Chapter 1: Birth of a Spider
"Olivia, darling! Did you set the table like I asked you?" Olivia's mother called from the kitchen.
Olivia balked from where she'd been lying on the ground reading her favorite comic. She hadn't yet. "Y-yes, mom!" she lied, hoping her mother wouldn't catch the stammer. She ran across the room to the home's dining area and frantically began pulling out bowls, scattering them on the table close to the four chairs that took up each side of the table. She ripped the silverware drawer open with a clatter, 'I hope she didn't hear that!' and grabbed a fistful of forks, spoons, and knives before placing them with a little more care than she had done for the plates. The excess silverware was unceremoniously tossed back into the drawer as it was slammed shut, the instant before her mother's head popped around the corner.
"What was that sound, darling?" her mother's sweet voice asked, fox ears perked to the side and a slight smirk to her lips. 'You saw nothing!'
"Uh, just double checking that I put the forks back in the right spot," she lied again. By the knowing laugh her mother gave, Olivia didn't think it had worked.
"Well, go ahead and play outside. Your father and brother should be back soon from their little trip, and dinner will be ready in half an hour," her mother made a little shooing motion towards the front door as she said it.
Olivia huffed but did as she was told, 'My comic books are inside, thank you very much'. As her mother's head disappeared back into the kitchen, though, she quickly slipped the comic she had been reading into her hoodie's front pocket. 'Alright it's not my hoodie, but Copper didn't complain that I never gave it back.' Her big brother was nice like that. The black hoodie itself was overly sized on her, Copper was almost seventeen and she was only eleven, 'But it's so comfy!'
The sleeves also hid her faunus trait, black veins that ran from above her wrist to just past her elbow. Not for the first time, Olivia thanked Oum that she could hide hers so easily, her parents and brother were not so lucky. They still weren't sure what kind of faunus she actually was, but as she got older Olivia had started noticing subtle changes around her, nearly imperceptible at first. She could always tell where her brother was during hide and seek, or get the jump on him when he was sneaking up to try and surprise her. Copper kept playing, though, because it made Olivia happy.
Olivia stepped outside and immediately headed for the tree swing a little distance away from the front of the house. Her mother would see the comic book if she stayed too close, and the tree swing was far away and angled well enough that she would be able to hide it. 'I can play outside and read my comic!' Olivia knew that wasn't what her mother wanted, but ever since her brother had declared that he was going to Haven when he turned seventeen, Olivia had been enchanted by the stories. 'My big brother is going to be a huntsman!'
Olivia sat on the swing and idly bent back and forth while holding her comic book. She didn't swing high, that would ruffle the pages, but she made it as convincing as she could all the same. A low cold wind blew across her back, through the trees around her. She shuddered into the hoodie, huddling her arms closer. Their little cottage out on the edge of Mistral was secluded from most of the rest of the city. It sat on a low hill, the forest surrounding it on all sides. Most didn't live out this far because of the Grimm, but her father had gone to Sanctum, and had sent her brother there as well when he was old enough.
'Just two more years!' Olivia hummed happily to herself. Her father had promised that she could go to Sanctum as well as soon as she was old enough. They needed to be able to protect themselves from the Grimm, 'and the humans…' Olivia still didn't understand why the humans hated them so much, maybe she never would. They were all people, weren't they? Olivia went back to reading her comic, the heroes in the stories didn't care if you had an extra set of ears or a tail or black veins on your forearms.
The hairs on the back of her neck stood up, but Olivia pretended like she didn't notice. The area around her was silent. There was no shuffling of leaves or grass, no whisper of clothes rubbing against itself, but she knew what awaited behind her if she turned around. Olivia felt the presence approaching, and quietly rolled up the comic to stick into her hoodie. It was only five feet away now.
Olivia tipped back on the swing, letting herself fall completely backwards to the soft ground beneath and raised her hands, putting on her scariest face, "Raaah!" she yelled up at Copper. Her brother's face twisted in surprise as he stepped back from where he had been trying to sneak up on her.
"I really thought I had you that time!" Copper pretended to glare at her, but was having trouble keeping up the act due to the smile threatening to curl his lips.
Olivia put a hand to her face like the characters in the comics would, looking at Copper through the split between two of her fingers, "Heh heh hehhh, you must learn to suppress your fear if you ever wish to catch me off guard, hero!" Olivia felt another presence out of sight ahead of her as it walked up the path, "Your master approaches…"
Olivia and Copper looked up to see their father carrying the packs that held all the supplies the two had bought in town, "No, it's fine. I'll carry everything myself," his gruff voice huffed, hiking the packs further up his shoulders. Copper gave her a sheepish look, tail going taut, and ran over to intercept, taking one of the packs from their father. Olivia got up from her position on the ground and ran to the front door ahead of them, calling out as she opened it, "They're home!", and holding it for them as they stepped inside the cottage.
"Good timing, dear," her mother poked her head out of the kitchen again as she heard father step inside, "Dinner will be ready in a few minutes, go ahead and leave the packs outside the kitchen." Her father nodded and laid the packs he'd been carrying down next to the kitchen doorway, stepping away to let Copper follow suit.
When Olivia noticed the extra bag he kept with him, sides poking out, she squealed in excitement, "Did you finish your weapon!?"
Copper turned back to her with a prideful grin, "Sure did. Wanna see?"
Olivia's face told him all he needed, as he slung the pack off his shoulder and pulled the strings open. Copper held a hand up as Olivia leaned forward, trying to get a peek. She glared at him for making her wait, but rocked back onto her heels again. Slowly, her brother withdrew a folded mass of bronze steel. Olivia could see the barrel set in the blade, visible in its collapsed form as he held the grip. With a swing of his hand out to his side the grip shifted into a handle position. The blade unfolded from within itself to create a shortsword.
"Lemme try!" Olivia shouted gleefully.
She struggled against Copper's hand as he held her back, "Woah there! This thing is dangerous, sis!" Olivia gave up and pouted an arms length away from the weapon. Problem was, it was his arm's length, which meant it was still well out of her reach.
"Watch this," Copper's eyes lit up as the weapon did, electricity coursing around the edges of its double-sided blade.
Olivia's eyes grew wide as she looked at it, the sparks of light reflected in her eyes, "Ooooooh," she whispered in appreciation, "You'll beat up so many bad guys with that."
Copper stood up straighter as he accepted the admiration, then retracted the weapon back into its smaller form and put it back in the pack, "No playing with it, okay?"
"Not even for a minute?" Olivia sulked, eyes locked on the pack.
"Only if I'm there. I'm sure dad will let you shoot at some targets out back tomorrow if you behave," Copper smirked and ruffled her hair. Olivia cheered up at the idea, she'd never shot a gun before.
"Dinner's ready!" their mother's call grabbed both their attention as she walked out of the kitchen, a steaming pot in her hands that she set down on the table. She swept back into the kitchen then returned a moment later with a large bowl filled with bread for them to pass around. Their father held out her mom's chair for her, then scooted it in while Copper and Olivia took their usual places.
They all waited for her father to sit down. He picked up the ladle and spooned out a healthy amount for each of them in turn, starting with her mother, Copper, Olivia, and finally himself. They all dug in, her mother's cooking was fantastic, as always.
Olivia was staring over at her brother's pack between bites, thinking about the weapon concealed inside, when she froze. Her father noticed her expression at first, "Are you okay, sweetheart?" He gave her a troubled frown. Olivia's eyes whipped up towards the side of the house, eyes locked on to something that wasn't visible from where they were sitting.
"There are people outside… I can feel them," Olivia whispered. Her father's face hardened as he looked at the wall then towards the door. He quickly moved over to it. His chair fell back against the floor with a clatter as he locked the door and backed up a few feet to wait afterwards.
Her mother's ears swivelled on her head, seeming to pick up sounds outside now that those inside had all gone silent. She held her hand up so that father could see, 'three'. Copper stood quietly and moved over to his pack, pulling out his weapon with only the slight whisper of the strings coming undone. Copper stepped up ten feet from the front door and raised his gun, waiting to see what would happen.
The voices could now be clearly heard outside the front door. Her father stood resolute and raised his voice to be heard outside, "Leave, and we can avoid any conflict!"
"Ah, but what if we want conflict?" a snarky man's voice replied after a moment. There was a metallic crashing sound against the outside of the door and Olivia watched as the door knob clattered to the floor on their side. The door slammed open, plowing into their father's chest as he moved to hold it shut. He stumbled back a pace and it swung wide, revealing the three bandit thugs outside.
Olivia screamed as two of the bandits and her brother opened fire at the same time. Blood splattered across the room as holes drilled through his chest. Olivia's eyes brimmed with tears as she was forced under the table by her mother. She was frantically trying to get Olivia out of the way of the bullets. Father roared in outrage, charging straight out the door into the group of bandits.
"You're going to be okay, Olivia. Just stay here. Stay put," her mother choked back tears, pushing her down onto the floor. The table cloth draped low over the edge of the table, obscuring most of the room from her eyes, and her from it, but she could still see Copper. Her brother's face turned towards her as their mother ran outside. He coughed up blood, clutching at his chest in a futile effort to stem the bleeding. 'He's going to be alright… Big brother is so strong…' Copper smiled at her, 'See... I knew you'd be okay.'
She was still telling herself that as his eyes went cold and still.
The sounds of fighting outside grew silent. 'Mom and Dad took care of them, Copper. Now they'll take care of you.' She was about to pull herself out from under the table when she felt the two presences that remained standing outside. 'That's… that's not Mom and Dad.' Olivia trembled, sitting back in place and waiting to see who would walk through the door.
"Damn bitch got Terrance," a deep voice she didn't recognize spoke, heavy boots stepping in through the front door. She couldn't see much more than the feet of the two men that walked into the house.
"His fault for not hearing her scream as she ran up behind him. Bastard was always dense as a rock," the second man replied.
The booted foot kicked into Copper's side, "Brat got me good with that first shot." Olivia heard the sound of his teeth sucking in before a bullet was dropped onto the floorboards. She whimpered and pulled her knees up against her chest. 'What do I do?", she barely contained a choked sob, instead stuffing her face between her knees to try and suppress it. Olivia rocked back and forth, finding some small comfort in the motion.
"Hey, look at the table."
"What about it?"
"How many people did we kill, dumbass?"
The men's footsteps slowed. Olivia could feel them searching the room for the fourth person. 'Shhh, shhh, shhh,' she tried to tell herself as she rocked. The footsteps drew closer, and with a sudden scraping of wood followed by a crash of the bowls that had been on top of it, the table was thrown on to its side, revealing Olivia as she held her knees against herself in a death grip.
Wide eyes stared up into the man's. Olivia's eyes were blurred from the tears, she couldn't tell what his expression was. She felt him step closer. Panic raced through Olivia as she realized she was about to die. This was the end. He would kill her like the rest of her family. 'I-I don't wanna die!" Another step. A hand reaching down for her. His voice rumbled as he started to speak.
Olivia felt a change. It was indescribable, like she had suddenly sprouted more arms out of her back. Longer arms. Those arms shot forward into the man. Blood splashed down across Olivia as her eyes cleared. A hole had been ripped through the man's chest, bones and organs exposed as he stared at her wide eyed. His body grew slack. Olivia used these new… whatever they were, and hurled his body across the room into the wall. He slammed into it, then slid to the ground, already dead.
"Shit! Shit! What the fuck!?" the second man yelled. He fumbled at his waist and pulled his gun out, aiming it at Olivia.
Olivia screamed and threw her hands up in front of herself, 'No! Not like this!" The gun fired, six shots rang out through the air, deafening Olivia. Her breath hitched in her throat, 'What?' Olivia opened her eyes again, and saw the six rounds on the floor in front of her. She looked up to see the man's eyes wide, staring between Olivia and the gun he held. Another one of her invisible hands shot out at him, and as it pierced his chest, she could see it this time. The moment it made contact, it shimmered briefly in the air, '...Spider legs?'
"N-no, please," the man's voice was quiet and hoarse, his hand raised towards her, his eyes pleading.
Olivia stood on shaking legs and stepped closer, "You… you…" her anger brimmed to the boiling point. Hands now trembling in fury instead of fear. The man continued trying to beg.
Olivia turned away and bent over Copper, closing his eyes in a silent moment that was being disturbed by the man's pleading behind her. She reached across Copper and picked up his weapon, still in gun form, 'I'll make my first time count, okay?'
She turned back around, looking at the man that was still held up by her invisible appendage. Blood leaked from his body on to it, revealing part of its shape as his bloody hands held on to it. Olivia wiped away the tears in her eyes as she raised the gun. Her arms swayed as she aimed it, but she eventually got it on target.
Olivia pulled the trigger… and a hole appeared through the man's skull. Olivia dropped to her knees as she vomited at the sight and withdrew her appendage. It squelched out as the man was dropped to the floor in front of her. She felt the invisible limb, felt them with her extra sense. The four of them started from her lower back, ten feet long, with three joints that let her curl them around her body in various ways. 'They really are like spider legs,' she thought to herself.
A sudden clapping sound caught her attention, her eyes swivelling up as a black and red clad figure stepped into the doorway. The woman wore a white mask that looked like a Grimm's, and had one hand on a dangerous looking weapon sheathed at her side.
"Well done, child. You have claimed your revenge," the woman said it lightly.
"Who are you!?" Olivia shouted uncertainly. Her body was limp after the entire ordeal. She could not bring herself to stand again so soon.
"Your savior," Olivia felt the woman smirk beneath her mask. The tone was clear, even to her.
"Come on, kid. You can't survive all the way out here on your own," the woman started walking closer to Olivia, "You're going to need a new mom-"
The woman's words were cut short with a gasp as two of Olivia's appendages struck, slamming into the woman's chest and throwing her back out the door. She used her two others to support herself back on to her feet, walking shakily after the woman. "I have a mother!" Olivia screamed at her.
She froze as her eyes fell on her mother, blood pooled out from her body that lay stretched out across the ground. Her father's body right next to her, a dagger sticking out of his back. Olivia could see her mom's face, the scream that was still there, fixed and unmoving.
A cough brought her eyes back to the woman that was still standing, 'Why did they not go through you like the other two?' she thought it at first, then decided to ask.
"Why didn't that kill you?"
The woman smirked, "Because I have aura, unlike them. You do too, now. Since you've unlocked your Semblance."
Olivia frowned, there were words in there that she just didn't recognize, 'Aura, semblance?'
"Curious?" the woman's smile deepened, "If you come with me, I'll tell you everything you want to know. You can become strong, unlike the rest of your worthless family."
Olivia's eyes glared at the woman, "My family is strong!", but a tiny voice in the back of her mind betrayed her, 'was…' She held back her tears through sheer determination.
The woman shook her head, "No. The weak die, and the strong survive. You are strong."
Olivia had just about as much of this as she could take. She used the two appendages supporting her to launch herself forward at the woman. Olivia wanted her to shut up, to stop talking bad about her family, "What do you know!?" she screamed in hatred. The other two invisible limbs streaked through the air at the woman.
The woman's eyes narrowed, her katana finally pulled free of its sheath. In a flash of red, she brought it up in front of herself and blocked one of the appendages, 'the blood!', before the second slammed into her again, knocking her back a few steps. Olivia could see a brief flicker over the woman's chest where her appendage had hit her, stopping mere inches away.
"Fine!" the woman growled suddenly. She backed up a few more steps, waiting to see if Olivia would follow her. She didn't, Olivia just wanted the woman to leave, to stop insulting her family. The woman slashed her sword through the air before resheathing it. Olivia's eyes stared in disbelief as a red hole appeared in the air.
"Don't say I never tried to help you," the woman muttered, then vanished as she stepped through the portal. It closed behind her.
Olivia collapsed to her knees, feeling the invisible appendages disappearing as the tension left her body. She finally allowed the tears to pour out, a flood of anguish and sorrow that threatened to consume her completely. She stayed there for hours, holding herself as she cried, until the night came, along with a chill that she already felt.
Olivia was all alone in the world.
Chapter 2: Thick as Thieves
Olivia crouched in an alleyway, watching her quarry as it travelled along the sidewalk ahead. Olivia’s food had run out a week ago, the small amount of money she had brought, four days ago. Now all she had were the clothes on her back, the weapon in her hands, and the strange invisible limbs that she could make appear and do things when she wanted them to.
The first day in Mistral, Olivia had taken the time to see what they looked like as well as she could. She had bought paint to splash on them while they were out. They were definitely spider legs, four of them in all. The ends came to a very sharp point, the inside edge had barbs that she could hook to things, and they were incredibly strong. Olivia had used them, practicing as best she could to learn this new power. Climbing a tree had been literal child’s play. It hadn’t tired her out in the slightest. She had panicked when she realized they would be exposed for anyone to see now because of the paint, but the instant she retracted them, the paint vanished with them.
Olivia had used them to scale buildings around town at night. There were often doors up top, and even if they were locked, she could still get inside by forcing her way through without drawing too much attention. Olivia didn’t steal, not at first, but as the hunger set in she had no choice. Olivia was hungrier than she’d ever been in her life, and the person ahead of her had just left the market, carrying an entire bushel of apples under one arm.
The woman was oblivious to Olivia’s presence. She continued walking down the street, idly looking left and ride as she winded down the road leading from the market back down into the residential district. Olivia felt a little guilt wrench at her chest, but it was overstepped by the hunger that ate at her stomach. She crept out of the alleyway, and approached the woman from behind.
“Stop right there! Don’t turn around!” Olivia whispered, holding her brother’s weapon up, in gun form at the lady’s back. She had no intention of actually using it. People were just scared of guns, and not little girls. It was the only way these little muggings would work.
The woman froze in place, the one hand not holding the bag raised in the air, “Please, don’t hurt me. I-I don’t have much money,” she stammered at the end.
“I just want the food. Leave it and go home,” Olivia whispered again. She hoped it would help disguise her voice so that the grown up wouldn’t know they were being held up by an eleven year old.
Still, Olivia had to yell “Don’t turn around!” as the woman’s head started to tilt her direction. At the squeak of her voice, though, she did turn around fully. Her eyes widened in surprise as she took in the bedraggled child, with a dirty oversized black hoodie and some kind of gun pointed directly at her.
“H-hey, listen kid. Are you okay? Do you need to use a phone? We can call your par-”
Olivia swung one of her extra legs, catching the woman against the chest with the blunt side, knocking her down with a sudden force she wasn’t expecting. The air from her lungs was huffed out as she went sliding across the ground. Olivia sprinted forward and grabbed the bag, taking a moment to put some of the apples back in that had spilled out. The woman was getting back on her feet, fear in her eyes. She couldn’t breath yet to scream.
Olivia sprinted back into the alley, out of the woman’s sight, then used her extra appendages to pull herself up the side of the building. She had just managed to get over the wall when the woman burst around the corner. She ran down the alleyway to the next street, thinking that was where Olivia had gone. She watched the woman leave and sat down with a sigh, allowing her ‘ semblance ’ to fade away. The word was still weird, but she had followed some boys to the arcade after they left Sanctum Academy and asked them if they knew what it was. They had told her what ‘ aura ’ was as well. ‘ None of it makes sense to me. ’ The boys hadn’t been very good sources for the information.
Olivia ate a few apples, and decided where to sleep for the night.
There were some abandoned buildings in the warehouse district. Olivia started there, she’d already gone into the area many times. With the rolling hills and twisting streets, though, she wasn’t always able to find her way back to places she’d already been. So, Olivia made it a habit of sleeping somewhere new each night. ‘ They can’t track me down if I’m never in the same place, right? ’ That was the best reasoning she could give herself. All the buildings were tall , and looked so much alike. It was easy to forget where to go when everywhere looked the same as where she’d already been.
Olivia spotted a decently sized building. There were no lights on, and the street was abandoned at this time of the night. Bag of apples in hand, she crossed the street to the building. It was a warehouse, like most of the rest. One small door at the front of the building was only a few feet away from one massive door that could be slid open to let cargo containers inside. Olivia pressed her ear to the smaller door, listening intently. Silence. Her other sense wasn’t picking up on anything either.
With one loud clang of metal that echoed down the street, Olivia stabbed a leg through where the door knob had been, and swung it open. There were cargo containers in here. She ignored the snowflake symbols on the sides and found her way to a nice, secluded corner. After shuffling a few boxes around, she had made herself a hollow to lie down in. Olivia pulled her hood up and used her hand as a pillow while she tried to fall asleep.
It was nearly half an hour later when she awoke with a start. There were people here. She could sense them, in the warehouse with her. ‘ Okay, okay, maybe I set off an alarm of something. ’ Olivia moved into a crouch and left the bag of apples lying on the ground. She didn’t want to make any noise right now. Her faunus eyes could see easily enough in the warehouse despite the lack of lights or windows to let moonlight in. It was cold and grey. The world felt lifeless without light.
A figure stepped around one of the containers. She got a glimpse of white over black, and a grimm mask before she dropped back down to hide. ‘ It’s her! ’ Olivia’s initial shock and panic ebbed away after a few seconds, though. It wasn’t her. Those were White Fang masks.
“I’m just saying, it’s weird, okay? I’m telling you the door was already broken open,” a man’s voice reached her. He sounded young, maybe in his late teens. ‘ What are they doing here? ’
“You sure Carnel didn’t already go through that way?” another answered, both men.
“She said she was going around back. Unless her sense of direction is worse than mine, I don’t think so, Crim. And, the way it was opened. It was like someone shoved their arm straight through it,” the younger of the two replied.
Crim sighed, “Well, maybe there’s another faunus in here with a grudge against the SDC, Reo.”
“Hey, if that’s the case, I’ll be the first to try and get them on our side. That steel looked like someone stabbed a pencil through a piece of paper,” Reo said, a tinge of admiration in his voice.
‘ What should I do? ’ It sounded like these White Fang had another member somewhere around. ‘ They’re probably planning on stealing from the place. ’ Olivia paled from her hidden spot behind the boxes. You don’t mess with the SDC. She’d seen scars from the brands used on faunus. ‘ On people! ’ It wasn’t pretty. Olivia had no intentions in getting wrapped up in all that danger. She stepped back, content to just hide and wait for them to leave.
Olivia’s foot hit the bag of apples behind her, toppling it over.
She sensed both of them stop, listening intently from only twenty feet away. ‘ Maybe neither of them has extra ears? ’ Olivia’s breath stilled completely. She knew from experience how good someone’s hearing was if they had four ears.
“Who’s there?” one of the men asked, the older one called Crim, she thought. His presence drew closer. Olivia heard the whisper of cloth and a dry metal on metal sound. He had pulled his weapon out.
“Speak up! If you come out now, we can just talk. Don’t make us find you,” Reo threatened. Olivia couldn’t think straight. Her entire mind was in a state of panic, ‘ What do I do!? ’
The sound of a gun being cocked answered the question for her.
“Don’t shoot, please!” her voice squeaked out from behind the boxes. The footsteps of both men stopped in their approach.
“Show yourself!” Crim demanded.
Small eleven year old hands were the first things to appear over the top of the box, then the rest of her as she stepped out from behind the crates, “Please, I didn’t know this place belonged to the SDC. I just needed a place to sleep.
“ You’re the one that broke the door open?” Reo asked incredulously, his eyes darting around, “No way, who’s with you?”
“It’s just me,” Olivia squeaked again.
“You’re a faunus, right kid?” Crim asked, putting his weapon away as he raised his hands in a calming gesture and walked forward. Olivia nodded hesitantly and pulled back the sleeves of her hoodie enough to show the black veins running up her arm.
“Hey, I know another spider faunus,” Crim said when he saw her veins, “You’ve got a good sense of when people are around, right?”
Olivia nodded again, curious but still all around scared of the situation.
“It’s a sixth sense, vibrations in the air. She told me about it over drinks one time. It’s a really useful talent in our line of work. What do ya say, kid? Wanna come with us? Learn how to help fight against the humans?”
Olivia’s eyes went wide and she backed up half a step, “I-I um, no thank you.”
“It’s alright to be scared, but if you want to live a happy life, then you gotta help in the fight. The humans won’t leave you in peace, so why should you do the same for them?”
“One minute, Reo.”
“No, but Crim!”
“What!?” Crim turned on him with a shout, frustrated by his interruptions.
“If she was the one that opened that door… then where’s Carnel ?” there was a hint of worry in Reo’s voice, and Crim seemed to pick up on it as he drew his weapon again.
Crim turned back to Olivia for a moment, “Kid, do you feel her anywhere nearby?”
Olivia closed her eyes and let her sense stretch out across the surrounding area, focusing as she did. Her eyes shot open and she pointed towards the back of the building, “There’s six people out back.”
Reo and Crim both gave each other a worried look and moved the way she had pointed, back behind a stack of containers to the door on the other side. Crim did have an extra set of ears, and pressed the side of his head up against the door. He turned back with a grimace, “They’re about to come in. Run back to the front and get out of here, kid.” Sure enough, as he finished speaking there was a rattling sound. Keys being searched through to find the correct one for the door between them and the humans. Olivia didn’t wait another second. She took off across the warehouse floor, around stacks of containers back to the front door.
Olivia’s feet ground to a halt as she felt more people ahead of her. She threw herself behind a stack of crates as they neared the door. ‘ Three of them, ’ she thought. The sound of gunfire rattled out from across the warehouse. The back door had finally been opened. There was a muffled curse, and the door closest to her was slammed open, three SDC guards slowly walked in, keeping an eye on their surroundings. ‘ I can just let them pass. They won’t see me here. ’ But then… ‘ They’ll catch those other two from behind. ’ Crim at least had been nice, had seemed concerned for her. Memories of the people that had been branded flashed through her mind. A feeling of determination overcame her desire to run, to escape.
Olivia’s semblance sprouted from her back as she prepared herself. The invisible appendages rose up above the crates, she could feel their exact positions, as well as those of the three closing in on her position. ‘ I.. I’ve gotta do this fast! ’ The gun shots from the back were beginning to die down, as the first two guards crossed in front of her. Olivia launched herself with her fourth appendage, closing the distance from her hiding place in a matter of seconds. The other three were poised to strike, to take out the guards the instant she was within range.
There was a startled cry from the one in the back, the only one to see her immediately after she burst from cover. The other two reacted quickly, turning their guns in Olivia’s direction. The one in the lead was closest, and he paid dearly for it as Olivia’s leg slammed into his chest. There was a cracking sound as a shimmer of color rippled across his body, and a muffled explosion of air out of his lungs. He was thrown back into the container behind him with a metallic thud that left a dent before he slumped to the ground.
The second man got a couple shots off, but they bounced harmlessly off her aura. The second leg swiped into him from the side, knocking him back towards the door they had entered through. His gun went flying in the air above him, completely forgotten as he hit the floor in an uncontrolled roll and grabbed at his chest, groaning in pain from the devastating blow.
The third, a woman, started to empty her magazine at Olivia. Her appendages swivelled up, protecting her aura and body from the bullets that pinged off them harmlessly. With another burst of speed, she flung herself at the woman, both legs that were blocking slammed forward like a wall. She let out a strangled cry and flew back into the second man, rolling into him in a tangle of limbs. Olivia took a moment to smash their weapons before walking to the door.
“You won’t get away with this, kid,” the woman gasped, rolling on to her side to try and get a good look at Olivia. Her hood was still up from earlier, and she made sure to keep her face averted.
“I-I didn’t want to,” Olivia whispered.
“You still did it , and that’s all that matters to the law.”
Olivia whimpered. Her hood hadn’t been pulled up when she first entered. ‘ I hope they don’t have cameras… ’
It seemed like she didn’t need to worry about whether the place had cameras or not. Olivia was three blocks away when she heard, and felt , the earth shattering explosion. An enormous sparking fireball that arced into the sky from where the warehouse had been, followed by a thick cloud of black smoke. ‘ I hope they got out okay… ’ Olivia didn’t just mean the faunus. She hardly liked the idea that she had helped someone commit murder...
Olivia decided against sleeping in the warehouse district from then on.
The line at the store was long, and Olivia was impatient. She had managed to score some cash the night before off a fat human that had probably never been threatened in his life. A little girl with a gun pointed at him and he’d turned into a blubbering mess. Olivia had almost felt sorry for him. Almost. There was still her own empty stomach to take into consideration, and compared to his own rotund shape, she could deal with a tiny bit of guilt weighing her down.
Olivia had thought this line would go quick, but the human at the counter was having trouble finding his lien. ‘ Okay so maybe I should have waited until after he left. ’ It had been so inviting, though. So easy. His wallet had been practically popping out of his pocket, begging to be swiped by any poor orphan girl that crossed his path. The weight of it in her hoodie pocket was a welcome one. ‘ There might be even more in here than the fat man’s. ’ The man eventually gave up and left deeper into the store to try and find his wallet. ‘ Finally. Honestly, I’m hungry enough right now that I would have bought your stuff for you just to get out of here faster. And kept the change for myself, of course. ’
A calendar posted up next to the cashier caught her eye as she moved forward a few feet with the rest of the queue. Olivia wasn’t really interested in what day of the year it was. They all blended together when you were struggling to live on the streets. What did interested her was how much time had passed since she started all this, though, ‘ Oh, I’m twelve now. ’
The thought had no real substance to it. Who would she even celebrate a birthday with? What was so remarkable about them in the first place? Olivia tried to think back to a year before, about what she would have been excited about back then. She came up dry. ‘ A full belly is as exciting as it gets. ’
Olivia’s hand basket was filled with premade sandwiches in durable plastic wrappers. At times like this she would buy in bulk, enough to last a week at least, then hoard them away in an abandoned house she had stumbled upon. The place wasn’t much, but it had a bed, moldy as it was. She’d also managed to get the refrigerator running, in a way. One stolen ice dust crystal in the bottom drawer put out enough cool air that her food wouldn’t go bad for a while.
The man from earlier’s voice cut through her daydreaming, “Thought you could get away with it, did you!?” Olivia turned in alarm, already preparing to defend herself, but it wasn’t her that was getting yelled at. The man was standing in front of a couple other kids, about Olivia’s age. They looked like they’d been living rough. The girl’s orange hair was sticking out in places, her clothes an absolute mess. The boy had black hair with a little stripe of pink in it, and was standing in front of the girl defensively.
“We didn’t take your money,” the boy said, trying to draw himself up to an imposing height that was simply impossible at his age.
“Right, two gutter rats just happen to be waving around a fistful of bills after my wallet goes missing. What’d you do? Ditch it and just take the money?” the man seethed in rage, staring down at them with his hands on his hips. Other people were being drawn in to the scene, watching from the sidelines as they whispered to those nearest them.
“ Oh how awful, who let those kids in? ”
“ Someone should call security. I don’t want my purse getting stolen. ”
The two kids were looking around at the assembled crowd in fear. Their shoulders hunched, looking like they wanted to run but had no means of escaping. The boy spoke up again, “N-no! We earned this money fair and square! I’m telling you, we didn’t steal it!”
The man scoffed, “Earned it? At what, the ripe old age of ten? Just give it back and I’ll forget this ever happened.” The whispering of the crowd increased as the security guard finally appeared through the massive throng.
“Alright, what’s goin’ on here?” he leveled an eye at the man, then at the children, who balked under his gaze. The girl stepped back into the display behind her, rattling it in place but not knocking it over.
To his credit, the boy faltered only a little, keeping his eyes locked with the security guard as he spoke, “This man is accusing us of stealing from him. We did not. This is our money.”
“Said they earned it. Couple of children. Do you believe that!?”
The security guard’s gaze swept back and forth between the three of them before he sighed, “Look kids, just give him his money back. I don’t know if you’re from around these parts, but theft is kinda frowned upon here. I’ll overlook this, but you gotta give him his money. Now.” The last word was demanding. An adult that knows full well he’s talking to children and wants to make his authority known. Olivia’s hackles raised. She’d heard too many adults try to use that voice when she was mugging them. They thought they held power over her life, just because they were older.
To her surprise, the girl stepped up past the boy, despite his protests, and held out a wad of lien that made Olivia whistle. ‘ There’s a lot in this wallet, but that much? Not a chance. ’ The man also seemed to realize it as he looked at the tight wad of lien the girl held out. A flicker of greed behind his eyes betrayed his thoughts though, as he reached out and pried it from the girl’s fingers. She stared at the floor as it happened, a few tears already starting to stream down her face.
The man stood up straight and headed for the exit.
Olivia dropped her basket full of sandwiches and followed, hunger forgotten.
She slipped back behind a group of people when the man’s eyes darted back. He stepped out of the store and turned right. Olivia kept up with the group that was also leaving, then shot past them as they started to falter. ‘ You are not getting away. ’ The man’s back was all she saw as he turned into the alleyway between the store and another building. Olivia ran to catch up then peeked into the alley. The man had stopped to count the lien in his hand. She took one final look around and nodded. No one should hear what happened next.
Olivia crept up behind him and let her invisible appendages unfurl around her. She winced as her foot kicked a can across the ground. She’d been too focused on the man. He flinched and spun around, holding the lien to his chest, then breathed out a sigh, “What do you want, kid?”
A sweet smile played across Olivia’s lips as she looked at him, eyes beaming. She’d put on this act plenty of times in the past, “I just had a question~”
The man frowned and shrugged, “Go on.”
“Did you want the lien back that I stole, too?”
The look of anger and confusion that began to make its way on to the man’s face was cut unceremoniously short as one of her limbs collided with his chest. He was lifted off his feet backwards and pinned against the wall, the limb grinding against his throat to keep him from screaming for help.
Olivia bent down and picked up the wad of lien he had dropped, stuffing it in her hoodie pocket next to his wallet, “Now, the next time you think about shaking down some children, I want you to remember this. Remember how you were pinned against a wall. Defenseless. At the mercy of a child that could rip you limb from limb if she chose. Really think about that.” Olivia ended it with another concussive blow to the man’s head with one of her other appendages. His eyes rolled up into the back of his head, and she let him slump to the ground in a heap
When Olivia turned the corner, she saw the kids outside the front of the store. The boy was standing behind the girl, rubbing her shoulders as she sat on the edge of the sidewalk, bawling into her hands. Olivia quietly walked up in front of them. The boy noticed her immediately, uncertainty on his face.
Olivia didn’t focus on him, though, and bent her head down to look at the orange haired girl, “Hey, buck up kiddo. I heard some good samaritan taught that punk a lesson for you.” As the girl’s tear streaked eyes looked up at her, she punctuated her words by pulling the wad of lien out of her hoodie pocket, holding it out to the girl.
The girl’s hands hesitated, but when Olivia simply pressed it into her palm, she gave one final sob and threw her arms around Olivia. She looked over the girl’s shoulder as she picked her up and started rocking her back and forth through the air. The boy just smiled and nodded his head in thanks before he spoke.
“My name is Ren, and that girl holding you in a death grip is Nora. Nice to meet you…?”
“Olivia!” she choked out. The girl really was squeezing hard. ‘Nora’ dropped her the next moment, though. Olivia patted Nora’s shoulder comfortingly, a realization flashing through her mind.
“So... if you guys go back in now, I doubt they’re going to let you buy anything. Want me to get your stuff for you?”
The two shared a look. Ren turned back to her first, “We would hate to impose.”
“Nah, no problem. Take it as thanks for giving me an excuse to beat on that guy,” Olivia held up her hands as if to stop their protests, “So, watcha want?”
“If you’re sure…” Ren began.
It opened the floodgates next to him that was Nora. The girl listed off a rapid fire series of foods and drinks. Olivia couldn’t help but noticed she mentioned ‘pancakes’ about six times.
“Noraaaa,” Ren said quietly. The girl hushed up and smiled, stepping back next to Ren who shook his head, “Just something for the road. We’re headed to a small town outside Mistral tomorrow.”
Olivia nodded and went back into the store. She bought her sandwiches and about a weeks worth of food that she thought would last on the road. Olivia realized as she placed the mountain of food down on the counter that it would be tough for them to travel with it all. She excused herself and ran to grab a backpack for them. It left her with only a handful of lien, but Olivia didn’t care. After a year worth of only looking out for herself, there was a lightness to her step, and a smile on her face for the good deed she was doing. ‘ Pity I can’t afford to get used to this. ’
The two were still waiting outside a little way off. Olivia proudly handed the bag to Nora, “There’s pancake mix in there too, along with a heating pad that’s powered by fire dust. You’ll be able to make them anywhere, as long as you have water with you.”
Both of their faces were locked in shock as they opened the bag and gazed at the horde of food and items Olivia had bought them. When those eyes turned up to her, she just shrugged, “You said you guys were leaving tomorrow?”
“Y-yeah,” Ren replied. Olivia could hear his voice trying not to choke up.
“Well then, why don’t you stay at my place tonight? It’s not much, but nobody goes there, so you don’t have to worry about people. You’ll at least be better rested for your trip tomorrow.”
Even Nora was looking like this was all too much to ask of her. As she opened her mouth to protest, Olivia just grabbed her hand and dragged her along behind, setting off across the city to the residential district. They had no choice but to follow.
“Alright, so there’s the bathroom. There’s the living room, the couch is actually pretty comfy. There’s the kitchen, you should put your pack in the fridge. It’s got ice dust in the bottom that keeps it all cool. Aaaand there’s my bedroom,” Olivia gave them the grand tour of her little shack. Most of the places she listed were little more than areas with old stuff in them.
“Thank you, Olivia,” Ren stated.
“Yeah, thank youuuu~!” Nora pulled her into the second hug of the day. They both sounded genuinely appreciative, and Olivia couldn’t help but smile back at them. The little group made their way to the couch after they dropped their food off in the fridge. Olivia snagged out three of the sandwiches she had bought and handed them out. The three of them plopped down on the couch and dug in. Olivia was quickly reminded of just how hungry she had been before the day’s events had transpired, and ate with abandon.
