A/N: Welcome, dear reader, to Black Lotus! As the summary says, it's a series of fluffy and sometimes angsty BlakexRen oneshots. They may or may not be connected, and in fact might even be AU. There may be sequels to some, but I'll try to mix it up here and there.

Each oneshot will have a prompt. As I have no imagination whatsoever, feel free to drop a review or PM with your bright idea. It can be a word, a sentence, a song. Anything works. Until then…enjoy!


Black Lotus

Oneshot I: Hope

Title: Hope
Prompt: Duality
Setting : For you to find out, dear reader.
Rating: T, as usual. I see no reason to justify this to you, save for a warning about CHARACTER DEATH!
Disclaimer: None present, because it's useless and we all know that.

Words: 7777 (No lie)
Pages: 17



The boy whirled around, fists clenched and face in a snarl. The blond teen who yelled backed off for a moment, sword and shield in hand. Ren...his name? It conjured up an image of an ordinary man, not unique in the slightest. A diminutive? It had a prefix to give it greater meaning…a…Huntsman? Lie. Lie Ren. A smile nearly forced its way onto his face, but he restrained himself, instead regarding the blond.

The other boy didn't appear to be a threat, so he-Ren forced himself to relax. His …leader?...continued, suitably reassured of his own safety.

"I need you to go help out team RWBY. We've just about cleared our sector, but they're tied down by a dozen Deathstalkers. Go!"

Who was this? A hero worthy of his allegiance, most definitely. A reluctant leader, but an inspiring one. Sent by the gods, and conversing with angels. But doomed, nay destined to fail. To die, in defence of this damned, accursed world. His world. But not Ren's.


The name came suddenly to his mind. Jaune seemed to accept it without hesitation. Good enough for Ren.

He nodded, already taking off. There was a pair of submachine guns in his hands—no wait, machine pistols. A long, wicked-looking blade jutted out of the end of their barrels. His weapons, he remembered. But who was he?

Ren. A name. Paired weapons…StormFlower? Fitting, he supposed. So was he a warrior? A soldier? Where was he?

Trees whipped by, emerald leaves resplendent. Ah. A forest, then.

Deathstalkers…people? Vehicles? Monsters? …the enemy, in any case.

He passed countless others, all fighting shadowy foes. His allies? Not overtly hostile, at the very least.

They were faceless, blank slates awaiting identification. Ren had none to give.

They were fighting in quartets, though. He only had the other boy—Jaune, was it?—that fought alongside him. Were there others, once? Past brethren-in-arms and in life?

He didn't know, even as a peculiar sensation overtook him. A dull, throbbing pain in his gut and moving up to his chest. Loss? Regret? Sorrow? A deep, soul-crushing feeling of helplessness. Unwanted memories, though not of his own device.

He saw them now: A tall, flame-haired beauty. Her name…a terrible victory? A triumph lost? A comrade, for him. A…lover…for the blond. Taken by a crow—no, a raven. The claws were meant not for her, but for her partner.

Then another face: Large sky-coloured eyes, framed by a vibrant orange and a perpetual smile. She was…a chosen of the slain. A shield-maiden, perhaps? Not a lover, that much he knew for certain. But akin to a sibling, though not by blood. Gone too soon, too quickly. Recklessness was her downfall, he recalled. She cared too much, but for her life too little.

Tears sprung unbidden to his eyes as his feet pounded against the ground, emotions that he had long sought to conceal welling up in a surge of grief. Was he too late, then? Too powerless to stop inexorable death?

No. There is always a chance—always hope. Perhaps this world was never like a fairytale, but there was still a hope in a better future. Fate can be challenged—can be changed. Anything can be changed. He remembered someone close to him once said that…but who?

Out of nowhere a claw swung at him, an ugly misshapen mass of white chitin and red ochre. Not all of that crimson was part of the appendage, though. He acted upon instinct, leaping up to avoid the crushing onslaught. His free hand brushed the shell for a moment, almost as if inspecting its surface for a flaw. A thorn passed underneath, and he grabbed it.

He dug one pistol blade-first into the carapace, the other one dropping back down into his empty palm. The claw's owner sought to throw him off, but to no avail. The second pistol was wedged in the thin gap between two plates of bone, and he held down the trigger.

A burst of black ichor erupted, forced out of the now-clawless arm by a spray of green bullets. The offending arm soon followed, flopping uselessly on the forest floor spraying out impure lifeblood.

A gilded stinger now swept at him, the tail striking quickly in a jab. He lunged just into its reach, ducking below it at the last moment and landing on a mask of bleached bone. Seething eyes, eight of them, glared at him, a low hiss coming from his foe.

