Author's Note: *updates edited Word Document and goes to New Story*
Brain: ...You lied to me.
Yeeeeah, I did.
Brain: The RWBY DVD, the director's commentary, all of that was to warp my thinking for this!
Yeeeah, it was.
Brain: This isn't even my idea! This is someone else's that you're in cahoots with!
To be fair, it wasn't supposed to get this big. It was supposed to be smaller. But once you got involved you just HAD to make it bigger, didn't you?
Brain: Don't put this on me! You've built this fic on a foundation of lies and betrayal! LIES AND BETRAYAL!
Yeeeeah, it is. But ya know...*clicks his mouse and leans back in his chair*...we're invested in it now.
Brain: ...Gawd dammit.
He was there just as he always was. Even with her chosen point of seclusion within the cliffs and red-leafed trees of Forever Fall, Blake knew that she would never be truly alone. Ever since their meeting those many years ago, they had made sure that such a thing wouldn't happen as long as they both still breathed.
No matter the distance that separated them – whether a few feet or miles -, there was that little part within Blake's heart and soul that was completely Adam. Made due to desperation and a desire to never be alone in such a cruel world, Blake had taken the hand that he offered to her and, with it, the Aura that he laid bare and what she had taken to bind with her own.
He had become a paragon of strength for her. Seeing him stand up to the hate that humanity directed at them reinforced her own waning confidence for the eventual goal of equality.
Considering this bond that she had formed with him, she didn't know why she hadn't seen it sooner. That steady stance of his was not one built upon the belief of peace but one of contempt for the human race and their apparent enjoyment of preying upon a weaker minority. The violence and bigotry that humanity threw at him he absorbed and used to strengthen his own resolve. He had just been biding his time, waiting to strike back with violence that would eclipse anything that humans had done to them.
Adam would get his chance. That gathered, roiling ball of hate was allowed an outlet when the White Fang finally chose to fight fire with fire. If humanity wished to use fear to subjugate a race, they would learn the error of their ways when that fear turned against them.
Atop the boulder she was seated on, Blake kept her gaze up and away but knew that with a moment of concentration she could locate him. Stretching out with her mind and Aura, she could sense him prowling within the depths of the forest; a point of barely-contained aggression that disturbed the natural peace of the landscape.
A long time ago it was the world I feared and he that gave me peace, she thought sadly. Now, it's the opposite.
She retreated from him for the moment, wanting to ponder these latest thoughts that she had been having…and what they may entail.
Forever Fall was gifted with a constant, pleasant breeze. The gentle wind blew back her long, wavy black hair and the coattails of her vest. Above her, the branches of the surrounding trees swished and swayed, producing a relaxing melody as the leaves rustled within the wind. Many of them fell, providing a spectacle of the forest's name as they danced in the air.
A couple landed in her hair, the strands guided by the wind in random directions that happened to result in them snatching some of the leafy drops of this earthly rain. A renewed breeze saw most of the leaves freed to descend the rest of the way to the ground. Watching this display, Blake couldn't help but compare the journey of the falling leaves to the one she has yet to take.
All that's required is an opportunity - a chance to separate from a home that has become a prison. To break away from it is to give yourself to the current of endless possibilities. What you will find and where you will fall is all randomized. The only thing you can do is surrender to the flow.
Blake stared at the ground, watching the fallen leaves continue to glide along the grass even after they had landed. And even when arriving at your destination, the journey isn't over. You find yourself in a land of opportunities that won't keep you restrained to one point. That, she guessed, was freedom.
She registered his approach long before he had spoken. It was easier to know when he was nearby for even though he may have once been a presence of unshakable confidence, he had now become a walking construct of malice that wished to pay back all who had wronged him.
Deep inside she felt that part that was reserved for Adam pulse and stretch out the foul tendrils that clung to her Aura. Wherever they touched she felt those black emotions that had overtaken him attempt to seep into her very being so that she, too, may one day embrace the carnage that offered brief, grisly relief.
Blake kept her emotions and face hidden from him. He didn't know how his eagerness for blood had her trembling or how her features twisted to display regret. Her hesitation she used to fashion a mask that, while invisible, was just as effective as the one he wore. When her mask turned to meet his own, all signs of her intent were invisible to him.
"Okay," she replied quietly.
"Oh man, I can't believe it!"
Blake felt her faunus ears twitch beneath her bow at the sudden, loud shout that broke the silence of the room. This was one of the few times that she was glad for the cloth covering as it offered enough protection to stop the newly-declared leader of equally newly-declared JNPR from destroying her more sensitive pair of ear drums.
She doubly thanked the accessory when the leader of RWBY – girl and team also recently-established – shrieked with just as much volume. "I know right!?"
The fifteen-year-old known as Ruby Rose had practically skipped into the waiting room outside of Professor Ozpin's office where the two teams had been directed to obtain their dorm assignments and scrolls that would act as their keys. Once the door closed behind them, Blake had fully expected the teen to let loose with the enthusiasm that was bubbling up towards the surface.
Nope, the honor apparently went to Jaune Arc. She had been so focused on the younger girl that Blake hadn't noticed the blond boy shaking with equal amounts of excitement until he decided to let loose.
Seeing a partner in jubilation, Ruby whirled around to face Jaune, grinning from ear-to-ear. "We're in Beacon!"
"We have teams!" Jaune added.
"We're team leaders!"
Both of them laughing gleefully, they grabbed each other's hands and started spinning around within the center of the room. Blake had to take a step back unless she wanted to get floored but despite witnessing such childish behavior, the faunus couldn't help but smile softly.
Certainly immature, she thought although the corners of her lips remained up. But it's…nice.
There came a huff at her back that, even with all the noise, her human ears managed to detect it. Already suspecting what she would find, Blake turned to look over her shoulder for the source.
She wasn't disappointed. With arms crossed over her chest and a glare directed at the floor, Blake beheld an irritated Weiss Schnee. The heiress to the largest Dust company had a clenched jaw, her teeth grinding together as the continued glee that the two leaders displayed served to further annoy her.
Blake understood the reason for this unhappy Weiss. She had been standing next to the snow-haired girl during Team RWBY's formation and it was when Ozpin had assigned Ruby as their leader that Blake felt Weiss's ponytail nearly slap her with how quickly the heiress whirled her head around to stare at the scythe-wielder with shock. The fact that they were in an auditorium full of people forced Weiss to recover, the girl bringing her head back around to present the steady image befitting of a Schnee.
Blake nonetheless saw the look of offence and the heat of outrage that colored her normally pale face. It didn't take much thought to guess why the heiress was so upset.
She's sore because she's not in charge. Blake felt that pleasant smile turn into a not-so-pleasant smirk. The faunus wasn't going to lie; she did feel some justification at this turn of events.
As if sensing it, Weiss looked up at Blake who quickly turned her head back around. Justifiable or not, it would be best to avoid making a scene because of one misplaced facial expression. After all, she was trying to keep her faunus heritage a secret and instigating another argument with the daughter of the current Schnee head was certainly not the best way to do it.
Besides, she decided to put that battle to rest. That was no longer hers and, thinking about it, Blake felt a bit of shame for finding even a small amount of enjoyment at Weiss's misery. Nothing good has ever come from it. I'm not here because of her anyway.
Then again, when Blake turned to the teams, she wasn't sure if the scene in front of her was what she was looking for either. Ruby was currently silenced, the victim of another one of her sister's bear hugs that had her feet off the ground and kicking the air as she tried to free or, failing that, loosen herself from Yang's grip enough to breathe.
"Wait until you write to your friends about this!" Yang cheered, completely ignorant of the pained expression on Ruby's face. "You were moved two years ahead and chosen to be team leader! They'll be so proud of you!"