Olivia felt the presence of three people outside her door before there was a knock on it. Her mind flashed to a familiar scene, blood, and cold dead eyes. It was all she ever dreamed about. Olivia turned a smile to Ren and Nora, trying to sooth their frightened expressions, and excused herself to go see who it was. As she approached the door, her semblance activated. Olivia brought two legs in front of her, and left the other two poised over her shoulders. The first set ready to defend, the other two…
There was a knock on the door again before she reached it, “Who’s there?”
“Just some friendly neighborhood faunus hoping for a place to crash for the night. We saw you three sneaking into this place with that heavy pack around your shoulders. Whaddya say, feel like sharing?” the voice was low and nasally. Olivia didn’t recognize it in the slightest.
“Sorry, only three allowed. You can leave on your own two feet, or in a casket, your choice,” Olivia threatened back. She wasn’t about to let her good for the day get ripped out from under her feet on the home stretch.
“Ahhh, come on. Is that any way to treat a few friends?” the second voice was deeper, someone larger in size.
“I already have enough friends, which is exactly zero. Just the way I like it.”
There was a much heavier pounding on the door, and Olivia’s patience snapped. She flung the door open, the big brute in front of it looked shocked at first, fist still raised to pound on the door. That quickly turned to pain as he screamed. Olivia pierced clean through his shoulder, shoving him back in the same motion so that she could step outside and close the door behind her. She already felt Ren and Nora running in her direction, desperately wanting to help. Olivia didn’t need it. Not for this trash. The end of one appendage curled around the door knob, holding it in place to keep her hands free as Ren tried to pull it open.
The other two thugs were staring wide eyed at the hole through their friend’s body. Olivia decided to drive the point home, and lifted him off the ground by it. Blood ran down the appendage, revealing it, if they had eyes for anything other than the man screaming in agony.
“Now. As I said. On your feet. Or in a casket . Your choice,” Olivia let all of her frustration seep into her voice. The two on their feet looked at each other, looked at their friend, and fled. Olivia laughed over his pain-filled groans.
“Some friends you’ve got. Didn’t even stick around to carry you home,” Olivia mocked. The man could only whimper in response. ‘ Pathetic. ’ Olivia pulled him back towards herself, then hurled him down the street. The man rolled across the ground a few times, crying out in pain as he did, before getting up with one last look back at her. Olivia narrowed her eyes.
He ran, literal tail tucked between his legs.
Olivia let out a long sigh. The two were still banging against the door behind her, trying to get out to help her. Olivia gave out a light chuckle, “Guy’s, I’m fine,” and let her semblance disappear. The door burst open and their eyes frantically swept the street in front of her. Olivia raised her hands in a ‘what can you do’ motion, topping it off with a shrug.
“What the… we thought you were in trouble for sure!” Nora shouted in disbelief, still looking past her to try and find the three thugs that had disturbed their peace.
“Nothing I couldn’t handle. Let’s go back inside, eh?” Olivia steered them back into the decrepit house and pushed the door closed again, locking it.
Ren seemed more doubtful now, his eyes looking closely at Olivia, but she simply smiled in return and sat back down on the couch, patting it invitingly, “So, tell me. How are two kids hoping to travel outside the cities when they’re infested with Grimm?”
Nora sat down excitedly, ready to share. Ren sat down more slowly, but when it appeared that Olivia wasn’t any danger to them, let the tension leave his body. “Oh, can I tell her Ren? Can I? Can I?”
“Ren has a superpower!” Nora exclaimed, head nodding up and down as if Olivia was going to proclaim it nonsense at any moment. Instead, she spared Ren an eye as he closed his eyes a fraction of an inch.
“It’s called a semblance, Nora.”
“But ‘ superpower ’ sounds so much cooler!”
“And what ‘superpower’ would make you comfortable enough walking between cities?” Olivia continued to press for information. She wasn’t planning anything. She was just genuinely curious.
“I can hide us from the Grimm,” Ren replied. As he said it, he reached a hand out to Olivia. She hesitated a moment, then touch hers to it. Immediately, an intense sense of calm overrode every other emotion in her body. The tension left her shoulders, and she slumped down further into the couch cushions.
“Oh, yeah. That’s the good stuff,” Olivia mumbled. The feeling slowly ebbed away as Ren’s hand left hers, but a fraction of it remained. Olivia felt safe, for the first time in a long time, and for some reason, a bit sleepy. She yawned heavily, arms raising above her head to release the final tidbit of pent up anxiety. It drained from her body and left nothing but a warm fuzziness in its place. Olivia was suddenly very tired.
“I’m gonna go to bed. I’m glad I met you two. Don’t leave tomorrow without saying goodbye, okay?” Olivia mumbled again, heading to the bedroom. She grabbed the thin blanket and curled into it, the pressure from all sides adding another level of security. She was asleep in moments.
The nightmares did not claim her that night.
“Wow, it's like the first time you used it on me,” Nora said lightly. The door to Olivia’s room was still open, the girl had been so tired she hadn’t even bothered to shut it.
“It is quite draining to have so many pent up emotions let go of all at once,” Ren replied in the same quiet tone as Nora, “I thought it would be… safest, if I did that for her.”
“Safest? What do you mean, Ren? She’s been nothing but nice to us,” Nora asked quietly, but she knew the answer.
“Nora. You heard those screams, and you saw the blood on the ground. Olivia may be playing nice with us, but she’s dangerous. Very dangerous.”
“Isn’t it good to have someone dangerous on your side?”
“Perhaps, but I didn’t want to take any risks. She should be asleep like that for the rest of the night. Let’s try and get some rest too. We have a long day tomorrow.”
“We’re still going to say goodbye though, right?”
“...Yes. We can still do that.”
Olivia woke up feeling the most well rested she had in a long time. She stayed in bed for another half hour, enjoying the warmth of her blanket, thin as it was. A knock on her open door announced Nora’s presence. Olivia had known she was standing there for the past thirty seconds, but was content to wait until she announced herself. She didn’t think the girl had a bad bone in her body. Olivia rolled over, eyes finally cracking open.
“Wake up, sleepy head! Me and Ren are heading out soon!” Nora smiled at her. The pack Olivia had bought for them was around the girl’s shoulders. Olivia couldn’t see Ren, but she felt him just outside the front door.
Olivia extricated herself from her blanket with some reluctance. She hadn’t undressed, and was still in her clothes from the night before. Olivia hopped to the floor and stretched, listening to her back pop in several places, “Ah, that is so much better.”
The two stepped out into the morning sun. Ren was already outside, leaned up next to the door, another pack around his shoulders. He turned to them both and gave a small smile. Olivia was starting to feel like the boy just couldn’t show emotions. ‘Maybe his semblance keeps him from having strong emotions?’ Olivia shivered. She didn’t know if she would like that long term.
“Well, it was nice meeting you two,” Olivia said, giving each of them a hug in turn.
“You too!” Nora cheered, hugging her in a third and final death grip.
“Good luck on your travels. If you’re ever in Mistral again, try and find me. I’m sure there’s nowhere to go but up from here,” Olivia rapt a knuckle against the decrepit building.
“We’ll certainly do that,” Ren replied. It sounded sincere, and Olivia smiled more brightly because of it. She really would like to see these two again.
“Every pancake I eat, I’ll think of you!” Nora gleefully announced, patting her backpack.
Olivia gave them one final wave, smiling as they left, off to some grand adventure.
'Now then, I have a bed to get back to.'
Chapter 3: Mistakes
Olivia was having a great day. After saying goodbye to Ren and Nora, she had spent another few hours curled up in bed enjoying the comfort of the sheets. A growl from her stomach had announced her hunger, and instead of grabbing one of the sandwiches from her fridge, she decided to treat herself. The sandwiches could wait. Olivia wanted to go out and pretend to be just another person for a few hours while she enjoyed a meal.
She left her little corner of the slums, up into the city proper. Olivia didn't come up here often. It was a large place, plenty of shops and businesses full of people that were around at all times of the day, and she was afraid of being recognized in the crowd. 'I'm not up to anything today, though. They'll leave me alone…' she reassured herself as she made the climb.
Olivia paused in an alleyway, watching the mass of people going about their day in the district. Her eyes swept above their heads, looking for a place or a sign that would point her towards food. There were plenty of well lit and colorful signs along the street, and Olivia noted with a small smile that many of them were indeed places to get a bite to eat. She stepped hesitantly through the crowd, but when there was no shouts of 'Hey, stop that girl!', she started to relax. Olivia's shoulders slumped back down as she returned to her usual demeanor, casually uncaring, and set off towards the smell of food.
Olivia idly wiped a sleeve across her mouth as it started to water. She could smell them. 'Burgers…' How long had it been since she'd had one? It felt like forever. Her body followed the scent of its own accord to one of the small shops that lined the street. Olivia waited in line, stomach rumbling while looking up at all the different variations. It was a little confusing, but they at least came with helpful pictures along with numbers. She set herself on one of them, and when her turn came, said it with determination to the old man behind the counter.
"Number 4… the Bacon Ultimate Deluxe, eh?" the man eyed her up and down, "I don't think you've got the stomach for it, little lady." The man smiled as he said it, obviously teasing her, but Olivia huffed and tossed the necessary lien down on the counter.
"And an order of large fries, please."
Ten minutes later, Olivia was starting to think the old guy had been right. He presented her with the tray, stacked tall with the biggest burger she'd ever seen in her life, and a side of fries. Olivia managed a weak smile, lacking all the confidence that she had displayed earlier, and left to sit at one of the tables outside the shop. Still, once she had dug into it, Olivia couldn't help but grin in satisfaction. It was delicious. She managed to get half way through it and finish her fries before her stomach began to protest with each bite. 'Uuughhh' Olivia hadn't been this stuffed for literal years.
As she approached the counter, the old man was already holding out a small foam container and waving it in her direction. He smiled down at her as she sheepishly took it from him and set the plastic tray back on the counter, "Thank you for the meal." Olivia wasn't even certain the man would hear her, but it seemed as if he understood the sentiment either way, and gave her a happy but brief nod before turning back to another customer trying to make their order.
Olivia held the small box with her leftovers in one hand and her other hand against her stomach as she wandered around the busy streets. She was content to walk off the food for the time being before heading back home. 'Going back downhill while feeling like this?' Recipe for disaster, she was certain. After walking the length of a few streets and seeing the sights, her eyes caught on to a much more brightly colored building, several signs were lit up along its exterior, promising fun and games inside.
She made her way over to it and peeked inside. The building was jam packed with kids of all ages crowding around the various games. Olivia's sixth sense was going haywire. There were too many people to account for, and she spent the first few minutes just watching from the entrance, getting used to the sensation. Eventually the panic racing through her heart started to lower, and with a deep breath, she plunged into the mob.
The children running past in every which direction kept Olivia on her toes as she tried to just look at all the games they had to offer. It was her first time in an arcade, but her brother had told her about it once before. She wasn't sure if it had been this exact arcade he talked about, but after looking around and seeing some outfits belonging to students that went to the local combat school, she thought it must be. Olivia observed them all for a while. The kids would use their lien to pay for the games, and then it would dispense tickets depending on how well they'd done. They would then spend the tickets at one of the counters in the store to buy from the myriad of toys on full display.
Toys were of very little interest to Olivia, but she was feeling good today. After meeting Ren and Nora, and getting both the best sleep and best food she'd had in the past year, Olivia was ready to have a little fun as well. She spotted one game that wasn't currently in use, "Grimm Invasion Defense Force III". Olivia had no idea what the three slashes were for, 'Isn't that a White Fang thing?', but decided to spend some of her lien and play. She picked up the brightly lit plastic gun as the game started, but when the Grimm appeared on screen and began slowly lumbering towards her, she got the idea.
Olivia was on her third playthrough when a group of older kids, combat school students from their uniforms, approached her and began loudly talking to one another while she was trying to focus. They looked about the age her brother had been. Olivia didn't mind their voices too much, this place was already louder than anywhere she'd been before. It was their school weapons they'd brought into the arcade with them that kept her from being able to ignore them completely. As they were talking, the leader of the group leaned over next to her and placed some lien on the edge of the game's screen. Olivia ignored it. She didn't know what he was doing, but she wasn't going to try and steal it either even if he did leave it right there for the taking.
Bits of their conversation bled through Olivia's focus.
"Did you hear a twelve year old won the Regionals this year? A twelve year old!"
"Yeah, some girl named Pyrrha Nikos. Girls phenomenal."
"I coulda taken her."
"Bragging about winning a fight against a twelve year old girl? How pathetic is that?"
"It's not the same thing, she won the Regionals. She's literally the best."
Olivia continued trying to ignore them as she finished the game again. She reached into her pocket and pulled out another bit of lien to feed into it. A hand on her wrist stopped her before she could insert it.
"Hey kid, watcha doin'? I called next," the older boy said dryly, pulling her hand away from the game.
Olivia looked at him in confusion and with a little bit of annoyance at how he'd grabbed her, "But I'm playing."
The boy looked uncertainly between Olivia and his friends. They laughed, egging him on, "So I'm the one that's pathetic for wanting to fight against a twelve year old champion, but you're going to back down from one that doesn't even know how to fight?" one of the boys teased. The others laughed along with him, and the one holding Olivia's wrist turned red in the face.
He turned back to her. "Listen kid, when someone puts money down on the game, that means they want a turn," the boy pointed at the lien he'd put next to the screen, "Like I said, I called next. It's just common courtesy, ya know?"
"And is grabbing people you don't know common courtesy, too?" Olivia said with a glare, ripping her wrist out of his grip. It was surprisingly strong, but Olivia didn't think he was really trying to hurt her. Still, as she pulled away, Olivia rubbed at her wrist, trying to sooth it. Her anger spiked again.
"Yeah, Jace. What's wrong with you?" another boy mocked, poking 'Jace' in the back as he said it, "A huntsman in training with no manners. How will you ever win the ladies?"
Olivia was annoyed at the older boy, and decided to join in insulting him, "I could take a scrawny teen like you any day of the week."
His group of friends burst into laughter as Jace turned an even deeper shade of red. His eyes took in Olivia, his voice taking on a threatening tone while he tried to intimidate her, "Do you wanna back that up?"
"I'll have to if you don't back up," Olivia threatened back, standing her ground. She just wanted to go back to her game.
"Oooooooooooooh~!" the other boys were loving it.
It seemed like Jace had reached the end of his rope. His temper flared, "You wanna prove that? Come out back so I can teach you a lesson, little girl. I don't know where your parents are, but they must be pretty shit at it if you're the result."
The mention of her parents had been the final straw. "Sure, but when I win, you go play somewhere else, little boy," Olivia stepped past him towards the back of the building where she'd seen another exit. He followed, his friends jeering at him the entire way.
Olivia pushed the exit door open forcefully with a little assistance from her semblance. The metal door slammed into the brick wall outside with a loud cracking sound. Olivia ignored it as she stepped out into the empty alleyway. 'I can't show off my semblance the same here, there's too many spectators.' She couldn't exactly expect to beat the older boy without it, though. Olivia thought about it and decided to try the next best thing.
She brought the top two legs down across her shoulders, then down along her arms. One on each side. As far as she could tell, hits on her extra legs didn't count as part of her actual body, and didn't lower her aura. Olivia experimentally moved her hands around. The sharp point ended right before her knuckles. She didn't want to stab him, and with a few practice jabs, she realized that working her extra legs and arms in tandem gave her a much stronger punch than she would have normally.
Hit by inspiration, she replicated what she was doing with the lower two legs by putting them against the back of her actual legs. With those she allowed the point to grind down into the ground a little. It gave her a lot more support in her footing. Olivia experimented again, and pushed off with both of her right legs, real and semblance, at the same time. 'So much faster!' It made her feel a lot lighter, too.
"Aw, look. She's warming up!" one of the boys mocked. The rest laughed along with him. None of them noticed the large crack in the brick wall where the metal door had hit it.
Olivia rolled her neck like she'd seen people do in the movies and raised her hand, making a 'come at me' motion with her fingers. Jace rolled his eyes in response, and put up the mockery of a guard before stepping towards her. 'He really shouldn't have insulted my parents.'
Olivia didn't wait for him to cross the distance. With a sudden burst of strength through her dual legs pushing off the ground, she dashed in one step across the ten feet between them and threw a wild haymaker.
Jace was surprised at her speed and reacted instinctively. His hands raising into a more proper stance that had been drilled into him for years on end, and threw a straight jab. Olivia was no fighter, her only thought was to try and put power behind her punch with the long wind up. The quick jab to the face caught her completely off guard, partly due to its speed. The second thing that surprised her was the power behind it. She was flung backwards, all forward momentum sent recoiling in the other direction.
"Dude! What the hell is wrong with you?" one of the boys yelled, shocked by the display of force. They each began to berate him as Olivia slowly stood up. Her aura had protected her from the blow, and it seemed Jace had realized that as well. He ignored the other boys, and one by one they noticed that Olivia looked completely fine after the hit.
"A twelve year old with aura, huh?" Jace remarked, sticking to his trained stance.
Olivia shrugged, "Wouldn't exactly be a fair fight otherwise, right?"
'It still wouldn't be a fair fight, for you, if I could cut loose here.' Olivia bent down and got herself ready. She had learned from her previous mistake. 'I already have enough power because of my legs. Better to get faster hits in.' Olivia brought her hands up to try and mimic the way Jace was holding his. She knew it wasn't perfect, but it was close enough.
Olivia flew forward again, this time with her arms up in front of her. She threw a right jab at Jace's chest. He quickly sidestepped, bringing up his left hand to push her punch to the side and redirected her momentum past him. Olivia could only watch in shock as his knee came straight up into her stomach. It slammed against her aura, still protected from the blow thankfully, but Olivia could feel the chunk it had taken out of her defense.
She pushed off with her left foot to turn, and brought up her left hand this time, aiming for his gut. Jace tried to use both of his hands to force her hand down and away from him again, but this time she made her extra limb more rigid. Jace's hand connected with the invisible force that laid on top of her arm. Unbending and unyielding, his mistake allowed her to finish the blow to his gut. He doubled over from the impact and stumbled back, clutching at where he'd been hit.
The choir behind Jace had gone silent as their fight continued, looking uncertainly between one another as Olivia actually managed to get a good hit in. 'Yeah, that's right. This little kids got some moves!'
Jace recovered and regarded her more warily than before. He took the initiative this time, moving into her guard with a flurry of attacks, both punches and kicks, that took her by surprise. Olivia brought up her arms, and used the back of them that were protected by her extra legs. She blocked as well as she could, but he was quick, and tricky with his attacks. Jace would throw a punch, only for it to turn out to be a feint to draw attention away from one of his other limbs which would then score a hit on her. All of the ones she did manage to block were stopped dead, courtesy of her semblance, but she was having trouble keeping up. Moving two sets of legs and arms at the same time with each other was hard, and this was her first time even trying it.
With one final jab to her chest, Olivia was knocked back off her feet. Her aura sparked around her entire body, a flash of pink and black that was gone the next instant. She breathed heavily as she remained lying on the ground, numbly aware that her extra legs had disappeared with her aura. Olivia flinched and closed her eyes as a hand came down into her field of vision, but when no attack came, she opened them again to see that Jace was holding it down for her. Olivia grabbed a hold and let herself be shakily pulled back on to her feet.
"Hey, you got promise, kid. That was a good fight," Jace remarked, giving her a reassuring pat on the back. Olivia looked down at herself. She was a mess. Her brother's hoodie was torn on one of the sleeves when she'd tried to replicate Jace's redirect technique. It had been completely unsuccessful. Olivia noticed Jace's eyes widen, and looked to see what he was staring at.
The ripped sleeve had exposed the black veins on her arm. Olivia yelped and brought her other hand up, closing off the tear as best she could. She gave the boy one fearful glance before taking off down the alleyway, back into the crowds that soon hid her from sight. Olivia was so busy looking behind herself that she didn't notice the large man she ran into until she was already off her feet, knocked to the ground.
"You!?" the large man yelled in surprise and anger. One of his meaty hands reached down and grabbed her by the forearm. Olivia looked up in shock and recognized his face, the fat man she had mugged only two nights ago. Olivia tried to lash out, to send the man flying back into the crowd away from her, but nothing happened. 'My semblance is gone!' she realized in horror. Olivia shifted to trying to rip her hand free, but the man kept a firm grip. All she had was the strength of a twelve year old to try and fight against the fully grown man.
"None of that! We're going straight to the police!" the fat man dragged her across the ground, despite anything Olivia could try to do, and through the crowd. She felt him pull her forward roughly one last time and drop her down in front of him, "Arrest this girl! She mugged me two nights ago. It was armed robbery!"
Olivia looked up into the face of the two officers she had been thrown down in front of, pure dread in her eyes. They gave each other a look, and dragged her away.
Jace watched from the crowd as the girl, 'the faunus', that had fought him was taken away in cuffs. 'She could have gotten away if she had her aura…' Jace felt the guilt weighing down on him, and decided to give his uncle a call.
Olivia trembled for reasons other than the bumpy road she was being driven down. Her aura still hadn't returned, and despite not having the extra appendages at her disposal, she could still feel them. Could still feel as if they were there, ready to be used. They just couldn't manifest without her aura. It was that fact, and how defenseless she was, that were making her queasy.
They were taking her to jail. She'd be locked up, like a rat in a cage. They had removed her hoodie to check for weapons and found her faunus trait plain to the eye. Olivia pounded her arm against the side of the car in frustration. She was in the back of a van, legs chained to the floor beneath her. The fat man had insisted he come with them and was sitting in the front of the vehicle. Olivia could feel his presence there. They were having a conversation, as far as she could tell, although the fat man was talking more than the two officers. All Olivia could distinguish was a deep, distinct cadence that belonged to him. None of his words were intelligible.
'Come onnnn, come on!' Olivia tried desperately to make her semblance form, to reappear. She was still exhausted from the fight. 'Why did I even do that?' Olivia already understood her mistake, though. She had gotten cocky after mugging people for over a year and encountering little resistance. Putting herself into a compromising position against someone who's strengths she didn't know had been a dumb, irrational move.
The van came to a halt, front doors opening and closing with a slam before the officers opened the back door. Olivia shouted the instant the opened, "He's lying! I've never seen him in my life!" She let her fear come to the forefront of her expression, hoping that they would take it as the genuine truth.
"Nice try, kid. He already told us everything," one of the officers scoffed and undid the chains around her ankles. They each grabbed her by a forearm and pulled her bodily out of the van. They were parked right outside a large brick building, 'Mistral Detainment Center' was written across the front in big block letters. Olivia struggled against them but couldn't break free. They kept a hold of her as they entered, heading through the front area and directly to the back where the cells were. The fat man was following along, happily watching her torment as she was thrown into one of the cells.
The officers left to go file their paperwork, leaving Olivia in her cage, and the fat man standing just outside it, "I wonder if you knew who I was before you stole from me?" The man stated the question out loud, not really expecting an answer from Olivia, "Of course not. What does a little faunus brat like you know?"
"I know you cried like a baby when you were held up by a twelve year old," Olivia seethed. She was already in jail, what more could he do?
The man laughed lightly. There was no humor in it.
"Well, I've given my friends in Atlas a call. They'll be sending a Manta to come pick you up tomorrow morning," he gave Olivia a devilish smile. It only widened when she looked back in confusion, "You're going to be serving an… alternate sentence. In the Schnee Mines."
'No!' Memories of branded faunus flashed through her head as she recoiled back against the back wall and slumped to the ground, as far from the fat man as she could get.
The man laughed heartily, elated at the terror in her eyes, "Maybe think of that the next time you want to steal from humans, you filthy faunus bitch!" The man turned around after that and walked off, leaving Olivia quivering on the ground in the corner of her cell, knees pulled up against her chest. 'Come onnn, come on!' Tears rolled down Olivia's cheeks as her semblance once again failed to appear.
Olivia's hatred for these humans grew by the second. After they had started on their paperwork, the two officers had also gone over other incidents to try and find any matching her description. According to the human she was currently glaring at, she was a 'piece of faunus trash that should have been left in whatever gutter she crawled out of'', among other things. She had stayed in the corner, sitting with her knees against her chest. Olivia no longer trembled from fear, though. Her aura had returned a few hours ago, and along with it, her semblance. She trembled with barely suppressed rage. The appendages were already out, waiting for the first person foolish enough to approach and taunt her to her face instead of just shouting insults from a distance.
'I'll rip them to pieces.'
The iron bars that surrounded her would be easy enough to break out of. Olivia's issue was that for most of the day, the room between her and the door was filled with armed policemen. There were too many angles to get shot from, and she knew that if her aura dropped again in a situation like that, then she wouldn't get a second chance. She would be killed.
It was getting late now. Several of the officers and workers had already left. Olivia could just barely see a clock on the wall from where she sat, '10:32'. It seemed like their work day was coming to a close. Olivia stood as another wave of them left, their shifts ending. The one that had insulted her the most was still at his desk, twenty steps away from where she was being held. 'Good…'
Olivia focused on her sixth sense. 'Seven…' There were only seven people left in the building that she could feel. She liked those odds. Olivia just needed to start it off by getting rid of one instantly. Her eyes settled on the racist at his desk.
"E-Excuse me?" Olivia called out to him weakly.
"No, I won't let you out. If you need to use the bathroom then do it in the corner like the dirty animal you are," the man grinned maliciously before turning back to his desk.
"I-I just had a request?" She kept her voice sounding timid, afraid.
The man stood up in a huff from his desk, realizing Olivia wasn't going to leave him alone. He walked up in front of her cell and glared down at her, "And what might that be?"
"Do you know where I can find my hoodie?" The man's face turned into one of confusion right as Olivia prepared to spear him through the chest.
At that exact instant, the front of the building exploded. Both of their heads whipped to the side, distracted by the sound of it. A smoke screen of dust had been blown into the air when the wall exploded. There was silence for a few seconds, aside from the shuffling of the officers as they stood from their desks. Gunfire rang out, bullets whistled through the air and cut them down like the dogs they were. Round after round of bullets flew randomly through the dust cloud, hitting everything in their wake.
Olivia and the man were off to the side, in a small hallway that held the cells and protected from the gunfire by the brick wall. He reached for his gun, attention entirely diverted from Olivia. Her leg jabbed out between the bars, closelining him for a moment before she curled it and pulled back. He was choke slammed against her bars, back to her, held a foot off the ground. His heels drummed against the bars frantically, hand reaching for the gun at his waist.
Her hand reached out and grabbed his gun before he could. Olivia positioned herself so that he would be a human shield if anyone came around the corner firing randomly. All of the officers were dead or moaning on the ground, blood pooling out from wounds that were certainly lethal. 'Good riddance.'
The dust cleared as a group of White Fang stepped through, looking around at their handiwork. A gasp from the man Olivia held pulled the White Fang's attention in their direction. The man that Olivia held was hopelessly clawing at the invisible thing that held him in place. Olivia let it wrap around him tighter, one of the barbs pierced slowly into his chest, earning her a delightful groan from the man.
"There you are, kid!" a familiar voice yelled out. One of the White Fang members was waving at her as he walked towards them. Olivia couldn't quite place the voice, but if they were White Fang…
"Are you the one from the warehouse?" Olivia asked incredulously, "I thought you got blown up!"
"What? Naaah, we did that on purpose. Hell of a light show, eh?" Crim smirked as he walked towards her. He did spare a curious glance to the officer being held up against the bars, off the ground.
"Don't worry. I've got him. How have you been?"
Crim rubbed a hand against the back of his neck, "Ah, you know. Making the world a better place, one dead human at a time. What's the story with this one?" he pointed his thumb at the man.
"He hasn't answered my question yet," Olivia said darkly. She dug the barb further into the man's shoulder and wrapped another appendage lower across his chest. She eased up on the one around his throat, and he gasped for breath raggedly as his eyes darted back and forth in fear.
"Please, I'll do whatever you want!"
"There's only one thing I want from you, like I asked before... Where's. My. Hoodie?"
"It's in the storage room! Bottom shelf! That's where we keep all confiscated items!" the man whimpered as more blood poured down his chest from his wound, "Are you going to let me-"
Olivia didn't wait for him to finish. She speared an appendage through his back, leaving a gaping hole in his chest, and dropped him to the floor. She then positioned them between the two bars directly in front of her, and with a small amount of effort on her part, bent them open.
Olivia stepped out of the cell and gave a smile to the shocked expression on the man's face.
"So. You wanted me to join the White Fang, right?"
Chapter 4: Revenge
Olivia bundled her arms into her hoodie pockets as a chilling breeze rippled along silent streets past what would be her new home. They were back in the warehouse district, along the edge that led into the slums. The portion of the slums that these warehouses ran along were heavily populated by faunus, pushed to the fringes of the city where they would be 'out of the way' of the humans. It was the perfect place to have a secret White Fang hideout. There were no humans to report suspicious activity.
Crim opened the door ahead of her and stepped inside, "Welcome to the White Fang," he smiled back at Olivia and waved his hand for her to head in past him. She obliged, and walked past. She could feel dozens inside, several in this room alone. What greeted her eyes first was a large open area. There were couches off in a corner, all facing a television, with several faunus lounging around. A little way from that was a small kitchen, one that actually worked unlike hers from the looks of it. There were quite a few weapons and crates of dust ammunition scattered around the center of the room. A few members were there at one of the tables, doing maintenance on the guns and packing magazines. Off to the far left corner was an open floor space with weapons lining the walls. Not guns, but swords, staves, axes. Olivia didn't know the names of many of them. On the mat, looking like he was training…
"Jace? That was your name, right?" Olivia struggled for a few seconds to recall what the other boys had called him.
"That's me! Glad my uncle could help you out," Jace replied, pausing in his workout to look over and smile at her. There was a sincerity to it that made Olivia's shoulders relax. She hadn't even noticed she was tense.
"I recognized you from the description he gave me," Crim said from behind her. They both stepped to the side to allow the other faunus to enter the building as well. They deposited their weapons and headed off to mingle or feed themselves. Several disappeared into back rooms or up the stairs.
"That was a year ago. You either just have really good memory, or… I should be worried about a stalker," Olivia smiled to show she was messing with him.
Crim grinned before his face turned a little more serious, "We were making sure that you were out of the building when we found the guards near the front door. You could have just let them pass and got yourself out safely, but you risked yourself to stop them from flanking us. Thank you."
Olivia shrugged, "And now you've saved me from a trip to the Schnee Mines, so I'd say we're even."
"You looked like you had at least one of them under control," Crim smirked, "What was that you did, by the way?"
Olivia paused and tipped her head to the side while she thought it out. 'Can I tell him the truth? I don't think he's going to turn against me or anything. It is a nice secret to keep, though…' Olivia decided to just tell him the truth. He'd already seen it in action, the cat was out of the bag.
"My semblance creates invisible spider legs. I was holding him against the bars with them."
"And the hole through his chest…?" Crim was looking at her with a measure of respect, now.
"One quick jab, yeah," Olivia tried to keep her face from cringing. The man had made her mad, and they were threatening her with slavery. That didn't make the guts that spilled out any more appealing. 'Thank Oum I don't feel as if I'm actually touching them.' Olivia did shiver at that mental image.
"You didn't use anything like that in our fight," Jace remarked, also giving her a look, "You would have had a better chance if you did."
"I didn't exactly want to give away my greatest secret to a bunch of huntsman in training," Olivia began, "I did use them though. I've never tried it before, but I was coating my arms and legs with my semblance to try to punch harder and move faster. It was… hard… to control."
Jace laughed, "You did look like you were really concentrating during our fight."
Crim was looking thoughtful as he finally let the door close and stepped further into the room next to them, "You have a good point. It could be the ace up your sleeve. You should think about learning how to fight that way, and only reveal them when you absolutely have to, or when you're certain the secret won't get spread afterwards."
Olivia recognized the implication, 'When you know you're going to kill whoever you're fighting.'
"You could train with Jace!" Crim's eyes lit up as he looked at his nephew, a twisted smile on his lips, "He's trained the most at hand to hand."
Jace's eyes met Olivia's, and he nodded, "I wouldn't mind. You did show promise before, I wasn't lying about that, and if it helps you keep your secret..." he shrugged, "Two birds, as they say."
"Don't you have classes, though?" Olivia asked, a little confused. He had been wearing a student uniform and hanging out with those other students at the arcade.
He shook his head, "Today was the last day of regular combat school. I have three months before I join Haven Academy for my first semester there." 'I was right, he is the same age as my brother had been.'
Olivia looked around the room, "You're not a part of the White Fang? Or are you going in as a spy?"
"A little of both…" Jace gave a hard stare at his uncle, "I wanted to join, but Uncle Crim didn't want me to. Said I should try and make something more of myself," he shook his head in exasperation, "I eventually talked him into letting me pass information off to them at the very least. Not much to really give, since the school doesn't exactly hold any sway over the SDC or the police, but I'll help any way I can."
Crim looked annoyed that his nephew had managed to even get that much out of him. He looked between the two of them and gestured over his shoulder, towards the couches that had just been vacated. It was late, and many of those in the room were starting to head to their rooms. Olivia accepted gratefully. It had been a long day, and her legs were immediately thankful when she sunk down into the couch. 'This is so much softer than mine…' Olivia sighed and leaned against the arm rest.
"So, kid. I hate to ask, but it's a requirement for the group. Anyone we need to be worried about by taking you in?" Crim asked seriously from the couch across from her.
Olivia thought it over. The fat man had definitely sounded like he thought he was important, at the very least, "The man I ran into after our fight," she glanced at Jace to make it clear who she meant, "was someone that I mugged a couple nights before then. He said he'd pulled some strings with friends in Atlas to get me sent to the mines, and asked me if I had known who he was before I mugged him."
"Can you describe him for me?" Crim looked troubled by the news.
"Fat, bald… wore expensive clothing, which is why I mugged him. The police took him at his word over mine before they even knew I was a faunus," Olivia thought it over again, but that really was all the details she could remember, "He was a coward too, I guess."
"Did you get a look at him, Jace?" Crim turned to his nephew.
Jace nodded, "Pretty much what she said. Expensive clothes and everything. I did notice a gold medallion hanging from his neck, like a chair in a circle."
Crim winced, "So he was a member of the Mistral Council," he sighed, "He'll definitely hear about the detainment center getting attacked and wonder what happened to the faunus being held there." Crim looked at Olivia, "How mad was he?"
Olivia hesitated, but decided the truth was the best way to go. If she withheld information and got all of them killed because they had taken her in… "He was pretty mad. I did… taunt him a bit more, before he left. That may have included calling him a cry baby in front of a bunch of police officers."
Crim nodded, "So, we focus our next mission on him before he gets any bright ideas to start upping searches for a black haired, pink eyed faunus girl."
Olivia felt a lump in her throat, "How are we going to narrow it down? How many members are there on this 'council'?"
"Seven, including the Headmaster at Haven. We can get pictures of all of them, though. It's in the public records," Crim pulled out his Scroll and navigated through a few websites before pulling up an official looking webpage. He held it out to Olivia, who took it and swiped down the images until she found the man.
"That one," she pointed to his portrait, "Beryl Verdigris".
Crim took the Scroll back from her and look over the man's information, "Alright. I'll let Widow know when she gets back. She can find out where he lives and do a little recon before we move in."
"Widow?" Olivia asked curiously.
Crim brightened, "She's the other spider faunus I told you about. That isn't her real name, she gave it to herself when she joined. Stealthiest damn person you'll ever meet." Crim's expression darkened a little, "That reminds me. There's a second question we have to know before we can make this official. What's your story? Why is a twelve year old living on the streets?"
Olivia sat back as both Crim and Jace sat forward, expectantly waiting for her answer. Olivia decided to just give them the short version, "My family lived outside the city. My brother and father were both trained at the combat school, so they didn't have much trouble protecting us from the Grimm," Olivia's eyes teared up slightly and she glanced at Jace, "My brother was going to join Haven, too. He never got the chance, though."
They both waited patiently for her to continue, "We were attacked by three… well... four, bandits. They killed my brother and parents, and I unlocked my semblance when I thought I was going to die with them. After I killed the two that were left, this woman… I think she was with them, congratulated me on it and offered to take me in. I said no, and she left through a red portal."
Crim's eyes widened at the last tidbit of information, "What was she wearing?"
"Black and red armor, and a brutal looking Grimm mask. Bigger and more detailed than the type you all use."
Crim's eyes were downcast as he pondered what she'd said. He muttered out his reply after a few moments had passed, "Raven Branwen."
"Who?" Jace asked from next to him.
"She's the leader of the Branwen Tribe, a group of bandits that roam the continent, attacking smaller towns and travelers. We've lost a lot of supplies in their raids," he stared into Olivia's eyes, "She's dangerous. Those bandits would have been her men. Don't try to get revenge. Raven is one of the strongest people I've ever encountered. She doesn't care what happens to the people she steals from. I've seen entire towns get overrun by Grimm after one of their raids. They don't stick around to help."
"That's horrible," Olivia choked out. She was suddenly very glad she hadn't stopped to listen to the woman all those months ago. 'What would I have turned into?' The words the woman had spoken to her came back, 'The weak die, and the strong survive.' It was a terrible philosophy, but at the same time... "It's kept her safe… Her very name inspires fear. Gaining strength at least wouldn't be a bad idea. I don't have to use it the way she does.'
Olivia nodded to herself, "I'm sure she doesn't even remember me by now," she spared an eye to Jace, "I'm not going to try and hunt her down or anything, but I would appreciate training. I need to get stronger. It's the only way to protect myself so things like today never happen again."
Jace smiled, "Of course. We should start with the basics, then once you have those down you can start learning how to incorporate your extra legs into it. How strong are they, by the way?"
Olivia activated her semblance and gave them each a meaningful look, "I'm holding one out to each of you. Grab on." When they had both hesitantly reached out in front of themselves and taken a hold of one of her extra legs, she lifted them into the air, unmoving from her own spot on the couch, "I really don't even feel your weight on them right now," Olivia chuckled slightly, remembering back to the occasion at the warehouse, "And it was me that tore through that warehouse door."
