Author's Note: I love good novelizations. To me, a novelization is more than writing down what happens in a movie or video game as it is a literary source that can offer more in terms of lore and character building. Starcraft: Liberty's Crusade shall always be my first and favorite as it was that novel based on one campaign of a real-time strategy game that showed me just what could be achieved and added with the written word.
Already a fan of many other franchises that have extensively established their universes such as Star Wars, Warhammer 40k, Starcraft, and Warcraft, RWBY quickly became a new one that I immediately took a liking to. And, as a fan, I wanted to know more. As a writer I decided to take on this self-directed test and come full circle by attempting this pseudo-novelization/universe altercation that would be based on nothing more than what is presented in the show followed by words of the directors and cast, fan theories, my own theories, and partner ideas to play and add more with this universe. While not a true novelization, I hope everyone who's reading this enjoyed what I've done here both with what I have tried to expand on and what I decided to have occur based on the fans' wants.
I have many people to thank, including fellow writers such as Tear of Light, Ember Quill, TigerLilly-22, Gear001, Isyys, knives4cash, and Kerosene Desire; writers who I've also read and enjoyed the work of and even used a few cues from as I'm sure they've recognized. Including them are reviewers who have followed and gave me such lengthy and appreciative reviews such as mega-dark, Moongarm, Uninformed Conformist, Last Comma 1st, and the many many others who were responsible for brightening up my day and making me want to make sure I provided what is my proudest and most exceptional of work. And, of course, my partner Kenju for pestering and pestering until he finally convinced me that this was a good idea and then giving me half of the ideas that I ended up using as well as all the oaths that were used.
As always, the biggest thanks go to RoosterTeeth for not only starting up such an appealing franchise but being such an inspiration to all with how far they came from how we first knew them. Also thanks for releasing their production diaries and other sneak peeks in time for me to have fun with them, lol. It's only because of their creation, no matter how early it is, and the enjoyment I've been getting out of it that has led me to putting the effort into this even if they will end up tearing it all apart when we get more of RWBY and, with it, the lore and canon that I know we all want.
Now, time to finally bring this to a close.
The air was charged with more than just the excited vigor that was given off by students who have finished the last of their afternoon classes and found nothing between them and the free reign that came with a clear Friday evening. The reality that there would be two full days of freedom right after motivated an added haste that seemed to make the crowd more animated as they traversed through the halls.
"Come on, Ren! It's Friday!"
Or that could be Nora. Yang only had the sudden breakup of a grouping of Hunters in front of her before she was mirroring their actions to not get struck by the extended arms of the hyperactive girl as she did her best to imitate flying through the halls while she sang.
"Friday, Friday!" she chirped as she went by. "Plans to go, places to make! Friday, Friday!"
"Did she…?" Yang began asking.
"Yes," Ren replied nonchalantly while passing, his and an extra bag – Nora's, Yang presumed -, hanging over one shoulder as he followed his more exuberant partner. "She thinks it sounds better that way."
"Reeennn!" Though having seemed ready to keep going until she was out of sight, Nora had actually chosen to wait, calling out to the boy while she spun on her toes with arms still extended. "Hurry up!"
"We have to go to our dorm first anyway, Nora."
"Well let's do it faster!"
Ren sighed but Yang thought she caught a tiny grin sneaking onto his face before he replied, "I'm hurrying."
He didn't but Nora didn't provoke him any further either as she settled with spinning in place. Once Ren reached her she took off again to clear another stretch before, quite possibly, she would wait for him to catch up again where the process would repeat itself. Choosing not to see if her theory would be proven correct, Yang moved on to her true objective but not without smirking to herself at the latest display from the pair.
She found Ruby after a bit more navigating through the sea of students and another break revealed her sister, arms laded with textbooks and notebooks with Jaune adding another of the second on top of it.
"The last few pages have all of the notes for this week," Yang heard Jaune say once she got close enough. "Our test Wednesday was no biggie and it was pretty light yesterday and today but that's because next week we'll be focusing on joint operations between Hunter teams. Us and the other leaders will be paired and rotated throughout the whole month to come up with how our teams can work with one another."
Such a prospect served to excite Ruby, the younger leader brightening upon hearing it. "You have no idea how long I've been fantasizing about that! Having different teams working together with all their different weapons! Yang and Nora would definitely provide all the heavy artillery and then there's Weiss and Velvet with their spells and – oh I made so many doodles and plans!" With her arms full, Ruby bumped her nose against a red notebook in the middle of the pile. "I can't wait to show everyone!"
"If you want, I can ask us to be paired first," Jaune offered. "Our teams are already familiar with each other so, if you need it, it'll give you extra time to catch up on your other work."
Ruby smiled appreciatively at her fellow leader. "I should be fine after the weekend. Weiss promised she would help me but I'll keep the offer in mind. Thanks, Jaune."
"Hey, what are friends for?" Jaune paused, silently looking Ruby over, and lightly said, "Glad to have you back, Crater Face."
Ruby grinned and replied, "Glad to be back, Vomit Boy."
Yang had stood and watched the scene, becoming increasingly heartened as it played out in front of her. Ruby had gotten out of the hospital yesterday and most of today had been spent collecting work from professors and accepting aid from fellow trainees who were happy to have Ruby back whether in the form of notes or books they checked out at the time. Going by her haul, it has been quite a successful day and seeing a live demonstration of just how well Ruby had come to fit into Beacon and its students buoyed her spirits.
When the leaders shared their farewells and broke apart, Jaune happened to be on a direct course for Yang and the brawler lifted a hand to grab his attention. "Thanks for helping out Ruby, Jaune."
The blond boy nodded, the confidence in that simple gesture and his smile carrying a weight of maturity to his boyish face that Yang remembered first seeing when he agreed to escort Velvet so long ago and has been appearing much more often since then. I guess Ruby isn't the only one who's grown up.
"With the help that she's given me, I owe it to her," Jaune spoke. He wasn't sticking around to chat though, gradually moving past Yang but lingering around to share a few words. "I'd like to stay and talk but I'm meeting with Pyrrha later."
"Training?" Yang guessed.
"Actually, no." Jaune stood where he was and appeared to be puzzled. "She wants to make a trip to Vale although I don't know why she wants me to come with her."
Yang experienced a fleeting sense of familiarity connected to her past flings with the opposite gender but limited her reactions to a curious, "Oh?"
Remaining oblivious, Jaune explained, "I guess it's for the dance but she says there's a dress she picked out at a clothing boutique. I did ask why she hasn't bought it but she told me that she wanted a man's opinion before she did. I don't think she even has a date yet."
Oh-ho, Yang thought, lips twitching as she vainly attempted to keep her expression straight. "Well don't let me keep you. This sounds like something you don't want to be late for."
"She likes to add a couple laps to our morning run if I'm late for night training and I don't want to find out what she'd do for this." Still not getting it, Jaune resumed walking, giving Yang a short wave. "Catch ya later."
"Good luck, Jaune." Yang let a teasing note slip into her voice and at Jaune's dubious glance he sent back at her, she silently added, And good luck, Pyrrha. With a reminder to ask the amazon all about it later, the brawler went to catch up to her sister.
Color – or what little color there was when it came to her – had returned to Ruby after a big dinner and a long, good night's sleep in her dorm room but the order to take it easy for a while remained in place. The doctors warned them that she may experience bouts of weakness and dizziness but as long as she didn't overly exert herself and let her natural healing abilities – boosted by her Aura – work while taking the prescribed supplements, she would be back in shape shortly.
Yang knew it would never be short enough for her baby sis. The two of them shared a love for combat training to demonstrate their skills and weapons so to have that taken away from them and being restricted to their academics for a week would be enough to drive either of them crazy. As much as she could relate to her though, Ruby's health came first and foremost for Yang no matter the amount of whining and complaining that may occur.
So when Yang approached, she immediately focused on the pile that Ruby carefully balanced in her arms. "You got all that?"
Even as she struggled to keep Jaune's notebook from slipping, Ruby replied, "No problem." When Yang reached out to center it, Ruby resisted her efforts to covertly take the entire load from her. "I said it's no problem!"
"You're supposed to keep physical exertions to a minimum," Yang reminded her gently as she tried to take it again.
"This is minimum," Ruby replied, shifting the books away from her again. "I don't even have Crescent Rose on me and it's not like these are anywhere close to her weight!"
Yang ended up relenting not just because of that but how pursuing this could potentially hurt more than help if it became a struggle. "Alright, fine." She placed her hands on her hips to show her surrender. "You get all your assignments?"
With Yang having ceased her efforts, Ruby similarly relaxed to better converse with her. "All the ones from the classes we don't share, yes. Jaune just gave me his notes so they'll be a big help."
"I saw." Yang gestured down the hall and Ruby quickly took the hint as the two began walking. "We've made a lot of good friends here."
"We have," Ruby agreed happily. "Good friends, awesome professors…" Trailing off, Ruby examined the lecture hall and the students who were dawdling, her smile becoming wistful. "It's good to be home."
Yang said nothing, instead reaching out and ruffling Ruby's hair which produced an annoyed yap from the younger sibling.
That was what made this particular Friday exceptional from the others. As the two girls ventured through, it was seeing their fellow Hunters-in-training moving so carefree punctuated with excited talk of how they'd spend their weekends that emphasized how this life has become so essential to them as more than just a way to fulfill their dream of becoming Huntresses. With the past few days having acted as such a significant obstruction to their daily lives, being able to return to it at the cost of catching up on assignments and taking care of their health was very uplifting.
They did have good friends who were willing to help them, professors who desired to impart their wisdom to their students to make them the better Hunters that they can be who may one day make the world better, and they had partners who've become as close to them as they were to each other. Everything was going back to normal but, with it, a better appreciation of what they had.
There were a couple obstacles that were preventing it from truly returning to what it was and Yang found herself inquiring about one of them when they saw the door to the lecture hall coming into sight. "How's it going with Weiss?"
Ruby wasn't the only one who got her well-deserved sleep last night. Although her unexpected nap at the hospital had brought a bit more life back to the heiress, it was when they were all back at Beacon did Weiss care to join them for dinner and, later, sleep. It was probably that remaining exhaustion that had Weiss unusually quiet in their company but Yang would like to think she detected a notable sense of ease as if the fencer was just as relieved to have everything back to normal as they were.
Maybe that was what allowed her to sleep as deeply as Ruby did. When Yang rolled over in her bunk in the middle of the night to check on them, it was to hear the gentle snores of her sister behind her curtains while, beneath her, Weiss slept soundlessly but without interruption. Yang hadn't seen Weiss in the morning although Ruby did mention that she was doing her own collection of makeup work.
"I got a message from her earlier," Ruby responded. "She was taking a trip to Professor Port's class and, after that, she wanted to meet with me later. I asked where but she didn't answer me."
"Sounds like she's up and about again," Yang observed and held the door open for Ruby to walk through.
"I certainly hope that's the case." Of course, speaking about one partner would bring up the other for as soon as Ruby exited the building she was already asking a question before the door finished closing behind them. "Get any news from Blake?"
Yang blew out a breath that said it all. "Nothing."
Ruby frowned briefly but quickly replaced it with a look that she tried to make encouraging. "She probably hasn't finished her meeting yet. Ozpin tends to like them late and she didn't come back with us so there is travel time to consider."
Yang nodded although the reminder succeeded in making her feel a bit troubled. It was why Yang was up last night to watch Ruby and Weiss because having an empty bunk, once again, beneath her had disturbed what rest she tried to get.
