“Tai, it’s a fucking grid, how did you get lost?”
“I’ve never driven in Atlas before! This place is a maze!”
“Yeah, sure. A grid-shaped maze.”
It occurred to Summer that she probably should have insisted on grabbing shotgun back at the airport, because leaving Qrow in the navigator’s position was a...tactical error. But—look, they’d been on an airship most of the day, they’d gotten in late, and she was tired, so she’d flopped in the back of their rental car with Raven without thinking.
It wasn’t like Atlas had a shortage of Huntsmen to investigate their own black market. But there were, as STRQ had only very recently learned, more factions at play than any world government was aware of.
The concern that had brought a team of fresh Beacon graduates out to Solitas on a late flight wasn’t that Atlesian forces couldn’t handle a weapon smuggling ring on their own. The concern was that they could, and that any of Salem’s fingerprints—if this was, as Ozpin suspected, the work of her catspaws—would end up destroyed out of ignorance. Any Huntress who didn’t know what to look for could walk all over priceless evidence.
The inconvenient timing aside, there was absolutely something exciting and satisfying about access to this level of work—especially straight out of Beacon. There was no lag, no waiting for information to filter down through higher channels.
No need to fuss around with logistics; red tape melted away when they touched it.
“There,” said Tai. “See? I knew exactly where we were going.”
“We’ve passed this place seven times!” yelled Raven.
“It’s not my fault! The sign’s all curly, nobody could read that from a moving car.”
“Ugh,” said Qrow, peering through the rain at the warm hard-light sign confirming their destination. “What kind of pretentious bullshit name is that?”
Due to the time-sensitive nature of the mission, Ozpin had handled the groundwork for them. He’d even booked their hotel, and not the vaguely sleazy place the twins had gotten the one time Summer made the mistake of leaving Raven in charge of accommodation, or even the kind of clean-but-modest loft room over a bar that Summer would normally have found for them. It was a proper hotel, a high-end Atlesian establishment even.
Some place called the Glass Unicorn.
Summer made it an entire three steps through the door before stopping mid-stride and turning on her heel.
It may have been too sharp a maneuver. She smacked into Tai, who bounced off and smacked into Raven, who stepped on Qrow’s insole, causing him to knock over a vase. Summer caught it on the end of her polearm and nudged it upright before it could shatter.
“Ow,” muttered Tai.
“Summer,” said Raven. “What the fuck.”
“We can’t stay here,” said Summer. “I don’t know what the hell he was thinking—”
“What?” Qrow glanced around warily, checking the diagonals, the lines of sight. “What’s wrong—”
Wordlessly, Summer jerked a thumb over her shoulder. Her team, masters of subtlety, craned their necks to see around her.
“That’s the front desk,” Raven explained. “All hotels have—”
“Oh,” said Tai, who’d seen the No Faunus sign. “Shit. Yeah.”
“Why would Ozpin send us to—”
“He probably didn’t know,” Tai pointed out, placing a hand on Summer’s shoulder before she could really work herself into a rant. “My guess is, he just found a nice hotel in the right district.”
“A lot of places like this don’t exactly advertise the no-faunus thing on their CCT listings,” Qrow added, under his breath. “Bet you anything there’s a non-refundable reservation fee. Won’t give the faunus a bed but they’ll stiff ‘em a few thousand lien any day.”
Summer ground her teeth.
“Yeah.” Raven crossed her arms, looking distinctly unimpressed, but continued, “Look, I don’t want to be the bad guy here, but it’s…” She glanced at the huge decorative clock on the back wall. “A quarter past midnight. We’re not getting another hotel at this time of night.”
“Morning,” Tai corrected under his breath.
“Shut up. My point is, Qrow and I have slept in alleys before, and you two really don’t wanna. This has already been paid for. If we no-show they just keep the entire payment. Let’s just spend the night, eat their food, and check out first thing. We can go find some shitty Motel 4 or something if it makes you feel better.”
Summer groaned and pinched the bridge of her nose. It was true, unfortunately. Most of the Glass Unicorn’s lights were off; the lobby was empty except for a businessman in the corner typing furiously at a laptop, and a night-shift maid scrubbing the hardwood across the room, her back to the newcomers. She hated it when Rae had a point. “Ugh. Fine. But one night. And I’m leaving a shitty review.”
“You’ll feel better in the morning when you can tear Ozpin a new one for not double-checking,” said Tai with a comforting pat between her shoulder blades.
“Oh, he’s gonna be shopping for a new host when I’m done with him,” Summer muttered under her breath. But she tried to repress her incandescent rage when they came up to the front desk. She made an attempt.
“Hi,” she said, an unconvincing parody of her normal cheerfulness.
“Oh, that’s fucking terrifying,” Raven whispered behind her back.
“Reservation for STRQ?”
The distinctly stern-looking woman manning the desk looked up and smiled in a way Summer immediately disliked. “Ah,” she said in a vaguely aristocratic manner. “Of course, Headmaster Ozpin’s team. Two adjoining rooms. I thought you’d be in sooner.”
“Airship delay,” Summer said, shrugging. She was clamping down on her instinct to be a bitch about this, because the hotel receptionist wasn’t actually responsible for the policies of her employer. “You know how it is.”
“And we got a little lost on the way here,” Tai added.
“Lost in a fucking grid,” Qrow muttered.
“I see.” The woman’s smile didn’t waver as she glanced quickly between the four of them, but it still didn’t reach her eyes. “Well you’ll be happy to know the Glass Unicorn doesn’t charge extra for late check-in for Huntsmen. We respect the difficulties and unpredictability of your profession, and always appreciate your service to our great Kingdom.”
Summer could almost hear Qrow and Raven roll their eyes behind her.
“Right,” Summer said. “If we could just get our room keys, uh…?” She trailed off, fishing for a name. Didn’t hotel receptionists usually have name tags?
“Oh I’m sure you’re exhausted,” she said, sliding a bundle of cards across the desk. “I’m the proprietor of this establishment, and I hope you’ll pass to Headmaster Ozpin that my daughters and I give our sincerest—”
“Great,” Tai said, quickly grabbing the cards and also putting a hand on Summer’s shoulder to steer her away towards the stairs before she could get them kicked out. “Nice meeting you. See you in the morning. Goodnight.”
“Hey Qrow,” Tai said, aggressively cheerful in a way that made Raven instinctively defensive. “Did you know your Semblance can break condoms from the next room over?”
Oh my gods.
“Dude,” Qrow said. “You don’t actually have to tell me every time you fuck my sister.”