She set them down. They both looked at her, impressed, and Jace laughed lightly, "Now I'm really glad you didn't use them in our fight. I was thinking that one punch you hit me with was how strong they were, but if you can pick both of us up that easily?" he shook his head, "You'll be an absolute power house soon enough."
Olivia beamed back at the compliment, happy with herself, 'It really is a strong semblance.' She looked at them both with curiosity, "What are your semblances?"
They gave each other a look and nodded. "I can expel my aura outwards in short bursts. That's what I did the first time I punched you," Jace smirked. Olivia remembered the straight jab she'd taken to the face, and the sheer power that had been behind it.
'I can project my thoughts into other people's minds,' Olivia heard Crim's voice even though his mouth hadn't moved.
'Uhhh, can you hear me too?'
Crim grinned mischievously, "No, I can't read your mind."
Olivia reeled back, "But that's just what I was-!"
Crim's laugh cut her off, "That's what everyone thinks the first time they find out," his laughter slowly ebbed down, "As long as I've seen the person's face before and have an idea of their general location, I can speak to them telepathically. It makes ordering these guys around so much easier. No radios to be overheard by the guards unless someone needs to talk back to me."
Crim's expression sobered, "Just keep in mind, you're among friends here. Everyone that joins the White Fang has some unfortunate experience in their past that drove them to it. You aren't alone. Not here."
Olivia decided not to pry into their 'experience'. She was the one that needed to prove herself, and she could hardly expect them to share something so personal. Her eyes scanned the room instead, "So, where am I sleeping?"
Crim chuckled and pointed up the stairs, "Last room on the right. We're starting to run out of space, but we have a few rooms left over. Do you have anything stashed away somewhere?"
Olivia nodded, "I kept my brother's weapon. It's at the house I was staying at. I'll go get it tomorrow, if that's alright?"
"I'll have Jace go with you. Not that I don't trust you to take care of yourself after all this time alone, but he's good for backup," Crim looked her up and down, "and we can find something more fitting for you than that hoodie."
Olivia's finger idly twisted one of the drawstrings for the hood, "I'd, uh- like to keep wearing it. It was my brother's…"
Crim held his hands up, "Say no more. You won't be able to wear it when you're on missions, but feel free when you're on your own time," his eyes caught on to the tear in the sleeve, "We can have July patch that for you as well. She used to be a seamstress."
Olivia nodded thankfully, "Well, unless there's some secret third question… Mind if I turn in for the night?"
Jace stood up in agreement, "It's late. I should be getting home as well. I'll be back tomorrow morning to pick you up, then once we're back from our little trip we can start training."
Olivia smiled and gave him a miniature salute, "Looking forward to it. Have a goodnight."
Jace and Crim both reciprocated the sentiment as she walked up the stairs. She gave one last wave as she was lost to their sight and headed for the room that would be hers. It was a cozy little room, about fifteen feet across in either direction. It was lightly furnished with the essentials, a bed, dresser, and a nightstand. Olivia jumped into bed and pulled the thick blanket around herself, 'Oh yeah, much better. This one isn't even moldy.'
For the second night in a row, Olivia had a peaceful night's rest.
"Look, I'm not saying you should do it. I'm just saying it would be cool," Jace explained himself. They were walking from the hideout to the house Olivia had been squatting in, and Jace had told her about the ideas he'd come up with since last night.
"I am not wielding six guns. I would look like such a weirdo."
"Uh, yeah. A weirdo with a lot of firepower. No one would dare call you that," Jace scoffed.
"Not to my face," Olivia laughed, "Besides, that defeats the entire purpose of trying to keep them a secret, remember?" Olivia adopted a deeper voice, like she was pretending to be someone older, "Say kid, watcha doing with all those guns? Don't ya know you only have two arms?"
"And that's when you shoot them," Jace replied simply. The grin spreading across his face betrayed the joke.
"I'm not really a fan of using guns in the first place. I feel restricted if my hands aren't free," Olivia said after the moment had passed, "I only used my brother's til now because people aren't afraid of a twelve year old. Hard to mug people without attacking them if they just get all sappy and call you cute."
"You should still have a gun to use. What are you gonna do if they shoot at you from a distance?"
Olivia tapped the back of his head with one of her appendages, "These babies are completely bullet-proof. I don't even lose aura when I block with them. So, I close the distance, and get back into my preferred range while they waste their ammo."
"And if they have explosive ammunition, or too many bullets to block all at once?"
Olivia pondered the question, "Then I dodge? What else can you do against an explosive, anyway?"
Jace laughed, "Good point. I guess if you're keeping your semblance a secret, it might even make them more confident when it looks like they're getting free shots on you."
Olivia nodded happily. She hadn't thought of it that way, but it was a nice idea. 'As long as I can keep it a secret, no one will be any wiser.' "Plus that means I can go anywhere I want without worrying about being searched."
They had just walked to within thirty feet of Olivia's old house when she grabbed Jace, pulling him to the side behind another building, "Someone's inside," she whispered fiercely. She focused, letting her sixth sense ebb out while she concentrated, "Three someone's. Hold on… I recognize them from…" Memories of the large faunus man and his two thug friends swam through her mind, "Oh, he is dead."
"Wait, who is? Who's in there?" Jace whispered back, a little panic tinging his voice.
"Some thugs that tried to disturb a good time. They were trying to force their way in while I had guests, and I didn't take kindly to it," Olivia spared a glance to Jace, "If they came back, they're probably ready for me."
"Are you sure you want to go in there?"
Olivia laughed lightly, "No. I don't want to walk into an ambush. How about we bring them out to us?" She grinned at Jace's confused expression and stepped out from behind the building they were at. She walked closer to her own, keeping her sixth sense sharply attuned to the three people that were inside. There was one waiting on each side of the door. 'Perfect.'
Olivia stepped up directly in front of the door. She could feel them tensing up inside. 'Good thing this place is so rundown. It'll work in my favor for once.' Olivia gestured for Jace to get ready, and with one last moment to orient her appendages, pierced them through the wood. Each wrapped around one of the two that had been waiting next to the door. Her other two slammed into the door itself. She used the blunt side of her appendage to send the door flying forward into the third person on the other side. With one backwards heave, Olivia dragged the two through the wall and on to the ground. Their weapons clattered across the porch. They were too stunned to keep a grip on them.
Pain bloomed across Olivia's chest as shots started pinging off her. She quickly pulled the other two appendages back to defend herself, bullets now bouncing off with no effect. Olivia glared through the open doorway, into the dark interior, at the large man from the previous day, 'Shoot at me with my brother's gun, will ya?' She uncoiled the two that were already on the ground, they wouldn't be trying anything soon, and stepped into the house. The large man was frantically firing at her, terror clear in his eyes.
Olivia spared him a smirk, "This was your big idea? You're a disgrace to faunus everywhere."
"Fuck you!" the man yelled in panic. He hadn't even noticed yet that the gun was out of ammo, giving him only a small 'click' each time he pulled the trigger. Olivia spotted the bulge sticking up from underneath his shirt, a few bandages poked out from the neck line. She gave him a devilish laugh, then stabbed him through the same spot, pinning him to the wall behind him.
"It seems like you didn't learn from last time. And I was so insistent, too. Are you just that dumb?" Olivia tilted her head as she asked the question. He was too busy yelling in pain and struggling to pull himself free. Olivia slapped the gun out of his hand with another appendage and pulled it closer to herself so that she could pick it up with her actual hands.
"Please! I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I get it now! I won't show myself around here ever again! Just let me go!" tears streaked down the man's face. Olivia ignored his pleas, looking over her weapon to make sure it wasn't damaged.
Satisfied, she spotted the extra magazines on his waist and reclaimed those as well. Olivia began to reload as she spoke, "You know. The first time I ever shot a gun was with this one?" she spared him an evil grin as she finished reloading, "That guy was begging for mercy, too."
His eyes went even wider as his face paled, "No, please! Don't do it! I'll never come back!"
Olivia was aiming it at his chest when a hand grabbed her by the shoulder. Jace didn't pull her back, but his fingers clenched tightly. He spoke to her in a calm, soft tone, "Just let them go. You have your gun back. Be the bigger person, here."
"And were they just going to 'let me go'?" Olivia turned her eyes to him in annoyance, "Were those police just going to 'let me go'!? I tried being nice. It ended with me behind bars and with a one way ticket to hell. I was thinking about it all morning before you got there. What could I have done differently? What would have kept me out of that situation?" Olivia leveled the gun at the large man's chest in front of her, the double meaning she spoke was clear to everyone in the room. "I shouldn't have left him alive."
"No! Please! We weren't gonna kill ya, I swear! We just wanted to mess you up a bit and trash the place!" the man continued to beg, hands struggling futilely against the spider leg. The tip of it was stained red with his blood. His hands were slipping as he tried to push against it.
"If you do this, I won't train you. I'm not going to teach someone that enjoys hurting others."
Olivia whipped around on him, arms shaking, "You think I enjoy this!? I'm scared! I'm terrified of what might happen if I let him go!"
Jace let his hand relax on her shoulder as he spoke, voice still calm, "Then you'll have friends there to protect you. What is he," Jace gestured to the large man crying in pain, "going to do against the White Fang?"
Olivia's body trembled as she stared at the man. No one spoke. With one final, long sigh, she retracted her appendage. The man collapsed to the floor in a heap before struggling on to his feet. He barrelled between them and out the door, this time being the one to leave his friends behind. Olivia just shook her head as she started to calm down, "I really hope I don't end up regretting that."
"You won't," Jace said with a smile. There was a slight tremble to his voice as he spoke again, "Now, let's get to training, eh?"
Olivia nodded and grabbed a few other things that she didn't want to leave behind, letting her semblance vanish as she did. The blood on them disappeared, but the pool on the floor had already started to stain into the wood.
'I hope you're right, Jace.'
Chapter 5: A Walk in the Park
"Good! Again!" Jace commanded Olivia. Her arms trembled from the exertion. She'd been running drills like this for half an hour straight, and her body was slick with sweat. Her hair was even lankier than usual. Olivia gritted her teeth and repeated the form that Jace was drilling into her this time. A series of jabs, knees, and kicks, all of which Jace blocked with the pads he was holding.
A series of jabs, knees, and kicks.
Olivia finally collapsed mid kick, her leg simply giving out beneath her, and rolled on to her back on the floor. Her breath gasped out raggedly, even her thoughts came slowly, 'I think... I'm ready… to just use my semblance… Who need's secrets…?'
"Alright, take ten. We'll pick up with a new set once you've caught your breath," Jace turned to a nearby table and tossed her a water bottle from it. She was too weak to catch it before it smacked her in the chest.
"You're… a… monster…" Olivia said between gasps for breath. The bastard just grinned in response and turned back to his own workout. 'Where does he get the stamina!?' Olivia drank greedily from the bottle, not caring that some of it dribbled down her chin. It was the best water she'd ever tasted. 'Or I'm just that damn thirsty.' Olivia would put her lien on the second option.
Olivia felt something strange through her sixth sense as she was lying there. A tingle that sent a sliver of warning down through her bones. "Someone's here!" she whispered to Jace hurriedly, pointing towards the front door. Jace's eyes narrowed when he heard the tremor in Olivia's voice. He wordlessly got the attention of a few others who grabbed up weapons, aiming them at the front door.
Everyone waited in silence, a tension in the air that could be unleashed at the drop of a hat. Olivia felt herself shiver from the fear clutching at her throat, 'What is this feeling!?'
Three slow knocks echoed through the room, coming from the front door. The tension evaporated, White Fang putting their weapons down and going back to what they'd been doing before. Olivia's gaze whipped around the room in confusion, 'What are you all doing!?" The door opened, and a red haired woman stepped through that Olivia didn't recognize. She recoiled when she saw the woman's eyes were staring straight at her, too. A smile crossed the woman's face.
"I take it you're the young spider faunus I've heard so much about?" the woman stepped through the door and closed it behind herself. Olivia flinched when it closed, 'Between me and the escape!'
The woman seemed to notice Olivia's blatant fear and slowed her approach, holding her hands up, "Calm down, little spider. There's no threat here. I take it you've never met another spider faunus before?" Olivia just shook her head timidly in response. The woman sighed, "Your sixth sense is just warning you that there's a 'bigger' spider nearby," she smirked, "I promise I'm not going to gobble you up. I'm Widow, by the way."
Olivia tried to force herself to calm down. She could still feel her heart beating rapidly, but the tremors had stopped. She stood and tentatively held her hand out, waiting for a handshake. Widow grinned and took it slowly, letting Olivia get used to the contact as they shook hands. Her senses protested, screaming at her to let go, to run, to hide in the darkest corner she could find and wait for it to leave. Olivia grit her teeth and continued the contact. After ten seconds, she didn't feel like hiding. After fifteen, she didn't feel like running. And after thirty seconds, she finally let go, sighing with relief as her senses calmed down. Her heart no longer raced in some mad attempt to beat itself out of her chest.
"That was intense," Olivia choked out, still breathing hard.
Widow nodded, "Exposure therapy is the best way to get over it. The first time is the worst, especially if you've grown up so long without meeting another yet, but you'll always notice another spider faunus more distinctly than anyone else. Your senses recognize that someone else knows you're there the same way you do for them, and warns you as best it can."
Olivia shivered one last time and smiled, "Nice to meet you."
"And you as well," Widow smiled again, "I found Beryl's home. He's holed up pretty tight, but I think we can get a few key people in. Were you wanting to come along?"
"Yes," Olivia said immediately. Beryl had threatened her with slavery, and was now a threat to her very existence.
"Good! Also, do you mind putting those away?" Widow pointed above them both. Olivia gave her a look of confusion before she realized her appendages were all poised above, ready to strike down at Widow at a moment's notice. She let them retract in embarrassment, rubbing a hand against the back of her head.
A thought came to mind, "How did you know?"
Widow just gestured at her entire body with a smirk, "Spider faunus, remember? I can sense them just as well as you can."
"Oh, right," Olivia nodded in understanding. 'Obviously. Stop asking stupid questions.'
"You ready to get back to it?" Jace asked from behind her.
Olivia turned back to him with a weak smile, "Right now?" Jace grinned maliciously.
Widow watched from the sidelines as they got back to it. Jace taught her a new series of strikes that ended with a kick to the knee. It was designed to put someone on the defensive, make them put the weight on that knee, and then debilitate them with one clean strike to it that would break their leg. 'Now we're talking.' They'd just been doing body blows up until that point, but Olivia understood why. You couldn't break someone's leg like that until they were out of aura. Better to learn how to get them to that point in the first place. They began their drills again.
"You're learning hand to hand? Why? I could feel the power in that semblance of yours. Why use weaker attacks?" Widow asked from her place, leaning against the wall.
Olivia paused and cocked her head at Jace, "Mind if I show her?"
He grimaced, but lifted his hands back up, pads firmly held in place, "Alright. Just one set, though."
Olivia's semblance activated again, the appendages draping across her arms and legs in the way she had been practicing. Her elbows and shoulders each rested directly in one of the joints, the last bit of it curled down over the front of her fist. If Olivia wanted to, she could bend the last joint back up and use her appendage to stab whatever she was punching. The appendages also curled perfectly on to the back of Olivia's legs. The final tip of it buried into the ground right behind her heel. It turned out, with a day's worth of practice whenever she wasn't running drills with Jace, the feeling had come much more naturally. The contours of the extra legs had been mismatched before, with Olivia trying to keep the end behind her fist, instead of wrapped in front of it as it was now.
Widow's eyes widened, and she nodded in approval with a smirk on her face, "Keeping it a secret, eh?"
Olivia waited for Jace to say he was ready, then launched into the set they had been practicing before with devastating strength and speed. Each blow earned her a wince from Jace, his hands struggled to keep up with the assault. She finished the set with a powerful kick, knocking him back a few steps even though he'd been braced for it. Jace pulled back immediately and waved his hands through the air, trying to shake them off, "No more! It's a good thing I have aura, otherwise you'd be snapping my wrists through the pads."
Widow clapped after the display, "Marvelous. You're making me jealous, little spider."
Olivia let her appendages retract and accepted the praise, turning back to her while Jace continued to shake his hands off, "What's your semblance?"
Two swords were pulled off the rack next to Widow as she lifted them up. She gave Olivia a smirk, then smacked them together roughly. Metal slamming against metal, and yet… silence, "My semblance allows me to cancel out noise within an area. Noise I make, noise things make, noise you make."
Olivia tried to whistle in appreciation and couldn't even hear her own breath coming out, "Okay, that's awesome." Her voice was finally audible after she stopped trying to whistle.
Widow bowed her head, also accepting the praise. She turned back to Jace, "Hey kid, when's Crim getting in?"
Jace finally gestured for Olivia to restart the sets they had been doing, this time without her semblance, and spoke as he blocked, "He left to get some more supplies. Pretty sure he expected you to be in today, so he's prepping for the mission."
"Speak of the devil," Widow muttered. Olivia paused in confusion and tried to sense Crim. It took another ten seconds before she could feel him approaching the front door.
"How'd you sense him from so far away?" Olivia turned back to Widow as she asked.
"Your sense will get stronger as you get older. More accurate, too. Another reason why it's more difficult to meet other spider faunus later in life. Your sense for them gets stronger, but you haven't been exposed yet," She waved her hand towards the front of the building, "I paused at the door when I first got here because I could feel everyone pointing their guns at me. You'll also be able to tell who's a faunus and who isn't, no matter how visible their 'parts' are, among other things. I could fight with my eyes closed if I wanted to."
Olivia brightened at the news. By no means was she unhappy about her sixth sense, but the fact that it would get even better in time? 'Fantastic.'
The door finally opened as Crim stepped in, holding a large wooden crate under his other arm. He spotted their little group and smiled as he headed over to them, "Alright, first thing's first," he set the crate down and popped the top, pulling out a bagged uniform and tossing it to Olivia, "Go see if that fits."
Olivia quickly obliged. She came back down a few minutes later, making some final adjustments as she did. Olivia stood in front of them and did a slow turn. Black short sleeve shirt, black pants with a white vest fitted snug to her by a black belt around her midsection. Her hands were covered by fingerless gloves that reached all the way up her forearm, just far enough to cover her black veins. A pair of steel bracers around her forearms as well, helping to hold the gloves in place. Finally, soft toed boots with steel shin plates. To top it all off, the mask. It was larger than the rest, actually covering her entire face including her mouth.
Widow put her fingers together and wolf-whistled.
"Just showing my appreciation. Get your mind out of the gutter, little spider," Widow smirked.
"It suits you. I should know, I had to order it specifically for you. We didn't already have outfits that would fit a kid," Crim shrugged, "Glad it turned out so well."
Jace sighed and shook his head, "I'm just plain jealous."
Olivia rolled her shoulders. Her arms and legs still felt free, like they did when she wore her hoodie, but the additional weight on her arms and legs was a little off putting, "Let's keep going. I need to get used to wearing it when I fight."
Jace nodded, and they continued their training session.
Olivia crouched down behind the car in the driveway as her senses told her the guard was about to round the corner. She positioned herself against it, low and quiet, and stepped around the edge. She kept the bulk of the car between the two of them.
'Take him out when his back is turned. Widow will make it quiet,' Crim's thoughts whispered through her mind. She nodded. He was behind her with Widow, the two keeping watch as she made her approach. Olivia rounded the back of the car, right as the guard walked past it. He was wide open, exposed and completely unaware that she was there. She unleashed her semblance and poised them to strike, doubt suddenly creeping into the forefront of her mind, 'Am I going to kill him?'
Realizing she was waiting too long, Olivia decided to just knock him unconscious. With one horizontal swipe of an appendage, his head was knocked to the side. He slumped silently to the ground, courtesy of Widow's semblance. Olivia grabbed him under his armpits and dragged him back to the others, making sure to stay low in case someone peeked out a window.
'What are you doing?' Crim's voice whispered through her mind as she pulled the unconscious man next to them. Olivia mimed throwing his body into one of the nearby bushes, and when Crim just continued giving her a confused look she decided to just do it. She picked his body up with her appendages, drifted him over top of a nearby bush, and dropped him.
Crim shook his head, 'I mean why didn't you kill him?'
Olivia paused in thought, she had no idea how to gesture in a way that meant 'because I don't have anything against him personally' so she just whispered it instead.
Crim sighed and shared a look with Widow, 'You don't need to have a personal vendetta to end someone's life. You need to be more pragmatic. What if he wakes up while we're still in the middle of our mission?' Crim stood and walked to stand over the man, pulling his sword out as he did, 'Should we take the time to tie up every guard we knock out? Then they'll have time to notice he's missing. There's a very simple solution.' Crim punctuated his next words by stabbing down into the unconscious guard's chest, 'Remove the variables.'
Olivia staggered back at just how callously he had murdered the man, whispering fiercely, "That's… How can you be so calm about it!?"
'I've had many allies, comrades, and friends die because someone wasn't willing to do what needed to be done to keep them alive. That's why I refused to let Jace become a member of the White Fang. I love the kid, but he has a bleeding heart. He can't do what's necessary," Crim looked Olivia up and down, 'Can you?'
'Could I…?' Olivia had to ask herself. She had killed three people so far in her life, two in self-defense, one because she really wanted to, and almost a fourth if Jace hadn't talked her out of it. 'Leaving that brute alive was a risk, no matter what Jace says.' Olivia looked at the guard that had died before he could even realize it. 'If we left him alive… He really could have given us all away. Then we would have been inside, surrounded. Outmanned and outgunned, in unfamiliar territory. They certainly wouldn't hesitate to kill us…'
"I can," Olivia confirmed. There was no tremble in her voice, nor flicker of her eyes that might show her as lacking resolve. She paused, though, a thought coming to mind, "Don't tell Jace. He'll stop training me if he finds out about this." The other two nodded their acceptance.
'Well then, let us continue,' Crim returned to his place along the wall, 'By Widow's count, there are ten guards stationed on the grounds at any one point in time. With that one gone, that makes nine left. They tend to sweep back and forth through the house, trading places as they go, so another should be on his way soon. We need to close the distance to where he should be coming from, and get him before he gets suspicious. Sound good?'
When they had both nodded, Crim snuck out from behind the wall up to the car Olivia had been at before and waved for them to follow. The side of the building they were on had an open car port of sorts. There were four different vehicles, three parked inside, and the one they now hid behind that had been left out in the driveway. From their position, they could either go into the garage and try to pick the lock on the door, or they could go along the right side of the garage towards the front door.
It was the front door they now hurried towards. They leaned back against the wall to the left of it, hidden from the light of the open windows above. 'Keep waiting,' Crim commanded. Olivia was starting to get worried, but complied nonetheless. After another thirty seconds she felt a presence approach. The door swung open, another guard stepping out. From their position, the door was between them and the guard until he had closed it. Widow quickly vaulted on to the steps next to him as they came within sight. The man's eyes widened, lips opening to scream for help. No sound came, and a moment later Widow's knife was protruding from his chest.
She wiped the blood from her knife onto his coat then let him fall backwards off the other side of the front steps, into the shadows of the wall opposite them. Olivia and Crim hopped up onto the steps as well. Widow slowly cracked it open, eyes peering inside closely. Olivia's senses were telling her no one was close by, and it seemed like Widow agreed. She led them into a large open area. There was a set of stairs off to the right that curled up along the wall to the floor above. It was there that they went, ascending silently towards their true goal.
They arrived at the top and Widow placed a hand on either of their shoulders. Olivia waited, just around the corner to the hallway they needed to go down. She felt the man's presence soon after, heading down the hall in their direction to come downstairs. Crim pushed her forward, 'Now's your chance. If you fail here, at least we can make a break for it. Do or die.'
Olivia didn't think he would literally kill her. It was just an expression, after all, but even still she mentally prepared herself, 'If you don't do this, then they'll hunt us down. Hunt me down. Especially after we've already killed two of his guards!' Olivia poised her appendages, ready to strike. A guard stepped around the corner. His eyes went wide as he caught sight of the three of them. His hand dropped to his side, reaching for his gun...
Olivia speared him through the chest and dragged him back from the front of the hallway.
Body dealt with for the moment, Widow once again took the lead and headed into the hallway. It was long, but as they made their way down it, Olivia was glad to notice the lack of guards in the upstairs area. They were in the clear, just the Council member left to take care of and they would be home free.
Their progress slowed, and after a dozen more feet, Olivia realized why. There were five people in the room ahead, not one. 'Does he have guests over? Maybe that fourth car in the driveway wasn't his…' Widow seemed to be having the same idea. She turned back to Crim and held up five fingers, spread out so that he wouldn't think she was just telling him to wait there. They shared a nod and continued forward, eventually standing directly outside the door.
'Widow and I will each take two. You run in immediately after we do and single out Beryl. He's your kill. Once they're all dead, we'll go out the way we came. We have to do this quick, there's no telling when someone might find that guard on the stairs.'
Olivia nodded quietly and stepped back, waiting for them to make the first move. It seemed like a few more words passed between Crim and Widow. They each gave her one last look, and flung the door open. Widow entered first, soundlessly. The men inside were playing poker. They began to silently shout, standing up from the table and reaching for weapons.
Crim and Widow closed the gap in a flash and were on them. Two were dropped instantly. They didn't have enough time to defend themselves. Olivia followed suit, her eyes locked on to the fat man on the opposite side of the table from her. Beryl saw her making her quick approach and stumbled up on to his feet before throwing the table up, trying to put a barrier between himself and Olivia.
Olivia brought down one of her appendages and used it to vault herself high through the air. She twisted midair, feet turning into the fall so that she stopped behind the man, only a few feet away. Beryl spun in place, scream on his lips but with no sound escaping, as Olivia drove all four of her appendages through him at once. His body went limp instantly as he was lifted off the floor, arms swaying to the side, and head dropped to his chest. 'I'm almost sad I didn't get to hear him scream.'
The other two 'fights' were over mere moments later.
'Well done. I'm proud of you,' Crim smiled at her as they began to leave. Widow raised both her hands up, and gave her a silent double high five as she whispered, "Good job, little spider." Olivia's face glowed under their praise.
'That was easier than I thought it would be…'
Who knows? Maybe she could get used to this whole killing people thing.
Chapter 6: A Different Lesson
Olivia rolled out of bed with a groan and stretched, arching her back with her arms high above. She let out a little squeak of pleasure as a rippling series of pops came from her spine. She slowly got dressed in her little room at the top of the stairs and stepped out, walking downstairs with blurry eyes into the kitchen.
"G'morning, July," Olivia gave the older woman a sleepy wave as she opened up one of the cupboards and reached into it to grab a box of cereal. July had taught her the basics of sowing in her free time over the last month or so. Many of the members that stayed there had also taught her some of the necessary skills she was missing out on. It was truly telling how many of them were professionals in something other than being terrorists. 'Normal people driven to the brink.'
They had all adopted her into the fold with open arms, and Olivia had started to see them as a sort of family. A few of them had shared their stories with her when she had gotten to know them. July's son had been killed in a hit and run right in front of her eyes. When she identified the man as an elected official, the police had quietly swept it all under the rug.
The woman gave her a small wave and a smile back, though, in the middle of making her own breakfast as well. Olivia looked down at all the patched tears and seams in her hoodie. She hated to accept it and was putting it off, but she would need to get other clothes soon. Olivia had firmly decided to at least keep the hoodie as a memento, like Copper's weapon. She'd tried practicing with it, but every time she held it the memories just came surging back. It wasn't meant for her. It wasn't meant for killing. It had been created by her brother so that he could protect her and their family. The idea of using it in her grisly acts made her more sick to her stomach than the actual killing did.
Olivia's missions had continued along with Jace's training sessions. They had waited two weeks for the police presence to die down after killing the Council member. All officers had been on high alert, so they had just waited it all out. After that, Crim brought her along on smaller missions to not stir up too much fuss. Stealing from Schnee warehouses, robbing stores that refused to serve faunus. She had killed a few more people over the last month, two guards and a police officer that she had spotted beating a faunus. The last had been a simple act of aggression. Killing the guards had been… 'pragmatic', as Crim called it.
Olivia had come to terms with her lot in life, 'A fighter for equality.' She smirked to herself between bites, 'I'm a weapon, and a damn good one.' Olivia had become one of their primary ways of entry into warehouses, when Widow was off on one of her away missions, anyway. A cute face on a small girl with no visible weapons, arms held up to cover her face, as if in tears, while stumbling towards you? Olivia had felt sorry for them after they showed her concern. When she brought it up to Crim, he had just told her to try it once without her hoodie. One look at her arms to see she was a faunus had swiftly swung that pity to pure disgust.
Her guilt had vanished along with their pity.
Olivia was both surprised, and thankful that the nightmares hadn't ever returned. Perhaps it was the confidence she felt in herself that kept them at bay now. Olivia smiled at the few people that had also woken up this early. Perhaps... it was because she had reclaimed some of what was lost. Olivia grinned as the front door opened and Jace stepped inside. She quickly washed her bowl out and placed it back on the rack, then ran across the room to where he was setting down some large bags.
"So, what's the surprise~?" Olivia cooed. Jace had been taunting her for a week straight now, telling her that they were going to do something special today.
"Patience, Olly," Jace smirked at the flash of annoyance she showed, "What, that nickname doesn't work either?"
"Why are you so insistent on giving me some pet name?" Olivia grinded her teeth.
"Widow gets to call you 'little spider' all the time and you don't seem to mind that," Jace turned back to what he had been doing, "Besides, don't you need a code name or something? Are you just going to go by Olivia on missions. Won't that give away your secret identity?"
Olivia rolled her eyes, "Do I even need a secret identity? What do I do besides live here at the base, or go on missions?"
Jace glanced back at her, "Are you really expecting to spend your entire life doing this? What about when you retire? What if you get what you want? Are you going to try and integrate back into society with the same name as a known White Fang member?"
Olivia paused before speaking again, 'I hadn't even thought of what comes after.' Instead she stammered out, "Crim doesn't bother changing his name, either!"
Jace stopped what he was doing and turned around with the flattest look she'd ever seen on him, "Do you really think 'Crim' is his actual name?" he rolled his eyes, "C'mon, Olivia. It's a shortened version of his code name."
'This is the first time I'm hearing about this,' Olivia chastised herself. An entire month and she hadn't bothered to learn some of the simplest things, "So what's it short for?"
Jace grimaced and turned away a little, "The Crimson Terror." At Olivia's snort he turned back quickly, "Don't tell him I told you that. He didn't actually choose it for himself. A news van caught him on camera killing a bunch of police a few years ago and the video got leaked to the public somehow. They started calling him that. It kind of just stuck afterwards when new recruits kept calling him it, so he embraced it and shortened it down to just 'Crim'."
Olivia shivered, 'If I get stuck with some ridiculous name like that…' she turned back to Jace, a series expression on her face now, "Okay, come up with something good," a panicked thought struck her, 'What if they already came up with a name for me in their investigations!?' What would they call her, 'Little Black Riding Hood!? Spider Child!? Oh Oum, noooo!'
Jace chuckled and finished up what he had been doing, standing up to regard Olivia, "Alright. Are you ready for your surprise?"
All thought on code names was swept out of Olivia's head, "I've been ready since the first time you mentioned it. What are we doing?"
Jace opened the bags, and her eyes went wide, "We're going on a picnic."
"Come on! Not much further!" Jace called from ahead of her.
Olivia huffed in exhaustion as she pulled herself up the steep slope. They had been walking for hours since getting dropped off at the edge of the city. Up and down forested hills into the depths of the wilderness for their little 'picnic'. Olivia had started guessing he had different intentions in mind after the fifteen minute mark. After an hour, she was ready to kill him. Now? She just wanted to go home and take a cold shower, "How much further!?"
"Almost there!" Jace yelled back for the thousandth time. Olivia could feel the smile on his face, even if he was turned away from her. Olivia shrugged the two packs he had made her carry the entire time further up her shoulders, trying to secure them so they wouldn't jostle around so much! Olivia settled for silently cursing Jace's ancestors.
Jace stopped at the crest of the hill and looked back down on her, a smug look across his face that elicited a growl from Olivia. 'I might not be a wolf faunus, but I'll still tear your stupid face off.' Jace has also refused to let her use her semblance to make the trip easier, 'Then what's the point?' he had asked.
Olivia collapsed the last ten feet and dragged herself across the ground to his feet, punctuating each word as she pulled herself forward, "No more… Can't take it... Gonna die… Will haunt you…"
"We're here!" Jace cheered, ignoring her and holding his arms wide. Olivia gave him a cold stare, this looked like every single hillside they had crossed over on the way here. Tall, steep, and surrounded by trees on all sides. Regardless, she hefted the packs off her back and rolled over, staring up into the blue sky above. 'If it could just rain…", but there wasn't a cloud in sight.
"Now, I bet you're wondering why it is that I brought you out here," Jace looked at Olivia for confirmation, 'Do you even need to bother?' He coughed, recovering from the flat stare she had leveled at him, "And if you could spare a moment, I'll show you exactly what this is all about."
Olivia watched with curiosity as he unzipped one of the packs. He'd shown their contents to her before they left. There really was food inside. Jace pulled something out that he kept hidden from her, fiddling with it for a few seconds before finally turning back, object held behind him, "Now, my uncle was kind enough to point out to me that you're next mission is going to involve robbing a shipment of Dust off a train. It will be your first mission outside of the city, so… I realized you would need training of a… different sort."
"What do you-" Olivia froze as Jace pulled his hand back in front of himself, and upended a bottle of syrup across Olivia's chest.
Neither spoke. Olivia was too shocked, and Jace was waiting for her reaction.
"You…. you…." Olivia's face twisted in fury, "You bastard!" Deep furrows were plunged into the ground as she heaved herself to her feet and in his direction, propelling herself with all four legs at once into a vicious tackle that knocked him flat on his back, "If this stuff doesn't come out Jace, I'm going to tear you to pieces and use your skin to make a new hoodie!"
A howl from the treeline below stopped Olivia dead in her tracks, fist raised above Jace as he held his hands up to protect himself. She rolled off and shakily to her feet, looking down the hill in the direction of the noise.
"Right on schedule," Jace said happily from his place on the ground. He sat back up and began rummaging through the packs again, pulling out a plate and some containers of food, "Be a dear and take care of them while I have lunch, okay?"
"Did I hit your head too hard or something!? There's Grimm out there you idiot!" Olivia eyes darted between him and the forest beneath. None had yet appeared, but as she waited, a second howl echoed the first, then a third, and a fourth.
"Mhm," Jace mumbled between a mouthful of food before swallowing, "This is your chance to finally get some training against them. Humans aren't the only enemy the faunus have, and if you have missions outside the city, you'll run into Grimm eventually."
Olivia's eyes widened in fear as the first beowolf stepped out of the treeline, head held high as it sniffed the air, then locked eyes on her from a distance. It's head shot back up, another howl punctuating the air, a dozen answering the call. The creature's fur was black, with bone white protrusions coming off of its face and back. It began to charge up the hill at them at full speed.
"Are you just going to sit there!?"
"Uh huh. They're being drawn to you, both because of your emotions, and because that syrup I poured on you attracts them. Sweets, who knew?" Jace's expression grew serious, "They're more frightening than some human opponents, but they're also a lot dumber. Better you get over your fear here under my supervision with no human enemies in sight, than to wait until you're stuck between a gun and a beowolf."
Olivia's semblance unfurled as she turned back to the Grimm, standing her ground near the top of the hill. It's progress was slowed at least, due to the incline, but that made it no less terrifying. Olivia's mind flashed to images of those claws tearing her to pieces, those jaws closing over her body and biting her in half. Her resolution firmed, 'I won't die here!'
"That's the spirit!"
Olivia was too busy staring down the beowolf to realize she'd yelled that last thought out loud. It finished crossing the distance between them, head low in a snarl that shook Olivia to her bones. She flinched her head away and brought her appendages in front of herself to block without looking. When a few moments had passed and she didn't feel anything hit her, she hesitantly turned her eyes back to the creature in front of her.
It was suspended on two appendages, black blood leaking out of its body in gushing waves that covered the invisible limbs. Its body was already starting to turn to black ash and fade away. 'That was… easier than I thought it would be…' Jace smirked as Olivia turned to face the next beowolf that had just begun charging up the hill on the other side. It arrived sooner than the other had. Olivia didn't take her eyes off it this time, she waited until it was within range and struck, appendages spearing through it with even more ease than they had for some of the humans she had fought.
More blood leaked out over her invisible limbs, making them now much more visible as the black ichor covered them. Olivia turned back to Jace in confusion. He seemed to interpret her expression and laughed lightheartedly, "Grimm don't have aura, so it's as easy to stab them as it is a regular person, like that big guy that was in your old house. Their best defenses are the bones on their body. Try striking some of those to feel the difference."
A third beowolf was already upon them as he finished speaking. Olivia jumped into action and swug one appendage between them right as the beowolf was swinging its claws towards her chest. The arm was battered to the side with ease, knocking the beowolf off balance. Olivia struck this time, intentionally going for its face right where the bone mask rested. There was a cracking sound as her appendage pierced through still, but she had noticed the difference. The black fur was comparable to a regular person. The bone was more like trying to pierce through a metal door. Both of which Olivia was still extremely capable of.
Jace let out a low whistle as she stepped back and withdrew her appendage from the Grimm's head, letting it tumble down the hill as it turned to black ash. They kept coming, and Olivia stopped them dead in their tracks every single time. Jace would yell advice here and there, tell her to try things out instead of just ending the fights in one blow, "You never know when you might get swarmed and won't have the chance to just calmly take on one at a time." The bastard just sat with his food the entire time, keeping an eye on her, like someone enjoying a show while they ate.