A Deathstalker, he inferred. Undeserving of its name, judging by the ease with which one can be disarmed. Both in the figurative sense, and in the literal sense, as he had just proved. Still a dangerous opponent though, for the unwary. Ren was anything but.

The stinger came down again, and for a second time he avoided its questing point. However, this time he hung on, seeking to emulate his earlier success. Another volley of shots amputated the limb, a golden weight slamming down and just piercing the beast's head.

He dropped down beside it, a slight pink glow surrounding his hand. A power, perhaps? A defence against death, and an enhancement for when dealing it. A manifestation of his soul, as the redhead would have said.

He slammed his open palm down on the stinger, pistols already hidden back in his sleeves. A jolt of energy rippled through the stiff shell, and for a moment there was silence. Then the monster let out a low groan, as if cognizant of its own death.

An explosion of gore, and the headless, armless corpse of the Deathstalker gradually collapsed.

A second one was dispatched just as easily, a short laugh nearly coming from his lips before he managed to hold it in check.

He was neither a warrior nor a soldier, he decided, but a Huntsman. But his prey could fight back.

Four girls remained in the centre of a clearing, the smoking remains of Deathstalkers past forming concentric rings around them. One was standing. Two were kneeling. One was lying. None were unscathed. Some were just less scathed than others. But one was not scathed, but scythed down.

It was ironic, he thought with morbid humour and a growing sense of guilt and helplessness, that the reaper girl would be the first to meet the Reaper. Her life taken by the soulless, leaving a hollow husk behind to mourn over.

Though 'mourning' would be an understatement, if the tear-stained faces were anything to judge by.

He got down on his knees, exhaustion taking its toll.

"Was I…too late, then? I-I-I…I'm sorry."

No reply, only tears being wept.

There were three left. A blonde, hugging her deceased comrade close to her chest. Her sister? A graceful white-haired princess, shedding tears for the third time in her life over the other life lost. Her lover?

And a black-haired angel of death, trying and failing to stand aloof as she cried alone. She was different, he found, in so many ways. But of all the people he had seen so far…she mattered. To him. Selfishness be damned, he knew now why he was fighting.

Fighting to protect a world destined for destruction, fighting to take back a few more precious moments of life. Fighting…for her.

If not for her, then why fight at all? Death would come to them all, he knew, and nothing he could do could change that.

Still, better to go down with honour and some sense of dignity than without.

Unthinking and unfeeling, he slowly reached up to his earpiece—he hadn't noticed it before, but now that he needed it he practically took it for granted. He had good training, and enough discipline for that to practically become muscle memory.

"Jaune. Ren here. Ruby is down. Deathstalkers eliminated," he said. It sounded lifeless to his ears, as if he was weary of life. The only thing that kept him living, kept him fighting, was her. And if she lost her, as dear as the rest of his comrades were to him…he wouldn't know how to keep on living.

How did he know the fallen's name, but not hers?

"…Copy that, Ren. I…I'm coming over now. Jaune out."

The controlled anguish was audible over the static-filled link, quickly smothered by a veneer of false professionalism. First their partners, then Ruby. Just a list of names to add to the memorials, assuming anyone survived to remember them.

A series of screams came from nearby, cut off abruptly with growls and the sound of tearing flesh. He got back warily to his feet, his guns slipping back into his hands.

The black-haired girl spoke up, voice quiet and almost drowned out by the sounds of gunfire.

"That was team SOLA. ...They're close by. Yang, Weiss…we have to go. Now."

No response. Were those their names?

Ren joined in, trying to add a sense of urgency to his tone.

"She's right. We won't make a difference if we just die here."

Still no response.

The growls got closer.

"Please. Weiss. Yang. We have to leave. Before we get taken, too."

Finally, the blonde stood. Slowly, reluctantly. She made as though to sling Ruby's limp body over her back, but Weiss (he assumed, given the name and her clothes) gently put a hand on her shoulder.

She shook her head once.

"We can't take her, Yang. I wish we could, but we can't."

The four of them began running, joined soon by Jaune and several others. Nameless, faceless, all unknown. They had as much to fight for as Ren did, if not more.

A man in heavy plate armour was the first to fall, impaled by a large feather that was meant for a bunny-eared woman. Partners? Friends? Something more? He couldn't tell. Just another story unsung, another hero to be forgotten, another tragedy lost.

It was night, a shattered moon presiding over the death of its parent world.

Yang was next, tripping over a gnarled root as she sprinted. She tried to get up, but a snarling bone mask loomed in her vision. She died silently, eyes closed and a half-smile on her face.