As much as she wanted Blake to come with them after that night at the docks, she understood the ninja's logic for not doing so. Considering all that went on and the controversy that would follow – not to mention the idea of putting Blake and Weiss together during then -, she was sympathetic to Blake's want to stay clear of it for now. Too much pressure could only result in a repeat that started this whole thing in the first place.
One of the first things that Yang did though was tell her that no one except her teammates knew her secret. While that did seem to be a pleasant surprise for Blake, that hadn't been enough to convince her and Yang didn't expect it to. At the very least, she had Blake's scroll on hand – having held on to it ever since her disappearance – and made sure to return it to her while biting back a joke of cats and bells.
It gave Yang something to work with as she made sure to constantly message Blake about the happenings of Beacon coupled with multiple attempts to get her to come back. While Blake responded when prompted, she shied away from directly answering any questions of returning. That did unnerve Yang, especially as the days were added up. While she accepted her partner's reasons, she was worried about someone taking unneeded notice of her growing absence.
Those worries became much more prominent with her meetings with Ozpin.
"There's just a discrepancy that needs to be addressed."
That was the last thing the headmaster said to Yang concerning Blake before she was off to the hospital to pick up Ruby. It was delivered smoothly and politely, devoid of any animosity, but Yang felt her stomach clench at the wording, specifically the fourth one. Nonetheless, it convinced Yang to try and get Blake to return as soon as possible to prevent any misunderstandings.
"Hey." Unable to reach out and touch her sister, Ruby settled with prodding her with her gathered texts against Yang to get her attention. "There's nothing to worry about. Ozpin's actually a really nice man. I talked to him too and said I had my full support for Blake."
She said the same to Blake and wanted to believe that Ozpin was as good as Ruby believed him to be. Their leader had the most experience with him but, as much as she didn't want to sound pessimistic, even Yang couldn't deny her sister potentially being biased what with her young age and it being Ozpin who allowed her to be here. True, during her own meetings the headmaster had always been kind and gentle and seemed genuinely concerned about Ruby and how it was affecting RWBY – including Blake - but…
She wanted to believe that their home would accept Blake - that it was truly different from what had been so cruelly dealt to her and what she experienced all her life -, and Yang was quietly ashamed of letting even this miniscule amount of doubt taint her hope. She couldn't help it, especially as Blake said she would trust her and Yang didn't want to prove her wrong because of the chance of her own trust being misplaced no matter how good everything seemed.
But all she really could do was resign herself to that paradox of trusting that her trust in something she believed in wouldn't betray her and, in turn, betray another's trust that they had for her. As she and Ruby descended the front steps of the lecture hall, Yang chose to brave through with a smile for the both of them as she said, "Yeah, I'm sure everything will be fine."
"What are you doing!?" came a timely shout.
She and Ruby managed to clear the last step before they turned to locate the source. Fortunately, while the shout pointed them in the right direction, it was the white attire that allowed them to spot Weiss hurrying towards them.
Definitely back to normal, Yang thought with a hint of amusement at seeing that harsh and bags-free look that was dominant on Weiss's face, complete with an agitated scowl.
The heiress had a hand on Myrtenaster, keeping it from swinging behind her precariously as she approached them with a pace that made her steps louder than usual. Her other arm was looped around a notebook and a textbook of her own but they were nothing like what Ruby was carrying around. At some point Weiss had managed to acquire another pale blue bolero and, combine that with the reappearance of her tiara, she was back to her stern self.
Yang couldn't help but quirk her brow though, finding something odd about the heiress. She couldn't quite place it but she felt like there was something off about Weiss's appearance. She didn't get too far in her musings though as Weiss was soon standing in front of them and fixing Ruby with a glare.
"What were you told!?" Weiss snapped at her partner.
Ruby jumped a little at the tone, jostling her cargo, and all she did was sputter uselessly as she tried to figure out what, exactly, Weiss was talking about. "Weiss, I-um-what was I told?"
"Unbelievable! Don't you have a care at all?"
"About what? Weiss, I don't-!"
"Give me those!" After tossing her own stuff on top, the heiress took the entire stack from Ruby's arms, her leader too flabbergasted to put up a fight. "You were told to take it easy! Are you trying to delay your recovery?"
For a moment, all Ruby could do was look down at her empty hands before switching to Weiss who was now difficult to see with their combined loads reaching up to her chin. Then it clicked and Ruby was soon countering, "I was carrying them fine on my own!"
Much like Yang had done, Ruby tried to retrieve the books but Weiss took a step back and angled them away from her to not only keep them out of reach but to give her another glare as the heiress exclaimed, "Just look at you! You couldn't even plan ahead and bring your bag with you to carry them in?"
"Well I didn't expect to get this much!"
"You were out of school for nearly a week and, if I so may kindly remind you, that was because you were in a hospital! You just got out yesterday! Why are you carrying around all these things without help, you dunce?" Weiss gave Yang a glare. "And you! You're her sister! How can you be so irresponsible?"
Before Yang could so much as utter a word, Ruby stomped her foot to redirect attention back to her and how her cheeks were puffed out. "This isn't Yang's fault! I told her that I had it under control and I did!"
"That's not the point! You're not supposed to be lifting anything at all!"
"They're just books!"
Yang quietly stood off to the side and watched things play out, vaguely aware of the grin spreading on her face. She barely even felt a spark of irritation when Weiss rounded on her, not when she could see for herself how another part of their life was back on track as the two squabbled.
"I'm completely fine!" Ruby attested. "A week? I'll be in shape long before then! See?" With a high-pitched 'Hooowaaah!', Ruby held out her arms in an imitation of Yang's fighting stance although her hands took a thin, knife-like appearance rather than curling into fists. Whatever intimidation she sought to provoke was gone as soon as she started flailing them around.
Yang was torn between giggling and wincing at the display, thinking that it was probably a good idea that Ruby never took up hand-to-hand. It was when her sister performed a sloppy high kick that any cheer vanished as Ruby's animated silvers dulled and the leg that she was balancing on wobbled beneath her. Realizing what was happening, Yang was lurching forward, silently cursing herself as a sudden bout of dizziness that they were warned about overwhelmed Ruby and had her swaying before she was falling back not towards the ground but to the raised and uneven stairs that promised to hurt a lot more.
She was too slow. Apparently having expected it, Weiss shot an arm out, using the other to balance the books perfectly while she grabbed Ruby to stop her fall. A tug returned Ruby to her feet but the fencer didn't let go as the red-dressed girl tried to steady herself.
"This is what I was talking about." Weiss didn't deliver that with any significant volume, having become low with concern. "Now what would've happened if I wasn't here?"
Ruby didn't answer right away, blinking rapidly while she shook her head. The trembling of her legs ceased, allowing her to straighten back up. Likewise, once she came back to her senses, she didn't possess any will to go on with their previous argument as she became downcast. "Sorry, Weiss."
Seeing that it was unneeded, Yang lowered the arm that she had risen and became riveted with what was in front of her. Weiss didn't remove her hand, still clasped around Ruby's arm, and her brows were now knitted with worry as if expecting her partner to collapse again. In turn, Ruby kept her gaze down before it soon slid up and she gave Weiss a smile. "Thanks, Weiss."
It was that and Yang forcing out a cough that had the heiress jerking her hand away from Ruby, the pink on her cheeks the brawler was able to catch when Weiss turned to her, then to a grateful Ruby, and it was that stain that she tried to hide with the books she acquired. "A-anyway, that just proves my point! If you're done messing around, we should return to our room as soon as possible!"
Ruby's smile faltered at the idea of turning in so soon but it passed and, possibly as thanks for the save, chirped, "Right behind ya, best teammate!"
The surprise on Weiss's face had to have been due to the ease of which Ruby gave in but the stretching of the pink had to have been caused by the way the scythe-wielder referred to her. It forced the girl to turn away from them completely and her movements were noticeably stiff as she began walking.
Looking too much like a mischievous red nymph, Ruby glanced at Yang. "I guess Weiss and I are really 'fine' now." A bounce coming to her step, she went after her partner.
Yang chuckled lightly as she watched her too-grown sister catch up to Weiss and match her pace. In contrast to Weiss's stiff spine, Ruby lazily arched a degree forward while her hands became locked behind her back. She had her head turned and was speaking to Weiss but they were too far away for the blonde to make anything out.
What she did end up noticing was the difference in Weiss's appearance. The sense of something being off, she now realized, was because of how the sleeves of the heiress's jacket were completely bare. The markings that were usually around her wrists were no longer there. Not only that, but with her back exposed Yang could see that the Schnee crest wasn't there either. The brawler had to assume that she must've ordered it and had it delivered sometime today.
A temporary arrangement until she ordered a proper replacement? Or was it permanent? Yang didn't know.
Take good care of her. Unlike the jacket, Yang knew that the direction can apply to either girl. When they were no longer in view, the brawler turned with no clear destination in mind but had the idea that the two could use some extra alone time.
A familiar beeping and vibration issuing from her person would give her better direction and Yang almost dropped the scroll with how quickly she fetched it. Delight and apprehension warred within her but it was the former that gained some ground when the blonde identified the sender.
Blake! A tap of a finger opened the message and Yang swiftly read the contents.
[Meet me where it all began.]
Short, cryptic, and totally Blake. The ambiguity of the message – leaving it open for good or bad news – did little to dampen the growing confidence that everything had gone well.
It was because of Blake's portrait and that apprehension retreated fully when Yang laid eyes on it. She caught on faster than she did with Weiss. It remained pretty standard; showing Blake's face, weapon, bow, and the beginnings of her vest and shirt. However, she no longer appeared as severe as Yang had originally described it. Her features were more relaxed as was her neck, her eyes were a bit more open to reveal her golden gems, but the source of Yang's relief was how, instead of down, her lips were up to create a small but distinct smile.
What joy she took from it waned when she returned to the message. After going it over once, twice, and then twice more, Yang couldn't help but scratch her head. Okay, I admit it: I have no idea what you're talking about.
There came another beep and another message. Yang opened it.
[In case you need assistance…]
Yang took a second to roll her eyes before reading the rest of it.
Ah, now she got it.
"Once we get back to the dorm, you're going right to bed."
Ruby pouted. "It's not even six o'clock!"
Weiss was unmoved. "By the time we get to the dorm and you get ready for it, it will be. You've been running around all day as it is and the next time you're about to collapse you'll do so on a soft and comfy mattress."
Although she was about to express her dislike with this plan with a frustrated groan, Ruby was brought up short when she felt a tic that did not belong to her but experienced all the same within her heart. It reminded her of when she did nearly collapse a minute ago and, despite her moment of weakness, she detected more than just a small contraction as it was a burst of panic that came from Weiss.
She was astonished at just how much she could feel from her partner. Ruby had never taken her icy demeanor to be literal, having chalked up their beginning interactions as being nothing more than Weiss wanting to achieve excellence, but she saw for herself how much was hidden behind that cold front when she finally broke through.
She felt Weiss struggle with more than just her exhaustion when she had been sitting at Ruby's bedside. Having once looked so sure about what she wanted from life, Ruby had seen a girl who had become adrift with confusion. The only way Weiss believed she could handle it was to draw back into herself much like she had attempted to do since the start of the school year.