Olivia collapsed on her back next to him, breathing heavily as her adrenaline had worn off. The two dozen or so beowolves that eventually made their way up the hill had been a challenge against her stamina, more than anything. After the long trek here, followed by the fight, she didn't even have the energy to let put away her extra legs, and just laid down on them, letting them curl around her sides. 'Ugh, I'm glad they don't get stained for good.' Each one was entirely soaked in black Grimm blood.
Jace's eyebrows shot up in surprise at something. He quickly pulled out his scroll and stood above Olivia before snapping a picture. The sound and flash drew Olivia's attention, "What was that?"
"You'll see later. Hungry?"
A loud rumble from her stomach as she noticed the smell of the food was all the response Jace needed. He piled a plate with it and handed the plate to her as she sat up. Olivia used her semblance legs to prop herself up as if she had an actual chair rest and sighed in contentment. 'Ah, the perks of being me.'
"Did it work?" Jace asked after she had been left to eat for a few minutes. The breeze rolling across the top of the hill was nice, and the food he had brought was delicious.
"Did what work?" she asked past a mouthful, keeping enough of her decency to at least cover her mouth as she spoke.
"My master plan, of course. Feel like you could take on any Grimm that came your way right about now, eh?" Jace grinned smugly.
Olivia nodded, "That was a lot easier than I would have expected. We're always told that they're so powerful…"
"Well most people don't have four additional limbs that are each over ten feet long and have the strength of a Goliath behind them," Jace laughed as he said it.
Olivia shrugged, "I guess. Almost a shame I don't intend on dedicating my life to killing the things. I could probably make a lot of lien protecting towns or going on kill quests."
Jace shuffled awkwardly for a few moments before looking back up at her, "Actually… I wanted to talk to you about that." When Olivia was silent, he pressed on, "Like I was saying earlier, you're not going to be in the White Fang forever. Or at least… you shouldn't let it consume your entire life. You're twelve for Oum's sake! You have so much time ahead of you, do you really want to spend it all killing humans?"
When Olivia's breath caught, Jace glanced back up at her, expression darkening, "Oh yeah. I overheard some of the others talking about some of your exploits. I know you were all trying to keep me in the dark… I kept training you, though, even after I found out. If I stopped now, you would just end up an easier target for some human out there to take their revenge on! I don't want that to happen to you… You're like…"
"Like what?" Olivia asked quietly. Jace had stopped speaking completely after that. His eyes turned towards hers, and her heart dropped at the sadness behind them. His eyes clouded over as he began his story.
"On my sixth birthday, my mother and father asked me what I wanted to do for my special day. There was a movie that I really wanted to see. They promised me we would go later, after dinner, but I didn't want to wait that long. So they changed their plans, and we headed to the theater for the matinee. I don't even remember what movie it was we were going to see… We never got the chance to watch it," Jace paused to collect himself, a hitch in his throat, "We were crossing the street when a Schnee Transport vehicle popped a tire. It lost control and overturned on the street, headed right for us. My father had been holding my hand when we crossed… He had time to push me out of the way… The truck was already there, already about to hit them, but he still went back for my mother. The explosion… all three of them died…"
"All three?" Olivia placed a hand on Jace's back, trying to comfort him. She knew he didn't even feel it though. Tears rolled down his face as he looked at Olivia.
"My father… my mother… and my baby sister she was carrying…"
Olivia froze, horrified at the implication.
"...When I saw you getting taken away by those police… you're... you're about how old she would have been, ya know?"
Olivia sat back on her heels, dumbstruck by the admittance.
"I…", Olivia placed her hand back on his shoulder to get his attention, to make sure he would see the truth she was about to speak, "No one could ever replace my brother. Copper was kind. He was gentle. Yet he was also strong and resilient. We spent hours reading over comics together, or playing dumb games… Hearing that he was going to apply at Haven was the happiest I'd ever been for him, but at the time… It was also the saddest I'd ever been for myself. He would be gone for months at a time. I wouldn't be able to see him. It would just be me reading comics, me playing those dumb games… It was the loneliest I had ever felt, and he wasn't even gone yet. I think he noticed. He knew me well enough that he could tell I was sad. So he played with me more, bought me more comics to keep my company, promised that he would be back after every semester so that we could spend that time together again… I think it… It made it easier, when he died. I didn't feel guilty. I didn't feel like there was time we had wasted, like there was more time we could have spent together…"
Jace had shifted to staring at the ground in front of him, Olivia lightly tipped his chin back up to look at her.
"So when I met you, I can't say I felt the same as you did… You were this punk at the arcade that was getting in the way of the best day I'd had in a long time. Then I got captured… and your uncle saved me, because of you. And after that, you kept helping me. Kept spending time with me. It wasn't reading comics, it wasn't playing dumb games… but I was still loving every minute of it," Olivia let out a light laugh, "All the people there have treated me so well. They've taught me new things, taken care of me…" She bumped her shoulder into his and wrapped an arm around him, "Especially you. I'm glad to say that I see them all as my new family… and I would be honored to be your sister, Jace."
Jace turned to look her in the eyes. His lips quivered into a smile, and slowly, they drew each other into a tight hug. Olivia draped her extra legs around them both like a cage, wanting to protect this moment from anything that might disturb it.
After a few minutes, Jace finally sat back with a small laugh, "I guess that makes the arcade incident our first sibling fight. I'm glad I won."
Olivia punched him on the shoulder lightly, "Only because I let you."
"You keep telling yourself that, champ," Jace grinned and wiped the tear stains off his face, his face regained some of its composure, "I want you to think about applying for Sanctum next year. You're almost thirteen, right? You should get out of this life while you still can."
"But, the others…"
"Do you really think they wouldn't be happy for you? Do you think July wants to see another kid die? The last half an hour should be proof enough," he gestured around at where all the Grimm's bodies had long since vanished, "You have so much potential for helping people. You aren't a weapon, Olivia. You're a person that deserves to get what's best for them, just like anyone else."
Olivia was startled by how closely Jace's words echoed the ones she had been thinking earlier. 'Not a weapon?' She turned to gaze out across what had so recently been a battlefield, "I'll… I'll think about it. I don't know yet. I… I did want to go to Sanctum. That feels like a lifetime ago..."
"It isn't. It's this life. It's always been this life," he stared into her eyes seriously and sighed, "I'm... okay with just a 'maybe' for now, though."
They shared a smile and both looked around.
"You thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?"
"Yeah, let's get the hell out of here. I'm using my semblance on the way back, though, and you can carry the bags."
They made the two hour trip back to the city, chatting along the way. Jace shared more information about the Grimm. Their names, what they looked like, what attacks they preferred, as well as weaknesses and habits they all seemed to share. It was with great relief that they finally opened the door to the hideout and stumbled over to the couches. They ignored Crim's attempts to get their attention and collapsed on to the deliciously comfortable foam pads.
"Where have you two been?" Crim asked, following along to stand behind them at the couches.
"Bonding," Olivia replied simply, head burying itself into the softness beneath her.
"Figuring out Olivia's code name," Jace replied after her, flipping over to pull his scroll from his pocket. Crim looked down on him with some curiosity while he messed around with it for a minute, pulling up a couple different pictures to put them side by side. Jace finally held it up for them both to see. The first image was of Olivia, spider legs blackened with Grimm blood to the point where not a single spot on them was invisible. She was lying on her back in the grass, arms and legs outstretched, with the spider legs filling the gaps and curled up towards the middle. The only color aside from black were her eyes, two spots of brilliant pink in the depths of it all. The second picture was a black flower, petals bent up like Olivia's blackened limbs, and in the center of it, a pink glow from the nectar within.
"The Black Lotus. A beautiful flower with black petals that can be ground up to create one of the most dangerous poisons known to man. Yet in its purest form, contains a nectar that will cure almost any other poison," Jace finished reading the description beneath the image and looked up at Olivia along with his uncle.
She shrugged in defeat, "Better than 'The Crimson Terror', I guess."
Jace stared at her in horror as his uncle's head whipped back around to stare at him.
"Why would you do this!?" Jace whispered in shock.
Olivia gave him one last smirk before rolling back over into the softness of her couch, "What else are little sisters for?"
The tongue lashing that followed was all the revenge Olivia needed for the syrup staining her hoodie.
Chapter 7: Borrowed Time
Olivia waited behind the container she was using for cover. A patrol was passing, two guards, guns at their hips, that would certainly shoot on sight if they saw her here. Olivia sunk into the shadows and waited for them to pass. This wasn't a kill mission. She needed to get into the main office and acquire the SDC's shipment plans without arousing suspicion. After the little trip with Jace two months ago, Olivia had made her intentions clear to Crim. She wasn't going to kill anymore. She wanted to be a better person, and to go to Sanctum.
As Jace had guessed, no one in the White Fang had held it against her. They'd all been happy, several of them ecstatic even. They had redoubled their efforts to teach her things. The training with Jace had gotten even more intense, and Widow had started stopping by more often, later in the day, to teach her more of her craft. How to become a shadow. Olivia may not have Widow's semblance, but there were things she could do with her own that others could not duplicate. It had been Widow that suggested she go on this mission alone. "She can handle it." Olivia had basked in the praise. It would likely be her last mission. Her letter from Sanctum had arrived in the mail earlier that day.
Olivia used her appendages to heft her higher than she could have reached otherwise, climbing up the stack of containers to the top. From here, she could see the entire room. No one thought to look up. The patrol that had passed her was one of many, as was this stack of cargo containers she had chosen to climb. None of their vantage points were high enough to see her as she slipped across the top of the containers, jumping from stack to stack silently on her way to the opposite side of the building. What she was looking for was a second story office, one that overlooked the rest of the enormous warehouse. She spotted it quickly enough, in the direction she was already headed. More patrols passed her by.
Olivia stopped at the edge of the final stack of containers. The room she was looking at was built into the side of the building, window open to overlook the rest of the warehouse. She would need to drop down to ground level to access it through the stairs. It was her best chance at entry without leaving a trace. If the SDC believed their shipment records were compromised, they would change them in a heartbeat.
With one last check of her senses to confirm no one was nearby, Olivia dropped back down to the ground like a ghost and made her way to the bottom of the stairs. Widow's training was working overtime. She felt outwards again with her senses for anyone nearby, towards the top. Satisfied, she ascended. The stairs curled along the side of the building, thankfully blocked off from prying eyes by the wall they were inclosed in. Olivia stepped up to the steel door at the top, locked behind a keypad that would required a keycard. She pulled out the one that Widow had swiped a few days before and inserted it. The small beep in response made Olivia tense, but it was too quiet for any of the humans to have heard.
The door swung open freely now, and Olivia walked inside, keeping low to avoid being spotted through the windows that lined the front. A long console stretched across the wall beneath the window, the one used to control all of the cranes that moved the dust containers from place to place. It was there that she went, to the screen in the center of it. The screen hummed to life, lighting up and displaying the Schnee logo across the front of it. Olivia inserted the keycard into the slot on the console. The screen changed, Olivia didn't bother to read the name it displayed and just waited for the files to appear. The desktop opened, and she quickly scanned the folders on it. 'Records, Personnel, Procedures,' Olivia's eyes lit up on, 'Transportation', and she brought her finger up to choose it.
Her senses suddenly alerted her to someone coming up the stairs, still at the bottom for the moment but certainly approaching. 'No, two people.' Olivia pulled out the keycard, screen going back to just the image of the company logo, and searched the room. It was relatively empty, except for the console and the table in the center of the room. It didn't have legs, but was packed with drawers and shelves that she could use to try and cut off line of sight. Olivia moved behind it right as the door opened, admitting the two guards that stepped inside.
"Man, did you hear that Cotton got to go on the raid? I was sure they would pick me!" one of the guards exclaimed as he stepped in, walking up to the console. Olivia edged her body behind the table as well as she could, keeping it between herself and the two guards.
"Whaaat? That guy is an idiot! I guess they didn't need many of us, though. Did you hear they hired seven pro huntsman to lead the raid?" 'A raid?' Olivia didn't like the sound of that.
"Seven!?" Damn it, I really wish I could have been there to see them in action. Those White Fang killed half my squad. Probably would have gotten me too if I'd been on duty that night."
"How'd they even find their hideout?" 'Shit! This sounds really bad! Screw the mission! If this is what I think it is, then I need to get back to the hideout. Right. Now!'
Olivia surged up from behind the table towards the two, slamming the both of them against the console in front of them, two appendages for each. They shouted in fear and surprise, bodies contorted awkwardly as they reached for their weapons. Olivia dragged them back and flung them across the floor before jabbing an appendage down on top of their chests. When their hands once again frantically reached for their weapons, she pinned those hands to the floor as well. All they could do was look up at her in terror as she stood above them both.
"Where and when is this raid?" Olivia said it in the most neutral tone she could, slowly pressing down on their chests so that they could feel the sharp point against their flesh.
They looked between each other, eyes wide. The expression on one firmed, "We aren't telling you any-!"
Olivia pierced down through his chest, sinking her appendage half a foot into the floor beneath him. He gave one final gasp before his eyes went dull, body limp. She hurled him against the wall to her left, blood splattering across the room as he tumbled back to the ground. Olivia turned her attention to the other that was now looking at her, completely horrified. 'Good.'
"That'll be you in a second if you don't tell me what I want to know. Now!"
The guard threw his free hand up, "Th-there's an attack planned on a Wh-White Fang hideout near the slums! Some faunus told us where they were! The company hired a bunch of huntsman for it! It-It's tonight!"
Olivia paled, 'Tonight!?' She ripped her scroll from her pocket and dialed Crim's number. The call connected, ringing into the silence left over between her and the guard. It kept ringing.
"Come on Crim, pick up!" There was no answer. Olivia was trying to dial Jace's number when she felt more guards running up the stairs. She turned back to the guard she had pinned, "Congratulations. You answered my questions. You may live." The tension in his body lowered for a moment, right before Olivia's appendage slammed against the side of his head, knocking him unconscious. 'You friends between me and the exit, however…?'
The first to the door was the first to die. Olivia could sense him directly on the other side, inserting his keycard. She didn't bother waiting. With one heave, she stabbed through the metal door and through the man's chest, then whipped him back and forth to shake him off as she withdrew the appendage back into the room.
The guards on the other side screamed in outrage and panic at the sudden death of their comrade. Gun fire blasted into the door as they tried to fire through the hole. Olivia wasn't dumb enough to stand in the way of it. With three of her appendages, she cracked them like a whip against the door all at once. It was ripped off its hinges and sent flying into the guards, knocking them all down the stairs in a tangled heap.
Olivia flew down the stairs after them, in a dead sprint. One stumbled to his feet near the bottom, and was cut down before he could reclaim his gun. Her appendage slashed across his throat with its edge. Blood poured down his chest as he toppled backwards out of her way. Another reached for her foot to grab her, so Olivia cut his arm off. His screams were the last thing she heard as she ran out of the building, attention set on only one thing.
Get back to base.
Olivia blew through the deserted streets in the dark of the night, path set on one destination. Her breath came out ragged with every other step. She had attached an appendage to each leg, and was using their strength to increase her speed to heights she had not known she could reach. Even still, the Schnee warehouse had been on the opposite side of the district from where they were. The twisting, winding roads between all the unmarked warehouses was slowing her progress as well. She had never been good at finding her way through them.
Eyes darting from side to side, she finally spotted a familiar road and turned down it. 'I'm close!' A flash of red and blue lights caught her attention. Olivia tensed her ears. She could not hear any fighting. No steel against steel, no gunshots. 'Am I too late!?'
Olivia felt a familiar presence off to her right, on top of the building across the street from the base. 'Widow!' She quickly scaled the building, out of sight of the police parked in front of the hideout. With one final heave, she landed on top of the roof, rolling back to her feet to see Widow. She stood at the edge of the building, overlooking the hideout.
"We were too late, little spider," Widow said sadly, turning back to Olivia with a somber expression.
"No, no we can still fight!" Olivia whispered, moving to also peek over the edge at the scene below. There was no fighting. There was no shouting. The bodies of White Fang and huntsman alike were strewn across the street. Smoke billowed up from the building itself, a fire somewhere inside that no one was in a rush to put out. The remaining SDC and huntsman were retrieving the bodies of their own fallen. Olivia could see her friends, her family, her comrades.
Olivia fell to her knees at the sight of her… her brother. His chest had been slashed open, blood pooling beneath him. Crim lay next to him, neck twisted in a way that it was never meant to be. She spotted July… her eyes darted to each body. They were all dead. Every single one.
She flinched as Widow's hand fell on her shoulder, and looked up into the older woman's eyes. Olivia could see the pain behind them, but also sympathy. Sympathy for Olivia. "This is not the end, Olivia. We can come back from this. We will make them regret the day they ever took up arms against the White Fang," Widow whispered it to her with certainty, a cold steel forming behind her eyes that bore into Olivia's own.
Olivia looked down once again, her eyes now taking in the huntsman. She etched every single face she saw into her memory. She would not forget them. Never.
"Let's go, Olivia. There's nothing we can do here."
'Olivia? No. That was a dead girl's name. One that had been living off borrowed time from the moment her semblance activated. One that had been wasting that time by not doing what needed to be done. She was looking down on the proof of that. How naive she had been, to think anything could ever change between the faunus and the humans. Fighting for equality?'
'...She would kill for peace.'
"Lotus," she whispered, still refusing to stand. Her eyes burned with a deep hatred that would not be quenched until blood was spilled.
"What?" Widow asked, turning back around.
"Olivia died with them... Call me Lotus."
"...As you wish, little spider."
A smile that Olivia would never see curled across Widow's lips.
Chapter 8: Into the Cluster
"Why are we meeting with a human?" Lotus demanded. They were walking through the slums in the rain, on their way to see some woman that Widow said was good for information.
Widow rolled her eyes, "You want to get revenge, don't you? Do you know the names of the huntsmen that you want said revenge on? Do you know where they live?"
Lotus shook her head in response, leveling a glare at everyone they passed.
Widow sighed, "Then we need someone who does. Whether or not she's a human means nothing. She has her uses, little spider," she regarded Lotus for a moment, "Just calm down. You'll stir up all kinds of trouble if you go around with that look on your face."
With a very visible effort, Lotus let her shoulders slump back down, eyes relaxing a hair in their constant scan of their surroundings. Widow gave her one look and turned away, "Good enough. We're here."
It was a tall two story building they stood outside of, brick along the bottom half that turned into plaster above. A man stood posted outside the front door, leaning back against the wall. He regarded them closely as they approached, taking in the daggers on Widow's hips and the child with no visible weapons. He stepped between them and the door as they arrived, holding his hand up cautiously, "State your business."
"We come seeking information," Widow said simply.
After a short pause, the man seemed to be satisfied with her response, and stepped aside. Widow led the two of them into the large open room. Stairs on the left wrapped along the wall to a second level that was little more than a balcony for a few more tables to look out the windows. There were eight patrons, all sporting the same purple color on various garments they wore. Widow pointed with a nod of her head, drawing Lotus's eyes to a table situated at the back right corner. A larger blond woman sat smoking at it, two armed guards at her sides.
"Well, what have we here? A couple of customers, looking to do a little business?" the large woman asked aloud as they approached. Her henchmen took in the two of them and dropped their hands to their weapons. Lotus slowed, but Widow kept the same gait, eventually pulling back the chair across from the woman and sitting down in it. 'Do we have nothing to fear from them?' Lotus looked around the room again. They were all armed, now that she looked closer. Her sense was telling her that their auras were low, though. Hardly better than regular people. It was another one of the 'tricks' that Widow had taught her, feeling out how strong someone else's aura was. Hers and Widow's were strong. These people? 'They're weak.' Lotus regained her confidence and stepped up behind her companion, a smirk across her face that echoed Widow's.
"I'm Little Miss Malachite, the leader of these band of miscreants… but I'm sure you already knew that if you're here," she gave them both a smirk in return, "What can I do for you, ladies?"
"We're here for information. Seven huntsmen attacked a White Fang hideout three days ago. Four are still alive. We want their names, and locations," Widow replied evenly.
"Hmmm," Malachite's reply was slow, drawn out, "Well, that sounds easy enough. I charge one thousand lien per name and address, whenever its a huntsmen. Not that I care for them, but neither am I too keen on the Grimm. If you're going to be killing them, then that's the price for what you desire."
Lotus glanced down at Widow, 'We don't have that kind of lien,' her face spoke, even though her mouth did not. Malachite caught the look and frowned, "If you can't pay, then we have no business here."
Widow smiled and leaned forward. The two guards grabbed their weapons more firmly, drawing them an inch of out their sheaths, "Oh, I'm certain we could come to another arrangement. As you guessed, we want to kill these huntsmen. Ending the lives of another is of no concern to us, so if you happened to have someone that you wanted taken care of…?" Widow let her sentence trail off as if it was a question that was too obvious to bother asking.
Malachite looked at both of them with a considering look, "You," she glanced at Widow, "I can believe capable. The child…?" she also let her question hang in the air.
Widow laughed lightly and turned to Lotus, and then glanced around the room, "Perhaps a demonstration? Your best against her. If it isn't over in five seconds then we'll leave."
Malachite seemed amused by the offer and turned to one of her guards, "Be careful not to hurt the little dear too much." The guard grinned and stepped to the center of the room. A few others cleared a space and sat back to watch. All eyes turned towards Lotus as she walked calmly to the center. The man was grinning from across the ten foot space between them when Lotus turned back to Widow, "Death, or humiliation?"
Widow's lips flashed in a smile, "Humiliation. We wouldn't want to strain the relationship with our new friends now, would we?"
The man's smile faded as Lotus removed the sash from around her waist and wrapped it around her eyes, effectively blinding herself. She couldn't see anything of the room anymore, but she felt all of it. All of their eyes going wide. The twitch on Malachite's lips before she raised the glass to her mouth to cover the reaction. The man tensing across from her, his muscles getting ready to propel himself forward. Lotus calmly adopted the hand to hand stance that Jace had taught her, and wrapped her appendages down along her arms and legs. 'Five seconds?' Widow was being rude.
The clink of Malachite's glass seemed to start the fight. The man rushed at her, charging across the space. Lotus flexed the appendages on her legs, and snapped forward in an instant. Her fist met the man's sword as he raised it in a desperate attempt to block. The steel snapped in half under the strength of her attack as it blew past, slammed into his chest, and sent him flying into the wall across the room with a sickening thud. Lotus felt his aura fail after hitting the wall. He would be fine when he woke up. She sighed and removed the sash from around her eyes to put it around her waist.
Lotus couldn't bring herself to feel satisfied by the shocked expression on Malachite or her henchman's faces. That had been too easy to feel pride over. Widow smirked from her seat and turned back to Malachite, "Well, we are after huntsmen. Could there have been any other way that might have ended?"
Malachite coughed and turned her eyes back to Widow, "I suppose not. I'll find the huntsmen you're looking for. In the meantime, speak with Maca over there," she pointed to a woman that was still staring aghast at Lotus, "She'll provide you with a name and location to fulfill your end of the bargain. Once that's done, I'll see what I can dredge up. Deal?"
Widow nodded her head once in confirmation and stood, getting Maca's attention, "Shall we?" The girl quivered under Widow's and Lotus's combined stares before heading behind the bar. She pulled out a folder and set it down on the table.
"Alright, one target worth four huntsmen, eh?" Her eyes focused on the pages she turned, each a profile with information beneath. There were a lot of people. After a couple minutes, she finally settled on one of them and turned it around to slide across the counter to Widow, "Biscotti, the Chief of Police. He's been sending his officers deeper and deeper into the slums to try and sniff us out."
Widow silently read over the information before sliding the folder back, "Simple enough. We'll take care of him tonight, and let you concentrate sooner on the task at hand."
Maca's eyebrows shot up, "Tonight? Aren't you going to scope the place out first?"
"Who says I haven't?" Widow winked and turned back to Malachite, giving the woman a final nod. She headed for the front door, and Lotus followed close behind. All eyes followed them as they left. Once they had put some distance between themselves and the door guard, Lotus decided to speak up.
"You've already scoped out the Chief of Police's house?"
Widow laughed and gave her a secretive smile, "Nope."
"I scoped out the Precinct. We'll hit him there to prove a point."
"Shouldn't we be in more of a hurry?" Lotus asked, taking another bite out of the burger that Widow had bought her. They were sitting outside a small food shack a little after dark, "Wouldn't it be best to strike when he's, ya know, actually there?"
"Oh, silly spider. He will be there. It's Monday," Widow replied, as if that solved everything. She sipped her drink through the straw and waited for Lotus's response.
"And the day of the week is important because…?"
"It's important because our dear Mr. Biscotti goes home late on Mondays. Long after the majority of officers and workers have left the Precinct, he'll be there, filing away paperwork that he didn't bother to do over the weekend," Widow bit into her burger with a self-satisfied grin.
"So instead of sitting on a dusty old rooftop waiting for him to be alone…"
"We're enjoying a nice meal, only three or so miles from where we need to go," Widow finished.
They continued eating in silence for a while, and Lotus let her mind wander. Inevitably, she ended up thinking about all of her comrades. She listed them off in her head. All the names she would avenge. Lotus reached one name on the list and paused in annoyance, "Do you know what Crim's real name was?"
Widow raised one eyebrow at her, "Does it matter? What importance is there in a dead name, one cast aside while still alive?"
Lotus frowned, "I was… curious, I guess. I have all their names jumbling around in my head. It's all I can think about sometimes, so I just… wanted to know what he was really called. 'The Crimson Terror' doesn't exactly blend well with the rest…"
Widow smirked, "I didn't know you found out his real name. Did Jace tell you?" At a nod from Lotus her smile grew, "Little brat always was bad at keeping secrets." Her expression softened as she regarded the girl in front of her, "His name… His name was Clay."
Lotus rolled the name around on her tongue, testing it out, and nodded. Another thought rose to the surface as she watched Widow take another bite. "What was yours…?"
Widow froze in place, then slowly set the burger down on her plate. She looked at Lotus with a considering frown before finally shrugging, "No point in hiding it, really. Once upon a lifetime... my name was Garnet." She waved offhandedly at her deep red hair as she said it, "But that was a long time ago, little spider. It was… It was the name of someone weak. Garnet couldn't save herself. Couldn't save the people she cared for... So I left her behind and took up the name Widow instead, as a reminder to never go back. I will do whatever it takes to make the humans pay."
Lotus nodded in understanding. She shared the sentiment. Even if it had taken her too long to come to terms with the truth. They ate in silence, watching as the general throng of humans dispersed over time. The shop closed behind them, and Widow finally stood.
It was only twenty minutes at a casual walk to get to the Precinct, between the Shopping and Residential Districts. The Precinct was a tall building that overshadowed all those that surrounded it. If they climbed on to a nearby building to try and get a vantage point, they would certainly be spotted from one of the many windows. They stayed in the shadows of the alleyway and watched. The parking lot was beginning to thin out. Now off duty police officers were headed home, taking their police issued vehicles with them. There were around twenty still in the parking lot when they began to make their way towards it, but Widow assured her that was the norm.
"There's always at least ten officers on hand at any time. A few of the others will be dispatchers, a couple others are maintenance, and the rest are just there for show to make the place look more populated than it actually is," Widow explained. Together they shifted from shadow to shadow, using the vehicles as cover as they crossed the parking lot in short bursts. Lotus could already see the key slot on the front of the building as they approached.
"How are we going to get in?"
Widow gave her a mischievous smile, "There's a poor lost girl outside that wandered to the police station, because her mummy and dada told her she could always trust the police to help her find her way home~"
Lotus glared at her as they finally reached the door. Widow crouched down into the bushes nearby, and waved at her to do what needed to be done. Lotus huffed and bit her lip hard, eliciting at least a few tears to her eyes. She walked over to the door and started knocking, holding a hand up to her mouth to hide the bleeding until her aura could fix the cut, and to help with the act. She stared up into the camera, letting her eyes go wide and turned back to the door to knock again, this time more forcefully.
Through the glass pane she could see an officer cautiously turn the corner and look for whatever was making the noise. His eyes fell on the small child with tears in her eyes, and he quickly strode across the remaining space. The officer pulled up his keycard from where it had been laying against his chest on a lanyard, and slotted it into the console on his side. There was a buzz, and the door unlocked. The officer pushed the door open and stepped in front of her, looking down with pity in his eyes.
That turned to pained shock as Lotus stabbed him through the chest. She caught the door to hold it open for Widow, and waited for the woman to get past her and grab the man's keycard before tossing his body into the bushes they had just vacated. 'Fool.'
"Now, little spider. Tell me how many humans you can sense in the building?" Widow gave her an approving smile and closed the door as Lotus walked inside. She let her semblance deactivate to get rid of the blood covering the limb she had used, then brought it right back.
Lotus stood in the center of the small lounge area and concentrated, "I can feel… at least two more on this level, and one on the floor above us. Beyond that…"
Widow smiled, "You're getting better, at least. I wouldn't have expected you to feel the one on the second floor yet, and definitely not any above that. Not from here, anyway."
The way she put focus on that word made her frown. Lotus opened her eyes back up and noticed the familiar smirk that Widow always had when she knew something you didn't. "Alright, I'll bite. Where would be better?"
"Let me show you," Widow replied, then began walking down one of the hallways. She brought them both to the stairwell and used her semblance to open the thick metal door silently. They stepped halfway up the first set of stairs and stopped, "Try again."
Lotus concentrated again, closing her eyes and feeling outwards with her sixth sense. 'The two from before… one above…' Her eyes opened in surprise, staring straight into Widow's smug face. "I can feel all of them from here."
Widow nodded happily, "What we sense is basically a more finely tuned version of sound. They are both vibrations through the air that your body perceives," she rapt a knuckle against the hard walls that surrounded them in the stairwell, "The harder the surface, the further it travels, and the more hard surfaces…" she gestured around them to the echo chamber they were standing in. "Always go for a location like this if you really need to know where people are. Even my semblance can't totally dampen it."
Lotus nodded her understanding, "So, I would assume the Chief is on the top floor with those five other people, right?"
They started going up each flight of stairs as they spoke.
"Correct. He's also in the furthest corner from our entry point. We'll have to get past all five of those other officers to get to him."
"That doesn't sound too bad," Lotus scoffed.
"These ones will at least have their auras unlocked," Widow pointed out as they continued to climb.
"So did the one that opened the door."
"True enough. He was exceptionally weak, though. Overconfidence breeds recklessness, little spider," Widow chastised, "We'll see when we're close enough to feel their aura levels."
Together they ascended the last few flights of stairs to the door that would lead them into the main office. Widow paused and closed her eyes, concentrating beyond the metal door, "I'll get a better sense of their aura levels once we crack the door open. There's no one nearby." With another use of her semblance, Widow pulled the large metal door ajar and focused again, "Three are of average strength, still less than either of us. Three are exceptional, including the Chief himself," her eyes opened and glanced at Lotus as she considered their chances, "We need to kill at least one of the stronger ones before the true fight starts."
At a nod from Lotus, they quietly hefted the door open the rest of the way and entered the room, footsteps obscured already by the soft carpet beneath them. The room was full of cubicles, and Lotus could feel the officers spread out among them, going about their paperwork or filing things on to their computer systems. There were three among the cubicles to their left, and two to their right, with the police Chief in a closed off office on the right behind the other two. They stealthily entered a row of cubicles.
"There is one strong aura on the left, and two on the right," Widow whispered as she took in their surroundings again, "the one on the left is further apart than the others. We'll have a better chance of killing him before anyone can respond. If we are noticed, I want you to engage the other two on the left side. Take them out as quickly as you can. I'll keep the Chief and the other two busy until you can join me."
Thanks to Widow's semblance masking the area around them, the two were entirely silent as they made their way through the rows of cubicles, heads down and with their senses on high alert for anyone that might feel the need to stand or walk around. They remained at their desks, though, and after a minute, the two assassins were positioned behind their first target.
Lotus could feel his exact position. She didn't need to turn the corner to see what her appendages were doing, or where they were. She raised two of them above the cubicle walls, and the other two around its side. With one last moment to prepare herself, she lashed downwards with the two that had been above. They slammed down on to his shoulders and forced him to the ground out of his chair. Widow's semblance kept the resulting clatter and scuffle from being heard, as Lotus repeatedly rammed all four appendages against his aura. The man was defenseless, and incapable of pulling himself out of the hold.
After the eighth strike, she finally broke his aura and pierced down through his chest into the floor beneath. 'Eight?' That was by far the most it had ever taken. Without turning the corner, Lotus felt his body go completely still, last breath escaping his lungs even as his blood soaked into the carpet beneath him.
They both breathed out a sigh of relief that they had managed to get the first down without anyone noticing. Widow pointed down another row, towards their second target, "We may as well get rid of the other two weaker ones on this side while we're at it."
Lotus let her semblance vanish then reappear to remove the blood that stained them. 'Never know when a human might suddenly realize they have a sense of smell.' The two continued their grisly task, and managed to take down both of the others in a similar fashion before crossing the room back to where the two others and the police chief were. They had gotten halfway back across the room when they felt the Chief step out of his office.
"Spruce! I know you can see my emails! Send me that report I asked for!" Biscotti yelled across the office. The two assassins froze, 'Welp, there goes our cover.' The Police Chief frowned, looking out across the cubicles, "Spruce…?" The other two nearby noticed the commotion and also stood. Biscotti raised his voice again in uncertainty, "Officer Stone, Officer Sage…?" Silence was his only reply, "What is going on here!?"
Widow whispered to Lotus, "Change of plans. Just kill them all."
Lotus grinned, 'Might as well make this more entertaining, right?' She flexed her appendages in preparation for a leap. The snap of her extra legs propelled her towards the ceiling. She flipped midair, piercing her appendages through it and holding her regular feet up against the ceiling as if she was crouched against it, upside down. Clinging to the surface somehow felt more natural than she would have thought. Three faces stared up at her in shock and fear. Lotus didn't bother waiting for them to recover, but instead launched herself at them in a flurry of invisible limbs.
Shots bounced off both aura and appendage as the 'exceptional aura' man recovered, whipping out his pistol and firing shots at her. Lotus spared an extra appendage on his side, putting three between herself and him, and dedicated her focus to the weaker man still struggling to pull his gun from its holster. 'A bullet will do the same damage no matter who shoots it.' Lotus kept a barrier of limbs between herself and the exceptional man and used her last available to jab at the other repeatedly. 'One, two, three!' Lotus counted the blows she slammed into his aura before the final one stabbed through his abdomen and out his back in a burst of blood and gore.
Widow had already engaged Biscotti, leaving Lotus free to take on the exceptional man. His eyes were wide as she turned back to him. He was reaching down to change out another magazine for his pistol when Lotus decided it would be best to stop that. From behind her shield of invisible limbs, she hurled the man that was still on her fourth leg. The limp body slammed straight into the other man, knocking him back a few paces and interrupting his reload. Lotus used that limb to then launch herself forward at him, other three raised to strike.
The man recovered quickly and threw himself to the side, likely realizing that something was about to collide with him that he couldn't see. He shifted his gun's form mid-roll and came back up to his feet with a sword in hand, edges aflame with the fire dust that powered it. Only then did Lotus notice the scaled tail protruding from behind him. She paused in her attack.
Cold fury twisted her face as she realized that a faunus was helping the police, "Traitor! Why are you working with the humans!?"
The man's eyes narrowed, but he seemed keen on delaying his own death long enough to answer, "Because humans are not the only ones capable of committing crimes." He nodded back towards the body that had been thrown into him, Lotus's previous kill. The sounds of combat rang out from behind her, but she knew Widow could hold her own.
"The faunus are only retaliating against the humans for what they've done to us for hundreds of years!" Lotus launched back into the fight, but was holding herself back still. 'Why!? Why would a faunus take the side of the humans!?'
"The men you killed hadn't done anything to the faunus! They had sworn themselves to upholding the law, for both man and beast! You're too blinded by revenge to see it!" the reptile faunus yelled, desperately trying to block Lotus's attacks. He was doing better than she would have expected, likely due to his own increased senses, but her attacks were overwhelming. Already she had hit him with four blows, dropping his aura level by half.
"Humans kill faunus! They don't care to judge them by their own deeds!" Lotus's attacks continued with increased vigor, "Jace didn't deserve to die!"
"Neither did the man behind you! He was my partner! I knew him better than you ever will! the man screamed it at her, now pressed back to the breaking point. His aura was shattered, and each blow that got by was leaving gouges in his flesh. His body was trembling with the effort, but still he kept trying to block, kept trying to dodge, kept trying to survive.
Lotus's attacks eased up again, 'Partner?' she scoffed, but there was a seed of doubt now planted in her heart, "A human and a faunus working together? It would never work!"
"It was working!" tears reached the man's eyes, his body moments away from giving in, "He was my best friend!" The faunus's eyes grew wild, hatred searing its way across his face, "And you took that away from me!" In one final act of desperation and anger, he ripped his ammo belt off, dust rounds lining the length of it, and ignited his sword one last time. It slashed across the belt, cutting its way through all of the dust ammunition it held.
The resulting explosion blew Lotus back against the far wall, lightning, ice, and fire arced through the air in a concussive blast that annihilated the surrounding cubicles. The faunus was caught up in his own explosion, and died instantly with no aura to protect himself. Lotus felt her own flicker. She was close to losing it, losing access to the limbs she needed to stay alive in a situation like this. Her eyes whipped to the side, towards Widow's fight with Biscotti in time to see her take a blow to the chest. Widow's aura broke.
There was no time for rational thought. Lotus screamed in rage and launched herself once more into the fray. Her appendages created an impenetrable wall between Biscotti and Widow, blocking off his next attack that had been aimed for her throat. The sword glanced off her limbs instead, and Biscotti had time for his eyes to widen before all four wrapped around him in a death grip. His aura shattered in only a few moments as Lotus sawed the edges across his entire body. With one final twist they sank through, slicing both flesh and bone. Blood and gore gushed out from between the appendages like a waterfall.
Lotus threw his body through the glass window back into his office, where he collided with the desk and lay still, a bloody mess of blood and exposed bones. She didn't care. She had eyes only for Widow.