Perhaps she could see her sister.

They passed through a ruined temple, pawns and knights fallen and laying scattered across the grounds. A twisted spire of silver and stone rose high above them, flashes of purple lightning and green energy revealing the misshapen black forms attempting to scale the structure.

The world was lost, Ren knew. But he'd be damned if he was going to live while it died.

They entered the tower via a shining bridge, its surface sullied by the split corpses of monsters. The horde was smashed aside in the group's single-mindedness to reach the temporary safety, all of them ascending as quickly as they could.

An enormous raven made a pass at the building, black wing flaring and red eyes flashing. It was struck down effortlessly by the two at the top—allies, mentors, teachers, exemplars.

Ren kept running, occasionally taking a second to assure himself of the black-haired girl's safety.

He didn't know her name.

He didn't know her.

But somehow, he just didn't care.

She was important, and that's all that mattered.

A howl from below—the wolves must had broken through.

A roar from behind—there was little time.

A shout, a growl, a scream, a groan. Silence, save for the pounding of feet on tiled floor.

"Jaune's down!"

The cry came from the back of the group.

He stopped. He sank to one knee.

His body knew what that meant, even if it barely registered with his mind. Then it hit him.

He was a Hunter without a team. A warrior without his friends. A man without his family.

She stopped. She held out her hand.

He still didn't know her name.

"Ren. We have to go. Stand up. Keep fighting. Please."

She had amber eyes, he noticed. A frown was on her face, along with a hint of melancholy. Sadness, perhaps? Regret, maybe. Or pity.

He HHe took her hand. He resumed running.

They were at the top now, three survivors where there should have been a thousand.

The two mentors had perished protecting them.

Him. Weiss, her icy exterior melted.

Jaune used to call her snow angel, he remembered.

And her. His dark angel of devastation, resplendent yet evanescent in her beauty.

Who were their martyrs?

One: a great wizard, growing old faster than time should allow. The other: a good witch, a tireless guardian. Both guides to their lives. Both shining beacons to safety. Both snuffed out like a fast-burning candle. The final flickering flame, keeping the darkness at bay.

But he still didn't know her name.

Weiss collapsed onto the stone, crimson life slowly seeping away from a cut on her crown and a gash in her side.

She made no effort to get up.

Her voice was hoarse and fading fast, a single tear falling from her near-flawless face and marring her peaceful features.

"Goodbye, Professors. Ren. …my teammate. I-I-I…I'm sorry. Farewell."

She nodded to each in turn, eyes gradually fluttering closed for the final time.

Her eyes closed as well, more than a single tear coming down.

"I'm sorry too, Weiss. For everything."

With that, she finally broke. Every death weighed upon her, but this final one was far too much.

He moved closer, hesitating for a moment before coming to a decision.

He put his arms around her, holding her close as she sobbed.

A black lotus bloomed in the darkness, glowing with the light of life, and a hope. A hope for life. A hope for peace. And perhaps…a hope for love. For where there is still life, then hope can never truly die. Even in the direst circumstances, one can still believe in a hope in a better tomorrow, a better future, no matter how uncertain…

Present day.

Ren awoke with a start. It took him a moment to remember who and where he was. Not a Hunter, but a student. Not in a dying world, but in a modern city.

Monsters did not exist, he knew. Still…that dream was awfully life-like.

It always ended there, though. It had been reoccurring for the past several weeks, starting just before he returned to university after his winter vacation. At first he blamed it on too much gaming, but even when immersed in his studies he still imagined it like it was yesterday.

He shook his head to keep himself awake as he stumbled out of his bed, taking care not to rouse his sleeping roommate. The blond boy bore a striking resemblance to his leader in the dream, though whether they shared the same names or not was unknown.

He found it funny; try as he might, he could remember everything about the dream save for the names of his comrades.

Ren checked the digital clock on his nightstand, doing a double take until he remembered that it was Saturday. No classes, thank god.

He got changed and washed up quickly, taking a moment to check his reflection in the mirror. It didn't hurt to make sure he still looked the same. No scars caused by grasping claws, no scrapes from stray branches. Granted, he had some cuts from shaving, but nothing too untoward.

Noticing a bit of stubble, he decided to add to that collection. Five minutes and a stream of inventive expletives later, he washed the remaining foam off and dumped the bloodspecked razor in the trash. It made a hollow thunk as it landed, though it was drowned out by a loud yawn.

He checked the fridge looking for something—anything vaguely resembling food, but came up empty. All he found were a few beers and a carton of expired eggs, the latter prompting him to wrinkle his nose and cringe at the smell.