‘Fratricide’ was a great word, Raven thought. Very underrated.
“Yeah, Tai,” Summer added. “I didn’t tell Qrow every time I fucked his sister.”
“You didn’t have to worry about condoms breaking, Sum—”
“Hey guys,” Raven yelled, “can we talk about something else while I’m trying to take a shit?”
“Wow, too much information,” Summer said, entirely shameless.
“Here’s a thought,” said Qrow. “What if we change the subject completely. What are we doing about the thing?”
“Mission?” Tai suggested.
“Mission. Shut up. I couldn’t sleep.”
“Because Tai was fucking your sister?”
“I’m gonna kill you, Summer!” Raven shouted. Honestly. It was just a quickie, they weren’t even that loud. Okay, maybe they’d gone another round after the condom broke but really, it was one time. What was the worst that could happen?
Summer sighed. Loud enough that Raven could hear her from the bathroom. Classy.
“Right,” she said. “Well, first things first, we’re getting the hell out of here and finding a faunus-owned motel or something. Then we start tracing contacts.”
“This listing says complementary breakfast,” said Tai hopefully. “I mean, we might as well, right?”
Summer groaned, but there was no moral reason not to—probably; moral reasons weren’t Raven’s strong suit—and eventually she said, “Fine. After breakfast we’ll check out. Actually, while we’re here let’s take every free thing we can get. Raven—”
“I’m a little busy, Summer!”
Raven flung a towel into her brother’s face.
“My sex life’s none of your business,” she informed him.
“Oh, how I wish that were true,” was the deadpan response.
“Kids,” said Summer.
“You know, Raven,” said Qrow, ignoring her. “If you’d just—”
“Oh, don’t start—”
“Keep it down when you know I’m next door—”
“Kids,” said Summer, warningly.
“Oh, act like an adult, Qrow.”
“Thank you, Tai.”
“Okay, you can stay out of it, this is a sibling thing, I don’t expect you to—”
There was a knock on the door.
“Oh, thank the gods,” muttered Tai.
Raven glared at her brother, but was willing to shut up for the sake of not traumatizing room service. And for no other reasons, definitely not that she was scared of what Summer would do to them otherwise.
Tai jumped to his feet and crossed Qrow and Summer’s room, throwing the bolt and opening the door, clearly grateful for the distraction.
The three of them looked over at the note of shock in his voice. Tai had taken a step back at the sight of the girl holding their room service order. Which, holy shit. “Girl” was the right word for it. That was an actual child. Raven frowned.
Hadn’t Summer said something about kids that age not working full-time jobs? Was she remembering wrong? Raven was like...forty percent certain that wasn’t supposed to be normal.
The girl shrank slightly at the sudden attention. “S-sorry,” she stammered. “Is this the wrong…? This is the order I was told—I mean, it’s my mistake.”
“No!” Tai shook himself and took the tray. “No, this is right. Sorry, I was, uh...you got here faster than we expected! That’s all. Great, uh...great service. Thanks.” He moved to close the door, then stopped. “Uh...hey, Summer, do you tip in Atlas?” He turned back to the kid. “Do you tip in Atlas?”
The kid shook her head rapidly. “N-no, sir, that’s fine! Just, just glad to be of service, enjoy your meal!” She shut the door, and Raven heard the faint sound of her running off.
Tai turned around slowly. “Uh...so that was weird.”
“Yeah,” Summer said, frowning. “How old was she? That can’t be legal.”
Qrow snagged a plate off the tray as Tai set it down on one of the beds. “Didn’t scary front desk lady say something about her daughters? Getting your kids to help out in your business is a…thing, right?”
“Yeah…” Summer said, looking very uncertainly at her bacon.
Raven frowned down at her own plate.
It was probably fine.
She stared down at her plate some more.
“Right,” she said, setting it down on the bed. “I’m gonna go get some ice. Qrow, if you touch my fucking waffles I’ll cut off your dick.”
She grabbed her sword on her way out and slung the scabbard over her shoulder. You know. Because.
Like she knew where the ice machine was in this place, she thought mockingly at herself as she pulled the door shut behind her. Fancy hotels were probably too good for ice machines. But what kind of corrupt establishment didn’t even offer free ice?
They were in Solitas, for fuck’s sake, it wasn’t exactly a rare commodity.
Luckily, she didn’t actually care about the ice machine.
Where the hell was that kid?
She hadn’t gotten a good look, was the thing. She’d noticed the dark circles under her eyes, but that could be from anything. They’d all noticed how quick she was to flinch, the way her eyes darted around in a constant threat assessment; but they were customers, in a fancy Atlesian hotel. So that didn’t necessarily mean anything either.
Her internal dialogue was interrupted by the sound of giggling down the hall.
“You should really be more careful!” called a young female voice, dripping with relish.
“You know you won’t get any more soft jobs if you keep being such a klutz,” giggled a second.
“Hmm,” said Raven to herself, and slowed down before turning the corner very slowly, trying to avoid calling attention to herself. She wasn’t great at that, but her targets were distracted.
Sure enough—same girl as before. This time she’d clearly been carrying a tall stack of bath towels instead of a breakfast tray; they were scattered in fluffy white piles around her, one hanging over the balcony railing. As Raven watched, it slid away and over the side, probably fluttering down to the lobby.
“Those were clean linens, weren’t they?” asked the curly-haired blonde, smirking as she ground the toe of her shoe into the nearest towel. The girl on the floor cringed, reaching out as if to stop her and then snatching her hand back. “You know, before you dropped them all over the floor.”
“I certainly hope you weren’t planning to cheat and give these to our guests,” added the girl who could only be her sister.
The kid’s eyes went wide and teary, and she shook her head as fast as she could..
“Because you’d be in so much trouble if we had to tell Mother that—”
“Hello,” Raven said. “There a problem here?”
The blonde kids startled, but the dark-haired one practically jumped a foot off the floor.
“Oh!” Curly-hair looked up at her and paled. “No, nothing’s wrong, our sister is just clumsy, that’s all.”
Raven lifted an eyebrow, looking between the matched set in front of her, and the girl sitting on her knees that looked absolutely nothing like them. “Sister, huh?”
“She’s adopted,” Straight-hair allowed.
“She’s, um...still learning,” Curly-hair said, awkwardly. Recovering quickly, she gave a conspiratorial smile and leaned in, lowering her voice to a stage whisper. “She’s, you know... troubled. She really can’t be trusted unsupervised. But our mother’s giving her a trade. She’s from a bad part of Mistral and really benefits from a disciplined environment.”