"Are you okay!?"
Widow breathed heavily, "It's… about time… we got out of here…" She sheathed her daggers and strode towards the stairwell, "The others will have heard that explosion."
Lotus nodded and took the lead, bounding down the stairs four at a time. The door to the third floor opened as she got there, 'Weak.' One appendage was sufficient to end the life of the maintenance worker that stepped through. Lotus felt a stab of guilt, 'Did he have a family? Friends that will miss him the way I miss my comrades?' She shook herself, now was not the time for second guessing. Still, when the bottom door opened and another maintenance worker stepped out, eyes opening in fear, she only knocked him unconscious in her passing.
The two assassins left the building in a dead sprint, crossing the parking lot with none of the stealth they had on the way in. In thirty seconds they were out of the parking lot and back into the shadows of the alleyway. They dipped into hiding as police cars began arriving, sirens wailing and lights flashing as they came to a screeching halt in front of the Precinct.
"Let's not stick around long enough for them to find us," Widow huffed out one final ragged breath and stood back up. They left the way they had come. The sirens grew quiet in the distance.
After a few minutes of silence, Lotus brought up the thought that was refusing to leave her in peace, "One of them was a faunus."
Widow growled low in her throat, "A traitor. Think nothing of it, little spider. Some faunus are misguided into believing the humans could ever be something besides our enemies."
Lotus nodded, but deep down, the seed of doubt was beginning to sprout. 'What had their names been?' Ren… and Nora. They had been… 'I didn't know them long enough to call them friends… but… I liked them. I liked those humans. Would they have cared if they knew I was a faunus?' Somehow, she doubted either would have held it against her.
The seed blossomed.
'Is what we're doing… right?'
Chapter 9: Scars
Lotus slept in late.
She was having nightmares again.
'A man leaning down, hand outstretched. Her appendage, piercing through his chest. Her blurry eyes cleared to reveal his face. He ignored the hole in his chest. His hand was reaching out in sympathy. Trying to help her with that hand. An offer of kindness, not a threat on her life. The faces changed. Now it was the man she had shot. The guards she had tricked. The policemen she had killed. Over and over, each time a new face appeared, her appendage struck. No matter how badly she wanted it to stop, to leave them alive, to WAKE UP!'
Lotus sat bolt upright and blinked away the dredges of sleep as the specifics of the nightmare retreated from memory. She breathed a sigh of relief now that it was over. It had been weeks since they were able to leave the safehouse that Malachite had put them up in. Lotus let her eyes drift around the small room that she was sharing with Widow. It was a mess. The older spider faunus had gone stir crazy while being cooped up, and began to drink to pass the time. Both empty and half empty bottles lay strewn about the floor and on top of the furniture.
The death of Biscotti had the opposite effect of what they'd intended. The police presence had increased ten fold along the edges of the slums, with convoys regularly driving through to stop and search random faunus in an effort to find Lotus and Widow. They had been forced to leave in a hurry due to the explosion. The Precinct cameras that they would have normally destroyed afterwards had been left unharmed, and along with it, perfect recordings of the two spider faunus. Random street cameras along the Residential District had spotted them making their way into the slums, but couldn't track them further in.
Lotus cringed at the memory of the first news report they'd seen. The police had shared her description, along with the image off Jace's scroll that they had apparently confiscated after the raid. 'The Black Lotus' was the name they had gone with, to match the images provided by the scroll. 'Well, so much for ever having a normal life.'
Widow had assured her that the searches wouldn't last forever. The police would give up in due time, leaving them free to return to their task. With a little more caution thrown in, of course. Lotus looked at the red haired woman. She was stretched out across her bed, one arm draped over the side, still partially holding a half filled bottle of some cheap alcohol. Even after two weeks, Lotus hadn't worked up the courage to talk to her about her dreams. About her doubts. The woman was dead set on her crusade, and Lotus was afraid to share her fears. 'What if she rejects me?' Lotus shivered. She didn't want that to happen. Widow was the only family she had left.
"Are you just going to stare at me all morning, or do you want to make us breakfast?" Widow mumbled from her place on the bed. Her hand let go of the bottle she was holding as she rolled over. Widow placed a hand against her eyes and began to massage her forehead with a groan, "And close the window shades while you're at it."
Lotus looked over to the window, "They are closed." Widow moaned and flipped over, burying her face in the pillow and making a shooing motion towards the door followed by a muffled reply, "Something light. My stomach can't take much."
Lotus quietly left their small room and walked into the kitchen, 'What's good for a hangover?' She didn't have much experience cooking, and none with drinking. Her mother had taught her some of the basics when she was younger, but her mind had always been more focused on her comics. None of it had stuck. 'Eggs?' It was pretty much the only thing she could reliably make without burning it. That and toast. Lotus nodded to herself and got to work making breakfast for the two of them.
The aroma of cooked eggs and buttered toast must have wafted into the room from the nearby kitchen. Widow came out ten minutes later when the food was just about ready. Her hand was still up massaging her temple, unsuccessfully trying to nurse her pounding headache.
"Mmmhm, good choice, little spider," Widow took the plate offered to her and unceremoniously scooped the egg on top of her toast, choosing to eat both at once. Lotus poured her a glass of cold water as well and slid it across. Widow nodded her thanks and dug in. Lotus was more reserved. Her nightmares had taken away her appetite, so she rarely ate so early in the morning anymore. Still, she nibbled at it, if only to keep herself from feeling too hungry later in the day.
"Alright, spit it out. What's wrong?" Widow said between bites, letting her eyes drift up from her plate to focus on Lotus.
"Huh? N-Nothing... "
"You're a bad liar… and you thrash in your sleep, little spider. Even in the depths of inebriation, my senses will pick up that much movement," Widow gave Lotus a worried frown.
'Should I just tell her? Widow wouldn't reject me… I'm her only family left too, right…?'
"I've been… having nightmares."
When it seemed like that was all Lotus was going to say, Widow made an exasperated 'go on' gesture with her hand.
"I keep seeing the faces of the people I've killed. I'm just… having doubts about what we're doing. Did they all really deserve it? How can I be sure? It's all I've been able to think about lately, stuck in here like we are…" Lotus waited for the woman's disdain, but Widow didn't offer any.
Instead, Widow turned her head away in thought, eyes going distant. She finally turned back and set her food down onto the plate. Widow dusted the crumbs off her hands and gave Lotus a warm, but hesitant smile when she turned back. There was a tremble on her lips as Widow stood from where she had been sitting and moved to the same side of the table as Lotus. Her hands fell down to her sides, gripping the lower hem of her shirt tightly.
Widow started hesitantly, slowly. There was shame in her eyes, a look of memories that she couldn't bare to share with the young faunus, "I… I didn't want you to see this. I had doubts, once upon a time, too. I thought the humans could be forgiven..." Widow raised her shirt, inch by inch, while she faced Lotus. "You hear stories... about what happens in the Schnee Mines," Lotus's eyes widened as the first scars were revealed. Long, jagged patches crossed Widow's otherwise perfect skin in every direction. Four, five… dozens were fully on display once Widow finally pulled her shirt off completely.
"It isn't just the faunus that hear those stories, little spider. The humans do, too. They just choose to ignore it. 'It'll never happen to me, right?' It's… dangerous to share that attitude as a faunus. I paid for my mistakes. Paid more than most…" Widow quietly turned around, and Lotus gasped in horror at the large angry red welt that was burned into her flesh. 'SDC' in prominent, bold letters was branded on her upper back, just beneath her left shoulder. Along with it, another dozen scars crossed her back in every direction.
The young faunus let her hand glide forward, and very gently felt along the scars on Widow's skin. The older woman flinched at her touch, shoulders tensing. Lotus stopped, but after a few seconds Widow relaxed to let Lotus trace her hand along them. Widow spoke into the silence, a quiver in her voice.
"Could you do it? Could you ignore the pleas of someone that was being tortured? Humans don't feel empathy, little spider. They only understand fear. Fear of the strong, the fear of death. Given the chance, they will take advantage of their power over you. They'll abuse it. Treat you like a play thing that can be replaced when it breaks…"
Lotus wiped the tears from her eyes as Widow turned back around, now pulling her shirt back on. That look of shame was still in her eyes. 'How… how dare… who could do this!?' Widow was right. Lotus had heard the stories, but up until now, that was all they had been. Stories. The proof right before her eyes… 'Widow…'
"I'm… I'm so sorry you had to go through that," Lotus crashed into the older woman and wrapped her in a tight hug. Her appendages appeared as well, doing the same. Two arms weren't enough. Lotus needed her to feel the emotions, the love, that she felt for Widow. She wanted her to feel safe. Widow returned the hug. It was gentle, tired. Lotus hugged her even tighter. Lotus didn't keep track of how long they stood in their embrace. She would stay there until Widow pulled away.
Eventually, Widow pressed her head down against the top of Lotus's and began to mumble, "You've had your own hardships too, little spider. As awful as it may sound, I'm… glad... that you're still here with me."
Lotus felt shame of her own struggling to the forefront of her mind, "That's not.. the only thing that's been on my mind."
Widow seemed to notice the hesitance in Lotus's voice and clutched her tighter, "Tell me, little spider. I promise not to judge you." Widow let out a slight sobbing laugh.
The guard's words came back to her from that terrible night, 'Some faunus told us where they were!'. Lotus had been racking her brain over the past couple weeks, trying to figure out who could have betrayed their hideout. Her mind had settled on one possibility, one recurring thought that drove her to despair. She hadn't dared to share it with Widow, but as they were now… Lotus was feeling her resolve break under the weight of the remorse they both shared.
"When I was at the warehouse that night… I overheard the guards talking about the raid. I panicked. I wanted to know what was happening. The one I left alive told me that a faunus sold out our base… I've been thinking about it, and… It might have been my fault."
Widow pulled away slightly to look Lotus in the eyes, "What do you mean, little spider?"
"There was someone that I injured, twice. The first time he was trying to barge into the house I was hiding away in… the second time he was lying in wait for me to get there… Jace convinced me to let him live, but we let slip that we were with the White Fang… I… He might have been the one that betrayed us…"
Widow pulled Lotus back into their embrace, shoving the girl's face against her chest, "Don't even think that! It wasn't your fault, little spider. There were any number of faunus that could have been persuaded to turn against us."
Lotus nodded numbly, she really wasn't so certain. 'Maybe I'll have Malachite look into it…'
Lotus was itching for a fight. Nearly a month had gone by while she was cooped up in that safehouse. Her eyes glared with murder from beneath her hood at every person unfortunate enough to fall under its gaze. Her semblance was activated, on high alert. Lotus stretched them out. While they didn't really get sore from disuse, she still missed being able to flex them freely. The small interconnected rooms of the safehouse had offered little in the way of space. With them outstretched to their fullest, Lotus noticed with a small smile that they were getting bigger as she aged. When they had first manifested at eleven, she would have guessed they'd been just under ten feet long. Now at thirteen years old they easily spanned twelve and a half feet each.
Her limbs retracted as they arrived at Malachite's hideout. The same guard stood outside. His eyes fell on them and he quickly opened the door, not stopping to do the normal charade and asking what they wanted. The room was crowded, twice as many thugs and vagrants in purple attire lined the walls or sat at the tables. 'Afraid of the cops, or of us?' Either way, Malachite was right to be. 'Hopefully this isn't a sign of bad news. If you don't have any information…' Lotus was understandably not feeling very patient at the moment.
"Welcome back, my little daredevils. That was quite the stunt you pulled, killing Miscotti in the station along with all those other officers. I must say you have truly outdone yourselves on your end of the bargain," Malachite laid it on thick, "I'm happy to say that I found one of the names you seek, amidst the chaos of trying to outwit the police. It wasn't easy, but I'm hoping now that they've relaxed, we'll be able to find your huntsmen more easily. Until then, we have the first of the four."
"Just one of them? You've had three weeks, Malachite," Lotus snapped it out, clearly frustrated.
Widow put a hand to her shoulder, "Patience, little spider. All in good time. I'm sure Miss Malachite wouldn't want you… upset, with her, now would she?" Widow spared Malachite a glance long enough to see the woman firmly shake her head 'no'. "You see? We'll take our time on this one, and by the time we're ready for another, they'll have a new name to give us."
Lotus huffed and ground her teeth together, "I just want this over with... " but at a reproachful look from Widow, let herself calm down a little, "Alright… Who have you got for us?"
Malachite waved Maca over, carrying the familiar manilla folder that was then plopped down on the table between them. She opened up the front and spun it around to face the other two across the table, "He's a brown haired huntsman by the name of Mars Vasilias, currently living in the Mistral Residential District. The address is at the bottom there."
Widow read over the file, committing all the details to memory. Lotus double checked the image that had been provided. 'That's one of them all right.' She could still see the man in her mind, see him at the scene where her life had been ruined a second time. 'You'll pay, Vasilias.'
"Now, I hate to break it to the both of you, but I did not simply shelter either of you out of the goodness of my heart," Malachite raised a glass and took a sip, now speaking from behind it to hide the quirk to her lips, "If you wish to continue using my safehouse, then I'll need something in return."
Lotus's anger threatened to flare back up, but Widow's hand squeezed her shoulder tightly, "We have been most appreciative of your accommodations the past few weeks. However, I believe we could both due with somewhere a bit more… spacious. In return for our continued service, I'd ask that we instead be paid. We can find our own living quarters from there."
Malachite seemed to take it into consideration. She likely wanted to be able to keep easier tabs on the two, and keeping them staying at her safehouse would certainly do that. She eventually just smiled, though. Malachite shrugged her shoulders in defeat, "That's fine with me, ladies. I'll let you choose your next target off the list," she tapped the folder in front of her, "After you've finished with your current mark, of course. Feel free to continue using the safehouse until then."
"How very kind of you," Widow smirked and pulled the file for their intended target out of the folder, "Wish us luck?"
"Oh, I doubt very much that you'll need that. Happy hunting, ladies."
It was a nice house. Large, two story, with a balcony protruding out of the front of it that overlooked a large pool. Their target was on the balcony, looking out over the yard with a frown on his face and a bottle in his hand. Widow gestured for Lotus to follow her, and together they moved from bush to bush whenever Vasilias' gaze was elsewhere. Soon enough they were pressed up against the side of the building, beneath the balcony he was standing on.
Lotus wasn't feeling very nice. She didn't feel like giving the man a chance. With one quirk of an eyebrow to Widow, who nodded back in approval of what Lotus was about to do, she thrust all four of her appendages up into the balcony above them. With a loud crack, the stone of the balcony shattered. The corner sheared off where Vasilias had been standing, dropping him in a heap of glass and rubble as he landed on the ground in front of the spider faunus.
All four appendages then wrapped around the huntsman, coiling in a vicious embrace that sparked against his aura. Lotus could feel it, 'He's really strong!' All the more reason to deny him any chances to break free. He thrashed in the hold, trying to wiggle out of it, but soon realized that whatever it was that held him was not letting go, and that with each move, the barbs wrapped around his body bit more and more into his aura reserves. His eyes frantically settled on Lotus, widening at the sight of the small child with murder etched across her face.
"L-look, I don't know who you are," Vasilias started groggily. Lotus could see the lump forming on his head where he had hit it, likely unprepared for the sudden fall and proceeding rubble that collapsed on him, "If you're here for lien, it's in a safe inside. Take it. It's yours."
"I didn't come here for your lien," Lotus hissed, eyes narrowing dangerously. Her appendages responded by sawing back and forth a few more times, dropping the man's aura even further, "You took away my family! Slaughtered them, with no regrets!"
Vasilias paled, eyes widening. Strangely, there was a deep sadness behind them, "You're part of the White Fang!? I'm sorry! We were just meant to detain them, but then when their auras were down, and they just kept fighting… We didn't have a choice!"
Lotus was taken aback, but her anger seethed anew the next moment, "And that's your excuse for killing Jace!? He was about to start going to Haven! He was going to make something of himself!" Lotus choked up slightly at the realization she made, "I-I was going to make something of myself!" She glared down at the man fiercely, "You ruined everything!"
"I'm sorry!" the man yelled, tears in his eyes.
"You will be," Lotus replied simply. She didn't smile. There was no humor in what she was about to do.
The man's aura still remained despite the pressure that Lotus had been applying. At a guess, he still had three quarters of it left. 'Huntsman are a different breed…' Lotus's eyes took in the pool behind him. Her smirk didn't reach her eyes. "All that power you hold over other people, yet you can die just like any other." She kept him coiled up as she dragged him across the ground to the pool. Vasilias seemed to recognize what she was about to do, and doubled his attempts to escape. Arms bulged against immovable appendages as Lotus lowered him down into the water.
He tried to hold his breath, to wait out his time beneath the lapping waves of the pool, but Lotus did not bring him up for air. Vasilias' eyes begged from underwater, a silent plea to let him go, to let him live. She ignored it. Her family had not been left alive. Neither had the White Fang. This was personal. He was one of at least four still breathing that should not be. It would be a travesty, a blemish on the world if he still lived.
A few minutes later, the final bubbles of air that had been trapped in Vasilias' lungs escaped. With her senses, Lotus could feel the water rushing into his lungs to replace it. It was… unpleasant, but she stood steadfast through it. The beating of his heart finally stopped, aura vanishing all at once, and Lotus retracted her appendages as he floated back to the surface. All things considered, it could have appeared like the man had just fallen down from the balcony as it cracked beneath him, been struck unconscious by the rubble, and then drowned in the pool.
"One down, three to go," Widow said quietly, stepping back into the light from where she'd been hiding the entire time.
"Where'd you go?" Lotus frowned. 'Surely she would have wanted to see his death just as much as I would?'
"Oh, you had it under control, and I did actually want the lien from that safe," Widow flashed a fistful of lien before repocketing it, "Well done, little spider. We're one step closer to our goal."
Both of the spiders glanced up towards the front gate, a presence suddenly approaching it that was unseen due to the wall between them. They both dipped into nearby bushes and waited to see who this would be.
The gate swung open on well oiled hinges, admitting a tall boy about Lotus's age with a shock of blue hair, spiked up. A pair of goggles rested against his forehead, as he froze mid-swagger, eyes going wide at the rubble beneath the balcony. The boy's eyes whipped around, finally settling on the body floating in the pool.
"Dad!" the boy screamed and dove into the pool, wrapping an arm around the torso of Vasilias and paddling out. With extreme effort, the boy managed to lift his death father onto the patio. Eyes wide and in a frantic state, he slammed his hands down on to the man's chest over and over, desperately attempting CPR that he clearly didn't know how to do.
"C'mon, please!" the boy continued his efforts, as Widow tugged on Lotus's sleeve and nodded her head away from the sight. She had to drag the young faunus away, eyes set in horror at what she had done.
'I'm just as bad as the huntsman…"
In soaking clothes and with arms far too tired to continue, Neptune shivered from the cold against his skin, and the bottomless pit that had opened up in his heart. From that day forward...
He would have an incurable fear of the water.
Chapter 10: Led Astray
'Lotus held the man underwater, ignoring his pleading eyes as his struggles began to dull, began to lose the energy they had before. The last of the air in his lungs, used in a futile attempt to scream. Bubbles rose to the surface, and when they popped, they released the man's dying breath, demanding an answer to his final thoughts. 'Why!?' Lotus was frozen in place at the sound, standing stock still as the front gate opened. A young boy with spiky blue hair stepped into sight, eyes accusing. He spared one glance down at his father's cold dead body, gently swaying in the ripples of the pool. The boy's deep blue eyes burned into Lotus, rippling with tears to match the pool behind him. A pain exploded through her chest that sent a shockwave down through the rest of her body. She looked down at the hole that had appeared there, created by a familiar spidery appendage. This one was not hers, though. This one belonged to the boy in front of her. A shift to her side, movement as someone she should have noticed stepped into view. Eyes just as accusing as the boys, Jace stared at her sadly. 'You could have been so much more, Olivia.' As he said it, Crim stepped into view, then July, Copper, her parents...'
'You killed us all, Olivia.'
Lotus snapped awake, hands clutching the edge of her bed sheets with white knuckles. Her entire body shook in the dark that surrounded her, like a smothering presence that reminded her of the guilt that still squeezed her heart. Lotus's breath came out in short pants. She started to roll back over for a moment, but the terrible images still fresh in her mind demanded that she stay awake. She swung her legs out of the bed and stood up, moving over to her dresser. Even through the closed blinds, she could tell the sun hadn't yet risen.
In only a few short minutes, Lotus was dressed and already stepping out into the brisk pre-morning air. A light wind whipped down the silent streets of the slums. She let her feet carry her forward, no specific destination in mind. Lotus walked to try and take her mind off the guilt that weighed so heavily down on her.
'What have I done?' Lotus was confused. Memories had begun to pile up on top of each other, one after the other to combat the words her friend and mentor had told her. Was Widow wrong? 'Do humans feel compassion?' The scars that crossed every inch of Widow's body were irrefutable proof, except… 'Ren clearly cared for Nora… That boy loved his father…" Was it something else? Did humans feel possessive of others close to them, and that's why they could react in a way so similarly to the faunus? 'I don't know what to think anymore…'
A presence in a nearby alley caught her attention. A man stepped out into the muddy street to block Lotus's path. Her eyes lifted from where she had been staring at the ground in front of her, trusting her other sense to guide her around anything that might have been in her way. The man had a grimace on his face, and a knife in his hands.
"Alright kid, give me any lien you've got on ya," the man demanded, flashing his knife through the air as if Lotus hadn't already seen it. He took a threatening step forward, to add to the show.
Lotus frowned. He was clearly a faunus. Did he not know who he was trying to steal from? She realized with a start that the cloak she had worn very easily hid her black veins and huffed in annoyance. 'Of course he would stop a human.' Lotus lifted a free hand and pulled back on her sleeve, showing him that she was a faunus as well.
To her surprise, the man didn't seem fazed in the slightest, "What's that supposed to mean? Gimme your lien, kid!"
Lotus took a hesitant step back, reeling at the situation she had found herself in. 'Does he… does he not care that I'm a faunus like him?' The man's face flashed with anger, believing the girl was about to run instead of giving him what he wanted. He stepped closer, empty hand raising to try and grab on to the hand that Lotus was still holding up in confusion.
An appendage snapped between them, Lotus hadn't even realized she'd summoned them. It collided with the man's outstretched hand, followed by a clearly audible and sickening 'snap' as his bones were shattered by the strike. The faunus screamed in pain, falling back and dropping the knife from his other hand to cradle his wrist instead. Eyes wide in fear, he shuffled backwards through the muck, finally turning away once he felt he was far enough out of Lotus's reach, and bolted.
Lotus watched him go. Once he had vanished from sight completely, she bent down and picked up the knife he had been carrying, idly flipping it in her hands. He had threatened her, a fellow faunus. 'Are these the people we were so desperate to save? Faunus that would fall so low as to try and stab a little girl?' Lotus could take care of herself, of course, but… 'He didn't know that...He was counting on me being defenseless...'
Her gut wrenched as she realized that without her semblance, Lotus would have been defenseless. Was she lucky, fortunate, to have essentially won the soul lottery? If she hadn't unlocked her semblance, would she have ended up just like that faunus? 'I was already stealing even with my semblance.' Was there… some responsibility she needed to uphold. To take care of those weaker than her, because she had gotten lucky where they hadn't?
'I would rather have my family back…'
No, she wasn't lucky. 'None of the faunus are…' To be born into a world that hates you, put under the thumb of humans that despise your very existence, among those that showed no remorse for the lives you were forced into just to survive.
Lotus had already stepped into the old decrepit house that she used to call home before she even realized her feet had been carrying her away again. Mind unconsciously set on finding its way here. Her eyes lingered on the holes in the walls, the broken door still lying on the floor, the blood stain next to it. If Ren and Nora showed up again, this is how they would find it. 'They'll be afraid for me…'
'Would they? Would a pair of humans care about you?' A small voice of doubt whispered through Lotus's mind, breaking her train of thought. 'Even if they don't… what's the harm in making sure?...' Lotus raised an appendage to the wall across from the door, where she had pinned the man the second time he showed up. It was thankfully clear of blood. Lotus began to scratch a message into the wall.
'Hey guys! I know the place looks bad, but don't worry about me! I'm fine. I-'
Lotus hesitated, thinking about the words she was about to write. Her eyes glazed over, looking towards the moldy couch where the three had shared a meal. The laughs, the smiles. It was the most time she had shared with humans in a long time... The words her heart wanted her to write… it was the truth.
'I miss you.'
Lotus then gouged out three deep gashes through the wall, right beneath the words she had written. The symbol of the White Fang would hopefully warn away any curious faunus in the area. 'Don't touch,' the gouges demanded. She nodded at her handiwork. Writing words with her appendages was an imperfect art, one that she had never tried before, but the two should be able to read it well enough. 'If they ever come back here…'
With that somber thought, Lotus relinquished control over her semblance, allowing it to retract back into whatever place the appendages appeared from. Her feet continued to carry her back through the slums as the question that had been burning through her mind returned.
'Was it the same man I protected the two from that day that sold us out? I should have ended him the second time he showed up…'
Guilt once again overrode all other emotions. Lotus clutched a fist again her chest, pressing her nails into her hands hard enough to draw blood while she tried to still her beating heart. The young faunus's shoulders quivered, the feelings she had been holding back so long threatening to overwhelm her. 'I have to know.' Lotus set her mind on Malachite's hideout, eyes focusing on her surroundings to make her way there. It wasn't too far.
The sun was just starting to peek its way above the horizon when Lotus stepped in front of the guard outside the woman's abode. The man looked down on her, taking in her diminutive form, but rolled his eyes and shuffled out of the way. There were very few inside at this hour, but Lotus was glad to see that Malachite was an early riser. The woman was already there, behind her table, eyes blank as she started to take her first sips of her steaming morning coffee.
Malachite noticed Lotus heading her way, and the cup paused for a moment. The motion slowly resumed as Malachite eyed her appearance, taking a long drink as Lotus sat down across from her. The older woman broke the silence between them.
"Forgive me, but from one spider to another, it's a little too early in the morning to be dealing with a temper tantrum. I have no new names for you yet, child. It has only been a day. Patience is a virtue that you will learn in time," Malachite said it all without any of her usual charm. Just a quiet, no nonsense attitude said lightly. The woman clearly wanted to avoid a confrontation with the small girl in front of her.
Lotus visibly cringed. 'Have I been letting my strength get to me?' She shook herself and looked up to meet Malachite's gaze, "I'm not here about them. I… wanted you to search for someone else, actually."
Malachite's lips quirked at the young faunus's subdued attitude, "And who might the unlucky victim be?" Her eyes had a newfound focus, keeping a close eye on the flicker of emotions crossing the girl's face.
"There is a faunus. He lives in the slums somewhere. I… 'fought'," Lotus couldn't help but make air quotes to show how much of a fight it had actually been, "with him twice. I stabbed him through the shoulder both times." Lotus gave a brief description on his features. His height, size.. The essentials, "I want to find him."
Malachite smirked, "Trying to finish the job?"
Lotus started to shake her head, but stopped after a moment, "That depends on what he tells me. There was a faunus that went to the SDC as an informant and gave away our hideout. I guess… try and find out who that was, if you can? I think it might have been the same person, but if it wasn't... then there is a name I need to add to the list."
Malachite's eyes slowly scanned the room, "Am I to take it that you don't want your friend to know about this?"
"I already told her about him," Lotus thought it over, "but there's really no reason to get her involved."
Malachite took another long sip of her coffee. She kept it in front of her mouth as she spoke next, "And, as payment for this little search?"
Lotus's shoulders sagged, determination colliding with her own self doubt. She wasn't in the mood to be killing anyone right now. Malachite seemed to sense the girl's reluctance and fatigue. The cup descended back to the table as Malachite set it down.
"You know, not every job that needs to be done has to end in murder," Malachite said with a light laugh, "I have other tasks that need to be addressed. Although with your particular skills, I do have a job in mind."
Lotus tensed but nodded all the same. 'As long as it isn't murder… I could break a few legs right now.'
"There's a group that started moving in on our turf. I doubt they've really settled in much yet, but they've started peddling some very dangerous drugs to the faunus in the area," Malachite raised one eyebrow, features questioning Lotus along with her next words, "It seems like it might be right up your alley. Interested?"
'Drug traffickers?' "Why does a human care if they're selling to the faunus?" Lotus frowned. She wasn't totally opposed to the mission, but considering who it was giving it to her…
"I work with both humans and faunus, child. I recruit anyone with promise. Drugs strip away a person's potential to achieve more," Malachite's mouth twinged with distaste, "I'm all for a little recreational use now and then, but the ones this gang are selling are hardly safe. Its a drug made to create addicts. Once someone starts down that road, there's very little hope of returning."
Lotus grimaced, "I guess I wouldn't be opposed to the idea. Do you have an address?"
Malachite pulled out a pen and paper and jotted down an address across the top, pushing it over to Lotus when she had finished, "Make it very clear that they are not welcome."
Lotus nodded and took the paper, reading the address as she stepped back out into the budding sunrise. The trip would take her halfway across the slums, but as Malachite said, they didn't have any new names at the moment, and Widow would be the one to choose which mark they went after as payment for the huntsman. Lotus folded up the paper and stuffed it into her pocket. She knew the slums well enough to figure out just about where she needed to go to find the gang's hideout.
Activity was starting to pick up in the slums as the sun rose. Lotus picked her way past blurry eyed humans and faunus alike, all going about their mornings with varying amounts of gusto. The gang's hideout was close now, only a few blocks away. A familiar symbol drew her attention, and she turned her eyes to look more closely at it. 'A White Fang mark?' Lotus headed into the alleyway to get a closer look. It was… an attempt at the same symbol. As if someone had been trying to create it for the first time. Three chalk scratches against the outside edge of the red brick building. They were too short, too wide. Lotus frowned.
A presence appeared at the end of the alley, walking her direction. Lotus spared a glance and took a step back as she saw the crudely crafted White Fang mask on the faunus's face, discolored robes thrown on in a failed mimicry of the organization's style. The man grinned from beneath the mask as he cockily strode towards her. Lotus let her demeanor shift back to her usual, more casual stance. She placed one hand on her hip and tilted her head as he approached.
The man's arms swung wide, "I see you've spotted our marking. We're looking for more faunus to bolster our ranks. Interested in joining the resistance?" He stopped a few feet away, looking her up and down.
'Are they trying to rebuild the White Fang? I might as well see where this goes. If they have potential… maybe I'll bring Widow in on it, too.' Lotus took a moment to gauge the man's aura levels. 'At least it's unlocked. Even if it is pitiful…' She realized a few seconds had passed already with her standing in silence.
Lotus sighed, "You might be able to talk me into it. How many of you are there?"
"Enough to strike fear into the hearts of the humans!" the man said it dramatically, clenching his hand into a fist as he raised it triumphantly. 'He's either far too naive, or its a sales pitch.'
She adopted a fake, tentative smile, "Well, I've always wanted to get back at the humans…"
"That's the spirit!" the faunus turned around then looked over his shoulder at her, pointing his thumb back at himself, "Names Maho, by the way. What's yours?"
"L-..." Lotus hesitated. The charade would quickly end if he connected the dots between her name and one of the spider faunus that had been on Mistral's Most Wanted list for the past month, "O-Olivia. My name is Olivia."
Maho smiled back at her again as he led them out of the alleyway from his side, keeping up his conversation as they went, "Well Olivia, it's nice to meet ya. You look a little young for some of the work we're planning on doing, so if you end up joining we'll probably use you as a runner, or maybe a scout! Wouldn't want a little thing like you getting in danger now, would we?"
Lotus was glad that Maho had his back turned to her while they walked. It helped hide the mirth struggling to bubble its way up out of her throat. When Maho's ears swiveled back at the sound she was making, Lotus brought a hand up and covered her barely suppressed laughs with a cough, "Y-Yeah. I don't think I'd last too long in a fight." 'Before I ended it, that is.'
Maho chuckled and lifted his hands to cross them behind his head, "We can't all be good in a scrape. I'm sure I can teach you a few things, though. I'm the best fighter in the White Fang!"
Lotus recovered from the grimace on her face before Maho could see it. He stopped outside a medium sized two story house, twice the size of the decrepit one she had been staying in when she met Ren and Nora. The door was marked with the White Fang symbol, three white chalk lines scratched diagonally across the front. 'Are they trying to give themselves away? Honestly…' Lotus looked up and down the streets, and her eyes narrowed in realization.
'This is the place Malachite was sending me…'
With a closer look around, Lotus could now see the area was much more densely populated by faunus, and a few of those she saw were deep in the throws of euphoria. One of them that had been sitting nearby noticed her eyes fall on him and stood groggily.
The giddy faunus smiled dumbly at her and lifted a hand to place on her shoulder, missing by an entire foot, "Aye, wushu doin'..? Yoush wan' some?" He lifted a small baggie from his pocket that was mostly empty, but Lotus could see the small purple mushrooms it held.
"Back off, junkie," Maho stepped up next to Lotus and placed a foot against the man's chest, firmly pushing him back to the ground where the man laid in a slump, incapable of standing but completely unaware that he had been shoved aside so callously. Instead the man suddenly found the grass and mud to be extremely appealing, and started up a mumbling conversation with it. Lotus whipped on Maho with barely masked annoyance.
"What did you do that for?" Lotus managed to keep her teeth from grinding together. The four-eared faunus would definitely hear that from this close.
Maho spared her a glance, still glaring down at the 'junkie' before smoothing his features somewhat, "Give him a few minutes and he'll be pawing at your clothes for any lien you might be hiding. He'll do anything to afford another trip."
'Aren't you the ones selling the drugs in the first place?' Lotus was getting more and more agitated by the second. 'You peddle the stuff and then have the gall to treat them like that?'
Lotus voiced none of it though, not yet. Instead she firmly turned away from the man on the ground who had started asking a rock if its family was nearby, "Were we going inside?"
Maho fell back into a more relaxed pose and nodded his head towards the door behind him, "Yeah. Come take a peek. I think you'll be impressed!" Lotus rolled her eyes when he turned away.
Maho pushed the door open and walked into the dimly lit interior, gesturing for her to follow. Lotus could feel a dozen faunus inside through her sixth sense. 'Well he's right about being the strongest in the group…' Only half of the ones she could feel had their aura unlocked, and among those, Maho's was a hair more pronounced. Lotus let her senses keep track of the faunus in the room while her eyes roamed across the floor and furniture. Stacks of plastic containers and baggies met her eyes, all packed with the same purple mushroom that had turned the man outside into a blundering mess.
Eight sets of eyes turned towards the pair as they stepped into the center of the room. The other four that she could feel were all grouped near each other in a room on the second floor. Lotus returned their looks in kind, getting a better feel for the new 'White Fang' trying to fill in where hers had fallen. They were all relatively young, most appearing to be only half a dozen years older than Lotus herself. They all wore a similar mismatch of the White Fang outfit, bits and pieces cobbled together to form some pretense of unity. Their weapons were no better. Lotus could see a smattering of swords and pistols, poorly maintained and left out to gather dust while the members in the room sifted instead through the copious amounts of drugs and lien littering the space.
It was all rather sickening. Lotus could tell these people were spending much more of their efforts on drug trafficking than on helping the faunus, all while trying to pass themselves off as the 'new' White Fang. 'In fact, they're doing the exact opposite. How in the world would providing dangerous and addictive substances to their fellow faunus improve their lives in any way?'
A young woman smirked and hopped down from a crate she had been sitting on, arms crossing. She stared Lotus up and down, examining her like a piece of meat, "What have we here?"
"Another recruit!" Maho said happily.
"Your inquisition," Lotus replied flatly. She let her eyes roam over the drugs once again, "So, you're the drug dealers. What's with the White Fang outfits? Pretending to be righteous?"
A few people in the room tensed, reaching for weapons, but most either scoffed or outright laughed at Lotus's words. How threatening could a child be to a room full of 'adults'? The smile on the woman in front of her faded, eyes narrowing as she regarded Lotus more seriously.
"N-now now, Olivia! Don't be like that! This is just a temporary gig. Once we have enough lien to buy more weapons and gear, the White Fang will take the fight to the humans with renewed vigor!"
Lotus looked meaningfully at the stacks of lien on the various tables in the room, letting some of her anger seep through, "Is that your regular sales pitch? Does that normally work on all the new recruits until you can bring them into the fold and corrupt them?" Lotus glared at Maho and the woman that stood in front of her, "You have enough lien in here to fully outfit twice this many people."
"I don't know who you think you are, kid, but we're doing what we need to!" the woman in front of her shouted. There was a hint of doubt as her voice shook. 'Does she not know how much that stuff costs either?' Those that had weapons were now all gripping them more tightly, though none had drawn them out yet. Their gazes flicked nervously between each other.
Lotus kept her voice flat and unrelenting, "What you need to do is pack up and leave. I won't tolerate someone reducing their fellow faunus to addicts for money!" Lotus let her glare catch everyone's eyes in the room before she finished, "You're no better than the Schnees."
A few weapons were drawn at the insult, the woman in front of her clenched her fists, shaking in fury. Maho took a hesitant step back, raising his hands as if to distance himself from the intensity of Lotus's words.
"That's enough!" an older man stepped out on to the second floor balcony, flanked by the other three that had been in it with him. His voice was deep and booming, his eyes turned coldly towards Lotus as he stared down at her.
A familiar voice spoke from behind him, the man that had tried to mug Lotus slumped past, wrist now bandaged, "Th-that's her! She's a feisty one!" He giggled as he raised his bandaged wrist with his other hand. His eyes were unfocused and hazy, clearly drugged to a point where he couldn't feel the pain anymore. 'So he was another one of their victims…' All eyes returned to her with renewed ire.