Ruby didn't say anything but her back did offer a couple cracks of protest.
Blake's pleasant smile returned, the antics of the two sisters making her forget about the spoiled heiress. Between first meeting Yang and Ruby in the assembly area to now, the younger girl had been the victim of Yang's hugs four times. At least those were the ones Blake had been present for anyway. Affectionate was certainly one word to describe the pair.
Jaune, on the other hand, was still talking adamantly and decided to throw in some wild gestures. With how he had one arm up to his chest and the other swinging wildly, Blake could guess that he was reliving his team's battle with the Death Stalker. He also found a new, even more jubilant, friend.
"And we all just charged it going 'yaaah'!" Jaune reminisced before bringing his imaginary shield up even if the real one was currently hanging from his belt. "And pow! Stopped one of its pincers!"
"And I went 'boom, boom, boom'!" Nora joined in. Unfortunately, unlike Jaune, the girl did have her grenade launcher out and the leader ducked when Nora swung it around in his direction.
Blake was not ashamed for ducking as well when the barrel neared her. It made her feel better when everyone else did, including Yang who released Ruby before throwing both of them to the floor. The only one who didn't react was Ren who stared dispassionately even when Nora pointed and kept Magnhild leveled at him.
"Ren, you were cool too until you hit that wall!" Nora made a motion simulating recoil with the launcher yet the green-dressed boy didn't even flinch. "Boop!"
"You can put Magnhild away Nora," he calmly advised.
I thought my team was going to be interesting. Standing back up, Blake couldn't help but remember how unusually cheerful the hammer-wielder seemed to be even with the threat of two gigantic Grimm assaulting the teams from the ground and air. She also remembered getting bumped off the stone bridge by Nora after her failed attempt at smashing the Death Stalker.
With the threat of an armed, overly-eager, and potentially crazed girl having passed, everyone picked themselves up from the floor before resuming their own conversations. Remaining as the silent spectator, Blake watched the members of both teams talking and laughing with large smiles on their faces due to the success of their initiation.
Never mind, the faunus thought to herself. Now free from her sister's back-breaking embrace, Ruby was talking a hundred words per second with Yang, jumping up and down like the young teenager she was. Nora was currently latched onto Ren's neck, swinging around him while he offered the subtlest of grins. Jaune was talking to Pyrrha, still excited but his volume lowered and the redhead was smiling politely. This is what I was looking for.
Well, maybe not exactly what she was looking for. When she left the White Fang and wondered what she could do with herself when her past had been nothing but that group, she decided that one of the only courses was to become a Huntress. The last five years of violence had given her the skills to fight and one of the few places to put those skills to use was the career that she could obtain through Beacon.
Of course, the Huntressing lifestyle would give her more than a place to apply her particular skillset. What she wanted was someplace that was defined with black and white and not cluttered up with so much gray. Grimm were dark, Huntresses were the light. The former wanted to destroy both human and faunus while the latter was charged to protect them: black and white.
Gray was what happened when a group's nonviolent means were met with little gain. When the faunus became frustrated to the point that their thoughts became justified that the pure goal of equality can be achieved by tainting it with the same violence that humanity had given them but having never used before.
Gray was using chaos, not peace, to achieve equality.
Blake wanted things to be simple again. Her crimes in being a part of that chaos she could repent for by devoting her life to becoming a Huntress.
And yet, looking at the gathered students, Blake wondered if she had inadvertently found something else. She had hardened her heart and came fully prepared for whatever trials and hardships that becoming a Huntress would entail. Clearly a life – while simple - that would involve battling soulless monsters would be just as cruel and merciless as the one she had left behind.
But there was nothing of the sort here. Instead of hopes that were being worn away, confidence that was faltering, and shoulders that were starting to give under the weight of the burdens lain upon them, there was nothing but…normalcy. Here, there were people drawn together to uphold a righteous duty. Here, everything just seemed so very right.
"I mean I was surprised at myself!" Jaune was saying to Pyrrha. "I didn't think I could do all that! And with you! We only just met but it was like I knew what you were thinking!" Holding up his arm to represent his shield again, the young man turned it to the left. "You take the left pincer," he directed his arm to the right, "I take the right! We switch, and I slash left and you slash right!"
"Warrior instincts," Pyrrha replied, her smile refusing to falter in the least as she seemed genuinely pleased with his enthusiasm. "You're just that good of a partner Jaune, and you have a good team."
"Well yeah I know I'm good." The cocky tone and grin existed briefly, replaced by a sense of wonder. "But…I feel like it was more than that. When I moved it was like you were telling me where to go. I mean you didn't actually say anything but it felt like you wanted me at a certain point."
Near them, Nora stopped swinging around, seeming to take an interest in her leader's words. Likewise, Ren did the same, looking at the two while doing an admirable job of keeping his back straight with Nora hanging from his shoulders. The partners glanced at one another, a silent message passing between them.
"Did you two-?" Ren started to ask, looking to Jaune and Pyrrha.
"You bonded!" Nora squealed, not only cutting off Ren but causing the ear she shrieked into to start ringing.
"Wait." Jaune turned to look at Nora with surprise. "What?"
Pyrrha seemed just as startled by the interruption as Jaune was, her head whirling around to face a dazzled Nora. Her gaze quickly went elsewhere, suddenly unwilling to look at her teammates while her smile caved in.
"Um…what?" Jaune asked again, looking between Pyrrha and Nora. "I don't ge-gack!"
Dropping from Ren's back, Nora had rushed over and hooked an arm around both Jaune and Pyrrha's necks to better bring one ear from each to her mouth so that she could bombard them with questions.
"When did it happen? Were you guys together before Beacon? I mean, not together-together but it's okay if you were; didn't mean anything by it! Ren and I are only together though. But when did you know?"
"I-wha-you-huh?" Whether it was because of Nora's grip on him or how utterly flabbergasted he was, Jaune tried and failed to form a decent response to any of the questions that his teammate was throwing at him.
Fortunately, Ren came to the rescue once his hearing was back to normal. Rubbing his ear, he calmly instructed, "Nora, let him speak."
"Okay!" Although Nora became silent, her arms remained locked around her teammates. Ren realized his mistake.
"…You can let them go too."
"I don't even know what you're talking about!" Jaune protested as soon as he was freed.
Seeing how dubious his leader was, Ren looked inquisitively towards Pyrrha. The Spartan seemed to understand with how she kept looking off to the side, her hand rubbing the back of her neck sheepishly.
"A…side-effect," Pyrrha finally explained. She willed herself to meet Ren's gaze and have her hand drop. "It happened in the forest. I used my Aura to unlock his for him and…well..."
Ren's brow rose questionably. "Why did you have to-?"
"That's great!" Nora again interrupted, punching at the air excitedly. "Ren and I have been bonded for sooo long because we're super besties!"
Pyrrha looked interested. "Is that how you two were able to find each other?"
"Yep! Led me right to him! I wanted to have a secret signal just to make sure though! Hey, does a sloth sound like this?"
While Nora demonstrated her sloth impression with a couple c-raaaws, Ruby looked towards Yang, having apparently been paying enough attention to the other team's discussions to ask, "Yang, what do they mean by bonding?"
She had probably questioned her in hopes that her older sibling would have some inkling as to what was being said. Unfortunately, even Yang had to shrug cluelessly before replying, "No idea. They didn't teach anything like that during my senior year at Signal. Maybe it's something new?"
"Very old, actually." The two sisters swiveled their heads around to the source and Blake tensed a bit at the stares they directed at her. Fighting back an urge to block their looks with a book – which she didn't have on hand anyway -, Blake continued, "It's a tradition that dates back to the earliest days of humanity's fight with the Grimm."
