Discussing the battle plans proved more difficult than Weiss had originally anticipated. The three officers in front of her weren't exaggerating when they had told her they knew little to nothing about how hunters fought, and Weiss was beginning to find explaining something to them every few minutes tiring. Blake took pity on Weiss and assisted with the explanations, nudging a reluctant Nora and getting her to help as well. With their assistance, Weiss' suggestions, plans, and explanations went by much faster. Councilor Crane offered his own thoughts once in a while from a logistical standpoint, as he had never trained for a war as a hunter either, but had experience as a politician who needed to make careful use of money.
"… and that is how I believe we should appropriate hunters into the general infantry." Weiss concluded. Weiss had outlined her plans for using hunters in war. The ideas that the three officers had proposed to her were shabby at best, treating hunters and their skill sets as if they were standard soldiers. Their plans didn't take into account the variety of hunters, their weapons, and their skills, which was one of the main points of contention in their plans. Eventually Weiss managed to bring them around to agree to her deployment plans.
Weiss' main plan was designed so that the hunters would not be in squads or teams made up of only other hunters. They needed to be in with the rest of the soldiers, both for moral and for firepower distribution. Weiss didn't want the hunters to be seen as superior, more important individuals that the soldiers were only around to soak up attacks for. She needed the hunters and soldiers to work together, to get along and support one another. So her plan involved integrating single hunters into specific squads, designed for a specific purpose or role. Hunters with specializations like Weiss, Blake, or Nora could be given roles that suited their skills, but hunters who may not necessarily have a specialized skill set could provide invaluable support and a boost to effectiveness for the soldiers in their squads.
Other plans that involved more specifics were also tossed around, such as infiltration or commando units of hunters, but were placed on the sidelines in favor of a better general battle plan for the moment. "I think once I have a better idea of the soldiers and the gear I'll have a good idea of where I can put you in the army." Weiss told Blake and Nora in passing.
"As long as I'm not sitting back doing nothing." Nora responded. Blake's only nodded, confident in Weiss' decision making capabilities. "I want to be doing serious damage."
Weiss nodded, aware that a mix of revenge and anger that Nora kept tightly controlled and focused were all that was keeping her going. If Nora had to sit back and watch others fight as she stood behind the front lines, Weiss was sure Nora would rebel and simply charge into battle of her own accord. "I'll make sure to put you where you can do the most damage possible." Weiss assured her. She was sure she would have to confront Nora about her mental state someday, but the time had never seemed right yet.
Static crackled over the speakers. "ETA five minutes until touchdown." The pilot reported from over the speakers.
General Kosti stood, holding the hand rails running along the ceiling. "We're almost at our base camp." He announced. "It's fairly well fortified on high ground, with watchtowers and gun emplacements. We've been able to hold them here for about a month, though that's mostly because of the snow." He shrugged his small shoulders. "But we haven't been able to push them back either." He sighed.
"Well, hopefully we'll be able to change that." Weiss said.
"General, we've got activity at base camp, over." The pilot interrupted.
General Kosti dashed to the cockpit with a surprising spryness, his great age not hindering him as much as the three huntresses would have thought. "Let me see." He looked out of the cockpit window towards the horizon. Weiss peeked over his shoulder, looking in the same direction. The two of them could see bright flashes and plumes of smoke in the distance. "We're under attack." General Kosti said, surprised. "I can't believe they attacked in this weather." He continued, looking down at the deep snow on the ground far below them.
"We have to get there fast." Weiss urged. "Can we go any faster?" she asked the pilot.
"Way ahead of you, 'ma'am." The pilot answered as the airship gunned forward.
"Colonel Sten! Contact base camp and get all the intel you can! Give us a secure connection to communications!" General Kosti ordered. He continued looking towards the battle, angry at his own current helplessness.
"Connection with communications established, sir." Colonel Sten reported as he set his military grade scroll on the seat next to him.
The screen flickered to life with a hiss of noise and a young man's face popped up on screen. He was shaved bald, with tanned skin that was currently covered in a sheen of sweat as he worked frantically. "Colonel! It's good to hear from you, sir."
"I need all the intel you have, Captain Koma. We're flying back as fast as we can and need to know what's happening." Colonel Sten continued calmly.
"Yes, sir!" the Captain saluted before turning and rushing off screen. Behind where he was sitting was the interior of a beige burlap tent, with other communications officers relaying orders throughout the field, trying to bring order to their defensive lines. They were working in poor lighting, with the portable lights flickering with every nearby explosion, the only constant light source being the screens of the monitors and scrolls they were using. Captain Koma returned only moments after he rushed off screen, holding some sort of black electronic device that he plugged into his scroll. "Major Swift is leading the defense, but it's not looking so good, sir." He added as the a red light on the device switched to green and data began appearing on screen.