There had been pain that she tried to overcome but was only eating away at her. There had been shame for a plan that Ruby wasn't aware of but knew it didn't matter because it was something that Weiss didn't want to fulfill. Remorse for…Ruby. For not being there. And still all that confusion.
Ruby didn't want her to face all of that alone, not anymore. They were teammates, partners, friends, and she wanted Weiss to know that she wanted to be all of that for her. And so it was tears of relief that Weiss had spilled while entrusting herself to Ruby's embrace as she let it all go.
As much as she wanted to think it, Ruby knew that that wasn't the end.
"Tomorrow's Saturday so don't bother setting an alarm," Weiss instructed when Ruby didn't say anything for a while. "Sleep in, eat a good breakfast, and then we'll hit the books."
She could feel it now. While Weiss kept her back straight, chin high, and tone all business-like, Ruby knew it was an act. The uncertainty was there that the heiress was trying to distract herself from with her words. It was those instructions that were as much for herself as they were for Ruby.
She wouldn't admit to it openly but Ruby knew that she was sorry. All this effort and even the ridicule was meant to say how she was going to be there for Ruby and fulfill her promise to be the best teammate that she neglected.
And, deep down, she wanted to make sure that Ruby wasn't going away.
Ruby had a responsibility to maintain the confidence and efficiency of the team as a whole. But as Weiss's partner, she had an added incentive to relieve any complications that may arise concerning their partnership. For this situation, she believed that a little morale support could go a long way.
Ruby quietly assessed a plan of attack, listing the vulnerabilities and advantages that she could use as she scanned Weiss. Arms limited, weapon sheathed, attention elsewhere…
Well, not for long. Catching wind of her plans, Weiss slowed while asking, "What are you-?"
Go, go, go! Ruby lunged forward, grabbing hold of her target. Despite the attack, the heiress managed to keep what would've been a yelp to an indignant squeak. She nearly dropped those literary texts but Ruby made sure she was careful which included keeping her arms loose around Weiss's left one.
"Ruby, what are you doing?" Weiss hissed out, keeping her tone low so as not to attract any more attention.
She didn't struggle, that Ruby counted on for she was in no position to do so. To keep her that way, the young leader brought out her big guns with extra wide eyes and a voice specially-loaded with extra sweet tipped with innocence. "I just want to prevent a repeat, Weiss. Since your arms are full, I thought I'd hang on in case I get another dizzy spell. Gotta keep exertions to a minimum, right?"
The wavering blues told her that Weiss was inadequately equipped to defend against her assault. Evasive maneuvers were limited and grew even more so when Ruby tightened her grip once she was sure that doing so wouldn't destroy the fencer's hold on the books. Then, exerting the amount of patience needed to perform the well-executed shot she could achieve with her high-impact sniper rifle, Ruby waited until Weiss dared to meet her gaze before pulling the trigger with, "That's what best teammates do, right?"
Weiss's breath caught in her throat and the pink flag of defeat rose to her cheeks before she quietly murmured her surrender of, "Right."
Lips curving to display her own flag of conquest, Ruby fortified her newly-acquired domain by resting her head against Weiss's shoulder which stiffened at the contact. She used the distraction to covertly slip a hand within Weiss's jacket.
"I highly doubt you need to get that close," Weiss objected, unaware of the prize that Ruby claimed from her.
She didn't have to but Ruby can detect how Weiss wanted her to. Those fears were alleviated and the relaxing of her shoulder was just another indication of the relief that came with the reminder that, yes, Ruby was here and the side of her head tapping against Weiss's chin told her that she was sticking around. With all that Ruby went through to get here, she wasn't leaving anytime soon. "I'm just getting comfortable."
Weiss huffed but it was an empty show of last-minute resistance. "Only until we get to the dorm. I swear, if this is what I'm going to be forced to endure then I wish you kept that stuffed toy."
A scrap of rebellion, eh? Ruby would have to stomp that out. Cheek firmly pressed against the heiress, Ruby suddenly spoke, "Weiss."
"What is it, Ruby?" Weiss asked.
"Weiss!" Ruby spoke again, louder this time.
"Keep it down!" Weiss demanded, looking around the courtyard frantically. "People are staring!"
But she didn't, not with how she felt that part of her that was Weiss warming so pleasantly at hearing her name so happily spoken. There was bafflement to why and how it felt so good but Ruby didn't let her waste time on pointless analysis for something that didn't need it. "Weiiisss!"
Where it all began was with that first step upon one of the several gray, evenly-spaced pads that lined the edge of the Beacon Cliffs. When she arrived, Yang started at one end of the line before walking down towards the other, her gaze taking in the smooth stone and the etchings of the crossed axes and wreaths insignia of the combat school that marked each one. She didn't finish the journey though, choosing to stop at the third-to-last of the launch pads.
For Yang, it was that first step on this pad that put her on that one-way flight to begin her career as a Huntress. That was months ago but she could remember it vividly. To her left had been Cardin Winchester. To her right, Ruby. Standing in front to brief them on their objectives and how they were to live the next four years of their lives with whoever they were to meet were Ozpin and Glynda Goodwitch.
And behind them was the Emerald Forest. As far as the eye could see was a sea of greenery worthy of its name with rolling hills that caused the landscape to rise and dip in a tide of unbroken foliage.
Even with Ember Celica propelling her over such a vast stretch of it, Yang never saw a break in the forest. That came later with the Forest Temple and the ancient outpost where Team RWBY was to achieve their first of many victories against the Grimm with their allies.
This is what's waiting for us, the brawler recognized. When she viewed the forest, she hadn't felt any fear. She had been confident in her skills and that of Ruby's to get them through what resistance the Grimm would offer them in order to obtain their relics. There had been excitement with the premature assumption that she was already here at Beacon so this initiation of theirs was just that: a test to better situate themselves into their new life. Once they left the forest with their established teams, they would move on.
Except they wouldn't. The Emerald Forest, Forever Fall, and wherever they would go to next where the Grimm dwelled - it was inevitable that they will one day return. Mankind had its kingdoms but they could only settle with those meager amounts of territory for so long. They were always growing, evolving, and coming up with new concepts and new ideas. You can only keep all that contained for so long until it became a requirement to expand.
It was the duty of Huntsmen and Huntresses to protect their way of life but that wasn't strictly limited to defense. As much of a bastion as Beacon may be, there may come a day where it would become a spearhead meant to thrust and drive the Grimm out and allow faunus and humankind to spread and develop further. There was still an entire world out there just begging to be explored.
Yang gingerly placed one foot on the pad. There wasn't a console or anything nearby of similar nature and the blonde sincerely hoped that her theory of only a command like Goodwitch may've entered in her scroll was what would initiate a launch was correct. When she gauged that a suitable amount of time had passed, her other foot set itself down as well.
In this instance, when Yang looked to her left and then her right, she imagined the exact same lineup as before except they would have a different mission in mind. Instead of going in, retrieving relics, and then coming back, they would be the first wave of newly-commissioned Huntsmen and Huntresses who were selected because of their skills and accomplishments to lead the way to the next era of prosperity. Warriors of light and righteousness off to combat and triumph against the darkness that was as vast and untamed as this forest so that civilization may thrive.
Guess I'm not as immune to delusions of grandeur any more than Ruby, Yang considered mirthfully, her imaginations mimicking those stories of heroes and their never ending battle against monsters.
But humankind needed to prove that they could be entrusted with whatever gains they may make, which included recognizing that there were others who had as much right to them and were working just as hard to obtain them. Stepping off the pad, Yang turned to where she heard the considerate rustling that marked the approach of such an individual.
The cliff was relatively clear to make room for the launch pads with hardly any tree or bush around to provide suitable cover but Blake managed to approach as stealthily as ever. When Yang looked behind her, it was to see her partner standing there with a smile that matched the one on her portrait.
"Enjoying the view?" she asked amusedly.
"You could say that," Yang replied easily. "The view, the memories, prospects of the future, and an appreciation for being able to ponder them."
One such batch of memories replayed themselves in her mind as Blake moved to join her at the cliff's edge. Watching her partner, Yang imagined one corner of her lip being higher than the other to better imitate the smirk that the ninja had sent her way to commemorate their team-up. That saunter of hers was the same though; the one that, coupled with a glance of silent 'duh' that she sent Yang's way, had the brawler standing back and admiring her newly-acquired partner with newly-found interest when they found the abandoned temple.
Sassy, Yang had thought back then but as a compliment.
"Very introspective," present Blake spoke, offering her own compliment.
Yang shrugged. "Well, all that and wondering if I can beat my distance record."
She was rewarded with the addition of some pearly whites to Blake's smile that further tickled Yang's recollections. "That sounds a bit more like it."
Coming to Yang's side to gaze over the forest, the blonde was momentarily distracted by how Blake's hair – so much straighter and wispier than her own curly but cherished mane -, gracefully flowed back around her face that her next remark was slightly delayed. "I do have my moments though."
"You do," Blake allowed, still staring out. "Several in fact, as you've proven overtime. Although I can see how standing here would have you reviewing how much time has passed." A pause and, with a discreet tilt of her head, she added, "Still doesn't feel like that much though."
"Well we did spend a lot of it just settling in," Yang reasoned. "I guess it's only recently that things have finally started to seem like normal." She almost didn't stop herself from switching normal with home.
"Yes, normal." Other than a short nod to go with it, Blake didn't show any other signs of how she felt about this supposed normalcy. Her smile didn't vanish entirely, a ghost of it still remaining, and she expressed a mild contentment as she surveyed the land.
With the late afternoon dipping into the evening, the sun was doing the same. It hadn't lowered enough for the sky to begin the transition from blue to orange but Yang could detect a miniscule shifting of light as that ball of fire better casted more of its rays over one half of the forest, brightening it while the other half began to darken in response. There was nothing disjointed about it though, Yang able to see the sparkling trail of light that stretched across its portion before dimming as it strayed too far from the sun, smoothly giving way to the approaching shadows.
"What was your landing strategy?"
Blake sent Yang an inquisitive glance. "Hm?"
"Just thinking about my own," Yang explained, remembering soaring over the tops of those trees with the wind whipping at her hair and face. She did get some pretty good distance; somewhat for the thrill but mostly as a challenge to herself when she saw how the other students settled with a more direct landing with the assistance of their Semblances and weapons. She wanted to go farther and faster, leaving them in the dust, and the one and only person who caught up to her had been Blake. "It didn't take that much time for you to meet up with me."
"Well you weren't really being conspicuous," Blake responded. "It wasn't hard to find you."
Yang sprouted a teasing grin. "Oh, were you actually looking for me?"
To the ninja's credit, she didn't get flustered and even possessed a similar expression. "You just happened to stand out more."
"Thanks, I think. You didn't answer my other question though."
"My landing strategy?" With a hint of mischief, Blake answered, "It didn't matter as I always land on my feet."
It took a while for Yang to understand what her partner just did. It was only when she saw that twinkle in her eye that she guffawed. "Did you just…?"
Blake held up a hand to hide her growing smirk but her shoulders shook a little as she tried and failed to restrain the short laugh that slipped through her lips and fingers when Yang slapped herself on the knee.
"I guess you have your moments too," Yang commented, wiping a single tear from her eye.
Blake said nothing, settling with lowering her hand to reveal the humor sticking to her features. When Yang reclaimed her poise though, she realized the meaning behind the joke and she couldn't help but look to Blake's bow.
