Hunting or Bust
Dust 51: Wolf In Tanuki Clothing
So I wanted to update on the 27th, but the 3rd anniversary was the 31st, so I split the difference with the 29th. Wow, I just realized how much faster I can get through this volume and the next compared to the last one.
New arc. Enjoy.
Cardin huffed and panted for air as he lifted his mace up against his opponent. He could still hear his teammates cheering for him, but even their rousing sounded desperate. There were other people calling out his name, but it was more that they wanted to see him actually hurt his opponent unlike what he had done so far.
The bastard's Aura hadn't even dipped from the green at all! His Semblance was just unfair!
"So are you gonna keep trying to fight? Because I mean this seems like a pretty obvious outcome at this point." Cardin opponent noted while looking up at the monitor to see how they were fairing. He wasn't even bragging or deriding his opponent but merely stating a fact. He shrugged aimlessly, "Isn't constantly doing the same thing expecting a different result - like - the definition of insanity?"
"You're insane if you think you I'll give up!"
"Is this banter?"
Cardin growled through his teeth and charged across the stage with his mace hoisted over his shoulder. The shorter student across from him didn't raise his large cleaver sword or even make a move to guard himself from Cardin's assault. The mace came down on the foreign student's head and everyone flinched when it exploded on contact.
They were all trying to get accustomed to the sight of water exploding in every direction when his head was knocked off.
Cardin quickly raised his mace in defense as his opponent started to collect himself again. While his focus was squarely on the arm still holding the large sword, he didn't notice the water collecting and making a fist that quickly stretched out to strike his stomach. Cardin doubled over as the Vacuo student finally solidified again and hefted his sword onto his shoulder. He leapt forward and Cardin took a deep breath before jumping to the side.
The Beacon student narrowed his eyes as his opponent finally started to engage in the fight and lifted his sword. The armored Winchester swung his mace and knocked the massive cleaver sword aside before it could reach him. Cardin realized that while his opponent was smaller than him he still had a surprising amount of power behind his swings.
Metal clashed and sparks flew as the mace and cleaver met. Cardin gripped his handle with both hands and started attacking twice as fast, forcing the Vacuo student to go on the defensive and move his sword to block instead of attack. Cardin felt a swell of pride seeing the strain and panic on his foe's face as he blocked his swings.
The Vacuo student jumped back when Cardin's down swing came down too forcefully and cracked into the ground. They lunged forward with their cleaver back in an attempt to catch Cardin again before the ground suddenly exploded around the mace. Cardin smirked, assured of his victory-
"GARH!" The Winchester gagged as a whip of water came flying out towards him and wrapped around his neck. The armored student stumbled on his feet for a moment before he was suddenly pulled off them and straight towards his opponent. The water choking him released its hold and all the air in Cardin's lungs burst out when the back of the cleaver slammed into his chest and pinned him to the floor.
"Mr. Winchester's Aura has fallen into the red. The winner of this spar is Mr. Hōzuki." Glynda looked down at her student who laid on the ground and coughed before greedily taking in air. The bespectacled professor looked towards the Vacuo student with a nod, "Your Semblance is certainly a versatile and useful one, Mr. Hōzuki, but I suggest you don't put too much reliance into it. You'll surely be blindsided if there is ever a day that it might fail you."
"Seems to have worked for me so far." The white-haired boy shrugged and wiped some sweat off his brow with a huff. The young Vacuo Huntsman latched his cleaver onto his back and dragged his feet towards the exit while smacking his lips, "I'm thirsty."
"Mr. Winchester, do you require some assistance?"
"N-No." Cardin denied the older woman's help and lifted himself up before heading for the exit, "All these freaky people with freaky abilities."
"Whoa, that was so cool. He took all of Cardin's hits and didn't even get hurt." Ruby marveled as she saw the exchange student vanish into the locker rooms.
"Ms. Goodwitch was correct, that is a very useful Semblance. His entire body is made up from water when getting attacked that renders physical injuries completely ineffective. And he can reform with little to no effort shown. Hypothetically the only way to beat him would be to deplete his Aura." Ren theorized, "But that would require actually hitting him, and that's impossible while his body is liquid. Quite a difficult opponent indeed."
"So what you're saying is that he's pretty much invincible?"
"No one is invincible." Pyrrha immediately answered without thinking. The redhead blinked in surprise before looking around to see her friends staring at her oddly. Her face took on a dark hue before she stuttered, "I-I mean I know I might not exactly be the most appropriate person to say that, but it is true! You just have to be very persistent! And careful! And probably have a plan going into the fight. Also-"
"So he's pretty much invincible?" Naruto reiterated as Pyrrha continued to mutter the qualities needed to take on a seemingly unbeatable enemy. The whiskered boy smirked as his ears jumped on his head and he saw the same interest in some of their faces too, "I kinda want to fight him myself."