"Huh." Yang rubbed at her chin, eyes narrowing as she tried to recall anything. "That old? I haven't heard about anything like that though."
"I wouldn't be surprised."
"How do you figure?"
Blake paused just as she was about to explain, finding her own actions odd. Ever since coming to Beacon she had kept her interactions with the other students limited, preferring to stick to a corner reading a book. The only time she had really initiated anything was back in the courtyard when the desire to stop Weiss's arrogant lecturing to an apologetic Ruby drove her to intervene with a comment that had the heiress storming off.
Speaking of whom, Ruby drew a step closer to Blake, those silver eyes shining with interest. "Is it about Huntresses?"
There was something about that childlike intrigue that Blake found irresistible. There was no other way to say it: Ruby reminded Blake a lot of herself. Young, optimistic…naïve. But that had been before the harsh realities of the world had been unveiled to that little faunus girl, robbing her of her idealism when it became clear that such a pure thing was restricted to the books that she read for comfort.
As misguided as it may be, it was possibly that innocence that Ruby had that was driving Blake to speak. It was inevitable that one day Ruby would understand how indecent the world was, but perhaps the faunus could help her in avoiding a few of the pitfalls that she had unwittingly walked into.
"Well, you have to think," Blake started, resigning herself to this choice. "The previous combat schools were all about forging weapons and training you how to fight. Beacon is where those who have the most potential go to learn about the lifestyle of Huntsmen and Huntresses which holds various secrets and sacred traditions. For example, did either of you know about partners?"
"No," Yang admitted, shaking her head. "I mean, we all knew about the teams but nothing about how they'd be formed."
"Right, we now understand that this is a common thing but we didn't know until we were about to be launched into the Emerald Forest. What you might not have thought about is why they do it this way."
The two sisters looked at one another, suddenly thoughtful. On a hunch, Blake glanced over her shoulder to find Weiss having taken an interest in the conversation as well. Apparently she was just as curious as her teammates.
"I would think," Ruby began, brow furrowing in concentration, "that this was a test to see how well we can perform in an unfamiliar environment. Being flung to random points in a forest populated by the Grimm and forcing to work with whoever we meet is to see how well we adapt."
Despite herself, Blake offered her a short smile. Young as she may be, Ruby was at least able to comprehend such unique situations to find the lessons behind them. Between this and how she performed in the forest, the faunus knew she would make a good leader.
"I think it goes beyond that," Blake further explained. "Teams of four divided into partnerships of two, working and living with one another for several years, it's all rooted back to the early days of humanity. Before our advances in technology, before Dust, all that we had to fight against the Grimm was our Aura and each other."
"I suspect that this is where the bonding thing comes in," Yang guessed.
"Which is what, exactly?" Weiss impatiently asked.
Ignoring the heiress's tone, Blake sent a neutral glance towards her. "It's what makes Huntsmen and Huntresses better fighters. With the Grimm all around them, mankind had to work together no matter where the individual members came from." Mentally, she added, Which includes me and you.
Focusing back on Yang and Ruby, Blake went on, "Such a situation breeds equal amounts of trust and desperation to the point where two individuals would share their Aura with one another. By doing so, they shared their thoughts and strength with one another."
"Oh, wow!" Ruby exclaimed. Staring up at Blake with fists clenched beneath her chin, she looked absolutely enthralled. "So, what? Yang can share her strength with me and I can be even stronger? By sharing thoughts do you mean telepathy? That sounds so cool!"
The adorable expression had Blake producing another short-lived smile even if she felt a stroke of unease. If anything, Ruby's excitement justified her choice of revealing this now instead of later. As the red-themed girl said, it sounded 'cool' but she wasn't thinking of the strings that were attached.
"Nothing as straightforward as that," Blake replied with a shake of her head. "Although, if bonded for long enough, a pair could gain an understanding of one another that can come close to telepathy, I guess. Physical strength can't be shared but I suppose Dust spells can become more potent when two Auras are used to power them. Partners can even transfer their Auras to each other. The greatest strength of the bond, however, is that you are connected to someone you trust at such a level that it gives you greater awareness of not only your surroundings and your enemies but each other. During a time when it seems like the world is against you, just the fact that you are with someone like that can give you the strength to face it."
Blake didn't realize the wistful tone that was taking over her voice, or how she was no longer looking at Ruby. Instead, the faunus seemed to be looking at a point past Ruby's head and towards the floor. Blake imagined her memories playing on the smooth surface of the tiles.
"…You sound like you have some experience in this."
Blake snapped her head up towards Yang. The lilac eyes that had always been so carefree and relaxed were examining her with such thoroughness that she felt a bit uneasy. Maybe it had been a mistake to talk about this. She was trying to keep her previous ties to a terrorist organization hidden yet already she was unveiling too much information that was drifting too close to her past.
"Not me personally," she replied, keeping her voice and stare even to make it convincing. "But I did know someone who had been bonded before."
"Looks like we're going to be doing this the hard way."
She had seen them too. As soon the two of them dropped into the darkness of the train car, the lasers of motion sensors blinked rapidly as the security system detected their presence and sent a signal to its automated guards.
Blake could see them as well: more than a dozen AK-130 androids that were divided into two lines with one at each side of the car. And they had dropped right in the middle of them.
This wasn't unexpected. More and more, the big companies like the SDC were turning to such automatons in an effort to provide better security for their shipments in response to attacks from the White Fang. The intrusion activated this group, red lights blazing at their chests and heads while metal visors slammed into place.
With mechanical synchronization, the androids all turned towards the pair before moving to surround them, their steel fingers forming into fists that they brought up to imitate a fighting stance.
Adam's amusement was transferred to her and even Blake had to smirk before standing from her crouch with a clever, "Don't be so dramatic."
Both of them felt the same concerning these robots. Their humanoid appearance, their stance, everything was meant to imitate a flesh-and-blood security force. However, to them, they were just another symbol of what they fought against: mankind's efforts to cut corners in order to preserve their wealth. Rather than pay for the training and experience of a soldier, they chose these drones that could be bought and sealed away until they were needed.
They were cheaper…and disposable.
"Intruder," came the deep-voiced word of one of the androids. Unlike the rest, the dark gray digits of its hands had extended forward while the tips slid back to reveal gun barrels. Pointing weapons and attention on Adam, it commanded, "Identify yourself."
Blake didn't need to see Adam's movements to know that he was going to strike first. While he did remove a hand from his sword and his stance became relaxed, Blake noted the contempt that exuded off of him and what had to be influencing a mocking smile.
There came a loud blast from his sheath as he pulled the trigger of Blush, sending his sword – Wilt – rocketing forward and slamming the hilt into the head of the android, knocking it and its weapons out of alignment. Adam used the strike to his advantage to run forward in a blur before snatching Wilt from the air, slice through the neck of the AK, and shoot off its head with another shot from his sheath before a second, diagonal swing went through its torso.
With such speed, the android's headless body seemed delayed in reacting to the attack. Only when Adam sheathed his weapon did the android split in two and fall.
The rest of the guards were even slower to respond. Displaying continued mimicry of human attitude, they glanced at each other, transmitting a wordless communiqué on how to proceed before the conclusion of an armed response became their answer. Snapping their arms back, their hands were swapped out with lengthy blades to arm themselves before charging.
A glimpse over her shoulder had Blake spotting the closest pair running at her back with the leader drawing one blade back to slice through her. As Adam had demonstrated, they were much too slow. With her hand already wrapped around Gambol Shroud, Blake bent her knees before a pulse of her Aura gave birth to a shadow clone that she used to launch herself backwards. Her movements proved to be faster than Adam's to the point where her two slashes were more like one that cut both of the 130s in half as easily as Wilt did.