The three huntresses and three officers began reading the data as Captain Koma began giving them a verbal summary. "The attack began just under an hour ago. They outnumber us on the ground three to one, but we managed to take down all their air support before our anti-air got taken out." He ducked his head down and covered his head with his hands as an explosive shell landed a little too close for comfort. He sat back up just a moment later an continued unfazed. "Major Swift is still holding the line, but our lines are weakening. We'll be overrun soon. I personally recommend you retreat to our rear base with what men we have left." He said with a resigned look on his face.
General Kosti looked at the map on the scroll, the little blue lights that represented his own soldiers in a line with bulges where the Vacuoan soldiers were beginning to push the Vytal defensive line back. He sighed. "We may have to concede more ground and come up with a retreat strategy."
"No." Weiss said forcefully. General Kosti looked at her in surprise. "We can turn this around." She was quickly scrolling through the information that was being streamed to them from the battlefield.
"We've lost a third of our men, Lord Commander." Colonel Sten told her. "That's not something you can 'turn around' when you're already outnumbered three to one."
"If war was just a numbers game on a simulator, I would agree with you." Weiss replied. "But with tactics and hunters, we can do this." She turned to General Kosti and Lieutenant General Songen, who were watching the exchange in silent contemplation. "You made me a Lord Commander because you believed in what we could do. Let me prove our worth." She stared intently at him, waiting for a response from the leader of the war effort.
General Kosti just stared back at her, and then heaved a heavy sigh. "Fine." He waved a hand at the scroll on the chair. "You have control. But if anything goes wrong, we're switching plans to a full retreat to our rear base."
"Thank you." Weiss said. "Captain Koma, you reported that they have no more air support. What about anti-air weapons?"
The Captain blinked once, shifting his gaze to General Kosti. "Consider her orders equal to my own." Kosti ordered the Captain.
Captain Koma nodded, one eyebrow raised up just a hair in surprise that a girl years younger than him was in command, but accepted it easily enough once General Kosti assured him of her position. "The Vacuoan army doesn't field any dedicated anti-aircraft weapons, as far as we can tell. We don't have enough aircraft to be a threat to theirs. Their 'anti-aircraft' is just their own aircraft." He reported to Weiss.
Weiss nodded. She jogged up to the cockpit of their ship and poked her head in "How far away are we?"
The pilot looked at the monitors in front of him. "Just under a minute."
"Okay. Don't land when we get there- coast above the battle once, towards the enemy's rear. Just barely out of range of their ground forces. I want to see the battlefield from above." Weiss ordered.
"Understood, ma'am." The pilot reported, evening out the flight path and altering their trajectory a few degrees.
Weiss rushed back to the passenger cabin and looked at the tactical map on the scroll again. A blip representing the airship she was on appeared at the edge of it. "Okay, Nora." Weiss turned to look at the quiet huntress. "You're going in hard and fast. We'll be doing a flyby over the battlefield, and I want you to jump down into the middle of it.
Nora smiled the first smile that Weiss and Blake had seen from her in months. It was a smile that did not touch her eyes, which held an expression far more sinister. "My pleasure." She unlimbered Magnhild from her back, checking the firing mechanism.
"Without time for a proper deployment plan, I only have some very general orders for you." Weiss started. "Disrupt their lines, break moral. Don't worry about killing them if you don't need to. Just go for the biggest targets you can find. But do not get too far from our own soldiers. They will be providing support for you. Don't take any unnecessary risks; you need to be alive after this." Weiss finished.
Nora primed her grenade launcher. "Not a problem. I plan on living long enough to win this war." She unclipped the Ren plushie from her belt loop and stuffed it inside the front of her grey shirt, between her breasts. "So I won't lose him again." She explained to the perplexed officers.
"We'll be over the battlefield in fifteen seconds!" the pilot called out.
"Open the rear loading door!" Weiss yelled back. The loading door groaned in protest a moment later, slowly lowering to provide the exit Nora needed. "Good luck, Nora!" Weiss yelled over the roaring wind.
Nora just nodded, Magnhild ready at her side. Weiss peeked over the edge of the airship, trying to judge the distance to the front lines. Just a few more seconds… "Now, Nora!"
Nora got a running start and then leaped off the airship, which was flying hundreds of feet above the ground. The wind whipped her away, the airship leaving her far behind in just seconds. Colonel Sten peered down after her. "This is crazy!" he yelled over the wind. "She'll never survive the fall!"
"She'll be fine!" Weiss responded. She was looking down at the battlefield as they flew above it, committing all the information she was seeing to memory. Formations, numbers, distributions, landscape. Once she was confident she had seen enough, she turned back and made her way towards the rest of the group, away from the deafening wind at the rear of the airship. The airship had passed over the battle completely now. "Turn hard back towards the battle!" Weiss yelled back to the cockpit. "And land at the back of our forces!" The ship banked left hard in response, turning back towards the battlefield they had passed just seconds ago.
