. “This is gonna be loud.” He warns, pulling his arm back, Velvet covers her large ears that bend down with her hands. A deep mechanical thrum builds up in the arm, and he swings it with all his might into the lock, the pistons smashing the lock apart into a hundred pieces, door swinging open. “Good idea.” He chuckles, since the alarm doesn’t get set off.

“I have my moments.” She giggles, following him in. Kassius presses his finger to his earpiece to contact them.

“Alright guys, power’s going off. How you doing?” He asks them.

“One second.” Cardin chuckles, also hearing Emerald laughing too. What they haven’t realised is that they have been having fun with annoying Whitley right now. Choosing totally random sizes of money to bid by, getting him angrier and angrier.

“Bid now at Five Hundred Thousand Lien.” He hears the voice of Solomon over the earpiece and he chuckles.

“Gods, how annoyed is he?” Kassius asks.

“He’s fuming.” Coco chuckles. “This is more satisfying than I realised.”

But then Whitley rolls his eyes and holds his racket up. “One Million Lien!” He yells, and people in the room gasp. “C’mon let’s finish this.” He states, and Solomon stares at him and then nods.

“Thank you…are there any other bids?” Solomon wonders, Whitley can’t help but turn when he senses Coco about to raise her racket. But then she smirks and lowers it.

“All yours.” She assures.

“Thank the gods.” He sighs with relief.

“Okay then…let’s ruin this scrawny little shit’s evening.” She says to them with a smirk on her face.

Kassius hits the switch.

“I shall sell this crown for one million lien.” He says.

The lights suddenly vanish, and Whitley looks around with concern, Junior too starts to look around. “Don’t worry, everyone – backup power will be on in just a minute.” He assures. Until Whitley notices when the lights come back on seconds afterwards…

The crown is gone, and his eyes widen with disbelief, spinning round to see Coco gone.

As are Cardin and Emerald.

“Damn it…after them! Kill them!” Whitley bellows, the Malachite Twins nod as they both turn and walk away into the shadows and Junior cracks his knuckles as Whitley throws his racket on the ground in fury.

Then the alarms blare.

Chapter Text

Kassius

 

The Vytal Survivor lands down from above, slamming his knee into the tarmac and gravel beneath his boots. He looks up and catches Velvet as she jumps down, steadying her recovery. After checking if she was okay, he presses his finger to the earpiece on his person, patching back into the comm link with the others. “Emerald? Tell me you got Pyrrha’s Circlet?” Kassius questions with immense concern in his voice. Her voice comes through the other end, giving him satisfaction.

“Got it right here…damn how does the chick wear this thing twenty-four-seven? Doesn’t look comfortable at all.” She scoffs on the other end of the radio link. Kassius looks ahead as Velvet proceeds forward, keeping low to the ground and silent in every step taken. She hides in the bushes as she listens carefully with her large ears.

“Well we’ve definitely kicked the beehive down here. The Acolytes of Lien are securing the whole complex, car park has been completely taken over. Nobody’s leaving, we can’t get out that way. It’s suicide.” Coco explains to them, Kassius sighs with frustration since that was all he had hoped on staying natural. That they could just steal one of the cars and speed their way out of the scene.

“Shit…any ideas?” Kassius asks them as he catches up with Velvet.

“Hmm…I’ve got something. Everyone meet with me in the Hanger, underneath the Ballroom, where the Waterfall is.” She describes to them, Kassius looks at Velvet with confused curiosity, something the others must feel as well.

“Uhh…gonna fill us in?” Cardin asks her.

“You’ll see, I have a plan.” She assures, before cutting off, and Kassius pulls his finger from his ear as he crouches down beside Velvet, peering through the grass and round the concrete archway.

“Kassius…” She softly whispers to him, he turns and looks at her through the bushes.

“Yeah?” He replies.

“Are you sure we can trust her? I mean…she did help cause the Fall of Beacon.” She reminds with a gently spoken voice. Kassius looks at her through the blades of green grass, and he sighs.

“Well…if she does betray us, then we’ll kill her. But I think she may be genuine…she wants to get back to my sister after all. We’re her best ticket to that.” Kassius states, Velvet glances at him with concern, she is not foolish, she can quickly deduce who his sister must be just from who Velvet was in league with when they were enemies once. Meaning Cinder must be his sister, and he her brother – however he has never given her a reason to distrust him before…and that won’t change now.

“Okay.” She agrees with a small smile on her pretty face. Kassius moves forward through the bushes and rises up, pressing his back against the concrete wall. He peers round the edge slowly, staring with his now amber eyes, disguises are unnecessary now, the guards know that they are being robbed.

The courtyard is clear, so Kassius takes the chance to move forward. As he walks across the courtyard his eyes widen when he hears a collection of male voices emerging from the building directly ahead. In a hushed voice he calls to Velvet following him. “Get to cover! Try not to get spotted!” He tells her, rolling across the ground and into some bushes, whereas Velvet crouches down beside some crates of wine prepared to be load into the cellar that they were just inside of. The fumes starting to wear off on her body now.

She uses her semblance, conjuring a holographic screwdriver, it is not a knife, but it will do. She grasps it tight in her hand, whereas Kassius just as his metal arm and other arm to use. Luckily though, he is much stronger than Velvet is, meaning he could take them down with his bare hands.

The doors open wide with a bang, and a group of five Acolytes of Lien Mercenary Thugs step out, one with a cigarette chewed in his mouth, holding a pump action shotgun in his hands. Clearly these soldiers are not even trusted with the higher end technology and weaponry either, because not only wearing normal clothing with no armour. But the weaponry is damn near primitive, using old-fashioned bullets instead of dust rounds. The shotgunner pumps the weapon, launching a spent shell from the dispenser as he looks around.

He has had to fire that already, they have heard a few gunshots lately. “How the hell did someone manage to take that frickin circlet, man? I was watching the pedestals the whole time!” A young man yells, he cannot be much older than seventeen, as he kicks a cardboard box across the floor, venting his frustration. Until the ringleader elbows the back of his head and he grunts in pain.

“Snap out of it, dickwad! We’ve got a job to do, find the thieves and kill them. And make sure none of these damn Black-Market dealers get in our way.” He explains as he rests his shotgun on his arm, removing the cigarette from his mouth and throwing it down onto the floor. With his black leather boot, he stamps the flame out, killing the cigarette swiftly. The shotgun falls pump first onto his palm as he looks around. “Spread out! Check this area, make sure it’s clear.” He orders as he walks ahead.

Kassius peers through the bushes to where Velvet hides, seeing her taking cover behind the crates, her large eyes peering right to him as well. She can handle herself, she is probably in a better position than he is when it comes down to being stealthy. She is small and part bunny after all, so he watches the soldiers as they pace around. One of the thugs sighs as he stands by the bush, about to unzip his pants so then he can urinate into the bush. Kassius furrows his brow and deadpans with annoyance.

Why do I always get the shitty spot?

“Hey boys! Did ya’ll see some of those Faunus Girls in there? Pretty hot, weren’t they? Was thinking of taking one out back later…see if I can get lucky.” He chuckles, but one of the thugs shakes his head.

“Good luck, pal. Those girls will break your nose long before you even try and caress their hair.” One of them warns.

“What? How do you know that?” He asks in return.

“Take it from experience, still have a nasty lump right here from when I tried that. Those girls can look after themselves.” The Thug states as he walks around, submachine gun in hand as he approaches the crates of which that Velvet is hiding behind. The pissing brute looks back at him.

“You talking about the girls with Junior too?” He asks him, and he sighs.

“No, that was Robert. Sure, he had sex with one of them…but then she killed him a few seconds afterwards.” He states, sending a chill down the spines of the two hunters, neither of them realised how deranged the Malachite Twins really are.

“Well they call them the Mantis Sisters for a reason, I guess. Nobody survives a one-night stand with either. Unless you’re quick.” He chuckles, meaning either Coco was fast to get out of there – twice – or she fought them off and escaped…twice.

As if Coco could not possibly surprise them any further.

Kassius waits for the perfect moment, the guy is just about to urinate, and the guards have all looked away from them…and there is no conversation going on. He suddenly erupts from the shrubbery of vegetation, and slams his metal fist right into the face of the soldier, knocking him out instantly. He catches the boy and drags him into the bushes, quickly twisting his neck forcefully to snap the spine.

He has never believed in leaving his enemies alive to wake up…as he said…he is no hero.

He leaves the cold corpse of the soldier in the bushes as he waits for the right moment to emerge, whereas Velvet across the courtyard from him reaches to the seventeen-year-old and she wraps her arm around his neck and mouth to starve him of oxygen just enough so then he falls unconscious. She releases the body and keeps him hidden in the shadows for now since nobody can see him.

Three Thugs remain with their senses sharp as they walk around, and pretty quick they snap onto the fact that two of them are missing. “Rodriguez? Dan!” One of the thugs calls out with concern in his voice as he raises his heavy pistol up, one that fires high calibre rounds at his targets. Kassius suddenly erupts from the bushes and he gasps, his eyes widen as the Huntsman sprints towards him.

He sidesteps as he sprints to dodge the bullets flying his way, before dropping to the ground and swiping his metal arm across the legs of the soldier, knocking him over. He rises up and pounds his human fist directly into the thug’s gut. The impact causes his legs to kick up and he gasps in agony, wincing in pain as he presses his palms to his stomach. Kassius’ eyes widen when the voice of Hyde in the back of his head calls out. “Watch yourself!” Hyde roars, and he spins round to see the soldier aiming down the sights of his rifle.

“Game’s over shit-face!” The thug yells, until from out of nowhere Velvet springs up and jumps onto his back, slamming the holographic screwdriver right into the rifle so then it jams up. He pulls the trigger and the mechanism fires the bullet right into the screwdriver, rupturing the internal mechanisms of the rifle to the point of creating a small explosion. Throwing shards of metal everywhere, slashing across his face at one point.

Kassius ducks down when Hyde warns him again. “Stop staring at Velvet and keep your eyes peeled! Still that other guy behind you!” Hyde yells.

“Stop backseat strategizing my ass!” Kassius replies to him aloud.

“Why, it helps doesn’t it?” Hyde scoffs, Kassius glares at the ringleader with the shotgun who fires it right at him. The shrapnel nearly hits him until he ducked down into the bushes again, disappearing from his sight. Back with Velvet though, she holds onto his back as he stumbles around, until the idiot finally uses his brain and reaches back, grabbing Velvet by her ear. She cries out in pain, as he throws her from her back, but as Velvet lands she summons a wrench in her hand and throws the holographic tool directly into his leg so hard it makes him fall to that knee. He grunts in pain as Velvet runs at him.

She jumps up and knees him in the face, bringing him down to his back, resting both knees on his chest, the thug looks at her and smirks. “Hey there, sweetheart. Aren’t you gorgeous, wanna fool arou-” Velvet smashes her fist into his mouth before he can finish his disgusting comment, rising up after knocking him out. She turns and gasps when seeing the Shotgunner aiming the barrel directly at her. He fires at her and she rolls out the way, but some of the shrapnel shards slice through the skirt of her dress, cutting and ruining it as she rolls behind cover.

She rises back up as she picks up the pistol from the Thug she just took out, but she does not even get the chance to fire it. Because Kassius suddenly grabs the shotgun with his cybernetic hand and crushes the barrel with force, taking the shotgun and pulling it straight from his hands. Kassius holds it like a baseball bat and winds it back, swinging the stock straight into the Thug’s face, so hard that it explodes upon contact into shards of wood, dropping the knocked-out guard to the ground.

Kassius pants as he stares at him, before looking at the knife on his person, he calmly crouches down and pulls the knife from its sheath, and he goes to stab it into the heart of the soldier. Until Velvet’s smooth hand catches his arm and he turns with a fiery glare, staring at her with a hint of Hyde in his amber irises. “What are you doing?” She questions with shock.

“Finishing the job.” He answers as he thrusts forward, so she uses her other hand to pull him up. She stares at him with narrowed eyes and shakes her head.

“No. We do not just take lives for no reason.” She states.

“What if he wakes up and shoots one of us later?” He questions with a scoff.

“Then we take him down then, but if we kill them for nothing then we are just as bad as they are.” She states, but Kassius has always had a very black and white way of looking at things. Perhaps a side effect of having a Demon residing in the back of his mind for his entire life. Kassius narrows his eyes, and he just pulls his arm from her hands, staring at her as he drops the knife and walks past her, towards the doors of which that the thugs came from.

Kassius says absolutely nothing on the matter, just keeping his senses sharp…but Velvet would be lying if she had claimed she was not afraid of Kassius just then.

It was very different to the sarcastic man she has come to know.

But she follows him none the less, struggling to walk in her damaged dress and skirt, Kassius turns when she starts grunting in frustration. She takes her dress and forcefully tears the skirt off, round her knees so then it no longer gets in the way. The dress looks like it was really expensive, yet she ripped it so effortlessly.

Kassius chuckles. “I like her.” Hyde chuckles in the back of Kassius’ head.

“Yeah well, if you manage to get a Human Body someday, maybe you can ask her out on a date.” He states, devoted to Yang.

“Who knows, maybe that day will come.” Hyde says, hopefully, and still in his head Kassius even agrees with him, but not for reasons out of selfishness.

“Let’s hope huh…maybe then you can have some adventures of your own instead of needing me for them.” Kassius says to him.

“Well…doesn’t mean I wouldn’t trade this for anything, brother.” He says, Kassius can even feel the warm smile that Hyde had given him.

He has come a long way from a pain in the ass monster in the back of his head to what he is now.

Wouldn’t even believe them to be the same person.

The two Hunters press on, walking out towards the bridge that heads over the waterfall and they both stare at it.

That is indeed the same waterfall of which Emerald was talking about, so Kassius raises them on comms.

“This is Kas – how are you guys doing?” Kassius asks them, hearing gunfire on the other end and Coco’s voice on the other side.

“Oh, just perfectly!” Coco sarcastically replies, only then to they start to hear the distant gunshots.

 

Coco

 

Bullets whoosh over their heads at great speeds over her head, with one of the tables flipped over and using it as cover. A stray bullet zooms over head and clips the wooden surface of the table, throwing splinters everywhere. She grits her teeth, grasping the submachine gun close to her chest as she waits for the right opportunity to fire. She might have aura on her side but that does not mean she wants to waste any of it. She looks over at Cardin and Emerald, Cardin taking cover behind a pillar and Emerald behind the bar.

Emerald rises up and fires her pistol with precise shots at the thugs, nailing one of them in the chest, a loud pained yell erupting from his lungs as he crashes down to the ground. “Just, just perfectly Kassius.” She continues, pressing her fingers to the earpiece on her. The gunfire recedes over her, so she bends round the side of the table and aims down the iron sights of the small firearm in her hands, blasting a short-controlled burst of five bullets into an Acolyte of Lien’s torso, blood smearing all over the pillar behind him as he slides down to the floor with a weak groan.

“What’s happening, we can hear the gunfire from here!” Velvet fearfully asks her and Coco retreats back behind the table when she spots one of the soldiers aiming at her and firing with a blinding muzzle flash. She just avoids the fire shot at her, fracturing parts of the table.

“We’re pinned down in a dining room near the Ball Room. Trying to get to that Hanger Emerald was talking about.” Coco answers, Cardin suddenly rushes forward, and he rolls behind cover, grabbing onto a fire axe on the wall where he shot the glass out beforehand. He swings it round and throws the axe straight into the ribs of one of the soldiers, killing him instantly, his dead corpse thrown onto the floor with a crash.

Blood trickles from his split ribs as he passes on, and he scoops up an Assault Rifle on the ground, exchanging one magazine for another, cocking the mechanism to load it up. He turns around the corner to fire some bullets into the other soldiers that are blocking their escape, until a bullet suddenly comes flying through a window with a crash, slicing through his arm.

Cardin roars in pain, recoiling and taking cover behind the pillar again as a loud crack echoes from outside. Then a second shot hits the pillar, blowing chunks of expensive marble from the pillar, plumes of thick smoke filling the air.

“Cardin! You good?” Coco calls out to him, he snarls as uses his aura to regenerate the damage in his arm, the blood still staining his damaged white shirt.

“Yeah, bastard just grazed me.” He states.

“What happened?” Kassius nervously asks her.

“Sniper! Eastern tower, he’s got us pinned down and these soldiers really aren’t helping our situation here.” She states, ducking down from a few more bullets sent flying her way.

“We’ll take him out, just don’t die.” Kassius orders, Coco scoffs.

“Oh sure, not like I had plans on dying right now or anything.” She sarcastically says.

“We’ll be with you soon! Just hold them off.” Velvet begs them, and Coco nods as she smirks, vaulting over the table and rolling towards one of the pillars like Cardin has.

“Don’t you worry about us! Just get rid of that sniper!” Coco orders, reaching round to fire a few rounds at them, some of the bullets cut clean through the clothes and blows the hat off one of their heads. Until her eyes widen when she sees him jumping down from above with a Missile Launcher in his hand.

“Well look what we have here everyone, more Huntresses getting their noses in things they shouldn’t.” Junior snarls as he fires the missile at Coco, she readies herself and leaps through the air, corkscrewing round as she narrowly dodges the missile that explodes into one of the windows. Shards of glass thrown everywhere in a fiery explosion, Coco lands and stares through her long brown hair with a smirk.

“I was complaining about not having my gun…but now it’s getting interesting.” She giggles playfully, rushing towards Junior. Emerald gasps, her eyes widening as she sprints at him with nothing but her fists since she dropped her gun.

“Coco!” Emerald yells.

Junior stops towards her and he spins the rocket launcher round and swings it straight at her like a gold club, but she drops down and punches right up his crotch, releasing a high-pitched squeal of pain as he recoils with a bounce from that dirty punch she delivered. She runs and then jumps onto his back. “What? Don’t like getting your butt whooped by a girl? Wouldn’t be the first time, would it?” She questions, but Junior snarls with fury as he reaches up and grabs her, throwing her across the Ball Room, sliding along the smooth marble floor.

He also drops the missile launcher then pushes his sleeves up, cracking his neck. “I’ve learned a few things since I fought that blonde-haired gal.” He assures, raising his fists and Coco smirks as she does the same.

“Let’s see, big boy.” Coco challenges with a grin, whilst Cardin aims his rifle at the soldiers as does Emerald. Coco sprints towards Junior and dodges his fist swung towards her face, narrowly avoiding him, then thrusting her arm forward into his lower abdomen. He grunts in pain, hunching forward until he spirals round and smacks his other forearm across her cheek, knocking her across the floor. She rolls but gets back up fast, still with a smile.

“Should never have come here, Huntress.” He snarls with anger.

“I beg to differ – been a while since I had a good fight.”

 

Kassius

 

“Damn it, we need to keep moving. C’mon!” Kassius tells Velvet as he takes his hand from his ear and he advances forward, picking up the one-handed submachine gun one of the thugs was holding that they took down. He rushes towards the large courtyard of which more soldiers emerge, some rappelling down from the rooftop, lowering down before them. One of them lands down and he aims his machine gun at them.

“There they are! Take ‘em out!” The ringleader yells, pulling the trigger back and unleashing a carnage of bullets their way. Kassius returns fire as he runs to cover, ducking down as he strafes over his head. Kassius quickly moves behind cover whilst Velvet sprints through the darkness with her head low, picking up a single fire rifle left behind by a soldier and aiming down the sights at one of them.

She is not afraid – however – to take a life when necessary. She only hesitates when they are either unarmed or do not need to be killed.

She pulls the trigger and fires the bullet right into the side of the soldier’s head, a bright display of blood and brain matter splattering all over the wall, his head snapping to the side and his scream silenced swiftly. He falls to the floor with a meaty and crunchy thud, and she ducks down as one of the soldiers fires his double-barrelled shotgun her way. Kassius vaults over cover and slams both his feet into the ribs of a soldier stood on the other side, he grunts as he staggers back, Kassius swiftly turns and he pulls the knife he found on that soldier out…picking it up earlier…and stabbing it right into the throat of the thug.

He snarls with choking gasps as he staggers back, gallons of bright red blood gushing out from his neck as he collapses to the ground, Kassius walks past the dying thug without a second look, lifting the submachine gun with one hand, firing a burst of bullets towards the others. The bullets spray apart, rupturing the concrete in the walls and splintering wood open as he rushes towards the enemy. One of them fires his pistol at Kassius but he lifts his cybernetic forearm up to stop the bullets, the hardened projectiles bounce off the strong metal and his aura with ease.

Kassius fires the submachine gun and the rest of the bullets in the magazine shred the clothes and his torso, bringing the man to the ground. “Behind you!” Hyde warns, Kassius catches the machete that a Mercenary Thug was swinging at the back of his head with his metal hand, pressing his thumb against the cold steel blade to snap it in half with a metallic twang. Kassius then smacks the soldier across the face with the submachine gun before throwing it into the side of another’s head, making him collapse but not get knocked out. Kassius rips the snapped machete from the hand of the soldier then rams it into the thug’s gut, making him gasp. He then knees the hilt, pushing it further into his stomach. The thug lets out a blood curdling screech of agony before Kassius takes his metal hand away then punches him in the back of the head so hard his skull crashes into the floor.

A thug stares at him and picks up a box, throwing it straight at him. “Watch out!” Hyde warns, his second eye in the sky, even giving him alert senses to turn in time. He catches the box and returns it to sender, throwing it so hard into the thug that it shatters, sending shards of wine coated glass into his face, making him scream in agony.

Velvet sprints past him and she jumps, grabbing onto a loose rope from a support cable, swinging towards another thug, slamming both her feet into his chest, knocking him over. She lands on top of him, twisting back and slamming her fist into his face. Her long ears perk up and she rolls out of the way after hearing the clink of a gun aiming at her, then the almost deafening boom of the gun blasting towards her.

The bullet fractures against across the cobblestone floor then she picks up a pistol and fires it straight at the soldier, the bullet flies across the air and punctures through his head, exploding out the other side. Feeling such guilt for the kill she closes her eyes with a saddened sigh, however she snaps out of it when the last thug swings a baseball bat towards her head. She ducks down from the swing, then thrusts her body up into his lower abdomen to push him back. Then she performs a graceful backflip that kicks right up his jaw, knocking him to the ground.

She flicks her head back to get the hair from her eyes, hearing a gunshot from Kassius as he finishes off the last of the awake or living thugs. She flinches from the gunshot, and Kassius does not even change his expression, just drops the pistol onto the floor. He turns towards the doors that lead to the ball room, and also the Dining Hall that they are currently pinned down inside of.

They both walk inside, and they look around, hearing the alarms blaring across the Estate, the many Thugs searching for them. And the sound of some kind of aircraft, one that is getting closer and closer. So, they both get down as it slowly patrols the parking lot where they initially set their escape plan. An Acolyte of Lien Gunship hovers overhead with bright searchlights shining all over the place, searching for their targets.

“Everyone! Please follow our instructions in an orderly manner! We will find the thieves shortly.” The pilot of the aircraft orders, huge with multiple heavy armaments loaded onto the wings and a high calibre dust charged machine gun under the cockpit on a swivel. This might be the most expensive piece of equipment these thugs have at their disposal. Even then, it is nowhere near as high tech as the ones the primary military force have…this one actually has some rust on it.

Even more proof that the Thugs are literally just hired guns.

Kassius and Velvet both peer down to see someone having a heated argument with some of the Mercenaries down there. As they focus their sights….they realise that it is Solomon Karadin, and he does not sound very happy. “Why the hell are you escorting me from my own estate? This is my home!” Solomon bellows with fury as he pushes the hand of the thug off him.

“Sir, I’m gonna have to ask you to join the rest of the guests please.” The Mercenary requests in a calmly spoken voice. Velvet gasps, looking at one of the black cars to see that Whitley is inside of it with his eyes glaring at the Drug Lord.

“Whitley…” She whispers.

“Guests? I hired you grunts! Find the thieves already, I will be in my office!” He yells, but the soldier grabs him and pulls him back.

“No sir, you will stay here. As you have been commanded.” The thug states and he chuckles.

“Commanded? My pay check commands you and I am paying you lot a fortune!” He yells, but one of the thugs chuckles at his stupidity. “Oh yeah, what’s so funny?”

“Well the thing is, Karadin…you’ve been outbid.” He states, and Karadin raises a brow.

“By whom?” He questions.

“By me.” Whitley answers as he stands up and emerges from his car with his hand behind his back as always. Solomon glares at him and he chuckles, shaking his head as he approaches.

“You boy? Your father funds me, just imagine what would happen if I told him abou-”

Suddenly Whitley draws his other arm and fires a bullet from his chromed pistol, blowing his head out, blood everywhere and on the jacket of one of the soldiers who gasps with shock from how unexpected that was. None of them saw that coming…not even Kassius or Velvet. Karadin’s head recoils back with blood trickling down from his head as he collapses to the ground.

Whitley lowers the smoking gun with a grin on his unexpectedly deranged face. “Father…isn’t here.” He states with a smile, and one of the thugs stammers with fear.

“Are you out of your goddamn mind?” He yells at Whitley until Whitley presses the hot smoking barrel of his pistol against the cranium of the scared thug.

“Wanna find out? No? Then find my crown!” He yells with fury in his voice, pushing the gun against his head to get him to move. The two soldiers both run off from him to do their jobs, whereas Whitley straightens his tie and walks towards the car and sits down, closing the door as the car drives off.

“Bastard’s going crazy…the power and the money is getting to his head.” Kassius whispers.

“Coward doesn’t even stay to see the job finished.” Velvet says in disgust.

“Wouldn’t think Weiss is his sister, would you?” Kassius asks her.

“I know…she was lucky she had her sister. Otherwise she would be just like him. C’mon…it’s just this way.” Velvet says as they walk towards the next door that leads towards a study.

He just…shot him…a major Drug Dealer…because he annoyed him?

Whitley’s getting more dangerous by the day, I’m starting to wonder if even Jacques knows about his insanity growing.

They just left his body there too…

So much for a legacy, huh Karadin?

Kassius approaches the doors to that study and he looks at Velvet. “You ready?” He asks her, and she nods her head. Kassius twists the doorknob and opens the door, meeting their eyes with widened ones of his own.

“Shit.”

The other Malachite Twin – Melanie Malachite – is here, and she grabs Kassius and pulls him into the room, before kicking Velvet in the chest. She screams, falling over the railing and Kassius’ eyes widen when she falls. “Velvet!” Kassius screams, only for Melanie to close the door and lock it tight, turning to him with a sinister smile on her face.

“All to myself…” She whispers as she walks towards him, he turns and reaches to the pistol he had but she stamps her heel down onto his wrist to keep him there. “Uh-Uh…I don’t think so, honey…so you’re the handsome boyfriend that blonde bitch has in her bed, huh? Don’t blame her…maybe I could get a kiss huh?” She wonders, suddenly pressing her lips to him with a disturbingly pleasurable moan, one that angers Kassius.

He punches her straight in the chest with his cybernetic fist, causing her to hit the ceiling then bounce off the table. “Why do I keep getting weird attention from women lately?” Kassius questions with confusion as he stands up, pressing his metal palm against his knee as he rises back up.

“Who knows? Maybe you and I could have some fun tonight? Wanna press me up against the wall and make sweet, sweet love to me?” She asks him, but as she speaks Kassius groans as he finds the world feeling heavier and heavier. Melanie begins to transform before his very eyes.

The young woman with long black hair and pale green eyes, highlighted by heavy cyan makeup…begins to change. She wears a white, strapless dress with cyan lining.

Her accessories include a large white flower hairpin above her left ear, a white feather scarf, a silver pad with cyan and red feathers on her left shoulder, white gloves, a small silver bracer over the glove on her left arm, a bow in the centre of the top-most part of her bodice, a silver chained belt, cyan wings on the lower back, and long white boots with blades at the heels.

However, as she changes, the black hair glows yellow and becomes long and puffy. Stunning lilac eyes form, and firm glossed lips from, with her body growing slightly in many areas. Now she is wearing a tan jacket with orange lining and gold edging, unzipped halfway to show an orange crop top. The coat has darker brown short sleeves, a thick collar that completely encircles her neck, and two long detachable gold-trimmed rectangular tails. She also wears fitted black pants, and her hair has been let down again like her original outfit.