Blake had already landed back on her feet by the time the androids dropped to the floor in pieces. She ran past them to reunite with her partner.
Adam stood undaunted within the center of the closing circle of guards. At Blake's approach, he held up his sheathed weapon.
It wasn't so much a word as it was a suggestion that Blake felt within that part of her that was Adam. Taking heed, Blake ducked her head down as soon as she passed a 130, his blade swinging right over her head as he spun himself and his weapon around to carve open the android she just went by while she struck at the legs of another that was behind him.
The acrobatic maneuvers and wide swings would seem hazardous in such close quarters yet the two White Fang members danced around each other's attacks while performing their own. After kicking aside the 130, Blake cartwheeled away in time to crouch beneath another swing from Adam, this one going around in a circle that felled three more androids that had been closing in.
Two came in to replace them that Blake took herself. She sidestepped one, the sharpened edge of her sheath coming around to strike at its back to hit its power supply, sending it falling with lights going dark. She turned at the approach of the other just in time to cleave off its raised blade arm before another slash at the chest sent it slamming onto its back. Behind her came the clanging of Wilt followed by the booming of Blush as Adam used the rapid unsheathing of his sword to similarly disarm another AK before a bullet sent it falling.
Blake saw the next danger: another gun-toting robot that was already preparing to fire. She sent a warning to Adam just before the barrels starting spinning.
There came another suggestion from him, this time telling her to step back. She did just as he turned to face the threat, bringing Wilt around to dance in the space in front of him to deflect the incoming storm of projectiles as the AK fired.
This time it was Blake's turn. Mine.
Adam sheathed Wilt in time for Blake to take over as she sprinted forward, raising Gambol Shroud in front of her to deflect the bullets away from them as she approached. Devoid of human fear and caution, her target was moving in a slow walk towards her, the multiple barrels continuing to spit out bullets in hopes of overwhelming her. It only made it easier for Blake to draw in close enough to decapitate it, silencing the gunfire.
There were still more and Blake was jumping over her latest kill to attack the android behind it, bringing Gambol Shroud around to split it from shoulder to hip. She dropped to her knees, sliding on the floor before severing the legs of another.
There was at least one bit of solace that Blake could take from this fight: since she was fighting machines, she didn't have to worry about taking the lives of living beings. She could go all out on these toys that she was easily reducing to scrap metal.
With that in mind, she drew the sword portion of her weapon in time to carve open the steel belly of the next AK, cutting through the hydraulics and gears that had it doubling over. A flip that ended with a drop kick sent it crashing down where it would never get up again.
She didn't hold back. With blade in one hand and sharpened sheath in the other, she tore through the next group. She slashed and cut, transforming into a whirlwind of motion that tore through armor and severed robotic limbs before a pulse of her Aura and a clone propelled her ahead to another point where she could continue the next portion of her dance.
She was enjoying this. They were not her tormentors but the humanoid appearance of the AK-130s possessed enough of a likeness that Blake felt this sense of satisfaction every time she perceived that split second of resistance that occurred right before her weapons cleaved through the inferior metalwork of the automatons.
It scared her. They may be machines but she knew it was wrong to find enjoyment in this - to feel justified when she imagined the face of one of the multitude of bigoted humans being mirrored on the visors of these fakes before striking. Every attack she made she saw as getting back at all those who oppressed her and her kind, every cry that issued from her lips carrying the embroiled emotions within her that had desired this release. The androids that were hacked to pieces would be messages to convey to humanity that they had gone too far and they were now paying for what they brought onto themselves.
The adrenaline and the heat of the battle could be blamed for this but Blake knew that these feelings weren't her own. Couldn't be her own.
The real owner was coming up right behind her. Twisting her body around, Blake kicked the last android up into the air which she followed, slashing with both parts of Gambol Shroud. Another use of her Shadow Semblance had her returning to the floor while the machine was left in the air for Adam to use as an improvised battering ram when a devastating jump kick sent it hurtling towards the door of the train car, busting it open.
The two of them leapt through it, trading the interior of the boxcar for a flatbed that left them exposed to the rushing air that caused their hair and clothing to whip behind them. Unlike the boxcar that held the security droids, the open space of the flatbed was occupied with crates that were tied down with protective netting. Blake assumed that they held mining equipment or some other materials, not the Dust that they were targeting. Something that valuable – not to mention volatile – had to be stored within another boxcar somewhere further up the train.
And more of the 130s were coming to stand in their way. The alert must've been sent throughout the entire train as another group of androids were leaping over the crates or running along the open space of the flatbed, the extra guards no doubt summoned from farther up in storage areas similar to the one that the two Fang members had exited.
"Let's do this."
Blake switched her gaze to her partner just in time to see the glance he sent her way along with the words. That mask of his hid his eyes but Blake didn't need to see them, not when she had that part of him that radiated such elation of finally, finally being set free to bring the battle to their oppressors.
She couldn't leave, not yet. As much as she wanted to, she had to wait for the opportunity and this wasn't it. The choice may be her own but she owed Adam at least this much. He trusted her just as she once trusted him and she wouldn't abandon him no matter how much it terrified her to be near him.
So when he rushed on, Blake had no choice but to follow.
"So if this supposed to be such a secret," Weiss cut in and jerked her head towards JNPR, "then why do they know about it?"
"There's always the chance that someone would learn about it," Blake replied. She was also looking to the other team, specifically at Jaune and Pyrrha. The blond boy was speaking to the redhead in a rushed tone but the words weren't angry; just confused. A guilty-looking Pyrrha was doing her best to answer them. "I knew someone and the same story could be said for Pyrrha. The bond requires two but one can perform it as long as their partner lets them."
The faunus turned to the other half of the team to see Nora watching, amused, while Ren seemed troubled. "For others, it can come naturally. Bonding is about sharing your Aura with another. If two people find themselves to be that compatible with each other, a bond can be established almost subconsciously."
"Compatible?" echoed Yang. She was examining Ren and Nora with a risen brow. "…I guess I can see it. Opposites attract and all that, right?" She offered the group a smirk.
Blake returned it, admittedly amused with her partner's description of the pair. Hyperactive seemed such a polite way to describe Nora's personality when the faunus had first seen her riding in on the back of an Ursa in order to reach the Forest Temple. Such a feat did little to dampen the girl's enthusiasm with how quickly she had snatched her chosen relic before breaking into song and dance about being queen of the castle.
Ren, on the other hand, was rather mellow and seemed to have difficulties in keeping up with his partner. While Nora had been cheering and racing towards the next thing that caught her interest, Blake had remembered him hunched over and trying to catch his breath. Nonetheless, Ren had some capability to reel her in when necessary.
I wonder if they bonded so that Nora could leech off of him, she thought with some mirth. Maybe the reason Ren was the way he was was because Nora soaked up all their shared energy while leaving him with the bare minimum to function.
"So why is it such a secret?" Ruby asked innocently, her attention having yet to leave Blake.
Ah, therein laid the problem and the reason as to why Blake chose to unveil all this to her team. Back then she had thought being bonded with someone had been such a beautiful thing. The various members of JNPR had reasons that she could only guess but, for her, she knew that she had bonded out of desperation. She hadn't known the full nature of what such a thing entailed and when she did it had been far too late. At least this way they would know and maybe avoid the mistakes she made.
"Because there are dangers to being linked to a person on such a level," Blake replied. "They weren't so prominent in the past since, as you know, the Grimm had been on the verge of wiping us out and it was the discovery of Dust that prevented it. Being bonded may've made two warriors stronger but, during such a time, all it did was let them survive a few days longer."