The eggs joined the razor in its receptacle, the large black bag closing over them both as he tied it off and dragged it outside into the hall. It went straight to the apartment's single large bin in the back of the building, though all Ren had to do was empty it down a garbage chute.

Walking back in, he gingerly checked his wallet. He still had around thirty bucks, more than enough for the day. He scribbled out a messy note and left it on the counter, throwing on a jacket and locking the door behind him.

Morning, Jaune.

No food left in the fridge, so I'm going out for breakfast. It's your turn to go shopping; the list is next to my rice cooker. I'll be out all day, so don't wait up.


The elevator in his apartment still wasn't fixed, he noted bitterly. He took the stairs two at a time, anxious to get some food into his growling stomach.

The old man downstairs gave Ren a little wave as he passed by, a Chinese newspaper in one hand and a cup of tea in the other. Ren waved back absentmindedly, giving a small nod in reply.

A little winded from walking, Ren buttoned up his coat and stepped outside into the bracing air. It was winter in Vancouver, and while the city by the sea saw little snow thanks to the mountains to its rear, it was still rather chilly.

He thought about hailing a cab or taking a bus, but he remembered how thin his wallet was and reconsidered. A little bit of walking never killed anyone, he reasoned. It was better than going broke before his next paycheck, anyways.

A stream of red lanterns dangled high in the air above the streets, false firecrackers interspersed all along the line. For a second he questioned their presence, then he remembered: Chinese New Year was fast approaching, falling at the end of January.

Previously he had spent New Year's with friends and family, but now in his first year of university in a new city, things were…different. Sure, he had Jaune, but the blond wouldn't exactly be celebrating. More than likely he'd be trying (and failing) to handle a beer or two while waiting for classes to start up again.

He never could understand his roommate's obsession with attempting to stomach alcohol. Apart from the fact that he was underaged, getting smashed while studying simply wasn't a good idea.

Still, it was either have a roommate or pay the bills himself. He didn't consider himself much of a stereotypical Asian, what with him studying journalism and politics of all things, but he definitely shared the same sense of frugality that his parents did.

Unfortunately, sometimes it just couldn't be helped.

Ren strolled into the coffee shop on the corner, nearly getting hit by a delivery van in his quest for the red cursive sign.

Always Fresh, declared the sign at the top. A Chinese translation was installed directly underneath, a consequence of the city's large Asian population. Ren didn't care, so long as he got a nice warm cup of coffee and a donut to start off the day.

He almost ordered for two, until he remembered that he had nobody to share it with.

"A medium double-double and a maple dip, please."

He sighed as the server turned to prepare his order. He felt himself missing his childhood friend Nora dearly. Unfortunately (or fortunately, for her) she had managed to get a full scholarship to Stockholm University. Ren settled with a partial at the University of British Columbia, or UBC for short. A few of his friends in high school had resorted to calling it 'Beacon' when he had first applied to it, for reasons unknown. Something about this American anime that they were watching.

He had slipped up once and referred to the university by its nickname, and somehow the name had spread throughout first the freshmen, and then the greater school population. Even the teachers had started joining in, and Ren was left shaking his head in its wake.

"Uh, sir? Your order's ready. That's $1.89, please."

The lady's voice jolted him back to the present. He swiped his card on the reader and took his breakfast, looking around the establishment for a free table. Thankfully he had woken up rather late this morning, and as it was a weekday, the majority of people had already left for work. He grabbed a seat by the window, taking a cautious sip of the scalding hot coffee and sitting back.

At first he surfed reddit and a few news sites for a while, but eventually even the repetitive memes and so-called signs of the apocalypse began to dull. Sighing, he gave up and tried thinking about the dream that had been plaguing him. He could remember faces, perhaps actions, but not names.

And, as always, she remained a mystery to him. Jaune was there, as was who he believed was Nora. The others, though…he had no clue who they were.

People he was yet to meet? People who he would never meet? His flaws personified? The possibilities were endless.

It had begun to rain sometime during their flight. It poured down on the broken bodies and shattered lives, though whether their faces were streaked by water or tears he couldn't tell. He held her tight to his body, her sniffling and sobbing gradually slowing.

"You could run, you know…"

Her voice startled him, and the words bite deep. She was right; he had a chance to live. But it would be at the cost of her life.

"I'd rather not live while you died, only to die a little later, if it's all the same to you. You're more important. Get to the cliffs, and don't look back. I'll hold them off."

They were the longest words he had spoken thus far, and he didn't say them lightly. Even as he finished, though, he knew that their sacrifices would have been in vain.

They were the last of them still alive. Atlas, Vecchia, Vacuo, they had all been destroyed. Vale proper had already been overrun in the dead of the night. Beacon was the last to fall, and fall it would.