Around her hips and over the tails of her coat is a brown belt, which has two pieces of dark brown material trimmed in gold attached to it. The first covers from her left hip to the back of the belt and is folded over the belt, and the second is attached from the right hip and almost around to the other piece of material. She wears knee high brown boots with gold caps on the heel and toe, with the heel cap attaching to a gold strap across the front of her ankle, and a gold zipper on the upper half of the front of the boots. A single small buckled strap is on the upper outside of her boots, and a purple bandana tied around her left knee. A pair of black fingerless gloves with long brown cuffs reaching to mid forearm complete the outfit.

He knows every piece of her body like the back of his hand as she knows his…and he cannot her.

“Hallucinogenic…lip stick…damn it…” Kassius stammers as he staggers, feeling everything moving like he is underwater somehow.

“Aw…you look confused Kassius. Want me to help you?” She asks him playfully as she walks towards him…

He can barely even stand, and he can’t even bring himself to swing at her…he loves her too much, he could rarely ever spar with her too much because he could never hurt her. Melania punches him straight in the face, knocking him into a bookshelf and she pins him up against it, gazing into his eyes. “Undo my zipper…you want to, don’t you?” She whispers seductively.

“Kassius! Snap out of it! It isn’t Yang!” Hyde yells in the back of his mind.

“I…I know…But I…I can’t…” He says as he tries to push her away from him, but he can’t. Melanie now gets a bit more serious.

“Give me the Circlet…and I’ll let you do whatever you want to me.” She whispers.

“Anything…huh?” He asks her with a chuckle, she then bites his lip sexually to try and make him give in so then she can take him out. That is what this style of hallucination is used for…once the target tries to sleep with the user, the holder of the poison will be able to do anything to them. Mostly it is used to get individuals to sleep with the poisoner, on people currently in relationships. But it can also be used to kill too, when they are in a paralysed state.

Scary stuff.

But Hyde however…is not affected by it, and he can see through the hallucination. “Then what about…this?” Kassius asks, when suddenly his eyes ignite into a fiery display of orange, then Hyde slams Kassius’ head into the face of Melanie extremely hard. She grunts and staggers back from Hyde as he clenches both fists, not taking full Berserk Control like he has in the past, but just enough to control his body when under this hallucination. Whilst Kassius still see Yang and is still in his drugged state, Hyde can move perfectly fine.

“The hell? That isn’t possible.” Melanie snarls with anger as she holds her fists up, and her heels extend the blades out.

“Oh darling, you’ve no idea of what’s possible.” Hyde assures with a smirk, pacing back and forth, and Melanie suddenly rushes towards Hyde, swinging her fist at him. Hyde dodges the swing and counters, kicking her in the chest before leaping towards her. He tackles her and grabs onto her, rising up to pin her against the wall. “What you asked for, right?” Hyde chuckles with a challenging smirk.

Melanie grits her teeth, suddenly slashing her heel across the side of Kassius’ leg, making Hyde snarl in pain, until she pushes him back, jumping up and kicking him in the chest. She rushes forward and kicks him repeatedly, slashing the blades on the back of her heels over and over again, cutting across his aura with anger. Hyde snarls as he starts to recover, blocking her strikes with his forearms, batting them aside as she keeps attacking him every chance he gets.

She jumps and kicks him up the jaw as she backflips, landing on the ground right in front of him. She dashes forward, and she punches him in the head, twirling like a dancer as she kicks him right in the crotch. “Oof, you bitch! That’s dirty!” Hyde yells, grabbing her by the hair to return the favour by fighting dirty himself. He pulls her forward then pummels her down into the ground with full force, nearly knocking her out.

She slides across the ground but gets back up fast, grabbing a book and throwing it at him. Hyde catches the book and looks at it curiously. “Hmm…gripping.” He chuckles, and then he groans. “Oh no…Yang’s starting to rub off on me.” He says with a sigh, just before the heel of Melanie stabs through the book, ruining it. He gasps, and his eyes widen with utter disbelief. “I didn’t finish reading that!” He yells with anger.

With her heel stuck in the book, Hyde roars as he throws both her and the book at the window with full force. Melania screams as she plummets off the edge, but she takes her heel off and stabs the blade into the cliff, using it to not fall to her death. Velvet…hanging on for dear life…has been climbing towards that window the whole time. “Kassius!” She calls out, Hyde peers over and reaches out.

Another example of how much he has grown, old Hyde never would have done this.

“Up you get!” Hyde says, Velvet curiously raises a brow at Hyde in control. Luckily, they all know, they have known him for a few years now. She catches his metal hand as he pulls her up.

“Thanks, Hyde…where’s Kassius?” She asks him.

“Melanie, used a hallucinogenic in her lipstick, kissed him. He kept seeing Yang instead of her, but I didn’t get affected. So, I decided to take over…” Hyde explains with the shrug of his shoulders.

“Oh…okay.” She shyly says to him with the nod of her head.

“I think it may have worn off now, letting him take over.” Hyde assures, then the fiery irises fade away and his normal Amber Eyes return.

“Whoa…that was…trippy.” Kassius grunts, making Velvet giggle softly.

“Good to see you and Hyde are doing better.” She says to him.

“Well…we’ve both had a few revelations lately.” He sighs, scratching the back of his neck.

“What do you mean?” She asks, since he has not informed them on Merlot or the fact he is one of Umbra’s Demons.

“Long story, I’ll fill you all in when we get the hell out of here and somewhere safe. Come on…I’ve got an idea of how to get inside of room they’re in from here.” Kassius explains, Velvet raises a brow.

“Um…how?” She asks.

He points through the window at the zipline outside. “That zipline, it heads towards the building we need to get to. I cut the line and we can swing right into the window.” Kassius explains, and Velvet shudders fearfully, afraid of heights after all.

“Um…okay…how do you mean to cut it?” She asks him softly. He looks down to the pistol on the floor.

“Well…more like shoot it I guess.” He states.

“Oh…okay.” She says.

“C’mon, let’s go.” Kassius says to her and she smiles.

“Right behind you, Tarzan.” She says to him.

The two of them advance forward, running towards the balcony of which they can grapple onto so then they can swing towards the dining room where they are currently pinned down in. The gunfire may be muffled by thick concrete walls and paned windows, but the flashes are worthy sign enough of their current position. Kassius reaches up and grabs onto the cable with his metal hand, putting his arm around Velvet’s small body. She holds onto him tight and he turns his eyes to the cable behind him. “Hold on tight.” Kassius advises, pulling the trigger, the loud crack of the gunshot explodes from the barrel, launching said bullet directly into the cable as they both jump, holding onto the cable as it carries them.

Weight becomes no small object anymore as nothing, but a seemingly bottomless plummet falls before them, obscured by the mist of the waterfall that crashes down into the land beneath them. Kassius swings across the land, Velvet can’t help but let out a scream of terror from the drop beneath them, whereas Kassius sounds like he is loving every second of it. “Whoo-hoo! Brace yourself. Velv!” He yells as they both crash straight into the window with a loud sharp shattering bang, throwing their bodies inside the Dining Hall, rolling across the marble floor and luckily right into cover.

Emerald gasps as she turns to see the two of them suddenly bursting through the window like that. “Kassius? Velvet? The hell are you doing?” She questions with confusion, loading the last spare magazine she happened to pick up.

“Uh…you know…improvising.” He answers, aiming his pistol at the enemies and firing at them, only for the soldiers to duck down behind cover one last time. One of the thugs charges round, flanking their position as he aims the shotgun, it’s long leather sling dancing with each movement made, pulling the trigger. The burst of smoke launches hot shards of shell fragments towards them, but Kassius just avoided it by ducking behind the table flipped over.

“Dunno about you guys, but I think I’m done with this auction, huh?” Cardin asks them sarcastically, making Kassius chuckle.

“Yeah, tell me about it.” He agrees, vaulting across the table to kick the soldier in the head, making him stagger back. Kassius fires his pistol swiftly, expending the rest of his ammunition to kill him. Kassius kicks the thug again, launching his body back and the man releases his shotgun. Kassius catches onto it and fires it at the others, clipping one of their shoulders.

“Kassius, look out!” Velvet screams, his eyes widen, and he turns, seeing one of the thugs picking up the rocket launcher that Junior was using, pulling the trigger and blasting a missile towards him.

“Shit!” Kassius exclaims, the missile exploding into the pillar right next to him, the shockwave carries him up and slides across the floor with a groan. He wipes the dust from his body and flees from the scene. As he runs, he focuses his attention on Coco, watching as she battles against Junior on her own, with just her fists.

She ducks down to avoid the huge man’s fist swung at her, she worms round and punches him right in the flank, getting a grunt of pain from him. Then she follows with a series of fast and hard blows to his abdomen, before upper cutting him to get him back. He snarls, staring at the thug holding his Missile Launcher, ripping it from his hands. “Gimme that!” He roars, pushing him away and firing it towards her, blasting a multitude of missiles – approximately six – that target onto her.

She gasps, jumping and cartwheeling back from him, now he changes the rules all of a sudden. “Rude.” She states with disgust, turning with a gasp when a soldier swings his red blade at her head, but she moves aside, punching him right in the throat. He chokes from the sudden hit then she swings her foot directly upwards – in between his legs. He lets out the highest pitched scream she has ever heard, nearly deafening her ears. She does not even need to finish him off, because he collapses from that hit alone. “Grow a pair.” She jokes, and Velvet groans.

“Please no puns until we get in the escape vehicle please!” Velvet begs, until Cardin chuckles with Kassius. “Don’t encourage her!”

“Sorry, it’s too good!” Cardin laughs, punching the last soldier in front of him in the face so hard it snapped his glasses and shattered the red lenses. The soldier falls to the floor with a heavy thud, and Cardin smiles as he walks towards Junior with the others. Junior snarls, transforming his rocket launcher into its huge baton form, spinning it through his fingers. “Aw what’s wrong, big man? Outnumbered?” He challenges.

Junior smirks. “Anything but.”

Suddenly Militia jumps down from above and slashes her claws across his aura covered back, Cardin yells in pain as the attack throws his body towards Junior. The huge mob boss smashes his baton across Cardin’s face and he crashes into the many racks of booze at the bar. Spilling it all over Emerald’s head and dress, she deadpans at him with a sigh. “Sorry.” Cardin groans. He grabs onto the bar to pull himself back up, glaring at them, then seeing Melanie climbing up and jumping through the window, standing beside their leader. “Not cool.”

“This won’t go the same way as it did with your girlfriend…” He states, and Kassius chuckles.

“No…more like before when I nearly sawed your head in half. Remember that?” He asks him, and he snarls at him.

“All too well.” He replies with a deep growling voice, preparing for a battle as the two Malachite Twin Sisters stand beside him, Militia with her claws at the ready and Melanie with her bladed heels sharpened too.

“Well – I’ll give you this one chance then. Let us leave and this doesn’t get violent,” Kassius suggests.

“Ha! I don’t think so pal. You shouldn’t have killed a whole tonne of my men. You’re not leaving this place alive.” He states with a snarl.

“We’ll see.” Kassius replies, aiming his shotgun suddenly at him and pulling the trigger, the deafening crack launches shards of shrapnel towards him but he spins his rocket launcher baton through his fingers to deflect the shards, sprinting towards him. He jumps up in the air with a bellow as he slams the bat down at him. The rounded end smashes the shotgun from his grasp, shattering it into a hundred small pieces. Chunks of metal slide across the floor along with splinters of wood. “Not nice.” Kassius tells him, until Junior swings the bat into his chest so hard that Kassius slams right into the wall with enough force to send cracks. He groans in pain as he falls from it. “Okay…he’s done some training since we last met.” Kassius assumes, but he attacks once again, but this time he rolls out the way and returns the favour with a hard punch to his side with his metal fist, throwing him into one of the pillars.

Kassius jumps and pins him against the wall, but Junior headbutts him aggressively, before kicking him in the chest and swinging right at his head with the bat. Kassius stops the bat with his metal palm and stares up at him. “I’ll kill that blonde bitch myself for what she did.” He snarls, and Kassius scoffs.

“Why do my enemies think threatening my girlfriend is a good idea?” He questions with a sigh, ripping the baton from his grasp and smashing it across Junior’s face this time.

In the centre of the room Militia and Melanie both charge towards the rest of the team, Militia slashes her claws across each other, sparks dance from the sharpened blades as she jumps and slashes them both towards Emerald and Coco. Emerald jumps back whereas Coco ducks down then swings her fist up the jaw of the Mercenary, making her recoil back. Emerald then jumps and kicks her in the face. Militia slides down and under the legs of Coco, slicing the red blades across her legs to knock her down to the ground. Emerald swings at the Merc but Militia kicks her in the chest, before stabbing both blades towards Coco. Her eyes widen, and she catches the blades in her hands.

Coco stares into the eyes of Militia with gritted teeth. “Give up, Coco…and you’ll live.” Militia assures with a snarl, but Coco smirks with a chuckle.

“Me? Give up?” She scoffs, she then wraps her legs round Militia’s neck then twists her body round, pushing her off her chest and landing on her feet. Militia crashes into the ground and as she slides she stabs the claws into the ground to stop. “You should know…I like being on top.” She flirts with a wink.

Melanie behind them kicks Velvet in the cheek hard and she yelps in pain as Melanie keeps kicking over and over again, slicing across her aura before knocking her down to the ground. She draws a knife hidden under her skirt and she presses it to her neck to cut open her throat. But Cardin – of all people – tackles her and they both crash across the ground, he reaches back and grabs her by the hair, throwing the lightweight warrior into one of the pillars. She crashes against it and hits the floor with a groan.

Cardin extends his hand to Velvet to help her up, hesitantly she accepts, and he pulls her up to her feet. “You alright?” He asks her.

“I’m fine.” She responds in a pretty despondent tone. Melanie rises back to her feet and she paces back and forth, loud clicks from her heels echo loudly as she stands there.

“You think you can take me down?” She challenges and Cardin scoffs.

“If you think I’m a gentleman and won’t hit a girl, you’re sorely mistaken.” He warns, giving Velvet the chills for a moment, a few memories from her school life with him bullying her all the time for being a Faunus. However now is not the time to reminisce about old memories, they have a fight to win.

“Man…aren’t you the brave one?” She replies with a grin, unexpectedly lunging forward at great speed, spiralling round and kicking downwards onto the top of Cardin’s head – if his aura was not up the blade would have stabbed through the top of his skull and killed him. He staggers back then blocks the next attacks with his forearms, orange aura flashing from each strike made by the mercenary. Melanie jumps, and she bounces off the pillar beside them, wrapping her legs round his neck and punching him twice in the head. As he reaches for her she connects the blades together with her legs, then forces down, throwing him into the pillar. He crashes against it and groans in pain.

Melanie turns and meets the fist from the lovely and sweet Velvet Scarlatina, she may be kind and adorable but packs one hell of a right hook. The Malachite Sister recoils back, then swipes round to do a roundhouse kick, one dodges by Velvet, who bends her ears instinctively to avoid the bladed heel. She stops the second kick from Melanie with her arm, then punches right into the sternum of Melanie. Melanie staggers back and Cardin sprints at her, jumping and performing a powerful dropkick, one that sends her into Junior.

Junior flinches slightly from the young woman thrown her way, right into the fist of Kassius which knocks him down to the ground. He groans with annoyance, until his eyes widen as Kassius roars, bringing his fist downwards with force. Junior pushes away just in time, causing the ground to crack and burst from the force of a cybernetically enhanced arm crashing into the ground like that. He picks his baton up with both hands, channelling force into it as he slams it towards Kassius.

Kassius stops the baton against with his arm, the mechanical joints growl as they charge up, a blast of energy erupts from the impact that cracks the windows. The Vytal Huntsman thrusts his knee up into the chest of the Mercenary before he grabs him by the neck and slams his skull into the side of the pillar, breaking his aura finally. Junior groans as he collapses and Kassius draws the pistol he has on him the whole time, aiming it at his head.

Junior sits back and he rests his head against the pillar with a sigh, like he has given up. “Go on then…do it…” He sighs as he stares down the barrel pointed at his head. Kassius never hesitates, yet something stops him as he narrows his amber eyes at him. “What are you waiting for? I know you’re not a normal Huntsman like your girlfriend…you take life with ease. What’s stopping you now?” He questions with confusion in his eyes.

Kassius’ hand does not shake like most would if they were scared of taking a life, perhaps maybe he wants to spare him this time. Of his own free will, not with someone else getting in the way. “Think about what side you’re on, Junior. This conflict is gonna end soon, and only one side is gonna be left standing.” He explains.

“That’s…what war is.” He coughs.

“Normally…but the one side that will stand is us. Because if Umbra wins…there won’t be anything left to stand on.” He explains, lowering the pistol and dropping it in front of him. “I hope you make the right decision, Hei Xiong.” He states with a sigh.

Junior glances over to see the Malachite Sisters getting beaten, Cardin grabs Melanie and pins her down against the ground, her aura getting knocked out and the same goes for Militia, knocked down by Coco. He sighs, pressing his fingers to his ear to contact the sisters. “Stand down…let them go…” He sighs, closing his eyes.

“What? We can…beat them.” Militia weakly coughs, he shakes his head though.

“That’s an order.” He reminds and they both sigh, giving up and the heroes step away from them. Kassius turns and walks away from Junior, but Hei sits forward with a cough. “Take the left staircase…” He advises and Kassius stops with a raised brow.

“Huh?” He asks him.

“Quickest path to the ship…you’ll have thirty seconds before the Gunship clocks on. Go.” He advises with a sigh, Kassius stares at them and his scowl fades.

“Sorry.” He tells him, and Junior raises a brow.

“Why?” He asks.

“For nearly sawing your head off.” Kassius remarks with a small smile and he chuckles.

“Well…y’know how it is…life is full of experiences.” He chuckles and Kassius nods to him. “Sorry about your team…I don’t know if you did kill that girl…but I just hope you helped them rest.”

Kassius stands there and his eyes close sadly, because in the end he held Ilia as she died after being stabbed to death by Tyrian. He has never forgotten what she did for them, helping convince all those White Fang to fight alongside them. “She helped us.” He tells him and Junior just nods, able to tell that she must be gone.

“Go.” He tells him again, and Kassius nods, walking back to his team.

“C’mon, let’s get to this ship. I hope one of us can fly.” Kassius says, since he remembers what happened last time he tried to fly an aircraft…it ended in a fiery explosion and the Spectre on their asses.

“Sure.” Emerald replies and they look at her suspiciously.

“You do know right?” Coco asks as they start running down the stairs that Junior advised them to take, towards what appears to be the doors to a hanger. They can hear the crashing waterfall from here.

“It’ll be fine!” Emerald promises as the doors burst open and they stare at the many ships still landed inside. Some Atlesian, some Mistraalian and others have so much rust on them that they must be here from Vacuo itself.

“That’s not a yes!” Cardin yells.

“It’s not a no!” Emerald reminds and they all sigh with concern. Emerald examines the ships then a smile forms on her face as she gasps, pointing at an impressive aircraft landed inside the Hanger hidden by the Waterfall. “There! The Peregrine!” She calls out, Kassius stares at it and he notices the colour scheme.

Black with white on it. “Isn’t that Karadin’s?” Kassius inquires.

“Uh-huh, and I’ve always wanted to fly this thing!” Emerald giggles playfully as she sprints towards it. Inside of it however is one pilot, listening to a song that the students from Beacon would know all too well. A song known as “Shine”.

“Baby, it's time to make up your mind
I think that tonight is when our stars align
Honey, it's time to leave the doubt behind”

As a loud thud hits behind him he raises a brow and slowly starts to take one earphone out, gasping with fear.

“Take my hand cause you and I are gonna shine”

Kassius, Emerald, Coco and Velvet stand before him, and Cardin jumps down from above, crossing his arms with a smirk. He holds his hands up in defeat and fear of the Huntsmen and Huntresses who stand before him. They all walk towards him but Kassius picks him up by the neck and throws him out the doors just before they close. “Later.” Kassius concedes with a smirk.

Emerald sits herself in the cockpit and she smirks as she starts to prime the engines, and Cardin looks at the many weapons on this thing. “Is this thing used for combat?” He asks her.

“Oh yeah, seen it in action. This will come in big handy!” Emerald smirks, sounding like she is in this for the long run.

As long as she can keep the Peregrine.

She presses the right button then the lights all activate at once and the engines thrum to life, a huge smile forms on her face and she cheers. “Yeah-ha!” She laughs, fisting the air over and over again, happiest they have ever seen her, actually.

“Alright, I hope you’ve got a solid plan for us.” Kassius chuckles.

“Oh, trust me…I’ve got a plan.” She assures, then the thrusters lift the Peregrine up in the air, the landing gear folds away as they all take their seats and strap themselves in, well accept for Kassius. “I’d take a seat if I were you, Kassius.” She advises.

“Yeah, whatever.” He scoffs with a smirk.

“Okay.” She chuckles, holding onto the throttle and pushing it forward with force, the afterburners suddenly blast and the soldier outside takes cover just in time before he could be turned to dust. The forces push them all into their seats, but Kassius gets thrown straight to the back of the ship and against the door, screaming at the top of his lungs whilst Emerald grins.

The Peregrine shoots through the waterfall then dives down it, following the water so fast that it looks like the water is falling upwards now. She then pulls up before falling into the trees below, dodging them and spinning the ship, causing Kassius to fall constantly, hitting almost everything. Then an alarm blares in the systems, and Coco spots it with widened eyes. “Uh…Emerald…that Gunship Junior mentioned is right on time.” She warns, as the Gunship dives down behind them, firing missiles straight at them.

She turns to one of the switches and flips it, bursting white hot flares from one of the compartments, causing the missiles to go haywire and explode into them. The Gunship continues to chase them until she flies straight towards one of the tall stone formations inside of the marshland beneath them. The Peregrine waits for the last minute before taking off upwards into the sky, causing the Gunship to crash straight into it in a fiery display of flames and smoke.

The Peregrine flies off into the distance, and Kassius hits the floor with a groan, headed to where they left their outfits and weapons, before searching for the nearest place to land.

 

Cardin

 

Hours later…

The sun is beginning to rise now, and Coco has managed to locate the booze that Karadin had stored inside of here. They have also managed to find their clothing, leaving it folded up in the corner alongside their weapons. They could not risk bringing them in for this mission, would have never gotten in otherwise.

Inside of Karadin’s old ship is a table as well, much bigger than it looked honestly, not exactly a leisure ship but has enough space for them all to sleep the night where they have landed. Velvet is asleep, and Emerald is leant against the wall with her arms crossed. Kassius, Cardin and Coco are all sat at the table…

…with Pyrrha’s Circlet slap-bang in the centre of it.

Kassius sets his glass of gin down and he picks it up after clearing his throat, recovering from being attacked by G-Forces. He picks the circlet up and holds it in his hands. “This thing had better be worth it.” He states as he looks around to find the inscriptions that Kragen had spoken about.

“So, what’re we looking for on this thing?” Coco asks him curiously.

“Well, a friend of ours – Kragen – he said that the Arkhoni would have left some sort of message on here, engraved in the metal. Just gotta…ah-ha!” Kassius cheers as he traces his finger across the faint hieroglyphics engraved in the metal, so faint that Pyrrha most likely never even noticed it.

“No shit, seriously?” Cardin chuckles.

“Yep…okay…Architect buddy, this better work.” He sighs, as he puts the bracelet on that he manufactured for them. He turns his wrist so then his hand bends down out the way, then the beam of blue light shines upon the highlighted area. It loads up a holographic screen before their very eyes, loading up the translation of the ancient glyphs.

They appear.

“Find our land of Birth…and you shall find the secrets you seek…in the land of great destruction.”

That’s it.

“Uh…I don’t get it.” Cardin stumbles as he stares at it, none of them do as they stare at it. Coco shakes her head with confusion.

“Maybe it’s a part of a poem?” Coco wonders.

“Well if Ren was here we could ask him.” Kassius sighs as he scratches his brown hair.

“Hmm…whatever it is, it’s meant for a Nikos who knows a lot about her family’s past.” Emerald states as she looks at the message.

“Pyrrha doesn’t know much, most of her past has been hidden or lost. Hell, even Jaune doesn’t know much about the history of his family name.” Kassius states with the shrug of his shoulders, meaning this little riddle is getting harder and harder to understand.

“Okay then…so birth place…answers and…destruction? We need to find a ruin in a place that was destroyed? How can we possibly find something that old that is still around?” Cardin questions with confusion, but Kassius’ eyes widen when he has an epiphany.

“Vytal…” He stammers with disbelief, they all look at him with confusion.

“Huh?” Coco inquires.

“The Island of Vytal…” He repeats as he stands up and paces around.

“What’s on the Island of Vytal?” Coco asks him again.

“Well think about it, the Great War ended there, and the final battle there was the worst one in recorded history. Nearly tore the island apart and almost destroyed the Kingdoms.” Kassius explains, remembering the many history lessons with the late Doctor Oobleck.

“Huh…” Cardin chuckles, but Emerald walks over and she looks confused still.

“So, what could be there, then? Island’s not that big, odds are that whatever ruin we’re looking for is underwater. Nobody has ever built anything there because of how small it is.” She explains, but he shakes his head.

“There was a small settlement, I was only a baby when my sister and I were raised there.” Kassius explains, their eyes widen.

“You were raised on Vytal?” Emerald questions.

“Yeah, they were trying to build another Academy at the town, but it was demolished from a massive Grimm attack. Was nearly eaten by some Grimm myself.” He admits, shuddering at the memory of when that Grimm Terror Bird attacked him, nearly tore him to shreds in fact. He rubs his back as he feels the many scars from that things claws.

“Wait, you mean the Grimm attacked out of nowhere?” Cardin asks him curiously.

“Yeah, literally like that as well. Everyone was fine.” Kassius states…that’s when even he starts to notice it is strange.

They are drawn to negativity and there was not much, if anything most people were hopeful. Only him and his sister felt negative over the death of their mother, but even then, that would not be enough to trigger the attack of that size. “Sounds like Salem could have sent them…they could have found something.” Coco states as she circles the rim of her glass with her finger.

They all sit there silently, since it is a longshot. “Well…if there isn’t anything there…we keep thinking. This thing is fast, and we can refill at nearby ports if we need to.” Emerald explains and Kassius nods his head, exhaling. “What’s wrong?”

“Going back there…it’ll be pretty…scary I guess.” He sighs, able to hear the sounds that the Terror Bird made when it tried to devour him alive. He sets the circlet back down on the table and he walks towards the door to the outside world. “Gonna take a breather.” He says as he walks outside, and Emerald follows him out.

Cardin sighs as he sits there, turning to the glass of gin and he picks it up, pouring some into his glass, he then goes to do the same for Coco.

But her hand blocks the top of the glass, he looks at her and sees the stern scowl on her face. He pauses and sets it down, picking his glass up. “Something on your mind, Coco?” He asks her, knowing what she’s gonna say already.

She sighs. “Look…I know it couldn’t have been easy…being held prisoner by the Traffickers. And I’m sorry…I really am. But don’t think I’ve forgotten.” She reminds, her brown eyes staring sternly right into his, he sets his glass down and nods.

“I didn’t expect that you would.” Cardin replies. She leans forward and presses her arms to the table, not wearing her sunglasses yet either…meaning she is serious.

“I’m gonna make this extremely clear, Cardin. So, you listen up.” She states, and he stays silent. “That girl over there?” She asks him, pointing at Velvet asleep in the corner. “She is the kindest person I have ever met, and when I found out what you were doing to her all those years ago…well I was gonna kill you. But didn’t because she begged me not to, for my own sake.” She explains.

Cardin remains silent, a changed man but the guilt will never fade. “I’ll work with you, but I promise you…if you lay a finger on her…say anything cruel to her. And I’ll break your fucking jaw. You got that?” She asks him with a soft spoken yet chilling voice, Cardin stares at her and he sighs.

“I’m not that guy anymore.” He assures.

“Then show that to me, by atoning.” She states, and he nods. Picking up his glass and the bottle, offering it to her. She takes it and fills her glass up. He keeps his held up to clink to hers.

“Crystal clear.” He assures with an actually kind smile. They clink the glasses together and both drink the alcohol in them.

Kassius and Emerald both walk inside and Kassius looks at them.

“So? What’s the deal?” Coco asks them.

“We’re going to Vytal…and pray to god that we find something.”