The light and easy conversation had been meant as a delay with Yang trying to figure out when and how to turn it to what she knew was the real reason for Blake wanting to meet her out here. She found it to be difficult and wondered if it would've been impossible for her to do so if Blake hadn't just willingly given her this opening. The darker Huntress-in-training seemed aware of what she had just done as well, that whimsical countenance becoming subdued when Yang's attention on her bow told her that the brawler had caught on.
Yet Yang needed some extra time to formulate a proper approach. Blake patiently waited for it and, eventually, the blonde decided to ask a question she thought safe to ask considering her partner's attitude. "I guess your meeting with Ozpin went well?"
"It did," Blake confirmed. "He didn't want a debrief though; apparently there wasn't a need for one when I finally visited him."
There was no reason to be troubled by it, especially with Blake's relative ease, but there came a spike of worry when Yang remembered those last words that Ozpin spoke to her. "What did he want to talk to you about?"
"Something that I should've told you a long time ago," Blake answered. Instead of elaborating, the faunus reached behind her back and Yang heard the sound of rustling paper as she retrieved the folded sheet that she brought into view. "I remember you saying that you wanted to have a chat with me once everything settled down."
Yang remembered that too but that had been during the heat of the moment. With all that occurred afterwards, she didn't so much forget about it as she did let it slide. "I did say that but-"
"But I don't have to." Blake shook her head. "You're wrong, Yang; I do have to. Never mind what could or couldn't have been prevented if I had spoken up earlier. This is something I want to do. I don't want there to be any more secrets between us and I don't want any more of the regrets that will come by keeping them. If I keep on clinging to them, I'll never be able to put them behind me and move on. No more excuses, no more delays; just the truth."
There was little that Yang could say to that so she chose to not waste her breath as that would be nowhere near the amount to dissuade Blake from this course of action that she could see she was committed to. So, beaten, Yang slowly nodded. "Okay."
Blake closed her eyes, needing a few seconds to prepare herself as she breathed deeply. Within her grip, the folded paper crinkled in her hand as her fingers tightened around it but didn't crush it. On top of her head came movement, the bow twitching as her extra set of ears acted with what they could to prepare her. Yang didn't utter a sound and could make out how Blake took one deep inhale, held it, and then lids and lips opened as she used that storage of breath to begin.
"I was once a member of the White Fang."
It was said evenly, without so much as a break or stutter, and Blake stared at Yang with golden irises that may as well have been true, solid gemstones that had been carved and implanted in her eyes with how they were directed so openly and unwavering towards the brawler. No matter how much she expected it, the confirmation that was as sturdy as those ambers had Yang holding her breath throughout the duration of silence that Blake gave her before continuing.
"I was practically born into it." She didn't even blink, didn't even pause. "It wasn't like how it is now. Back then, it was formed after the war to promote the unity and equality that had been promised between the faunus and humanity. We were never given it though so the White Fang rose up as the voice that demanded it. And at every rally, for every boycott, I was there to prove that we were just as equal as humans."
For Blake's sake, Yang maintained eye contact as resolutely as her partner yet even she couldn't say if Blake was really looking at her; more like the faunus having chosen a point on the brawler's face to focus on while she was swept up in her delivery.
"I thought I was making a difference," Blake continued and there came another miniscule movement from her bow but nothing else. "Maybe I was. Maybe we were. We got impatient though and, for many of us, were pushed too far. I was twelve-years-old at the time when our leader stepped down and a new one took his place. When it happened, I was given a choice: stay with the White Fang or leave."
Here Blake faltered, her gaze which had been so solid and hard weakening and began to lower while her voice softened. "It was all I had. I didn't know what I could do and I didn't want to believe that everything we did was all…" She shook her head, as if brushing off her own honest – but biased – opinion to prevent any conflict of interest.
Much like with Weiss, all Yang saw at that moment was that scared twelve-year-old girl who had been forced to make a choice. No matter which path she took, each would change her life forever. She just happened to choose the one that was familiar to her instead of trusting what chance would come from a world that had been cruel to her.
She had once been innocent. Yang knew there was no crime in that.
"I stayed with a friend of mine who later became my partner - Adam." She had regained control of herself. "We trained together, fought together, and it was he who I was bonded with. Later, it was he who I became afraid of but not because I was being turned by him. My anger back then had been my own – it's still my own -, and while I may've thought the things I've done weren't right, I…" A glassiness came over her eyes and even if she kept staring ahead with head straight, her voice once again betrayed her as she quietly admitted, "I enjoyed it."
Knowing that her own eyes were mirroring Blake's, Yang blinked to clear them. "Blake, no more. You don't-"
"I want you to hear this," Blake interrupted, blinking as well but she didn't clean up as good as a pair of tears escaped the gathering at her eyes. She used her arm to wipe them away and when she looked back those ambers were clear again. "I want you to know the full story and not just what you've seen during our partnership. I won't hide or make excuses for what I am anymore."
As much as she wanted her to stop, to tell her that it didn't matter to her, Yang bit the inside of her cheek to prevent it.
"I never went so far as to kill anyone. No matter how much I may've enjoyed it, even a little, I still knew the value of a person's life whether human or faunus. I hoped that one day we would stop but when we didn't and the violence kept getting worse and my partner and everyone else was becoming lost to it, I left. I left what had once been the only thing in my life and, as you saw, I suffered for it."
She motioned all around them – the launch pads, the cliff, the forest beyond, and the two of them standing where they were. "I know that I carry some of the guilt and when I came here it wasn't just to do the right thing again but to make up for everything that I've done. I expected a long and difficult road but meeting you, Ruby, and even Weiss and how we're all able to work together despite our differing backgrounds, has given me hope again. I've made mistakes and I know that, but I want you to know that as much as I may regret them, everything that I've experienced here was real and I will use what I learned to protect it and you."
Blake erased the distance between them and held out the paper to Yang. "It's with this that I want to start our partnership fresh. This is where it all began but - this time - I want to start it off right."
There were no more tears in her eyes, only the determination that came with her pledge. As painful as the explanation was for her, Yang could see that unveiling the truth had lifted the weight from her shoulders that had kept her restricted to her past and unable to fully embrace the present. It had always held her back and was responsible for every half-truth and excuse that she used to keep her at arm's length from her partner and her team. With it out, there was nothing for her to hide and be afraid of anymore.
Yang looked down at the flimsy paper before taking it, unconsciously smoothing out what wrinkles it possessed. As she began unfolding it, she asked, "What is it?"
Blake found herself participating in a silent battle with her sole opponent being herself when she stepped into Beacon Tower. Ever since entering the lobby, she began experiencing a minor sense of claustrophobia that did little to appease her anxiety, only increasing when she found Professor Goodwitch there to greet her.
The older woman said little, remaining true to her cool attitude when she uttered a short acknowledgement of Blake's presence before directing her to the single elevator at the back that would take her to the very top of Beacon Tower where Ozpin's office was apparently located. It made the faunus wonder about when RWBY and JNPR had been left waiting outside at what they all assumed was the headmaster's office after their teams were formed. Was that an alternate location meant for more extravagant events or was it a place where Ozpin would reside when he wished to be more leveled with his students?
Whatever the explanation, Blake wished she was there instead of here. Once she summoned the elevator, she acted on an impulse to look back at Goodwitch to find her staring at her. Blake would've felt better had she not caught a smile that the professor sent her way. She was sure that it was meant to be reassuring but seeing it on the strictest member of Beacon's teaching staff unsettled her. Reassurance implied that there was something going on that warranted it.
She didn't act on any of her suspicions though, troubling they may be. Instead, she chose to go with trust and the sliding of the elevator door acted as the quiet finality of her decision.
It was that trust and the promise that she made to her partner based on it that Blake was relying on as the elevator ascended and she tried to explain away that sinking feeling in her stomach as being caused by the lift.
It became harder the further she went up. Just because she was starting to trust again, it didn't mean that such a thing was going to magically become widespread. Looking through the view that the window at the rear of the elevator provided accomplished in showing Blake how she was being taken away from those few she trusted and being brought before a greater authority that had the capacity to grant her her desired home or take it away from her.
She had never been able to establish a solid opinion when it came to Beacon's headmaster as her interactions with Ozpin were at the bare minimum – the explanation being Blake preferring to avoid such a thing and Ozpin rarely having to draw his attention to her when he had an entire school to run. So all she had to go on were the few instances and stories she had been told that describe him as either friendly – as Ruby attested to - or very detached which was whenever he addressed the student body.
Well, that and the glimpses that she had of him throughout the semester. There were a number of moments when Blake would turn her head and she would catch the green and black of his suit, vest, and shirt. He would just be…there, usually with a mug in hand and that cane with the large, gray crossguard in the other that advertised the symbol of a cog. As he sipped from one and leaned against the other, he would watch his students going on with their daily lives accompanied with an expression that Blake couldn't read but possessed brown eyes that were intense behind his spectacles.
His office really embellished that more watchful disposition. Being located at the highest tower in all of Beacon Academy, it gave him an extensive view that was provided by the transparent face of the clock located right behind his desk. And, really, there was hardly anything else which Blake noted upon entering.
Up above were a mess of cogs and sprockets that turned and circled along the ceiling, each mechanical grinding causing the hands of the clock to turn while providing power to the green orbs that were barely distinguishable higher up. When day changed to night, it was those orbs that acted together to provide the signal light that would glow brightly and bask the combat school in its radiance. They were not as bright right now but they nonetheless produced a shroud of emerald green that fell over the office.
Other than that large, ornate desk with its glass surface and the throne-like chair behind it, the only other furniture that Blake could make out was off to the side: a short table with a chessboard laid out on it. The chess pieces were spread all across it, apparently in the middle of a war that has yet to finish but the ones that had been set off to the side hinted to how casualties had already been taken.
It was one of the equally small chairs that would seat the players that Ozpin gestured Blake to to repurpose for this meeting but she declined the offer. "If you don't mind, I'd like to stand."
"Not at all." The man had his elbows resting on his desk, hands up and fingers laced together. A smile, warm and pleasant on his middle-aged features, had formed since Blake entered and his words washed over her in a comforting swell. "Please, whatever you feel comfortable with. I promise to make this brief."
If she was honest with herself, Blake had to admit that his opening courtesy was successful in softening the resistance that she had been establishing in preparation for this meeting. It made her inquiry not as defensive as she expected it to be when she asked, "You wanted to see me?"
"Yes, I did," he confirmed, still with that smile. "Recent developments had brought to my attention a discrepancy in our records that needs to be addressed."
There was only one 'recent development' that he could possibly be referring to and what minor laxing of her defenses was erased immediately. That sense of claustrophobia returned despite the empty and open office as Blake was reminded of just how isolated it was with its height and the limited avenues of escape. Suppressing that burgeoning of a fight-or-flight response with the thought that no actual threat presented itself yet, Blake calmly asked, "And what would that be?"
If he noticed it or understood how his statement troubled her, Ozpin didn't let any of it show in his well-mannered appearance. His movements were calm and unhurried but they didn't lessen the icy shot of dread when he retrieved a sheet of paper from his desk and slid it towards Blake.
It was indeed her profile. Printed and surrounded with bright embroidery right at the top was Beacon Academy, the insignia stamped at the corner. Beneath that were a series of blank spaces that a person was to fill out as prompted by the classifications that began each one such as name, age, gender, date of birth, etc. This was the same sheet that had been given to her upon her completion of her placement test and what she filled out on the same day. Right at the bottom was her signature and, beneath that, she could identify as Ozpin's to approve her.