They stood no chance. Remnant wasn't just dying—it was dead. The monsters, the Grimm, had destroyed humanity. This was their last stand.

"No. We stand together. We die together. Let's give these monsters hell."

He nodded. Their eyes met. She smiled once, a half-smile that promised hope. He smiled back.

Screaming incoherently, the two of them charged the Grimm ranks. Beowolves were leading the onslaught, having been the fastest to scale the stairs and the floors all the way to the top. They stood no chance against the Hunters, parting like water upon rocks.

To each of us falls a task. And all that Remnant requires of us Huntsmen and Huntresses is that we hold the line, and we die fighting. It is what we do best; we die standing. –General Sturnn, Battle of Fort Lorn

He opened his eyes. His coffee was cold. His doughnut was stale. Blinking away fatigue, he finished it anyways. Hopefully the caffeine would keep the nightmares away.

He checked his phone again—Jaune had texted saying that he was flat broke and couldn't afford to buy more food.


He replied, taking a certain amount of deranged pleasure in his response. If Jaune wanted to be cheap, then…

'K. I'll go over to T&T and buy a few boxes of instant noodles, then. You want kimchi or seafood?'

He had just put it back in his pocket when he got an answer. It was a quick and clear 'Fuck no!', with his roommate now saying that he somehow 'found' a hundred dollars under his wallet. Ren chuckled, getting up and throwing out the cup before leaving the café.

Truth to be told, he actually did need to buy another pack of noodles, although his rapidly shrinking wallet begged to differ. But since Jaune finally was motivated to go buy groceries, he decided that shopping could wait a little.

Since exams had started, he hadn't had a chance to get some casual reading done, he remembered. Now, with nothing to do for the whole day, it seemed like a good time to change that. Granted, he wasn't sure if his library card even still worked given where he left it last (under his leaking rice cooker, actually), but he was certainly willing to give it a shot.

The sky was grey with clouds, a few shafts of amber sunlight punching through here and there. The air had started to warm up, as he had been daydreaming for an hour at the least. Now, nearing noon, it no longer bit at his exposed face. With the occasional breeze, though, Ren thought it best to keep his black felt coat buttoned up anyways.

Vancouver was a lot milder than where he went to high school, that was for sure. It was a lot more compact, too, as a consequence of the relatively limited space. The Rockies were at the city's rear, giving it a sheltered position but at the cost of land. The upside of it was that everything was closer to each other, making it much easier for, say, a broke university freshman to get to the library.

Getting hit by some terrible Asian driver was still a danger, of course, but that was the price of getting an apartment in Chinatown. Thankfully, he managed to avoid a messy accident and made it to the building's doors in one piece, with body intact and dignity just slightly less so.

The warm air of the library hit him like a wall, providing a stark contrast to the 4-5° it was outside. He slipped his gloves into his pockets before he started perusing the shelves, immediately making a beeline for the military history section. He had always considered himself something of an amateur tactician, making a habit of playing games like Starcraft and Age of Empires. The former was something of a stereotype, of course, but he was never obsessed with it.

Amateurs talk of tactics, but professionals study logistics. That was true, to an extent. But, he reasoned, a good tactician can make things a hell of a lot easier for the logisticians. In any case, he would never be anything near a professional in the martial realms. It wasn't as if monsters prowled the lands or anything.

It was a family joke that one of his ancestors was Sun Tzu, the man who penned The Art of War some two thousand years ago. It was either him or Da Vinci, though of course he never had a choice as to who his relatives decided to 'introduce' to the family tree. A few books on tactics had always littered his desk, sharing the space with a gaming laptop and a sketchpad.

It didn't hurt to study ahead, either. He planned on taking a world history class with the famed Professor Oobleck next semester, and intended to make a good impression. The high school history curriculum in Canada was terrible, and as such the transition to post-secondary was daunting to many.

Still, he considered after flipping through a few rather thick textbooks on Rome and Napoleon, it wouldn't hurt to tone down the academics for a while. Reading about Cannae and Austerlitz time after time again could get quite boring, exciting as the tactics involved were. He was fairly certain he knew all that there was about cavalry charges (never do them), and the basics of combined arms.

Anything after that, loath as he was to admit it even as he attempted to comprehend all this talk of flying columns and foraging, was a little too far out of his league.

Perhaps the classics would be more entertaining?

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was always a favourite, at least whenever he got the chance to read it. He grabbed it off the shelf, tucking it under one arm while continuing on. He briefly considered Moby Dick, but found it a bit too heavy. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy seemed to be a much better option, conjuring up many fond memories. The same could be said of The Time Machine and A Princess of Mars. He remembered reading them cover-to-cover a thousand times as a child, an enjoyable hobby that carried over to this day.