Chapter Text

Jaune

 

So much has changed…

That thought has been recurring in his head as of late, long before leaving his home with his friends. With his shirt off, not only can he see how much his body has changed since he first started at beacon…but the things he has also collected along the way. Thanks to muscle building lessons with Sun and Kassius he is much bigger than he used to be, with a six pack and defined pecks and arms. However, his body carries shards of memory on it as well, the three slash marks across his stomach when the Beowulf attacked him during the Battle of Mistral, before it fell to her control. The electrical burns from the tower on the Volcanic Chain Islands…

…the stab wound from Hyde, using Crocea Mors against him.

He does not hold it against the Demon, because he was not in his right mind, he was being manipulated by Vir Nominis Umbra, channelling some kind of old nature back into him. As Jaune looks at his body, he touches the bandage around his healing wound and he slowly…yet carefully…pulls it off, looking at the mark of which that has been left behind. He winces, gritting his teeth as he stares at the stab wound that his aura has been working hard to repair the damage of. Blood once stained these bandages, sticky hot claret covering their white soft structure.

But now the new ones do not have a speck on them, his aura worked fast, Ruby is still struggling with her wound she suffered from Corsac at times. Wincing and limping, however his has already completely healed back to normal. Leaving nothing more than a scar behind.

This has happened before for him, not only after his beating from Cardin in Forever Fall but also after he was hit by the lightning strike after fighting Pyrrha. He does have some slash marks from her, but they have started to fade as well, but the lightning scars are permanent.

Jaune turns to his side and he lifts his arm to cast his shadow away from the markings, to see the scars. Until the bathroom door opens and he sees Pyrrha about to walk inside, both of them gasp and spin round, eyes meeting. “Oh!” They both gasp when seeing each other, Pyrrha still wearing her armour of course. Jaune’s is in the corner though, with his folded up Pumpkin Pete’s hoodie and the rest of his armour pieces.

Pyrrha nervously stammers as she looks at him, undeniably admiring his physique…he has changed a lot since the days training at Beacon.

For the better too.

“I – uh – I’ll wait outside…” She stammers, but Jaune shakes his head, getting more comfortable around her in situations like this. At the end of the day they know they love each other so they might as well stop beating around the bush about it.

“It’s okay.” He assures with a soft-spoken voice, reaching out and holding her smaller and firm to the touch hand. She looks back at him and she can’t help but smile right back at him, walking into the bathroom with him and closing the door behind him. She looks at his chest…at first admiring the pecks and the six-pack, but then her eyes focus onto the scars he has collected. She gasps, her eyes widening when she notices some she never saw before, like the Beowulf slash.

“When…when did that happen?” She nervously asks him with widened eyes. He looks at the slashes across his belly, they were pretty deep too, he was lucky that the Beowulf had not disembowelled him. He chuckles as he prods his belly, no wobble in it like there used to be in the past.

“Beowulf. Happened just before Ruby…lost her eye.” Jaune explains, still shuddering over that horrifying memory of when he saw that arrow darting towards her face, nearly killing her instantly if she had not turned to petals.

She may have lost her eye.

But that is a worthy sacrifice in comparison to losing her life.

Pyrrha steps forward and she gently moves her fingers across the scars, feeling the bumps of which where the lashes have formed. Jaune feels his heart hammer with attraction towards her, butterflies dancing in his ribs. “It must have hurt…” She softly says to him with a saddened voice, he chuckles nervously…no matter how much time he will spend with her, even when they are both in a relationship, she will always make him nervous.

But never uncomfortable.

“It did…but with Ruby hurt on the ground, with her aura down I tried to get her out unscathed. Death put a stop to that though.” He sighs, remembering it all so vividly, the whistle the arrow, the wet thud of the blood-soaked arrow clattering on the ground behind her. The amount of blood leaking from her head where the arrow slashed her eye open…it still makes him sick to picture that memory.

“Don’t blame yourself.” She softly says to him as she takes her hands away from his scars, and he sighs.

“She trusted me…if I had…gotten her out of there…maybe…” He sighs, shutting his eyes and lowering his head with a heavy sigh. Pyrrha shakes her head, caressing his cheek with her hand as she looks into his blue eyes.

“It was Blackridge…not you, not Ruby…and not fate. It was just Blackridge, and nothing else.” She states, and he sighs, kissing her hand lovingly as he holds her hand with his. He then looks down at his side and he chuckles.

“I was…just looking at some of my memories here. Sometimes happens after a shower…never forget this one.” He says with a nervous laugh as he lifts up his right arm to reveal the lightning burn scars across the right side of his flank, wrapping round his back, covering his right shoulder blade and his lower spine. Once purplish bruises have now become incredible scars that actually look like lightning, or the roots of a tree splayed out across his canvass of skin.

Pyrrha lets out a stuttered gasp, remembering that fight barely, since the Onyx Phantom had total control over everything she was doing. Everything she said, all the hateful things…the ways in which she tried to kill him. It would have broken her if she was the one to end his life, but luckily for both of them, and unluckily for the Phantom and Fear, that did not happen. “I…I’ve had nightmares of our fight on that tower…I was so scared…that I was gonna…kill you.” She sniffles with glassy eyes.

He smiles as she caresses the burn scars on his body where the lightning hit, which miraculously healed in time for him to get off his butt and fight with them in the final moments of the attack.

Still their greatest victory.

They retrieved three relics for the price of one.

And one of them Ozpin has on him right now, and probably will always have on his person. Unless if Vir Nominis Umbra attacks him and tears it from his staff. Jaune gently caresses her cheek with his thumb, lifting her head up with it so her eyes meet his. “I’m here…you don’t need to worry.” He assures, ironically both of them have worries about very similar things, blaming themselves for things that they cannot control.

Might be one of the many things that made them fall in love.

Pyrrha looks at him, then her eyes pan down to her chest, and she begins to undo the straps of her armour. His heart begins to pound nervously, and he stammers shyly. “W-What’re you doing?” He stammers.

“Don’t worry…I just wanted you to see.” She assures with her soft-spoken regal toned voice, she takes the plates apart and sets them down on the toilet seat. She shows him her beautiful body, one unfortunately carrying a bandage around her waist like Jaune, where her wound is still rather bruised unlike his. Her aura is not as strong as hers, and its pool is nowhere near as deep.

She has a few other scars as well, some small ones on her arms, one just above her waist…then he sees ones on her left, and they are so similar.

Lightning burn scars.

She has the same thing, scarred lightning bolt burns on her torso, except these ones are in a different place, she turns around, and she holds her ponytail so then he can see it. The burns start on the back of her neck, unexpectedly beautiful crackled burns that spread outwards like rivers, down and round her neck towards her right shoulder. It moves down and then unlike Jaune it meets the front of her body, down and just above her chest, where the roots of scars start to fade. Jaune also notices that on her back they seem to split off as well, creating a beautiful display of marks of lightning down her spine.

He does the same as she did with him, feeling the scars on her firm soft skin, running his finger down her back, touching the clip of her red bra strap. She shivers but not in disgust or fear…more so from anticipation…longing.

She looks at him over her shoulder, releasing her red ponytail, gazing into his eyes and he returns it. She creeps closer and he mirrors her, reaching to her cheek, his fingers piercing through her soft red hair. A smile breaks through her face, small but bright with her white teeth. She reaches round and holds onto the back of his neck, pulling herself closer.

Their lips touch, feeling one another’s breath into their mouths, sharing a very affectionate kiss, closing their eyes as they share this moment together. He moves his arm round her and he holds her close, tension about to break like a rope. They break for a breath then go again.

“Jaune? Pyrrha? You guys ready?” Nora calls, they pause and sigh with disappointment, pressing their heads together with a nervous giggle.

“Y-Yes, Nora! Just a second.” She calls to her, burying her head into her boyfriend’s shoulder as she laughs.

“Alright! See you in a minute, love-birds!” Nora cheekily calls back, Pyrrha lifts her head from Jaune’s bare shoulder with a smile.

“Well…that was interesting.” Jaune chuckles and she giggles again, resting her head against the warmth of his chest again, closing her eyes as she listens to his heartbeat. The two of them have felt that sexual tension growing and growing for ages now…sooner or later it’s gonna break.

They can only hope, it will be in private.

And nowhere Nora could possibly catch them in the act by accident, otherwise they will never hear the end of it.

A few minutes later they both get their armour back on and also have gotten their deodorant or cologne on…not like they need it, it is highly unlikely the Grimm, Acolytes, White Fang or the Knights’ Bannermen are going to sniff them before attacking. But old habits do tend to die hard, so perhaps it would be best to not break those habits. They both walk down the hall of the dormitory, looking out the window to see some of the damage from the Battle against Vir Nominis Umbra still scars the Academy in different places.

Everyone is stood outside, ready to move.

It would be easier to say who is not going, Glynda is not present and neither is Hazel. For both of them are staying to help the Afflicted ones. The others not leaving include the Witches and the Undertaker, for they and Raven’s men are all staying as well. Raven on the other hand is coming with them this time, wanting to take her mind off the death of her fiancé. She stands there with her brother, alongside Kragen, the Architect, Ruby, Oscar, Blake, Winter, Nora, Ren, Penny and Cinder.

And...Ozpin.

He stands tall with his staff in his hand currently in cane form as they wait for Pyrrha and Jaune to arrive. They walk down the steps to arrive at their position, weapons sheathed properly, and Jaune looks right at the Knight of Vengeance…still can’t believe he is a Knight of Grimm…after everything he said about not knowing what they were?

It’s like lying is encoded in his D.N.A.

“I see we are all here.” Ozpin says as he looks at them all, Qrow with his hand on his hip, raising a brow at the couple.

“You have a problem showing up on time?” Qrow asks, also teasing due to the smirk on his face, until Yenna approaches from behind with her hand on her hip, copying him.

“D’you have a problem minding your own business?” She swiftly retorts, making Nora giggle at seeing Qrow getting totally kicked like that. Winter snorts as well at that, whereas Qrow just exhales with a defeated sigh.

“Guess not.” He admits, Yenna walks past Qrow and winks at the two of them, making Pyrrha blush. They might have wanted to do what Qrow was hinting at but unfortunately their duty got in the way. Yenna stands beside her husband and she smiles at him, he smiles back with a firm nod, Ruby glances at Kragen and cannot help but notice that some of his grey hairs are actually beginning to darken around her. Seems that her magic is starting to bring him back to his youth after all…it will be really weird to see what he looks like as a younger man opposed to being an old wise man.

Doubt his wisdom shall fade though.

“So then, what’s the plan, Professor?” Ren asks Ozpin, straight to the point just like Blake always has been.

“Thank you for asking, Lie Ren. We are fortunate to have a choice in how to proceed here.” He begins, getting a quizzical look from the Faunus Huntress.

“What do you mean?” She inquires.

“It means that we have two possible ways of reaching the Chapel of Dawn’s Vengeance. Thanks to the information provided by Mr Arc on your visit to your family, we have the chance of finding yet another Visionary Book. One that could help us understand where Arkhonex is hidden. Clearly Vyrryk Arc must be leading you to Arkhonex for some reason, Mr Arc.” Ozpin explains as he paces back and forth, using his cane as naturally as he always had…despite the fact that he clearly does not require it, being dead and all.

“Any idea on what Vyrryk hopes we’ll find?” Raven asks curiously, and Ozpin shrugs his shoulders.

“Uncertain, could be weapon against Salem…or hopefully against Vir Nominis Umbra. But at the end of the day he knew that we would have to find it, since the cloaking dome is still up due to our satellites…we will have to follow in his footsteps. Which…are linked to the Congregation of Dawn.” Ozpin explains.

“Who are they? I remember Kragen mentioned them in the past, but it’s been a while.” Oscar requests as he holds his arms behind his back, and Ozpin nods.

“I can elaborate on them more when we arrive, however what I can briefly introduce here…is that they were a Religious Cult. One we later on learned had started worshipping a False God – Vir Nominis Umbra.” Ozpin explains to them all, and Nora’s eyes widen with a gasp at hearing this.

“Wait…so even Arkhonex had problems with other people like we do with the Acolytes of Lien and Jacques?” Nora questions.

“Precisely, however Umbra’s methods change every single time. Even the Knights of Grimm are unique for this Universe, the bastard is creative.” Ozpin explains, the idea of that just makes them shudder on its own.

“What happened?” Jaune asks, Ozpin looks at him and he sighs, lowering his head…almost with shame.

“It would be better…if I show you.” He states with extreme honesty in his tones, and Pyrrha cannot help but hold his hand.

“So, what are our two options?” Winter asks Ozpin, he nods his head and he rests both hands atop the cane.

“The fastest course of action would be for us to teleport our way here. Luckily, we have three people capable of Teleportation. Myself, the Architect and Raven.” Ozpin explains to them; however, they all know what the threat stands with them if they choose to open a portal.

“But that will draw the Knights’ Bannermen in.” Qrow states, and Raven shudders after remembering what they did to some of her bandits a few months ago. They slaughtered them when she was following Yenna’s trail.

“We can take them, there’s more of us this time and we will be prepared.” Raven states, and Penny nods her head.

“I’m combat ready!” She cheers as she raises her fists and bounces on the spot, making Ruby smile to see her still being the adorable Penny Polendina she has always been. Even after learning that Penny is actually the daughter of Admiral Darren Ortega.

“As adorable as that might be, the risk still stands.” Cinder says, not in the hopes of killing the mood but by staying on topic, her bare arms crossed. All of them are surprised but somewhat happy to see her finally shed that dreaded dress made by Salem…now she really does seem to feel like one of them.

“And the second option?” Ruby asks Ozpin.

Ozpin turns and points with his cane at the landed Prowler on the courtyard, its wings folded up but that can fold out with the flick of a switch. It can carry all of them and move fast. “We take the Prowler.” Ozpin answers.

“Less chance of Bannerman Detection…but it will take much longer to get there. And time is something we are running short on.” Kragen states, looking up at the sky where the Fractured Moon watches, getting worse and worse with every day. Soon…perhaps in a month or two it will be completely broken apart. And when it is destroyed, the Cataclysmic Event shall begin. Umbra will unleash everything he has upon Remnant until nothing is left standing at the end of it.

“Can we do both?” Jaune suggests getting a curious look from everyone.

“What do you propose?” Yenna asks him as she leans round her husband to see him, Jaune exhales and he steps forward.

“Can we take the Prowler and then one of you opens a Portal large enough to get the Prowler through? It’s stealth drive could help us land undetected…and it’s as we’ve been thinking. We don’t have time, once we find a clue we need to step on it immediately. We can’t keep coming back to Beacon for pit stops.” Jaune explains, and they all stand there as they curiously think if that is a viable plan. It makes sense, because he is right, they cannot waste any more time.

Yang, Weiss, Sun and Neptune have not got infinite seconds to live, even with the Witches medicating them with their potions and such. And with the moon in the shape it currently is in?

They have to spend every second wisely.

“Is that possible?” The Architect inquires, since his portals are designed by Technology, not Magic…they can only open up a certain width and height. But Ozpin and Raven on the other hand?

Raven looks at them and she exhales nervously. “I have been able to get entire carriages of loot from convoys through entire portals to minimise our chances of detection.” Raven gravely admits as she lowers her head, showing guilt as well for her crimes in the past. But none of them judge her, at the end of the day judgement is the last thing they should have on their minds.

“So, if Raven can open a portal that large, we can get there faster and maybe even undetected.” Jaune explains to them, and Ozpin scratches the back of his head.

“It will be risky; the Bannerman could still show up to investigate the disturbance. One of the Knights could be there.” He explains, and a few of them smirk.

“Not our first rodeo.” Qrow assures as he cracks his neck with a smirk on his face, crossing his arms, and Ozpin chuckles as he turns and paces ahead as he thinks. He exhales through his nostrils as he looks around, he then turns and looks to them all.

“You always have been a strategist, Mr Arc.” Ozpin compliments and Jaune chuckles, nodding his head…however he does not take that as a compliment. He is not a fool, and he knows that he is not a man to be trusted right now. Not until he tells them more, about what drives him…and what he has done. “This is what we will do, take the Prowler and Raven shall open a portal to get us there fast. Be on guard, and not just for the Bannermen. The Congregation have been known to lay traps in their own temples, ones only their people would see.” Ozpin explains, he walks ahead, but Ruby stops him with her voice.

“Ozpin.” She speaks, and he stops, surprised by her not even mentioning the fact he is a Professor…

“Yes, Miss Rose?” He replies, seeing her stern glare pointed right at his brown eyes.

“We’ll fight with you…but I wanna make one thing clear. If you want us to trust you…then stop lying. No more, because if you had told us about our real enemy all along, prepared us for the real threat and maybe we’d have a chance.” Ruby demands, and Ozpin stares right back.

It saddens him.

He remembers the sweet girl that scoffed all those cookies down in ten seconds when they first met…and now…she is cynical…and a killer. He looks to them all and they all share that same distrust. “Would you believe me if I said I agree?” Ozpin inquires curiously, and Ruby narrows her eyes.

She is not playing games.

He exhales again. “Okay…understood, Miss Rose. However, I should warn you, the things I have done in my life…as a Knight of Vengeance…you may never be able to forgive me for them.” He warns, and it sends chills up their spine.

But from what they have seen of the Knights, that is expected.

“Tell us the truth and we will trust you, deal?” Ruby asks him, extending her hand to shake his. Ozpin looks at her hand, then at her face. He inhales through his nostrils then he nods, holding her hand and shaking it.

“Deal.” He agrees, nodding.

 

Salem

 

The silence of the Sanctum is something Ruby could never get used to when she was captured here, yet Salem seems she has grown so accustomed to it that she looks like she is inside of a normal house somewhere.

There is no wind, and the Grimm that are born beneath her in the barren expanse of the Sanctum are so far that their roars cannot be heard. She sits in her lonely throne with her finger tapping against the surface of her dark table, listening to the rhythm forged from her long black nail attached to her finger. There is a hint of loneliness in her red eyes as she sits there, she has always been used to her minions returning with news, or in Watts’ case he would always stay around and provide reports. Either from his Little Birds or from his lab, but out of all of them he was the only one that would be happy to sit down and have a chat with Salem.

She misses that Doctor, because he was honest.

As she sighs, she hears the sound of footsteps behind her, she lifts her head slowly and slightly looks over her shoulder to the dark corner of which he emerges from. With his hands behind his back and what appears to be a slight skip in his step, Vir Nominis Umbra emerges with that ever-present grin on his face. “Poor, poor Salem…no Tyrian, no Watts, no Hazel…no Cinder…all alone.” Vir Nominis Umbra chuckles at her as he emerges, she snarls, and she clenches her hand into a fist.

“Come here to gloat, or to actually give me something to do?” Salem snarls, cringing at his presence until she snaps her gaze back at him, he presses his hand on his heart and his eyes widen.

“Oh…I’m sorry…what did you do before you lost them or when you were in charge?” Vir Nominis Umbra questions her curiously…in which her response is another glare, sitting back and sighing.

“You put me in this throne to control the Grimm, it was the promise you made me. But why do you keep me here like a prisoner?” Salem questions, Vir Nominis Umbra shrugs his shoulders.

“You asked me for power after what Ozpin did to you…I mean obviously you expected to rule the world, conquering Kingdom by Kingdom…but at the end of the day that is not your purpose.” He explains, his hands coming together once more as he looks at her, standing beside her thrown. She turns and stares right into his fake brown eyes, narrowing her eyelids.

“Then – may I ask – what is your purpose?” She grills, and Vir Nominis Umbra pauses, staring right back with intensity. But then he loosens up and he exhales, walking away from her and down to the other end of the table where he pulls one of the chairs out and he sits down, leaning back and resting his legs on the table, crossing them over. He looks at her with a smile, and she raises one of her eyebrows.

“Want something to eat? I want something to eat, one sec.” Vir Nominis Umbra says, clapping his hands together twice, then suddenly out of thin air, literally from a puff of smoke…a huge banquet of food forms before them both across the huge table. Hundreds of silver plates and cutlery with huge hunks of meat, vegetables and fruit with glasses of red and white whine scattered at all the desks. The aroma that this sets off admittedly even tempts Salem, whereas Vir Nominis Umbra reaches over, and he rips a Turkey Leg off and he bites into it. “Oh, wow…delicacy.” He chuckles as he speaks with an open mouth, making the decent mannered Salem actually roll her eyes.

“Why are you even eating? You don’t need to, do you?” Salem questions, when in his presence she becomes just as confused as Ruby or the other students would be at certain things that the ancients do. Vir Nominis Umbra looks at her and he wipes some of the grease from his artificial lips, shrugging again.

“No…doesn’t mean I can’t turn down tasty food.” Vir Nominis Umbra says with a smirk…if Pyrrha were here and saw all this food being wasted after he conjured it out of thin air like that…

The amount of innocent starving families…even children…that could eat that and survive…

And he just conjures it because he wanted to eat something tasty.

“But why?” Salem questions, and he smirks, holding his hands out.

“Why not?” He replies with a smile, until Salem has enough and gestures to him.

“Get your legs off my table, please.” She requests in a defeated, almost motherly tone. He raises a brow, before he slowly uncrosses them and takes them from the surface of her table and putting them back underneath the table where they should belong. “You also didn’t answer my question.” She adds.

“I know, and I will not. End of the day, it is none of your business.” Vir Nominis Umbra explains briefly as he stares straight at her, the Queen of the Grimm backs down, knowing it is not something she wants to challenge him on. She may be lethal and ruthless but is nothing against him…her powers were granted by his hand at the end of the day as well.

No master teaches their apprentice everything, lest the apprentice attempts to cut off loose ends.

Silence follows between the two of them, interrupted by the odd sound of Umbra eating some pieces of food. Salem’s eye gets caught by a piece of food on the table, she reaches over and sighs, picking up the piece of jerky and as she chews on the end, swallowing the ripped off chunk. “So…what next?” She asks him, and Vir Nominis Umbra glances over at her to answer her question.

“What have your little birds turned up?” Vir Nominis Umbra asks her, she stops, hearing herself asking Watts that in the back of her mind. She squeezes her eyes shut, pushing her grief back…since she did not even know he needed help. He died in an accident, from Fury exploding beneath him and his own madness took him over in the end.

Neptune might have gotten his revenge for his parents, but Salem lost a close friend.

Tis a matter of perspective.

Salem thinks back to what she has seen through the eyes of the Seers, all linked to the Grimm hivemind of everything that they have turned up from the remnants of Arkhonex. “They’ve been searching the city for days now and still have not turned up anything suspicious. I’ll give it to the man, Merlot knows how to hide.” Salem explains, sounding impressed, something shared by Vir Nominis Umbra.

“Indeed, I guess we should have expected this. He managed to disappear from Ozpin’s radar twice, who’s the say he cannot repeat it?” He chuckles, throwing the bone out the window for the Grimm below to feast on. Salem listens to the creatures that roar as they attack the remnants of the creature that he fed off, most people would be disturbed by the sounds that the Grimm make…

But Salem?

Not even a shudder, or a flinch. She just smiles to the sound of them, her children living and doing as they are designed. But when she looks to Vir Nominis Umbra again, her emotions return back to their negative selves, narrowing her eyes at him. But before Salem can speak again, the doors open up and they both turn to see the Seer approaching, whispering softly as it floats towards Salem’s side. It passes by Vir Nominis Umbra and he watches it with a sinister smirk, able to understand what it is saying just as Salem can.

The Seer hovers beside her, the glowing orange orb inside the black glass dome pulsating softly as it looks at her. She leans forward as she pushes some of her white spidery hair back where it should be. She looks at Umbra and she clasps her hands together, resting her elbows against the surface of her table. “We have detected a portal opening from Beacon and opening in the Mountains of Mistral.” Salem states as she stares at him.

Umbra smirks. “And so, it begins, I will send word to Vazquez immediately. He will arrive with some friends.” Vir Nominis Umbra assures with a cruel smirk on his face. The Seer remains at her side and then he stands up.

“Good…what are they looking for though? The only thing worth noting in those mountains…in that region at least…is the Chapel of Vengeance and Dawn.” Salem explains, confused of the value of an ancient Congregation of Dawn Church Building in the mountains. As Vir Nominis Umbra stands up he stops, and he turns to Salem.

“The Son of Arc – he is searching for the secrets of Vyrryk, and to learn the truth of Crocea Mors.” Vir Nominis Umbra answers…he knows exactly what they are doing, meaning his eyes and ears have been watching them without anybody even realising.

Salem’s eyes widen. “If he unlocks that power…he will stand to be a major threat to us.” She states with a worried voice, but Umbra scoffs, shaking his head. “Do you not remember the power his great grandfather wielded with that blade?”

“Yes...and he fell all the same.” He states with a smirk, turning and walking towards the door, he is about to leave until he rests his palm against the wooden door. He looks over his shoulder at her and speaks with strong words. “We all have our duties.”

“Duty…you spoke of purpose…then what is mine?” She asks him curiously as he raises her brow. Vir Nominis Umbra turns to her with his arms behind his back.

“You are my Executioner, to bring the wrath of a clock ticking upon the world. A privilege for only the sacred few.” He states with a smile on his face, but Salem stares right into his eyes.

“When you were here last, you took my throne…why did you not reclaim it?” Salem asks him, and he chuckles.

“I may be a nasty prick, Salem…but do not doubt the fact I have some common decency in me. The first time was to remind you who is in charge now, however I would never take the throne of a Queen. For I am no King, no Emperor or Pharaoh. And besides…I never said you have lost power, because you have just as much as you did before. Perhaps more…when the time comes you will find your destiny…this I promise.” Vir Nominis Umbra assures with the sound of actual care in his voice as he looks back at her.

Salem stares at him then at her throne, feeling it around her. “So…I do not have to stay here anymore?” She asks him, and he smirks.

“No…now? You are the General of our army, riding in on the horse…” Then the roar of the Grimm Dragon suddenly roars from outside, landing outside and staring at her with a saddle loaded onto the back of its spine. She stands up and then she looks at him. “…Or the Dragon.” Vir Nominis Umbra concludes with a smirk, turning to walk away.

Salem pushes her hands against her throne and she clenches her hands into fists, as suddenly black and red energy surrounds the chairs…the bone that once forged them. They all shatter into a thousand pieces and the chunks of bone float over to her and forge a suit of armour around her body. Fusing together with sharp shoulder plates, vambraces…

And a crest on her forehead that her black stone sends red energy into it, the armour encasing around her, summoned at the moment.

As Vir Nominis Umbra walks away, he softly speaks.

“Find you purpose, my dear…do not live without it.”

 

Jaune

 

The wind howls in the icy cold mountain range of Mistral, coated with snowy caps and the calls of Eagles echoing for miles, pruning their feathers with their beaks in the tall green trees. Adapted to survive in the icy cold climate the animals have grown to be large and have thick skin with lots of fat, fur or feathers. But so, have the Grimm, some have been known to be buried in the avalanches due to herds of Goliaths marching on the mountain passes. The Eagle Mother tends to her chicks, all of them desperately squeaking for the food she has collected, a dead rabbit she drops down for them to eat.

The large eagle walks along on its huge nest, resting down, looking out at the stunning view, as a bright red flash of light illuminates the face of the animal. Emerging from the portal is the Prowler, shooting at great speeds, over the treeline with a roar. Inside of the Stealth Craft, the team hold on tight, and Raven collapses with a groan, caught by the arms of her brother. “I’ve gotcha, sis!” Qrow assures as he helps her sit down, she wipes the sweat from her brow with a gasp, feeling her muscles aching constantly, like she has just had to lift a thousand tonne boulder with her bare hands.

“That was…a lot easier when I was younger.” She chuckles sarcastically as she lays there. Ruby looks at Raven and chuckles.

“Was it harder than childbirth?” She curiously asks, Raven’s eyes widen with horror as she gasps.

“By the gods…no…nothing hurts more than that.” She shudders at the memory of giving birth to baby Yang that day. Might have been one of the best days but also the most painful experience she has ever known, until the love of her life was snatched away by a monster right in front of her.

The Architect looks around at the mountains and he actually looks shocked as his plates over his visor rise up, Ren looks at him with concern. “Architect?” He asks him.

“I…didn’t expect there to be mountains…this was once…a field. Hills that would stretch out forever…this all happened in a thousand years?” He questions.

“Surely that can’t be possible…” Blake states with shock in her voice, staring at them, and Ozpin stands behind the two seats controlling the incredible aircraft. He exhales out his nose as he stares at a certain mountain, one that looks like the jaws of a crocodile, two jagged peaks rising through the clouds, and inside of it, nearly invisible to the eye…is a structure, one that has somehow survived all these years despite a mountain forming around it.