“...Right,” Raven said, that last comment having turned her flags from red to a color outside the visible spectrum entirely. She crouched down and snatched one of the towels up off the floor. “I was just looking for an extra towel, so you kids have great timing. Why don’t you go run along?”
She very casually shifted her weight so as to emphasize her sword hilt. She’d always been great at scaring children, a skill that even Summer admitted occasionally had use.
It had the desired effect. “Oh, of course!” Straight-hair smiled nervously. “Um, enjoy your stay, Miss Branwen!”
Raven ignored the creepy little bastards while they rushed off. She had time to really look at this “adopted sister” now while she picked up the towels, and it honestly was a huge waste of time because her knee-jerk suspicion had been right, actually, Summer. So much for the benefit of the doubt.
If this kid had eaten a proper meal in the past year, Raven would be shocked. If she’d eaten a proper meal in the past week, Raven would eat Omen. In one bite, without ketchup.
She was scrawny and too quiet, hollow-eyed, hair dull and lifeless but skin actually a little too pink—scrubbed raw, it looked like. She’d fallen harder than a young kid should fall, and still hadn’t gotten up; hadn’t even tried, half-curled on her knees. Exhaustion, or weakness from the obvious hunger, or both. She was dressed acceptably enough, using Vale kids as a reference point rather than, you know, the tribe; her clothes fit, they were clean, that was something, right? But it was very clearly a uniform, shapeless and...actually a little too clean, for a kid that small. And her “sisters” sure as hell didn’t wear housekeeping uniforms.
Besides. Her flinches were too suppressed, and came too easily.
Bad part of Mistral, huh. Anima was a big continent. Orphans, or kids designated orphans despite bearing a striking resemblance to missing children from the aftermath of Grimm attacks or bandit raids, could disappear so very easily.
Not that the Branwens would know anything about that. Only bandits were involved in that sort of thing.
“I, uh, I can get you a clean towel, ma’am, I’m sorry about the mess—”
“Nah, don’t worry about it. I’ve got everything I need.”
With that she turned, hurried back to the room, and keyed herself in.
“Yeah,” she announced to the room, tossing the extra towel into the bathroom. “That kid’s been trafficked.”
Summer tossed her scroll on the bed, dropped onto the absurdly expensive covers next to Qrow, grabbed a pillow with a thread count higher than the annual income of most out-kingdom villages, buried her head in it, and screamed.
Five minutes later, she emerged feeling much more centered.
“Welcome back,” said Qrow.
“Thank you,” said Summer.
Tai raised his hand. “So, did you get in contact with Ozpin, then?”
“He agrees that the mission parameters have changed,” said Summer, who in Ozpin’s defense had never doubted that he would give his blessing to do what had to be done. “We’ll do what we can about the weapons smugglers if we get a chance. The safety of a child has to come first.”
“Always,” agreed Tai without missing a beat. “So. What’s the plan? Do we just...walk out with her?”
“Isn’t that kidnapping?” asked Raven. “I mean, I’m fine with that, I’m just...asking…”
“Only legally,” said Qrow, fishing a bottle of something out of the minibar.
Summer pinched the bridge of her nose. “If she was actually legally adopted, that may be a problem,” she admitted. “But if we can get her to Vale, there’s better victim advocacy laws, and the word of a Huntsman team will…we’re getting ahead of ourselves.”
“The kid’s not going anywhere,” Qrow pointed out.
Reluctantly, Summer was forced to agree with him. “All right.” She rubbed her face. “If we’re going to take her, I don’t want to be forced to give her back.”
“And then get arrested for kidnapping,” said Qrow.
“I’d care less about that if she wouldn’t get sent right back to these monsters,” Summer muttered.
“And then get arrested for kidnapping,” said Qrow, more emphatically.
“So we take today and figure out how this will work,” said Summer, choosing to let that one slide because she was a merciful and magnanimous leader. “Find out what evidence we need, what...I don’t know, forms we have to fill out.”
“Kidnapping permit,” supplied Tai.
“You and I will handle that. Raven, find out who normally handles investigations into this kind of thing and light a fire under their ass.”
“Metaphorically, not literally,” recited Raven, who’d received this lecture in the past.
“Not this time,” muttered Summer. “And Qrow—stay here.”
“Right.” Qrow’s response was quiet.
“No, I—Qrow.” Summer put an arm around his shoulder. “Someone has to keep an eye on her. Maybe, I don’t know, find out her name, Raven.”
“I’m bad with kids!”
“Or how old she is, exactly.”
“Raven,” added Tai. This was immediately followed by a string of muffled cursing as Raven began flinging an absurdly large pile of towels, one by one, into his face.
“Guys,” said Summer, and something about her voice made them all sit up as one. “Let’s get a move on. This ends tonight. Break.”
He hated it when Raven was right.
The kid didn’t even look up. Wish that was a surprise. How many people here ever spoke to her, anyway? Qrow was pretty sure the four of them were the only ones he’d even seen look at her directly. She was the help, after all. Part of the furniture.
Just a fucking kid.
He cleared his throat. “Hey,” he said, a little louder. “Kid. Remnant to the kid with the pigtails, you copy?”
She snapped her head up, staring wide-eyed. “Oh!” She scrambled to her feet. “Do you need something, sir?”
“Nah.” After thinking about it for a minute, Qrow flopped down in the nearest fancy armchair. Silk or satin or some shit. He thought about putting his feet up on it out of spite, but he was pretty damn sure he knew who’d have to clean it afterward. “My friends and I are Huntsmen. We just want to know who we’re dealing with. I know Scary Front Desk Lady and the overdressed blondes, but I haven’t talked to you yet. What’s your name, kid?”
Her eyes got even wide, and darted nervously toward the front desk behind him as she hesitated a moment. “Um...Cinder.”
“That’s a nice name. I’m Qrow. Branwen. I’m from Mistral. Well, the shitty part of Anima, anyway.”
Fuck. He wasn’t supposed to swear in front of kids.
“Fuck,” he said. “I’m not supposed to swear in front of kids. Don’t tell anyone. I might get in trouble.”
He’d been hoping to get her to laugh. If anything, she just looked more scared than ever.
...Because she was a trafficked kid in a hotel in Atlas full of the worst kind of rich bastards in all of Remnant. Of course she was scared of anyone being friendly to her. Fucking hell.
“How old are you, anyway?” he asked, which absolutely did not help.