He judged the four books to be enough to tide him over until classes started back up again, unless his roommate decided to try to irritate him as usual. Ren checked them out at the machine, his heart stopping for a moment as it hesitated in accepting his card. Thankfully it wasn't rejected, and he tucked the book close to his chest while looking around the building for a free chair.

The majority of them were taken, surprisingly, though it was mostly just who he assumed were university students. On a normal weekday it'd be practically empty, though since exams were over, it appeared as though all the teenagers went here instead.

Some blue-haired (was that even possible?) bodybuilder and his mohawked lackey occupied the one closest to the beauty section, ostensibly to read a journal on neuroscience. Given the fact that the magazine was upside down, they were probably just there to ogle the girls. Ren declined, preferring less idiotic company.

A rather attractive blonde and her sister(?) were sitting next to the fireplace, studying a book on automobile mechanics. Well, the blonde was, in any case. Her sister in red was more interested in a fantasy book set in a high-medieval world, judging by its dragon-and-knight-filled cover. They were taking up both the armchairs there, so that was out of the question.

A few other tables were taken by older folks, probably out after their morning Tai Chi and reading the latest news from Asia.

And the last seat…The last one was already in use by a white-haired girl studying a report on the economy. He paid her no heed at first, having given up looking for a seat and already walking towards the exit. That was, until she looked up. Her eyes were a clear, soul-piercing blue that spoke of ice and snow. A faint red tattoo lay on her temple, the sole mark on her face. A little sign of rebellion, perhaps? She radiated an aura of professionalism, not a single hair out of place.

She narrowed her eyes for a moment at his gaze, but they then suddenly widened. Recognition? Surprise? He had no clue.

He remembered his dream.

"I'm sorry…Ren. Goodbye."

His face was one of shock. That couldn't be possible…could it?

Then the moment passed, and the girl turned her attention back to her book.

Ren walked out of the library feeling both confused and enlightened.

The tide of Grimm had receded, leaving the two stranded yet again at the tower's summit. By now all talk of retreat had disappeared, to be replaced with a sense of emptiness. There was no point to running. They had seen the last pocket of survivors being taken down scant seconds away from safety.

They were both injured, with barely a drop of Aura in either of them. The monsters were waiting below, though the reason why was beyond them. It mattered not. They were going to die anyways. The Grimm didn't care whether it was to blood loss or from a thousand grasping claws.

"Cinder's going to be coming for us, you know."

He didn't know who Cinder was. But he knew what his words meant. And, of course, so did she.

"Let her come. She wants to see the last of us exterminated? We'll give her a show to remember."

With that, he knew why he loved her. It wasn't her slightly morbid sense of humour. It wasn't for her looks, good as they were. No.

It was for her tenacity, her simple refusal to give up and die. She was his inspiration, his reason for fighting on until death and then a thousand years after.

The Crimson Witch might have had her victory, but the two survivors weren't willing to give it to her for free.

A roar.

Their reprieve was over.

It was Ursi Majors this time, a dozen of them at once. They let them come.

Children, you call them? They can pull a trigger and swing a sword just as well as any veteran, and they have the spirit of a lion. Call them children if you wish—I call them Hunters. –Professor Ozpin, to the Valian Parliament

It was afternoon. Ren had been walking the streets for about an hour now, seemingly aimless. He didn't know what to do, truth to be told. He had left his computer in the apartment, trusting Jaune not to accidentally send it flying out the window. Although, given his roommate's clumsiness, that might not have been such a good idea.

Still, it could have been worse. He could have been walking during that big riot a few years back—it was about some hockey game, he recalled. Pointless, and a waste of time.

He stepped out of the Gamestop, having seen his fill of generic shooters for the day. A few new games looked promising, but they would just be distractions to his studies. Maybe he'd buy them during the summer, then.

Jaune had texted yet again earlier, having finished up his shopping and headed home. He said something about going to a bar tonight with some friends, but Ren declined. Fun as it might be, he remembered the last unfortunate occasion where he got drunk. He and alcohol…tended not to agree with each other.

He didn't really feel like going home for lunch though, seeing as Jaune probably just bought frozen pizzas and Hungry Man dinners. This was the case whenever it was his turn to get food, and Ren had eaten enough of them for a lifetime.

Thankfully he had a list of restaurants to run to in the event he lacked a lunch, like today. Granted, they were mostly on the pricey side, but there were a few he could afford.