“It would be impossible, unless you had the Relic of Creation. It can create more than just life, it is responsible for creating everything physical you touch. And more.” Ozpin explains, pointing to the hidden Chapel inside of the mountains at the base, perfectly hidden away. Their eyes widen when they see it there.

“H-How the hell…did that building not collapse?” Jaune questions in awe.

“Because the Congregation must have taken high end Arkhoni Shield reinforcing technology, ones that are woven into the structure and the more stress atop it makes it stronger. Meaning that place is indestructible.” He explains.

“Unless the core of the shield shuts off.” Kragen adds, and they all shudder.

“Unless the core shuts off.” Ozpin agrees with a sigh, he gently grasps the back of the Architect’s chair and he leans down to where his ear would be. “Take us in, through the front.” Ozpin says, and he nods, flying towards the Chapel of Vengeance and Dawn. The Prowler soars across the mountains, through the clouds and cutting through the air with its knife-like wings.

It approaches the flattest area of which the mountain has on that level, decelerating and exiting its normal flight mode and into Vertical Landing and Take-Off. The thrusters help guide it towards the ground, landing gear folding out from underneath the body and the wings, setting down just around the corner of the Chapel. The rear ramp door folds out and Ruby is the first to emerge from the vessel with Jaune at her side, feeling the ice-cold weather against their skin. Foggy breath leaving their breath.

Nora shivers, rubbing her shoulders as she huddles closely to Ren. “Brr…should’ve brought something fluffy, Renny.” She softly coos, and he smiles.

“Want me to hug you close?” He asks her, she beams at him and he rolls his eyes with a smile, wrapping his arms round her waist and kissing her neck lovingly.

“Ooh…Wasn’t expecting that.” She whispers to him as she looks up at him.

“Couldn’t resist.” Ren admits with the shrug of his shoulders.

“Come now, we need to get inside of this place before the Knights’ Bannermen find us.” Ozpin ushers as he holds his cane in his hand, being the first to walk up the rocks. Ruby glances at Oscar and they both sigh, neither sure if they really can trust him or not. A lie is easier to craft and hold onto than the truth. They all follow him towards the mountain pass which leads to the Chapel.

Perfectly left behind, perhaps the sinister Congregation did have some hopes for people to find them here. As they make their way up, Cinder moves up the steps of stone, noticing Kragen catching up to her shoulder, looking at her. She looks at him and he chuckles, getting her attention. “What’s up?” She softly asks him.

“It still gets me…I never would have thought you were related to Kassius when we first met.” He states, making her smile gently as she walks alongside him.

“He was smart, funny thing eye colour. All it takes some time.” Cinder states as she hops across a gap in the pass, everyone else is smart enough to do so as well, tripping there would be a very bad way…and long way…to die. Stones fall however, taking minutes before they actually hit something on the way down.

“Strange though, Kassius has brown hair and you have black. Which side do you favour? Mother or Father?” He asks her.

“Mother, I think Merlot had brown hair once.” Cinder answers, and Kragen nods his head, learning so much with her.

“Interesting…do you remember much of her? Your mother?” He inquires, and Cinder thinks back to their childhood.

“Yeah…not many years though. I remember she was beautiful though.” Cinder admits, Kragen looks at her and he can see that she definitely has picked up after her mother.

“Well, I can definitely tell now you’ve picked her traits up.” Kragen states, Cinder blushes immediately as she looks away, making him chuckle at how much she has changed in comparison to when they were enemies five years ago. “It’s good to see you talking to people more, you were always very quiet after the Volcanic Chain Isles.” He states.

“Well…I’ve made many bad deeds against these people.” Kragen states.

These People are you family now, whether you like it or not.” He chuckles, and Cinder nods her head.

“I know…I just hope everyone can forgive me for what I did. Reg did…he didn’t have to take me in, but he did.” Cinder explains, never forgetting the old Farmer that saved her after she thought she killed Kassius in the Emerald Forest five years prior.

“And that changed your way of looking at things?” Kragen asks.

“That and learning my brother was alive…yeah.” Cinder answers.

“Well, I’m glad you did. We’re going to need you.” He states as he walks with her.

“I’m not like Jaune, or Pyrrha or Ruby or Oscar. I don’t have some mystical gift like they do, I’m just a Maiden.” Cinder explains, making him laugh, walking backwards and holding his arms out.

“And I am just an old git!” He laughs, and she shakes her head with a smile.

“You know what I mean.” She says.

“I do…but they have been kept alive this long for a reason, hell Pyrrha came back.” Kragen states.

“But why?” She asks with confusion, and Kragen smiles.

“I don’t know.” He says. “Strange isn’t it, I’m a couple thousand years old and I have no idea.” He says with a laugh in his voice.

“That’s all everything tells us – Not a clue ­– so how are we meant to beat Umbra if we don’t even know where the chinks in the armour are?” She asks him.

“I ask myself that all the time, but I don’t think we are supposed to just be told that…we must find it. Remember what we are fighting for.” Kragen explains, then he stops with her as they stand at the edge of the stunning Mountain Pass, mountains stretching out for miles…and perhaps all formed from the Relic of Creation. “I’m not fighting so then some politicians can decide what the next war shall be.” He states, and Cinder raises a brow.

“Then what are you fighting for?” Cinder asks him.

“The light, Cinder.” He answers, hardening his stare. “The Darkness has always been our enemy, we have feared it ever since we are children…and now it seeks to kill us. I believe…that is what Vir Nominis Umbra is.” Kragen explains.

“But the sun always falls.” Cinder states, and Kragen smiles.

“The enemy will always find us…our job is to make sure we fight hard, to not give into that fear. We will not find joy in this war of ours…but we can give people a chance. A chance to right the wrongs they have made in their lives and atone.” Kragen explains, and Cinder ponders as she stands there, her long black hair dancing in the wind.

“Like I did…because of Reg and Kassius.” She says. “Never too late to come back.”

“Maybe we don’t need to understand any more than that…maybe that’s all we need.” Kragen says with a supportive smile and Cinder nods.

“Yeah…maybe it’s enough.” She agrees, smiling back to the man and they both catch up to the others about to reach the front door of the Chapel.

Ozpin approaches the doors before his very eyes, ones that have stayed closed for thousands of years, ever since the fall of Arkhonex. Ruby jumps up the rocks with Winter behind her, staring at the door. “Great…another door. Kragen, you think what you did on that door at the Library will work?” Winter asks him, remembering their adventure into Vacuo to find that Visionary Book hidden there…the one Ozpin burned.

“No, that won’t work. The Silver Eyed Warriors were a sworn enemy of the Congregation of Dawn, Vir Nominis Umbra demanded them to slaughter every single one. It is why there are few of them left, so many bloodlines were severed by the Congregation and their Culling.” Ozpin explains, and Ruby looks down at the floor sadly. Kragen sighs as he taps his Isomacium Cane against the ground with both hands.

“I’ve lost many good friends because of the Congregation and their beliefs.” Kragen says with a sombre tone, one lightened by his beautiful wife who presses her hand on his shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze.

“So…how do we get inside? Just break the door down?” Qrow asks Ozpin with the shrug of his shoulders, expecting that to be a stupid idea. But Ozpin turns to him with a pretty sarcastic tone of voice on.

“Well…Yes.” Ozpin answers, suddenly spiralling his cane through his fingers, the Relic of Knowledge glowing bright green and forming his staff with chunks of metal from the ground beneath them, forming the cogs. He slams the head of the staff, stabbing it more like, and a powerful pulse of magical energy explodes into the stone architecture. The pulse cracks the stone like heat inside of cold glass or rock, causing it to break. The door shatters, throwing chunks of rubble inside of the building, Ozpin rises back up and shrinks the staff back down into its cane form, his hands atop it as he calmly enters.

“Well…that was totally discrete.” Ruby sarcastically says, getting a response from Ozpin inside.

“Like your infiltration on Torchwick’s hideout at Mountain Glenn?” Ozpin wonders, making Jaune snort. Ruby raises a brow and gasps as she follows the Professor.

“The ground collapsed beneath me!” She defends, walking inside, and Oscar looks confused.

“Huh?” Oscar asks.

“Basically, Team R.W.B.Y failed a mission because they were too noisy.” Qrow adds, unable to resist, getting a slap on the back of the head from Winter. “Ow!”

Blake, being as defensive as ever for her team, plants her hands on her hips and shakes her head around, sassily as she speaks. “Ex-cuse me, we did not fail. We saved Vale.” Blake reminds as they all start to enter, bickering as always…even with the fate of the universe at stake. Oscar chuckles as he walks inside with them.

“I’m so glad I met you guys.” He says with a smile, looking at Penny.

“It has been nice to get to know you all as well.” She sweetly says as she follows them as well, walking inside. The interior of the Chapel…is unlike any Chapel they have ever seen before, it is more like a Tomb. Statues constructed inside a long wide hallway of stone, webs everywhere from where spiders have made their home and the scuttling of gods know how many critters underneath them right now. Raven and Yenna walk side by side as they examine every inch of this place.

“Y’know…you’d think the Arkhoni would have places that didn’t look so…morbid.” Raven comments as she runs her finger across a dusty stone brick, until her hand gets slapped by the Architect’s.

“They stole my designs, thank you very much.” The Architect informs, probably smirking inside that metal head of his since he made Raven Branwen jump out of her skin. Yenna looks at Raven, who has recoiled with bulging red eyes, looking over at Yenna who chuckles at her.

“Come on, Branwen. Let’s not get too far behind.” Yenna says, not realising she has just stepped on something. The plate of stone beneath her foot suddenly sinks and her violet eyes widen when she hears something mechanical moving. She rolls out of the way just in time, as a huge metal spike abruptly erupts from the shifting plates of stone, almost impaling her. She glares at it with gritted teeth and burning purple flames around her large eyes. Then the giant spike slowly recedes back under the floor.

Everyone shivers from the cold of the mountains, and from the fear of these traps being everywhere. “Alright everyone, keep your eyes open. These traps could be anywhere.” Qrow advises as he draws his sword, just in case he needs to use it against traps.

Because the whole time they have been here the Knights Bannermen have not even attacked…meaning…something is off.

“I don’t like this.” Cinder softly says as she walks ahead of Team J.N.P.R, they all look at her with narrowed eyes.

“Why?” Jaune asks her.

“The Knights Bannermen would have shown up by now…what’s keeping them?” Cinder questions, and Nora shrugs.

“Maybe they showed up where the portal opened, a few miles away.” Nora suggests, but Pyrrha, Jaune and Cinder both know the truth.

“He’s not that stupid.” Pyrrha states from experience, walking with Miló and Akoúo̱ drawn and at the ready, every single step that she takes echoes through the huge temple that they stand within. Kragen and the Architect activate their eyes, either the Architect’s flashlight or Kragen’s silver light he can call upon. An ability Ruby has not learned how to master as of yet. As they keep moving that come across one more door, one that does not require a certain key to get in.

Or a pulse of magic to shatter.

“We can open this one, Qrow give me a hand!” The Architect calls, and Qrow gladly obliges, walking over and grabbing onto the door. They both pull onto the edge of which they could actually fit their fingers into. Straining as they pull with either muscle of metal, eventually the door’s mechanism shifts and rolls, pulling the door out of their way and into the wall. The Architect and Qrow both gasp…but with distrust.

“The Book…” Qrow stammers with disbelief.

“What?” Jaune questions as he walks forward, seeing the pedestal in the centre of the room, practically hanging out there. He looks at Pyrrha and she looks just as worried as him. But he can hear the whispers, it is not a hallucination of one…it is calling out to him. “How come…it’s so close to the entrance?” Jaune questions.

“This is concerning…everyone be ready for anything.” Ozpin advises as Jaune approaches the book. He holds his hand up and the book opens up, the many pages flicking open and landing on the print for him to see the memories. Hesitantly he looks at his loving girlfriend and his team.

“Be careful.” Pyrrha begs him.

“Always.” Jaune assures, slowly pressing his hand against it.

Suddenly from above, Kannix lands down from above and he cracks the ground with his heavy boots, instantly slashing his blade directly at Kragen who stops it with his cane, falling to the ground as he holds him back, staring at his mad silver eyes. “Kragen!” Ruby screams, only for Neo to kick her right in the jaw, slamming her against the ground, drawing her umbrella blade, spinning it through her fingers with a furious and vengeful scowl.

“Jaune!” Pyrrha screams with terror as he looks forward to see Fear standing right behind the book with a smirk on his face.

“Sweet Dreams.” Fear whispers as he waves goodbye.

“No!” Jaune yells, until the book blasts the magical energy into his body that encases him in the protective field of magical energy…sending him into the memory.

Whilst everyone else gets ambushed by the enemy.

It was another trap.

Chapter Text

Vyrryk

 

The echoes of time race through his mind as he witnesses the memories of his ancestor, the Chapel shattering and fading away from around him to construct his surroundings of his grandfather. A small bedroom inside of his home, but not the building of which that he lives personally…because he practically never goes there unless his father calls him. His young body, fresh with only a few small scars from blades he has battled against his foes in the past. Mostly Bandits that have tried to rob or kill him when defending the odd noble attempting to travel the old lands of the Arkhoni Empire.

However, the freshest of these scars was not given by a bandit, something else…something far more sinister indeed. With a bed sheet covering his unclothed body, the love of his life sleeps up against him with her arm around him. He opens his eyes slowly as the sunlight shines through the window and across the fair skin. The fireplace by the bed that they have shared has gone out, smoke rising up into the sky from the walled fortress of the Arc Family. Claudia softly moans as she starts to awaken too, her large closed eyes slowly beginning to open as she looks at him with a smile. She caresses his cheek gently with a little giggle in her pleasant voice. “Morning, you…” She whispers, crawling up to kiss him on the lips, in which he holds her close, feeling her warmth against his own.

Their kiss lasts a few seconds before they break, but staying close together, breathing into each other’s mouths. “Hey you…” He replies as he rummages his hand in her thick brown hair. She strokes her other hand around his chest, delicate digits caressing each section of his abs.

“You always seem to get better with every night, y’know.” She says to him with a smile, huddled up close to him, gazing lovingly into his eyes.

“Well…I always aim to please.” He assures before he kisses her again, and she kisses him back, moaning into one another. But as they share their love…the voice of his father echoes into his mind, how the Dynasty-Driven Man is determined to make sure that he marries someone from another power family to increase their strength. He knows as well that Claudia could be executed if he does not do as his cruel father says. They hold one another close, heartbeats practically joined in unison.

She sighs, knowing that is why he seems so lethargic…her energy has never stifled him, so it must be his father on his mind. “What are we doing. Claudia?” He asks her softly, and she looks at him with a shameful smile…not of him but of herself.

“I’m sorry…” She apologises, but then he shakes his head.

“You have got absolutely nothing to apologise for…we should have run away when we could’ve.” He says to her, and she giggles.

“And what? Romantically live in a collage on the edge of land where nobody could find us? Join up with the City of Ephai to escape the cruelty of Arkhonex?” She asks him curiously as she runs her finger around his chest as she looks in his eyes, feeling his hand stroking her back.

“I wouldn’t be against it…” He admits, jolting when she suddenly presses her hands against his chest and pushes him down, sitting atop him with the sheets still over their naked bodies. She leans down towards him, still with her hand stroking his cheek and chin.

“Now you listen to me…I won’t endanger your life for what I want, okay? I will always love you…you know that…but I also know that we cannot escape your father. Ezekiel would hunt us down if we ran and he would find us…probably butcher me or turn me into a voiceless Slave like he did to my sister.” Claudia explains, showing the heartbreaking truth to what loving the wrong person can do to someone…to a woman specifically. “And I know that…if I died because of our love…you would do something stupid.” Claudia states and he looks away, not wanting to imagine her death on his conscience, until she makes him look at her again.

She leans down to him and moves her hand up into his, holding him tight as she gazes at him. “I thought about it…and I wanna do it.” She says to him, and he raises a brow.

“What?” He asks her.

“Marry her…have a kid with her…maybe even fall in love with her…” She says, stammering when she thinks of that possibility…of losing the man she loves so much. He reaches up to her cheek and caresses her smooth face.

“I won’t…it doesn’t matter who he pairs me with, I will always love you.” He promises with a smile, and she smiles back, holding onto his hand lovingly.

“And what if…Yvette falls for you?” She asks him nervously, he shakes his head.

“It will not matter.” He promises.

“Even if she is more beautiful than me?” She asks him.

“As if there is a woman on the planet more beautiful than you.” He scoffs, and she laughs with a beautiful giggle, pressing her head down into the pillow by his head. She kisses his neck affectionately. Still atop him as she rises back up.

“Sweet-talker…” She whispers, pulling him up so then they are on the same level.

“Been told I’m good at that.” He whispers back as he kisses her, wrapping one arm around her back as he lifts her up then throws her down onto the bed with him atop. She gasps as she holds on tight…but before they can even begin…they hear a heavy pounding knock on the door. They both sigh with disappointment, Vyrryk looks back and calls. “Yes?” He groans, hearing the guard respond outside.

“Sir, the Varr Skaal family have arrived. Your father wants you to be by his side for when they enter.” The guard states, he squeezes his eyes shut and sighs, looking at the love of his life in his arms. She smiles and nods her head, completely supportive of him no matter what…even if it means helping him prepare for a marriage she is not the bridge to. He nods his head, looking back to the locked door.

“Okay…tell him I will be there in a few minutes.” Vyrryk states to the guard and the guard pounds his foot as a positive response, marching off. He sighs, looking back to the woman he wishes to marry due to love, and he smiles awkwardly. “I’m sorry…I really am.” He apologises, but she stops his lips with her finger.

“Stop apologising…you know I will always support you…my love.” She says to him in a soft-spoken voice. “Anyway, you have a mission today, don’t you?” She asks him curiously, he continues to caress her cheek with his thumb as he nods.

“Yeah…got to go and have a chat with one of the Fathers of the Congregation of Dawn about some of their actions. Hopefully negotiations will go well.” He says with a smile and she smiles back, pulling herself up to kiss him, hooking her arm round his neck and shoulders, and when they break she exhales.

“Well…at least I got have sex with you one more time before you get burned.” She jokes, and he scoffs, rolling his eyes as he rises up from her, throwing his legs off the bed and standing up.

“At least you did, if you want I’ll let you throw the torch.” He jokes with a smile, she shakes her head as she gets up from the bed as well, both of them comfortable around each other to walk completely naked to their clothes on the floor. He picks up his cloth shirt and hide trousers and he pulls them on, tying them together on his body, with his armour in the corner. She crouches down to her brown clothes on the floor, picking the corset up and she stands in front of her grimy mirror.

“Please…too boring for my tastes. I’d rather the methods where I get to see all of you, so I get to do what I like with you.” She giggles with a smile, making him chuckle.

He reaches down to his armour and he picks it up. “Hey…in all seriousness though…the idea of running away…would you want to start up your own Faction? Have a fortress somewhere beyond the walls of the city?” He asks her curiously, and she pauses, looking back at him with surprised eyes as she struggles to tie her corset up herself. He walks over, and he helps, gently doing so, so then she does not bust a rib in the process. Luckily unlike the dresses most Ladies need to wear in rich families, it is not very tight and does not need to show off how pretty they are underneath. It is simple protection from the elements with some padding to protect her from the horses.

Or worse.

He also picks her brush up and starts to brush her hair thoroughly since she trusts him to do so. She looks at him in the reflection, still pondering on his question. “I dunno…I mean I’d like to but…I don’t know if I would be capable of running a place like that.” She explains, and he chuckles.

“You wouldn’t run it alone, you’d have me, and we’d have plenty of advisers by our side.” Vyrryk explains, and she smiles, looking back at him with a smile.

“We’d be Barons…” He softly smiles as she caresses his cheek.

“My Baroness.” He jokingly bows, getting a playful slap on the chest.

“Oh stop.” She giggles, making him chuckle and smile just to hear her happy. “But…maybe yeah…I just doubt we would be able to start anything like that. Your father would never let us get close to defying him.” She explains with a heavily disappointed sigh, one he copies.

“I know.” He says, finishing up with her brown hair, she turns and playfully curtsies in her worn and torn clothes that she uses to clean and tend to horses in. “Like a Princess.” He comments, making her blush, before being her constant comedic self.

“Oh, Prince Vyrryk! Do save me from thou foul drink thus fool had giveth me!” She plays as she theatrically faints into his arms, hanging her head over the edge of his arm. He chuckles as he looks at her, seeing her still acting like the young girl he fell in love with all those years ago, someone who just treated him as a person.

Ironic…considering how his ancestor did the same for a certain Nikos Girl.

She looks at him with a smile before standing back up and she pats his shoulder before kissing him lovingly. “Go on…I’ll go tend to your future wife’s horse.” She jokes, and he presses his tongue against the inside of his own cheek, raising a brow.

“Wow…really? Gonna pull that one on me?” He asks her.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” She adorably apologises as she walks over to the door and pushes it open, looking around as she walks towards the stables. Vyrryk walks outside with his hand shielding the blistering sun from harming his blue eyes. He walks across the Hold towards the main building where his father always stands, his eyes constantly patrolling on his son with stern judgement. Vyrryk returns the same glare, walking up the steps towards him as he holds his sword in his hands, pressing it downwards against the ground and returning back to his stoic pose in his Knight Armour.

With the Varr Skaal about to enter, Ezekiel glances at him to speak. “I thought I told you to leave the Stable Girl behind.” He states.

“And I thought I told you to go fu-”

“Boy, I am warning you. I will not allow you to jeopardise this potential marriage, Yvette Varr Skaal is a better woman than you could possibly deserve. Be grateful.” He snarls, but Vyrryk narrows his blue eyes at him with resentment, the two of them have never seen eye-to-eye because of how different they are to each other.

“I am happy with Claudia.” He states.

“I don’t give a damn, you will never support your family name by marrying a stable girl of a pathetic name. She is just a peasant, nothing more.” He snarls, and Vyrryk clenches his hand into a fist as he glares at him. Then as he turns he sees another Knight walking over with his hand clutching a large Warhammer, smirking as he towers above him.

“Vyrryk.” He greets with a deeper voice, yet Vyrryk carries that hatred in his eyes continuously.

“Constantine.” Vyrryk replies, and Constantine scoffs at him as he looks to his father beside him.

“Seems my brother is a disappointment yet again, father?” Always grovelling to Ezekiel, a knight that has no care whatsoever, only seeks the admiration of his father. But Vyrryk has no love for him as he shows none to his father, because he is a bully…and has caught him watching the woman he loves with disturbing levels of concentration. Ezekiel does not even look at his eldest son, just staring ahead. “You know you should really listen to father, that Stable Girl might be pretty but so are many poisonous flowers. She could be a witch, should burn her at the stake.” He states, clearly trying to rile his younger brother up.

And it works, as he suddenly draws his sword and presses it to his brother’s throat, and he gasps with fear, backing up from Vyrryk who glares into his eyes. “Shut. Up. Because I won’t hesitate in cutting you open.” He warns, and Constantine whimpers as he stares to his father.

“Father? He attacked me!” He cries out pathetically, whilst Ezekiel just stares ahead.

Disappointed his eldest is a pathetic coward.

Disappointed his youngest does not follow his commands.

“Father!” Constantine screams, only to be met with the backhand of his father, smacking him across the face so hard it nearly knocks him on the ground. Ezekiel stares at him with glaring blue eyes as Vyrryk lowers his blade and presses it against the damp wood – showing no smugness at all, or even feeling the urge.

“Enough! I will not let the two of you ruin this! You lost your chance for this day when you decided to rape that prostitute and giving yourself an infection. I should have had you killed for that crime.” Ezekiel snarls, and Constantine whimpers on the ground, then he picks up his hammer and throws it onto his chest, causing him to yelp. “Now get up.” He growls with gritted teeth, and Constantine slowly rises back up with pathetic tears in his eyes.

Kept alive only because he is his son, not because he loves him and forgives him…no…his crime is unforgivable in the eyes of the Arcs. No matter how selfish Ezekiel may be, he has his standards.

He will never rape and would disown any son who did commit the horrific crime.

And he would never betray his own family.

To him family means everything, but not through love…by status.

Constantine rises up, and somehow his shorter brother looks bigger than he does as he shrivels up beside his father. With the mother nowhere to be seen, Jaune watching can clearly tell that his ancient Grandmother must have passed away, and due to the scorch marks on the ground inside of the fortress…it looks like there was a plague. One Claudia was lucky enough to survive along with most of the people here, however it is likely that it was not so lucky for the others.

Then…

Finally…

The Gates open, and the horses ride inside with a few carriages as well, and Vyrryk raises a brow when he sees who the Varr Skaal are, since he has never met them before. They are all Faunus, a Tribe from the island of Menagerie…or at least the Island that would become Menagerie in the future. The leader of them is a Middle-Aged Tiger Faunus, known as O’Donna with her husband at her side, a large Bull Faunus with his hands on the reigns. She is a very good-looking woman with amber eyes and a very delicate way of moving.

The Varr Skaal are treated as Royalty for the Faunus on Menagerie, a Queen and King rule together, her husband Dakken controls their military whereas she handles the financial and societal elements of the Varr Skaal. And sat inside of the carriage is the woman he is meant to marry, a very…very…beautiful young Faunus Woman with long platinum blonde hair with Caucasian Feline ears protruding from out the top. Like her mother she wears a dress, once with a corset sewn tight to show how well endowed she is with her shapely figure and her stunning face.

Vyrryk looks at Claudia who waits at the stables…and somehow in comparison she is still nothing in comparison to the beauty of his true love. But…even she seems to agree with him…there are worse women to be forced into marriage with. The horses meet with the Stable Hands, and Claudia strokes the mane of one of the beautiful animals. She looks ahead to see the carriage moving into the centre of the market of Sunhelm Watch.

O’Donna jumps of the carriage with her husband doing the same, walking ahead of her with a smile on his face and a booming laugh whilst his wife helps her daughter out from the carriage. “Ezekiel! My friend, how it has been a long time.” He chuckles as he holds his arms out to him, and Ezekiel smiles to him.

“Dakken Varr Skaal, how long has it been?” He asks him as he walks down the steps, his sons following him, Vyrryk remaining as proper as he always has. But Constantine being as shrivelled and pathetic as ever.

“Hmm…I think it is five years today, isn’t it? Battle at the Sky Haven during the Bloody Epoch?” He asks, naming places and battles that Jaune and the others would have no knowledge of, for the records of the ancients have been lost after the destruction of Arkhonex. Ezekiel nods his head as he remembers that battle well, and since it only really came to an end recently, it could be the reason behind the spread of the plague that killed so many.

Not Horridus Morbus, but there are still other diseases outside of the one that seems to turn people into Grimm Thralls.

“Yes, hard fight if my memory serves me well.” Ezekiel remarks, and Dakken chuckles.

“Indeed, it was, a good one though. Collected my fair share of scars that day.” He states.

“Yes, you did, surprised you did not fall that day from the amount of spears that hit you.” Ezekiel chuckles, creating the same reaction from his Faunus friend. He rolls his shoulder with a grunt before rubbing that same spot.

“Still get some aching pains from the one that landed in my back.” He chuckles as he looks at him, then looking past him to see Constantine and Vyrryk Arc behind him, his eyes firstly falling to the youngest brother. Causing the older brother to grit his teeth discretely and glare at his brother.

“Ah, you must be Vyrryk Arc. A shame you can’t be here for the whole day.” He says with a saddened voice, at least they have been informed that he has a mission today, but as long as they are informed it is not seen as poor duty of the son. Something else that Constantine has done, disappearing from a greeting to find the nearest whorehouse to buy some girls with, until the one time he got too drunk.

Committed an unforgivable crime and was permanently infected from it.

Vyrryk extends his hand and shakes the much larger hand of Dakken’s. “A deep regret, sir…however the Congregation of Dawn have been a bit of problem these days as you may have noticed. Hopefully negotiations will go well, and they will stay off Arkhoni owned land.” Vyrryk explains to them, O’Donna approaches and she smiles, hearing that someone is actually looking into the Fanatics and their brutal actions.