Weiss looked at Lieutenant General Songen. "I need you to get orders to Major swift about providing support for Nora, and that I will take full control of our forces once we land." Songen nodded before returning her attention to the scroll and relaying Weiss' orders to Captain Koma.
"I have a sneaking suspicion I know where you want me." Blake said as she stepped up beside Weiss.
"At the back of their lines." Weiss said, confirming Blake's suspicions. "Assassinate anyone who looks important. Don't worry about fighting the soldiers if you can avoid it." Weiss said. "I don't want to send you in alone, but we don't have many options at this point."
"I'm sure they'll be too busy dealing with Nora to notice me." Blake said with a grin as she strode to the loading door and nonchalantly walked off the edge lazily, falling towards the snowy ground far below, behind enemy lines.
"You hunters are insane." Colonel Sten commented as he watched the second huntress fall to the ground far below.
Nora was falling eagle spread towards the ground below her at high speed. She was holding Magnhild out in one hand while she shifted the angle of her body to direct her fall, not wanting to land in the middle of her own allied soldiers' quickly failing formation. Closer and closer she fell, before changing her position so she wasn't eagle spread anymore, being close enough to no longer worry about directing her fall. In preparation for her high velocity landing, Nora pulled her legs under her so she could land on her feet, strengthening and reinforcing her entire body with aura so the impact wouldn't damage her. She then decided she might as well introduce herself to the Vacuoan soldiers that were currently occupying her landing zone.
Nora pointed Magnhild towards the spot in the center of the Vacuoan lines that she had chosen as her landing zone and pulled the trigger once, twice, three times. The grenades flew ahead of her, the force of their ejection throwing Nora into a backwards spin. She pivoted in the air so that she was facing forward, shifted her weapon into its mighty hammer form, and used the weight of her hammer to add momentum to her spin. At this moment her three grenades impacted, one right after the other, killing and throwing Vacuoan soldiers away from her impact zone like ragdolls. The pink explosions drew the eyes of soldiers on both sides, who only had a moment of time to see a brief spinning blur when they looked up before Nora smashed into the ground, hammer leading the way. The impact, born of a great fall in addition to the momentum from her spin, was far more destructive than her three grenades had been, throwing a massive shockwave through the earth around where she landed.
The shockwave threw up rocks, dirt, and Vacuoan soldiers alike without discrimination, soldiers screaming in pain as all sorts of bones in their bodies snapped and shattered under the tremendous impact. Shattered stones exploded into shards and shredded even more soldiers, clouds of dirt obscured Nora as she stood up in the center of her personal crater. Around her, the fighting stopped as the soldiers looked at this destructive force that was currently obscured by a cloud of dirt, dust, and grass. As the view cleared, most of the soldiers reacted with confusion when they saw a young girl, shorter and smaller than nearly all of them. Their surprise turned to fear as they laid eyes on Nora's shining silver hammer, which she lifted easily in one hand and placed on her shoulder.
"How's that for disrupting the lines, Weiss?" Nora said to herself with a satisfied, sadistic smile. The soldiers immediately around her backed away, frightened and unsure of what to make about the young girl in front of them. Nora decided that leaving them in uncertainty was impolite, and began making her position as their enemy very clear by smashing her hammer into them, each swing of her mighty weapon shattering bones and ending lives.
Within moments the chaos of battle returned, but now the closest Vacuoan soldiers had a new objective: Stay away from the hammer wielding huntress. They were, for the most part, unsuccessful in that objective as Nora leapt into the center of any large clump of soldiers that tried to regroup and immediately shattered the formation with her powerful attacks. Any retaliatory attacks, whether from sword or gun, were easily deflected by her hammer, and any that got through her hammer were repelled by her aura.
Nora's attention was soon drawn to a figure walking the battlefield, firing weapons at the Vytal soldiers. It had four spider like legs, with an upright, vaguely humanoid torso with two cannons for arms and two more shoulder mounted cannons, all firing repeatedly at Nora's allies, causing devastating amounts of damage. 'That definitely counts as a big target.' Nora thought to herself, charging the giant, green painted robot head on.
Nora was flanking the robot, charging it from the side. It never saw her coming as she leapt into the air and brought her hammer down on its left shoulder cannon, caving in the firing chamber. It turned and tried to fire its left shoulder cannon at Nora, but unfortunately for the war robot, the collapsed firing chamber meant the energy was unable to leave the chamber. The result was the cannon exploding, destroying both the left shoulder and arm cannons, leaving only the two right cannons. Nora, who had landed close to the damaged robot, swung hard at one of its forward legs to try to cripple it.
The robot responded quickly, and lifted its leg up out of the way. Nora's hammer swung just under the raised leg, which the robot then brought down to smash into Nora, throwing her back and causing her to lose her grip on Magnhild. As the huntress landed on her back she used the impact to flip backwards over herself, coming to her feet in the snow smoothly, but weaponless.