Cinder’s grip tightened on her scrub brush, and Qrow just barely managed not to look at the bandages on her hands.
“Ten,” she said quietly, eyes on the floor.
Qrow counted back from that number in his head, and tried to remind himself that murdering Cinder’s alleged guardian would not actually help.
This conversation was going very, very badly and he hadn’t actually planned to traumatize the kid more. “All right.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Well, like I said. Just need to be familiar with all the staff for...Huntsman reasons…”
It was at this point Qrow realized she was no longer listening to him, and was instead looking at something behind him with the most carefully blank expression.
“Cinder,” drawled the hotel owner. “Would you come with me? I need to speak to you.”
He could practically hear the poor kid’s heartbeat spiking as she nodded and walked off. Qrow looked over his shoulder to watch her, every instinct screaming at him not to let that kid be alone with this woman…
But starting a scene in the lobby would do nothing at all to help Cinder.
All right. Time for Plan B.
The B stood for bird.
Qrow shook his feathers violently, and succeeded in nothing but getting even more powdered sugar everywhere.
It wasn’t his fault that he’d fallen into the jar of powdered sugar, all right? He’d only done a few missions since Ozpin had given him this stupid magic thing, he wasn’t exactly a master of Bird Form yet.
Finally hauling himself out of the sugar by his wings, he flailed off the shelf and onto the floor. A few short hops and a flutter of wings put him in an open cabinet on the other side of the room; after about thirty seconds, he figured out how to grip the bottom of the cabinet door and pull it partially closed. He could see everything, but the shadows would make it hard for anyone to see him unless they looked right at him and knew exactly what they were looking for.
Stealth mode. He could get used to it.
Really he just wanted to keep an eye out, maybe learn something else about where Cinder had come from. Or maybe he could try making contact again as a bird? Kids liked talking animals, right?
On second thought, maybe just leave Second Contact to Summer, actually.
He didn’t have much time to think about it. He was already able to recognize the approaching sound of steady, clicking heels.
And the half-stumbling, faster tread of soft-soled shoes in its wake.
Madame Jackass, whatever her name was, stopped in the middle of the room, folded her hands, and turned calmly and deliberately around. Reflexively, Qrow felt the feathers of his ruff prickle and stand on end.
“Cinder,” she said, voice mild. There was a tiny, muted whimper—the angle was blocked slightly by the cabinet door, but Qrow could see most of Cinder’s legs, and wasn’t sure if she was trembling or if it was his imagination. “What have I told you about speaking to guests?”
The answer was barely a whisper.
“I didn’t try to,” Cinder protested. “I didn’t, he was talking to me!”
“So you didn’t forget. You disobeyed on purpose. You have time to spend bothering your betters—”
Qrow tensed; Cinder had crumpled to her knees with a cry of pain, but the woman didn’t seem to have moved. Some kind of Semblance? What was a random upscale hotel owner doing with an awakened Aura any —
Summer gave a long sigh and felt a tiny fraction of tension leave her shoulders.
“All right,” she said. “Thanks, Professor.”
Ozpin’s voice was warm and reassuring in her ear. “Good night, Miss Rose. And well done. I expect I’ll be seeing the five of you very shortly.”
The line went dead, and Summer closed her scroll and set it down.
“Are we clear?” asked Tai immediately.
Summer gave a tired smile. “We should be,” she said, and accepted Tai’s jubilant fistbump. “If she’s in as rough shape as Raven says, the minute she sees a doctor it should be obvious what’s been done to her. He says that normally we’d need more, since she hasn’t been given any warnings, but if she has two other kids that won’t hold water. She knows how to take care of a child; she just isn’t.”
“No shit,” muttered Raven.
“Checklist,” said Summer. “If Qrow hasn’t found out any personal information, we need to at least learn the basics; we can use Beacon authorization to compensate for the fact that her ‘legal guardian’ is absolutely not going to hand over her ID card, assuming she even has one. We need to make sure we don’t tear her away from anything she doesn’t want to lose—within reason,” she corrected hastily. “Make sure we don’t leave anything behind she wants to keep.”
Tai sat forward. “Like?”
“She has a necklace,” Raven pointed out. “Decently nice one, doesn’t look like part of the uniform. She’s technically adopted, right? It might be a keepsake.”
They hadn’t heard the crow land on Summer’s open windowsill; when Qrow spoke, his voice was soft and hollow.
“It’s not a keepsake.”
“... completely ridiculous!”
“She’s good,” said Summer, mildly surprised. Raven Branwen was a lot of things, but she hadn’t thought ‘diva’ would be on that list.
“Serious problem?! It’s completely unusable, don’t you people ever do maintenance? ...No, I don’t particularly want to pack up all my things and haul them to a new room, just send someone!”
Raven slammed the phone down, then turned to the rest of them with a smirk. “Okay, yelling at that woman felt good.”
“What if they don’t send her?” Tai flexed his hands anxiously. “They must have a maintenance guy on call, or something…”
“They’ll send her,” Summer said, softly. “Raven was angry. They’ll send the one who’s expendable.”
“Brothers, you’ve got a nasty mind,” said Raven, sounding approving, because this was Raven they were talking about. “I was just gonna start in on them about accusing me of not knowing what I’m talking about and try something else.”
“Kill her,” suggested Qrow.
“Hide her body in the walls,” agreed Tai.
Summer rolled her shoulders. “I haven’t ruled it out.” But simmering rage wouldn’t help them here. It would just make everything worse…
There was a hesitant, pitiful knock on the door.
“Showtime,” muttered Qrow. Raven gave a careless shrug, threw the door open, and shouted something about damn well taking long enough that was absolutely heard in the lobby.
The little girl—Cinder—cringed, but...not badly enough. A learned reflex, but she was too clearly used to this. Expected it as a matter of course. The moment she was inside, Raven slammed the door behind her.
Cinder’s eyes closed, shoulders tightening with the crash, and Summer took a deep breath.
“There’s not actually anything wrong with the bathroom,” she said, as Cinder moved robotically across the room. The girl paused, looking around. Confused and frightened by the uncertainty.
Summer smiled, stood up, and knelt quietly a safe distance away from her.
“Cinder,” she said as gently as she could. Making the movement slow and deliberate, but not overly so, she drew her Scroll and brought up her license. “My name is Summer Rose. I’m a Huntress; do you know what that means?”
Something flickered behind her eyes, a hint of understanding. “You’re with the military.”
Right. Atlas. “Not that kind of Huntress,” Summer told her. They’d said she was from Mistral, so… “More like the kind they have in Anima. Have you heard of them?”