“What an honourable mission, son…I’ve seen too many good people be tortured or killed for simply putting their faith in something different to their own.” O’Donna says with a smile, and Vyrryk looks at their daughter…now he actually has a better look at her. Constantine is also enraptured by her beauty, with almost glowing platinum blonde hair and stunningly large amber eyes. Her skin is perfect as well, not a blemish on her with a dress that is almost white, with golden scales engraved into it in places. She also wears what appear to be crystalline heels as well.

A very…very beautiful young woman.

He bows his head respectfully to her, showing the proper mannerisms of a Knight, keeping his sword still and his heart beating normally. Claudia watches from the stables as she tends to the horses. “Miss Varr Skaal.” He greets respectfully, and she nervously smiles to him, curtseying him.

“Ser Vyrryk Arc.” She replies, even her voice is tender and sweet, just like Claudia’s. It hurts because despite how loyal he is to Claudia, part of him feels bad for not wanting to be with such a stunning woman.

“Vyrryk Arc, this is my daughter – Yvette Varr Skaal. She has agreed to the bonds of marriage with you, and she will be staying here for this week for you to decide.” O’Donna explains to him, surprising the Arc son to hear that they are actually giving him a choice in the matter, they are better parents than Ezekiel is…and from the look both of them give his father it seems they both agree on that.

“It is your choice as well, after all.” Dakken states with a smile.

“Thank you, Mrs Varr Skaal…when I return from my mission we will be sure to talk on this matter.” He assures, and Ezekiel gives him a glance, one that clearly states that he is demanding that he just marries her and puts a child in her.

“You are an honourable man, Vyrryk. If you do choose my daughter…I would be proud to marry my daughter off to someone like you.” O’Donna kindly speaks, before glaring at Ezekiel and narrowing her eyes. “Someone honourable.”

Ezekiel does not show it, but he is furious, feeling like his son is getting the glory when he is not…

Vyrryk turns when he hears one of his Knights approaching him. “Ser, it’s time.” He says to him, and Vyrryk nods to him.

“Well, as much as I would love to stay and get to know you.” Vyrryk says as he looks at the young and nervous Yvette, she smiles softly at him. “I’m afraid I have some pesky Fanatics to chat with.” He tells them, creating a wave of laughter at his humour, everyone steps aside and lets him move out with his men. Yvette watches him go as he nods to Claudia, and she nods right back.

His Knight Partner vaults up onto the saddle of the horse and he does the same, detaching his sword and attaching it to the clip on the saddle. He exhales with relief, free from the nerve-racking experience of meeting new people…including a woman he is supposed to marry. His Knight friend looks at him and he chuckles. “For an arranged marriage ser? You’re damn lucky.”

They both chuckle at that, since Yvette truly is a stunning woman to look at and even to listen to. “C’mon, let’s get to the Dauntless.” He states, as he flicks the reigns on the horse. “Yah!” He exclaims and the Horse brays, riding off with his partner towards the City of Arkhonex, specifically to the docks. The Horses run fast, the rhythmic beat of their hooves is kike music to their ears as they keep moving. Passing by many signs or notice boards of missing people, the Grimm have claimed many souls in the wildlands.

However, with them under their control they are no real threat.

For now.

The gates from the large open expanse of field opens up, since Arkhonex is made up of multiple walled off districts, some contain cities and others contain large amounts of Farmland. Unlike Ephai which was once a completely open city, one that seems extremely different in fact to what Arkhonex was like. Sapphire blue skies stretch out over their heads with the scent of sunflowers in the air, poison to those with hay fever. The two knights pass into the city and the air thickens with smog from the many factories working hard around them, with ships docking on the oily oceans.

As they ride through an advanced dust powered aircraft roars overhead, no matter how many times the heroes look back at Arkhonex they never seem to get used to the strange combination of times. From Medieval Castles to Victorian Cities combined with Atlesian or Valerian architecture and technology…or perhaps beyond that level. As they ride through they finally come across the Harbour…

One very similar to what Oscar went to.

He slows his horse down and he hops off, holding the reigns as he walks the horse towards one of the ships – the Dauntless. But then he stops with a smile as he turns to see a young woman with red hair and silver eyes speaking with some customers at her Blacksmith’s Forge. Her father working on the forge whilst she just sells the blades to people, since she has always been more of a people person. He walks towards her and he holds his horse at his side. “Hey Cynthia!” He calls, and she gasps, turning to see him.

This must have been before Oscar arrived here because she does not seem so crazy about someone in her life.

Especially after he lied to her about sleeping with her with that potion he gave her…thanks to Umbra.

“Vyrryk!” She cheers, running over to him and wrapping her arms around him. He jolts from the impact, nearly falling over. “I missed you!” She squeaks with happiness, she has always been one to act younger than her age after all.

“Yeah sorry I haven’t been around for a while…complicated stuff happening back home.” He tells her, she raises her brow curiously.

“What do you mean?” She asks him.

“Arranged marriages…” He sighs, and she covers her mouth with shock, she clearly knows a fair bit about him.

“What about Claudia?” She inquires in a worried voice, he sighs and shakes his head.

“We’re figuring it out…I love her, but my father wants nothing to do with her.” He states, Cynthia scoffs.

“It’s none of his business.” She states as she shakes her head.

“I wish he saw it that way, bastard is only interested in fulfilling his Dynasty.” Vyrryk says to her, quoting his father with his fingers like they are quotation marks.

“Well…if you ever need a better blade or to fix the one you have then our store is always open.” Cynthia assures with a smile, as she turns and walks back to her store to speak with a new customer that has just arrived. “Hello! And Welcome to the Cynthia’s Workshop!” She cheers, and he sighs, the Knight walks up to him as he looks at the young woman selling her father’s things.

“She’s a Nikos, isn’t she?” He asks Vyrryk.

“Yeah, her family own this District. Not a Fortress like the Arcs…more like the Schnees y’know?” He explains to the Knight and he nods his head.

“Makes sense, they are the powerhouses in Arkhonex.” He states, turning with his horse to approach the Dauntless behind them. Vyrryk does the same as he walks away from Cynthia’s workshop and towards the ship…however the cargo bay is closed, meaning they cannot enter. Vyrryk rolls his eyes before he yells.

“Wymerus! You’re not blackout drunk, again are you?” He calls, in return hearing a booming laugh from above, seeing him walking to the edge of the ship.

“Ha-Ha! Vyrryk! Good to finally see you!” He cheers as he vaults over the edge and drops down, landing down at the bottom with a boom, his armour softening the fall. He extends his hand with his Mace on his back to shake Vyrryk’s hand.

“Been to long, old friend.” Vyrryk chuckles as he pats his armoured back with his gauntlet during the hug.

As Jaune watches the memories…

It hits him.

Ozpin and his ancestor were once old friends.

And he was not consumed by revenge here for what happened to his family thanks to Axzura…meaning this could have been mere days before it all went wrong. Before the Volcanic Chain Islands…before Vir Nominis Umbra.

Before the Knights of Grimm.

The younger Ozpin – once known as Wymerus Ozymandius – nods to his best friend. “No matter how long we spend apart you are still a dapper looking guy, aren’t you?” He laughs as he pats the side of his face as a friend would.

“Seems to be going around lately, with the arranged marriage and all that shit.” Vyrryk sighs and Wymerus raises a brow at him.

“Oof, had a feeling it’d be rough. How’s Claudia handling that?” Wymerus inquires curiously as he walks over to the hull of his ship, the same one that was beached on the Islands many years ago. These things might look old and slow, but they are anything but, they can move at great speeds when they really want to. Meaning that if things go well today he could be back home at Sunhelm Watch before midnight tomorrow.

“Honestly? Better than I am…hell we’ve even been thinking about taking you on, you know on that offer you made us?” Vyrryk asks him, revealing just how close these two friends really once were.

“Offer’s still open, buddy.” Ozpin assures as the side of the hull unlocks and slides open, a bridge extending from within so then they and their horses can get aboard the ship safely. Vyrryk chuckles, scratching the back of his neck as he stands there.

“Well…I dunno…my father is watching our every move with Yvette Varr Skaal here…I feel bad for her too.” He explains with a saddened voice.

“Varr Skaal? By the gods man…if you didn’t love Claudia you would be crazy to say no to her. She is nicknamed the Angel Faunus for a reason.” He states as he helps guide their horses inside of the ship, and the Knight chuckles as well.

“I wouldn’t say no to her.” He says.

“Well maybe you can get her to fall in love with you.” Vyrryk says with the pat on the Knight’s back, tying the reigns onto the pieces of wood to secure them. The Horses are happy enough, got other horses to keep them company and plenty of hay to be fed and water. The three of them trek up the stairs to the main deck, through the cabins and finally up to the top. Stood there are many crew members but no Silver Eyed Warriors here, just three other individuals.

A beautiful woman with long white hair and stunning blue eyes with a Huntress’ corset and cloak around her body, and a bow and arrow on her back and quiver in the same place. A man a few years older with a spear in his hand with a hood up and yellow eyes…and finally a Vanguard with an Isomacium Sword in his grasp with jet black hair. Vyrryk knows their names…and so does Jaune.

Both names.

“Krekras! Starla! Rylen!” Vyrryk cheers as he goes to embrace with them, but as Jaune looks at these memories…he names them differently.

Death

Loss

And Fear

And at Vyrryk’s shoulder…Vengeance.

His ancestor was a friend of the Knights of Grimm before Vir Nominis Umbra corrupted their souls with the curse that turned them into his soldiers. Vyrryk hugs each of them as they all stand there, looking at Starla and chuckling. “Did you hear about my arranged marriage too?” He asks her.

“We all have.” She assures.

“Well funnily enough…my saint of a father tried to convince me to marry…you.” He states as he points at Starla and she raises her brow with disbelief.

“He…does realise I am married, right?” Starla asks, and Vyrryk chuckles.

“No idea with that man.” He says as he walks up the stairs to the Captain’s wheel, not noticing the look Starla and Krekras give each other…the fact they have been having an affair for the past few years. Starla’s eyes sink with guilt as she walks away from Krekras and he looks no different.

“So…what do you expect we will find at that Chapel? Bunch of non-believers lynched?” Rylen asks them curiously.

“Gods…I’d hate to find out.” He states with a heavy sigh.

“I guess we’ll find out.” Vyrryk states, as the Dauntless activates the thrusters powered by dust under the water, and it turns around from the dock, sending large waves crashing against the walls. Then the Dauntless sets sail, leaving the harbour of Arkhonex.

Off to the lands of Mistral…across the ocean from them…

 

Claudia

 

Unexpectedly for Jaune, the memories shift to a different person…to Claudia Barrett’s.

Despite her gifted beauty she has always had to do the dirty work, for so long it has simply become a way of life for her. Cleaning the horses, polishing the shoes, being the maid for the lords and ladies to eat the warm tasty delicacies whilst she would just eat the leftovers in the backroom. Not a glamorous life to live…but she is alive, and that is all that counts for her. She is crouched down by one of the horses, cleaning its hoof off of mud, scraping some lumps of it out with a blade she has on her.

But as she does so, she hears a bunch of other workers walking up behind her, she rolls her eyes as she hears them approach, recognising their voices. “You seriously doing this again?” Claudia huffs, rolling her eyes and blowing a breath out from her partially parted lips to flick her hair from her eyes a bit. The men are fat, not healthy-looking men by any means. She stands up and rolls her eyes when he speaks once more.

“Bitch you humiliated me.” The man grunts as he clenches his fists tightly. He has three other hulking men with him, but they do not seem as bothered as he is about whatever it is that happened.

“You tried to get it on with me, I have a say in the matter, buddy. Want to have a girl who’ll do what you want, just take some coins and go to the Brothel.” She states with the shrug of her shoulders, turning to tend to the horse.

“Hey! We’re not finished here!” The man yells as he turns her round, grabbing her shoulder. As she spins round she punches him square in the face, then three times in his abdomen at great speeds, then right up his jaw, knocking him back on his arse. She looks down at him and cracks her neck.

“I think we are.” Claudia turns her attention to the two guys with him. “What about you two?” She asks them, they both just sigh and walk away, towards the tavern to get sloshed again. The man, with mud covering half his face groans as he starts to get up. She sighs, her good side returning as she crouches down and pulls a cloth out, wiping the sludge from his face. “I know you’re mad that your wife ended it with you for another guy…but that doesn’t give you the right to just try and sleep with any girl you see. Got it?” She asks him, able to read people expertly well.

“How…How do you know about her?” He questions, and she shrugs.

“Call it woman’s intuition.” Claudia says to him, and he sighs, getting up and walking away, but before he does he looks back at her.

“I’m sorry.” He apologises, she bats it aside and shakes her head.

“It’s alright…just remember next time, okay?” She asks him, and he nods, walking ahead. She exhales with a heavy sigh, throwing the dirty cloth into the corner as she sighs, scraping some of the thick mud from her boots.

“Hi there.” The soft and calm voice of Yvette appears next to her, causing Claudia to gasp and nearly scream, jumping out of her skin, staggering back. She looks at Yvette and sighs with relief, not expecting it to be her. She points at her with her thick gloves on that she wears for cleaning the horses and their shoes.

“Shouldn’t scare people like that.” Claudia chuckles as she points at Yvette, walking over to one of the horses as she wipes some of the mud from its mane. Yvette, as innocent as ever jolts as she realises that she did bad…acting quite a lot like a certain Polendina in fact.

“Oh! I’m so sorry.” She apologises as she covers her mouth with shock, just making Claudia smile.

“It’s okay, how can I help you?” She asks her as she picks up a brush and straightens out the mane of the horse.

“Um…I’m Yvette.” She introduces herself, and Claudia smiles…deeply wanting to tell her of her relationship with her potential future husband. But she holds it back and offers her hand…her gloved hand. Her eyes widen when she sees how much mud is on the glove, immediately pulling them off to throw them in the basket where they stay.

“Oops, sorry. I’m Claudia, Claudia Barrett.” Claudia replies, shaking her hand with a smile. She plants her hand on her hip as she looks at the Stable Girl.

“How come someone as pretty as you is working on Horses?” Yvette inquires curiously, and Claudia shrugs.

“Come from a poor family, we came here because they were looking for labourers. I work the horses, clean people’s shoes, work the bar sometimes. My job just keeps going.” Claudia explains, and Yvette looks almost concerned by this information.

“My goodness…where I come from nobody does that.” She says to her, Yvette’s ears jolting at the idea of it. “I mean we have similar things there…brothels and such, but women mainly work with finances, taverns and restaurants. Or other well-paid jobs…we don’t really have peasants.” Yvette explains, it all sounds like it is of an alien world.

All of this to Jaune sounds like it is from an Alien world…brothels and slaves are not a custom ever seen on Remnant these days anymore. Made illegal, doesn’t stop them from existing though, they are just rarer than they are back in Arkhonex. “Well…lucky you.” She says as she walks back to the horse.

“Wow…is that a Stallion?” She asks her, and Claudia raises a brow in curiosity.

“You know your horses.” Claudia catches on.

“Oh yes…beautiful animals…more honest than Faunus and Humans I find.” She says as she looks at the horse, so Claudia kindly holds the reigns of the horse and gently pulls her over to Yvette so then she can stroke the mane and pat the nose of the beautiful animal. “She’s gorgeous…” She softly smiles as she caresses the long hairs on its neck.

But then something seems to change on Yvette’s face, looking at Claudia almost guiltily. “Um…Claudia?” She softly asks her.

“Hmm?” Claudia replies.

“You and Ser Arc…are you and him…together?” She inquires, and her eyes widen when she hears the question.

“H-How do you…” She stammers, but Yvette smiles with her hand raised.

“It’s okay…I know how you feel…well…someone I care for does, at least.” Yvette reveals to her and Claudia’s eyes widen.

“Wait…you also have someone you love back home?” She asks her.

“Yes, you see my parents love us together…he is a good man…but he is of a poor family. But by marrying Vyrryk…we could form an alliance that could help our people. We do not have much clean water on Menagerie, but Arkhonex can provide it to our people. As long as we provide the wines we produce.” She explains to Claudia, Jaune is surprised by the fact that the memory has translated the old name of Menagerie into what he recognises. Whereas Claudia just looks completely and utterly shocked by this revelation.

Yet relieved…

“I’m…sorry.” She apologises. “But…you know that you will have to have children with him if you do marry.” She reminds, and she nods.

“I know…and that is the saddest part. Because I may never be allowed to have a baby with the man I love with all my heart. Because it could be illegitimate and be hunted down.” She explains.

Claudia stands there, and she sighs. “What kind of a pair are we?” She asks her and they both smile.

 

Vyrryk

 

Hours later…

The soon-to-be Knights of Grimm and Vyrryk Arc ride across the fields of the land that would one day become the Mountains of Mistral. Huge hills, waves almost of emerald green stretching out for as far as the eye can see. They all look around as they see it before their very eyes…

The temple built at the top of a village that has been completely consumed by the infamous Congregation of Dawn. As they ride in, their banner has been splayed out on every single wall inside of the village in the middle of nowhere. A village most likely buried underneath hundreds of thousands of tonnes of rock and soil. The people all have the same symbol branded on them in different places…the sun rising from the darkness…or setting into it. Either way it is unclear which it is meant to be.

The people here…all of them are wearing crimson and black robes with the symbol imprinted in yellow in the centre.

Vyrryk looks at the market and there are children also with the same symbol, everyone silently watching them as they enter the village. But the most unsettling thing is a bronze statue built directly in the centre of the village, of a man with a sinister smirk with his hands splayed out with the weak suffering beneath him.

None of which.

Are Human.

Every single body screaming beneath the man is a Faunus, desperately trying to crawl away from the monster. Vyrryk narrows his eyes with disgust at this terrible shrine, one that really makes them worried. “Be on guard, looks like the Congregation have really taken this land over.” Wymerus advises, and Krekras presses his gauntleted hand against the pommel of his sword until their horses stop.

At the mouth of the Chapel, built with a tall spire where the sun shines brightest. They all dismount their horses and watch the civilians whom glare at them like they are staring at monsters that have been unleashed upon their world. Emerging from the Chapel is an old man with his hands held behind his back and an expressionless look on his face as he approaches them. “Is it just me or has this village been waiting for us?” Rylen whispers as he holds his spear tight.

“Welcome, Knights of Arkhonex.” The Father greets with his arms held out, finally smiling.

“You knew we were coming?” Vyrryk questions curiously, glaring at the father.

“Of course, the Omens spoke of it.” He replies.

“Omens?” Starla asks him with a raised brow.

“They spoke that four wise warriors would come greet us on the beginning of Salvation!” The Father preaches with his hands up in the air as the many acolytes bow down to him. Krekras glances at the many people and he exhales through his nostrils.

“What the hell is this?” Krekras questions, then the Father gestures to some Followers from around the corner, then…

They hear the terrified screams.

“Please! Help us! We don’t want to die!” A woman wails as the Acolytes drag the people by their hair towards three other Acolytes carrying what appear to be…

Stakes…

They hammer them down into the ground and get the rope ready, only know have they noticed the carts with dry logs being pulled in as well, dumped underneath the tall wooden stakes. Krekras’ eyes widen, and he immediately goes to draw his blade…until some kind of unseen force freezes him. He grunts in pain, then looks at the others to see none of them are moving either, straining like him.

Vyrryk glares at the father to see his eyes are glowing red.

And that something is restraining them from moving, a sinister smirk forms on the face of the Father as they cannot even fight against the force. “No! Stop!” Starla begs desperately, seeing that the people are all Faunus, being tied to the stakes as a man with a torch approaches with a smile on his face.

“No!” Rylen roars.

“Don’t do this!” Wymerus begs.

Vyrryk strains as hard as he can to fight against the dark force that restrains all movement in his muscles, staring at the Father again who smirks cruelly at him. Then he speaks once more. “The path to Salvation shall be bloody, but our god shall guide us as he has granted me this strength! The power to see through the filth that is before you all!” The Father preaches with his hands held above his head.

“I have a daughter! Don’t do this!” The woman begs.

“These vermin before you…an amalgamation of life itself, something that should not exist. They must all be perished once and for all if we are to reach the same enlightenment as myself.” The Father explains, sounding more insane with every word that leaves his mouth.

“How does this help you reach Enlightenment, huh? By murdering innocents?” Vyrryk yells with fury in his voice.

“For it is in the passing of the Devil’s Creations that we shall rise into the light! We will become more powerful than the creatures before you! Do not sob for their pain, for it will give us strength!” The Father preaches, taking the torch from the hand of one of the Acolytes beside him.

“Don’t do this! We wanted to negotiate peace! Please!” Vyrryk screams desperately as he fights against it.

“Peace will be brought upon the world…when the creatures of this world are burned away forever. And the impure are washed away!” The Congregation of Dawn Father drops the torch past the screeching Faunus trying to break free. As soon as the torch hits the wood it ignites into a raging fire, and their screams turn from terror to pure agony.

The Knights remain restrained…unable to look away.

Hearing their desperate wails.

The horrific stench of burning flesh.

Tears trickle from Starla’s eyes…

Revenge forms in Wymerus’ heart.

Fear forms inside of Rylen for what this could bring.

And Krekras wishes to bring death upon these monsters.

Whereas only one thing forms in the heart of Vyrryk.

The urge to break free…

And protect the Varr Skaal from these monsters.

Jaune knows what he has just witnessed.

The beginning of the end for Arkhonex…

It all began here.

Chapter Text

Jaune

 

Thousands of years of knowledge flowing straight into his mind, the mind of anyone, is likely to cause problems. Jaune collapses to the ground as the magical aura from the Visionary Book courses through him like electricity, inflicting a very similar sensation, a buzzing feeling or a biting pain over various areas of his body. Head pounding, he cannot stop the desperation to press his hand against the side of his head, hearing the whispering voices of the people of Arkhonex in his mind.

“They’re coming!” A young Arkhoni female voice cried out desperately, roars of the Grimm echoing in his mind along with the wails of civilians and a baby.

“Get them inside!” The voice of Vyrryk yelled, and as Jaune lifts his head his bleary eyes focus ahead of him, unable to see things clearly. The memories of his ancestor and his own vision being morphed together into one. Vyrryk stands at the gates of the Fortress that he saw in his dream, Crocea Mors in his grasp, slashing it across the throat of a Beowulf that lunged at him. Black smoke and embers erupt from its body as it fades away, roaring with fury. He reaches down to a civilian at his side, pulling her up to her feet.

“This…this is it! The end times!” A Knight screamed with terror as Jaune stands up, stumbling around as he stares at the memories, hearing the screeches of Nevermores over his head, blacking out the sun with their sheer numbers as they dive down and decimate the Humans and Faunus.

“Steel yourselves, men! We must get the survivors to the ships, we must send them to the safe zone, the Grimm will not find them through the smog!” Vyrryk yells as he slams the shield of the sword straight across the face of a Creep which lunged straight at him, only to stab the sword right down the top of its head. But behind him is a huge Beringel, bellowing as it leaps towards him from behind to slam both fists down at him…

Until a mace smashed it right out of the air, knocking it across the ground. Jaune groans as he stares at the shattered memories before his very eyes, and it is none other than Vyrryk’s fallen brother – Constantine. “Vyrryk! Are you sure they can’t follow?” He asks him with concern as he draws his gun and fires it right at the head of the Beringel, sending a strong dust projectile burning through its glowing red eye. He spins his mace through his fingers and smirks, looking back to his brother.

Things clearly changed between them from when Jaune saw them, for they were literally at each other’s throats. Vyrryk turns to his brother and speaks, after seeing both of them so young it is quite saddening to see them here, both with grey hairs and wrinkles and scars. The War for Arkhonex, for Remnant at this point…it must have lasted for decades before the final days. Arkhonex probably is an old memory by now, but this must have led to the civilisation that would later become what it is now.

Before the Great War as well.

“It will work, I trust her – Yvette knew what she was talking about!” Vyrryk explains as he stops a fireball from a Manticore that lands down in front of them, roaring savagely with a huge Sphynx gliding overhead, screeching as it summons more Grimm to their location.

“I hope so…because it looks like Vir Nominis Umbra is throwing everything at us. They must really want that sword destroyed.” Constantine states as he stares at Crocea Mors, and Vyrryk chuckles with a smirk.

“Good, I hope they are scared. Because we need to keep it protected. Need to make sure it is on that boat, but the civilians are more important.” Vyrryk explains, Jaune’s eyes wide with disbelief as he stares at them, seeing how different they are. Something big must have been unveiled in this time that he has not seen yet. But as he watches, Vyrryk stares right at Jaune and he storms towards him. “Knight! I need you to find my wife and son! Get them to the ship! Go!” Vyrryk yells as he reaches out and grabs Jaune.

Only for his hand to decay into a chilling spectral skeletal hand with rotten skin and flesh hanging from the bones, and the undead grasp squeezes around his throat, lifting him off the ground with ease. Jaune gasps with disbelief as he stares right into Vyrryk’s eyes as they deform from blue to gold, the skin on his face peeling away and forming into the face of Rylen Vazquez…the Knight of Fear. He smirks sinisterly at Jaune, his curse causing him to be the most sadistic of them all.

Jaune grabs onto the undead arm of Rylen Vazquez, struggling as he chokes, gasping for air. “He tried, and he failed, appears fate deems to repeat the cycle!” Rylen bellows, swinging round and throwing Jaune straight through the pedestal that the Visionary Book once stood. A powerful magical pulse suddenly erupts from where the book once floated, the shockwave pushing Jaune across the floor, but Fear is not even fazed by it. He just walks towards Jaune and spins his huge Scythe through his fingers. “C’mon, Arc! Show me what you’re made of!” Rylen yells as he slashes straight at him with full force.

Jaune reaches down to the hilt of Crocea Mors, pulling it and his scabbard out as fast as he can, clicking the lever inside of the hilt to transform the blade. The shield shifts around the sword’s blade, extending into the thick and serrated blade of the Bastard Sword. He slams it with all his might into the curved blade of Formido Falcem, the impact creating a resounding metallic bang which throws glowing embers of golden light bouncing from the metal. Fear grits his deformed teeth as he stares into the eyes of Jaune Arc, whose blue eyes have now stopped blowing so bright and the magical energy has been released from his body. Fear chuckles sinisterly as he towers over Jaune, forcing him down to the ground with the strength in his body. “You’ve got heart, I admire that.” Rylen states with a smirk on his face, and Jaune grits his teeth right back, straining as he remembers what he saw in the vision from the Book.

“Like you admired Vyrryk? Before you betrayed him?” Jaune snarls with anger, sparking some fury inside of the Knight of Fear, his eyes crackling with yellow furor as he grits his teeth and his right eye twitches violently.

“Betrayed?” He bellows, voice turning demonic as he drags the curved edge of his scythe down the long blade of Crocea Mors, swinging it back round and hitting the blunt side of the scythe across Jaune’s face, knocking him onto the ground with a bang. He crashes down into the ground with a groan, spitting some blood from his mouth as Fear walks towards him, his aura repairing the damage. “Do you think we chose this curse? We betrayed ourselves!” Fear yells as he takes Formido Falcem and goes to stab it down into Jaune’s back to finish him off. Jaune spirals round, deflecting the huge Battle Scythe before spinning again and slicing him across his stomach of leathery skin and dead muscle. He snarls as he recoils from that attack, pressing his hand to the bleeding wound where maggots and insects fall from within his dead bones.

Fear hisses a roar of anger as he takes his scythe and spirals it round with his arms and hands perfectly moving the huge weapon with hard and fast strikes, but ones that Jaune has learned to deflect. He pulls his shield from the scabbard after clicking the lever again to deactivate its Bastard Sword form, so then he can use the shield and the sword. He backs up constantly, walking over the remnants of the Visionary Book that detonated after he was thrown into it by the Knight of Fear. Every strike from the black curved blade of Formido Falcem bursts sparks off the engraved blade of Crocea Mors. But as the Knight slashes at him over and over again with tremendous speed, his sapphire irises widen with terror after seeing the toxin forming inside of his wrist, bones shifting so then he can blast the hallucinogenic into his system.

Jaune ducks down and raises the shield, and Fear unleashes the nightmare gas into the shield, the thick cloud of dark green gas ripples across his shield, then Jaune rushes forward, slamming the metal brawn of his shield into the ribs of the Knight, swinging it again across the side of his head to get him to stumble. Jaune swiftly follows up with a heavy swing with the sword, slashing him right across his face, causing the Knight of Fear to fall to one knee. He chuckles as he remains down there, Jaune walking towards him to attack again. “You fight well, Jaune Arc, you have improved.” He compliments, until the wings that are wrapped around his body like a poncho suddenly extend and reveal the damage done to his body.