Not having her hammer was no problem for Nora, and she just charged the robot once more, side stepping the two cannon shots it leveled her way before leaping up at its main body. The robot responded by swinging one arm viciously at the airborne huntress, but Nora pulled her legs up and over the attack, and landed on the robot's shoulder. Grabbing tightly onto the remaining shoulder mounted cannon, Nora pulled with all her might. The robot shook itself like a wet dog to try to dislodge the huntress, but the movement only served to give Nora the extra punch she need to rip the shoulder cannon of its mount. Substituting her hammer with the even larger cannon, Nora brought the massive cannon down onto the 'head' of the robot, smashing it into the rest of its body.
The robot faltered, trying to maintain its footing but instead stumbling around like a drunk. Its stumbling movements even ended up knocking down or crushing a few Vacuoan soldiers that ventured to near the battle. The robots efforts to stay upright were in vain, as Nora simply brought the cannon above her head and smashed it back into it once again, turning it into a pile of twitching scrap metal. She leapt off towards her hammer, rolling and picking it up in a single, smooth motion. All around her the Vacuoan army was trying to stay as far away from her as possible, desperate to put distance between them and the girl who could rip apart a war robot with her bare hands. Nora just smiled and laughed, leaping back into battle once more.
Wherever Nora went, soldiers fell by the dozens and the Vytal soldiers' lines slowly recovered. The front lines were stabilizing, but Nora was soon finding that she was taking on an increasing number of injuries as she grew tired and her aura began to falter from defending her from so many strikes, intentional or not. She had to step down her attacks, relying on her allied soldiers more. But the lines were holding steady now, which was an improvement, even if they couldn't push back yet. But that wasn't Nora's concern- she was concerned only with destroying any soldiers stood before her.
Blake, meanwhile, had not been idle. She had landed in a snow bank with a puff of snow behind the enemy lines. The thick snow cushioned her fall, though Blake would have been fine just landing on the ground normally. Blake had to climb out of the snow bank, having sunk into it farther than she was tall, which was in inconvenience. Once she reached the surface of the snow she crouched back down in the snow to hide her presence. As she was falling, her acute vision noticed that a squad of soldiers at the rear may have noticed her falling as they watched the airship, even if they had been too far away to distinguish that is was in fact a person falling and not some sort of debris.
Her instincts were proven correct as she poked the top of her head above the snow bank and saw a small squad of five soldiers approaching her position. In the front of the group were two soldiers in heavy plate armor, each of them carrying a long sword and kite shield, walking side by side. Behind them in a line were the three other soldiers wearing standard solid green combat fatigues. Each of the three carried a rifle of some sort, and Blake could see the rifles appeared to be capable of full automatic fire. Since there was no cover immediately available to Blake, she elected to quickly and silently crawl under a layer of snow before they could get close enough to round the snow bank and see her.
The snow was cold, but Blake drew lightly on her aura to keep her warm while she patiently waited for the soldiers to approach. Blake could hear them approaching through the snow with her sensitive ears, slowly making their way around the snow bank while they investigated. They continued creeping closer, and Blake could hear one of them climbing up the snow bank to see if he could find whatever it was inside. "I think it fell inside!" he called down to his squad mates. As he climbed, he stepped on the snow covering Blake, but she was deep enough that he didn't notice the difference in footing. Just moments later the rest of the squad followed after him, none of them noticing Blake underneath their feet.
Once Blake counted that all five of the soldiers had walked over her, she sat up quickly, emerging from the snow and pouncing on the soldier at the rear of the line, drawing Gambol Shroud with her right hand as she silently flew through the air. She landed quietly on his back, wrapping her left hand around his mouth as she brought her feet down on the backs of his knees, dropping him into the soft snow beneath them. Before he could begin to attempt to vocalize any protests or struggle, Blake drove her katana into his side, piercing through his torso to cut through both kidneys, as well as everything between them. The intense pain and shock of the severe injury left the man unable to make any noise, his muscles so tensed up from pain he couldn't even attempt to breathe if he had the mental capabilities to choose to do so. Blake swept the blade forward, slicing through the rest of his abdominal organs to finish him off as she silently thanked Cheshire for his surprisingly detailed lessons on assassination and stealth.
Not wanting to trust a foothold under the snow she couldn't see, Blake used the dying soldier's body as firm ground in order to leap at the next soldier in line, who had not noticed his fallen comrade. His poor perception proved to be his undoing as Blake landed on his back as well, repeating the same assassination she and employed on the first soldier, leaving him bleeding out in the snow.
Blake was the victim of a stroke of bad luck though, as the third soldier in line turned to ask the ones behind him a question, only to see Blake crouching over the dead bodies of his allies. Before he could call out to his armored squad mates in front of him, Blake dashed forward and brought swung her katana at the soldier's throat and left a wide slash across it, severing both major arteries and the windpipe. He brought his hand up in a pointless effort to stem the waterfall of blood while falling to the ground, gurgling as the air escaped his lungs.