“I…” Cinder looked around the room, increasingly confused. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing bad,” said Summer. “I want you to know that none of us are going to hurt you. The door isn’t locked; you can leave whenever you want, and we won’t try to stop you. But we need to ask you some questions. About the woman who owns this hotel.”
Cinder’s eyes—a flame-colored amber, almost as rare as silver—widened slightly. “My stepmother’s kind to me,” she said, inflectionless, a reflex. “She saved me. Without her I…”
In the corner of Summer’s eye, Qrow’s fingers twitched violently. Cinder’s eyes snapped to the motion, cutting herself off mid-breath, the instinct of a prey animal. When she looked around the room again, whatever she saw in their faces made her lift her head slightly, set her jaw with too much determination for a ten-year-old.
Wordlessly, she gave Summer a firm nod.
Heart breaking, Summer placed a careful hand on the girl’s shoulder. She tensed at first, but didn’t flinch this time.
“You’ve been very brave,” Summer told her. “You’ve done what you needed to do, to keep yourself alive until help could come. We’re going to make sure that woman never hurts you again. Here.” Tai tossed her a large cardboard box. They’d stopped at a Mistrali takeout place on the way back; Cinder needed an actual meal, and this was filling and simple and not something she’d been forced to cook herself. “We didn’t know what you liked, so we got you the house fried rice. If you want to leave, you can take that with you; it’s yours.”
Cinder didn’t look convinced—but she was far past the point of turning down hot, free food. She was clearly too terrified to take the box herself, but she dug in with her bare hands the moment Summer set it down in front of her, only pausing when Tai handed her a spoon instead.
Summer gave her a few minutes to come up for air before starting to ask her anything. “Can that shock collar be removed without breaking it? I’d rather you weren’t wearing it while we talk.”
Cinder jerked back, out of surprise this time rather than fear. “It’s just a necklace,” she stammered, another automatic response. “It was a gift from my…” She closed her eyes and took a deep, shaky breath. When she opened them, they were much steadier. “You know about that?”
“Yes,” said Summer. “Cinder, you don’t deserve to be hurt. You never did.”
“...I don’t know how to take it off,” Cinder muttered instead of acknowledging that statement in any way. Time, Summer. Patience. She isn’t ready yet. “I think it’s locked.”
Summer sighed. “That sounds right. It was worth asking. In a few hours it’ll be off forever anyway. Do you know how long you’ve been here?”
She didn’t, not with any accuracy; they were able to narrow it down to ‘more than six months, less than a year’ with a few more questions. She didn’t know for certain where in Anima she’d come from, either, but what she was able to confirm matched Raven and Qrow’s speculation perfectly.
“You told Qrow earlier that your name was Cinder.” Summer had shifted to sitting with her legs crossed; Cinder was mirroring her, with the addition of her box of takeout. “Is that what you want to be called, or is that just what they call you?”
She looked confused at the question. “It’s my name.” Fair enough. She was ten.
“No last name? A family name?”
Cinder’s gaze dropped. “I’ve never had a family.”
Summer barely managed to contain the wince at her own misstep. She nodded and put her scroll away. “Thank you, Cinder,” she told the girl. “That’s all we needed to know. Now let’s make a plan to get you somewhere safe. Is there anyone else you know who’s being hurt like you are? Anyone else we need to bring with us?”
A shake of the head.
“Any belongings you need to grab?”
That got a snort, and nothing else.
“We’ll fix that when we’ve gotten you somewhere safe,” Summer promised.
Cinder crossed her arms protectively over her fried rice. “Why?” she demanded, part fear and part anger and part desperate hope. “Why do you care?”
“I’m a Huntress,” Summer answered with a soft smile. This got no reaction. “Cinder, do you know what Huntsmen and Huntresses do?”
“Kill Grimm,” said Cinder, with the tone of a child who had been subject to unspeakable punishment for speaking disrespectfully in the past but who nonetheless couldn’t quite contain her disdain for essentially being asked if she knew what color the sky was.
“Do you know why we do that?”
Cinder was starting to look concerned again. “Grimm are...bad?”
Qrow laughed softly. “Can’t argue with that.”
“Silence from the peanut gallery,” said Summer, tossing a smirk over her shoulder. To Cinder, she clarified, “I should have said, do you know why we decide to become Huntresses in the first place.”
Cinder took a minute to think about it.
“You get to...go places,” she guessed. “You can do whatever you want. Go wherever you want. And you can learn how to fight. People are happy to see you...”
Summer closed her eyes and took a steadying breath. Some parts of that were… concerning… but Cinder was a traumatized ten-year-old with no healthy adult role models. There would be time to discuss the concept of accountability and moral obligations when she was no longer wearing a shock collar.
She still hadn’t answered the kid’s question. And it was important. They were asking her to trust them on faith, and she had absolutely no reason to.
Very casually, Summer pulled her weapon off the bed. Cinder froze.
Summer had, in fairness, expected that.
“It’s all right,” she murmured, laying the polearm flat across her knees. “Like you said, Huntresses carry weapons. This one’s...a bit strange. It’s called a moon spade. Can you guess why?”
After a moment’s pause, Cinder pointed silently to the crescent-moon blade at one end.
“Exactly.” Summer smiled. She twitched the weapon just slightly, lifting it to draw attention to the broad, flat, fan-shaped killing edge opposite the crescent. “And ‘spade’, for the other end. Pretty simple. The flat end does a lot of damage, but the weapon itself stays light and easy to use.”
Maybe it wasn’t, you know...the most age-appropriate bonding activity. But like any kid, Cinder was responding with fascinated interest to a close-up view of a cool weapon.
Summer allowed herself a playful grin, and thumbed the magazine eject for the in-built long-distance sniper rifle.
“It’s also a gun,” she admitted, and Cinder nearly smiled. “Anyway. The interesting thing about a moon spade is the end you noticed.” She flipped the polearm carefully, bringing the curved edge closer to Cinder. “See that curve? It’s shaped like that to hold off Grimm. You can brace the blade against the throat of a Beowolf, a Creep, an Ursa...even something really big, like a Pteryx. It forces them to stay at a distance, so they can’t get close to you—or to whoever is behind you.”
“Cool,” whispered Cinder.
Summer smiled. “But at the end of the day...this is a shovel. I could dig a hole with it if I needed to. There’s more...direct weapons out there that I could use to kill Grimm. But I picked out one like this because killing Grimm isn’t the point. The point is to protect people who aren’t capable of protecting themselves. To hold the darkness at bay while they get to somewhere safe.”