She filled out every single one with the truth save an exception. Right between her gender and date of birth was one line of information that was entirely false.
She had saved that one for last with the knowledge of what she was going to write when she got to it. A vicious debate occurred when she first reviewed it, wondering if she really needed to do this or if she could get away with it. She passed the placement test and proved that she had what it took to attend the combat school but, in the end, knowing that she was going to be judged and that it was her race that had deprived her of so many of life's opportunities had her hiding it.
Logic couldn't sway her with the reasoning that even if her background was relatively unknown to the general populace when it came to her and the White Fang – or her being faunus - and could probably survive a check, the fact that she kept her name and everything else truthful may be enough to point them in the direction to know that this itsy bit of information was a lie. But she couldn't do it because she had become afraid of what she was and how others would see her. If she put down human, it may not warrant any interest for such a check.
It was bittersweet when she got the letter confirming her acceptance.
"I'll come right out and say it," Ozpin said, finger tapping against the paper. "Some of what's been written here is, quite frankly, untrue."
Now Blake was swallowing her growing terror of how yet another decision that she made because she thought it was right may very well doom her. "What would you like me to do?" How she managed to say it so straight she had no idea.
Ozpin gave a brief chortle. "Do? I thought it would be obvious as I was under the impression that such a mistake can be easily remedied by having you fill out another one. Truthfully, that is."
That was all he had to say. Blake was expecting more – considering they were in a clock tower, a death knell to signal the end of her life didn't sound that outrageous – but the headmaster didn't add anything else. In fact, he brought his hands back together in front of his face, partially hiding that persistent smile.
When it was Blake who didn't say anything for a while though, that smile wavered and the skin beneath his gray bangs could barely be seen creasing with concern. "Is there something wrong, Miss Belladonna?"
"That's all you wanted me for?"
"I know it may not seem like much," Ozpin explained, "but this is rather important. If you are to be issued a Huntressing license, we can't exactly do so under false pretenses. Believe me, much more troublesome complications can arise from that so it would be best to amend this early on to avoid them."
The man may as well have been speaking gibberish as Blake wasn't sure she understood a word that he just said. The only thing she could go on is what he should be saying and what he should be asking her. "You're not asking for a debrief? Nothing about what happened at the docks?"
He shrugged. "That particular issue has been handed off to the proper authorities. I couldn't delay it any longer and, though you were unavailable at the time, I believe that I was able to retrieve accounts from the rest of your team that I deemed satisfactory."
None of this was making sense to her. He had to know what was going on or be suspicious of her. At the very least, he knew that she lied on her profile and the only thing he could possibly be referring to was that she was a faunus which meant that... "But you have to know."
"I only know what I care about," Ozpin stated, turning somber. "That being that my students fulfilled their duties in keeping the peace by preventing what would've been a significant theft of Dust, regrettably a bit too early for my liking and at the potential cost of one of their lives. However, you all performed admirably and have returned safe and sound, including you."
Including her. She let that sink in as well as the implication that Ozpin was fine with having her here. "You still know; I know you do. You have to know of what I was once a part of."
"And right now, you're a part of my school. Blake – may I call you Blake?"
Numbly, she nodded her head.
Another easy smile and one that the faunus found genuinely comforting. "This school has been built on more than just what we've forged with our hands. Beacon stands as a testament to the traditions and way of life that human and faunus have followed together in order for us to achieve what we have now. No matter how the world may change, the life of a Huntsman and Huntress makes no distinction of who can join or who may not so long as they have the strength of heart to shoulder and carry the burden that will be placed on them and doing so alongside others no matter where they may come from. Believe me when I say that you and Ruby are not the only ones who've arrived through extenuating circumstances this year and, I hope, you will not be the last so long as there will be someone in my position who is willing to give others a chance."
"But I made so many mistakes."
Ozpin bowed his head towards her. "Speaking as one who has made many many more, it is those mistakes that can prove to be very valuable lessons that shall benefit not just yourself but others. We have seen the ends of the dark roads we've chosen to travel and the knowledge of what lies there can be used to protect what we care about, especially against the lasting consequences of our choices."
Having come knowing little about the headmaster, Blake found herself experiencing a sense of kinship with this man right then. In that moment, the reflections of the turning gears on the glass surface of his desk became much more pronounced while the next tick of the clock was more distinct.
When Blake looked past Ozpin and towards the transparent window of the clock, she imagined herself peering through it from his seated position. High above Beacon with his own little kingdom sprawled beneath him, everything in this office accentuated how time and life continued to go on at every second, minute, and hour. Every revolution of the clock was one more day that has gone by in peace.
With one day having passed, another started and with it the prayers that it'll end just as peacefully with whatever sins he may've committed deciding to delay their return for a little longer so that he and others will not have to pay a price that has yet to be collected. They've already taken much, Blake could now see, between the graying of his hair and the wrinkles in his visage that he tried to smooth with a mix of those gentle smiles and friendly twinkles in his eyes to hide the fatigue behind them. Though always standing tall and dressed immaculately, the cane expressed how a weight that came with more than just age was wearing him down.
Until such a day came when everything won't end like clockwork, he can only do what he can to ensure the readiness of the next generation for such a time. When he slid Blake's profile off to the side to reveal a plain, unfilled one beneath it, it was to create another chance not just for her but everyone else.
"What you write here shall remain strictly between us," Ozpin explained. "How others will see and know of you shall depend on what you choose to show and tell them. I would, however, like to advise that you impart the truth and the lessons from it to those who deserve it most. Your partner, I'm sure you know, has full support for you and today I had a visit from Ruby and Miss Schnee."
Blake jerked her head up at that. "What did they say?"
"Well, Ruby found the idea of Team RWY to be disagreeable." There was another brief chuckle at that. "I share the sentiment. As for Miss Schnee, I believe her exact words were that the next time any trouble comes up, you'll go to your teammates. Suffice to say, if your team hold no reservations about you then I can't see how I should either."
…She just didn't get it. Standing there dumbfounded in the face of all that was being offered, Blake couldn't understand how one life was just so good in contrast to another that had been so cruel and ruthless. How, when there had been so much darkness in her life, was there this light that was willing to take her in?
She looked down at the empty sheet, staring at it for a long while, and then off to the side. "If I may ask for one little favor..."
"My profile," Blake replied. "My real profile."
Yang saw that it was exactly that when she viewed the contents. They had their hard drives and databases but hard copies of important documents such as this were still the preferred medium of filing and storing sensitive information. It limited potential breaches and unauthorized access that digital copies were more at risk of.
As a profile, it was brief and simple; asking for the natural particulars of the one filling it out. Yang silently read them off.
Blake Belladonna, seventeen, female. Yang couldn't prevent the stroke of amusement that came with reading such obvious designations and thinking of the improbable possibility of them being something else. When she got to the next one though, her calm scanning ceased and no joke came to her.
Not even bothering to read the rest, she looked to Blake.
Her partner had her hands at her head, the fingers of each pinching the ends of the black bow. She must've been waiting for Yang because as soon as she had her attention, Blake began pulling on the knotted fabric with Yang watching as it unraveled.
One ear sprung up and was followed by the other. With the bow reduced to a ribbon and held at her side with one hand, Blake used the other to sweep through her tresses, those ears fluttering beneath her palm as she smoothed out her hair.
Yang saw them before but was stock-still when they became completely unobstructed. It had been dark and foggy when she first laid eyes on them but with the sun present she could clearly make out the unmistakable, triangular shape of cat ears. They flicked and flexed on top of Blake's head before stilling, allowing Yang to see the differing shades of violet. All along the back of the ears was fur of a darker purple while the inside of the flaps were lighter and better matched Blake's eye shadow.
The pointed ends tipping forward broke Yang out of the trance she hadn't realized that she had fallen into. Drawing back down to Blake's face, it was to see the faunus with her eyes as low as her ears.
"Sorry!" Yang hastily apologized, mentally chastising herself for staring. "I mean, I saw them before but I guess it's still a bit of a surprise." With another bit of self-directed ridicule, she started correcting, "Not that I'm surprised as in there's anything wrong with them it's just that I…well…"
"It's okay," Blake assured, forcing her gaze to meet with Yang's again. "It is a surprise and the fault is mine for hiding it so long."
There came an uncomfortable pang but the blonde couldn't think of the exact reason for it right now as she once again looked at those ears. Her fingers bent a fraction and Blake, spotting it, angled herself forward just as much. Yang quirked a brow in silent question, and Blake responded with a subtle nod.
Yang hated herself for thinking it but, with those ears, it was impossible to not imagine a cat who had been so cautious and afraid of human touch – hissing when they tried to approach her - finally giving someone a chance. How that cat remained watchful even with this opportunity she was allowing kept Yang's hands slow and careful as they came up. They halted when they became so close – no more than a length of fur from those ears separating them from her fingertips – and Yang looked at Blake again.
She stared at her evenly, not telling or giving her any sign to go on but not to stop either.
The first touch was a tentative, exploratory poke and Yang nearly gasped at the quick movement it incited when the right ear flicked about. After another check and another confirmation that Blake didn't find anything regretful about this, Yang moved from a poke to a single, gentle stroke along the back of that same ear. After slipping Blake's profile into her jacket, the fingers of her other hand soon joined in, carefully administering the same treatment to the left ear.
The fur was soft. Much like Blake's hair, it was smooth but the short, purple sections that she brushed had a velvety touch that couldn't be achieved with human locks. To describe it as pleasant would not be doing it justice as feeling them on her bare skin cajoled Yang to experience more of it as she continually stroked them.
She paused when she noticed a rumbling and was surprised when she figured out that it was coming from Blake. Scrutinizing the faunus, it was to see Blake doing an admirable job to keep herself from meeting Yang. She couldn't do anything about that color that hadn't been on her face before although strands of her onyx hair had conveniently fallen to try and hide it.
Before she could stop herself, Yang asked, "Did you purr?"
Thankfully, Blake didn't seem offended; only appearing more like she wanted to curl up on herself and hide with her embarrassment. Yang had to suppress a squeal which she made harder on herself when she scratched at the base of an ear to elicit another rumble that issued from deep within Blake's chest. Yep, that was definitely a purr.
Abashedly, Blake explained, "It's…been a long time since they were touched like that."
Blake probably thought nothing of her explanation, too distracted by her embarrassment and wanting to defend herself, and it didn't really strike Yang until a few more seconds of scratching and Blake purring.
When it did, Yang's fingers became motionless and all she could do was stare at those cat ears.
A long time. How long was that, exactly?
A different set of memories went through Yang's mind: ones that extended throughout their entire semester at Beacon. And each and every one involved Blake with her bow.
When she was eating, sleeping, fighting, studying, or just spending time with her team, the bow was always there. Other than recently, Yang couldn't think of any other moment when she saw her without it. What she did see and what came to her now were those instances when that decoration would twitch or move abnormally and what she brushed off as nothing; whether influenced by the wind or her seeing things.
This line of thinking led to when Blake would possibly have the opportunity to take it off and Yang assumed it was those brief ones that came when she showered or locked herself away in their dorm's bathroom or other moments of complete privacy.
She wondered just what Blake thought about when she saw those ears. What did she think when she would stare at the mirror while listening to her teammates just on the other side of the door and knowing that she could never show this part of herself? Did she feel regret for her choices or anger for how others treated her, both of which led her to being so guarded?