The two armored soldiers in the front finally heard the commotion behind them and turned around. They were stunned as they saw their dead allies laying in blood soaked snow, a single young girl wearing jeans and a t-shirt standing there with a weapon in hand. Blake reached over her should and grabbed the cleaver that doubled as her weapon sheath, hissing at the soldiers in front of her as she charged at them. These soldiers were veterans of many battles, and brought their shields up in front of them as they moved shoulder to should to minimize any exposed vulnerable areas that the fast moving assassin may attack.
Much to their surprise, Blake did not attempt to get around their shields. She instead leapt straight at them, kicking one of the shields with both of her feet and staggering the soldier as he stumbled backwards. Blake let her body fall to the ground on all fours, below the shield of the second soldier she didn't kick. She lashed out with her blade at one of the only unprotected areas she could reach- the back of his knee. As her katana passed through the lightly armored area at the joint, he crumbled to the ground as Blake severed the ligaments and tendons.
Blake left the crippled soldier on the ground, moving instead towards the now recovered soldier she first kicked. He held his shield defensively in front of him as he charged Blake, taking a wide swing from the side at the smaller faunus. Blake cart wheeled forward over the sword and his arm while swinging at his wrist with her cleaver. The cleaver was heavier than her katana, but still was unable to cut through the armored gauntlets he wore. Her cleaver being unable to cut off the hand was no surprise to Blake, who instead wanted to use the cleaver to cause blunt trauma damage. This resulted in the soldier crying out in pain as he reflexively dropped his sword to the ground, the bones in his wrist fracturing under the impact.
Blake let the momentum of her cartwheel continue bringing her forward and she brought her knees down on the soldier's armored shoulders. She then squeezed her legs shut around his helmet, crushing it against his head before twisting her hips violently and snapping his neck. As he fell to the ground like a puppet with its strings cut under her, Blake landed lightly on her feet as she made her way to the last soldier she had crippled seconds earlier.
This last soldier struggled to his feet, resting all his weight on his one working leg. "You're a monster." He spat at Blake.
"I think the word you're looking for is 'huntress." Blake responded calmly, replacing the cleaver on her back and raising her katana in front of her. The soldier's eyes widened in surprise and fear. He brought his sword and shield in front of him defensively, no longer interested in counter attacking and instead focused on survival. Blake slowly stepped forward towards him, waiting for an opening she could take. The soldier was playing it carefully though, and even with one crippled leg he left no openings.
As Blake circled around the defensive soldier, she remembered one of the first lessons Cheshire had taught her about real combat. "Many warriors, whether they're hunters or not, make the mistake of trying to go for the 'one strike kill.'" He had started. "They wait, drawing out the battle until they can go for that glorious finishing move. That's stupid." He said emotionlessly. "If the opportunity presents itself, of course you take that strike. But you don't wait for that one cut. Take every cut. One cut. Five cuts. Ten cuts. A hundred cuts. Your goal isn't to look pretty, you're goal is to kill. And dead is dead, whether it's from one cut or a hundred."
Blake took those words to heart. The soldier pivoted just a little too slow as Blake circled around him for the second time, and the tip of Blake's katana struck like a snake and jabbed into the unarmored crook of the elbow of his sword arm. The cut wasn't deep, but it was enough to nick the artery. The soldier almost dropped his sword, but held on through sheer willpower as his arm slowly began bleeding its strength all over the snow under him. As he lost more and more blood from his two injuries, the soldier began moving more and more sluggishly. He soon realized that he wasn't surviving this fight no matter what he did, and used the last of his strength to attack Blake.
He raised his sword up above his head to strike, and Blake took the opening. Using her preternatural speed, she dashed up inside his strike zone and stabbed her blade up into his armpit, cutting the major arteries and piercing his heart. Blake saw the light fade from his eyes as she yanked her katana back out of him and he fell to the ground. A part of her told herself that she should feel some sort of emotion at killing other people, but that part was quickly shut down by the larger part of her that told her it was necessary and all part of what needed to be done.
Blake checked her kills, making sure none of the soldiers survived or called in their encounter over radio or scroll. Satisfied that she had eliminated them unnoticed, Blake quickly but covertly made her way towards the enemy forces, ready to assassinate any officers she came across.
The airship swung into a rough landing at the landing zone behind the Vytal army, the doors swinging open before the ship had come to a complete stop. Weiss hopped out of the ship, with the three officers and the councilor disembarking behind her. A soldier ran up to meet them, saluting with a fist to his heart. "Sir! We have a command post ready for you." He reported.
"Lord Commander Schnee will be taking command in my place, soldier." General Kosti informed him.
"Lead the way." Weiss ordered. The soldier saluted once more and led the way back to the command post at a brisk pace. Weiss observed their surroundings as they walked, taking in what she could. There wasn't much to see, as most of the soldiers were busy trying to hold the defenses.