Lotus's patience snapped, "So, not only are you making your fellow faunus addicts, but you're turning them into faunus that try to outright steal from little girls!?" Her semblance activated, poised to strike at those nearest her, "You're all a disgrace to the name of the White Fang!" Lotus shouted the last bit out, arms now shaking with barely suppressed fury. 'How dare they drag our name through the mud!?'
"Olivia! Sh-Show some respect for our fearless leader!" Maho's eyes darted back and forth between the girl and the man on the balcony above. His voice quivered in desperation. Lotus stopped him before he could put an arm around her, an invisible force sending him flying back to crash into a couch across the room.
"Respect?" there was little humor in Lotus's laugh. She took a moment to gauge the shocked expressions on those around her, several had turned to stare at where Maho lay sprawled upside down against the furniture. He was very loudly disentangling himself from the cushions.
The man above scowled and pointed a finger at the girl, "I will not be spoken to that way. The White Fang protects the faunus! We do what we must to get ahead in this world!"
Lotus gave him a smile that didn't reach her eyes, her decision made, "Yes. Yes they do." Her appendages dug three furrows into the floor in front of her, the perfect shape for the message she wanted to pass wordlessly to the older man. His eyes widened, recognizing the message used exclusively by the White Fang.
'This place will be attacked soon.'
The man opened his mouth to shout a warning.
He was far too slow.
Lotus sprung into action in a blistering flurry of invisible appendages, striking out at those closest to her first. The girl in front of her and three others were knocked across the room instantly, clearing a path between Lotus and the man up top. Her appendages pierced down into the wooden floor beneath her, flexed, then snapped her forward through the air like a bullet. The others she would not kill. They had been led astray by the older man, but him?…
The man's eyes widened as his words were cut off in a panicked gasp. He propelled himself backwards in an attempt to keep his distance from Lotus, but stumbled into the drugged man behind him, both falling in a heap of tangled limbs. Lotus landed on the balcony railing, using her appendages to stabilize herself as she looked down on the pitiful excuse for a leader.
"Any last words?" Lotus sneered at the shriveling mess of a man.
"W-We could work together! Spare me and you'll make more lien than you could ever-"
He was cut off with a strangled choke as Lotus wrapped an appendage around his throat and lifted him off the ground. She turned back around to face the majority of the room, still standing on top of the railing. Her eyes glossed over them slowly as she drifted the older man out past the railing, feet dangling in midair above the fifteen foot drop. Several of them that were still standing tensed, raising their guns up to point at where she stood.
Lotus held up her hand in a warning, "I could very easily kill every single one of you. Anyone that shoots, dies," she looked over them again to make sure her words had been taken seriously. Several trembled in place, but only a few lowered their weapons.
"The true White Fang has deemed your operation unworthy. Immoral. Unbefitting of our name. You are to cease all drug trafficking and leave. If any of you get the bright idea to try and start this operation again…" Lotus punctuated her words by sawing the point of her appendage across the man's throat that she held. A river of blood gushed out of the gaping wound, running down the front of his chest and splattering on the floor below. His hands struggled at the limb that was becoming more and more visible by the second, his blood staining its sides as his hands slipped along it futilely.
"Then I will leave no survivors," Lotus dropped him to the floor in a heap, into the pool of his own blood. His legs kicked out, the last vestiges of his conscience trying to stand, to run, only for his feet to slip repeatedly. His eyes grew dim, his motions stilled. Until with one final gurgle, his head fell back against the wood floor. The room was silent, motionless in the aftermath as the faces of the faunus in the room stared in horror at what they had just witnessed.
Lotus quirked an eyebrow at them, but decided to show at least a little mercy, "Each of you may take a stack of lien off one of the tables. Leave the drugs."
It took a handful of seconds, but once a few of them dropped their weapons and shuffled forward to accept the lien they were being allowed to leave with, the rest soon followed. The two behind her gave her a wide berth as they stepped past down the stairs to the floor below. They looked like they were going to be violently sick, but managed to contain themselves as they also grabbed a stack of lien and shuffled out of the building. Soon enough, only Lotus and the drugged man remained.
"I'll get to you in a moment," she sighed with a glance back at him, then scanned the room. Several duffel bags in a corner caught her attention, and she hopped back down to go give them a look. They were packed to the brim with more drugs. Lotus frowned with disdain and upended the bags, dumping out their contents on the floor. She turned back to the tables and began filling them with the remaining lien and hefted both the duffel bags onto her shoulders, using an appendage each to lift the majority of their weight.
With that done, she walked back up the stairs to find the drugged man picking at the bandages on his wrist, eyes wide as if he was wondering where they had come from. Lotus slapped his uninjured hand away then used her appendages to pull him to his feet. "Let's go," she muttered, knowing there was only a small likelihood that he would even understand. He followed where she pulled though. Lotus took it slow down the stairs, using an extra limb to give the man more stability as he stumbled down after her. His eyes were wide, full attention drawn to the invisible force compelling him to walk behind her.
They reached the door and Lotus shoved him outside, closing it to block him out. Her eyes turned back to the problem that still remained. 'What to do with all these drugs?' Lotus spotted the answer sitting on one of the counters and snatched it up. A small flame flickered to life as she sparked the lighter. She lit a few papers on fire near the middle of the room, the drapes along the windows, part of the carpet, and several other pieces in the room that she hoped were flammable enough. Black smoke began to curl its way through the air from various sources, and Lotus took that as her sign to leave.
The building's walls were flaming after a few minutes, smoke now billowing thickly out into the sky. 'That'll just have to do.' Lotus turned on her heel, satisfied with the day's events. The man she had killed... 'He deserved it,' she realized with a small smile. The huntsman, the police… those she was still confused about. That man, though? Lotus hummed lightly as she made her way back to the safe house to share her news, and to deposit both of the thick duffel bags brimming with lien.
'Maybe I'll just be more… limited… in who I choose to kill from now on.'
Lotus skipped by the emergency vehicles that screamed past, in the direction of the thick black cloud that drifted into the sky above the otherwise quiet slums.
Chapter 11: Guilt
Lotus arrived back at the safe house to see Widow frantically making her exit. The two locked eyes on each other as Lotus came within range of Widow's extra sense, both staring for a moment. Lotus in confusion, and Widow with a tight lipped panic that quickly devolved into relief as her eyes searched Lotus up and down.
"Where have you been?" Widow demanded as Lotus crossed the remaining distance. Her hands clenched as she brought them up to rest on her hips.
"Uhhhhh," Lotus wasn't sure how to take this sudden shift in Widow's usual laid back attitude, "I went… out?" She could immediately tell that had been the wrong response, if Widow's scowl was anything to go by. Lotus shifted awkwardly, the moment making her anxious.
After a handful of silent, tight lipped seconds, Widow sighed and opened the door to let Lotus inside. She put a hand up to her face and shook her head, "You gave me a heart attack, little spider. Waking up without you there… not even a note…" Widow continued talking as she followed Lotus into the house, the younger faunus leading them back towards their shared bedroom to deposit the day's earnings, "And after you'd been so torn up over what happened last night… I was about to tear this town apart looking for you."
Lotus wasn't sure whether to be glad that Widow cared so much, or worried that her first response was so drastic, "I'm fine, Widow. I can take care of myself, ya know?" She emphasized her point by dropping both of the heavy duffel bags to the ground and zipping them open in one fluid motion. The bulging contents spilled out partially, lien cards clattering to the ground off the sides of the bags.
Widow's eyes widened and her shoulders stiffened as she slowly bent down to pick up one of the lien cards to see if it was real. She straightened, eyes whipping to lock on to Lotus's own, "Did you rob a bank!? Of all the ill advised, reckless-!"
Widow stopped her tirade as Lotus hurriedly latched her hands on to the older woman's shoulders, "No no no! I didn't rob a bank, Widow!"
Widow dropped the lien back down on top of the duffle bag, only for it to slide off the stack to the floor with many of the rest, "Then where did you get this much money?" Her eyes firmly searched Lotus's, demanding the truth.
Lotus brought her hand back to rub the back of her neck as her eyes drifted off to the side in embarrassment, "I… put in a request for Malachite to find out who betrayed the White Fang. She had me do a job for her. There was a… gang, that was selling drugs to the faunus in the slums. I put a stop to it, burned down their hideout, and took their lien."
Widow tensed at each admission and rubbed her forehead in frustration, "Did you at least make sure not to leave any survivors?" When Lotus refrained from answering, her eyes snapped back open to stare at the girl, "Please tell me you did, Olivia."
The girl flinched, 'My name is Lotus."
Widow scoffed, "Really? The Lotus I know would have learned from her past mistakes. Did you not just say you went to Malachite to find someone you left alive because you thought they'd betrayed us all? What if any of those gang members hold a vendetta? What if they follow us back to the safe house? We can sense a lot as spider faunus, but a bomb planted under our beds?"
Lotus shrivelled under the searing words, "I...I…" Every question came as a blow to her confidence.
Widow put a hand on each of Lotus's shoulders and shoved her down on to the bed behind her, firmly holding her there for a few seconds while she spoke firmly, barely contained contempt in her words, "Stay. Here. I'll go fix your little screw up. In the meantime, I don't want you taking a single step outside. Do you understand?"
Tears came unbidden to Lotus's eyes as she nodded, turning away from Widow to lie down and hide her face, her shame, from the older woman. 'She's never treated me like this… I'm sorry!' Lotus couldn't bring herself to say it, though. She couldn't face the woman that had begun furiously rifling through her belongings to get changed, to get ready to fix Lotus's mistake. It wasn't the anger the woman displayed that had gotten the girl so worked up. It was the disappointment. The thought that she had failed her, the only family she had left.
Widow finished getting ready and stopped at the door. Lotus could feel her eyes on her, "Are they strong?" Three simple words, yet Lotus quivered at the tone.
Incapable of speaking, Lotus simply shook her head 'no' from where it rested on her pillow. Widow left without another word, slamming the door behind herself as she left.
Lotus curled up beneath her covers, content to hide herself from the world as she cried.
'Damn it, damn it, DAMN IT!'
Widow was furious. First, Lotus had decided to sneak out before Widow had woken up, leaving nothing to let her know what she was doing, nothing to alleviate the fear that had gripped her heart. Her mind had instantly jumped to the worst conclusions in a panic. That she had run away after last night's episode, that she had stepped outside and been caught, that Widow herself had driven the girl away with her drinking.
The truth had been worse. Even after trying to steer the girl away from asking Malachite, she had still gone to her… 'And without me!' Widow was equal parts frustrated and worried. 'Everything I do is for that girl! Does she not trust me!?' She had been so careful… Now the silly girl had gone on a mission all alone, without Widow's protection or guidance. 'Leaving survivors like that?' Widow scoffed out loud as she walked, 'I thought she would have known better by now.'
Widow readied herself as she prepared to step into Malachite's hideout. She let the tension ease from her posture and relaxed her frustrated expression, returning to her calm, composed self. The first thing she noticed when she stepped inside was how full the hideout was. Every chair at every table was taken, aside from the one across from Malachite herself. Widow had never seen the place so packed.
Widow's hairs stood on end. She could feel all of the attention in the room immediately divert to her, even if only a few actually raised their eyes to look. She was a single spot of red in a sea of purple. Some of the tension returned to her shoulders as she waded through them, to the one open chair in the building, directly across from Malachite. Widow's apprehension increased the further she walked inside, as she felt more and more eyes on her back, thinking themselves unobserved because her own eyes weren't on them. Widow's senses were going haywire.
Widow paused, 'I… I should leave. This is wrong.' She both felt and heard a number of chairs scrape back behind her, a wave of purple stepping between her and the exit. Widow grit her teeth and continued forward a moment later. Malachite was smiling at her over a cup of tea in one hand, cigarette in the other.
Malachite gestured for Widow to sit with the cigarette, smiling more intently as Widow accepted the wordless command. The woman sat there, letting Widow stew for a few more seconds, before lowering her cup, "I was hoping you'd stop by."
There was a prolonged silence between the two. Widow waited for her to continue, while Malachite seemed content to drag out her words.
"Your little protege hired me to find something out for her. Now can you imagine my surprise when I thought it was information she was already privy to? She does work so... closely with you, after all."
Widow's hands fell to her daggers, drawing them out a hair as she shuddered. Every muscle in her body was screaming to silence this woman. 'Lotus can't find out!' Dozens of chair legs scraped on the floor, a cacophony of swords being unsheathed and guns being drawn following after.
Malachite's smile grew, sizing up Widow, "Even with your little friend here, I doubt you could take all of us and live to tell about it. So why don't you just sit down and relax? Have some tea." At that, one of the guards flanking her stepped forward, pulling out another cup and filling it with the steamy liquid before pushing it on its saucer to Widow's side of the table. Widow waited, flexing her fingers across the handles on her daggers. 'I'll… play her little game…' Widow slowly removed her hands from her daggers, setting both hands on the table instead. She made no motion towards the cup that sat in front of her.
Malachite quirked an eyebrow, "It really is good." When Widow still made no attempts to reach for it, she instead gave a polite shrug, "Have it your way. Now, you must be wondering, 'What does Little Miss Malachite plan on doing with this information?', and well, I was considering just giving it to the girl as she'd asked."
The larger woman laughed at the fear on Widow's face, "But that would hardly work in my best interests, now would it? If I did that, I would lose two very valuable resources." Malachite tapped a finger to her chin, "The girl was so prompt in dealing with her side of the bargain, though. My sources tell me the place in question burned down along with everything inside. Only one body, but that was more than I was expecting after seeing the state she was in this morning."
Widow couldn't help but feel a tinge of regret for how she had treated Lotus earlier. 'Was she that worked up over last night? Did the girl never realize that most of the people she killed had families too?' Widow could only be frustrated now by her own lack of empathy. She wanted what was best for Lotus, and part of that was putting her on the right track when it came to their line of work.
Widow had picked up on the clear hesitation in Malachite's words, though. "What do you want, then? If you tell her the truth, she'll fall apart. Lotus will never work with you or anyone again."
"And there lies my problem. I want you both to continue working for me. So… perhaps we could come to an arrangement?" Malachite smirked as she raised a hand, gesturing for Maca to bring her the manilla folder. Malachite pushed the entire folder to Widow's side of the table, "In exchange for keeping your little secret, you agree to work for me. This," she gestured at the folder, "becomes your job. Whether you bring your little protege into it or not is your choice."
Widow pulled the folder the rest of the way to her side. There were dozens of pages, each listing off either a singular person or a group, ones that Malachite would all prefer to be six feet under.
"You'll still be paid, of course. Take them at your own pace. As long as they're dealt with then I don't care how you do it," the smile played across Malachite's lips, "Oh, yes. I'll also be giving you two better accommodations in one of our other safe houses. Somewhere that we can still keep an eye on you. So don't get any ideas about running off. My informants are everywhere, and they will all have specific instructions to let slip your little secret if I give the word."
Widow sat in defeat. 'There's nothing I can do.' While she was confident that she could draw one of her daggers and reach across the table to kill the offensive woman in one smooth motion, she would certainly get gunned down in the next instant. 'I can't kill my way out of this one…' Did she try and tell Lotus herself? 'No…' Imagining the look of utter betrayal on the girl's face who she had long since come to think of as a daughter smothered that line of thinking. 'I have to protect her, even if it's from the truth...'
Malachite clapped her hands together once in delight, "Wonderful! Some of my men can help show you to the new place later today! It is more spacious, just like the two of you wanted." Malachite waved a hand, motioning for Widow to leave, "Take the folder with you. Once that's complete, I'm sure we'll have another one prepared."
Widow stood to leave, but froze at Malachite's next words, "Oh, and thank you for the wonderful idea. A bomb would be a good way to handle a person of your… expertise."
'They bugged the safe house!' Widow shivered, refusing to turn back to see Malachite's smirk, even if she could already feel it stretching across the woman's face. 'I will kill you for this, Malachite. Perhaps not today… but I will.'
There was a long drawn out pause between them before Malachite broke it. "From one… motherly figure to another. Why did you do it?" Her tone had gone somber with the question. She was truly letting her curiosity get the better of her.
Widow turned back to level a glare at the woman, "The longer I stand around, the longer it will take to finish these," she waved the folder over her shoulder, "Are we done here?"
Malachite laughed, "Of course. Due diligence is appreciated."
Widow's empty hand clenched one of her daggers in a tight grip as she left the building. She still needed to clean up after Lotus's morning activities. As much as her own issues would need to be resolved, keeping her 'daughter' off anyone's vengeful radar was her top priority.
The column of smoke still lazily drifting into the sky across the slums was a clear enough indication of where she needed to go.
Widow was not in the mood for her usual subtlety.
She had spent the last few minutes asking everyone nearby if they knew anyone from the gang, or where they had gone. When she had found someone twisting their words to hide the truth from her, all it had taken was a few severed fingers to get the truth out of him. She cut his throat afterwards for good measure.
Now she stood in front of their secondary hideout. Widow frowned at the White Fang slashes across the front of the dilapidated one story building. She could feel the presence of ten people inside, gathered around the center of the room. Moving silently up to the door, she put an ear to it and listened. The voices were muffled. Widow smiled, her semblance could fix that little issue.
As far as she'd ever told anyone, it could only dampen sounds around her. If only they knew about the rest of its capabilities… 'The others might not have fought to the death if they realized I was the one making them hear things…' All the more reason to keep it a secret.
"What are we gonna do about this?" a male voice increased in clarity as Widow raised its volume for her ears alone.
"Nothing, right? You saw how she manhandled Maho! And the way she killed the boss…" a younger woman trailed off, her voice full of fear.
'I should give Lotus more credit. It sounds like she tried to scare them off.'
"I've never had that much lien in my life," another man chipped in angrily, "And she took all of it."
"She let us keep some!" another male piped up.
The other man scoffed, "A few hundred each compared to the thousands she either burned down or took with her. I say we find out where she is and take back what's ours!"
When a few others muttered words of agreement, Widow figured she had heard enough. The door opened with a loud creak as she opened it, eyes taking in the scene before her. They sat around a small table, a medium stack of lien piled on top of it. Several sat in mismatched chairs, or on a couch that had been pulled up next to the rest. They all turned in shock when the door opened.
Widow strode in, ignoring the questions they threw her way. She gave away nothing as she stepped up next to the first few, a smile on her face. They were weak, as Lotus had suggested.
'At least I'll be able to vent some of my frustration out on them before I go back to the safe house.'
Widow began the grisly work of silencing the young faunus forever, a slow smile coming back to her lips.
'I will always keep you safe, my little spider.'
Lotus snapped back awake as Widow's presence returned. She grumbled to herself silently, flipping her pillow over to avoid the wet spot she had left after falling asleep in her own tears. The door to their room opened and Widow stepped in.
The older faunus only spoke a few words, excusing herself to the shower. Lotus couldn't bring herself to reply, but instead buried her red rimmed eyes back into the fresh side of her pillow. Widow paused for a few moments, likely waiting for a reply. When none was offered though, she simply stepped into the bathroom, closing the door quietly behind herself and starting up the shower.
Lotus couldn't stand just lying around and listening to the shower through the wall. She needed to do something, anything, to take her mind off the shame she felt for failing Widow. For failing her expectations of her. Lotus retreated from the room and into the kitchen, mind set on making something for her companion. 'Eggs and toast isn't enough…' Lotus desperately searched through the cupboards and refrigerator for anything else she might be able to make.
During the midst of her search, Lotus noticed the large package that Widow had left on the countertop, but she kept away from it. She hardly wanted to add 'invasion of privacy' to her growing list of personal failures for the day.
A small flicker of a smile crossed Lotus's face as she hefted out a bag of pancake mix she had found in one of the lower cupboards. The smile fled immediately as she flinched, caused by the sound of the running water stopping from the bathroom. 'I'm still close enough for her to sense me,' Lotus told herself. Widow wouldn't be barging through in another fit of panic thinking she had left again without permission.
Lotus set about making the two of them a stack of pancakes each. She decided to get a little experimental with it, adding in blueberries with the mix to try and make the most of what they had on hand. She could feel Widow moving around in their room while she got dressed, and silently hoped she wouldn't come out before the pancakes were done. It would be better, somehow, to present them to her once they were fully prepared. 'And not a moment before…' Lotus managed to convince herself that she wasn't just putting off a conversation with Widow. 'Nope, not at all.'
The young faunas was just about finished distributing out the pancakes on to each of their plates when the bedroom door squeaked open. Lotus winced even though she had been expecting it, and dropped the last pancake off center of the rest. She worriedly bent over it and adjusted it, trying to move the last fluffy treat into perfect alignment with the rest. Widow watched her frantically repositioning the pancake without comment, and instead sat down across from where Lotus was standing.
The plate slid over to Widow the next moment. Lotus kept her head down as she pushed it over, averting her gaze from the frown crossing her companion's face. Widow just sighed and let her eyes drift down to the plate as she picked up a fork, "Do we have any syrup?"
"R-right, of course!" Lotus stammered, quickly turning away to begin searching through the cabinets again. 'Why didn't I think of that?' Lotus chastised herself. It needed to be good. Needed to be perfect to make up for being such a disappointment. A growing sense of distress invaded the young girl's mind as she searched, slamming each cabinet closed when it failed to hold what she needed. 'Where is it? Where is it!? We have to have some!'
Lotus recoiled when she felt Widow's hand on her shoulder, shying away from the touch, "I'm looking! J-Just give me a second!" Lotus blinked the tears that had started to form in her eyes. 'I don't have time for that again!'
Widow's hand returned more forcefully this time, stopping Lotus in her tracks and spinning her around to face the last remaining family she had. Lotus froze in place, blurry eyes taking in the worry in Widow's eyes. She pulled Lotus into a tight hug the next second, bringing a hand up and brushing it lightly through the young girl's hair.
'What's wrong, little spider?" Widow's voice was soft, soothing. Lotus could also hear the undercurrent of worry there.
Lotus broke down. It was too much. "I'm sorry, Widow. I-I messed up this morning, and you were so worried about me, and you were right, I didn't leave a note, and I-"
"Ssshhhhh," the sound interrupted Lotus's slew of words that had become more and more unintelligible as she continued to break down. Their hug grew more firm, with Widow tightening her hold around Lotus's back, "It's okay. I forgive you, little spider. You don't have to apologize for anything, anyway. I already took care of them. There's nothing for you to worry about, alright?"
Lotus finally returned the hug, wrapping her own arms weakly around Widow.
"Why did that get you all worked up in the first place? I didn't mean to make you so worried," Widow's voice was tight. Lotus could tell she was blaming herself for the girl's current state.
"I… I don't know. You're… the only one left. Everyone else... I… couldn't bare the thought of losing you, too," Lotus whispered it out, trying to piece together her own twisted and convoluted feelings.
"Oh, sweetheart," Widow pulled back to hold Lotus by her shoulders and look her in the eye, "I will always be there for you." She tapped a fist to the girl's forearm, voice switching to a more teasing tone, "You can't get rid of me that easily."
Lotus let herself be drawn back into their hug, now more firmly returning it.
After a few minutes, Widow pulled away. "I have something for you, actually. You never told me when your birthday was, but I figured it's been at least a year since we met…" She stepped away to the package that was sitting on the counter, and pulled a wrapped parcel out of the bag, handing it to Lotus. When the girl just stood there in confusion, she laughed lightly, "Well? Open it."
Lotus's fingers trembled as she tore the packaging off slowly, piece by piece. She stood in silence, staring at the black hoodie that she held up before her, much larger than she was.
"It took me a while, but I finally found the same one you had before," Widow's voice lowered uncertainly when Lotus remained silent, "Do you… do you like it?"
With a laugh that was also a sob, Lotus threw herself back into Widow's arms, "Thank you! Thank you so much!" Widow released her as Lotus pulled back away, already tearing off the robe she'd worn before to don the hoodie instead. Once it was on, she hugged it to herself, feeling the familiar sensation of scrunched cloth and warmth that she had associated with Copper for so long. She breathed out a low sigh of contentment, hugging it tighter as she rocked herself side to side.
Widow placed a hand on her shoulder from behind, waiting for Lotus to slowly turn back to face her. "I love you, little spider. Nothing will ever change that."
Lotus laughed and wrapped her arms around Widow one final time, "I love you too, Widow!"
It was a long time before either of them pulled away.
'We're the only one that either of us has left…'
Lotus remembered the words Widow had admitted to her before, and echoed them back.
"I'm glad you're still here with me, too."
Chapter 12: On the Hunt
Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. Months turned into years. The list of targets that the dynamic duo sought only continued to grow with every passing day. With each kill, Lotus found her inhibitions fading into the background. After the scare she had, and the subsequent reaffirmation that Widow was her only family left, the shackles that bound her to 'good' had deteriorated under the pressure of proving herself. Lotus didn't mind anymore. Widow did not judge her for the things she did, and as far as Lotus was concerned, her opinion was the only one that mattered.
Their targets became vast in scope. The duo killed petty thieves, assaulted SDC compounds, assassinated government officials, and all the while, grew their reputation. Through Malachite, they were offered more jobs, outsourced to those that Malachite owed a favor. Lotus returned to her training, once again hiding her semblance whenever it was necessary. She was becoming a true powerhouse in her own right, even when she didn't let loose. They often killed huntsman, either as targets, or simply because they got in the way. It was never them, though. Never the three that remained on Lotus's list.
So it came as a surprise when, long after they had given up hope on their quest for revenge, Malachite was finally able to give them some good news. Her informants had found two of the huntsman that had evaded them for so long. It turned out they were a pair of rogues, beholden to no kingdom or city, and had disappeared shortly after the raid on the White Fang.
The informant had gotten their hands on SDC records that detailed out the huntsman that had been hired for specific duties and compared the list to the night of the raid. They now knew who all three were, but the last was proving even more difficult to pin down. 'Daisy and Carob Alabaster', the names of two soon-to-be dead hunters, rolled around in Lotus's mind like the wheels of the cart she currently sat in. They had left the city, for the first time in a long time.
Lotus felt Widow glancing back to where she sat at the back of the cart, feet dangling over the side as the road swayed them both back and forth. Each dip or rock in the road sent a jolt into the wood beneath them that neither seemed to mind. Lotus had adopted the habit of always using her semblance to coat her hands and legs. The act made it all feel more natural once she needed to fight, and keeping her semblance out cost her nothing. If anything, she felt lighter, more mobile, and intoxicatingly stronger because of it.
Her senses had become more finely tuned over the past two years, born from both age, and necessity. A single slip up in their line of work meant death, and neither was in a rush to bring about that eventuality. Lotus could feel everything around them. Stationary objects had started to fade into her range of senses over a year before. Everything had a unique vibration to it, changed by both the shape and structure of the object, as well as the material it was comprised of. Minute differences that had, at first, come as a shock when she was finally able to sense them.
The sense only became more profound when Lotus closed her eyes, as she was doing now. The wind ruffling each individual blade of grass, the leaves in the trees as birds, squirrels, or insects disturbed them, the constant back and forth pattern of the horse's muscles as they flexed and applied pressure to the ground beneath them. The vibrations of the cart she sat on, and the fruits and vegetables held within the barrels that rode alongside her. She could feel it all. It was soothing. A comfort she relished, knowing that none would ever be able to sneak up on her.
"You look awfully peaceful back there, Lotus," Widow quipped back to her over the sound of the clopping horses and rattling cart.
"How could I not be?" Lotus mumbled and opened her eyes back up before blinking in the harsh light. She realized with a start that she had nearly dozed off despite the questionable position she was in. They weren't travelling fast, little more than a brisk walk, but Lotus looked down at the ground. 'Falling off in front of Widow would have been embarrassing, at the very least.'
"When we reach town, I'll leave you to repay our kind savior while I gather information," Widow spoke again, careful to keep any of their intentions obscured from the old man that sat in the front of the cart. He had been kind enough to offer them a ride when he passed on his way to the same town the two of them were headed for. They had graciously accepted, and promised their assistance in unloading his goods when they arrived.
"Fine by me," Lotus shrugged. If the old man left her to do it with a little privacy, she could unload the barrels in no time flat with a little help from her semblance. Six arms were better than two, after all. With a small rumble in her stomach, matched only by the shaking of the cart, Lotus raised her voice to catch the old man's attention, "Is it alright with you if I snag a couple apples, sir? I'll pay for them once we get to town."
"Oh, you gals go ahead and help yourselves," the old man's gravelly voice replied over his shoulder with a polite wave to let them know they were more than welcome to it. Lotus hopped up into a crouch and held a hand against one of the barrels to keep her balance before popping the top off. She held an apple up towards Widow in a silent question, and with a nod from the older faunus, tossed it to her. Lotus grabbed a couple for herself and settled back down, now leaning back against the barrels behind her, more snugly confined to the inside of the cart.
"I'm glad I found you two when I did," the old man spoke again after some time, "You wouldn't have made it to town before dark at the pace you were going. I can't bear the thought of what might have happened to the two of you if the Grimm were to attack in the night."
Widow's lips pursed in amusement that the old man could not see while facing forward as he was, "The Grimm can just as easily attack during the day, but thank you for the ride. We are both appreciative of the kindness you've shown." Lotus stifled a giggle, sharing in the silent joke that passed between them. 'A human worrying about us, of all people.' Lotus shook her head while her giggling subsided.
The old man caught none of it, instead opting to place his hands on the double barrel shotgun resting beside him and lift it up for all eyes to see, "As long as me and Big Bertha are around, you don't have to worry about any pesky Grimm. Took a beowolf's head clean off with one shot just last week. I swear it."
"I believe you," Widow stifled a laugh, eyeing the shotgun. It was an impressive weapon. Lotus had no doubts he could protect them, if he aimed true. That is, as long as there were only ever two Grimm that attacked at a time. Once a third appeared… Lotus chuckled dryly, 'Who knows, maybe he reloads fast.'
"Looks like we'll have to forgo any demonstrations," the old man breathed a sigh of relief from the front. Lotus sat up and Widow turned to face the front as they saw the small village appear through the trees ahead of them. The curve in the road bent suddenly, bringing it all into view. A sign post along the roadside announced their arrival. 'Welcome to Shion', Lotus read it to herself as they passed.
Around two dozen buildings greeted their eyes as they arrived. Each was a mixture of white and tan, with brown, steeply angled rooftops, all gathered around a single T street, with what looked like the main building at the top of the T. Lotus was surprised at how many people she saw walking around the place. 'Small, but densely packed…' Men, women, and children all went about their business, chatting amongst one another, shopping, or playing in the street.
The old man drove his cart to the side of one of the smaller buildings, angling the back of the cart so that it would face two wide double doors that he opened a moment later. "Well, this is where I'd like you to put the supplies. Feel free to come on inside when you're done. I'll have Margaret whip you up some dinner as thanks," he ended it with a smile and a nod, turning to head into the house.
"Alright. Are you okay here, little spider?" Widow asked lightly, gaze already flicking back and forth across the town in search of a bar where she might ask around for their quarry.
Lotus looked at the shed. Shelves lined the sides, full of tools and supplies. There were already some crates and barrels taking up the back corner, but with a quick eye Lotus could tell that space wouldn't be an issue. With her being out in the open like this… "It'll take me a little longer than I'd hoped, but I'll manage. You do what you need to."
Widow nodded and set off, apparently recognizing one of the further buildings as some sort of pub or tavern. 'Where else would huntsman stay?' The informant had told them the two hunters had accepted a mission for Shion, likely to kill any Grimm that might have been spotted in the area. It was typical huntsman work, and they planned on taking advantage of that.
Lotus began her task, thankful that the old man had picked them up along the way. They still would have been walking for a few more hours, well into the night, and would have had to put off their revenge for another day. While they would have been perfectly capable of killing the two huntsman when they came back to town, the two of them would have been prime suspects, unknown by the townspeople. And with a little search, their faunus natures would have been discovered. 'Even the old man wouldn't have given us the benefit of the doubt, then.'
The barrels were large and awkward in her arms, even supported by her semblance as she was. Lotus began tediously shifting them to the back edge of the cart, dropping back down, picking them up on her shoulder, walking them inside, then carefully lowering them down to the floor inside the shed. She took great care in making sure none of them were damaged in the transfer, the old man had passed up asking for payment for the food they had eaten, and even offered them dinner. It was the least she could do to avoid any accidents.
Lotus stood back to admire her work when she was finished. The cart was empty, and a mixture of twenty crates and barrels were neatly stacked into the space, leaving room around the edges for the old man so that he could still reach his tools or other supplies. She nodded to herself and turned back around. While she had been going about emptying the cart, the old man had come back outside to unhitch the horses and take them into his barn to feed them. He stepped back out of the barn and angled her direction, stopping to admire her handiwork.
"Well done!" the old man smiled, "Couldn't have fit 'em better myself. If you don't mind, I just need to pull the cart into the barn now that it's empty, and we can head on inside. Margaret's made some stew, and she's got a pair of helpers of her own that she snatched out of the street earlier, so they'll be joining us."
"Sure thing," Lotus smiled back and walked to the front of the cart. Together they hefted up the front by the bar, and backed it into the barn so that the horses could easily be rehitched to pull it back out at a later time. Lotus dusted off her hands and arched her back, earning herself a few satisfying pops.
The old man laughed, "Ah, if only I could do the same. Back just ain't what it used to be. Come on inside now, they're waitin' for us."
Lotus nodded and followed him inside. They came in through the backdoor, connected by the barn. She made sure to wipe her feet off on the mat before she stepped inside. It was a quaint little home, with the delicious aroma of boiled meat and vegetables catching her nose the instant the door opened. The smell tugged her feet in the direction that the old man led, through the kitchen and into the dining room. Lotus saw the man's wife, Margaret, first. She welcomed Lotus with a smile on her face and arms spread wide. Lotus decided that she would indulge her in the hug and had made her first step forward when a voice rang out from the side.
"O-Olivia!?" an excited girl's voice caught Lotus off guard, and she stopped in her tracks to glance to her right, where the other two presences were already sitting at the table.
"N-Nora? Ren!?" Lotus stammered, seeing the two children now grown up as she had. Aside from their faces, both looked completely different from how she remembered them. They had each gone through their respective growth spurts, with Ren now being almost a head taller than either of them. He wore a green, long sleeve coat with black and gold trim, and white pants.
Nora wore a pink skirt with matching pink fingerless gloves, and a top that was half suggestive, half overly modest. The heart shaped cleavage gap in her shirt was a little risque, but Lotus couldn't even begin to understand the complex metal and wiring that surrounded her midsection.
The oddly dressed girl squealed in delight and jumped up from her seat, charging around the edge of it to throw herself into a hug that took both of them to the floor. Lotus was suddenly very thankful that she had aura to soften the blow, as she crashed heavily on to her back, hearing a few more pops that were much less satisfying.
Nora hugged her tightly, rolling back and forth on top of her before jumping back up with a grin and offering her a hand. Lotus sucked in the air that had been violently expelled in the tackle, and let herself get dragged to her feet. Nora cheerily inspected her, "Oh, this is so cool! What are you doing in Shion!?"
Lotus managed to extricate herself from Nora's grasp and backed up a step, "I'm here with a friend. We… decided to journey outside the main city a bit. See the sights, ya know?" Lotus thought it would be best to take attention off herself and switched the conversation back on them, "What are you two doing here?"
Nora stepped back to pat Ren on the back and grinned, "Renny and I are messengers! His semblance lets us travel all over the place without any fear of the Grimm, so we go from town to town, exchanging mail between loved ones or friends. We get to meet all sorts of people!" Ren silently nodded along. Nora then bent around him, casually brushing up against him as she reached to his side and hefted into sight the biggest hammer Lotus had ever seen in her life.
"And when Renny gets tired, I take care of us with this!" Nora brandished the hammer, careful not to hit the table or any of the walls and furniture. The way she swung it with such ease… Lotus was suddenly also very thankful that she had not stopped using her semblance. That tackled hug would have killed her, otherwise. She was sure of it.
"Nora, not in the house," Ren admonished, earning a relieved sigh from both of the owners who had been, up until then, frantically eyeing the hammer's path as it swung through the air.
The orange haired girl giggled out a soft, "Sorry Ren~!" before very gently setting the hammer back down against the table. She plopped into her chair and scooted in, now eyeing the others that remained standing with a polite smile.
The older couple seemed to shake themselves out of it, and exchanged their own greetings before sitting down as well. Lotus followed their lead, taking a seat between them and Ren and Nora. The older woman carefully ladled out stew into the bowls she had stacked in front of her and passed them down the table. The first was handed down to the end of the chain to Nora, the second to Ren, the third to Lotus, and finally the old lady deposited a bowl in front of her husband and one for herself.
"Don't be afraid to eat up! There's plenty left, so you kids enjoy it," Margaret gave them a comforting smile, and followed her own lead, digging in to the stew she had made. There was silence for a few minutes, aside from the scrape of metal spoons on porcelain bowls while everyone enjoyed the food they had been offered. It was good, better than anything Lotus had eaten in weeks, and within a few minutes she was passing her bowl back down for a refill.
Nora followed suit not long after. For another few minutes, the quiet remained, until a question popped into Lotus's head while she had been stealing a glance at the other two.
"Did you guys get my message in Mistral?" she asked lightly.
"We did," Ren stated between bites.
"We missed you, too~!" Nora chimed in, chipmunking the food in her mouth in order to speak. She at least had the decency to cover her mouth as she did so. Even still, Ren leveled a flat stare her way. Nora just smiled back, unabashed by her own behavior before passing her bowl down again for thirds.
"The place was a mess. What happened there?" Ren asked quietly, passing the soon to be filled bowl to Lotus, who passed it on to the old man.
Lotus hesitated a moment, but decided the truth was fine, "The man that I scared off came back and tried to ambush me. I dealt with him and his friends before sending them on their way." Lotus shrugged, there wasn't much more to the story.
"And the blood stains on the floor?" Ren asked quietly.