"He's evil. Pure evil. I can see it in his eyes. A deep, drowning darkness that knows no limits. He is death incarnate. He's-"
"I get it man, I get it. He's water. You probably don't wanna hang with him in the cafeteria. Stop spouting weird crap." Sun whispered to his partner that he knew was going on deaf ears. Neptune had that triggered look in his eyes that constricted his pupils and made the usually 'cool' blue-haired dude nothing but a sniveling mess for a number of hours. Sun sighed and forfeited his attempts to pacify his partner before turning back to the ring in time to see the next contestants getting picked.
"Next up to spar will be Mr. Russel Thrush."
The CRDL member stood up and psyched himself up with some cheers from the rest of his teammates.
"And his opponent shall be Mr. Gaara Sabuku."
The viewing seats suddenly exploded with cheers and calls from the students of Shade. They called out to their fellow Vacuo student as he stepped up from his seat and made his way down the stairs. Weiss looked around curiously at the sudden response and titled her head, "Well he certainly seems popular. And they are exceptionally loud."
"Go Gaara! Show them the fruits of our labor! Let them see just how much our training has benefitted us in the quest to become the greatest Hunters alive!"
"Ren look, it's that Lee guy we met the other day. So cool! They're on the same side!"
The young man in question finally stepped out into the ring to face Russell directly. He hard dark red hair and a pair of small round ears sticking out in them. The young man had dull green irises and thick black rings surrounding his eyes. He wore a crimson long-sleeved shirt with a mesh undershirt visible underneath it. Attached to his belt was a small brown gourd. He wore long crimson pants that were ragged and torn around his ankles and sandals on his feet. And the people watching him couldn't help but notice the patch of scar tissue just above his eye.
The young man slowly stepped out onto center stage and faced Russell directly in silence. The dual dagger wielder gulped and tried to steel himself under the unscrupulous gaze of the redhead. He didn't look confident or arrogant or bored while facing the Beacon student. He just looked neutral while facing his opponent in battle.
But the stands were more than ready to pick up the noise on his behalf.
"You can do it Gaara!"
"Teach him a lesson, Boss!"
"Show these kids what Vacuo's got!"
"That's enough, all of you." Glynda's voice carried over the amphitheater and made the rowdy students quiet down. She sternly glared around at the students that continued to raise noise before sighing and flicking through her Scroll, "It's time we start this match. Ready..."
Russell raised his daggers cautiously as he stared his enemy down. Gaara slowly lowered his body and prepared himself defensively while narrowing his eyes on his opponent...
Russell immediately made the first move and leapt off the ground. He jumped towards Gaara and curled up into a ball with his daggers pointed out to shred through anything that stood in his way. The redhead Faunus was quick to move to the side as Russell's spinning form flew by him. Russell stretched out and slid over the stage before running towards Gaara again.
The lanky mohawk student slashed for the redhead's eyes but missed by an inch as Gaara leaned back. Russell turned and spun on the ball of his foot, holding his blades out and forcing Gaara to jump to avoid the daggers. Russell quickly kicked up his feet and somersaulted to catch his foe, the raccoon Faunus ducking aside to avoid his sudden kick.
Gaara pulled his gourd off his belt and held it by its strap as Russell turned towards him. He raised his gourd and blocked the dagger before ducking beneath the other when it came around for a following swing. The gourd held up splendidly against the fierce swings of the daggers as Gaara easily warded off Russell's attacks. The Beacon student lunged with his blades and Gaara dodged and slid by his arm.
Gaara yelled and slammed his hand into Russell's chin while kicking into the back of his leg. Russell dropped to the ground and gasped when his back hit the stage. Gaara quickly followed through and threw his gourd out, watching it wrap around the Beacon freshman's leg before pulling and throwing him across the stage.
"You can do it!"
"C'mon Russell, CRDL needs a win!"
The mohawk teen picked himself up and frowned before swiping his daggers to the side. The revolvers at the base of the blade spun before he pointed the daggers at Gaara and firing balls of fire Dust at him. The redhead narrowed his eyes before ducking to the side and weaving through the flame shots.
"Stop! Dodging! Asshole!"
Gaara pulled out the cork and swung his gourd, letting water splash out into an oncoming fireball and momentarily covering them both in steam. Russell closed his eyes from the sudden rush of heat before a hand reached out to him and grabbed the handle of one of his daggers. He quickly pulled it back before Garra could yank it out of his hand and waved his other dagger out to release a point blank blast of fire. Gaara raised his gourd to block before slipping in and grabbing the other handle as well.
"Let go!" Russell slammed his forehead into Gaara's chin and forced the redhead to step back. With his opponent momentarily stunned the Beacon student prepared to finish the match but heard something loud drop by his feet. He looked down to see both blades and both revolvers cluttered on the ground by his feet. Russell blinked in confusion before looking down at his hands and opening them to see dust fall from his palm, "W-What-"
"Don't be distracted."