Cinder stared at the crescent blade, thinking deeply in the way that only young children could.
Summer gave her time. After a few long moments, she asked quietly, “Do you understand now why it matters that you’re being hurt by someone who’s supposed to protect you? Why we care?”
Cinder swallowed heavily. Finally, she nodded.
Summer explained the details of what Cinder would find in Vale while she finished eating—the kid ate fast, which wasn’t heartbreaking at all. When she was done, she took Cinder’s hand and smiled.
“Alright. You’re going to leave quietly with Tai, Qrow, and Raven—Raven’s sorry for yelling at you, by the way, she was just pretending.”
“I had to sell it,” said Raven, not sounding particularly sorry. Cinder shrugged.
“Right. Well. They’re going to take you to an airship we commissioned this afternoon. I’ll stay behind just for a little while, to...explain things to your stepmother. Then I’ll join you, and we’ll take you to Vale and make sure you’re safe.”
Normally, a team of foreign Huntsmen wouldn’t have that kind of authority; but Ozpin’s word could move mountains, and they’d gotten special dispensation from the Atlesian government an hour ago. Not that the Atlesian government knew what it was for, exactly.
Cinder...didn’t look thrilled with this plan.
Qrow frowned. “Something wrong, kiddo?”
Cinder hesitated. “It’s just...what’ll happen to them? After I leave?”
Summer’s heart twisted at her compassion. Even after everything she’d been through, everything they’d done to her, she didn’t want them to suffer.
“I’m going to report everything we know to the Atlesian Huntsmen,” Summer explained. “The Huntsmen won’t hurt them, but they’ll take away her money and they won’t let her near anyone else who she can hurt. Her daughters will get in trouble too. With any luck, all three of them will be taken somewhere very far away from anyone else.”
“I know what prison is,” muttered Cinder.
“...Yeah,” said Tai in the awkward silence. “Yeah, they’re definitely going to prison.”
Raven snorted. “That’s cute.”
“Right. Right. Circumstantial evidence and the word of some foreign Huntsmen with no direct witnesses or evidence is totally gonna be enough to nail a well-connected rich lady, kid, don’t worry about it.”
“We have evidence,” Summer assured Cinder. And an eyewitness, actually; but explaining how Qrow had been in the kitchen without mentioning the bird thing would just make them sound like they were lying. She nodded toward the shock collar, curling her lip. “We’re bringing that thing with us.”
Qrow sighed. Under his breath, he muttered, “Which she’ll claim she never used and didn’t even know was a shock collar, probably pretend the kid had it when she arrived and it was definitely the ‘orphanage’ that used them, not her.”
Summer bit her lip to avoid snapping at them both again. It was true, they all knew it, but they didn’t have to say so in front of the child.
“So we need evidence she’s used it on me, or else she’ll just get away with it?” Cinder asked.
Summer sighed. “Listen, you’re going to be okay. Whatever happens to them, you’re going to be okay—”
“But I want them dead.”
Well, add that one to the list of slightly concerning things to have come out of the mouth of this ten-year-old child. Given the circumstances, she couldn’t blame Cinder at all. Definitely something they’d be talking about in the future. In no way could they leave that one unaddressed, but…
“Fuck yeah,” said Raven, offering the kid a fistbump.
Summer sighed heavily.
Before she could open her mouth to explain to Cinder that her testimony would matter, actually, Cinder sat up.
“She uses it all the time,” she said with heartbreaking, matter-of-fact simplicity. “We could put a camera in the kitchen. That’s where she usually...or the back room. She doesn’t do it much where people could see. A few people have by accident. They didn’t say anything though.”
Qrow’s fingers very, very carefully relaxed on Harbinger’s hilt.
“We could do that,” agreed Summer. “But that would mean letting her hurt you again, and we’re not going to let that happen.”
Cinder’s too-thin shoulders lifted in what was not quite a shrug. “It’s just one more time. It doesn’t really make a difference.”
“No one has the right to ask that of you,” Summer told her, as firm as she could manage without risking scaring the poor thing.
“But I want to!” Cinder’s fists clenched; immediately, they flew open again and she visibly shut down, the life going out of her eyes. “I’m sorry.”
“Summer.” Qrow’s voice was subdued. “It’s her choice. This—” He closed his mouth abruptly, glanced at Cinder, and continued carefully, “...lady...isn’t getting Cinder back, that ship’s sailed. But what’s gonna stop her from doing the exact same thing again, to a different kid? And she’ll be smarter next time.”
None of which mattered, because it did not change their responsibility—as Huntsmen, as people, as fucking adults, to the abused ten-year-old trying to get herself tortured on purpose so that the Atlas legal system would have to admit it really happened.
But there’d been fire in the kid’s eyes just now, she’d stood up for herself; but Summer had just promised her that they wouldn’t let her get hurt again...
But she wanted, so badly, to finally not be helpless in front of these people…
Summer closed her eyes. Very slowly, she dropped to one knee in front of Cinder.
“...You’ve been so brave,” she said again. “Cinder, you don’t have to be brave any more. This isn’t your job. We can fight this battle for you. You don’t have to do everything yourself.”
“I want to.” Cinder was breathing heavily, but not out of fear; there was a wild, restrained hope on her face. “They said nobody would care, but they were wrong! I want to make them pay for it!”
Oh, yeah. They were getting this kid to Vale, and then they were getting this kid to a doctor, and then to bed, and then to some kind of professional immediately because Summer Rose was not a pediatric trauma specialist and this kid needed, actually, quite a lot of help. No one could blame her for her fear, her anger, any of the other unstable stormy emotions swirling in her eyes; she needed safety and time and a chance to be a child, and someday she would be okay again.
And in the meantime, maybe she needed someone to let her choose what happened to her.
“If you’re willing to let yourself be hurt, one last time,” Summer said slowly. “So that we have a recording of it—so that you can help make sure she never does this again to anyone else...if you really want to help us protect other kids like you. Just this one time, I’m not going to try to stop you. But I don’t like it.”
“It’s okay.” Cinder smiled like she didn’t have any practice with it at all. “She won’t get away with it this time.”
“No,” agreed Tai. “She won’t.”
“Fine,” said Summer, hating herself for it. “Never again after this. But if you’re going to get hurt and I can’t stop it...Cinder, if it’s all right with you, I’d like to give you a bit of protection.”
Cinder looked interested. “A knife?”
A very, very good trauma specialist.