Fear kicks him in the chest, then slams him onto the ground as he lands on him, swinging his wings to jump high above him to pin him to the floor. Cracks spread across the ancient Congregation of Dawn architectural floor. Jaune looks up at Rylen as he draws his crossbow hidden on his leg, aiming the bolt at his head with a smirk. “But you’re not a Vanguard yet.” He states, about to pull the trigger.

“Get. Off. My. Friend!” Nora suddenly screams, Fear’s golden eyes widen from her voice and he turns, only to be met by the force of Magnhild. The impact creates one hell of metallic boom as it cracks against the side of his head, throwing him straight through the wall and the mountain itself. The stone and old concrete shatters like glass from the impact and he flies out, until his wings extend and his whole body transforms, bones snapping and muscles shifting into the form of the Giant Undead Bat. It screeches nightmarishly as it circles round, Fear most likely licking his wounds and preparing for a second attack as he always does.

Nora reaches down and grabs Jaune’s hand, pulling him up to his feet with ease, nearly causing him to fall over in the process actually. “Are you okay?” Nora asks him with concern and Jaune chuckles, rolling his shoulder as it makes a cracking sound.

“Yep…feeling good.” He groans, since as soon as he got out of the Visionary Book he was grabbed by the neck by Rylen Vazquez, not exactly the warmest welcoming party.

“Well that’s fantastic, because it seems the Bannermen knew we were coming. That guy Kannix Volantis is here with Neo!” Nora yells, just as she mentions the Bannermen a portal opens up behind them, Far more violent and unstable than that of Raven’s, black with crackles of black and red lightning flashing from within, like a literal tear in the fabric of reality itself. Emerging from the portal are more Knights’ Bannermen soldiers, drawing their swords, axes and some even raising rifles from other times.

“Well…I guess they wouldn’t go easy on us, would they?” He questions, and as he stares at the Knights’ Bannermen he sees Akoúo fly right past his head and into the armoured head of one of the Bannermen, causing it to stagger with a demonic grunt. He turns and smiles as he sees Pyrrha running to his side, and Ren with her.

“Been a while, huh, Team J.N.P.R?” Nora asks them all with a smile. Pyrrha and Ren smile as they look at Nora, for it really does feel like old times.

“So…what’s the plan Jaune?” Pyrrha asks the love of her life. Jaune smirks as he draws his sword and shield, holding the shield forward and the blade past it, pointed towards the Bannermen.

“Team Attacks…Arkos and Flower Power remember?” Jaune asks them with a smile.

“We really need to change that name.” Ren groans, whilst Nora giggles.

“Let’s get baking!” Nora squeaks with joy and Jaune groans, shaking his head.

“Not that kind of flower!” Jaune reminds, just as he did during the Vytal Festival. They all look ahead after realising they are arguing in the middle of a fight, seeing a Knights’ Bannerman scratching its head awkwardly. “Ah whatever, let’s kick their asses.” Jaune states with the shrug of his shoulders and roll of his eyes, Nora laughs devilishly.

“Works for me! Yee-haw!” Nora squeals as she and the rest of her team charge towards the Spectral Warriors.

 

Ruby

 

She spirals Crescent Rose through her fingers as the burning bright projectile screams towards her, detonating into a bright fiery explosion which causes her to stumble back from the shockwave. Crackling flames and swirling jet-black smoke courses across the curved blade of her impressive weapon as she stumbles away from the enemy. Neo rushes towards her with great speed, jumping forward to kick Ruby in the jaw, making her stumble again. The silent antagonist, lands on both feet and with her Umbrella she smacks it across Ruby’s face with force. Ruby staggers as the pink weapon cracks the side of her head, and she snarls, aiming down the scope of her sniper rifle to fire a bullet straight at her.

Neo grins maniacally as the bullet impacts her, only for her body to shatter away into nothing more than an illusion. Ruby gasps, her silver eye widening too late at the realisation that Neo just tricked her again, and she spins round to meet the heel that clatters her in the head. The crashing bang slices the skin on her forehead open, causing some blood to drip down and into her hair. The thick crimson blood sticks to her hair, red aura forming and crackling around the wound to repair the damage.

As she falls to her knees in pain, letting her aura repair the damage, she senses the burning sensation in the back of her mind as Torchwick crouches down in front of her with a smirk. “You know you can’t beat her, Ruby. She was trained by the best of the best, y’know.” He states with a smirk on his face, until Neo rushes towards her with no realisation that the love she lost is actually in Ruby’s mind right now. As Ruby looks forward, her Psychosis seems to return, screaming voices yelling at her constantly.

“Get out of the way!”

“She’s coming!”

“She’s going to kill you!”

Neo jumps straight at Ruby again, drawing the sword hidden within her Umbrella to stab right at Ruby…the Silver Eyed Girl has no intention to die today. She dashes out of the way of her blade’s path, and Neo scrapes the blade across the floor with a stunned expression in her pink and brown eyes, looking around excessively. Until the swirling tornado of Red Petals fly straight towards her, with a screech echoing from within until she forms again, slashing Crescent Rose across Neo, slicing through her pinkish brown aura, knocking her over. Neo rolls across the floor before managing to jump up during her tumble and landing on her feet like a cat. Neo runs her fingers through the dust as she slides, immediately aiming her Umbrella that has been customised to work like Melodic Cudgel that Torchwick used to use before being eaten,

Ruby’s eyes widen so she rolls out of the way, a large fiery explosion detonating behind her when the projectile meets the concrete and stone wall behind her. Throwing smouldering debris across the ground, Ruby grits her teeth as she stares through her long and gorgeous black and red hair. Neo stands tall, long pink and brown blowing in the wind that travels through the hole in the mountain where Fear was slammed through, his screeching Bat Form still heard. Neo sprints towards Ruby and the Silver Eyed Huntress mirrors her, running right at her enemy, spinning through the air like a cyclone as she slashes at Neo. The almost untouchable woman jumps and corkscrews through her attacks, being clipped by a few but are not enough to knock her out the air.

Neo grabs her by the throat, tackling her out of the air and slamming her into the ground, dragging her head through the dust and pinning her again the ground, gritting her teeth with fury at her enemy. “I…Did…Not kill him! You are serving the monsters that did, can’t you see that?” Ruby struggles as she grabs onto the forearm of the small yet deadly assassin. Neo begins to throttle her enemy to shut her up, squeezing both hands against her throat, causing Ruby to gasp for air, struggling to breathe.

Oscar suddenly blasts into Neo from behind, tackling her and throwing her into one of the statues with all his might, gained much more strength over the years than he did back in Salem’s Sanctum. Immediately worried for his girlfriend’s welfare he turns to her with worried hazel coloured eyes, crouching down and holding her hand, caressing her cheek as he helps her back up. “Ruby, are you okay?” He asks her with a really worried voice, wiping the dirt form her cheek and the leftover blood. She nods her head as she gives him a thumbs up.

“Mhm.” She answers with a cough, getting her wind back as she grabs onto Crescent Rose almost instinctively. Blake finally takes down the last Knights Bannerman that was attacking her so then she could get to Ruby, running over and looking at her.

“Are you alright?” She asks her.

“Yep.” Ruby answers as she nods her head, then Qrow walks over as well with his sword in both hands.

“Ruby, are you –”

“Gods, is there an echo? Yes, I’m fine.” Ruby sarcastically replies to her uncle, scraping her scythe across the ground and up not her hands, ready for Neo as she rises back to her feet. She grits her teeth with anger as she draws two knives from inside her coat that she wears, ones that have serrated edges and also with dust loaded into them. Neo then sheds her coat that she wears, one that is white and red like Romans used to be, revealing her combat corset she wears with tightly worn cargo trousers. She has multiple knives sheathed on her legs, ready for usage as she holsters her Umbrella.

“She can’t take all of us on at once.” Blake states with confidence, something Ruby does not share because she knows Neopolitan, and that she is not a force to be reckoned with.

“Don’t underestimate her, she is faster and smarter than she looks.” Ruby advises as she readies herself, hardening her aura again after repairing the damage done to her skin from her previous fight with the short Assassin. Neo spins her knives through her fingers as she narrows those pretty eyes of hers.

“Be on guard, we still have other enemies in here, they could attack us as well.” Qrow warns, until Neo suddenly sprints towards them at full speed, dashing out of the way of Gambol Shroud’s bullet, immediately slicing cross-ways at Blake. The Faunus Huntress leaps back, leaving her shadow behind as she flips through the air and lands on her feet. Qrow slashes his sword at her but Neo holds the much larger blade at bay with her dagger. She kicks Qrow in the leg to bring him down to one knee which allows her to twirl round like a ballerina and kick him in the head with the back of her heel.

Her eyes are constantly fixed on Ruby, desperately trying to kill her for what happened to Roman. She cartwheels aside when Qrow snarls and transforms his sword into its Scythe form, slashing it right at her head, leaving a trail of red aura streaking behind his attack, then he swings it round and slams it downwards at her. She shatters away like a mirror, just avoiding that attack that sent fissures spreading across the ground. He gasps as she appears right next to him with a smirk and a wink, kicking him in the jaw and pushing him down to the ground. She throws one of her knives at him but then Time suddenly stops, and she is completely unaware of Oscar’s true semblance.

Oscar runs and catches the blade, throwing it right back at her, before resuming time again. The knife slams into her aura protected chest, so hard it creates a bang and a shockwave that blows the dust aside. She slides across the ground before Oscar suddenly grabs Neo by the throat and drags her across the ground before slamming her into one of the walls, using all his strength to do so. Fury forms in his muscles and flows through his veins, gritting his teeth as he clenches his hands into fists as he punches Neo in the face over and over again, her head crashing against the stone behind her over and over, breaking the wall apart with every hit. “STAY! AWAY! FROM! RUBY!” Oscar bellows as crackling shards of time form in his fist, slamming it right into her face with all his might.

Time explodes against her face, causing the wall to explode, and the statue that was engraved centuries ago bursts like glass, toppling over and crashing into the ground right next to them. The ground cracks and crumbles beneath their feet as a chasm opens up beneath them, causing them both to fall into the lower levels. Oscar yells with shock as he plummets, before drawing Traveller’s Atrocity and stabbing the blade directly into the walls, holding on for dear life as he looks down at the almost endless chasm beneath them. “By the gods…” He gasps, seeing what lies beneath them.

Practically an ocean of bones, ones that have been left behind here ever since Arkhonex, some look like they have been formed into the rocks of the mountain…this is inside of the mountain as well. There are old houses crushed here as well…if there are skeletons inside of these mountains…towns…does that mean that there were people still living here when the Congregation of Dawn used the Relic of Creation to hide their secrets by forming a Mountain Range? If that is what happened…then they truly are more relentless than they ever expected.

As Oscar stares at the horrifying thoughts buried beneath him, Neo rises back up and snarls with anger as she draws her Umbrella and aims the barrel at him, pulling the trigger. The missile screeches towards him and his eyes widen with shock, and he slows time down just enough to jump down from the wall before it explodes. He then lands right behind her, and the missile explodes right behind him, throwing shards of stone and concrete everywhere, crashing into the bones and old buildings. Oscar slashes Traveller’s Atrocity straight at Neo but she catches the blade in her own, staring into his eyes with hatred. She immediately kicks him in the chest and goes to slash him across the face, but he dashes away and fires the revolver built inside the blade at her.

She shatters, using her Illusionist Semblance as much as he uses time, both of them managing to trick one another over and over again. She suddenly leaps at him from behind, then he slows time down just at the right moment as she went to stab him in the neck with both blades. He uppercuts her with his fist, that combined with time being slowed down, the impact of his punch throws her high in the air and she grunts.

Ruby and Blake suddenly return as the Silver Eyed Warrior tackles Neo and crashes down into the bones with her, both of them sliding through the thousands of ancients that were buried alive inside of a mountain. The bones rattle and roll around them, but Neo swiftly gets back up and sprints through the bones towards Ruby, only for Blake to yell and swing towards her with Gambol Shroud’s grappling hook attached to a piece of wall above them. She swings and slams both her feet into Neo’s chest, smashing her into the pile of bones. As Blake lands and goes to attack her, Neo dodges her Katana and punches Blake in her lower abdomen, before flipping backwards into a cartwheel that kicks her up the jaw. Blake falls into the bones and groans, then she fires her umbrella straight at Ruby, the projectile explodes against her chest, knocking her over.

Neo jumps and lands on Ruby, slashing her sword straight at her throat but Ruby stops her serrated edge with the curved blade of Crescent Rose, staring into each other’s eyes.

 

Ozpin

 

Despite his attempt to protect his daughter, as soon as Oscar and Neo fell into the Chasm of Bones beneath them, the Knights’ Bannermen attacked him. Multiple spectral Knights yell as they slash and swing their weapons at him, attacks he can defend against, but they are keeping him from helping his daughter against Neo. However, they do have Oscar, and he is a powerhouse in his own way thanks to his unbelievably powerful and useful semblance.

Ozpin however, has been fighting alongside Raven, Yenna, Cinder, Kragen, Winter and Penny, with the Architect providing covering fire. Most of them have been taking on the Knights’ Bannermen, however with Kannix also in the field it means that they have another foe to face. Penny slashes her many blades across the bodies of six Knights’ Bannermen, causing them to collapse into themselves and fade back into the realm that they came from in the first place. Amongst them, Yenna presses her hand against the floor and she summons the roots inside of the mountain, some massive tree roots grow, and they erupt through the concrete, crushing the Knights’ Bannermen fighting them.

Ozpin slows time around him and he sprints forward, taking his staff as he has formed his new Knight of Vengeance form, the Spirit of Time. Every strike made from that staff kills the Bannermen, shattering their armour plating and killing them instantly. He stops past the five that he just killed whilst Raven drives her blade into the skull of one of the soldiers, staring through the eye holes of her helmet, immediately ripping that red blade out and sheathing it, changing blade into that of wind. She simply slashes it at the three that jump towards her, but they all get blown away, right into the sights of the Architect. He picks them off one at a time with ease in the air, glowing blue bolts of dust projectiles burning through their armoured spectral forms.

Each one releases a pained roar of agony as their armour collapses and bends into the singularity of energy formed within their bodies as they are pulled back into the Charred Forest. Bones shattering, and their souls being vanquished temporarily. Whilst they battle against the Knights’ Bannermen, Kragen stares through the fight at Kannix Volantis, the apprentice he failed staring into his eyes with his silver eyes. The deranged smirk on the Spectre’s face never shows to the wise Silver Eyed Warrior, just vengeance and anger consumes him as his blade extends and fire dust ignites across the steel and from the cannon built into the same arm. His hook blade folds out from his hand that transforms as well as they battle.

Kragen exhales, desperately wanting to fix the mistake he made thousands of years ago…but this is no wound that can be healed…not by words and not even physically. The boy he once knew is dead forever.

Kannix Volantis has become the Spectre.

“Please, Kannix…I can help you…” Kragen begs, but Kannix grits his teeth with hatred towards the old man.

“The only solace I will ever have in this violent life…is in yours ending.” Kannix states, and Kragen sighs with defeat, turning to see Cinder standing beside him and Ozpin getting ready to fight.

“If that is your wish.” He says with a heavy sigh, then Kannix suddenly leaps forward and fires his cannon three times at them, blasting powerful shells of explosive dust towards them. Cinder gasps and she uses her magical Fall Maiden abilities to cast a protective field of energy for a few seconds, which gets broken from the third explosion. Kannix shifts his hook round and his fist forms, punching the Fall Maiden right in the jaw with full force. She grunts, sliding across the floor with dust covering her face.

Kragen spins his Isomacium Staff through his fingers and stops the blade that Kannix slams down towards him, creating a metallic bang from the impact, one that sends sparks bouncing off his face and the vibrations reverberate in his hands. Kannix glares into his eyes with hatred, silver energy leaking out from them like smoke from a flame. “You left me there to suffer, I will spare you that pain by killing you now!” Kannix roars as he charges up his cannon to fire at Kragen’s head. Kragen widens his eyes and he spins his staff round and ducks, just dodging the shell launched past his head and exploding into the ceiling above. Chunks of rock start falling from above them as the Chapel begins to collapse, getting weaker and weaker with every explosion set off inside of this structure.

Ozpin rushes forward and he slams his Staff forward into Kannix, the magical energy from the Relic of Knowledge pushing him back, and the Spectre slams his hook blade into the ground to stop himself from rolling away from his enemies. He glares up at them with gritted teeth, firing his cannon into the ground behind him as he jumps, thrusting forward and stabbing the blade into Ozpin’s cog-comprised shoulder, pinning him against the wall as he stares into his eyes. “Not bad, Ozpin…but you’re gonna have to try better than that!” Kannix snarls, and Ozpin chuckles.

“Alright.” He agrees, suddenly forming multiple magical signs over his shoulders that spin round like glyphs, unleashing multiple beams of solar light that burns against his thin aura, slamming him back into the ground. Then he uses his magic to levitate the rubble and trap him in it. “Had enough?” He asks him, and Kannix scoffs.

“Let’s find out.” He replies with a wink, aiming his cannon through the debris at Ozpin and firing, just as Ozpin realised it was too late to use his semblance to stop time. He fires, and the shell explodes against his chest and he crashes straight through the doors of which they entered this place in. He falls, before coming face to face with the Knight of Fear that screeches towards him. Ozpin grunts as Fear slams his Bat talons into his chest and pins him to the wall, his form transforming before his very eyes, his head folding out from his shoulder blades as the wings wrap around his humanoid form. His long nails extending and his hood hanging low over his golden eyes.

“Oz…” Fear greets with a maniacal grin on his face.

Pinned against the mountain with nothing but a drop beneath him that would most certainly kill him now that he is free from Umbra’s infinite death curse the others are bound to. But that does not mean that he cannot use his aura to create new abilities, at least that is what he learned how to do, to summon magical powers with his aura alone…and with the help of the Relic of Knowledge. Ozpin stares into those glowing gold eyes and he scowls as the cogs roll away so then they can actually speak, face-to-face, not helmet to face. “Rylen.” Ozpin greets, and the Knight of Fear chuckles.

“Crazy isn’t it? How after all these years of separation and we all still call each other by our names?” He chuckles, and Ozpin smirks.

“I still remember who you used to be, Rylen.” He reminds, remembering the good man that loved to perform to audiences…so long as they paid.

“Rylen Vazquez is dead, Ozymandias…just as Wymerus is.” Fear reminds with narrowed Golden Eyes, but Ozpin still seems to try with a chuckle.

“He doesn’t have to be.” He states. Fear stares at him and it is clear that the Knight actually seemed to consider his words, but then the curse mist have forced him back into this entity that he has become.

“Sorry, old pal…no can do.” He states.

“Then…we settle this the old-fashioned way?” Ozpin asks him, and he chuckles.

“At least the good things stay the same.” He chuckles, as he draws Formido Falcem and he goes to slash across his face. Unexpectedly lightning crashes down between them and Fear retreats back, using his huge Bat wings that resemble that of an Archangel to stay in flight. Then he stares directly at Ozpin, seeing the two crackling electrical wings extending from his armoured body. The cogs roll over and connect together over his face, the visors glowing bright green as his armour activates.

“Just like old times.” He states, as he spins his staff through his fingers and smacks it against the rocks, and the relic emerges to pick up the rocks and extract the metal from them, forming the Mace he once used to wield and was cursed by once. He swings his electrical wings and he swings his mace towards the Knight of Fear who smirks with excitement. Rylen is no match against Ozpin, however that does not mean he will not give it his all to try and beat him alone. He slashes Formido Falcem upwards and catches the mace in an epic impact, one that blows the clouds apart from the mountains and they stare into each other’s eyes.

Gold Vs. Green.

Ozymandias Vs. Vazquez.

Rylen swings round and slashes up Ozpin’s chest, sparks bursting out from the impact that throws them all sky high. The sparks fade away into the air, but Ozpin does not even seem fazed, taking his mace and throwing it at the Knight. Fear’s eyes widen with shock as the mace clatters into his chest and blows him into the side of the mountain, blowing pieces of rock down the side of the surface, causing a small avalanche in the process. He crashes down into the snow and he spirals the scythe through his fingers as he keeps his eyes focused on the Knight of Vengeance that lands in front of him, wings splayed out still.

“We were brothers once.” Ozpin states.

“Now we’re enemies.” Rylen replies, leaping towards him with a demonic roar, slashing his scythe at him with force.

 

Jaune

 

He roars with the fury of an entire family at his back, grabbing a Knights’ Bannerman by the shoulder and pushing his own shoulder forward, stabbing the long blade of Crocea Mors forward into the ribs of the Bannerman. The entity groans in pain as it collapses away, then he raises his shield to stop the bullets sprayed from another from their own universe. The machine gun clearly being Atlesian, another poor soul consumed and converted into one of Vir Nominis Umbra’s pawns in his evil game. As Jaune stands there, Ren throws Stormflower and the bladed automatic pistol spins and slashes across the face of the Spectre, blowing its head apart and returning to his hand. He slides under the sword of one of the others that attacks him, and he uses his vast knowledge both in Aura and skill to take it down without wasting a single bullet. Just as he did to the King Taijitu he punches the entity in the side of the head so hard that it sends a shockwave through the cranium, blowing its head to pieces.

“Look out, Renny!” Nora squeals as a Bannerman jumps down from above with a spear, only to get smashed to pieces by Nora’s massive hammer. The metallic boom from the impact makes the poor Bannerman shatter like a pane of glass, sent back whence it came. As always with the Valkyrie Huntress she laughs as if she is playing a game, turning as the metal plates shift round into its grenade launcher form, firing one into the bigger Knight that swings its huge Battle Hammer at Pyrrha.

Not like the Invincible Girl needed her help, for she takes on the rest of the Bannermen by herself, sprinting at the five and jumping towards one, throwing Milo hard and fast, the Xiphos sword stabbing straight through the armour plating and into its heart. As she rolls over the dying Bannerman she uses her polarity to pull Milo back into her hand, slashing it through the hand of an enemy that swings its mace at her but misses in the process, and loses its gauntleted hand. She lifts the next up with her polarity, crushing the metal with ease, forming it into the size of a beachball, throwing it into the armless one. Finally, she takes Akoúo and throws it towards the last two, bouncing it between their heads. She sprints and jumps up, landing on the upper chest of the Bannerman as she stabs the Xiphos form of her sword into its sternum, killing it. Finally, she uses her polarity and catches the spear that the last threw at her and launches it right back.

Everyone stares at Pyrrha with awe. “You are…just so badass.” Nora compliments with a smile and Pyrrha gorgeously reflects her face, shyly giggling.

“You are all just as impressive.” She replies, getting a chuckle of disbelief from them all.

Their joking session ends when they see Penny get thrown across the battleground from Kannix, slamming against the wall with a grunt. “Ow…” She groans as she slowly gets back up.

“Penny!” Nora calls as she runs up to her, and she waves to them with an exhausted voice.

“Sal-u-tations…” She sighs rather weakly as she presses her hand to her dented face.

“What’s going on? Is anyone else hurt? Are you hurt?” Pyrrha asks her in a worried voice, checking her over for any major damage to her systems. Luckily nothing seems to be out of order apart from some dents and a few scratches in her skin. But luckily her body has auto-healing machinery inside of her. So that will get sorted out immediately, even with the aura protecting her too.

“Well…the Spectre and Neo…aren’t giving up…and Ozpin and Fear are fighting it out down there.” Penny explains as she points at the snowy caps of the mountains that they are around. They can see the flashes and hear the yells from the distance all the way from here, so they help her get back up, and she summons her swords to rise back up as they approach the two enemies. Ren sprints towards Neo who fights with Ruby, and he jumps, tackling her into the ground, both of them tumbling over. Neo kicks him in the chest hard, so hard he flies up and crashes into the ceiling, then falling onto his chest with a grunt. He rises back up and throws Stormflower at her, but then she catches it, looking at him almost flirtatiously.

She sticks her tongue out playfully and winks, before throwing it straight back, he dodges, and it stabs into the wall right by his head. Nora screeches with fury as she jumps at her and slams the hammer into the ground at her feet, the explosion throwing her up into the air. “Don’t flirt with my man!” She screeches, as Neo floats up in the air, she whacks the hammer against Neo’s chest so hard that it throws her against one of the statues, cracking the helmet of the statue. As Neo gets back up slowly, she looks up to see Cinder staring down at her with merciful eyes.

“Stop this, Neo…I know you’re angry about what happened to Roman, trust me I know. I miss his wit at times as well…but you are fighting on the wrong side.” She states, and Neo stares up at Cinder’s eye and the Fall Maiden actually gasps from what she sees in her eyes…there is understanding…and agreement in them. Even if she could speak she would not need to, the eyes are all she needed to know.

Neo knows she is on the wrong side…but she cannot live without Roman…she loved him…and will not stop until the one responsible for his death meets the same death.

She and Kannix Volantis are the same…both souls driven by one thing.

Revenge.

Neo remains on her knees, head held low as Cinder stands before her, and Ruby glares at her…with viciousness in her eye. However, Kannix has not fallen to his knees yet, for his semblance and his rage does not allow him to. He slashes his hook blade across the white hair of Winter Schnee who yells with anger, performing a perfect backflip that knocks him back and he staggers away, only to fire a powerful shot from his cannon that hits her in the chest. She crashes against the wall and groans, her blue aura shimmering after that hit. Kannix sprints towards her to finish the job with a grin on his face, until roots suddenly wrap round his arm and he snarls with anger, glaring at Yenna behind him. He rips his arm free and aims his cannon at Winter, until Qrow jumps down from his Crow form to deflect the impact with Harbinger.

He rushes forward and spirals his scythe round at awesome speeds, moving at the speed of a motion blur at this point, hacking his aura down with every single strike. He ducks down and avoids the slash from his fire coated sword, only to be kicked in the back of the leg by Qrow. His gift…and curse…to bring misfortune to others is working on him right now.

Kannix snarls, as he spins round and catches Qrow’s sword with his hook and twists his arm round, Qrow grunts in pain as he feels his arm get restrained. Kannix then fires his cannon into his side three times, the impact knocking him onto the ground. His eyes widen as he turns to see Ruby firing Crescent Rose behind her, screaming with fury as she slashes straight at him. He ignites the flames inside of his cannon and unleashes it towards her. She dashes round the flames and kicks him in the side of the head. He staggers back from her but as she goes to slash, he stops Crescent Rose with his metal hand, then with the other he grabs her by the throat, lifting her off the floor to stab her in the stomach. That is until Blake swings round and kicks him in the back, slamming him to the ground.

He presses his hands against the ground to get back up but Oscar zooms towards him and punches him in the face, knocking a tooth out and blood on the floor. Pyrrha launches her shield at his head and smacks it right into his head. But he keeps getting back up, his aura repairing every wound that they inflict. Kragen walks towards him and he slams his staff against his head with great speed, smacking both ends against his knee and the back of his leg to keep him down…until Kannix’s eyes begin to glow brighter and brighter.

Jaune’s eyes widen and he raises his shield, Pyrrha doing the same whilst the two Maidens form protective barriers of magic around their allies, defending them from the silver eyed attack. Kannix roars with fury as he thunderously unleashes the solar light from his eyes, burning through the ceiling and walls, before he meets the eyes of Kragen. The old Silver Eyed Warrior returns the favour, blasting the silver light right into his own gaze, silver light melting and pouring onto the ground, burning everything. As this battle of the gaze continues, Oscar takes his chance when slowing down time, running past the beams of light, to uppercut Kannix, knocking him back on the ground.

“Keep the bastard on the ground!” Qrow yells. Yenna’s violet eyes ignite as she summons the roots again, as they erupt through the ground and wrap around his arms.

During all this…Neo has not moved an inch.

Kannix however does not accept defeat, blasting flames from his cannon to burn the roots off, ripping them from his body, but as soon as he rises back up, Nora slams her hammer into his chest, smashing him against the wall and Ren throws Stormflower and it stabs into his shoulder. He grunts in pain as the Kuroyurian Huntsmen sprints towards him, jumping towards him. Kannix reaches up and catches him by the neck, ripping Stormflower from his shoulder and stabbing it into his own shoulder with a roar. Ren screams in agony as his aura attempts to heal the damage, and Nora’s eyes widen. “Ren!” She screams, firing a grenade that explodes against Kannix and the relentless Assassin releases Ren to the floor.