…Did she ever, even for a second, hate those ears for making her so different? To wish she had never been born the way she was and be 'normal'?
The blonde had quietly pressed her face against the top of Blake's head, right between those ears that she delicately touched. Other than another flick of those flaps of cartilage, Blake made no other move and there came another flick when Yang quietly asked, "Did it hurt after a while? Keeping them tied down for so long had to have been uncomfortable."
She again recollected those moments that she carelessly swept aside as nothing but the wind and not how those ears struggled to convey feelings that had to be as restrained as everything else that Blake was hiding.
Blake said nothing and those ears stilled in Yang's grasp. Then, "It wasn't bad; the bow wasn't uncomfortable." There was a beat and, as if being persuaded by a short stroke from Yang, she admitted, "They get stiff after a while."
It was that movement that Yang saw when Blake removed the bow that had to be her working that stiffness out of them. "I'm so stupid."
She breathed deeply. Whereas she enjoyed her own scent of blossoms, from Blake Yang got a full inhalation of jasmine that she found lovely. Caressing those feline ears, Yang softly spoke, "This whole time, I was so stupid. I wish I noticed something sooner. I wish I asked you when I could've."
Those furred appendages quivered in her grip, transmitting the grief that sullied Blake's voice. "Yang, no."
"All I had to do was walk in on you when you weren't expecting it. I was so tempted but, dammit, not once did I play with that bow because I was afraid how you wouldn't like it. If I just tried harder or did something-"
"Don't!" Blake snapped, thick with emotion. "Don't you dare! Not when you wouldn't let me! Not over something that was my choice!"
That space between those ears was becoming increasingly wet as Yang took a gulp of air and jasmine. "It was a choice that should've never been there for you to make. I don't want you to be afraid of the world anymore. I don't want you to hide anymore, Blake. No matter what you may have, you're beautiful to me and have every right to live as you want. Don't let anyone say anything otherwise to you."
Those ears ceased quivering and for a while all Yang did was nuzzle against the dampness that was her apology for everything that her kind had done to Blake. The gentle brushes and stokes were to make up for every pull and pinch that they must've experienced.
"All my life," Blake said, "I just wanted to hear that. If there had just been one person – someone like you – who had been there to say that to me just once…"
She reached up, grasping one of Yang's hands and pulling it away from her ear before bringing it down. She didn't do the same to the other but Yang let go and didn't pursue when Blake backed away, taking her hair and scent with her. She still held her hand.
"There was a time when I didn't think this could ever happen," Blake admitted, eyes bleary but fixed on Yang. "When I left the White Fang, I had also given up. I just wanted to get by in this world that I found to be cruel and unfair. There was a debt that I was going to repay for making it worse but that was all I was going to do. Coming to Beacon to be a Huntress was a way I could achieve both. Because of all that's happened to me, I told Ruby that the real world isn't a fairy tale."
Blake looked down the line of launch pads, making it a point to focus on the one that had been Yang's before taking in the rest of them. "You were here and I," she motioned much further back, "was there. You probably couldn't even see me and I couldn't see you. That's how it is with the two of us: we come from widely different lives, different races, and yet here we are now."
She put something in the palm of Yang's hand and manipulated her fingers to close over it.
"For me, this was where my fairy tale began…and I'd really like to see how it'll end."
Blake let go but Yang already knew what she would find when she looked down. The polished surface that had been sculpted with fluid ridges and curves and distinguishable indents made for eyes, ears, and a short mane. There was only one other time when Yang felt something like this and that had been when she held this particular, pony-shaped item high over her head with the intention of getting the first of many smiles out of her partner.
Opening her hand, it was to reveal a golden knight.
The sprinkling of the shower going on behind her, Weiss busied herself with the scratching of her pencil as she filled out the latest sheet that would join the small pile that had been clipped together with the steel rings of her binder. The contents of this one were different from the others but they would center around one important event: the Vytal Festival.
Although she hid it well during the semester, her team only realizing the extent of her excitement when she demanded for that trip into the city, the festival was an event that Weiss had been looking forward to. Her enthusiasm was, admittedly, influenced by her seclusion at the Schnee estate and the festival would open up a host of opportunities for her what with being an international event and a gathering of not only students but people of differing cultures that could be found all over Remnant. It was a convention that would let Weiss see all that she had formerly been isolated from.
The planning and organization that was put into establishing the Vytal Festival was also one that appealed to the heiress. As much hardship there was that entered her life due to her family's company, Weiss still appreciated all that had arisen due to her grandfather's and, later, her father's efforts. Questionable business practices aside, it was amazing how, in only a couple generations, the SDC had grown to supply the entire world with Dust through the use of their freighters, trains, and airships. The complexity of such a company had amazed and dazzled Weiss, inspiring aspirations for when she would one day control it all and what decisions she made to change it for the better would be her own with the millions of paid employees working to follow them. What she's come to learn here at Beacon with her team will go a long way.
That was years down the line though and, right now, Weiss was focusing on what she could savor here and now with the efforts of ordinary citizens who took pride in their city and how she'll be able to enjoy it with those who've become close to her.
There will be several parades, Weiss knew and she checked the schedule of events that she flipped to in her binder to better make her own preparations. The biggest one will be after the tournament though when they reach the closing ceremony. That's when they'll have the big fireworks display.
There was going to be so much to do before then with Weiss carefully scheduling and cataloguing each activity to provide the maximum amount of entertainment. Accompanying each annotation were the delightful imaginations of who she was going to spend it with that had her smiling as she did when inspecting the groundwork of the Vytal Festival.
The shower being cut off and the silence that followed had Weiss suspending her plan making for now. Using a puncher to make the needed holes at the edge of the paper, the fencer added it to her binder with a slip to mark where she left off and would resume when she had the chance. She barely had enough time to close it and read the taped title of Vytal Festival Activities with Property of Weiss Schnee directly underneath it before the door to their bathroom opened.
When she turned to address the one who exited it, it was to see Ruby clad in her pajamas and combing her damp hair with her fingers. Weiss had to suppress an urge to be annoyed. It was only that short wolf cut of hers and how easy it was to maintain it that kept Weiss from giving Ruby a proper lesson on caring for her hair but she wished she would exert a bit more effort than the casual swipes she gave it.
It did offer her other ideas though on how to better prepare the both of them for the festival. It would be unseemly to go in our combat clothes every day and I know she doesn't have much else to wear other than her uniform.
And what she did have Weiss immediately labeled as unacceptable. For a special occasion like what was to come later, they would need more proper attire. Weiss made a mental note to do a search and locate the most reputable clothing store where they would go for a fitting of a decent selection of dresses. Since they'd already be out, a visit to a salon or other parlor for their nails and hair would be sensible.
For now, it was Ruby's health that Weiss concerned herself with and she pointed to the low bookshelf between their bunks. "I left the pills and a glass of water for you."
Ruby frowned. "No milk?"
Weiss rolled her eyes. "Milk inhibits iron absorption and those supplements are meant to restore it." She might have been doing some extra reading involving their medical texts.
To her amazement, Ruby didn't argue, instead giving her another of those smiles and a, "Thanks, Weiss."
Her heart performed a small jump from that simple action as well as the sincerity that was confirmed by that niche that was Ruby. It's been doing that a lot lately and it reminded Weiss of when Ruby had refused to let go of her arm throughout their walk back to the dorm, constantly chirping her name while doing so.
Such a child, Weiss thought then and what she thought now to try and steady that organ that had become so lively. While Ruby took her pills, the snow-haired girl picked up her binder in order to place it on the shelf situated above the desk. When she turned around, she stiffened and couldn't prevent the cry of, "What are you doing!?"
Ruby swiftly drew her hands back while she turned to her partner, silvers large with surprise after having been reaching up to grab and climb onto her bunk. "What?"
"No physical exertions!"
When they came back to the dorm yesterday, Yang had picked up Ruby and lifted her up to her bed, the younger girl struggling and squawking the whole time that she didn't need help. She was ignored of course, the blonde dumping her on top. Weiss had quietly congratulated Yang for her thinking.
"I don't need you to help me up," Ruby replied, a miffed expression similar to the one she had given to Yang before her sister did away with it with a tender kiss and pat on the head.
Ignoring the uncomfortable scenario that came to mind at such a prospect, the heiress stressed, "No exertions whatsoever! I swear, if you keep this up you won't be recovering in time for the Vytal Festival never mind a week!" Another image came to mind, this one of when Ruby had nearly fallen with Weiss barely having acted in time to catch her.
A more potent sense of discomfort came with the thought and Ruby just happened to soften her disgruntled look soon after. "Where do you expect me to sleep then?"
"Take mine," Weiss instructed, gesturing to it.
Ruby blinked, looking at her partner and then her bunk incredulously. "You want me to sleep in your bed?"
"It'll only be during your recovery so I have no problem with it! With your luck and clumsiness, you'll probably end up deciding that tonight would be a perfect night to fall off that thing anyway." Attempting to appear dignified, Weiss crossed her arms over her chest. "Besides, I suppose I wouldn't mind trying the top bunk for once."
That seemed to convince Ruby but in a way that had Weiss frowning when her leader gave her a grin. "Well if you wanted to try it that much you could've told me sooner."
Weiss worked to motion her face away from Ruby before she could see signs of the warmth spreading across her face. "Just get to bed, you dunce."
Ruby was still grinning when she threw back the covers to settle into bed and Weiss was chastising herself for how easily her partner has been able to unsettle her. It was all Ruby's fault of course, the girl having become increasingly intrusive lately. Even before this, Ruby had made it a point to stick to Weiss's side when they both left the hospital, sitting with her both during the airship ride and at dinner.
That shouldn't have warranted any special attention but there was something about those instances yesterday and now today that made Weiss unsettled but not in a…bad way per se. More unfamiliar than unsettling if she had to admit it as she couldn't say she didn't like it.
She tried to reason it away as a natural reaction considering the circumstances. It came very close to Ruby not being here anymore so, as annoying as it may be, she was relieved by the fact that Ruby was here to do all that. And Ruby's growing clinginess was just her being thankful for Weiss having been there to save her life. It was all easily explainable and would pass after a while.
Still, there was that…pleasure when Ruby had been clinging to her and an abundant source of satisfaction when her name had been spoken so gleefully. She also knew that Ruby knew how good it felt because she just kept doing it, ignorant of all the unwanted attention they were getting because of it. Now, with her plans for the Vytal Festival and all the things she was looking for for the two of them to do just to have fun and not just because Weiss wanted to do good on her promise to be the best teammate…
She might have confided to Professor Port about it just as she might have asked if this was just something that occurred because of the bond she shared.
And he might have chuckled, those bushy brows rising and moustache twitching with amusement as he said, "You say it like these feelings just appeared overnight. Dear girl, they were always there; you and Miss Rose are just more comfortable with expressing them now."
And she might have decided that that didn't sound too bad…
Weiss turned to see Ruby having rolled onto her side, blanket pulled up to her shoulders. "What is it, Ruby?"
"I'm having trouble sleeping. Do you think you can help?"
Weiss didn't know how she could help as she began thinking of ways to make it easier for Ruby to sleep. There wasn't much that can be done, especially as most of what could be done her leader could do on her own. Count sheep, read a book, she just took a hot shower so that should help. "I don't know what you'd expect me to do to help you sleep."
Much like the second before Ruby had snatched her arm, Weiss caught a sense of what she knew now to be the mischief that the scythe-wielder was trying to hide. There came movement between the blankets, Ruby sliding them down just enough to pull out an item that had Weiss gawking at her.