She didn't mean to sound so grave but she couldn't argue against how it affected the group, starting with how Ruby's wide eyes shrunk a bit as she contemplated the terror and misery of such an era. Between seeing Huntsmen and Huntresses with such reverence and still at the young age of fifteen-years-old, Blake knew that Ruby was susceptible as any other child was when it came to the glory of such heroes. It made people forget that, in order for there to be heroes, there needed to be a time of great evil for them to rise up. And even then, people focused on their victories over their enemies and not the blood that needed to be spilled in order to obtain it.
Nor did they think of how such dark times may create additional evils.
Yang's cheerful grin lessened, showing that the blonde understood despite her easygoing personality. To Blake's surprise, she saw how Weiss became somber, that raised chin of hers lowering in the face of what it meant to be a Huntress. Apparently her wealthy upbringing didn't leave her as insensitive to the world as the faunus initially believed.
"When everything stopped looking so bleak," Blake went on, "and bonded pairs started lasting for years instead of days or months, they started to realize what it meant to be connected through their Auras, especially over such a length of time. It's more than sharing energy; it's allowing your partner to know and learn about you at an unprecedented level. By giving a part of yourself to them and vice versa, you're giving them access to your very being. After several years they might as well be a part of you. At that point, those thoughts and emotions that can give you an advantage in battle can influence you…the violent ones most of all."
Blake had to resist the urge to clench her hands into fists. It was not just bitterness at her own foolishness that she felt whenever she looked back on this. There was regret for not seeing it sooner, for believing that he wouldn't change, that no matter how far their cause drifted towards violence, they would be fine as long as they had each other. If she hadn't blinded herself to the possibilities, impossible they may've seemed at first, maybe she could've stopped it.
"By influencing you…" Yang spoke, pulling Blake out of her thoughts. The brawler appeared apologetic as it was obvious that this was a troubling subject but she truly wanted to learn about it.
"It's what happened to my friend," Blake explained. How she hoped that they would not ask for clarification and be satisfied with this. "She was bonded with someone that she worked with for years. Unfortunately, he started changing, and because of the bond she was afraid that his anger would change her as well."
The next car held their goal and, as Blake suspected, it was another boxcar that was filled with large, rectangular crates that were stacked together. Each one was marked with a white or red snowflake: the Schnee family insignia. As much as she disagreed with the changes that occurred within the White Fang, seeing the marks reminded Blake of why she had joined and followed it for as long as she had.
The Schnee Dust Company was known around the world as one of the largest producers and exporters of the energy propellant known as Dust. It was used everywhere as a valuable resource for not only Aura-users that could draw out the power known as Nature's Wrath, but a source of energy for nearly all forms of technology. With it, humanity was not only able to fight the Grimm but establish their rightful place on Remnant.
It was part of everyday life and the Schnee Quarry has allowed the company to meet the daily quota because of it. That and their 'controversial' labor forces who worked it.
Controversial? Blake couldn't help but scoff. Hardly.
Controversial would imply people actually discussing the problem and working to fix it. Decades have passed and nothing has changed since the SDC's founding or in any of the other Dust companies that have chosen to use the faunus as cheap labor to mine and refine this resource.
It wasn't just those despicable policies that White Fang stood against; it was every kind of discrimination that humans directed at the faunus. Stripped of rights, treated as lesser beings, and crushed by cruel, ruthless, human rule. No one was doing anything about it. The equality that had been promised to them after the war had been a lie all along.
"None of this is our fault," he had said, looking regretful for once. "They brought this on themselves."
As abhorrent as she was of the switch to organized attacks, Blake recognized why it came to be nonetheless. The White Fang had been originally created as a symbol for unity between humans and the faunus. When they were denied that, they became a voice that demanded it. When that voice proved to be too soft, it became clear that it was action that would be needed. The results were proving just how true it is.
It was just as their current leader said when he had taken over: from the shadows that they had been driven to they will descend upon the world, take back what humanity had stolen from them, reclaim their destiny, and set their future free. Above the shame, the hate, the pain, and the bindings of their fate, they will rise
Blake feared about what they would leave behind.
Adam wandered over to one of the crates, Blake calmly following. A quick use of Wilt did away with the locks and he lifted the lid for them to examine the contents. There came smug satisfaction when he spoke, "Perfect."
Blake eyed the crystals that were laid out before them. Orange, green, red, dark blue, light blue, white; a rainbow of colors was spread along the foam surface. It wasn't just the colors either as they had been cut into different shapes at different angles.
It was strange how something so small and pretty in appearance could lead to the betterment of one race and the damnation of another.
"Move up to the next car," Adam ordered. He set the lid back down so that he could fully address Blake. "I'll set the charges."
Blake forced herself to look to his mask and made a vain attempt to locate his eyes through the four slits that she could barely make out beneath the red detailing. "What about the crew members?"
No additional androids had assaulted them, not since they cleared out that last group. That was probably all that had been stationed on the train. The only obstacles that they could expect to encounter from now on would be the humans who worked on the train and they could hardly be considered as such. They would be defenseless, unarmed save for whatever tools they may try to use to protect themselves.
But they would be fighting for their lives. Human or faunus, everyone had a right to maintain such a precious thing. All Blake had desired was a faunus life to be treated as equally as a human's. She refused to fall into that trap-
"What about them?"
-that she could now see that he had fallen into. That curl of his lip expressed the scorn that Blake felt and knew to be all too real. Within Adam, she could sense the disdain of being asked such a question.
He didn't say it but he didn't need to. He saw no difference between the machines that had been programmed to go against them and the people who were just doing their job. They were transporting cargo that had been obtained through faunus labor, with faunus sweat and blood, and, thus, they were all guilty.
He didn't say he expected Blake to kill them but she could see that, in his mind, he didn't need to.
That was when she realized she lost him.
She had done so well to hide her doubts from him but she struggled to keep them concealed in the face of this revelation. She broke away from his gaze, her eyes drifting to the side before she closed them, willing her motives to remain veiled in the shadows of her mind.
She felt the shift of Adam's attention the same time she heard the hissing and grinding of gears that told her that she had been wrong in assuming that they cleared the train of its robotic sentinels. When she looked back the way they came, it was just in time to see the mammoth droid drop from the ceiling of the train car, landing on its four legs with a clang.
It possessed the same red and gray color scheme but the similarities ended there. More like a spider than a humanoid, the multiple legs lifted it to its full height of several meters. The visor of its angular face was directed at the two faunus along with its armaments: two arms that ended in double-barreled cannons while another pair with three each extended from its shoulders.
This was a heavier model. While this was the first time the White Fang dared to try and hijack an entire train, they hadn't expected this kind of resistance.
"Adam…" Blake voiced in warning, glancing at her partner while wordlessly expressing the idea of withdrawing.
Ignoring it, Adam stepped forward which the droid took as a sign to attack. All four cannons pointed to him, blue-white energy gathering at the barrels before a salvo of shots came flying towards him. Adam ducked and rolled to avoid them with Blake being forced to jump over one of the orbs and initiating a charge at the mechanical monster.
Drawing Gambol Shroud as the shots impacted all around her, Blake leaped towards its head. Given its size, she didn't expect it to respond so quickly or in such a manner that had it slamming its face right into her. Flesh and bone met solid metal with the former losing as Blake was sent tumbling back to the floor, the dual collisions leaving her stunned.
Tremors shook the floor beneath her as the robot drew closer to finish her off. Adam quickly stood in its way, launching himself at it similar to how Blake had done except this time there came the sound of metal striking against metal as Adam unsheathed Wilt and sent a flurry of blows that impacted against the armored torso.