Ren rips his pistol from his shoulder, blood squirting out and hot pain beating in his shoulder.

Qrow glares at him and narrows his eyes. Qrow sprints towards Kannix with Harbinger transforming back into its Scythe form, with an idea hitting him.

He slashes up his chest and knocks him back, before stabbing him right in the chest, creating a roar of agony from Kannix. He falls to his knees, weakened and bleeding on the floor from the blade that has been stabbed into him. But as soon as Qrow removes that blade from his gut his aura is going to regenerate that damage.

His semblance…to convert pain into aura, meaning he can repair every hit dealt to him. “Can’t regenerate if I don’t take my blade out.” He snarls, and Kannix spits out blood onto his boots and glares into his eyes with hatred.

“Fuck you…Branwen…” He snarls, Raven walks round him and presses her Odachi Blade against his throat, staring into his silver eyes with his red ones.

“That’s rude.” She reminds, and he hisses.

“Yeah? Well…at least I didn’t have something to lose like you honey…” He whispers with a smirk, hinting at the death of the love of her life. Raven glares right into his eyes sinisterly, really trying to not cut his head off right now. “…yeah…I heard, Raven. Dear old Taiyang bit the bullet that night, didn’t he? Well…I guess I should say…I hope he is suffering right now in the Charred Forest.” He challenges, and she snarls, about to slit his throat, until Kragen walks towards her.

“Don’t!” He begs, and she glares at him.

“Don’t?” Raven questions, but the desperate old Silver Eyed Master walks over to her and he presses his hands to her shoulders.

“If you kill him, you will end up just like him. Determined to bring suffering to all who wrong him…as I did.” Kragen explains as he looks at her, desperately trying to keep her from making a big mistake. But as he remains on his knees and coughs up more blood, glaring at Kragen with that claret covering his mouth.

“Really? Even now? Playing with my life even now?” He questions and Kragen stares at him.

“I didn’t know you were still alive, you were dragged off. I searched for you, spent decades looking everywhere for you.” Kragen states with tears in his eyes, but Kannix shakes his head with anger and resentment filling those silver irises. Hatred they have never really seen, they have seen hate before…but this is a hate that can never be cured. A hate that will never be taken away, something that he will die with.

“You can’t change anything, old man.” Kannix snarls viciously at him, like a rabid dog.

“L-Let me try.” He begs, but nothing gets through.

“I told you…Kannix is gone…now? The only thing that fixes this is with you dead.” He snarls, and Kragen sighs with defeat in his voice.

“I do not want you to die.” Kragen states, and Kannix scoffs.

“Well…I don’t think I will today…because you all don’t have the guts to do what is necessary.” He states as he looks at them all, before his eyes fall onto Ruby and he smirks. “Well…unless she lets loose. Maybe if she did earlier her daddy’d still be alive.” He states with a wink and she grits her teeth, aiming Crescent Rose at his head. He chuckles menacingly, not even afraid of the weapon pressed against his forehead.

“Don’t say his name.” She snarls.

“Tai…Yang.” He whispers, pressing his head against the barrel, sending flashing images of Vir Nominis Umbra into her mind, and how she is the one that killed Nolan with that shot…she shudders and staggers away from the Spectre on his knees. He smirks as he remains at their mercy…even with Harbinger wedged in his stomach…he still has them at his mercy. “Soooo…what are we gonna do now?” He asks them all with a smirk, the Architect stares at him and he exhales, and Cinder looks at Neo, just wanting her to walk away.

“How did you know we were coming here?” Qrow sternfully questions, pushing Harbinger further into his stomach, and he snarls in pain. Blood pours out constantly from the huge hole in his body where the massive sword has been lodged in him. His growling pain turns to a sinister laugh, looking into his eyes with a smirk.

“You think he didn’t know? He knows your every move before you even make it…every thought he knows it…every kiss he sees it…every dream? He’s in it.” He assures with a sinister smile on his face as the blood runs down from his mouth, they are not stupid, he is talking about Vir Nominis Umbra.

“Why?” Qrow questions with a snarl and he chuckles with a smirk, coughing up blood.

“More…entertaining I guess…” He states with a smirk, and Yenna scowls at him as she forms a sword in her hand…knowing that he must have something up his sleeve. “But…it’s not Umbra you should be watching. He has been honest with you, but has Oz? Do you even know about the things he has done?” Kannix questions.

“It doesn’t matter.” Jaune states as he stares at him, and Kannix glares at Jaune and snarls, never forgetting that he cut his arm off the first time before Summer did it as well.

“I think it does…if you really think you can trust him…then you’re dumber than I thought you were.”

Kannix chuckles as he looks at them. “You’re regret not killing me when you had the chance…because I am gonna kill the people you love one day. That’s a promise.” He assures with a grin on his face. Qrow’s eyes widen when he realises, and the others still never noticed he just pointed the barrel of his cannon at his chest.

“Crap!” Qrow exclaims, then he fires, blasting a powerful shot into Qrow that sends him flying and into the wall with smoke trailing from his chest, causing his aura to crackle. Kannix presses his hands to the sword in his stomach and he pulls it out, roaring in agony as he feels the burning sensation of flesh tearing. The pain forms the aura around his body, already rebuilding the damage done to his body as he gets up with a limp. Cinder, looking away from Neo gets swiped over by her leg, knocking the Fall Maiden over.

“If you can’t do what it takes, then you will die like the rest of them!” Kannix roars, as he retreats with Neo at his side, firing back at them with his cannon, sending powerful shells their way. Ruby and Blake both sprint towards the Assassins to try and stop them with Penny following them. She spins her blades round to build up the glowing green kinetic energy, then blasting the thick green beam of energy their way. But they both jump off the edge, as a ship catches them with the cockpit open, closing up after they land inside with the autopilot on. The Airship blasts the afterburners as it soars away from their view, even with Ruby firing her sniper rifle repeatedly at its hull but to no avail. She grits her teeth with anger as they get away yet again, letting out a scream of anger.

“Goddamn it! They keep getting away! We should have killed them both!” She yells, getting a scared expression on Blake’s face…on all their faces.

“Ruby…” Blake softly says as she reaches out to her, Cinder might agree that they should be colder but…to hear her say that…it cut deep. Ruby is starting to become what Cinder let herself become many years ago.

“No! You heard what he said! That was the best opportunity we ever had! We could have killed Kannix right there! And Neo! We could have cut two heads off and saved more lives in the process!” Ruby yells at Blake, frightening her as she steps away from Ruby…seeing something in her eyes.

“Ruby…calm down…” Blake begs, and Ruby glares at her with her irises glowing fiercely, about to unleash the power of her silver eyes on her friend. Her muscles tense and her teeth gritted together, and a look of anger that none of them have seen before. She squeezes her eyes shut and storms off from them to cool off and Oscar walks over to Blake, looking at Ruby.

“She’s getting worse, Oscar.” Qrow tells him, and he looks back at her father.

“I know…she needs time.” Oscar states.

“She needs help, have you heard her at night? I’ve heard her talking to herself more often, telling all these voices to stop. Yang told you and she came out about it a few years ago…about her Psychosis. If it is back…she needs to take her medication again.” Qrow explains as he walks over to Oscar, looking at the dark corner where Ruby has crouched down to cover her eyes.

“I know, Qrow…but…she won’t take it. She is too focused on stopping Umbra…” Oscar explains, Qrow unexpectedly grabs Oscar by the shoulders and stares right into his eyes.

“You are her boyfriend. Convince her.” He demands with a quiet voice, going fatherly mode on Oscar. Oscar exhales through his nose and nods his head.

“I hope whatever was in that Visionary Book was worth it.” Winter states as she rolls her shoulder, but as they look around Jaune asks the obvious question.

“Where’s Ozpin?”

 

Ozpin

 

The Knight of Fear slides across the white snow beneath him, scraping Formido Falcem’s through the thick layers of snow that he stands upon. He draws his crossbow and aims it at Ozpin, firing it, but Ozpin slows time down and sprints past it and punches Fear right in the head. The Knight grunts as he staggers from the powerful punch, turning to see Wymerus channelling magical lightning into his mace and swinging it straight at him. Fear transforms into a flock of crows and forms behind Ozpin, slashing his huge scythe up his back, making the professor grunt. He staggers forward then Fear darts forward after creating that horrifying screeching sound, his eyes glowing bright gold to terrify his enemies.

He zigzags towards Ozpin then slashes him with force, the impact scraping across his armoured cogs, throwing him into the snow. The fluffy snow falls and crumbles from his armour as he gets back up slowly, seeing Fear standing before him. “You’re fighting style has improved, old friend.” Fear compliments as he paces back and forth in the snow, icy cold breath leaving his torn rotten lips, whereas Ozpin rises up and glares right at him with narrowed eyes.

“I saw you at the roundup, Rylen.” He comments, and Fear stops in his tracks, glaring right at him. “I saw your face…all your faces, I could feel what you thought.” Ozpin states, and Fear narrows his eyes.

“What Umbra did was wrong, cruel…and unnecessary.” Fear states, and that means he really means it, because Rylen has become the most sadistic of all the Knights of Grimm.

“Then why didn’t you help? I know that there is still that honourable Vanguard in you somewhere, Rylen.” Ozpin states as he paces around the Knight of Fear with his mace in his hand, green lightning crackling inside of it, and the Relic of Knowledge floating within the iron harvested from the mountain.

“You think we didn’t want to stop him? Do you know what he did to Starla for just talking to Weiss?” Fear questions, actually calling her by her real name this time, and Ozpin lowers his head sadly. “He tortured her, made her wish she could die. She deserves better.”

“I know, and so do you. And Krekras, and even Axzura.” Ozpin explains, and Fear scoffs.

“But not you?” Rylen questions with confusion.

“No…I am beyond atonement, Rylen. You know that…I cannot find redemption for my sins and I am at peace with that. But if I could try…just try to destroy him…then it will be worth it.” Ozpin explains, showing that he knows of his past sins…and clearly regrets them with every fibre of his being. Fear spins his scythe through his fingers as he stands before him.

“If I had a choice you know what side I would choose.” Rylen states, and Ozpin looks at him almost desperately.

“Then choose it.” Ozpin states, and Rylen stammers, as if he is really trying to agree…but he can’t.

“This is our curse. Our punishment…I intend to see it through.” He states, something that all the Knights seem to say when it comes to going against Vir Nominis Umbra. Krekras has said it, Starla has said it and now Rylen…but what about Axzura? He is the only Knight of Grimm that was not a Vanguard like the others, he was a Pirate…there is more to the Knight of Fury than meets the eye.

Ozpin sighs, knowing it will take more than reminiscing and honesty to save them. “Then I have to stop you.” Ozpin states, and Fear smirks.

“Then let’s dance.” He replies, his rotten wings extending, and he swings them, leaping towards Ozpin with a nightmarish roar, slashing the curved blade straight at him. Ozpin rolls out of the way and with all his might he swings the mace round into the side of his head. The impact blows fragments of bone and shreds of rotten flesh from his head, making the Knight stagger. Rylen turns and throws his Scythe at Ozpin, and the Knight of Vengeance catches the huge weapon and throws it right back at him. Fear jumps, and he flips through the air, dodging it as he grabs Ozpin and crashes him down into the ground.

Fear punches down into his head with force, but as he holds him down, Ozpin grabs him by the neck and lifts him off the floor, swinging round and throwing him into the boulder ahead of them. His back cracks against it and Ozpin’s wings form again, swinging him high into the air with his mace in both hands to stove his head in. Rylen dashes out the way at the perfect moment and grabs onto the long handle of his scythe, hauling it round and slamming the other side of his weapon into Ozpin’s back. Ozpin grunts and as he turns he sees his hand forming the Nightmare Toxin as he blasts it towards him.

His helmet forms, cogs rolling down and connecting together to protect him from the gas itself. Rylen fires another crossbow bolt at him but Ozpin zooms towards him at great speeds, thrusting his knee upwards into his ribs to make the Knight jolt. Rylen immediately grabs Ozpin and throws him with all his might, roaring as he does it. Ozpin crashes against the wall but Fear lunges forward and slams him up against it with his Scythe handle, trying to choke him out against the face of the mountain.

Ozpin kicks Fear in the chest so hard it knocks him down into the ground and Ozpin stares at the mountain face. He punches his fist into it and he grabs onto a huge boulder, using his almost godly strength to catapult the boulder towards Fear. The Knight smirks as the huge rock falls towards him, but with Formido Falcem he slices the rock in half, the two chunks crashing into the thick snow behind him. His wings unwrap from around him and he flies towards him, and so does Ozpin, the two of them impact and punch one another in the head. Ozpin grabs him by the head and channels lightning up into his head, causing a deafening roar of pain from Rylen.

Ozpin takes his opportunity, punching him up in the air then using his wings to fly above the Knight thrown above him at the time. He deactivates his mace, letting the chunks of metal fall, before he transforms the weapon back into its Sceptre Form, falling towards the Knight of Fear. He stabs it straight into the chest of Fear and they both fall towards the ground, and they both land onto a huge rock, snapping Rylen’s back on the boulder with the Sceptre shattering the boulder from the impact.

The crows in the trees all caw and fly away from the shockwave that blows the snow away. Ozpin pants, still holding the Sceptre in him as he lays there. Ozpin looks down at Fear as he looks up at him with a smirk. “You still got it, old friend.” Rylen chuckles.

“As have you…old friend.” He replies, then he watches as Fear fades away, his skin, bones and flesh crumbling away into dust as he goes back to the Charred Forest like every other time before.

Ozpin exhales.

The Lone Knight…

The Knight of Guilt.

Chapter Text

Kannix

 

The Hunter Gunship roars across the Mountain Range, away from the Chapel of Vengeance and Dawn, the afterburners billowing blue flames charged by multiple cells of dust of many different forms. Heavily armoured and painted with a shifting camouflage, one that is currently taking the arctic colour scheme, to hide in the snow. But the closer they get towards the woods on the face of the massive mountains the camo morphs into Woodland.

Inside of the Gunship are both Kannix Volantis and Neopolitan, the Assassin’s hired by the Acolytes of Dawn, and working for the False God. Sat down in one of the chairs, Kannix bites onto a cloth as he snarls in agony as he uses his metal arm and extends the blade, heating it till it is white hot. With his chest gear ripped off it shows his many scars and tattoos he has collected over his thousands of year long conflict. Some of them look like they were slowly engraved in curvy shapes over his pecks and many stab wounds battering his body, up his back and in his shoulders. He has many burns too, but also many tattoos. Some of them look like they are just random things, such as a Grimm Wyvern, and others look more…personal.

A pretty young woman with long red hair and silver eyes, just like Cynthia Nikos. Many forget that he was madly in love with the young woman when he was not cursed, when he was just a squire for Kragen Nox…before it all went wrong, and he became a monster. A monster with no hope for redemption, not even a wanting for it either. He is who he is and has accepted it…even enjoys it.

The smaller person in the cockpit glances back at him, silent as ever as she looks at him with his chest bare and the blade closing in on the bloody wound. With countless towels drenched in claret to try and clean up the wound. Most people would be either dead or about to die from a wound like that…but Kannix? This is not his first rodeo, and that much is clear from the number of scars on him, something that Neo examines with her pink and brown eyes. Her long pink and brown hair tied up into a ponytail as she flies carefully.

He presses the blade against his stomach where Harbinger stabbed straight through him and he roars in agony, luckily it did not come out the other side, otherwise he would need to do it twice. He bellows of torment as he feels the almost flaming steel blade melting the skin and welding it all back together, cooking it and creating a terrible cooked stench…like that of a barbecue but nowhere near as salivating. After a few seconds of inflicting such agony upon himself and he pulls the blade away, ripping long liquid and stringy strands of molten skin behind.

He bites the cloth in his mouth as he fights the body trying to fall unconscious, he reaches over with his metal hand to the open medical kit and he picks up an Aura Amplifying Syringe...another one of Archer Merlot’s many creations he has made for the Acolytes of Lien.

The needle punctures into his skin and right into his bloodstream, pressing his thumb onto the injector and forcing the fluid into his body. He sighs with relief as his dark red aura crackles over his body and begins to stop the pain and fix the internal damage done to his body from that huge sword. He pants away, sweat on his bruised forehead, then he looks at the rather concerned Neopolitan who has set the Hunter Gunship to Autopilot. He scoffs as he looks at her, his hand still pressed to the throbbing pain in his stomach. “Enjoy the show, ice cream?” He asks her, calling her by the pet name he gave her, and she narrows those large eyes and she gets up from the cockpit, walking over to the fridge inside of the ship they have been given.

She reaches in and grabs a bear, throwing it to him, he catches it with ease thanks to his trained reflexes, and he pops the cap from the bottle with his metal thumb. She takes a small bottle of orange juice out though, and she walks away from the fridge after closing it and sits down opposite him where that table is on the ship.

Kannix sighs as he twists his metal wrist round, thinking on his semblance and strength of his aura. “Gods I hate my semblance…sure it has kept me alive…but it doesn’t really…protect you much does it? No cool powers like that Xiao Long chick, or that Belladonna girl. Just pain is what I have…” He states as he swigs some of his bear down, the cold bear and the condensation on the glass dripping onto his hot skin is a real relief after what he just had to endure.

She unscrews the lid and she drinks some of it, and Kannix eyes her up. Admiring her toned hourglass figure and her attractive she is. “Wanna screw around?” He asks her curiously, and she pauses, staring right at him with a pretty stern expression. He looks around at the ship and then at the windows of their surroundings as he ponders over the stupid idea. “Look around…just us up here, could have some real fun, might even get you to make a noise.” He suggests.

Until he grunts in pain from her knuckles slamming into his nose with force, whipping his head back from how hard she hit him. The punch crunches his nose too, blood pissing from his nostril as he groans, grabbing the bridge of his now broken nose, Neo slowly taking her fist away with an almost feral glare. She grits her teeth and her face scrunches with pure resentment, she and him might be partners but that by no means mean that she is attracted to him in any way.

She only had one love.

And he is dead now.

Kannix presses his thumb and finger to his nose and twists it round, cracking the cartilage as he resets his nose on his face. He then wipes the blood off with his metal hand, nodding his head with understanding. “Fair enough…so what’s your poison? Only like skinny tall red headed dudes or are you bi and swing both ways?” He asks her curiously and she just raises a brow, and he chuckles. “Oh yeah, no talkie…y’know you’re not the best for conversations.” He states.

Neo scowls, flipping him off with her middle finger before drinking some more of her tasty orange juice. He turns to the scroll by him and he throws it to her and she catches it, since he wants a conversation with her. “There a reason you don’t drink? Weren’t you a dancer or something at a strip club? All those guys feeling you up, surely you would have had a few drinks to forget them.” Kannix scoffs as he shrugs his shoulders, she stares at him then types the answer into the scroll.

Bad memories…

“Oh yeah? Like?” He asks her curiously, she sighs as she answers through the scroll.

Vir Nominis Umbra took my voice, poisoned a glass of alcohol after we accidentally became indebted to him.

Kannix nods his head, starting to understand why she does drink alcohol anymore, that kind of experience would mess anyone up. “By we…you mean you and Torchwick?” He asks her curiously, she nods once as the response. He chuckles as he remembers his face, crossing one leg over the other. “I remember him…I worked with him on a contract one. Good fighter, for a thief…but he talked too much. Sounds like that was what killed him in the end.” He states as he drinks more from his beer bottle, but Neo types something in and slams his scroll on the table.

RUBY. KILLED. HIM.

He stares at the text and he scoffs, for it seems that the Spectre is not deluded to the truth like she has become. “C’mon, Ice Cream. Don’t be stupid, if the guy was any more up his own ass, he would be a football. His spouting got him killed, swallowed up by a Griffin…nothing more than that honey.” Kannix explains, until she grits her teeth with anger and lunges at him, tackling him and knocking the chair over. She lands on his chest and she presses her knee against his wound and he roars in pain as she presses a knife to his neck, staring into his eyes.

She opens her mouth…

Rasping a breath as she tries to speak. “He…” But then she coughs violently as the irony taste of blood fills her mouth from just trying to talk. Kannix suddenly grabs her by the throat and lifts her off the floor then slams her back down, holding her down. He presses his knees against her arms as he holds her there.

“He…is dead…and it doesn’t matter. He died for nothing and will be forgotten.” Kannix snarls, but she strains hard against him as she tries to break free, but his cybernetic strength is too much for her smaller body to handle. “Unless…we kill and stop those that would ensure that future for him. Don’t you wanna see him again? Because remember…that is what he promised you…that at the end of your story you would see the love of your life again.” Kannix explains, looking down at her necklace he has on and he reaches down, turning it round to see that there is a small picture inside of one of the pieces.

Of her and Roman…when she could still speak and was a singer, something he could tell from the microphone in her hand in the picture. He then looks at her, seeing the scars in her throat where the poison did its damage, he even feels a bit sorry for her. He stares into her eyes with sympathy for her suffering, because he has felt it. “Trust me…I know how it feels to lose everything. It’s what Umbra promised me…that I will kill Kragen for what he did to me. And I am sure you may be able to kill Ruby…but don’t be blind in thinking she was responsible. It was him…and him alone.” He explains as he presses her against the cold metal ground, wincing as he grabs his stomach and releases the young woman.

She coughs in pain, rasping for air as she covers her neck with her hand, feeling vulnerable whenever she tries to speak. Kannix limps back to where he was at, lifting the chair back up, looking back at her. “Should really start trying to find some pleasure in this cold life, sweetheart. Plenty of men would kill for a girl like you…I know I would.” He states, sitting down as the Hunter Gunship approaches the location locked in from her handprint.

Neo pushes her palms against the floor and stands up, walking past him and towards the seat of the cockpit. She sits down and looks ahead as she flicks the waft of hair dangling down over her left eye. She gazes through the thick glass between her and the outside world, towards a small Acolytes of Lien Outpost in the mountains. A small amount of deployed buildings set there for nearby reinforcements to attack whenever they are called upon. The Outpost has Surface to Air Missile Sites set up in multiple areas, ready to shootdown any aircraft nearby that do not leave the area when demanded to by the air control inside.

The Hunter Gunship and Kannix stands up to the microphone, anticipating the demands. “Unidentified Gunship, provide clearance to land or fly…or we will shoot you down.” The Acolyte of Lien demands, and Kannix replies.

“This is the Spectre and Silent Assassin reporting, requesting landing at Pad Five.” Kannix replies, sounding professional for once in comparison to his normally flippant personality he has. Neo continues to prepare for landing, since that this has been something she has handled countless times.

“Access Codes.” The Soldier demands.

“042639250.” He answers.

“Codes confirmed, you are cleared for landing.” The soldier assures and the S.A.M Sites cease to track them as the Hunter Gunship rotates its long wings round so then it can enter Vertical Take-Off and Landing Mode, the thrusters blow the snow and old leaves all over the place as the landing gear folds out from within its undercarriage. The Spectre approaches the door that opens, grabbing his side as he steps down with Neo helping support him as they walk forward, multiple Mercenaries standing guard and preparing weapons and cargo.

He groans, sitting down on a cargo crate since he does not have much energy…but then they both feel an alien chill, colder than what they have already felt from the icy cold air in the mountain caps. They both turn to the landing pad that is clear right now, to see him standing there, the dark armoured Knight of Death, both armoured hands pressed atop his pommel and the blade of Ferrum Arctus pointed down into the tarmac. He coughs as he looks at him, exhaling. “Death.” He greets.

“Volantis, Neopolitan.” Death replies, approaching them with his sword still in his hand, lifted up from the floor as he walks over to the two Assassins.

“What can we do for you?” He asks him curiously as he shuffles on the spot, rubbing the painful spot.

“What happened up there? In the Chapel?” He asks him, looking at his wound with those piercing red visors for eyes, not showing the burning skull that hides within that sharp helmet of his. Kannix glances at Neo and then back at the Knight of Death, clearing his throat as he gets up.

“They found the Visionary Book, but they don’t know what to make of it and where to go next.” Kannix assures as he stands before him, one of the Knights of Grimm who was actually at that place thousands of years ago. He looks at the mountains that surround them and he exhales through his helm.

“It is strange…it has been thousands of years…and yet it still stuns me how these Mountains formed the way they did in such little time. And haunts me.” He adds as he glares at them, these Mountains hide more treacherous secrets than the world even realise. Neo looks rather perplexed whereas the couple Thousand-Year-Old one right next to her does not share the same expression. He looks to them again and he points with the tip of Ferrum Arctus to one of the buildings, one that looks like an Armoury.

He says no more, turning and walking in the direction of the Chapel, where the heroes are currently still inside of. His wings extend from his smoky cape and the armour dissolves away into the smog, transforming into the black Nevermore. The huge creature roars as it flies towards the mountains, leaving them behind. Neo and Kannix both look at the building of which the Knight of Death pointed at, so they get up and walk towards it.

Kannix opens the door, and they both stop as the door closes behind him, seeing Vir Nominis Umbra sat in one of the chairs with his legs stretched out and crossed over each other on the table where a rifle sits. He has a blood red apple in his hand, taking a bite from it and swallowing it down. “So…it appears they have bested you two once again.” He comments, throwing the apple over his shoulder, bouncing it off the wall and missing the bin.

He sighs and gets up, walking over and putting it in the bin, he may be a monster, but he is not a savage.

Kannix coughs, feeling his aura repairing the damage inflicted upon him by Qrow Branwen. “Well we were outnumbered.” Kannix states as Vir Nominis Umbra paces around. “Even with Fear on our side, they had Ozpin and Kragen there. And two Maidens.”

“Indeed, they did, it is clear that you two are in dire need of an upgrade.” He states, pressing the tips of his fingers against each other as he stands before them, and they all stand, eagerly waiting to hear what it is he meant by that. He presses some pieces of armour down on the table and Neo’s eyes widen when she sees them…the black and gold colour scheme…

Then they both look at Umbra, and walking round from the other room is a chillingly familiar face, for it is their own…but the fractured reflection. The Onyx Phantom emerges with its hands behind its back, walking round and stopping behind the table. “It has become incredibly clear that you were more formidable with the gifts I gave you when Pyrrha was mine to command. But now she is free…we are weaker. Which is why I have come to offer you this – two Onyx Phantoms, both free to make your own choices, but with the same fighting skills and strengths.” The Onyx Phantom offers.

Kannix smirks, already onboard, the man is always wanting to become stronger, to always kill his enemies no matter what. Whereas Neo looks afraid as she massages her shoulder, remembering when Jaune stabbed that hook through her and hanged her off the edge of that building. That put her out of commission for weeks.

“This is not an order…but a choice.” Vir Nominis Umbra assures with his hands extended. Kannix picks up one of the swords that lays on the table with the black and gold metal forged into it, and he grins.

“I accept.” He states, and Neo stammers, running her fingers across her old armour she wore during the Volcanic Chain Isles.

“Neopolitan?” He asks her, awaiting her response.

He made you a promise, you know…

 She exhales, wanting to get the prise of that promise, nodding her head.

The Onyx Phantoms have returned.

 

Ozpin

 

The wind whistles around him, icy cold air brushing off the cog armour that rotates round him, his helmet rolling away and the many cogs start to glimmer a green hue…as they fade away and his body changes back into his human form. With his glasses rested over his brown eyes and his hands pressed atop the cane which houses the Relic of Knowledge…he stares out at the beautiful mountains. A sight that did not exist a few thousand years ago, and a sight that has clearly claimed many lives after the Congregation of Dawn did what they did. He can hear the chatter from behind him of the rest of the party conversing with Jaune over what it was he saw inside of the Visionary Book, describing the Arcs and the Varr Skaal, about Vyrryk Arc and Claudia Barrett, about Constantine…

About Wymerus Ozymandias and the three other Knights of Grimm that were with him before the Pirate Captain became one as well.

It was only so long before their attention would turn to him, and he knows exactly when that would happen as soon as Jaune reaches the topic of the Congregation of Dawn…and what they did. He turns and looks at Blake Belladonna, her reaction visible with horror and heartbreak to hear how her people were killed for just being born the way they were. “They killed them…right in front of Vyrryk and the Knights…the guy who did it though…he had magic.” Jaune explains.