That little red thief!
Within Ruby's hand was a small notepad and Weiss could see the scribbles on it that were in fact the lyrics of the song that she had been painstakingly writing since she decided to take it up again sometime after their trip to Forever Fall. Her brain furiously working to think of when Ruby even had the chance to steal it from her, the heiress concluded that she had to have done it during their walk back.
"Yang used to read me to sleep when I was little," Ruby said, idly flipping through the notepad. "And it looks like you decided to write a song after all."
Weiss had actually finished it today. She would use moments when she was alone to add another line that she would finally write after wracking her brain for a good hour to come up with the perfect one. She had been stuck with finding the right lyrics to bring it all together but the inspiration hadn't come to her until recently, allowing her to put the finishing touches on it.
How did she even know? Weiss asked herself as she moved over to Ruby's bedside. I never actually told her I was writing anything!
Well, not except when-
It was probably Blake, Weiss interrupted herself. Blake had known and probably told Ruby all about it. There was no other possible way for Ruby to have found out.
"I was hoping you wouldn't mind maybe singing this to help me sleep." Switching from the notepad to Weiss, Ruby gave her a pleading look with a slight jutting of her lip. "It sounds really pretty."
Weiss clenched her jaw, sticking Ruby with what she hoped was a look of annoyance but for some reason her leader didn't seem fazed by it. Wordlessly, she held out her hand and Ruby gave her the notepad.
She didn't put it away though, instead raising it up so that she could thumb through it to read the lyrics she decided on. When she first viewed her completed work, she congratulated herself with the thought that she did a good job. She never had the chance to practice the full song though and wasn't too sure about the beat that she would imagine in her head to give her the right delivery.
When she looked back at Ruby, any plans for a rejection never came and before she knew it Weiss was saying, "Fine."
Expressing excitement more than smug victory, Ruby settled herself comfortably onto her back but her attention remained on Weiss.
She had sung in front of a crowd of thousands on top of a wide open stage that seemed huge when compared to the single, tiny singer who stood in the center of it. With the lighting shining down on her, it had drawn the attention of the entire assembly on her.
Yet right in front of her leader, Weiss had to quell what should be an unfeasible nervousness that all of that hadn't accomplished in inducing. Taking a calming breath, Weiss closed her eyes.
She broke off immediately, cheeks burning with shame as she stuttered and coughed. A terrible opening such as that should deserve some kind of reprimand or disfavor from the crowd.
Ruby didn't give her any of that. All she did was lean over to take a half-full glass of water that she apparently hadn't finished and held it to Weiss who gratefully took it, willing her face to cool while she dealt with a throat that had suddenly become parched. When she placed it back on the bookshelf and turned back to Ruby, it was to see her leader looking up at her expectantly and Weiss could detect a different kind of warmth beneath her breast that silently assured and patiently coaxed her to try again.
After a clearing of her throat, Weiss closed her eyes. While she hadn't taken to any lessons for instruments, when she had been writing the song she tried her best to imagine a score like what had been played for her during her performances and her fingers would unconsciously move as if she could play them while she sang.
For the opening, she thought of the gentle, unhurried melody of a piano and, at her side, her fingers twitched as if hitting the keys that would start it off. Once she got to a certain point, that was her cue to begin.
Is not a long time~"
There we go. She didn't stutter or choke, the words coming to her and being sung perfectly as she stretched out the specific notes that were low and gentle but the natural pitch of her voice balanced it out. To her, it was perfect and she could sense Ruby's approval as she went on.
"When you're waiting~
For a small sign~"
~RWBY Soundtrack – Wings~
Blake watched as Yang examined the chess piece: such a tiny, ordinary item that her partner had picked out of an assortment of others based on how its appearance appealed to her. She couldn't know, especially at the time, just how significant it would become to Blake's life.
To be fair, Blake had been as unknowing. When Yang had selected it, it was one half of a contract that she and, by extension, Blake signed which would then be completed by a little sister who came to Beacon under circumstances that, while not as severe, were also unusual. With Ruby was a partner of her own who came from a different life but the same war that Blake had participated in.
Call it fate, coincidence, irony, or a joke played by a higher power, it nonetheless instigated an adventure that began with former truths and beliefs being shaken, delved into a clash of mistaken ideals that threatened to tear everything apart, and now Blake could see how the ending was being shaped in spite of all these challenges that had been set before them.
Within the center of it all was Yang. It may've been Blake who found her but it was due to a measure of attraction and ease that was developed at seeing the care and love that Yang held for Ruby that had Blake deciding to partner with her. It was that nature that took Blake in, supplying a friendship that budded and blossomed under the rays of the light that began to scatter the darkness that imprisoned the faunus after being left bruised and broken.
In a bid to retain their prisoner, the darkness took advantage of old fears and a misspoken secret. It had Blake running from all this and the despair that eagerly replaced that lost light nearly consumed her for good when she found herself surrounded by old comrades who had fallen under the sway of a mastermind who claimed total dominion of everything she once held dear. When all seemed lost, Yang descended as if from the heavens to fight them off and free Blake from renewed imprisonment.
A dazzling fairy tale for sure, and with it a typical ending that was developing in the presence of the rescued maiden and her knight.
Blake reclaimed possession of Yang's hand with both of hers, the symbol of their union clenched between them. Against the yellow surface of the chess piece, the black outline that formed around the faunus's fingers became obvious.
Yang jerked, lavenders wide with understanding. "Blake, are you sure?"
How could she not be sure? It was only with Yang that Blake was able to believe again so, with a smile, she replied, "Very."
"But we tried this before." It was the results of that instance that had Yang looking worried. "I hurt you last time."
Such concern even after revealing everything to her. Blake touched a cheek to center the eyes back on her when guilt had them wandering. "I told you that it wasn't you and I meant what I said. I couldn't fully commit, not with the doubts that I still carried that held me back. But after all that has happened and you still here, nothing could make me feel safer than to be with you."
When it came to catching one of them off guard, Yang had a bigger share of the points than Blake which made occasions such as these considerably more enjoyable to the ninja when it was the brawler's face that went red instead of her eyes. She tried to make up for it with her usual comments. "Well, I guess I need to try and come up with another oath. I kind of got lucky when I managed to think up the last one on the fly."
"You made that one up?" Blake asked, surprised and perhaps a little relieved.
"Was I not supposed to?"
"I said that it would come to mind during the process." Blake produced a faint smile. "It's not about what you think; it's about what you feel. When it comes to the oath, especially when its two partners who are fully committing, it forms based on the honest desires that they hold for one another."
"Honest desires, huh?" After pursing her lips in silent contemplation, she grinned confidently. "I think I got some of that."
The pressure that was applied to Blake's hand told her that Yang was ready. Sealing her lids shut, Blake drew out her Aura.
The shadows had always been a part of her life. Her kind had lived in the shadows casted by humans, the day she was pushed to the edge it had been in the shadows, and ever since she made that pact with them they were a weapon and a shield that she used to her advantage. Whenever the faunus drew out her Aura, she would imagine it as just another shadow that stretched and encompassed her to hide and protect.
For one who was used to being so cold and alone within their embrace, it made Blake anxious when she experienced how bright and warm Yang's Aura was. But, quickly, the ease of which she moved through it and how it welcomed her had her basking in the heat that she felt to be comfortable.
It was no different in this instance and even seemed easier when she met Yang at their clasped hands and the relic held between them. When she touched her, the blonde accepted her to the point where she practically cleared the way as Blake moved forward and wound around her wrist before proceeding up her arm.
Whereas Yang had been open and accepting here and back then though, Blake knew she couldn't say the same. During their previous attempt, those doubts that Blake referred to had come to the forefront when she felt Yang moving closer to her center and understanding that it was a human who was doing so. She thought she had been ready but actually having someone so close and getting closer had her shutting Yang out at the last second with disastrous results occurring when the brawler pushed.
She was committed now. Instead of growing dismay that developed into dread, all Blake felt were the aspirations of what it would mean to finally let this light become a part of her: something bright within the dark.
There was still one concern she held. She no longer had any doubts about Yang but there was one that lingered, this one involving her. As Yang drew closer to her heart, she wondered if she could ever be as worthy to her partner.
She felt a different sort of touch right then. Yang pressed her forehead lightly against Blake's and the faunus could feel that golden hair dropping around them as if a curtain. Within this privacy, Yang spoke:
"Though what was taken can never be returned.
Let my fire replenish your star to once more burn.
To give warmth by day and sight by night.
I pledge myself to be as a light to lead you from your past,
and to be the pillar from which your shadow is cast."
Whether she would be worthy or not, Blake was going to try her hardest to prove that she can. With that desire in mind, Blake made her response.
"Hope lost and broken dreams, void of light, no longer
will I remain. To protect the innocent and defend the weak, by
your side I shall be. The darkness who follows, the shadow cast
by your light."
She is shadow. Though closely-related, shadow and darkness were not the same. Darkness is the absence of light while shadow indicates the presence of light. A shadow was just as capable of signifying good as it can be with evil for, without light, darkness can grow from it.
It was light that Yang brought to her - right where it was needed most. That void within Blake's very being became filled with it. The torn open nerves that had been numbed and would writhe and scream when unveiled were soothed. The mild heat brought life back to them and they became protected as Yang placed a piece of herself over them: a miniature sun to illuminate Blake's heart and soul.
When Blake returned the favor and placed a piece of herself in Yang, it was not a mark of corruption. Just as a shadow can indicate the presence of light, it can also provide relief such as on a hot summer's day. Within Yang's fevered core, Blake was a pleasant coolness that one would refresh themselves with by taking shelter under a tree or a dip in a pool.
Dark and light. Human and faunus. Such clear designations that people preferred separate but didn't know of the beauty that can be made by mixing them together.
Blake saw it for herself when she opened her eyes and was greeted by the compassion within Yang's that was reserved for her. Her hair hung around them, inflamed, but it didn't burn viciously. Her irises were still those gentle lavenders and her flaming tresses didn't lash but waved leisurely. The bangs that were touching Blake were warm brushes against her face. To perform the role as the shadow that would follow Yang, Blake's Aura had changed. Instead of total, unyielding darkness, it shifted and moved along her body with a liveliness that matched Yang's fire.
Yang cupped her face and Blake already knew of the tears that were there for what else could she do at seeing and feeling something so wonderful?
"I forgot what this was like." She realized her error as soon as she spoke it. "No, this is different. Even before it was never like this. Not something this…beautiful."
Yang said nothing and didn't need to. Blake could feel her satisfaction to be here for her and how she had been able to save her from succumbing to the darkness. To experience something so pure and knowing that it had been here for her this whole time, Blake couldn't believe how she had been so foolish to not see it before. But now, she found her purpose and a meaning to her life again.
She was worried about the future and what may come next. There was still the White Fang and while she may not know what their deal with Torchwick was, she could only assume that it would not be the last she or her team will see of them. There may be another battle soon to come, possibly several battles.
If they came though, she would be more than ready for them because she had something to fight for again. Something that she'll guard and cherish…and love.
Fresh from the bonding with this outpouring of thoughts and feelings being traded by both parties, it made it difficult to know who that belonged to. When the emotion did come to her though, Blake knew that it was one she agreed with as love was the only thing she could feel for someone who has become so important to her.