"Lord Commander, what is Miss Belladonna doing behind enemy lines, if I may ask?" Colonel Sten asked. Songen and Kosti moved a little closer, curious as well. The wind must have been too loud for them to hear Weiss' conversation with Blake.
"She's assassinating their commanding officers, and anyone else important she finds." Weiss said simply.
The three officers stopped in their tracks, staring in disbelief at Weiss. "She's what?" General Kosti asked rhetorically. "Assassination? That's not how wars are won. Assassination is dishonorable. We can't use such tactics!"
"Why not?" Weiss asked as she kept on walking without pause. "I'm not trying to fight honorably. I'm trying to win a war." Weiss answered.
"But…" Kosti started again before stopping, at a loss for a response.
"If we were dueling Vacuo, sure. Fight as honorably as you want. But we're fighting a war, and I will do anything and everything it takes to protect my home." Weiss continued. "I will assassinate their officers. I will poison their food. I will sabotage their supplies. I will play dirty tricks. If it's in my power, I will do it." She finished determinedly.
The other officers looked at each other, a mix of emotions on their faces. General Kosti's face held a hint of fear and horror at seeing war become something so different than what he thought it was. Colonel Sten was surprised, if anything, but willing to accept this change of tactics. Lieutenant General Songen just looked sad that someone who was so young was forced into a situation where they had to be so ruthless. And Councilor Crane only smiled in satisfaction with the knowledge that maybe Weiss was someone who could bring their people back from the brink of defeat.
The fast pace set by Weiss got them to the command post quickly. It turned out that the 'command post' was now where the communications tent was when they had contacted Captain Koma from the airship. The captain was still sitting at a small table, relaying information given to him from Major Swift to the other soldiers in the tent as they attempted to coordinate their army.
General Kosti stepped forward ahead of Weiss as they entered. "New orders!" He shouted authoritatively. "Lord Commander Schnee will be taking command. Where is Major Swift?"
"He's on the front lines, sir." Captain Koma answered. "He thought it would be good if the soldiers could see their commanding officer alongside them."
"Fool." Weiss muttered under her breath, quiet enough that no one heard her. Commanders were not meant to be on the front lines. They needed to be far enough back to see the big picture. If the soldiers needed inspiration, they could look to their superior officers on the field. Weiss remembered Tamamo telling her that the leader of an army didn't have to be liked, just obeyed, but that the seconds-in-command should be the ones to inspire and lead on the field. "We're changing how we're operating." Weiss announced to the tent. "Move your tables so you're all in a half circle in front of me." She waved her hand in front of her, gesturing where in the tent she wanted them to set up. "And facing me. Are each of you dedicated communication officers for specific units?" Weiss asked.
"Yes, ma'am." Captain Koma answered. "Each communication officer works specifically with one battalion of soldiers- about seven hundred soldiers each at this position."
"Good enough for now." Weiss said as the officers in the room all spun their work station tables around as fast as they could. "Report all your information to me. I need a map of the area!" Weiss said as she grabbed a small, unused table from the side of the tent and pulled it to where she was standing. One soldier handed her a device that projected a holographic, three dimensional map of the area. "A huntress should be working on disrupting the enemy formations, giving us a little time to get organized." She pointed at the map in front of her. "Send the coordinates of your battalions to this map." Weiss moved her arm so her finger was pointing at the officer farthest to her left, a young woman with blond hair tied back in a tight bun. "You, gather as much information on the enemy positions as we have and send it over. I want a battlefield picture here."
The soldiers worked extremely quickly and efficiently now that they had a commanding officer giving them specific orders, and weren't just trying to hold together a bunch of individual battalions. In less than a minute Weiss' holographic map had little symbols all over it representing the different battalions, along with what type of units made up each battalion. The enemy army's units weren't so detailed, but Weiss could work around that. The new Lord Commander looked at the same young woman she had asked to get information on the enemy. "There's a huntress somewhere on the front lines. Our soldiers are providing support, but I want to know where she is at all times. You are responsible for keeping her position on the map constantly up to date, using the data you're getting from the others." The young officer nodded and accepted her new responsibility without question.
"All right." Weiss looked at the map to begin seeing what she was working with. It didn't look good- her army was outnumbered three to one, nearly four to one. The only reason they had yet to be overrun was that they had a better defensive position on higher ground, while the Vacuoan army was trudging through thigh-deep snow on the low ground. "Here," Weiss pointed to the symbol that represented the third battalion, a unit of heavily armored soldiers that carried large shields and were trained to be defensive units. "Tell the Third Battalion to form a phalanx four lines deep, with a focus only on holding back the enemy. Leave the offensive attacks to others." The appropriate communications officer relayed the order, and she watched as the map updated a few seconds later to reflect the change in formation. "Repeat that order to all armored battalions. I want them on the front lines, purely on the defensive." The order was relayed, and the armored battalions on her map slowly shifted formation, until the front of the Vytal army was a solid wall of armored soldiers.