The savage attack proved to be ineffective. Blake rose her head just enough to see Adam landing in front of her before one of the machine's legs smacked into him, sending him flying over Blake and back towards the other end of the car. The droid sent a few shots after him and then focused on its original target. The whining of hydraulics and the shadow that came over her warned the still-recovering Blake of that same leg having risen back up, this time intending to crush her.
Right as it was about to come slamming down, Adam was there. Blake barely had time to register his reappearance in the second it took for him to sweep her up in his arms and dart out of harm's way.
If she hadn't become so resolute with her chosen path, the action might've prevented her from giving up hope. In contrast to his brutality in combat, the way he held her against him was - dare she say it? - tender. With her heart beating so close to his, she could detect the compassion that was reserved only for her. It reminded her of their earlier days.
She didn't let it sway her. Those times were long gone, the compassion she felt a fragment. She didn't harbor any misguided thoughts about it being a potential anchor to bring him back. It was just a persistent remnant that would soon be swallowed up.
Blake was trying to avoid a similar fate. As soon as Adam set her back down, she tried again with an insistent, "We need to get out of here!" They didn't have to continue this and she hoped that she could use the moment to convince him to see it that way.
Unfortunately, that compassion was swept away in the wave of aggression that came back to the forefront. Adam already had a hand back at his sword, intending to resume his efforts of annihilating their opposition.
An opposition that brought its weapons to bear on them with a literal twist. The cannons merged together, combining into a single armament that began to draw power. There came a loud hum that resonated within the interior of the car, the energies that gathered in front of the barrels causing the hairs on Blake's flesh to prickle.
They couldn't dodge that. While Adam brought Wilt and Blush up to defend, Blake gripped the back of his overcoat. Her Aura came flooding through their bond to bolster his own, strengthening it and pushing it outwards.
She was alerted to the cannons firing when a burst of light and heat nearly blinded her sensitive eyesight. She forgot about the sting at her sockets almost immediately when a wave of pressure lifted her off her feet and threw her roughly backwards, towards the rapidly approaching door to the car before that, too, was ripped open by the blast.
Both she and Adam landed hard onto the next car – another flatbed – and slid along a good portion of its length before coming to a halt. As much as her body throbbed, it was pain that let her know that she was still alive. An attack like that could've done a lot worse had they not reacted in time. To her relief, she could sense that Adam was alive and a visible confirmation put her at ease.
Even over the rushing wind, Blake could hear the clanking of cybernetic limbs that heralded the approach of the spider-like robot. It was far from done and, as Blake would soon see, there was hardly a mark on it from their previous attacks. The sentinel possessed tremendous firepower and defenses that put the androids to shame.
"Buy me some time!"
Blake jerked her head towards Adam who was far from intimidated. In fact, the prolonged battle was working to anger him, making him more determined to see the machine fall.
Last chance. With that in mind, she shouted, "Are you sure?"
"Do it!" he snarled.
Last chance and last time.
Blake launched herself from the bed of the car and sprinted towards the soulless droid. The aches in her body meant little, the hopelessness of the situation mattering not. Possibly because of how she had fed more of herself into Adam, Blake felt what had to be his growing obsession to see the droid destroyed take over. Her vision came into sharp focus, her pulse pounded, her blood ran high, all with the anticipation of seeing this metal construct brought to ruin.
The next shots seemed slow, Blake easily dodging to the left and right. With a challenging shout, Blake whipped out Gambol Shroud from its sheath, the blade folded over to better reveal the pistol that acted as the hilt. With her semblance, a clone assisted in catapulting her up towards her target. Blake jammed the end of her blade into the center of its chest before letting go so that she could fly behind it.
The ribbon that was wrapped around the trigger of her weapon was still in hand. A swift tug caused the pistol to fire, the recoil serving to rip the blade out from the droid and return it to the faunus.
She spun several times in the air, tugging the ribbon to produce a crescendo of bangs from Gambol Shroud that had it spinning with her to slash along the back of the spider droid that wavered in response to the repeated assaults.
Her Aura matched the pacing of her heart. Another shot of recoil returned Gambol Shroud to her hand when she landed, the blade straightening while Blake fitted the fingers of her other through the hole of her sheath to bring it into play. Each heartbeat was followed with a pulse from her Aura as she went for its legs, a clone boosting her forward so that she may slash at one limb before another beat and another pulse sent her to the other to do the same.
Above her, the machine stumbled as it attempted to track the high-speed movements of the raven-haired girl. Its legs stomped and kicked in useless retaliation, hitting at spaces that Blake had already left vacant. A strike against its chest caused its processors to register that the intruder was now hovering in front of its face and one of its shoulder cannons dipped to fire a point-blank shot of energy.
When it registered that it missed, that its target had dropped back to the floor, Blake pointed the tip of Gambol Shroud towards its chin, her legs bent and poised.
The muscles in her legs sprung her up and the ones in her arms stabbed Gambol Shroud into the angular head from below. This time it was her finger that jammed down the trigger and Blake's infuriated cries matched the firing of each bullet that pierced its throat until the click of an empty chamber forced her to disengage by kicking off its torso.
She knew Adam was ready at this point. A quick handspring brought her to his side and a glance revealed how his clothes and hair whipped at the air with such a fervor that was due to more than just the wind. Yet the rest of him remained immobile, his feet frozen shoulder-width apart while his hands clutched Wilt and Blush at his side.
But his heart pounded at an accelerated rhythm, his blood soared, and his very soul thrummed with a barely-restrained desire to unleash destruction. It seeped into their bond, using it as an outlet to bleed out the pent-up emotions that seeped into Blake's very being, fueling her aggression…corrupting her.
He turned to her, "Move!"
It was the last thing she wanted to do. She wanted to continue, to rush back in and finish what she started. She wanted to see the machine fall. Hack and slash until it was in pieces. She wanted to exterminate it just as humanity had tried-
His voice and her own revulsion snapped her back to her senses. With a start, she tried to get away, hoping that putting some distance between this battle would halt the domination of her mind. Meanwhile, the spider droid was merging its weaponry together for another powerful blast. With her moving out of range, it aimed towards Adam, the same blue-white energies gathering together to form another devastating beam that was fired to incinerate the faunus.
Blake turning her back and removing the spectacle from her sight was a useless gesture. She felt Adam's elation at the sight of certain death and the knowledge that the best was being thrown at him. And it meant nothing to him. She felt his Aura spike as it gorged on energy meant to kill him but only served to empower him.
His laugh echoed both in her ears and in her mind, a wicked sound that incited the imaginations of what he – they, could accomplish. What was being wrought here was only the beginning and proof that they were not inferior but superior. Humans were the lesser beings. They were the liars, the cheaters, the glutinous cowards that tried to assuage their fears with the chains meant to shackle what they do not understand.
They will understand and they will fear. The so-called proof of human superiority such as this toy shall come crashing down, revealing how weak they truly are. They will be driven to their knees, not by the monsters born of darkness but by the monsters that they themselves created.
When they are inevitably forced to face this truth, humanity shall wilt and die.
No! Blake tore herself free from this manipulation. That's not what I want!
Gasping for breath, the cold sweat on her body combined with the wind caused a shudder to course through her, assisting in bringing her back to reality. Instead of becoming lost in this glimpse of a grim future, Blake was relieved to find herself on the train.
The fight was over. Behind her, she could no longer hear the stomping of the droid or any other sounds of battle. What she could feel, however, was Adam. He was approaching her now, intending to rejoin her. Invigorated by his victory, she sensed his eagerness to complete the job. They were not done yet.
Yes, we are.
The thought came with everything that she had concealed from him. She couldn't go on with this. He had fallen and she was afraid that he was going to drag her down with him. Their cause has become horribly twisted, their beliefs no longer the same. She couldn't follow him anymore.