Now their attention turns to the Knight of Vengeance that stands before them with snow on his shoulder and his green scarf blowing in the cold wind. Jaune and Ruby both step forward and stare at him as he stands before them, taller and yet he feels small in comparison to them…for how they have not made the mistakes he has made in his long life. “Professor…the Visionary Book ended when those Faunus Prisoners were killed by the Congregation of Dawn…I don’t know where else we can go, there was no message left behind.” Jaune explains, for they have all reached a dead end right now. They have absolutely no idea of where Vyrryk’s trail ended up next.

Ozpin looks at them, looking down to the shorter but still strong Ruby Rose. “You were there…what happened after they killed the Faunus?” Ruby questions, and Ozpin closes his eyes with a heavy sigh as he walks past them, and he runs his fingers across the architecture of this place, for once the Chapel was on the ground, looking at the steps that lead to nowhere at all.

“The Congregation of Dawn began their campaign that day, sending their Followers across Remnant to hunt down and kill every single Faunus born individual they saw. They were killed in horrific forms of ritual for their sickening beliefs.” Ozpin explains, clenching his hand into a fist as he walks around the room, looking out at the beautiful view, which is also a mass graveyard.

“W-Why?” Blake stammers fearfully, and Ozpin turns to her with sympathy in his eyes for her.

“Because you were different, and they feared that deep down. The Father would never admit it, but the truth was there. They chose to serve a False God that could decimate everything they knew just by clenching his fist when he had all the Relics.” Ozpin explains, and Raven looks at the Professor as she raises a brow at the name – False God.

“False God…you mean Vir Nominis Umbra?” Raven inquires, and Ozpin nods his head.

“He has been known by many names, the Coming Annihilation, the Chaos Bringer, Man of Shadows, the Soothsayer…and as we know him by his real name – Vir Nominis Umbra. It is likely he has countless other titles over the years he has existed, in different universes and different cultures wiped from existence.” Ozpin answers as he thinks back on the many terrors that the entity has delivered in his time.

“He created the Congregation of Dawn?” Jaune asks.

“No…they were not always monsters.” Ozpin answers.

“They once were peaceful religious people, who did not serve a False God determined to end everything we knew. The Shadow Knights? The Silver Eyed Warriors? It is where we once started, determined to serve our Gods and protect those with the gifts we were granted.” Kragen adds with his explanation, showing that there used to be a good version of the cruel order…but now they have changed.

“But the Silver Eyed Warriors split from the Congregation when their methods started to change and became more Fanatical, designing a perfect race, a pure race as they called it. Only Humans, humans that were heterosexual, of the same colour and of the same belief. Everything else would have to be destroyed, and Vir Nominis Umbra promised them sanctuary if they did.” Ozpin explains, and Cinder looks at the floor when she hears how anyone who was not even Heterosexual were hunted down. Her and Emerald would have died, Scarlet and Sage, Ilia, Gray…seems even in death the Congregation of Dawn have been getting what they wanted in some way.

But now everything is dying.

Ruby scoffs as she looks around at what remains of the Congregation of Dawn. “Didn’t help them though, did it? Guess he is a liar.” She states, shaking her head, then Ozpin looks at her.

“Oh no, Ruby. He didn’t lie, they asked to live forever…so he granted them that.” He explains, and they all look confused.

“What do you mean?” Winter asks as she stops sharpening her swords, and he looks down to the damage around them from their battle against the Knights’ Bannermen.

“We fought them today…or what was left of them.” Ozpin answers, the answer sends chills across their spines to learn that the entities they fought today were once Congregation of Dawn Acolytes.

“The Knights’ Bannermen…they’re them?” Blake questions with disbelief and he nods his head.

“A cruel form of irony, because they never stated how they wanted to live forever. He stripped them of all their personality, their memories and what made them human…and turned them into nothing more…than drones.” He explains, and that sends more alien chills up their spines, chills that are not coming from the cold air of the Mountains.

“I saw how he did it…” Pyrrha stammers, getting their attention and Jaune gently holds her hand as she remembers her experiences inside of the Charred Forest when she died and was taken there. “He tortured their souls…tore them apart, made them suffer until nothing but agony remained. He turned them into monsters, taking the darkest parts of them and discarded the good somewhere else…leaving only monsters behind.” She explains, her hands shaking when she saw Scarlet and Sage in there with her.

But she doesn’t tell them that…the last thing they need to picture is their friends in there. “Well…I just hope the good people found a better place in some form after Umbra was done with them.” The Architect states, and Penny looks up at him, staying rather quiet in the grand scheme of things.

“However, the fallout from their campaign can still be seen today.” Kragen says as he stands there, Blake looks at him with concern.

“I already know what you’re about to say.” She states.

“The hatred towards the Faunus all stems from them, the reasons have merely changed over the years. Meaning even the White Fang stem from the Congregation of Dawn as a side effect, one that is becoming just as dangerous.” Kragen points out, even when they are gone the monsters are still causing people to die.

Penny stands there, thinking on the subject of turning his own loyalists into monsters when he made them a promise.

“Why would Umbra do that to his own loyalists?” Penny inquires, since she of all of them has never really encountered him apart from the first time she ever saw him…butchering their friends right in front of them.

“Vir Nominis Umbra despised them.” Ozpin answers rather bluntly.

“What? Why? He doesn’t seem to hate the Acolytes of Lien.” Cinder questions with confusion as she steps forward, walking past Yenna with her hand extended.

“Because the Acolytes of Lien do not worship him as a god.” Ozpin answers, and they all look at him with confusion.

“Wait…what? He hated them…because they…worshipped him?” Ren asks with the same level of perplexation on his face. Ozpin looks at them, and it is clear he does not have all the answers to this topic, but he has a theory.

“When I served Vir Nominis Umbra, fighting the battles he started when I was the Knight of Vengeance…he would kill anyone that would mention Gods…or call him a god…every single time he would strike them down without a second thought. I believe that maybe…the Brothers of Light and Darkness have had something to do with his hatred for the name.” Ozpin explains, Ruby’s eyes widen when she remembers the expression, she saw on Vir Nominis Umbra’s face when she thought he was the Brother of Darkness.

There…was…anger…

And then he killed Taiyang.

“He hates the Gods?” Ruby questions and Ozpin scratches his chin.

“I do not know for certain, but evidence does seem to point towards it.” Ozpin tells them, walking round again, using his cane like a walking stick, just as he always had done in the past. Oscar looks at the chasm that he and Neo fell into when they were fighting, and he cannot get the piles of bones, and crumbled houses buried beneath them. He exhales, looking at the man that was once bound in his head.

“Ozpin…” He speaks, getting his attention.

“There were piles and piles of bones down there…Human bones…and buildings…” Oscar stammers, since he has not forgotten what Ozpin said about the creation of these mountains. The question now is…was there people still on the land when they did it. “You said that the Congregation of Dawn used the Relic of Creation to form these Mountains…did they do that when…people were still living there?” Oscar questions with concern and fear in his voice, all awaiting Ozpin’s answer.

“This land…as I told you it was once all beautiful rolling hills of emerald green grass. You most likely saw it all in the Visionary Book, Mr Arc.” Ozpin states as he looks at Jaune, and he nods his head as a response. “Well, once there were twelve different villages and towns, one of them was quite large. They each harboured populations ranging from five hundred to three thousand…” Ozpin explains to them, standing at the steps with his eyes gazing at the Mountains that break through the skies. He turns and looks them all in the eyes. “The Father of the Congregation of Dawn? The man you saw leading them, Jaune? He learned to contain the Relic inside of a Sceptre and he used it to form an entire Mountain Range across this side of Anima, wiping out fifty percent of all life on that side of the continent. And he never warned the villages and towns…they all suffocated and were crushed when the rock formed around them. Nobody survived, and became fossilised inside of stone.” Ozpin explains, and they all stand there with shocked looks on their faces.

All bar the Arkhoni Survivors.

“We are standing in a mass grave, everyone.” Ozpin adds as he stares at the landscape that the Father tore apart. Jaune clenches his hands into fists and glares at Ozpin.

“Please tell me that you killed the bastard.” Jaune begs.

“I did not, Vyrryk on the other hand did.” He states, looking at Jaune.

“Good…I hope I get to see it in another Visionary Book.” Jaune says as he walks past Ozpin and leans against one of the pillars inside of this place. Blake looks at Ruby and she ruffles her long black hair with her hand, thinking on everything that he has just told him.

“The Father put the Relic in a Sceptre? I have only seen the canes that you have used.” Winter says as she looks right at the relic with curiosity.

“Yeah, I was just thinking that. All the Relics we have so far have been put in the same things.” Nora points out with similar interest.

“Well – Funnily enough there is a pretty interesting explanation for this. You see only Spectral entities like myself, the Knights or Demons or Umbra can actually use the Relics. But for some reason Silver Eyed Warriors are capable of the same feats, I believe it is to do with the Brother of Light. However, we learned that the user does not need to hold the stone to use its powers but putting it inside of a device that can channel its power without destroying the user is possible.” Ozpin explains to them all and Yenna nods his head.

“Yeah, even Maidens can hold the Relics as well.” Yenna remembers as she managed to hold some when she and Kragen were harbouring them after the Fall of Arkhonex.

“Most likely because your gifts were granted by the power of the Relics thanks to Kragen.” The Architect states with his arms crossed.

“Exactly, just as the Knights can because of our link to Umbra.” Ozpin nods his head.

“So…what kind of devices did you create?” Ruby curiously inquires, and Ozpin thinks back.

“We made many…odd…creations. There was the idea of a paintbrush for creation, but that didn’t work because we couldn’t control it. The Sceptre worked better…Knowledge was strange. At one point we tried making a teddy bear.” Ozpin chuckles as he remembers that one, making the Architect laugh as well.

“Oh yeah, I remember that.” The Architect agrees, whereas the new generation just look totally bewildered.

“A…Teddy…Bear?” Winter questions, until Nora gasps so deeply she nearly inhales her own tongue.

“WAS IT CUTE AND FLUFFY?!” She squeals as she bounces up and down, only for Ozpin to softly chuckle, admiring how they…despite everything…can have a sense of humour.

“At least your humour has not soured, Miss Valkyrie.” Ozpin states with a smile, and she beams brightly. “And yes, it was fluffy.” He answers, and she bounces again, making Ren chuckle. “For a while.”

“Huh?” Nora asks with fear.

“It came to life for a few seconds and then the raw power of the relic burned it to dust, turns out it could not live inside of everything.” Ozpin chuckles as he stands there and tears well up in Nora’s eyes, only for Ren to pat her shoulder, making her smile again.

“W-Why a…Teddy Bear?” Raven questions.

For the first time.

All the Arkhoni Survivors are legitimately stumped. Ozpin looks at the Architect, since he ran many systems before Kragen rescued him from Arkhonex. “Why did we do that, Architect?” He asks him, and the A.I shrugs his shoulders.

“Not a clue, another strange thing the scientists came up with we’ll never know the answers to.” The Architect chuckles.

“In the end however we created designs for four devices of which we could use to hold the relics for safe usage. A Sceptre for Creation, A Lantern for Knowledge, a Sword for Destruction and an Axe for Choice. However, we never finished them, and the Sceptre used by the Father was created by the Congregation, and was destroyed. Meaning we could only use the canes to hold them, which were used for transportation and disguise.” Ozpin explains, holding up his cane where all the cogs slowly rotate round and the spherical pommel atop the cane opens up, allowing the glowing green pebble to rise from the cane.

The light shines across their eyes before it returns back to where it belongs. “So…how does the Relic work? What can it do?” Jaune asks.

“It can give people the ability to know all, however only one person ever did this and she was bound to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. But she could answer every single question. It can also provide answers and knowledge on a smaller scale; however, the questions must be exact otherwise the poor thing could be confused.” Ozpin explains as he holds the stone in his hand.

“You talk of the Relics as if they are living things.” Blake points out with her arms crossed.

“Well they essentially are, you saw the Relic of Choice, it used the Guardian Knights to protect itself. The Relic of Knowledge is similar but aims to teach people, but of course it must know what you are asking, otherwise your answer may be different.” Ozpin explains, putting the stone back inside of the cane where it lives. Letting the green energy flow through it once more.

“So, what about your cane? We have seen you change its form. It even looked like a Sceptre at one point.” Ren asks him.

“Indeed, I have learned how to use the Relic’s magical properties to change this simple cane into a Triple Changer, similar to Crescent Rose and Milo.” Ozpin explains, looking at Pyrrha’s Xiphos Sword in her hand right now. Ruby looks at her weapon holstered on her belt then back at the Professor. Ozpin stands there, and he looks around at the place. “The Father you saw? My biggest regret is that we did not kill him that day.” He states with a saddened sigh.

“Why?” Pyrrha inquires.

“Because maybe…just maybe it would have stopped everything from happening, and perhaps my many crimes would have been avoided.” He guiltily states as he hangs his head and tightens his grip around his cane. They all stand and look rather concerned by that, he clearly is on their side, but his past is the thing that scares them…because he is poisoned with guilt for what he has done. It does not mean they should not trust him now, but it is still something to be worried about.

“How did you get out of there? From what I saw, the whole town was filled with Fanatics.” Jaune asks, remembering how many robe wearing Fanatics surrounded the Vanguards that day.

“The Father released us, and we immediately went to attack him, right there.” He explains as he points at the steps behind him, walking towards the open doors where the outside world is. The platform looking semi-circle of stone looks like it is meant for a ship to land on, however this is just were the Chapel was lifted up by a Mountain forming from the ground. Tearing it from the rest of the world. The scuffs are still in the ground where the conflict ensued.

“The Father looked like Salem, he had a black stone in his forehead and his eyes were just like hers.” Jaune points out and Oscar looks at Jaune with disbelief.

“Really?” He asks him.

“Yep, same veins and everything. His skin wasn’t pale like hers though.” Jaune states, and Ozpin nods his head.

“That is the Salem Curse.” Ozpin answers and they gasp.

“Salem Curse?” They question at once.

“The Salem Curse is something bound to a stone only found in the Charred Forest, one that feeds negative energy and hate into the user’s soul. Their skin over time turns pale like the Grimm, eyes red and scleras black and hair goes white. However, it is not like they are possessed, they literally become the very thing they sought to destroy. Very similar to the Knights of Grimm.” Ozpin explains to them all as he walks down the steps.

“Salem…Kragen once told us that she was a Silver Eyed Warrior, and that Cynthia Nikos worked with them. The two of them and Kragen worked together to start the Silver Eyed Warriors.” Qrow explains as he walks with them and Oscar gasps as he looks at Qrow.

“Cynthia? The girl I spoke to when Oz took me there?” He asks.

“Yes, she is the same woman. I had to take you there to make sure Cynthia would be motivated to begin the Warriors. She wanted to find you, you know…it was cruel I know, but it had to be done.” Ozpin explains, and Ruby looks at Oscar with sadness.

“Well, I couldn’t betray Ruby…but if it helped create the Silver Eyed Warriors then it was worth it right?” He asks.

“We will see.” Ozpin states as he holds his hands behind his back. “The Father was different to Salem, he was completely indoctrinated by the curse and by Umbra, I believe Salem has her own personal reasons…against me.” He explains, and their eyes widen.

“Why you?” Penny inquires.

“She never seemed to be fond of you.” Oscar remembers, Ruby nodding her head in agreement as they remember back to being held in her custody.

“I have made many mistakes…when I was Vengeance…I played a role in her downfall.” He reveals, and they all stare at him with disbelief. “Something I could have avoided if we just killed the Father right then and there…but we couldn’t. He got away and we had to flee. We went from town to town until we could get to the Dauntless…and we sailed back to Arkhonex to warn them of a declaration of War. Whereas Vyrryk went to protect the Varr Skaal…” He explains to them all, but they all come to the same conclusion.

“So, we’re at a dead end…we don’t know where the next Visionary Book is?” Ruby asks, and he nods his head.

“It appears so, I do not know where Vyrryk could have possibly left one. Even the Relic cannot answer that question, the Books are not linked to it like the rest of the world. They contain personal memories from a dead man in places designed to keep them hidden from its gaze. Meaning it is useless in finding them.” Ozpin explains and they all sigh with annoyance.

“Great…damn it! We need to find Arkhonex if they are gonna survive! We need this cure.” Ruby states with panic in her voice…then luck hits her in a vibrating form. She feels her scroll buzzing away in her pocket, she pulls it out and gasps…it is patchy, but it is still hope. Kassius is calling her, thankfully the C.C.T is still up, and they can use it.

Maybe he could be their hope for finding the next location.

 

Kassius

 

While aboard their Peregrine…or Karadin’s Peregrine technically…Kassius is sat in one of the chairs as Emerald flies the ship. All of them are back in their memorable outfits that they have always worn. Kassius wears his buttoned-up shirt underneath his deep brown trench coat and his stetson sat on the armrest. With his dark blue jeans on as well and his belt of magazines for his firearms, he feels right at home. Consisting of modified bullets gifted to him thanks to Weiss and Winter Schnee as a birthday present. He also has Lash Equinox and Vulcan Nox beside him too.

Stood over from Kassius is Coco. Her clothes consist of a long, cocoa-coloured shirt with a dark brown waist cincher. She wears long, dark brown trousers with ribbons on the left side and a brown belt with bullets.

Above it, she wears another cocoa-coloured belt of bullets with a gold crosshairs buckle. What appears to be a drape of black skirt hangs on her right side. She wears a pair of dark brown, high-heeled leather boots with buckles.

Coco also dons a number of accessories, such a bracelet with black roses as decoration; these are accompanied by black gloves and necklaces. She wears a beret of a darker brown and a pair of black, wire-rimmed aviator sunglasses. She is seen holding a black shoulder bag with gold studs, which is held by a bandolier strap; the bag is her weapon, transforming into an oversized black and gold minigun.

Sat in one of the chairs, pulling up one of her boots is Velvet. Her combat gear is comprised by a short, long-sleeved brown jacket with a golden zipper, brown shorts with golden detail and black leggings. She wears a black, semi-translucent undershirt beneath her jacket, along with golden spaulders and vambraces on both arms, as well as a similar belt, and her heel and toe are likewise protected.

Emerald and Cardin wear the same outfits that they have always worn, Cardin’s is a bit different to how it used to be back at Beacon, with more wear and tear on it and some additions in places. Whereas Emerald is still just as revealing as she has always been. But they all have their weapons back too, Velvet with her camera and box, filled with multiple weapons she can use whenever she needs to.

Kassius holds his scroll up to his ear as Ruby answers his calls. “Kassius! Oh, thank the gods you’re okay.” She sighs with relief, making Kassius chuckle.

“Hey there, Knucklehead.” Kassius responds with a smile, chuckling whenever he hears her voice. “Good to know you’re still breathing. Things are getting pretty scary out here.” Kassius explains.

“What do you mean?” Ruby inquires.

“The White Fang have started a war against the Acolytes and Atlas, flying to Vytal has been harder than we thought.” He explains, Ruby turns her scroll onto speaker mode so then everyone can hear him. Luckily Blake just heard what he said, and she walks over to the speaker.

“Wait…they are fighting the Acolytes?” Blake asks with concern.

“Yeah, looks like Mazen is avoiding every other human…targeting all his efforts against our common enemy.” Kassius tells them. “Hell, he let us go and all the other humans out from the Trafficker’s base when we escaped.” Kassius tells them.

“He seemed like he wanted us wiped off the face of the Earth a few weeks ago.” Ruby scoffs.

“Well it looked like Adam might have rubbed off on him…wouldn’t have thought I’d say that five years ago.” Kassius chuckles as he remembers back when he snapped his horn from his head…the first time they actually met in person. Blake on the other end hangs her head sadly, because she had to deliver the killing blow in the end.

“So…how are things going on your end? We got your message about Coco and Velvet being with you. Did you get Pyrrha’s Circlet?” Ruby inquires softly as she stands there with her scroll.

“Yeah, I’m looking at it right now.” Kassius states as he looks at it on the table. “We found the inscription, we are headed to Vytal, at least that is what we think it meant…damn Arkhoni love their riddles.” Kassius states, then Ozpin turns and walks over to them.

“Vytal?” Ozpin asks as he approaches the scroll that Ruby holds in her hand.

“Oz.” Kassius greets on the other end.

“Kassius.” He replies. “Did you say you were headed to the Island of Vytal?” He asks him.

“Yeah…not too stoked about it, honestly considering what happened there…but if we have to, we will.” Kassius explains with a heavy sigh.

“You could really help us then, because we have hit a dead end.” Ozpin states and Kassius raises a brow as he stands up with his scroll.

“Why? What’s at Vytal?” He asks him.

“I ordered the construction of that Academy to protect what was buried there, it was an ancient Map Room of Remnant. It is out of date, but it could help us figure out how to get up to Arkhonex without being tracked.” Ozpin explains.

“Hold on a second, you know roughly where the city is, don’t you?” Kassius asks him.

“Yes.” Ozpin answers, something they already can guess.

“Then why don’t we all just go there?” Kassius inquires.

“Because the level of Grimm there is suicide to go in like that, however there is a secret tunnel system under water we can take, something the Grimm are unlikely to be inside of because we sealed it off when the attack began.” Ozpin explains, and they hear a sigh from Kragen.

“Killing millions in the process too.” Kragen adds and Ozpin nods his head.

“Regrettable…but now it could be our best chance we have. We can take our ships to each of these tunnels, there were three, but I think one collapsed or got infested recently. If we can locate where the tunnels opened up on the continents, we can use them. It was used for quick trading routes between different continents.” Ozpin explains to them all, and Kassius nods his head.

“So, we get in the Map Room, then what? Do we take a picture?” Kassius asks.

“That may be the easiest method of recording the evidence.” Ozpin replies.

“Alright then, we’ll look for this Map Room. I’m guessing it is underneath the Academy, right?” Kassius inquires.

“Yes, it was meant to be the next Vault. Until that attack hit.” Ozpin answers.

“Okay, I’ll call back if we find anything.” Kassius assures.

“Stay safe, Kassius. We’ll stay up here in the Mountains, see if we can find anything else, could be another Visionary Book around here somewhere.” Ruby tells him, and Kassius nods his head.

“Okay, stay safe knucklehead.” Kassius tells her and she chuckles.

“You too, Kas.” She replies.

They end their call and he shoves his scroll into his Coat Pocket, picking up his stetson with his cybernetic hand and fitting it onto his head as he walks over to the rest of his team. He may not want to be a Team Leader anymore, but it is in his blood…he is a better leader than he realises. “So? Everything good on their end?” Coco curiously asks.

“They’re at a dead end, one we could help sort out for them. Ozpin said there is an Arkhoni Map Room underneath the unfinished Academy. We get inside and use it we could speed up our search for a way into Arkhonex undetected.” Kassius explains to her.

“And that method is?” Cardin curiously inquires.

“According to Oz, there are two long tunnel networks that go underwater that a Peregrine and a Prowler can fit into. They used it for trading and evacuations, except they closed them off when Arkhonex was attacked to prevent them getting infested.” Kassius explains to them, summing up what Ozpin said quite well.

“Gods…” Velvet gasps as she covers her mouth.

“Sounds like the Arkhoni were…morally grey.” Emerald scoffs as she flies through the clouds.

“To put it mildly.” Kassius chuckles, walking over to Coco to speak with her. “Hey, Coco…I have to ask…why did you decide to help me? I know you promised Yang, but you don’t owe me a thing.” Kassius asks her curiously, she looks at him and she takes off her sunglasses to get real with him. She holds them in her hand and she exhales, looking at him.

“You’re a friend, Kassius. I look out for my friends, but yeah that isn’t the only reason.” She states as she walks over to the window and presses her hands against it, gazing out at the expanse of sapphire blue ocean.

“I had a feeling you had your own agenda.” Cardin states.

“It’s not like that, asshole. If I didn’t have my own problems, we would still help you. It’s what friends do.” Coco snarls, glaring right at him and Cardin scoffs.

“I’m sorry, what was that supposed to mean?” Cardin challenges as he walks towards her with anger in his eyes and Coco turns around as well, clenching her hand into a fist.

“It means that we went and helped save Ruby while you and your team were cowering in Vacuo! Did you even know she lost her eye? Was tortured by a psycho?” Coco snarls with anger and Cardin grits his teeth.

“Don’t you dare try to judge me.” Cardin growls as he squares up against her, until Kassius steps between them and shoves them apart.

“Lock it down! Both of you!” Kassius orders. Cardin scoffs, shaking his head as he turns and walks away from Coco, Kassius looks at the Fashionista. “What do you mean?” Kassius asks her and she sighs.

“Have you noticed that two of my team are missing?” Coco inquires, and Kassius nods his head, dreading to know why…hoping they were not killed.

“Yeah I’ve noticed…been meaning to ask.” Kassius answers, and Coco nods her head.

“We got ambushed by Acolytes of Lien, Yatsu and Fox got captured…Velvet and me nearly got killed in the process. End of the day, Merlot is the one that has been taking people…I know he is your dad and has turned against them, but I need to find them. If we find a lead on their location…I’m finding them.” Coco states and Kassius looks at her and nods.

We will find them.” Kassius corrects and she raises a brow.

“No, this is our business, I don’t wanna get friends involved.” She states.

“Friends, look out for each other.” Kassius repeats exactly what she just said, and she sighs with defeat, shaking her head.

“Okay…fine…” She sighs.

The talk ends when Emerald calls to them and gets their attention. “Land-Ho! Looks like Vytal…gods…the state of it.” She gasps as she pilots the Peregrine towards it. Kassius walks over to her and rests his hand on the back of her chair, staring at the destruction of the unfinished colony on the island where the Great War came to a close. Just staring at it makes him uncomfortable…but he has a mission and has never let his feelings get in the way of it.

“Forgot how much I hated this place…” He states, feeling his scars from the Terror Bird Grimm begin to throb slightly at the memory. “C’mon…let’s get this over with.” Kassius says as she begins to land the Peregrine. The thrusters decelerate and the landing gear folds out, wings folding upwards as well as it lands…hidden safely behind the rocks. The landing gear sets onto the beach and the door opens up, all of them walking out and looking around at the destruction which surrounds them.

Kassius steps foot first onto the beach, and as soon as he does it is like a channel of memories shoots into his mind. Seeing this place once all repaired, houses being built around him, the taste of claret in his mouth from the fights he got into with other kids. They all walk forward and into the street, and Kassius stops as he sees phantom children playing past him, something the others don’t see.

All of this is echoing from his own past.

Kassius sighs, and Cardin looks at him as he struggles to walk through the place of which he and his sister were born in. He looks at one of the houses to see the ghostly silhouette of a Nevermore screeching to the sky when they attacked. Only now for that building to be a husk of what it once was.

Cardin stands behind him and looks down at his own reflection in a puddle…seeing another face, and not his own. One that is dark and chilling…guilt filling his mind.

He tenses, and keeps moving.

They all walk up a hill to see the destroyed remnants of the Academy that was under construction when the attack began. The land torn apart, and the scars of war still seen in areas. But the Academy was hardly even formed, only the skeleton of the fifth C.C.T Tower was built and the bones of the buildings. And walking around the area are many florae covered Grimm, ones that have never left since the attack a decade ago. They all gasp when they see them around the area, bones scattered.

“By the gods…” Velvet whispers.

Suddenly a deafening roar echoes across the landscape, and they all look up to the clouds, seeing the huge black wings swinging through and the giant Dragon that attacked Beacon banks around the remains of the C.C.T Tower, decelerating and hovering over the Grimm. Velvet gasps with horror, flashes of terrifying memories hitting her all at once as she stares at the monster before her very eyes.

Then…She rises.

Salem.

She stands up off the large saddle on the neck of the huge dragon and she looks down and stares right into the eyes of Kassius, seeing him and the others. “And so…we meet again.” She greets.

“So…you’re still running the show.” Kassius softly says with an impressed voice.

“How the hell did she survive that eruption?” Coco questions with disbelief, unaware Salem teleported off the Volcanic Chain Isles before they blew to pieces.

Kassius glares at her and he clenches his hand into a fist. “Yeah…I got your number, bitch.” Kassius whispers, and Salem smirks.

“Rise up my children!” Salem calls out to the many Grimm around her.

They all rise from the bones of Vytal and stare straight at the Huntsmen.

“Do not let them find that Map Room.” She demands.

Then the Grimm charge towards them. Kassius sighs with annoyance. “Why can’t anything ever be easy?”