"And how will you fight back now, without any front line soldiers on the offensive?" Lieutenant General Songen asked curiously.
"Slowly and efficiently." Weiss answered. "Move all rifle battalions farther back up onto higher ground. Have them shoot into the enemy ranks. Do NOT shoot anywhere the huntress is currently fighting."
"How do you know Miss Valkyrie is even still alive?" Colonel Sten asked, looking at the red dot on the map that represented Nora. "You basically dropped her in the middle of an army."
"Because she would never die so easily." Weiss answered. "And because wherever that dot is, the enemy formation falls apart." She pointed to another group of battalions on the map. "I want the Seventh and Ninth Battalions to sweep down to their right flank and attack." Weiss was referring to two general combat battalions, their soldiers armed with a mixed bag of both ranged and melee weapons. Their dots on the map shifted accordingly, attacking the surprised Vacuoan soldiers.
The combination of a suddenly impenetrable wall of armor and Nora's destruction seemed to be throwing the Vacuoan army into disarray, as they weren't reacting with proper speed to the changes in formation that Weiss was implementing. Weiss continually ordered different battalions into different formations and used every strategy she could think of, exposing and exploiting any weakness she could. In an hour's time the Vacuoan army's assault wasn't just halted, but countered. The enemy was now on the defensive.
"Something's wrong with the Vacuoans." General Kosti observed. "They are taking far too long to react to your attacks, and taking far too much damage from them for as much as they outnumber us. Not that I don't think you're tactics aren't effective, of course. It just seems like a trap."
"It's not a trap. They're taking too long because they don't have anyone giving them orders." Weiss answered calmly before she continued directing the army. It was becoming easier now as the enemy losses piled up and the Vytal army pushed them back, taking fewer and fewer losses as the battle progressed.
"Why aren't they… oh." Kosti suddenly remembered that while they were directing a battle, Blake was assassinating officers and destroying their chain of command.
"They're about to break." Weiss announced as she looked at the map. Sections of the enemy forces were retreating, fleeing from Weiss' forces. And just as she predicted, suddenly the entire Vacuoan line collapsed as they lost all cohesiveness and fled individually. The room burst into cheers as they won their first real victory in the war. "We're not done yet!" Weiss yelled, quieting the cheers. "Order the armored battalions to stand down and return to base. Rifle units pursue the enemy at range and gun them down!"
The officers stared in disbelief. Attack retreating soldiers? It seemed like such an underhanded tactic. "You want them stabbing and shooting you at a later date? If they've surrendered, take them prisoner. If they are running, shoot them." Weiss growled. "Pursue them no farther than… here." Weiss marked a spot on the map. Once our soldiers reach that point, recall them. Then we're done." Weiss stared back at the communications officers. "Now."
They jumped back into action, giving out the necessary orders. Weiss turned back to the three officers that had originally joined her, and the councilor. "That was amazing." Councilor Crane praised. "This is a true turning point in the war!" he shook Weiss' hand, who allowed her hand to be shook as she distractedly listened to the officers behind her for any changes she might need to be aware of. "With this, I'm sure I could start a campaign to increase military support and support for hunters."
"That's good." Weiss answered, distracted by Nora's dot. It seemed she was leading the riflemen in their pursuit of the fleeing soldiers. She turned her head back to General Kosti and the two officers at his sides. "I'm going to need your help." She began. "I have ideas on how we can make our army more efficient, especially with the addition of hunters."
"You have our full support, Lord Commander Schnee." General Kosti replied. "But maybe you should rest a bit first? You've just led your first battle, and it was one I was sure we were about to lose." He asked with some concern.
"I thank you for your concern, sir, but there's no time." Weiss replied. "There is more to be done."
He looked at the young huntress sadly. "You're right, I suppose. But there is something else we must do first." He added. "You and your comrades need a proper uniform, and we need to introduce you three to the army. It will be good for them to see who led them to victory."
Weiss sighed. "If you insist." Weiss conceded. "I need to make contact with Blake and Nora, first."
"Of course." He agreed.
A couple hours later, Weiss looked down at the temporary officer's uniform she was wearing, displeased. The uniform was nice enough, with its navy blue coat and white pants. The coat had gold trim and adornments, with the new pins that represented her rank of Lord Commander pinned on her shoulders. The uniform was fine, she was just displeased at how poorly she filled it out. Admittedly the uniform was a size too large, but Weiss was mostly sure it was because she hadn't grown at all in her years at Beacon. Weiss had remained the same petite girl she had been when she entered, while her teammates and friends had each grown and matured more over the years. Even Ruby, at the time of her death, was taller than Weiss; the white haired huntress only came up to Ruby's eyes in height.
Deciding that glowering at her small body wouldn't change anything, Weiss exited the tent she had been given to change. Outside the tent she found Blake waiting for her, still wearing the jeans and t-shirt she had exited the ship in. Only now they were drenched in blood. "There you are, Blake! Are you hurt? When did you get back?" Weiss began fussing over Blake, looking for injuries.