When she faced him it was to catch the stumble in his step before he stopped entirely. She sensed the bewilderment that her honesty provoked. Confusion as to where this was all coming from.
Blake removed Gambol Shroud from her back. This is not me going against you. I just can't be with you anymore.
Adam may not have heard the exact words, but he understood the meaning behind them. He reached out towards her. Wait!
She's already done that. "Goodbye."
She swung down, severing the connection between their respective cars.
And deep inside, she severed her connection with him.
"Ozpin said that whoever we meet will be our partners for our entire stay at Beacon," Yang remembered, thinking back to that moment at the cliff's edge. "I guess in that time we're supposed to learn how to work with each other and see if we are willing to bond with one another."
Blake nodded in agreement. "Vale is one airship ride away from Beacon but, otherwise, we're cut off from the general populace."
"It was the same at Signal," Ruby added. "It's located on Patch, just off the coast of Vale." Grasping another lesson she spoke, "They're trying to imitate the conditions of what it must've been like in the past!"
Blake hadn't attended Signal but she knew that the island it was located on didn't have any kind of Grimm population. It was too small to maintain one and, if it did, they could've been easily cleared out to make room for a training facility. It allowed trainees to train together and hone their chosen fighting style in peace but Signal was missing a few things that Beacon had. It seemed she wasn't the only one who knew this.
"The isolation perhaps," Weiss cut in, whatever annoyance she had previously held having vanished for the time being. She seemed as absorbed in the topic as the others to better fathom their situation. "Beacon has places like the Emerald Forest and Forever Fall which are teeming with Grimm all around us except for the cliffs at our backs."
"It promotes unity in the face of an encompassing threat." Yes, life at Beacon was very similar to her past, Blake noted. "For four years we'll be surrounded by the Grimm, our academics reminding us of the present and past. All we'll have is each other to overcome whatever obstacles are thrown at us. It'll minimize the mistakes that others have made."
"Speaking of which." That analytical look on the heiress's face morphed into one of wariness. "This whole bond thing…it isn't permanent, is it? It can be broken if desired, right? In case mistakes are made." Clearly she was rather uncomfortable when it came to this particular issue.
"Death is such a way, although not the only one," Blake informed. "If the people who are bonded wish it, they can forfeit it. It'll be mutual and, most of all, painless."
"Er…painless?" Ruby questioned uncertainly. "It can hurt if it isn't mutual?"
The answer came hesitantly. "…Yes, the deep ones especially." Blake took a breath. "It'll be very similar to if you lost your partner in battle. An illness or some kind of disease that offers a slow death would give you time to accept and prepare for what's to come. If a partner was struck down or pulled away from you without notice, the loss is can be very traumatic."
Several moments of silence passed before Yang spoke up. "Your friend broke away without consent, didn't she?"
Another silence fell over Blake and the entire space that was occupied by Team RWBY.
"…How bad was it?"
It was far too late to back out now. The faunus had been willing to go this far so there was no way she could stop right when she was getting to the end. She waited a few seconds to stretch it out a bit longer until she noticed how Ruby fidgeted where she stood, a visible sign of regret for prying.
"I wasn't there," Blake finally spoke, "but Aura is the manifestation of the soul. To have a partner become so attuned to you and then lose them, I can only assume it's like ripping out a piece of yourself."
Blake waited as the distance between her and Adam increased. While the train continued to provide momentum for her side, Adam's was losing it at an alarming rate. After returning Gambol Shroud to its resting place, she stood and, with an unblinking stare, watched as Adam became smaller and smaller. Soon even her sharp eyesight couldn't make him out when he became little more than a dot.
With nothing to see other than empty track, Blake turned and started walking, saddened but determined. It was the best time and the best way to end all of this. This mission had been chosen as their initiation. She had remained affiliated with the White Fang for five years after its transformation but most of it had been spent training. Being practically born into the group and being connected to Adam had assured her superiors that she could be trained without the threat of her turning against them.
This wasn't to say that she was fully innocent. She had done things that were minor in comparison to the killings that the other members participated in but it did little to alleviate her guilt since she had been contributing to the violence that the White Fang was becoming increasingly known for. Here it was the same: she had potentially saved the lives of the crew members but had left a trail of destruction behind her and assisted in the theft of a significant shipment of Dust.
The last time, Blake reassured herself. And they won't be coming for me. She was breaking away right when they were debating about trusting her with more. She knew about their more atrocious acts of violence but held no knowledge of the specifics such as who or how. She was as informed as a new recruit was expected to be. Surely the Fang wouldn't come after her when they had more important things to worry about.
She had planned accordingly. The mission would allow her to infiltrate the train and ride it to a new city. There, she can establish a new life for herself and create a path that would be her own and not one that people were forcing her onto. She would be free to make her own choices.
That was when her vision doubled and her legs buckled beneath her. Blake threw her arms out in time to catch herself, landing on her hands and knees.
What was-? She didn't get far within her own mind when another wave of disorientation hit her. Her vision spun in front of her and the faunus lowered further, trading her hands for elbows in order to rest her forehead against the cool metal of the flatbed. Eyes squeezed shut as she tried to control this bout of nausea that had her shoulders tensing in anticipation.
She forced herself to take deep breaths in an attempt to fight down the urge to eject the contents of her stomach. She tried to focus on the chilling wind and the floor beneath her on how they attempted to lessen the heat that was overtaking her body.
As intense and immediate the reaction was, it was quelled a little too easily. Blake remained where she was, waiting and expecting more to follow. Nothing else came and she dared to open her eyes and lift her head from the floor. Her vision had stopped spinning and the nausea had passed.
That had been…odd. Had the fight taken that much out of her? It had been difficult and she exerted herself more than she expected to. Maybe it caught up to her.
She gingerly picked herself up and followed the action with a shuddering breath as she balanced on her knees. Whatever that was, it seemed to have passed. She started to push herself back up to her feet.
It was not just weakness that had her collapsing again but also agony.
I-it hurts. A spasm that originated beneath her breast sent pain lancing across her chest, her body convulsing in response. I didn't expect it to hurt this much.
She hadn't given much thought on what would happen when she severed the bond. To be honest, she hadn't given that much thought into the consequences at all. When she understood what was going on, when she had realized the abyss that she was being dragged into, her dread at being devoured by the darkness had driven her to cut herself free.
Her fear had joined her with Adam and it was her fear that split her from him. She was being tortured for both mistakes.
There came a cry as her back arched off the floor before coming back down with such violence that surely a bruise would form at the center. The spasms worked their way from her chest to her limbs, shaking them madly while her head thrashed from side-to-side, the faunus gasping for breath. Blake curled into a fetal ball in an attempt to restrict the violent motions of her body.
She couldn't stay like this. No matter how crippling this was, she had to get up. Sooner or later, the train's crew would come to investigate and in this pathetic state she wouldn't be able to defend herself. She may've saved them but experience told her that she wouldn't be getting any help from them. Quite the opposite: knowing that they had been attacked and finding a faunus girl paralyzed with pain would lead them to locking her up….if she was lucky.
Gotta get up… The shaking persisted yet Blake demanded that her body obey her. She rolled onto her front, gradually removing herself from her ball. The hands that pressed against the floor were still shaking, the legs that she placed beneath her still weak. Nonetheless, the fate that awaited her if found and her mental encouragement had her working through the ache at her back as she stood.
Have to find a place to hide. Have to mo-
Blake was flung forward, breath coming out in a rush when she collided into a pile of netted cargo. She started to slide against it until she clutched at the obstruction, using it to keep her on her feet. She turned her head to peer over her shoulder to see what hit her and her eyes went wide at what she saw.