There was one place in particular that he had frequented in his first few months at Beacon that served Hong Kong style food. It had some of the best ramen he had ever tasted, though his 'friends' (acquaintances, really) preferred more western choices like burgers and fries. As such he didn't go as often anymore, but today seemed like a good time to change that.

The only problem was that it was a good forty minutes away by foot, and his stomach was already growling at him. He gingerly opened up his wallet again, checking to see how much change he had. A bus ride, while not the most expensive thing on the planet, was enough to send him running. He fully intended to have enough cash left over for dinner, not to mention enough for breakfast tomorrow.

Still, provided he shepherded his money well, he could afford a ticket and his meal.

Ren walked the two minutes or so it was to the bus stop, taking his time to enjoy the surroundings. While it might not be as large as say, Los Angeles or New York, he still found the city to hold many marvels. The gloomy weather didn't help much, sadly, but it was more than made up for by the architecture and the culture around him.

The blue and white bus pulled up just as he arrived, a few people getting on or off as he stepped onboard. Most of the seats were occupied, again mostly by students. This is becoming a habit, he thought cynically. Still, a few were free.

Ren chose to sit in front of a redheaded boy and a cute brunette, trying to ignore the cheesy pickup lines that he was feeding her. It was either them or this creepy guy in a white jacket and a bowler hat, and he'd much rather have the annoying normal couple-to-be than him.

Strangely, though, the two of them, awkward as they were, were starting to make him miss Nora even more. True, she was a royal pain in the neck at the best of times, but she was his first friend when he first moved to Canada, and his 'best-friend-forever'. Whatever the hell that meant.

He never thought of her as more than a friend, though. She was nice and funny, certainly, and could even be considered attractive from a certain perspective. But she was his best friend, and nothing more. Relationships would only get in the way of his studies, he reasoned. Not to mention the pain of having someone so hyper as a girlfriend. It'd be a nightmare, both mentally and physically.

To put it lightly, a broken pelvis…wasn't exactly the most glorious of afflictions.

But still…he missed her. He missed having good friends to confide in, to share memories with. (Jaune didn't count, 'endearing' as he was.) Despite how much he attempted to put up a front of an aloof and antisocial stoic, deep down inside he craved company as much as the next guy. True, he'd rather have equally quiet company, but he still wanted companionship nonetheless.

Not like I'm likely to make any friends this way, he thought.

There was quite a bit of traffic on the road, and the bus was still quite a while away. Ren closed his eyes for just a moment, trying to relax…

The last Ursa body crashed to the ground, half a dozen 9mm rounds buried in its skull. Most of its face was blown off by the brief display of firepower, only its bone mask remaining vaguely intact. Ren lowered his guns, his whole body aching from a hundred places at once. The girl next to him did the same, allowing herself to be somewhat refreshed by the pouring rain.

The top of the tower stank with rotten blood and innards, gore and bullet casings spread liberally around the sole entryway. The staircase leading up to it was drenched and slick with impure ichor, like a sacrificial offering to whatever cruel gods still watched over the dying world.

"How many more…do you think?"

"At least a few hundred. Cinder brought quite the army," she answered.

"Oh, good. I might have enough bullets for twenty more," he quipped.

She chuckled hollowly. There was no mirth left in either of them. Only the will to fight for as long as they could before inevitably succumbing. Their lives were over; it was only a matter of time.

He still didn't know her name.

A burst of light caught his attention. It was stable, burning furiously. Not lightning, then.

It had a wan, sickly quality to it, as if about to flicker away any moment. It burned orange and crimson, black tendrils of nothing drifting in between the flames. It took many forms, changing between them almost as if possessed of a life of its own. Perhaps it did.

One second it was a wilting flower, the next, a demonic dragon. It soared like a rocket on the wings of a butterfly, then descended with all the grace of a meteor and the subtlety of tectonics. The flames whirled around like a tidal wave, coming to a peak then crashing down only to whip back up into the air again. It had an air of other-ness, like something that should not exist in this world.

And nestling in the heart of this un-being inferno strode a woman, glowing eyes staring into the darkness like a bale harbinger of destruction. The fire moved with her, scorching away the stone underfoot even as the dark swirled about.

Cinder Fall, the Crimson Witch-Queen of the Grimm, had arrived.

"Now approaching: Cambie Street and Broadway. Watch your step."

The voice from the PA system jolted him back to reality, drowsily blinking himself awake. I guess the caffeine didn't kick in after all.

He looked around the bus as he got to his feet. The couple behind him had already gotten off, the boy no doubt still trying to get the girl to bite. If he was persistent, he might still have a chance. Mr. Creepy-bowler-hat had also left, to Ren's relief.