Lotus's breath hitched, her eyes refusing to glance at the old couple to her left, instead relying on her extra sense to accept the bowl that he offered her. Lotus passed it back to Ren, letting her eyes meet his in the process, "He isn't dead, if that's what you're asking." 'Not from a lack of trying…' Malachite had never found the faunus, and Lotus's question had never been answered.
Ren nodded, "So the blood…?"
"I have a right to defend myself, don't I? He was waiting to attack me in my own home," Lotus quipped back tightly. It wasn't necessarily true. She had already been moving into the White Fang headquarters by then, but her stuff had still been there. Still, she wasn't exactly going to let herself be guilt tripped over defending herself, she doubted he only had plans to 'rough her up a little' like he'd said. Lotus suspected that under different circumstances, she wouldn't have left that building alive.
Ren seemed to finally accept her recounting of events and dropped the subject, returning to his meal that he had been slowly picking at the entire time. Whatever bits he ate, Nora packed away tenfold into her own stomach. Lotus's eyes went wide when she realized that Nora was already halfway through her third bowl. Lotus finished her second bowl and set her spoon back down in it, pushing it away. Her stomach was mostly full, and she didn't want to risk stuffing herself when they were going to go 'hunting' that night.
"You dears are all welcome to stay in our extra room, if you want. The kids have long since moved out, but there are a couple beds still in there for when we have guests over," Margaret offered kindly, giving them all a reassuring smile as she polished off the last of her own bowl.
"My friend should be getting us rooms at the inn, actually," Lotus smiled back apologetically, "Thank you for the offer, though. You and your husband have been more than gracious enough."
"Ooooh~! Who's your friend?" Nora jumped in, leaning forward against the table, food forgotten in her excitement.
"She's an older woman," Lotus offered freely, "She kind of… adopted me, I guess."
"I'm glad you've found someone that could be a good influence on your life," Ren nodded, lips finally raising with the ghost of a smile.
"Which reminds me," Lotus glanced out the windows to see the slowly setting sun barely visible over the treetops, "I should be getting back to her soon. Are you two still going to be in town tomorrow?"
"We can stay for awhile if you want to catch up!" Nora grinned, "We pretty much do freelance work, so we set our own hours. Besides," she shoulder bumped Ren, "The more time we spend here, the more letters we can gather, and the more lien we'll make when we leave."
Ren nodded his ascent and gave a real smile to Lotus, "I'd like to hear about what you've been up to. It has been about three years since then. We'll all have stories to share."
Lotus grinned, squashing down the nervous twist in her stomach and excused herself, "I'll meet you guys here at dawn?"
They each nodded their agreement, and gave one last farewell before Lotus stepped out into the street. A cold wind had picked up since she'd been inside, blowing lightly down the street past her and causing Lotus to pull her hoodie more tightly against herself. Her eyes fell on the building Widow had went into, and headed that way. The amount of people in the streets had died down as night began to fall, the last vestiges of light now only visible across the furthest reaches of the sky. Only a few remained, going about their last minute tasks before heading into the relative safety and comfort of their own homes.
Lotus could feel Widow inside the building she was heading towards, and pulled it open to the sounds of raucous laughter. Widow was busy playing darts, drilling the drunk man she played with questions in between throws. He seemed none the wiser. Lotus left her to it, instead walking to the bar and sitting down at one of the empty stools. Her senses caught on to another faunus in the room, a few seats down from her, but she decided not to bother him. Best not to draw attention to their own kind in small towns such as this one. From what Widow had said, they weren't known for their racial acceptance.
Still, Lotus found her eyes glancing over towards the faunus every now and then, curiosity piqued by his mere presence. It was certainly more interesting than watching Widow fail her throws on purpose in an attempt to continue the game with the drunkard. Apparently he actually knew something, otherwise Widow wouldn't have kept at it for so long.
The faunus in question seemed to be a moderate build, lithe but strong. It was hard to tell with the thick brown leather coat he wore that reached well past the bar stool he sat on, but Lotus could at least spot the white pants he wore, along with the bare skin exposed in his chest region. His brown hair was long, put into a ponytail that trailed down past his shoulders. He was giddily laughing to himself, in sync with each lull in Widow's conversation, although he wasn't actually looking in their direction.
'Best to not talk to crazies,' Lotus mused, waiting for Widow to finish with her game, and the questions that came along with it. The woman seemed to have dried up anything she could ask the drunk, and quickly ended the game between the two in her next round of throws. She muttered a 'good game' and headed over to Lotus, sitting down on a stool between her and the other faunus.
"Well, according to him, they set out towards the northern mountain range at about midday. From the sounds of it, they took enough with them that they're likely not planning on heading back tonight," Widow tossed back a shot the bartender offered her and set her lien down on the bar to pay for it, waiting for him to walk back to the register before continuing, "Better if we strike while they're outside town. Agreed?"
Lotus nodded and stood, "The sooner the better, right?"
The two left the bar and set out, headed in the direction the drunk man had indicated. Between their faunus night vision, and acute sixth sense, neither bothered to bring any additional source of light. Doing so would just give them away.
They passed the last row of houses and entered the forest. The sounds of the wind died once they entered the trees, leaving them with an eerie quiet that smothered their ears, yet sharpened them to every other sound. Widow activated her semblance, removing any worry the two might have had over stepping on twigs or dried leaves. It was with assurity that they made their way through the forest, keeping their eyes out for any sign of the two hunters that had journeyed out past the safety of civilization.
"Oh, uh. By the way, we need to be back by tomorrow morning. I'm kind of… meeting some people…" Lotus rubbed a hand against the back of her neck, wary of how Widow would take it.
The older faunus continued in silence for a few minutes before sighing and turning her eye to Lotus, "I trust you, little spider. It isn't anyone I should be worried about, right?"
"N-no. Not at all. They're a couple of kids my age. I met them a long time ago, before Crim saved me from the police station. They were nice… I trust them."
Widow nodded, "I'll take your word on it," her expression softened, "Are they friends?"
"You could say that," Lotus accepted the title she gave them, "It was kind of a… victim of circumstances, sort of thing. I stole a man's wallet in the store, and when he saw that they had a bunch of lien, claimed that their money was his. So… I beat him up and gave them their lien back as an apology. I didn't actually tell them it was my fault in the first place, though, so don't mention it if they end up talking to you."
"And when they ask what you've been up to for the last few years?" Widow raised an eyebrow.
"I'll just tell them I've been training to be a huntress or something. Easiest parallel, right?" Lotus shrugged, giving Widow a nervous glance. The older woman just silently agreed with a shrug of her own, turning back to the task at hand as their eyes continued to scan the forest around them.
They were approaching a low hill, and agreed to climb it to get a better vantage point. It was a small rise, but proved enough as they could more clearly take in their surroundings. Both caught the small flicker of light against the trunk of a distant tree. They shared a smirk, 'Found you~'
It was still another ten minutes before they found themselves quietly crouching through the underbrush, eyes and sixth sense hyper focused on the small clearing in front of them. The small sounds of a crackling fire met their ears first, the sole sound in a forest of silence. Their sixth sense caught on, second. Lotus could feel one lying down in a sleeping bag, rolled on to her side and likely asleep. The other was still up, leaning back against a tree with his eyes closed and his ears perked for any sounds from the forest around him. Unfortunately for him, the pair made no sound at all as they continued their approach.
As they stepped into the edge of the clearing, Lotus could finally see them with her own eyes. They burned in anger, for this truly was two of the people she had seen after the raid. The woman tucked into her sleeping bag was Daisy, the man leaning against the tree, Carob. Lotus had done her own research once they found out their names. They were husband and wife, both adopting the man's last name 'Alabaster'. They had no children, so Lotus could entirely avoid that guilt trip again. Their records showed a long history of accepting missions against the Grimm, but dotted among those missions were quite a number involving raids on the White Fang.
Lotus seethed with barely contained anger when her eyes set on them. If any were the most guilty out of the hunters that had attacked that day, these two were certainly prime candidates. Lotus and Widow shared a glance, and nodded. They had already planned on Lotus taking the lead. Widow quietly shrunk back into the vegetation, becoming all but invisible to even Lotus if not for her sixth sense telling her exactly where the older woman was.
Allowing herself a few moments to twist her face into a frantic and worried expression, Lotus burst out of the bushes, throwing herself down on the ground in the clearing. The man's eyes widened in shock and whipped up to stare at her. Lotus continued the act, though, and kept her eyes trained behind herself as she stumbled along the ground. She stopped, pretending to finally notice the crackling fire behind her and turned around slowly.
"Daisy! Up!" Carob whispered loudly. The woman muttered and rolled over to look at him, then immediately spotted Lotus, realizing they weren't alone. Daisy jolted up, sliding out of her sleeping bag with the experience born of having to do so in the past. Her weapon was already in her hands. It was a long staff, lit along the shaft by the tech lines that betrayed its ability to transform into some sort of gun.
Lotus face went blank, and her eyes narrowed as Carob unsheathed his own weapon. It wasn't his. It was Copper's. Lotus would have recognized its form anywhere, she had spent well over a year using it herself in mainly its pistol form to carry out her nightly muggings.
"What's out there, kid? What's after you?" Daisy asked, a tinge of panic in her voice.
Lotus struggled and failed to keep up the act. Her mind burned with fury that carried into her words, "It's not like any Grimm I've ever seen…" The two looked at each other nervously, apparently still too caught up in the situation to notice her shift in demeanor. Lotus stepped closer to Carob, activating her semblance and leveling all four at the man in front of her. They had grown further, and were now just under fourteen feet. Still, Lotus had spent years perfecting her use of them on her limbs, instead of lashing out with them by themselves. If it came to it, she would, but at the moment, she really wanted to beat this man to death with her own hands.
Carob's eyes searched her face in concern, hesitating at Lotus's suddenly diminished panic, alerting him to danger. He didn't have time to ask her any questions, though. The moment his mouth opened to speak, she launched herself forward, driving a semblance enhanced fist so hard into his chest that was sent flying through the tree he had been leaning against previously. Lotus followed up the attack, catching him as he tried to stand out of his roll, another blow across the chest that sent him staggering back. Carob was more prepared for it, this time, and managed to right himself as he drew out Copper's sword.
The sounds of clashing steel behind Lotus, along with the sudden presence of Widow coming back within range, alerted her to the two's fight in the clearing. Lotus took advantage of Carob's attention being momentarily taken off her by the sound. She closed the gap, feinting another punch before dropping into a low kick that swept his legs out from under him. With a gasp of exertion, he managed to deflect her next blow, a plunging jab with her fist that would have been devastating to his aura reserves, if the small crater it left in the ground was anything to go by.
Carob rolled away and back to his feet again, attention now entirely focused on the girl in front of him. He hadn't taken her seriously at first, despite the initial blow. Lotus was still a child in his eyes, after all, and his comrade sounded like she needed help. Carob slowly circled to the side, eyes intently watching Lotus for any shift in her stance. She paced with him, keeping their distance at a range where she could instantly attack him if he dropped his guard.
Lotus growled in frustration when no opportunities were presented to her. 'Guess we'll do this the hard way.' With another snap of her paired legs, she flashed across the intervening space in a single step. Carob brought the sword up between them, edge now alight with the lightning dust that coursed through it. 'Sorry Carob. Invisible spider legs aren't conductive. Trust me, I've tested it.' Her fist was protected by the appendaged wrapped across her knuckles. Lotus's blow didn't slow as the huntsman had expected, instead colliding full force against his guard and knocking the sword back into himself.
His aura reserved tanked, as both the point of the sword and the electric current being produced by it slammed into the front of his own chest with all of Lotus's fist behind it. His aura sparked under the blow, and with the continued contact of the lightning dust infused edge, flickered, and died.
"I'll be taking that back," Lotus sneered, her arm lashing out to grab a hold of his wrist. She twisted it with a satisfying 'snap'. Carob screamed in pain and let go of the sword, only for Lotus to catch it with her free hand. She spun it in her hand and slashed out, cutting a deep gash across the man's chest.
He fell backwards, clutching at his chest with his good hand, and dragging himself backwards with his other elbow, kicking across the ground with his feet in a desperate attempt to distance himself from her.
Lotus's sneer turned to one of pure contempt, "Three years, and this is what you amounted to? A thief that couldn't even put up a decent fight!?" She closed the distance he had made in only a few steps, and unwrapped her appendages. The first pierced down through his ankle, pinning it to the ground. The second, into the thigh of his other leg. She dragged him closer to herself as he screamed in pain, one good hand trying to grasp on to the invisible thing putting a hole through his leg.
The third appendage knocked that hand aside, pinning it as well through his exposed palm. The last went through his other forearm. He was pinned to the ground completely, spread out on the ground in front of Lotus. She stepped between her own limbs and lowered herself down to look into his face, bringing the point of Copper's sword to his chest, right above his heart.
"Any last words, scum?"
Carob's breaths came out in ragged gasps, his eyes frantically looking around himself, "P-Please! Don't do it! I'm begging you! I don't want to die!"
Lotus sneered again, "Did the young faunus boy you murdered three years ago beg like that before he died? Did you delight in his torment before you snuffed out his life?"
"W-What!? N-No! We didn't kill the kid! That faunus did! The one that told us where to find them all!"
Lotus let her mind trail off, picturing the large man that she had defeated with such ease, twice. He wouldn't have stood a chance against Jace, "Ending your disgusting life with a lie. Is that in some way poetic? I can't really tell."
Lotus pressed the sword down into Carob's chest, slowly. His words were cut off entirely as his body was racked with pure pain. His eyes were as wide as they could go, as his body trembled in the pinned position she held him in. The blade sunk the last few inches, now protruding from his back. Carob's body fell limp, still twitching slightly from the electric current running through his dead form.
The blade was slowly withdrawn, Lotus savoring every second of it. She disabled the lightning dust and wiped the sword across his coat before unfastening the sheath from his belt. Lotus attached it to her own, and slid Copper's sword back into place. She felt complete. Both hoodie, and sword now back in her possession, as they should be. The sounds of fighting had already died down in the camp as well. Lotus could tell Widow was the victor. She was the only one her senses told her was still standing.
Widow spoke up as Lotus made her way back into the clearing, "You finish him?"
"Of course," Lotus twisted so that Widow could see the sword on her hip as well, "He had Copper's sword. After all this time, who would have known…"
They both froze as the sound of distant clapping broke them out of their conversation. Both eyes darted into the treeline. A figure stepped out, just out of range of Widow's sixth sense. His hands continued to clap, in a slow, determined rhythm. As he approached, Lotus recognized him. It was the faunus from the inn.
"Well done, well done! Truly, someone using their dying breath to utter a lie is undoubtedly poetic. The truth was snuffed out along with the light in his eyes. Marvelous!" the faunus walked into the camp, stopping a dozen paces away from the pair of assassins. His eyes were brimming with tears, as he brought up a finger to wipe away at one of them.
He noticed their guarded stances and chuckled lightly, "Oh, you have nothing to worry from me, my good spiders." The coat on his back fell off, and Lotus took a step back as a scorpion tail was revealed. 'A scorpion faunus? That's rare.'
"How did you know we were spider faunus?" Widow demanded, eyes narrowing. She did not retreat back at all as Lotus had done, instead choosing to stand her ground.
"Oh, it's a simple trick really. Once you've had dealings with spider faunus in the past, you tend to look out for them," he giggled at their confusion, "It's the way you notice things without ever looking at them. The small movements you make in response to how others move around you. It is fascinating to watch a spider faunus using their sixth sense."
"Why did you follow us out here?" Lotus chipped in. His explanation was… plausible. She had never paid attention to her own movements while focused on others, but she supposed it was possible for others to take note of her reactions.
"Oh, I'm on the hunt for huntsman and huntresses. We both had the same quarry this evening, but when I heard your intentions, I decided to sit back and see how you faired. I'm glad I did!" he grinned wildly and took his eyes off the two, letting them instead roam around the camp, "So, now that you've snuffed them out, what do you intend to do?"
"We aren't locals, if that's what you mean," Widow replied. She hadn't eased up in the slightest, "My little spider has gotten the revenge she wanted. There is still one more we seek, but he's proving to be far more difficult to track down."
"Who are you looking for? Perhaps I know of him," the man smirked, using a free hand to play with his own tail as he eyed them sideways.
The two shared a frown, but Lotus was the first to turn back to him, "His name is Nicholas Arc. Where he lives is unknown to us. From what we gathered, he was only passing through the city when he accepted the mission to kill our comrades."
The man's eyes lit up as he fully turned to them, "Arc, you said? Ah, yes! A name of some interest. If memory serves, his family currently resides in a small town outside of Vale."
Widow shared a moment of silence with Lotus, then shrugged, "That would explain why we couldn't find anything on him."
All the way in Vale? 'It's not as if we don't have the lien to spare for the trip, especially if it means putting an end to this chapter in my life…' Lotus nodded. They would get more information from Malachite, and head to Vale at the earliest opportunity. Lotus's eyes caught on to the scorpion faunus's.
"Ah, dear friends. My name is Tyrian! It has been a pleasure to meet you."
"My name is-"
"The Black Lotus!" Tyrian interrupted, a smile carving its way across his face, "Truly, a name rich with poetic depth! I know you, my dear! We have been watching your development with great interest!"
Lotus paused, "We? Who are you?"
Tyrian bowed low, holding his arms wide, "I am a talent scout, of sorts. My Mistress gathers those with unfathomable potential to serve her! Unfortunately," Tyrian eyed her a moment, his eyes staring deeply into hers, "You do not appear ready. This was merely a chance encounter, but one I would not have missed for the world!"
'A Mistress?' "We've worked for a lot of people. If it pays well, be sure to get into contact once I'm 'ready'. This was only a taste of what I'm capable of, I assure you," Lotus smiled. She wasn't quite calm, not with him still there. Tyrian was off putting. He felt as if he could say or do something at any moment, and it kept her on edge. Widow seemed to share her sentiment, she still hadn't sheathed her daggers. Her eyes were considering, though. Lotus could see the gears turning, and guessed her thoughts, 'If another faunus of his caliber has devoted themselves to someone…' They could both feel Tyrian's aura. It was intense, dwarfing even Vasilias's. 'It would take me over a dozen clean hits to deplete his reserves…'
Tyrian interrupted the short silence, "I'll let you two get along with your night. I need only acquire proof of their deaths," he waved a scroll in his hand and pocketed it as he stepped away, headed towards the brush where Lotus had left Carob's corpse.
The two kept one eye behind themselves as they left, heading back in the direction of Shion. As soon as they left the campsite, Widow's hand fell on her shoulder, shoving her down towards the ground while both their semblances activated. Widow still brought a finger up to her lips, and pointed off to their left. It was out of range for Lotus, but clearly visible.
Four beowolves and an Ursa Major stood off to the side, patiently waiting in place.
"Okay, I'm officially creeped out…" Lotus whispered, shivering at the ungodly sight.
Widow gave them an interested stare, but ultimately decided it would be better off to leave without disturbing them. The two once again silently set off, back towards town. Despite the odd events afterwards, Lotus felt a weight lift off her heart. They had killed two of the huntsman that plagued her memories, and reclaimed the memento that had been lost.
'Tonight was a good night.'
Chapter 13: Travelers
Lotus rolled over, squinting into the light that streamed across her bed through the blinds, the gap swaying in a slight breeze from where the window itself had been left open. Widow and Lotus had stayed the night back in town, purchasing individual rooms at the inn for themselves with a promise of reuniting later the next day. They were in no rush to get back to the city of Mistral, and Lotus had promised Ren and Nora that she would hang out with them that morning.
With a startled yelp at the time, Lotus jumped up and began to hastily dress herself. 'I told them I'd be there at dawn!' and by the sun's position, it was at least a couple hours after that. Under normal circumstances, she hardly ever slept, but after the previous night's events, the nightmares hadn't shown themselves for once. They didn't bother her nearly as much anymore, but they were still there. Present every time she closed her eyes. The number of faces had simply grown over the years.
Lotus finished dressing and began to leave, but paused at her door, looking back into the room. Figuring it would help the disguise, she stepped back inside for a moment and snatched up Copper's sword. She drew it and checked the blade. Specks of dried blood still caked its edge. She groaned and headed into the bathroom to take her time making sure it was clean of any gore from the night before. 'Wow Olivia, where'd all that blood come from?,' Lotus thought to herself, adopting a close approximation of Nora's voice instead of her own.
Cleaning out the weapon kept her there for another fifteen minutes. 'I really should have done this as soon as I got back.' Now the blood had seeped into the moving parts. She seriously doubted that Copper had ever accounted for it during its creation. 'Then again he never planned on killing anyone.' A small part of her felt ashamed that she had used it to kill the man the night before, but… 'Copper would understand. I used it to kill one of the bandits, too. This time I was getting revenge for… another brother.' Perhaps she had been too hard on herself, initially. Now that she had grown, the weapon felt more right in her hands, much less out of place as when she was first training with the White Fang.
Lotus did a final inspection, twisting and shifting the sword-gun between its two forms, then powered the lightning dust on and off for good measure. Everything seemed to be in working order, and there wasn't a speck of blood to be seen. Lotus nodded to herself and dried it off before resheathing it and heading downstairs.
There were already quite a few patrons at the tables downstairs, and among them, Lotus spotted the two that she had been meant to meet up with earlier. Her shoulders slumped in remorse as she made her way to them, "Sorry, I don't usually sleep in this late…"
Nora looked up from her plate of scrambled eggs and bacon, letting her fork clatter to the plate as she jumped up and moved around the side of the table to throw a hug around Lotus's midriff. "Oh, no harm done! Ren and I took a little extra time this morning to gather mail while you were still asleep!" Nora cheered lightheartedly, stepping back out of the hug to gesture towards the chair at their table, "Do you want us to order you anything?"
"It would be our pleasure," Ren chipped in, giving Lotus a light smile as he set his own fork down.
Lotus rubbed the back of her head, "Heh, no that's alright. I can pay for my own breakfast."
"Nonsense! We never got to pay you back for all those supplies!" Nora gave Lotus a polite shove into the chair and pinned her there with her hands on Lotus's shoulders, "What do you want?"
With an amused smile, Lotus looked over at Nora's plate and shrugged, "Another order of what you're having would be nice."
Nora grinned and ran to the front counter, leaving Ren and Lotus alone for the moment. Lotus sighed and sat back, hand running along the sheath at her hip. It was a surprise, how comforting it felt. Between Copper's sword, and the black hoodie she wore, she could almost forget the years of murder and imagine herself as she had been when she met the two for the first time.
Ren interrupted her brief moment of bliss with a lightly asked question, eyes following Lotus's hand as it traced along the side of the weapon, "Is that your weapon? You didn't have it on you yesterday."
Lotus's hand froze, and the next moment she brought her hand back up to rest on the table. She gave Ren a shy grin and looked down at it as she spoke, "It was my brother's. He had just finished building it and was planning on going to school at Haven before he… died," Lotus gave a slight shrug, "I keep it as a memento more than anything. I fight better with my fists."
"So you're a brawler!?" Nora interrupted as she returned, hefting a plate of bacon and scrambled eggs down in front of Lotus, along with a pitcher of orange juice. Nora patted her on the back before resuming her own seat and digging into her half finished plate of food.
Lotus let out a small chuckle and decided on giving them the lie that she and Widow had come up with, "I guess you could say that. My semblance increases my strength and speed when I activate it. I could fight with a weapon, but it's just never felt right before," Lotus's eyes strayed back down to the sword, reminded by how complete she was with it, "I… I might learn how to use it, though. I want to become a huntress."
Ren nodded, "You would be able to honor your brother."
"Ren and I are going to Beacon once we're old enough!" Nora announced, throwing an arm around his shoulder to draw him into a sideways hug. Ren accepted it silently, apparently used to Nora's regular shows of affection. He hardly paused with his fork, expertly balancing the sudden shift while still bringing it to his mouth.
"How old do you have to be?" Lotus asked, curiosity thoroughly piqued. She had been determined to go to Sanctum a few years ago, right before… everything happened. With the final name on her list now looking like less and less of a pipe dream, the possibility of going to an academy was suddenly much more plausible. 'I could still make something of myself.'
"Seventeen," Ren stated.
"Which means we have a couple years, then we're going to take the entrance exams! Ren and I should pass with flying colors!" Nora nodded excitedly.
"So we actually are the same age…" Lotus mumbled to herself, then lifted her eyes back to the pair, "Why Beacon in particular? That's all the way over in Vale, right?" 'Near where my next target is…'
"Beacon is the place to go! It's the best academy in the world!" Nora explained loudly, gesturing with her fork, ignoring the bits of egg flying off the end of it. Ren looked like he wanted to chastise her, but let out a tiny huff instead and focused back on his own food.
Lotus rubbed a hand across her other forearm and asked quietly, "How… do they treat faunus there?" She shivered in fear. It was a bold move, but if she planned on going to Beacon as well, she might as well find out now whether or not her 'friends' would care about her heritage. Her eyes glanced back and forth between the two as she said it, waiting for their responses, knowing already in her heart that they would reject her. That they would stand up from where they sat, disgusted that they had shared a meal with a faunus, and storm out of the building.
"It's actually quite progressive, second only to Vacuo," Ren replied calmly. Lotus's eyes locked on his as she searched for a hint of contempt, a hint of malice. There was… There was none to be found. 'Do they not care? That's not possible… right?'
A scrape of chair legs was all the warning Lotus received before Nora had swooped back to her side and grabbed her hands, "Oh my gosh you're a faunus!?" Nora's eyes darted around Lotus's body, searching for her faunus trait, "I don't see anything!"
Lotus flinched, curling in on herself as her eyes looked around at the other patrons at the nearby tables. A few eyes had heard and were looking her way. She shied away from their gazes and caught Ren's eyes, who's eyes widened as he looked around as well.
"Nora!" Ren whispered fiercely. The girl turned in confusion before also catching the eyes that had all swiveled their way. Her cheeks colored and she let go of Lotus's hands, backing away to sit back down in her chair.
"Let's, um… let's go for a walk?" Lotus quivered and stood, no longer caring for the food in front of her. The other two nodded, grateful to leave the prying eyes fixated on the group as they left the establishment. Lotus breathed out a small sigh of relief as the door closed behind them, shutting their gazes away.
Nora immediately turned back to her as the door closed, "I'm so sorry, Olivia! I didn't mean to!" The girl's hands were twisting together in a panic, her eyes pained as they silently pleaded for Lotus to understand that she regretted what she'd done.
"Honestly, Nora. You need to be more careful," Ren admonished as he shook his head, leading them further away from the inn and out along the road. They walked outside the edge of the town, just on the other side of the road that Lotus and Widow had travelled along the day prior and stepped into the shade of a large tree. Lotus slumped down against it, sitting down in the grass with her knees pulled up in front of her.
Nora's face was twisted in distress, her eyes going from Lotus back to the town, watching for anyone that might have followed them outside the inn. Thankfully, no one poked their heads out. Lotus sighed and let herself relax a little, letting the cool breeze roll across her skin as she looked up at the young woman.
"It's okay, Nora... My friend and I weren't planning on spending very long here, anyway. We were going to leave later in the evening… I'll just have to let her know to keep her guard up," Lotus gave the pair a half-hearted smile, trying to show there were no hard feelings, "Besides, we can take care of ourselves."
"I'm still really sorry!" Nora said, sitting down with her legs crossed next to Lotus. Ren mimicked her on Lotus's other side, both trying to comfort her with their presence. Lotus glanced between them, realizing finally that neither had outright rejected her as she suspected.
"You're both… okay with me being a faunus?" Lotus asked timidly, afraid to bring the topic back up in case they might both remember their own bigotries now that they were away from other people. Lotus didn't really care about the opinions of those in the town. It would just make the rest of the day awkward, and if anyone gave her too much trouble, she could just kill them. Ren and Nora, though...
Nora held herself back this time, simply offering a hand on top of Lotus's shoulder, "Of course we are! Don't be silly!"
Lotus caught Ren's eye again. He firmly looked back into hers, unwavering as he replied, "Yes. Once we become hunters, we'll be able to protect others. Both humans, and faunus. The Grimm don't care what you are, so why should we?"
"That's… very noble," Lotus replied with a light and timid laugh. She could remember Jace saying something similar once up a time. With growing confidence, Lotus gave a brief glance to the both of them and summoned her courage, reaching out a hand to one of her hoodie's sleeves and drawing it back. Her black veins were exposed to the both of them, and she waited with bated breath to hear their responses.
"Cool~!" Nora grinned, leaning closer to look at them.
Ren frowned, "So what kind of faunus does that make you?"
"A spider faunus. It was a long time before I even knew what I was," Lotus chuckled and pulled the sleeve back up, resting both her hands on her knees again.
"Aren't faunus always the same as one of their parents?" Ren asked in confusion.
"Not necessarily," Lotus used her hands to help explain the concept, "If a human and a faunus have a child, it's a fifty percent chance on what the child comes out as. If they are born as a faunus, then they'll always be the same kind as their faunus parent. Now, if you have two faunus as your parents, and they aren't the same type, then the child will always be a faunus, but the child will be a random type. My mother was a fox faunus, and my father was a bear faunus."
Lotus brought her hands together in a loud clap and then gestured slowly to herself, "Spider faunus."
Ren looked thoughtful as he pondered the explanation. Nora still looked just as confused, but smiled all the same, content to just accept the fact that Lotus was part spider.
Lotus smiled, "I was kind of lucky. I wouldn't want it any other way… aside from being human, maybe."
"What!? Faunus are so cool, though! You have better senses than we do! I wish I could see in the dark…" Nora trailed off at Lotus's frown.
"Having better senses is nice, but I'd rather be able to go wherever I want without having to be afraid of humans, or having to constantly hide a part of myself," Lotus raised her arm again for good measure but didn't pull back her sleeve again.
Ren seemed to have caught on to her earlier admission, "Are spider faunus special in some way?" his face paled slightly and he raised his hand up, "I'm sorry if that came out wrong… We just don't know much about faunus. They don't… tend to talk to humans much, if they can help it."
"It's okay," Lotus grinned, "I can hardly blame you for being ignorant in that regard. Spider faunus aren't very common, which is why I didn't know for so long. In fact, the only reason I found out is because I met my mentor. She's a spider faunus, too." Lotus trailed off for a moment, mind in thought. 'Do I give away one of my biggest advantages? It is Ren and Nora…'
"To answer your question…" Lotus let her sixth sense search out for a moment, then pointed back over Ren's shoulder without turning her eyes in that direction, "There's a squirrel on the back of that tree." The tree in question was around thirty feet away. Lotus's finger tracked it, feeling it move up and down the trunk out of sight, until finally the small brown furred animal scurried to their side of the trunk, then climbed its way to the canopy above, "I can sense vibrations through the air. Like sound, but a lot more acutely." Widow's words from long ago flickered through her mind and she smiled, "I could fight you with my eyes closed and you'd never know the difference."
Nora let out a low whistle and turned excitedly to Lotus, "Now that I have to try out!"
Lotus laughed hesitantly, "Maybe some other time. I'm not sure how well the townspeople would take it if we just started sparring. They might think I was attacking you or something," Lotus paled slightly as well, "I don't want to chance a shot from the old man's double barrel."
They both looked confused, but Ren spoke first, "Do you mean Arthur?" At Lotus's own look of confusion, he elaborated, "The old man we had dinner with last night."
Lotus's eyes were downcast as she nodded, "He was so nice, too."
Nora's mouth opened in surprise, "You think he would try to hurt you? He's really nice, though!"
Lotus shrugged uncomfortably, "You never know until they find out… You two are pretty much the only positive experience I've had with humans…"
Ren shook his head, drawing Lotus's attention, "I don't think he would care either, Olivia."
"I wouldn't be so sure…" Lotus stared up into the tree's green canopy above them, watching the leaves gently sway in the breeze. She nervously began pulling up the grass beneath her right hand, hesitating in asking the question she really wanted to. Ren seemed to notice, and offered his hand towards her shoulder.
"May I?" he asked simply.
"Uhm," Lotus remembered the last time Ren had used his semblance on her. It felt good, but had made her want to sleep immediately after, "Maybe just a little bit? I already slept late enough into the day…"
Ren nodded his understanding and let his hand fall against Lotus's shoulder, only two fingers lightly brushing against the fabric of her hoodie. A soothing calm washed over her, from the tips of his fingers down to the tips of her toes. It was less intense than before, but her body relaxed, and she stopped pulling at the grass, content to simply lie still instead.
"Better," Lotus confirmed. She sat in silence for a few more moments before summoning up her courage, "So… I said before that I wanted to become a huntress… and we're the same age… and you are the two nicest humans I've ever met… Would it be okay if… If…"
Ren caught on sooner than Nora, who realized what Lotus was trying to ask only a moment later. They both shared a smile before Nora threw her arms around Lotus once again.
"We would be honored if you attended Beacon with us," Ren replied firmly, returning a comforting hand to the faunus girl's shoulder.
"Oh, that would be so fun! We would make a great team!" Nora pulled back from the one way hug and gave Lotus a very serious look, "And if anyone tried to mess with you, we'll break their legs!"
Lotus's next laugh was clear of all the anxiety she had felt before, "I'll hold you to that," she smiled at the girl, letting her know that she didn't actually expect her to break anyone's legs. Nora returned a vicious smile, showing her teeth. 'Maybe she really would…' Lotus only brightened more at the mental image.
Lotus jumped to her feet the next moment as a familiar presence approached from across the road. Nora and Ren flinched in surprise, then followed her gaze, both noticing the taller, older female that was headed their direction.
"Hey, Widow!" Lotus chirped out nervously. She pointed to each of the two humans in turn as she said their names, "This is Ren, and this is Nora. They're friends."
Widow's face melted into a warm smile as she regarded both of the humans flanking Lotus, "It is nice to meet you two. Olivia has mentioned you in the past, so it's nice to put a face to the names."
Ren and Nora returned the older woman's smile and glanced at Lotus before turning back to her, "We're glad to have met her."
Widow's smiled changed slightly, her eyes turning hard and cold as she regarded the two humans. Her mouth didn't betray her intentions, and the warmth was still in her voice as she spoke again, "Even though she's a faunus?" Lotus's appendages appeared the next instant, hovering in front of Ren and Nora, prepared to defend against any attack. Lotus knew that look. It was a dangerous look. One wrong word and Widow would happily bury her daggers into each of their chests without a second thought.
Neither seemed to notice the shift in Lotus's stance, or the invisible limbs flexing in front of them protectively. Nora broke out into a much wider smile and nodded enthusiastically. Ren nodded as well, adding, "That means nothing as far as we are concerned."
Widow's senses took in Lotus's display, and her eyes softened again, "Well, any friend of Olivia's is a friend of mine." The older woman's body relaxed, hands falling back down completely to her sides as she now truly looked the two humans over. Not with suspicion or doubt, but genuine curiosity.
Widow sighed, "I'm afraid we'll have to cut your reunion short," her eyes turned back to Lotus apologetically, "I just got a call from Mistral. They need us back as soon as possible. Sorry, little spider."
Lotus groaned and leaned back against the tree behind her, letting her semblance dissipate, "Sorry guys. If they bothered to call us then it really must be important."
"Who called?" Nora gave a little 'hmph', and crossed her arms.
'Believable lie, believable lie… uhhh…'
Widow chimed in, saving Lotus from her failed attempts to come up with an excuse, "We work with another group of hunters. We're called in to help whenever there's a pack of Grimm too large for them to handle alone," Widow shrugged, "It pays well, and never gets boring."
Ren and Nora accepted the answer, nodding along.
"The airship is due back in less than half an hour. We'll hire it to get us back to Mistral, as quickly as possible. Better start getting ready, little spider," Widow commanded, gesturing back towards the inn where she had left her stuff.
Lotus initiated the hug with Nora this time, startling the girl as she pulled her in tight and wrapped her arms around her. Nora hugged back and laughed a moment later, raising the faunus girl's spirits more than she thought a simple laugh could. Lotus released her and turned back to Ren, putting a tentative hand to the boy's shoulder, "I'll miss you guys."
"Don't forget about us. We certainly won't forget about you," Ren's lips quirked into a smile and he returned the gesture, putting a hand of his own on Lotus's shoulder. "Do you want me to…?"
Lotus nodded, holding up her other hand with her fingers spread slightly apart. Ren understood the message, and there was a very brief flash of soothing energy that passed down Lotus's body once again. Her toes curled in their shoes at the sensation as her eyes momentarily closed. 'I'll make sure I get into Beacon just for that…' Lotus scoffed at herself internally for ever thinking all those years ago that she might not want to have the boy's semblance. 'It's like an instant massage across your entire body… If that's how he feels all the time…' She shivered at the thought. It was almost too good to be true.
Nora smiled, seeming to understand why Lotus's next words came out a little breathlessly, "I could never forget either of you."
They finished their farewells, an empty feeling returning to Lotus's heart despite Ren's semblance still pulsating lightly through her skin. Even still, she motioned to Widow that she was ready, and the two headed back to the inn, packing up in time to catch the ship back to Mistral. Ren and Nora were there, as well as the old man, Arthur, and his wife. They waved goodbye as the ship lifted off, angling back towards the far distant mountain that the city of Mistral had been built upon.
Widow watched as her daughter returned the waves of the humans below them as they were quickly lost to sight. Widow had paid a premium fee for expedience, emptying her pockets of the lien she had brought along on the trip.
'So, my little spider wants to leave again. I thought she gave up on the silly dream of becoming a huntress… Doesn't she see it would never work out? The humans will only break your heart, little spider, just like they did to me.'
No, it was unacceptable. She couldn't allow Lotus to go through the same things Widow had. She refused to let her life be ruined with false hopes. Widow knew well enough how terrible it was when your world came crashing down around you. It was inevitable. Humans never changed, and as always, faunus were forced to adapt. Forced to cut ties with those around them, whether they liked it or not…
'You can't leave me, little spider. Mother knows best…'
Lotus sighed for what seemed like the millionth time, sitting in the small side room that Malachite had set up for them while they waited for their guests, "Do we really have to work with someone else to get this done? Seriously, have we not proven ourselves yet?"