“Not a knife,” she said, smiling. “Something much more powerful. And it’s actually not something I can give you. I just...need to wake it up for you.”
She reached out, slowly, and cupped Cinder’s cheek. Aura flared silvery-white around her hand—and a flare of orange came up to meet it as the force of Cinder’s soul lept to the surface for the first time. “For it is in passing that we achieve immortality,” Summer whispered. “Through this, we become a paragon of virtue and glory to rise above all. Infinite in distance and unbound by death, I release your soul, and by my shoulder, protect thee.”
“Something’s gone wrong,” Qrow said, for the eighth time in as many minutes.
“We don’t know that,” said Summer, somehow calmer than any of them including Raven.
“It’s almost midnight, Summer,” she snapped. “The kid was supposed to text us by now.”
They’d given Cinder Qrow’s scroll, both so that she could contact them when it was over and for safety; that was a Huntsman’s scroll, team-synced. They could track it, if they needed to.
Tai made a face. “Listen,” he said. “I know it’s weird to be complaining that the ten-year-old hasn’t been tortured yet tonight, but I’m with Qrow. And you know how much I hate saying that out loud.”
“Yeah, that was weird,” Qrow allowed.
“It’s not almost midnight, it’s a quarter past eleven,” Summer said, forcing down a rising note of panic in her voice. “She can’t text us until she’s sure they won’t see it.”
For her own peace of mind, Summer opened the team readout on her own scroll. Qrow’s icon blinked blandly the way it had all day. The Aura readout was grey with an error message; his scroll was too far away to monitor his Aura level from here, which was only immensely anxiety-inducing.
“Looks like she’s down in the lobby,” Summer reminded the rest of them. “We can’t risk calling or texting if we don’t know for a fact she’s alone, we’ll blow the whole operation and destroy any trust she has in us. If we haven’t heard from her in an hour we’ll go and find her to check in. Discreetly.”
“A lot can happen in an hour,” said Tai.
“She can handle it.” Raven would have been more convincing if she wasn’t wearing a line in the carpet from pacing.
“All right.” Summer, in all honesty, hadn’t taken a lot of convincing; she’d hated this idea from the beginning. “Thirty minutes. We give her a little bit more time and then we’ll—”
Her scroll buzzed violently. It was such a shock, despite the fact that they’d been losing their minds with panic for hours waiting for this exact thing to happen, that she nearly dropped it.
But—it wasn’t a text, it was a call, and that was wrong, but maybe the kid just needed to hear her voice—
Summer answered it. “Hello?”
“...Hello, Miss Rose.” Summer’s blood froze in place. “Someone found this scroll in the lobby. You wouldn’t happen to have been looking for it, have you?”
“So I don’t think I need to say this,” Qrow muttered under his breath, as they walked downstairs with agonizing slowness. They had to give Tai and Raven time to run a sweep. “But a kid in her circumstances doesn’t set a scroll down and forget about it.”
“Exactly.” Summer broke slightly, taking the last few stairs in a rush. “So they know.”
“They know something,” he cautioned. “Might have just found it on her somehow. Don’t blow it just because you’re angry.”
Ideally, that was all that had happened. But as they came down into the empty lobby, something in Front Desk Bitch’s expression told Summer something had gone very wrong. It was something about the unnatural level of bland, inoffensive innocence. Something about the hint of smugness in the corners of her eyes.
Qrow strode forward, not bothering to restrain his glare. “Thanks.”
The hotelier gave a thin smile. “Of course. I run a very tight ship, and I take the Glass Unicorn’s reputation and service to our guests very seriously. I realize how essential certain resources are in your line of work and am more than happy to do my part to ensure your operations continue to run smoothly. I trust there will be no misunderstanding between us in this regard.”
Oh, she knew. To hell with subtlety. Summer slammed her fists down and leaned over the counter. The hotelier didn’t even flinch. “Where is Cinder?”
The hotelier raised an eyebrow. “Who?”
Hissing, Summer flashed the license on her own scroll. “Don’t play dumb with me. I know what you’ve been doing to that child. Where is she?”
The bitch glanced at Summer’s scroll and didn’t react in the slightest. “Is that supposed to intimidate me? How long have you had that license for, Miss Rose, a few months? You’re fresh out of Beacon. You don’t understand how things work yet. A foreign Huntress can’t just run around Atlas sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong.”
“Not with that attitude,” said Qrow. “You’d be surprised what a SpecOps team with sealed orders from a Headmaster can get away with, lady. All we want is the kid.” SpecOps was nonsense, but you had to speak an Atlesian’s language in these situations.
Not that it worked, of course. “The Glass Unicorn doesn’t generally receive families, as we are primarily an adult establishment, but if you wish to make a formal request for access to guest records I would be happy to—”
Summer closed her scroll with a snap, thumbing the audio-record button as she slipped it into her pocket. She didn’t think the motion was spotted, but the hotelier’s gaze sharpened. Shit.
She drew her weapon instead and slammed the crescent end into the ground.
“Don’t give me Atlesian red-tape bullshit,” she advised the woman. “If that girl was legally adopted, you don’t want me putting in the record that you tried to pretend she didn’t exist. If she wasn’t, you’re already in deep shit and you don’t want me angrier than I already am. Ten years old, black hair, amber eyes, worked here as unpaid housekeeping and maintenance staff—there’s a word for that, by the way—for about a year.”
“I’m certain,” she said, oily-smooth, “that I neither understand nor appreciate what you’re implying. I’m more than willing to cooperate, but the only young women employed by this hotel are my two daughters."
Inches from breathing fire, silver light crackling in her veins, Summer took her Scroll back out and played the recording she’d made that afternoon. Cinder’s voice filled the empty lobby; uncertain, in a faint voice scratchy from disuse, she confirmed her name and her best guess for how old she was, where she’d come from. How she was treated. How often she ate.
Somehow, and if she was torn apart slowly by the Grimm her cruelty would summon anywhere but here it would be too good for her, the bitch didn’t even react.
“Alright,” she said in a chillingly soft tone. “If that’s how it’s going to be, Miss Rose.” Casually, she slipped a remote out of her pocket and held it up, resting her thumb over its single button. “I think you know what this is. And now you’re going to erase that terrible slander against me off of your scroll, leave, and we’ll all forget this ever happened. Or else someone is going to suffer terribly for it.”
Raven rounded a corner and stopped dead.
“Fuck,” she said out loud.
Tai, standing in front of her with exactly zero kids in tow, agreed, “Fuck.”