Blake caught Weiss' hands, stopping her from getting her hands bloody and dirtying her uniform. "I'm fine, Weiss." Blake said with a smile. "And I only just got back. I had to hide for a while as the army retreated. You did quite a bit of damage to them."
Weiss smiled back at Blake. "Thanks. You seem like you did well yourself." She said, looking down at Blake's blood covered clothes.
"I got quite a few of them, yeah. They never expected someone to attack them like that." Blake said with an animalistic grin.
"Well I'm glad you had fun, but you need to get cleaned up and changed so we can get introduced to the army." Weiss told Blake, gesturing to the tent. "There are uniforms and towels in there."
"I don't really think Nora needs introducing." Blake said with a chuckle.
"Can't you hear the chanting?" Blake asked.
Weiss cocked her head to the side and listened. She heard voices that could've been chanting in the distance, but it was too faint for her to make out the words. "It's too far for me to hear." Weiss said with a shrug.
"It seems that Nora made quite the impression with her attack. She's a hero among the soldiers." Blake pointed behind her with her thumb. "They've nicknamed her 'Madhammer.' That's what they're chanting." Blake finished with a laugh.
"'Madhammer?'" Weiss asked with a confused look.
"Because she was either smiling or laughing during the whole fight, apparently." Blake shrugged. Weis just shook her head in disbelief. "I'm going to go get changed. You should probably go tell Nora to change too."
"Yeah." Weiss said in a resigned voice, but she was smiling. Leave it to Nora to accidentally build a following of thousands.
"Our victory today marks a change in the war!" General Kosti announced to the crowd of gathered soldiers, arranged in formation in front of him as he stood atop a pile of boxes with the three huntress standing behind him and to his side. Blake and Nora were each wearing the same style of uniform as Weiss, except without the pins identifying rank. And they also filled out the uniform far more impressively, Weiss hated to admit.
"Today, we can begin to push our enemy back. Today, we can retake the lands we lost to Vacuo! Today, we can show our people that we will keep them safe forevermore!" The army erupted in cheers. He held up his hand, silencing the gathered crowd. "But today would not have been possible without these three. These hunters." The crowd went silent at the word 'hunters'. "These three are the first of many who will one day lend their considerable might to the war, and today they more than earned our trust!"
He gestured to Weiss, who stepped forward to stand next to General Kosti. "The newly appointed Lord Commander, Weiss Schnee, who commanded our army in today's battle and led our army to victory!" The crowd's cheer was deafening as they finally got to see the one who finally helped them redeem their honor and achieve victory. Weiss raised her hand to wave at the crowd with a small, cordial smile. General Kosti leaned in to whisper in Weiss' ear. "What rank should I refer to your comrades by?"
Weiss turned her head to whisper her answer in his ear. "I'm making them Majors, for now."
He nodded as he straightened up. "And here we have the huntress who turned the enemy into a disorganized mob of fools!" The crowd laughed. "Major Blake Belladonna!" Blake stepped up next to Weiss, also waving her hand at the crowd as Weiss had. The crowd cheered for Blake just as hard as they had for Weiss, the loud noise causing the ears on top of Blake's head to twitch a couple times in response.
"And finally, we have the huntress who smashed apart our enemy on the front lines, Major Nora Valkyrie!" Nora stepped forward, waving reservedly without a smile at the soldiers arrayed in front of her. The crowd broke into their loudest cheer yet, shaking the ground beneath them. Within seconds they began chanting 'Madhammer' again, pumping their fists in time with their chant.
General Kosti held up his hand for silence once more. "We all welcome our new friends and allies, and I'm sure you're eager to get to know them. But for now, rest! We have a war to win! Dismissed!" he finished with a salute. The crowd saluted with fists to hearts as they dissipated and left the assembly. General Kosti turned to the three huntresses at his side. "I'm spry for putting you through such an overly extravagant ceremony, but our soldiers needed this."
"We understand." Weiss assured him. "But if you don't mind, I'd like to start reviewing all the information I can."
"What kind of information would you like?"
"Everything. Logistics, supply routes, maps, information on Vacuo. I want everything." Weiss answered as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
General Kosti just blinked in surprise. "Uh, sure. I'll have everything sent to your tent."
"Thank you. Is there anything else you wish to discuss?" Weiss asked.
"Not today, no. I'm sure something will come up at some point, though. Such is life." He said, shaking each girls' hand. "Best of luck with your work, make sure you get some rest!" He then walked off towards his own tent, waving as he left.
"I'll help you out." Blake suggested. "Nora too." Nora just nodded.
"Thanks. I have some ideas for what we can do." Weiss answered as they left for their tent. They walked in silence for a few minutes before Weiss spoke up again. "So… 'Madhammer', huh?"
Nora winced, clearly not a fan of the nickname. "Don't even get me started."