Usually her clones didn't last for this long. She used them to give herself an extra boost to avoid attacks or distract her opponents with the afterimage while she struck at a different angle. They would exist for a second before fading away like the shadows they were.
This one persisted. Furthermore, the features on this one were clearly visible. Enlarged amber met amber as Blake viewed the anguish stuck to its – her face. As if looking at a mirror, Blake saw her reflection staring right back at her.
What she saw was proof. I made a mistake!
The clone flickered and vanished, leaving her alone. For some reason the display encouraged panic that had Blake moving so that she could press her back against her support. Her breathing was short and quick as she stared at where her afterimage had been hunched over, helpless and afraid. She didn't know how much time passed as she stood staring at that empty space when she doubled over in response to another round of pain that coursed through her body.
That was when she saw it. Gazing down at herself, Blake could see her Aura that glowed around her body. Instead of a stable outline, however, she watched as it fluctuated and spiked in time with her physical convulsions.
She didn't cut him out. She had torn Adam from her heart and soul, uncaring of the collateral damage that she bore witness to. His absence was overwhelming, the void that he once occupied staggering.
God, are people really this lonely?
Like her soul, her heart contorted in response to this self-harm. Letting go of the netting in order to clutch at her chest, Blake dropped to her knees. It was excruciating. Was Adam going through something like this? Because of her? She didn't mean it to be like this! It was just…she just…he…
ADAM COME BACK!
Blake's forehead smacked against iron. The impact did little to distract her as she screamed and hollered, begging Adam to come back. Tears streamed down her face, sobs mixing with her shrieks.
Adam wasn't there anymore. Her mental cries echoed in the gaps within her while the verbal ones were taken away by wind and distance.
He wasn't coming back; she made sure of that. What have I done!?
The train was putting miles of distance between them. It had been meant to keep Adam from coming for her so that she could obtain her own freedom. What an insane, idiotic idea that was! If this was what freedom was supposed to be, if this loneliness was what awaited her, then she didn't want it!
The train was taking her away from Adam. The knowledge that each second spent here meant another hundred feet being added had Blake moving. She pushed herself up, the girl stumbling to her feet. How she was going to get off, how she was going to find Adam, none of that mattered. She just needed to leave!
She made her way to the edge of the car where she had last seen Adam. Each step was followed by another stumble or shove that had Blake bumping against the cargo in her way. With each of her lurching movements, a clone just like before manifested behind her, all of them frozen in a picture of torment.
The bow at her head had started coming loose. Beneath the unraveling fabric were cat ears that swiveled and shook, ending when they flattened themselves on top of her head as if to add another visible indication of her fright.
The next time a clone sent her staggering to the side there was nothing to stop her, the ankle-high railings at the edges of the flatbed serving to trip her and send her falling right over the side to descend into the depths of Forever Fall.
Blake was pulled out of her memories when she felt a gentle grip on her arm. She looked down to gaze into pools of sympathetic silver.
"I'm sorry about your friend." Ruby added a comforting squeeze with her words. "I hope she's okay now."
Her young leader wouldn't know it but the gesture convinced Blake just how fine she was. "She is. She was lost for a while but she got what she wanted."
"Well don't worry!" Ruby released Blake so that she can thrust a thumb in her own direction. "I'll be extra careful! I'm going to wait and make sure that Weiss and I are perfectly compatible if we ever decide to bond!"
The heiress in question crossed her arms and glared at Ruby. "I'll save you the trouble: we're not and we never will." Apparently done with the discussion, Weiss walked off to her own corner of the room to brood if Blake had to guess.
Ruby was taken aback by the hostility in Weiss's tone, appearing dejected as she tracked her partner. "I guess I'm still just 'fine' for her."
Yang came up behind her sibling to ruffle her hair. "Eh, don't let the Ice Princess get ya down! Last night you were a hazard to her health so I call this an upgrade! Four years should give you plenty of time to get her to like you enough."
Ruby sighed, still a bit down. "I guess." She gave Yang a hopeful look. "But in case it doesn't work out, you and me can always bond. I mean, we're sisters! I'm sure we're compatible enough!"
Her older sister used her hand's position on her head to reach back, grab her hood, and pull it over Ruby's face. "Sorry little sis, but being on your team is all you're going to get from me. If you want a bonder you're going to have to break out of that shell of yours and get to know Weiss better."
"I don't need to break out of my shell!" Ruby argued. She attempted to pull her hood from over her head but Yang was persistent. She blindly slapped at her arms. "Let go!"
Blake brought up a hand to hide the grin that the sisters' antics inspired. Well, at least things won't be boring.
The spectacle heartened her. While she may be lying about her past, she hadn't been dishonest about finding what she wanted. Here at Beacon, it seems that she found the life that she had hoped to return to: of fighting for what's right and making the world a better place.
Hypocrite. The insult served to lengthen her grin. Ruby had spoken similar words when they had formally met, yet Blake had shot them down. What changed?
Everything. She had hoped, but she didn't allow herself to truly believe that it could happen. Yesterday she found herself in an unknown environment surrounded by people who she knew nothing about. Anything could've happened, and having firsthand knowledge of how things can go wrong had her expecting the worst. She could've easily ended up with a team that was as violent and unforgiving as her previous cause.
But she got Team RWBY. It was a team led by an innocent fifteen-year-old and her sister who teased and adored her as any older sibling should. Both of them were honest souls that were driven by their ambitions to help people.
"Besides, I got my own partner to get to know better." Releasing Ruby, Yang directed a friendly smile to Blake. "How about it? Up to seeing how compatible we can be?" She waggled her eyebrows in a mock form of suggestion.
Blake was glad she hadn't removed her hand from her mouth so that her partner couldn't see how the corners of her lips did a complete reversal. This may be what she wanted, she may be able to do some good here and enjoy it, but this was still the real world. Two of her teammates may be more than she could ask for but a glance at number three reminded her of the perils that could ruin everything.
Weiss's position showed off the crest of her jacket perfectly. For a moment, Blake was back on that train, surrounded by the crates that were adorned with that snowflake-shaped insignia. She remembered the aversion that seeing the mark dredged up and how it was the actions of families such as Schnee who were to blame for the continued discrimination of the faunus.
This was a selfish fantasy that she was indulging in, no different from her books. She was hiding from the real world and entertaining herself with visions of fiction. Weiss, the ears she hid with her bow, and the past she hid with lies, they were all around her: catalysts that held the potential to turn everything upside down if they became mixed together.
There came a tap at her shoulder. "Hey, Remnant to Blake!" Blake blinked and became aware of how Yang was standing in front of her and looking concerned. "You okay, partner?"
"Sorry, I was wondering what's taking Ozpin so long. We've been waiting for a while now."
Another lie made to preserve this illusion. She was committed to becoming a Huntress and dedicating her life to a career that will allow her to atone for her crimes. Her best case scenario would be getting through these next four years without complications and graduating as an official slayer of the creatures of Grimm.
She made mistakes, had learned from them, and she would not repeat them. This included her trust. Never again would she give it up so easily. She can enjoy her time with Ruby and Yang but she can never allow them to get too close. Her past made it impossible.
And if the worst happened anyway? As much as she prayed that it wouldn't, it was also her past that proved that anything was possible. She didn't have a plan, not right now, and she wasn't sure what she could possibly do if this goes bad. Where could she go?
She hoped an idea will come to her soon. If she had to, she was willing to abandon yet another cause and alienate herself from her associates.
If there was one thing that she had learned, being alone was not the worst thing that could happen. It was giving time for everything you cherished to betray you.
Author's Note: That was haaarrrrrrd
Brain: WE ARE NEVER DOING THAT AGAIN!
...Well, maybe not until later.