They were the best Beacon graduates in a decade. They knew how to run a building sweep, and Cinder wouldn’t be hiding from them. If they hadn’t found her, she wasn’t there.
“She moved the fucking kid,” Raven hissed.
“She can’t be far,” Tai said, with that nervous tone that told Raven he knew he was lying to himself. “This place is massive, she’s here somewhere.”
“Oh, I’m sure,” Raven snapped. “Honestly, this bitch seems like exactly the person to have a hidden torture chamber or something. Should we start pulling random candlesticks to see if it opens a wall?”
Tai ran the palm of his hand over his face. “Raven, that’s not helping.”
Raven rolled her eyes. “Fine, I’ll cut the bullshit, just for you. If she’s still here she’s going to be locked up somewhere in the employee-only areas. Somewhere where we can’t get away with just kicking down the door.”
“Great. So we...sneak in a back window?”
“Or start kicking down doors anyway,” Raven suggested, which seemed like a much better idea. “We don’t have any reason to even think she is still here; if it were me, I’d have shoved her in the back of a van or something, moved her offsite until we were gone.”
“I hate how quickly you thought of that.”
“Oh sure, because we definitely would have figured out what was up here if Qrow and I hadn’t been raised by people exactly like the ones she got the kid from. Look, maybe Summer’s gotten lucky—even with Qrow there—and this bitch knows when to fold.”
She could sense them, through her links. Still at the front desk, and angry enough that she could feel some of it radiate back. So, probably not lucky—
“Tai,” she said out loud. “I know how to find the kid.”
They were never gonna let her live this shit down.
Of course it was too good to be true.
Cinder twisted against the plastic around her hands and hated herself for crying. Crying was stupid, it wouldn’t help, it was weak. And whose fault was it anyway? She could have had everything she wanted and all she had to do was this one thing and she’d messed it up like she messed up everything.
She finally stopped fighting. It wasn’t like it was doing any good. She’d thought at first maybe she could get out through the vent like she’d done before. Madame didn’t know about that yet, but she thought Cinder might try to break the windows, so she’d cuffed her to a pipe with some zipties. Said something about Cinder needing some time to appreciate what she had. And then she’d drawn the blinds on the windows, so it was really dark and nobody could see in from outside.
So...that meant she thought the Huntsman team might still be looking, right?
So maybe if Cinder did pull free and climb out the vent they’d still be willing to take her with them.
She didn’t really believe that, though. It sounded like a lot of work, and it wasn’t like she was anything special. It’d been a stupid dream to get no meals for a week over.
And then it was like the air itself had ripped an open wound, angry and red as blood. Cinder would have screamed if she weren’t too dumbfounded to do anything but stare. But then out of the rift walked—
There was a loud crash as someone walked into an old dresser.
“Ow. Can’t see for shit. Kid, you in here?”
“Down here,” Cinder squeaked.
After a moment, another crashing noise that sounded like a chair falling over, and the sound of someone pulling the blinds to let moonlight in, the Huntsman named Tai crouched down next to her.
“Hey,” he said. Cinder wasn’t sure how to respond to that. Then, “Did she seriously...Raven, see if you can find some scissors lying around…”
“Stand back,” the woman called Raven answered shortly, and pulled out a sword that looked twice as tall as Cinder was. “Don’t move, kid.”
“Wh—Raven no get a knife—!”
The massive red sword swept over Cinder’s head and sliced clean through the pipe and deep into the brick wall. The pipe jerked away from the wall with nothing to hold it in place, and Tai helped Cinder pull the zip-tie loop over the edge.
“Her hands are still tied together, Raven.”
Raven rolled her eyes, but didn’t swing the sword again. Instead, she carefully put it inside the circle of Cinder’s arms, and let Cinder pull the plastic ties tight so that it sliced through them.
Tai heaved a huge sigh. Cinder barely noticed; she was staring up in awe as Raven retracted her sword and slung it over her shoulder again, silhouetted against the moonlight.
Raven winked at her. Cinder almost smiled.
And then she remembered how tonight was supposed to go, and she felt her face crumple.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “She—my stepsister caught me with the scroll, and she told Madame, and I’m sorry, she thought I’d stolen it and I was so scared and I—I told her—”
“Good,” said Tai.
Cinder recoiled, staring at him. He gave a smile that didn’t reach his eyes, but...in a different way than when Madame did the same thing.
“Good,” he repeated, more gently. “Cinder, that was exactly the right thing to do. It’s not your job to protect us; it’s our job to protect you. Telling her everything you knew to keep yourself safe until we could come and fix this was exactly what you should have done, and I’m proud of you for doing your best to keep yourself safe.”
He was being nice to her, so Cinder didn’t know why she was crying again. Why would she cry because of someone being nice?
Raven sighed. “Look,” she said. “Sometimes plans go wrong. You adapt. Now come on. Let’s get out of here. If I hate this place, you’ve got to hate this place.”
“Miss Rose.” The slimy smile on this woman’s face just kept getting broader. “I’m once again forced to remind you that there is no one in the Glass Unicorn who matches your description. Should your novice field report claim differently, I regret to say that there will be serious consequences. For everyone involved.”
Summer snarled and took a step forward. “If you think you’re getting anywhere near her again in your worthless life—”
The woman raised a single eyebrow and held down the button.
If Raven’s portal had taken a microsecond longer to open, Summer and Qrow would have both tackled her across the desk. But this sight, finally, got the bitch’s mouth to drop open in shock.
Raven came out of the portal and planted a hand on her hip to stare the woman down while, in the other, she held a violently sparking necklace that made her Aura crackle red over her hand.
And beside her, clinging to Tai’s side but with a very smug grin on her face, was Cinder. “Hello again, Madame. I think you’re in trouble.”
“Madame” dropped the shock remote reflexively; Tai, wrapping a handkerchief around his hand to avoid leaving fingerprints, snatched it up again.
“...Fine,” the hotelier snarled, shooting a look of utter poison at her “stepdaughter” before looking back to Summer. “I’m a reasonable woman, Miss Rose. Name your price.”
A moon spade was a deceptively simple weapon. Even with the addition of the long-distance rifle, it had very few moving parts and relatively small, dull blades. Nevertheless, it was an efficient killer. The crescent blade could be sharpened to a razor’s edge. The spade was less sharp, a broadsword rather than a razor; but the slashing edge could gut a Beowolf in a single pass, and the blunt-force trauma of what was essentially a war shovel could cave in the skull of a grown Ursa.
Summer smiled, handed her weapon to Qrow, and punched the woman in the face.