The bus slowed to a full stop at the corner, doors gently sliding open with a hiss of pneumatics. Ren stepped off, bracing himself for the mild chill. The restaurant itself was a minute or so's walk away, traversable even in this weather. It was fairly close to the university, and as a result usually got a lot of traffic.

Today was no different, apparently. The ramen place, like almost any oriental restaurant during the lunch hour, had a sizable queue in the door. Ren sighed as he opened the door, making no effort to walk out. While the wait today may be unpleasantly long, the food was always worth it in his eyes.

He thought of texting Jaune telling him to bring him his laptop and join him for lunch, but thought better of it. His roommate probably wouldn't exactly enjoy the noodles, nor would he fancy having to bus all the way to the restaurant. Sadly for Ren, he had to rule out playing some CounterStrike to kill time and boredom.

An aroma of herbs and spices drifted out from the kitchen, intermixing with the smell of sesame oil and MSG. From his position leaning against an interior window, Ren could see a variety of people just enjoying their lunch. He was reminded of his growling stomach, and fought to hold back a pang of jealousy. He should have arrived earlier, he noted, though it could have been worse. Were today to fall on the weekend, the place would probably have an hour-long wait, if not more.

She had amber eyes.

That was the first thing he had noticed about her. They were accented in a light shade of lavender, though the makeup was marred slightly by tears and blood.

Her long flowing hair was raven-coloured, a black bow sitting atop her head. They looked like cat's ears, he noticed absent-mindedly.

She was wearing a white midriff-baring undershirt with a black vest. She wore black shorts and violet stockings, a stylized depiction of a Deadly Nightshade lying on her thigh.

She was beautiful.

The family a few places ahead was shown to their table. The line moved up a space.

The rain drenched the both of them, though where the rain ended and the blood began neither of them knew. They were past crying now. All that was left to them was death.

"Hey, Ren?"

He turned to face her.

"I…I'm sorry. I'm sorry we never gave this a chance."

What was she talking about? He had no idea.

"I'm sorry that I couldn't let you into my heart. It sounds stupid now, but I thought that it would just get in the way."

What did she mean? She couldn't possibly…?

"I love you. And I only wish we had a chance to make this work."

He felt her lips just barely brush his cheek.

She blushed, smiling. For the first time today, he smiled back.

He was at the front of the line now. The waitress, an aged woman of what he suspected was Vietnamese descent, showed him to a free table and handed him a menu.

"And maybe we will have a chance. In a better time. In a better life. I'll find you again, I promise."

A single tear slowly drifted its way down her cheek as she smiled wryly and replied.

"Heh. Don't make a girl a promise you can't keep, Ren."

Another waitress, remarkably younger, took his order. He handed her his menu and briefly thanked her in Cantonese. She replied in fluent English, laughing a little to alleviate the awkwardness. They both chuckled, and she went on her way.

"I don't. I intend to keep this one."

He looked around the restaurant, as if searching for something. He had no idea what, though.

There was a roar, and a jet of flame arced through the darkness.

A dark-haired beauty sat a few tables away, also waiting for her order. She wore a small black bow in her hair, just above a streak of violet. She wore a black blouse, a denim jacket providing her with warmth. She was wearing dark purple corduroy pants, with black boots finishing off her outfit. A stylized symbol adorned her jacket, resembling a dark flame. A flower?

"…And I intend to hold you to it. May we meet again, in a better life."

She looked up. Their gazes locked.

Amber eyes met fuchsia.

He froze. A blush began to spread across his face.

Ren pushed aside the hesitation with a new burst of confidence, walking over to her.

Their eyes never parted.

"Er…is this seat taken?"

She shook her head.

Claws scrabbled for purchase on marble tiles and onyx stairs, snarls and howls resounding through the structure below them. The sun was starting to rise, burning a brilliant orange over the receding shadows. It was still raining, but only a little. Fires continued to burn throughout the forest, marking where Cinder had reigned.

"Do I…know you?"

He shook his head in turn as he sat down. There was a wry half-smile on her face, one eyeliner-chased eyebrow raised.

They watched their world end before their eyes, still locked in each other's embrace.

"Well, then. Have we met before?"

They ended their story together. A huntsman without his comrades. A revolutionary without a cause. Divided by a dying world, united in their hope for a better one. Together.

"…You know what," he spoke with a grin, "I do believe we have."

"I love you, Ren. I'll see you on the other side."

"I love you too…Blake. Don't wait up."


A/N: If you don't like it, or found a mistake/plot hole, or just want to say hi, drop a review! You won't regret it. Honest.