Widow grumbled, arms crossed as she leaned back in her own chair. She gave Lotus a reproachful look, "I don't like it either, little spider. Our targets are going to be very well defended, though. The contractor insisted that we partner up with another team to make sure the objective is completed."
"You are going after several members of the Mistral Council all at once," Malachite chipped in, fanning her face while sitting in another chair nearby, "Even one poses a risk since they all increased their security because of the last time you killed one of them. The Council believed themselves untouchable. Now, with four of them gathering together? It would be a suicide mission to go with just the two of you."
Lotus and Widow's eyes both turned to the door before the sound of the door knob rattling announced the presence of the two others that would be joining them on their venture. Malachite stood and welcomed them in. Lotus and Widow stood as well. Two men entered, although one was much younger than the other. It was hard to gauge his age, but Lotus figured he might be a year or two older than herself.
The pair were nearly identical, and with the age difference, Lotus figured they were probably father and son. Each had grey hair, and grey eyes that never stopped moving, taking in everything around them, wary of threats that could be lurking in every shadow.
Widow stepped forward and offered a hand to the older man, "Looks like we'll be working together on this. My name is Widow, and the one behind me is Lotus."
The man accepted her hand, giving it a few rough shakes, "My name is Marcus Black. The welp with me is Mercury. Don't hold us back and I'm sure we'll get along just fine."
Widow gave him an icy smile, "Oh, we can hold our own. Shall we get down to business?"
Malachite stepped back to the table and unfurled the map of the Mistral Council's safehouse, pinning the edges down with a glass to keep it from curling back up.
Marcus gave a hard smile as he walked forward to look at the blueprint.
"Let's do this."
Chapter 14: Putting on a Show
Mercury's fists tightened, arms crossed as he stood next to the table, listening in on the strategy meeting between the two elder assassins. He had been unsure of the woman's qualifications at first, but after listening to the back and forth between her and his father for the past thirty minutes, it was clear that she was at least experienced in the art of covert operations.
The younger girl on the other hand… Mercury could admit he was dubious. She had stood around for the first ten minutes, listening in from the other side of the table as Mercury had, then apparently gotten bored and left to lie down across the couch at the back of the room. Mercury just couldn't see her measuring up to the task, and with his own life on the line, he decided to have a little chat with the kid to see for himself if she would be capable of holding her own.
'Lotus' didn't react as he approached with a small grin on his face, "So, what's a kid like you doing on a mission like this?" He put just a tinge of contempt in his voice, letting her know what he thought of her.
"Waiting to kill the people I'm told to kill. What about you, kid?" the girl replied back with an equal amount of contempt. She didn't turn towards him, instead adopting an even more bored expression as she brought a hand up to mask a yawn. Mercury grit his teeth, hands clenching tighter, and the girl flashed a smile despite not even looking at him.
"Don't you think it might be better if you paid a little attention?" Mercury growled out, earning him another flash of teeth for his words. The girl turned an eye towards him, a slight twinkle buried in its depths.
She 'tsked' and waved a hand nonchalantly, as if to avoid his concerns, "I'm sure my part in the plan will be for me to cut loose as a distraction while the rest of you sneak in. I usually work better when I'm not strictly adhering to some plan and just left to my own devices."
Mercury made no attempts to hide the fact that he was looking her up and down. She certainly didn't look the part of someone that could reliably handle dozens of armed guards at the same time. Compared to himself, let alone Marcus… the girl hardly measured up. Mercury was in the middle of narrowing his eyes in a glare when he flinched back, the sharp edge of something grazed his throat. He immediately dropped into a defensive stance and backed away a few steps. The girl simply smirked and yawned again, eyes going dull as she closed them turned her head away from him.
Their little chat and him dropping into a fighting stance seemed to have drawn the attention of the two at the table. 'Widow' laughed lightly from somewhere behind him and spoke loudly in his direction, "I would avoid trying to stir up trouble. Lotus was having a good day until I had to drag her all the way back to Mistral for this little meeting. Best not to get on her nerves at the moment," Widow paused before calling out a little louder in a sweet voice, "Play nice, dear~"
"Don't make a fool out of yourself, boy," Marcus growled, and Mercury immediately relaxed into the posture he had been in before. He kept his eyes on the girl lying on the couch, but was content to avoid any further attention from their elders. Mercury would be punished severely for it later if he distracted them again.
After a few more silent moments, the two went back to strategizing and Mercury waited a few minutes in silence before speaking to the girl again, "What was that?"
The girl opened her eyes back up to smirk in his direction, "Who knows?" Her hand reached down to her sword, the blade whispering out a hair, "Maybe this version of me on the couch is merely an illusion, and I could strike at any moment?"
The older faunus woman loudly cleared her throat. Lotus eyed her and sighed, resheathing the sword with a small click and shifting into a sitting position on the couch. Lotus gave him a considering look, gazing him up and down as he had done to her, then reached out and gently patted the cushions in front of her, recently vacated by her own feet, "You're welcome to sit."
Mercury hesitantly stepped forward. He kept his aura up now, wary of any invisible, sharp objects that might bleed him dry, and sat down a foot away from the girl. Mercury tried to resume his nonchalant attitude from before, but his body was still tense, ready to spring into action at a moment's notice.
The girl rolled her eyes, "Even if I don't like it, we're comrades for the time being. I would hardly jeopardize the mission over a joke." Lotus stuck her hand out, offering up a handshake. Mercury took it, not wanting to seem cowed by her antics in any way. The girl's grip was firm, more so than he had been expecting. They shook a few times and withdrew, the girl sitting back against the cushions behind her. Her feet were angled on the couch toward Mercury still, and with a slight smirk, she extended them back out to rest across his lap.
"I like your outfit. You definitely look the part of an assassin," she eyed his grey and black coat, along with the metal grieves on his legs and arms. She then looked down at herself and the black hoodie she wore, "But I suppose, do you want to look the part if you're trying to sneakily murder someone?"
"You'll be thankful that you do once the fight actually starts," Mercury muttered, trying to ignore her legs laying across his lower half. They were so dainty that he hardly felt any weight, but he still felt trapped by them. Like she had pinned him exactly where she wanted him. "Armor protects your aura, just as much as it does the rest of your body."
The girl shrugged, "A valid point. Not to mention, you do have a decent aura reserve in the first place. More than mine, and more than your father's," she gave a cursory glance back towards the table, "Widow still has us all beat... I wouldn't let that get to your head, though. Not where I'm concerned. I'm… surprisingly resilient, when I want to be. It would be your mistake to forget that."
Mercury let the rest of what she said drown out after the earlier admission. 'I have more aura than my father?' His head spun in rapid thought. During spars, Marcus had always made it seem as if his strength was limitless, only calling off their fights when Mercury's aura began to dip too low. 'Could I… Is it time? Can I finally be free of him?'
He was snapped out of it as the girl's foot nudged his knee, "Remnant to Mercury, you in there?"
Mercury immediately adopted a calm expression and forcibly let himself relax despite the position he was still in. His eyes glanced towards their elders, but the two were still focused on the blueprint on the table between them. Marcus hadn't caught on to their conversation.
"Yeah, I'm still here," he replied evenly, turning his eyes back on the girl next to him. He had a sudden impulse to hug her, or shake her hand, or… something. If only for delivering a small seed of hope to him. He relentlessly crushed the urge beneath his own iron will, though.
Lotus still seemed to notice something was off and grinned, coming to the wrong conclusion. Her feet rubbed back and forth over the top of his thighs for a moment, "Oh, is the young assassin uncomfortable~?"
Mercury's face reddened despite himself. He certainly hadn't been thinking anything along those lines up until now, but she was… well, cute. In a, 'could murder you at any moment so enjoy this while it lasts' sort of way. Mercury could appreciate a girl that could take care of herself in a fight, but that was yet to be seen as far as he was concerned, sharp nicks across the neck or no. Why could he end someone's life without a second thought, yet a little light teasing by a girl could still get this much of a reaction out of him? 'Two can play at that game.'
Mercury's face adopted a practiced grin, "Oh? I rather enjoy it. Perhaps after the mission, we could find some place private to celebrate?"
It was her turn to go red in the cheeks. The girl's feet withdrew immediately as if she'd been burned. She tried to hide her face with a polite cough, turning away from him before speaking again, "C-Certainly not."
A grin spread across Mercury's face, satisfied that he had turned the girl's own teasing around on her, "So shy!" he whispered mockingly.
Lotus rested her chin against her palm as the color slowly dissipated from her cheeks, "You'd think after dealing death out to so many people, everything else would be easier by comparison."
Mercury scoffed, "How many people could a child like you have killed so far?"
The girl frowned, narrowing her eyes at him, "You first. How many?"
Mercury smiled, leaning forward to whisper conspiratorially, "Twenty-three. You?" He was proud of the number of kills he had racked up. They had been accepting missions for the past couple years, now.
The girl continued to frown, her eyes drifting off towards the wall in thought. There was a slight tremor in her voice when she spoke next, "I've... lost count. I think I stopped keeping track about a year ago… some time after fifty...? They all just sort of… blur together."
'Over fifty!? Surely she was joking? But… she didn't look like she was joking...' His eyes took in her long black hair, her black hoodie, the fact that she had been picked to assist on their mission… In a rush, the dots suddenly fell into place in Mercury's mind, realizing that the girl's name had been shortened. 'The Black Lotus' was a name he had heard whispered many times. Mercury suddenly found himself a lot less comfortable with her proximity. He had heard the rumors and thought them ridiculous. A small girl that could kill you without a moment's notice… a chill ran through his body at the reminder of the graze across his throat, and he subconsciously ran his hand across it.
Lotus didn't seem to catch the motion, still lost in thought as she was. She eventually shook herself out of it with a muttered, "They never have to know." Mercury didn't think he was supposed to hear it and pretended not to, instead keeping his eyes focused entirely on the elder two assassins across the room while the girl recovered.
She eyed him, but was apparently satisfied that he hadn't heard her and hummed lightly. Mercury flinched when her legs returned across his, but if she noticed it, she made no comment.
"So, I guess you're an assassin because it's just part of the family business?" the girl's eyes drifted back and forth between himself and Marcus, taking in the obvious similarities.
He nodded, willing to distract himself from the contact with some idle conversation, "What about you?" Mercury looked between the girl and the older woman. Other than their shared profession, the two were physically very different. Different hair colors, different eye colors, Lotus had lighter skin and wasn't built the same as the older woman. Perhaps a late growth spurt could bring her up to the older woman's height, but Mercury doubted it. They looked nothing alike.
Lotus shrugged, "Adopted, in a way. We were both members in the White Fang, but everyone else died, so now it's just the two of us. That was around three years ago."
Mercury frowned, "You're faunus?"
"You got a problem with that?" Lotus's voice tensed, and Mercury once again felt very self conscious about how close he was to the girl that could apparently kill him without lifting a finger.
"N-no. Not really. We take missions to kill humans and faunus. We accept missions from humans and faunus. A contract is a contract, no matter who it is," Mercury wasn't lying for her benefit. He honestly didn't care either way.
Lotus nodded in acceptance, "Same here. I remember a time where I cared about the distinction… We all bleed red though, eh?" The girl let out a light giggle, "Except the Grimm, of course. You know, that's where I got my name in the first place?" Sadness flickered through her eyes and was gone the next moment, so fast that Mercury almost missed it.
Mercury grinned despite himself, "What, your name wasn't always 'The Black Lotus'? Who would have guessed?"
The girl gave him another playful kick against his knee and sighed, "No. Once upon a time, my name was… Olivia. She was naive, though. She believed she could live a life of her choosing." Lotus's eyes grew dark, "What a fool."
Mercury could sympathize, surprisingly. It wasn't as if he himself had chosen to be an assassin in the first place. Marcus had broken him into a thousand pieces, then reforged Mercury into the child his father always wanted. Someone as dead inside as Marcus himself was. Mercury loathed the man, but up until now, had thought himself too weak to earn his freedom. With Lotus's words earlier, he had started to build a modicum of hope, as small as it was.
Despite the trepidation he felt from interacting with the girl, Mercury wanted to return the favor. He was thankful for the nugget of information that she had freely given him, even if she didn't know the effect it would have, "What did Olivia want to do in life?" He asked it quietly, intent on not clueing the adults into their conversation. It was straying dangerously towards treason, or that was at least how his father would see it.
The girl sighed and sat back, giving a small, forced chuckle, "Olivia wanted to become a huntress." She gestured to herself and spread her arms wide, as if to say 'Look how far that dream went.'
"What's stopping you?" Mercury frowned, "You must be talented. Becoming a huntress would be a piece of cake compared to what you already do."
Lotus flicked an eye towards the two adults and turned back to Mercury with a sigh, "It would never work. My hands are stained with the deaths of countless others. What kind of hypocrite could turn to a life of protecting people after that?" Her voice dipped lower, in a barely audible whisper to Mercury's ears, "What would her friends say if they found out?"
Mercury got the distinct impression that Lotus already had certain people in mind with that last line, and dropped his voice just as low, "I'm sure if they really were Olivia's friends, they would be able to understand? You'll never know unless you try."
Lotus chuckled at that, "You've been living the assassin's life too long," the girl gave him a sad look, "This life isn't normal, Mercury. It's very much the opposite of normal. Normal people couldn't possibly understand the things we do."
There was some truth to her words. Mercury could only shrug in defeat, "Find better friends, then."
"What, like you?" Lotus gave a genuine giggle that lasted for a few seconds. It tapered off as she realized the position they were still in. She remained how she was, though, despite the redness returning to her cheeks. Lotus sighed, "I… I think I'll still try. See how it goes. There's only one person left on my personal hit list. Once that's done… Who knows? Maybe I'll feel a sense of freedom from all this… all this bloodshed."
Mercury couldn't help but silently echo her sentiments through his own mind. He desperately wanted to be free of his father's influence, and to live his life the way he chose. A small voice in his mind told him that he wouldn't be doing anything different, though. Killing was all he knew, and he was good at it. Could he do anything else?
"If you two are done flirting over there, we're ready for you to return to the table now~," the older woman laughed at the heat that rose in both their cheeks. Lotus whipped her feet off him and stood, smoothing down her hoodie as if it had been out of place. Mercury stood as well, avoiding eye contact with his father as they both stepped back over to the table. The blueprint was laid out, now covered in markings that crossed every which way, detailing their plans.
Mercury spotted the courtyard. There was simply a large red circle around it, and the words 'Lotus distraction' scribbled across the middle. 'She wasn't kidding…' The two elder assassins began detailing out the plan, starting with what routes they would take to get into position before sending Lotus the signal to attack the front courtyard and cause as much mayhem as she could.
A little worry crept through his mind, surprising Mercury. 'Can she actually survive all that firepower? She even admitted my aura is stronger…' Mercury shook himself out of it. If she died, she died. Lotus would hardly be the first, and certainly wouldn't be the last... He couldn't afford to lose his concentration and start caring about someone else now, not when he finally had a glimmer of hope for his own freedom.
They went through the details of the plan several times over, but after the first, Lotus was content to head back over to the couch. Her part in the plan didn't require any of the finer points that Widow and Marcus were now drilling into him. Which turns to take, what to expect, contingencies upon contingencies for every little possibility or eventuality until he could recite them all verbatim. Mercury knew better than to get anything wrong. Not with his father there.
After another thirty minutes, they left. The hour was approaching and time was of the essence. Their employer had been very specific. The council members needed to die as quickly as possible.
Mercury had no objections, he wanted to get home and start on a few plans of his own.
Widow shrouded the group of three with her semblance, masking any sounds as she slashed her heavy dagger through the gate's lock. They had approached the back entrance, moving through the shadows as they went. She waved her hand, gesturing for the other two to make their approach, and sized them up as they did so. Widow had to hand it to the kid, he'd been trained well. 'Not as well as Lotus. That girl is my pride and joy.' Widow would never admit otherwise, even if the boy melded into the darkness like he'd been born to it.
There was no need to peek around the corner to know that the guard was slowly making his roundabout approach to do his regular gate inspection. Widow could feel him nearing, and with a sudden, silent swing of the gates, stepped into his side from the shadows. The man attempted to shout a warning, but no sound could be heard as Widow stabbed him through the chest and dragged him back through the gate, setting him against the wall. Marcus gave her an approving nod, and she continued to lead the three into the compound.
The blueprints they had scoured for half an hour had detailed out various corridors and rooms that they could take to get to each of their two points of interest. Their first target was the security room so that they could disable the feed and remove any traces of video that would been saved on them. Once that was done, they could move more freely through the building, only having to worry about human eyes instead of digital ones.
Widow could feel the slow swivel of the camera positioned nearby, its path currently sweeping it in the direction of the gate that they had not yet moved past. The spider faunus kept her hand up, cautioning the other two not to press forward until she gave the signal. The sweep paused, aimed directly at the gates, then began to backtrack as the movement resumed. Widow waved the two to follow from over her shoulder as she stepped through the gate, keeping her sixth sense focused on the camera's path so that they remained just behind its viewing angle.
They reached the wall of the building itself, now safely beneath the camera they had been avoiding. Widow tested the door they stood next to, receiving a small jingle of metal in return. 'Of course it's locked.' She made use of her semblance again, wishing for a moment that Lotus was with them, 'My little darling could cut through this thing like paper.' Instead, she was forced to break it herself. With her aura increased strength, it only took a few strikes before the knob dropped to the ground on both sides.
Widow quickly worked her hand into the empty portion of the door, pulling back on the bolt that held it in place before pushing the door open. She knew they were away from the prying eyes of any guards inside, and slipped through, gesturing for Marcus and Mercury to follow suit. She closed it behind them, just in time for another camera's sweeping angle outside to miss them by a narrow margin. Widow doubted anyone watching the cameras would notice the knob on the ground outside. It was too small of a detail.
The trio set off through the twisting corridors, occasionally passing through rooms that brought them one step closer to their initial goal. Widow's extra sense was working overtime, alerting them to both camera and guards alike. She could feel them all. None caught sight, until finally, they stood outside the door to the security room. Widow held up a finger to the pair, 'Two,' then pointed out their general positions through the wall. They silently communicated, and with their plan firmly in mind, put it into action.
Mercury took one step back, still enveloped in Widow's semblance, and fired off the shotgun from his steel-toed boots. A hole silently appeared through it, instantly allowing access as Marcus and Widow both flashed through the door. One guard was brewing a pot of coffee at a table set against the left wall. Marcus took him in a moment, his own foot crashing against the side of the man's head and snapping it to the side at an angle it was never meant to be in. Widow was just as fast, moving behind the man directly ahead of the door, sitting in his large chair as he watched the monitors.
Widow pushed the man out of the chair, his fingers clutching at the long slit across his neck even as his movements stilled. She hardly paid him any mind as she pulled up the security system's live feed. Widow turned back to Marcus and Mercury, "I've got this. Guard the door and I'll be right out."
Marcus nodded, and the pair left her to it, moving down the hallway a sufficient distance away. Widow could feel them taking up their positions, one on each end where the corridor corners turned into the hallway her room was in.
Widow went through the directory, turning off their cameras one by one until only one live feed remained, recording a section of the building's exterior. Widow hesitated, this would be a gamble, but with her expertise, and Lotus's natural talents, as well as Malachite's backing… 'I'm sorry, little spider. You're going to be stuck in Mistral for a while… But it has to be this way.' Widow left that single camera to record, and then wiped the harddrive of all past video evidence.
There would be only one person caught on tape tonight.
Lotus sighed as she stood against a tree across the street from the front gates she was supposed to assault. Her foot idly drummed back against the trunk, chipping away at the bark with each tap. Her appendages were already active, stretched down across her limbs. They wouldn't be for long, though. She would have to move into a more... defensive... stance once the fight began.
The rest had snuck off into the compound ten minutes ago. The building was like a fortress in its own right. The walls that lined the outside edge were thick enough to warrant walkways, and were lined with several guards, all carrying standard issue weaponry. Lotus wasn't worried about them. Her appendages were bulletproof, even without taking her aura into account. With the way the guards were lined up on the wall, as soon as she got the go ahead she could take them out one by one. Only a single guard would be able to fire at her at once, for fear of shooting each other in the back.
No, she tapped her foot repeatedly in mild worry over Mercury's part in the plan. The boy had made a good impression on her, surprisingly, and she couldn't help but notice that aside from her, Mercury would have one of the more dangerous tasks. Lotus would draw the bulk of the guards, 'and maybe a few huntsman', to herself. Mercury would join in the assault on the inside, then take up a position outside the main council chambers to stop any returning huntsman or guards if those inside got word out. Marcus and Widow were to take out any of the personal guards, along with the council members themselves. 'There's a lot riding on whether or not I can keep them occupied and away from Mercury…'
Lotus decided right then and there that she would make sure it was a spectacular display that got their attention diverted outside. She reached down into her pouch and hefted out one of the explosives that Malachite had acquired for her. 'How many vehicles were parked outside?' A slightly demented smile curled her lips, 'Oh, this is going to be fun~'
A vibration through the scroll in her pocket signalled Lotus to begin. She immediately snapped into action, crossing the street in a short burst. Her appendages pierced into the sides, hefting her up on to the wall with ease even as the first few guards began to shout their warnings. Lotus relied on her sixth sense to guess the trajectory of the bullets being aimed her way, and devoted two of her appendages to blocking them. The other two remained on her arms as she crashed into the first guard, knocking him from the wall, his aura shattered on impact, a hole appearing through his chest along with it.
'Fodder,' Lotus thought to herself. These guards were little more than low class, dime a dozen mercenaries for hire. 'Don't they know you should always pay for the best?' If you didn't, then someone else would. The four assassins storming the building were proof enough of that. The next few guards were dropped in a similar fashion, gutted and thrown off the wall out of the way of Lotus's war path. She stopped to play with the fourth. The last one behind him had finally pulled out his radio and was shouting for back up. Lotus pierced through the fourth guard with several appendages at once, letting his dying screams be heard through the radio for good measure. 'That should rile them up.'
Lotus threw that man off the wall as well and closed the distance to the last. Now that he had called for backup, he was of little use. Once he was disposed of, Lotus descended into the courtyard, chucking explosives beneath each of the vehicles in the parking lot. They were parked in a line near the front door, the occupants apparently wanting to enter the building in haste. 'They must have known they were going to be attacked.' The positions of the vehicles made little sense, otherwise.
Lotus stood in the center of the courtyard, thirty feet back from the line of vehicles that sat between herself and the front door. Over a dozen guards poured out, dressed the same as the ones she'd already killed. They raised their guns, aiming down their sights at Lotus while taking cover behind the sides of the vehicles.
A few men exited after them, differently dressed and sporting a wider variety of weaponry than the goons she had seen thus far. They hefted their weapons, and began to walk through the line of cars, smiling at the lone girl that had caused so much panic. 'Silly huntsmen. You shouldn't underestimate a pretty face.'
Lotus gave them one cheeky smile as she wrapped her invisible appendages around herself and activated the detonator in her hand. They didn't even have time to scream as their lives were extinguished in a brilliant flash. Fire and steel exploded outwards from the line of cars, the shards acting as shrapnel that cut them all to pieces even as the flames melted their flesh to the bone. A shockwave of dust blew Lotus back a few feet, bits of metal pinging off her invisible limbs, but left her relatively unharmed. Her appendages took the brunt of the blast with no complaints.
Lotus was given only a few moments to breath before her sixth sense warned her of another wave of guards exited the building, flanked by a few more huntsmen. A thick haze of gunfire ricocheted off Lotus's appendages, fired randomly through the cloud of smoke and dust between them. Lotus wrapped herself in her defensive barrier once again while she pulled two more grenades out of her satchel, these ones of a different variety. She was thankful for once that she was still short for her age, her limbs were able to cover her entire front by layering them over the top of one another. All at once, the flurry of bullets ceased as they ran out of ammunition, the sound of two dozen magazines falling to the ground with a metal clatter as they all began to reload.
The dust cleared, revealing Lotus, not a scratch to be seen. She grinned as the smoke grenades she had thrown ignited, dispensing a thick cloud of white smoke that blinded everyone in the area, once again cutting off vision entirely. 'Except not for me~' She flexed her appendages in preparation to lunge forward and began tearing the defenseless guards to pieces. A streak of black in a field of white flecked with splatters of red in the air.
Not for the first time, Lotus wondered if she could get away with taxing morticians for all the customers they were about to receive.
"Hey, Yang? Can you pass me that box of crayons?"
"Are you still trying to figure out what colors to go with for Crescent Rose?"
"Yeah, I think I've almost got it. I just need more red."
Yang rolled her eyes playfully, "You always need more red, Red."
Mercury flinched as an enormous explosion rocked the building, and was soon followed by a cacophony of gunfire. 'Okay… maybe she can handle herself.' He had been worried about the younger girl's part in the plan, but was now wondering how he ever could have doubted her. You didn't earn a reputation like hers for no reason.
They had long since moved from the security room. As soon as the guards cleared out, Widow and Marcus had sprung into action, assisting him in killing the half dozen guards that remained outside the conference room door. The two then proceeded inside without him, leaving him to ward off any unwanted guests. The sounds of fighting behind him were dulled by the thick wooden doors that stood between himself and the pair of older assassins.
A surge of static could be heard over a radio, still held in the outstretched hands of one of the dead guards lying in the hallway. It was followed by the sounds of more gunfire and screaming, then a panicked voice, "We're getting slaughtered out here! Where's our backup!?"
Another voice answered it a moment later, echoed by a muffled voice through the door behind him, "They're already inside! Pull back and fortify!"
Mercury stretched and lowered himself into his combat stance as the sounds of distant footsteps reached him, headed his direction. Two huntsmen rounded the corner, looking a bit worse for wear. Mercury could tell they had fled the battle outside, but without any visible wounds, likely still had their auras up. Each slowed and approached cautiously, raising their weapons as they eyed Mercury warily.
Lotus felt two of the huntsmen leave. They had been blinded by the smoke long enough for her to kill the guards, all of which were strewn about the front of the building in bloody heaps. Her appendages were stained crimson, one of the few reasons the lone huntsman that had been left to confront her still stood. He had a defensive fighting style, involving a pair of small shields that he wore, one on each wrist. A blade protruded from beneath the shields over the top of his knuckles. He fought with a very mobile brawling style, dipping in and out of range of her appendages and occasionally firing off a few rounds at her in an attempt to keep her at bay.
'He's just trying to delay me,' Lotus scoffed. The two huntsmen that had left would end up running into Mercury. She stepped back from the lone huntsman, 'Let's end this quick, eh?'
Lotus let him get a hit in with one of his blades. The huntsman's eyes widened as she allowed her semblance to deactivate, bloody appendages disappearing completely. The blood vanished along with them, and as they reappeared, they were once again fully invisible. She quickly used them to strike against her own aura, giving it a brief shimmer in multiple places across her body to make it appear as if it had broken. To the huntsman, though, it seemed as if she had lost her aura and semblance completely, and was now defenseless.
Lotus feigned reaching for Copper's sword in a panic, letting herself back up another step. The huntsman's eyes narrowed, thinking this was his chance, and lunged across the intervening distance, intent on getting his strike in before she could rearm herself.
Her appendages speared through him while his guard was down, stopping him in his tracks. The tip of his blade scraped against the aura that still protected Lotus's chest. His eyes widened, face twisting in shock, pain, and confusion as his hands grabbed at the invisible appendages. All at once, he seemed to understand the trick she had played, even as his eyes dulled and his body slumped in her grasp. Lotus hurled him into the wreckage of the exploded cars behind her, and with none remaining to halt her progress, ran inside.
Mercury ended the remaining huntsman with a shotgun kick to his head, putting him out of his misery where he'd been lying on the ground. He tensed as the sound of lighter footsteps reached him, but then relaxed. Lotus ran into view, a smattering of blood and dust across her body. With one glance though, Mercury could tell none of it was her own.
"What took you so long?" he grinned as she approached, eyeing the two dead huntsman briefly.
She smiled, brushing some of the dust off her shoulders, "Traffic was terrible."
The sounds of combat were dying down in the room behind them. Mercury stepped to the side of the door, gesturing towards it for Lotus to walk past, "After you." Lotus passed him and pushed the door open. Seven more dead huntsmen lay on the floor across the room, in pools of their own blood among broken chairs, knocked over bookcases, and one long flipped table. Marcus and Widow were just then bearing down on the council members, who had all moved to a corner of the room. Lotus and Mercury stood at the doorway, still keeping an eye behind themselves while the older assassins were finishing up.
"No! You can't do this!"
Lotus caught Mercury's attention and gave an exaggerated eye roll, "Haven't heard that one a thousand times."
'Please I'm begging you!', Mercury replied in a high pitched falsetto, "I hate that one the most. Begging doesn't fill my pockets with lien."
"You don't understand! Lionheart has betrayed the city!"
Lotus raised a hand to mimic a mouth moving.
"Isn't that the Headmaster for Haven Academy?" Mercury frowned.
Lotus paused to think while the man's begging continued in the background, "Yeah, he has a seat on the Council. They must have had a falling out," her eyes lit up, "Pretty sure Lionheart is a faunus, so win-win for me, I guess."
"Wonder what betrayal they're talking about," Mercury asked rhetorically. Obviously Lotus wouldn't have the answer either.
"Do you really want to know?" Lotus glanced at him with a smug expression, "That's probably why we were hired in the first place, remember?" Lotus turned back to the scene and cupped her hands together to shout across the room, "Would you two hurry it up!? We aren't getting any younger, ya know!"
"All good things come to those who wait, little spider," Widow laughed. She flicked a gun off the floor up into her hand and leveled it at the man that was shouting anyway, "But you have a point. I hardly wish to celebrate from a Mistralian prison cell."
"Please! We can pay you!" the man's eyes darted at the other council members next to him, "T-Ten million lien! Each!"
"Y-you could retire! Move to another city! We could forget all about this!" the man fell to his knees, hands outstretched and clasped together as he begged.
Widow paused, sparring an eye at Marcus next to her, "What are you thinkin', partner? That's a boat load of lien."
"I'll admit to being a little curious," Marcus said roughly, turning his attention to the begging council member, "What's Lionheart mixed up in?"
The panic in the council member's eyes eased, a glimmer of hope returning as he began to stammer, "H-He's working w-with a man! A f-faunus! They're killing all the city's h-huntsmen one by one!"
He didn't get the chance to speak another word, as the hole from Widow's bullet appeared through his skull. The council member dropped to the ground, dead before he even knew it. Widow raised the pistol, and gunned down the rest of the council members in quick succession.
"Bad news?" Marcus asked simply, the bodies slumped to the ground as he turned to look at Widow.
"The faunus they're speaking of is Tyrian," she glanced back towards Lotus, "My little spider and I met him just last night," Her eyes focused back on Marcus, holding his gaze. "From one professional to another, Tyrian is more than either of us could handle."
Marcus nodded, "I would have said no regardless. I have my reputation to maintain. Like I said, I was just curious." He turned back around towards the two younger assassins at the door as he and Widow headed their direction, "Let's head out. We hardly want to be here when the cavalry arrives."
Mercury got Lotus's attention and led the two of them to their escape route, knowing she hadn't been bothering to pay attention that far into the plan. They gained some distance from the older two, and Mercury glanced over at the young spider faunus, "Tyrian, huh? What's so special about the guy?"
Lotus let out a dry laugh, "You mean aside from being incredibly unhinged and having an aura reserve more than double yours?"
Mercury winced, this guy didn't sound like someone you would want after you, "Sure, aside from that."
She frowned slightly, turning an eye to him as they walked, "He… I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm pretty sure I didn't eat any hallucinogens before then, but I did eat some stew that was offered to me by an old married couple I'd never met before we left to go kill a couple hunters… but what it looked like," Lotus hesitated, sparing him another glance before forging on, "It looked like he could control Grimm."
'…?' Mercury stopped in place, holding his hands up and moving them in a 'hold on' gesture, "Wait a second... He what?" 'I don't remember taking a blow to the head. I must have, though.' Mercury couldn't make sense of the string of words that Lotus had just uttered.
"Widow saw them too. Tyrian chatted us up after we killed a pair of hunters, saying he had been there to do it. When we left, we could see some Grimm through the trees. They…" Lotus held her hands out, fingers pointed downwards to mimic something standing on four legs, "They were just waiting there. Patiently. Like their master told them to sit while he did something else."
They both resumed walking slowly, Mercury trailing a little behind until they finally exited the building. The news was far from comforting. When he was younger, he had often thought silently to himself that his father was more Grimm than human. Over the years, he had grown to accept that he was like his father as well. They didn't care who it was they killed. Mercury had no regrets for the lives he ended, and lost no sleep over it. Still… actually working with the Grimm? That was a barrier he didn't think he could cross. It hardly seemed possible. Lotus didn't appear to be lying to him, though, the revulsion displayed on her face was genuine enough.
The wall was easy enough to scale. The distant sound of sirens could be heard, quickly approaching the building they had just left as Lotus and Mercury were soon joined by the older assassins. The four faded into the night, using the rest of the surrounding structures to vanish into the concrete jungle. In half an hour, they were already lounging back in Malachite's hideout, watching the news as Widow and Marcus split their earnings at a nearby table. Mercury slouched in his chair across from Lotus, arms crossed over his chest. Marcus wasn't really paying attention to the news, he had just put it on as background noise out of habit.
"So, what are you buying with your cut?" Mercury asked, turning an eye over to Lotus who was absentmindedly playing with the sword at her hip.
The young faunus looked up with a tight grin, "I'll be hiring an airship to Vale."
"What's in Vale?"
Lotus stretched her arms above her head from where she sat, "Meeting Tyrian wasn't all bad. I've been trying to get revenge on the huntsmen that took out the White Fang. The two that Widow and I killed last night were two of the three left on my list. Tyrian told us the last is in some small town outside Vale."
Lotus breathed out a sigh of relief and flashed him a smile, "It's been a little over three years since then. I was starting to lose hope. Now though?" She rocked back and forth in the chair giddily, eyes returning to the news report.
'Well, at least one of us is happy.'
Her joy was short lived.
The chair legs crashed to the floor as Lotus suddenly sat forward, eyes glued to the screen on the wall across the room from them. Her body had gone rigid, eyes widening in shock at what it displayed.
Mercury followed her eyes to it, and froze as well. On the screen was a very large, very detailed still image of Lotus. The image had been taken while she was in the courtyard, her eyes brimming with delight. The image changed, widening out to show the bodies scattered around her, all blurred out to protect the viewers from the gruesome sight.
A series of small green bars appeared, growing larger as Widow picked up the remote and raised the volume to hear the female reporter, "- dear viewers, we have terrible news tonight. Four members of the Mistral Council were assassinated during a meeting earlier this evening. The figure depicted in the images shown is the sole culprit, identified as 'The Black Lotus' by the Mistral Police Department, and considered armed and very dangerous. We warn you against attempting to confront this individual. If you or anyone you know has information on this person, dial the number at the bottom of the screen. Do your part. Any concrete information that leads to her capture could earn you one million lien. We will be back with more later, as Leonardo Lionheart, Headmaster at Haven Academy, will be issuing a statement..."
The sound slowly died back down as Widow lowered the volume. All eyes turned back to Lotus. Marcus gave her a flat look, simply watching for her reaction instead of displaying any of his own. Mercury couldn't help but look troubled by what he had just seen. 'I don't think she's going to be hiring an airship any time soon.'
Widow rose from the chair at her own table and slowly closed the distance to Lotus, "I'm sorry, dear. There… must have been an additional set of cameras sending their recordings to an off-site system. I'm certain I deactivated all of the locally operated cameras."
Lotus could only nod dumbly. Mercury didn't blame her, he wouldn't ever want to be in her shoes. The entire police department, every huntsman and huntress, and all of the civilians would be after her for a reward that sizable. 'She won't be able to step foot out of the safehouse, even if she wears a hood. There will certainly be those desperate enough to try and force her to show her face, especially in the slums…'
The scroll in Widow's pocket buzzed. She swiftly pulled out the offending object, but paused as she read the caller ID. Mercury could just make out Malachite's name despite it being backwards before Widow excused herself to another room to take the call.
Mercury hesitantly reached out, placing his hand over the top of Lotus's to get the attention of the young faunus. Her shoulders quivered, and she brought her free hand up to her face, covering her eyes.
"It's alright. This whole thing will blow over before you know it," Mercury tried to drop his voice into a comforting tone, but couldn't quite manage it. It was still rough. He wasn't used to this sort of thing, "A few months and they'll forget all about it. The Grimm always take top priority sooner or later, and there's plenty of pompous bureaucrats ready to step in and take their place."
Lotus used her hoodie sleeve to wipe her face and gave him a nod, "I hope so. I've already had to wait so long… What's a few more months?" Her eyes roamed around the decently sized and well furnished safe house, "At least it isn't as small as the last place we had to hide out in…'
"That's the spirit," Mercury let out a polite chuckle before catching his father's eye. Mercury's hand whipped back to himself in a surge of panic, and his face returned to the calm, uncaring stone his father had drilled into him so many times.
"Time for us to leave," Marcus stated flatly, standing from where he had been sitting and shoveling their cut of the lien into a briefcase. Mercury knew he had taken only their share and not a single lien more. His father had standards, and fervent pride in his reputation. Marcus Black was not a thief. He earned his money through murder. Any that would suggest otherwise were signing their own death warrant.
As Marcus led his son to the door, Mercury couldn't help himself but flash Lotus one last parting smile. It was sorrowful, or at least he hoped that's how it would come across.
'She was nice… as far as assassins go.'
Mercury offered up a silent prayer that they would meet again someday. Under better circumstances, once he was free of his father, and once she had gotten her revenge.
'Good luck, Olivia.'