The tilting of her head told her that, no matter who it originally came from, it was mutual as her lips became lined with Yang's. The initial touch was slow and hesitant, the miniscule contact asking if more was what they wanted. The second was deeper, more passionate, and carried with it the answer that resonated from the both of them: yes.
The tears continued falling but Yang was there to wipe at them to prove that everything that Blake was experiencing was real. Yang was here and she was taking away her tears as she did her pain. Yes, Yang loved her and as her hands moved up and stroked those feline ears, it was to prove that she loved everything about her.
It was another thing originally unknown to Blake so all she could do was let those blossoms fill her nose while a different kind of sweetness danced across her lips as Yang kissed her. Deciding that it was something else that was wonderful and what she wanted, Blake waited until they broke away and regained a suitable amount of air before her arms curled around Yang's neck to bring her into a second kiss, this one transmitting her sincerest thanks for letting her experience something so beautiful. The unraveled bow that the faunus retained slipped from her fingers, the ribbon floating off the edge of the cliff so that her freed digits could loop strands of flaming gold around them without fear.
The third kiss was an equivalent exchange of joy and happiness: Blake for being saved, Yang for having been able to save her.
They stayed at that cliff long enough to appreciate another union of light and dark that took place at the horizon; when the sun descended halfway and the two elements played along the surface and sky of Remnant in gorgeous harmony. They were already walking back home before the darkness took over completely, signaling another day's end.
When the light returned, a new day would begin. A new day to mark the beginning of a new home, a new family, and a new dream.
Upon Blake squeezing Yang's hand with their fatefully-chosen relic resting between them, it was with a promise that she wasn't going to let this one go.
"You'll be lifted up~
And you'll be there~"
Weiss let her voice slowly diminish into silence, her mental instruments doing the same. Opening her eyes, she regarded her audience.
The single, steady breathing proved to be more satisfying than any applause or cheers that would be initiated by thousands more. The heiress didn't know when and didn't really care but Ruby had drifted off to sleep, head lolled to one side and eyes closed. For a while, all Weiss did was stand where she was, quietly admiring her partner.
With the low neckline of her pajama top, Weiss could see a portion of the scar that stuck out from underneath. It was that scar that the heiress lingered on and, leaning down, she pulled the blanket back up over Ruby to hide it before she resumed staring at the peaceful expression on her face.
Weiss then held a hand to her own chest, right over where she can feel just how peaceful her leader was and that it was her who was responsible for it. Within a heart that had once been barren and frozen, a little rose had managed to brave through such arctic conditions to break through the ice and last long enough for it all to melt, giving way to fertile ground that'll allow that little flower to bloom and stand tall so long as it was properly cared for.
Though having not felt tired a moment ago, that peace became infectious enough that Weiss left Ruby's side to make a wardrobe change of her own, slipping off her jacket and dress before trading it for her nightgown. It was when she was hanging up her bolero on its own little hanger in the closet that Weiss stopped and stared at the bare back.
Who was Weiss? There was a daunting selection of who Weiss could be, many of which she had been pressured into due to the expectations of others with a few she had wrongly assumed she had to be.
There was only one Weiss she wanted to be though: Ruby's partner and the second of Team RWBY. She was more than fine with that. After all, if that dolt of a leader wanted to go around saving everyone then there had to be someone there to watch her back.
Closing the closet door, Weiss crossed the room to head to her chosen bunk, pausing to make another inspection; this one of the small space of the dorm and the four beds that were arranged within it. Much like how she viewed Ruby's descent into dreamland, Weiss found something so much smaller and simpler to be more satisfying than all the extravagant things that have been given to her beforehand.
Moving on, the heiress gripped Ruby's bunk, a little unnerved by the subtle swinging that her touch caused but, after using her bed as a stand, Weiss moved the improvised curtains to allow her to climb up without difficulties. Instead of doing that, Weiss found herself looking back down to her sleeping leader.
…There would be more opportunities to try the top bunk.
It was that reasoning and the one that played on her best teammate duties to be at her partner's side, especially during the early days of her recovery, in case she needed something that had Weiss dropping back down and slipping into bed next to Ruby.
She devoted a bit more time to once again stare at the most important thing that had been added to her life and confirming that she was still here with the rise and fall of her chest and the audible breath that passed through her lips. So involved in it that Weiss didn't immediately realize that Ruby's face was turning towards her and that was because her whole body was doing so. Before she could do anything, her partner had rolled on top of her, arms loosely splayed around her head with face tucked near the crook of her neck.
She was still sleeping yet Weiss was convinced that this was just another clever plot being conducted by her tricky leader. What she muttered next didn't help.
"Soft, Mr. Woofles…"
Any embarrassment was replaced with irritation as Weiss's scarred brow twitched and she glared at Ruby's dozing visage. It didn't last long as the heiress's glare softened and she rested her head back against the pillow. Arms came around the younger girl in a loose embrace.
This is my dolt, she thought, vexed.
After brushing a finger through Ruby's still-drying hair that smelled like her namesake, Weiss decided that she wouldn't have it any other way.
It was Ruby's turn to sing her to sleep, the breath at Weiss's ear creating a growing haze that came over her mind while lids became heavy, sliding down when they became too heavy.
Even after losing consciousness, the music didn't end. With the dual breaths supplemented by the beating of two hearts against each other, a little duet was performed reserved only for them. It would go on hours into the night and, as long as they willed it, years into their lives.
The long handle felt heavy against her bare shoulder, the aged wood bordering on uncomfortable against her skin. She retained the sign anyway as she shuffled along, worn sneakers being at the center of her lowered vision.
All she saw was the path that she continued to travel and had been doing so for what felt like miles. She didn't know what was ahead even if all it would take would be a miniscule raise of her chin to see where she was going. The only thing she could do was keep walking…keep searching…
There was a noise off to her left. Across the street was an open park with a playground in use if the playful cries and cheers were anything to go by.
Except she was deaf to them. The ears on top of her head didn't even twitch to take in the noise, instead hanging low and immovable.
When she did stop, it was when she found her feet stepping into a patch of shadow that came out of nowhere as the sidewalk had been brightly lit by the overhanging sun 'till now. Amber eyes blinked curiously and she turned her head to follow this point of darkness to the source.
An alley lay open to her on her right; long and seemingly endless with how far it stretched. Or that could be because of how black the interior was as her night vision couldn't even pierce it. It was a path that she couldn't see the end of and her first instinct was to move on as, even if she couldn't see the destination of her own, venturing down that one prodded at her caution of being lost with how dark it was in there despite appearing so straight and narrow.
The voice seemed to speak into her mind but her ears twitched and pivoted as if they could hear it from right within the alley.
It was smooth and slippery, easily worming its way through that negligible thought of caution to better present itself and its offer.
"You are always ignored."
It was growing louder, more confident, now that it had her attention. Ears remained directed and her gaze didn't even so much as shift away from the lightless interior.
"You remain alone and unwanted. What you desire shall never be found out there."
It was almost hypnotic but she could barely distinguish a different kind of sensation. Similar to the voice, something smooth and slippery was winding its way around her ankles, leisurely spiraling up her legs.
"You ask what you should rightfully have already. I can help you take what should be yours."
A flicker of worry came to her at the same time the shadowy tendrils came to her waist, looping once around her stomach.
"No one will hear you. No one will come to your aid."
Whatever interest evaporated as the voice no longer sounded appealing as it grew more ominous. More threatening. The flicker of worry evolved into panic.
"There is nothing for you to do…"
She tried to struggle but couldn't, her legs stuck to the sidewalk. An attempt at her arms was restrained once the tendrils came around her shoulders, cutting off any impulse from being sent to the rest of the limbs. She tried to scream but the only one she could make was internal as darkness rose over her mouth and, soon, her eyes.
"…But step forward."
The only other sign of her fright was her ears, the furry appendages twitching and waving as if trying to signal for help. The darkness soon put an end to that last bit of resistance, shrouding and hiding them from sight.
First an offer, then a threat, and now a demand. It was one that she could not disobey no matter how much she fought. She cried and hollered soundlessly in her mind that had become trapped in a body that was doing as ordered. That fear became overwhelming as she felt herself move forward but couldn't see what was ahead of her.
The voice suddenly let out a hiss and then she could see again. The darkness removed itself from her, being driven back into its den by the golden radiance that was originating from behind her. A hand gripped her wrist, warm and soft, and it tugged with a gentleness that she couldn't help but turn and follow, her sign being left behind as she was led across the street.
She barely had time to take note of the pair of lilacs surrounded by gold before light filled her vision while laughter did the same to her ears.
Author's Note: And that's how Bumblebee and White Rose would've happened if done right! Anyway, jokes aside, I did say and was thinking about possibly waiting until Volume 2 but-
Brain: HOLY *BLEEP* WE GOT THIS DONE BEFORE VOLUME 2!
Well technically we didn't if you want to count the premiere-
Brain: Do not try and take this away from me! Not after what you put me through for this! I'm not saying anything about the chess piece!
If they want me to believe it's white don't color it yellow and then say it's white! Gawd! *ahem* Anyway, other than actually completing it before Volume 2 – a day before the public airing, no less -, there was the fact that this chapter pretty much wrote itself. I said it before but when I thought up the chapter Gray, I pretty much thought up of the finale at the same time. Which included having Blake talk to Ozpin. I know what was in the last production diary but I decided to just go with my own opinions of Ozpin as, unlike some circles, I don't really consider him as an evil manipulator but exactly as I showed him in this chapter.
Brain: Unless he's that good of a manipulator.
If that proves to be the case then he can CHOKE ON HIS LIES! *second ahem* I am definitely proud of this finale. Hell, I'm proud of this entire work. This comes from many years of writing just for the fun of it that became more refined once I dove back in time for RWBY to the point where when I asked myself if I was ready for this, I was proud to say the answer being yes. It doesn't look like my answer proved to be false.
Now, even though I said it, people are still asking if I have any plans to continue this. What I said before remains unchanged: I currently have NO plans to go any further with Soulbound. Other than this being something I wanted to do, it was also something that had a definite end. When I decided to do this and throughout my time writing it, not once did I ever seriously entertain the idea of continuing this. It was a one-shot deal that I felt like doing until Volume 2 where I will be able to move on completely and venture into the next installment of RWBY with more knowledge of the universe, more characters, and, obviously, more pairings. However, I won't say that the chance of ever going back to Soulbound will never happen as, who knows, maybe I'll one day get an urge to do a oneshot or two. Maybe my brain will go through a stroke and suddenly I'll feel like doing a sequel, who knows. Anything can happen.
For now though, I am BEAT. I am definitely going on a nice, long hiatus. The only kind of writing I think I'll be doing is going back through Soulbound with a fine-tooth comb to go through any errors or other grammatical issues I feel like correcting that I know are still there. Then I might put it up somewhere else like Archive of our Own just to have it somewhere else. I am THAT proud of this fic even if it has drained me pretty good. Don't know when you'll see me again; perhaps after Volume 2 ends, maybe during one of its 'breaks', maybe sooner. Who knows? Until then, I know I got some demon souls to finish gathering, a Stick of Truth to get,-
Brain: YOU HAD ONE GAWD DAMN JOB CLYDE!
-fics to catch up on, all in all, just some good old fashion relaxation and gaming. Once again, hope you all enjoyed this as much as I did; especially if it was enough to get you through the wait as tomorrow starts Volume 2! Wooooooooooooooooo!
xT-Zealot, signing out.