The Beacon freshman looked up just as Gaara kicked him in the face and knocked him to the ground. Russell slammed into the floor bodily as an alarm went off overhead, "The match has concluded. Mr. Thrush's Aura has fallen to the red. The winner of this match is Mr. Sabuku."
The people in the stands clapped and cheered for the Faunus' victory. Gaara took it in stride, casually walking off the stage as Russell moaned and lifted himself up. Tenten blinked in surprise as she watched the defeated Beacon student pick up the pieces of his weapon, "How did he break those daggers? I didn't see him do anything."
"I didn't either." Pyrrha shook her head, "One moment those swords were together and the next they weren't."
"And did he seriously fight with just a water bottle?"
"Yeah, I wanted to see a really cool weapon!" Ruby bemoaned before hunching over and sulking, "I thought he'd have a gun that turns into a pair of gauntlets! Or a sword that shoots smaller swords! Or maybe there would be - like - gravity Dust in his canteen that makes his enemy fly or something. I hope the next fight is just a little more interesting."
"-Ms. Ruby Rose."
"Yes!" The hooded girl jumped to her feet in panic, "Sorry, Ms. Goodwitch! I'll make sure not to talk while you're picking contestants anymore!"
"No Ms. Rose I was calling you up to fight." There was a round of laughter through the stands as Ruby's face glowed red from embarrassment, "But I would like it if you kept that same mindset in check for the future."
"Well, you heard her Sis," Yang and a couple more of her friends snickered and chuckled at her circumstance as her blush darkened and arms shook at her side. The blonde sister weathered Ruby's indignant slaps and continued laughing, "She's calling for you~."
"You guys are the worst!" Ruby marched off in a huff and stomped her feet down the stairs. But while their youngest friend went to go fight and the others laughed at her reaction, Blake stared at the stage in thought. Her eyes drifted over to that raccoon boy's team to see that only one of them remained in the stands. Her eyes narrowed with intent...
Didn't he look familiar?
"Stupid, dumb Yang. Can't make jokes so she has to laugh at me. I'm gonna stick her with all the laundry jobs for the rest of the week." The young leader continued to bristle as she made her way to the lockers. Her ears started to burn as she was reminded of all the times in class and back in Signal when she made a fool of herself. All the times the teacher was talking or called on her and she was too distracted to even notice that usually left her mortified. And it always happened!
When she was back in Signal her dad, Yang, and Uncle Qrow raised the point that maybe she should be tested to see if she had problems concentrating. However they never got around to it because her dad was too distracted shopping online, Yang was texting with her friends, and Uncle Qrow just slouched on the couch with his flask.
Huh, maybe it was a family thing?
"Open your mouth."
"I know, but I still want to check."
Ruby came back from her thoughts after hearing the unfamiliar voices. The little red-haired girl slid up to the lockers and peeked around the corner to see the boy that just finished fighting being surrounded by a taller boy and girl. Ruby quirked an eyebrow as the Faunus opened his mouth to let the girl look inside, "Okay, nothing broken and no bleeding. I guess that headbutt was just superficial damage."
"Yeah but that don't look superficial." The other boy pointed towards the redhead's hand before he immediately hid it behind his back. The older boy sighed and grabbed Gaara's arm before raising it up to see his knuckles and palms, "You got some burns from blocking that fireball. You're lucky he was using a crystal or your arms would be charred if he had been using powder."
"Gaara why didn't you use your Semblance?"
"You know how they all would have reacted if I did." The stoic red-haired boy responded as he noticed the distressed and concerned looks on their faces, "I'm sorry, but using it would have only caused people to freak out and be scared of me. That's not what we need right now. Remember how people used to look at me when I first started doing it? I don't want to bother you both and Lee with those kind of looks while we're here."
The girl looked dissatisfied with his answer but the older boy just chuckled and shook his head, "That's the same reason you gave last time the festival was going around. I thought you'd steel up a little over the years." Gaara gave the older boy a sorry shake and he accepted it with a laugh, "All good little brother. We'll trust you."
"Just do it now to ease the pain." The sandy blonde girl spoke up as the two boys looked at her oddly. The older girl crossed her arms and scowled as they flinched back, "You give me one more excuse and I'll kick your ass so hard you do it every time you see my boot."
Ruby peeked her head out a little further and watched as the red-haired Faunus nodded and stepped back from them. With him standing by himself Ruby realized she might have spotted him once before the last semester had ended. Before she could think about it any further silver eyes widened as a soft brown light started to emanate from his body before he seemed to burst into light.
It was just like Naruto and that Faunus at the docks.
She covered her mouth to stifle the soft gasp that escaped her mouth. But it was still loud enough for the Aura-clad boy to drop his cover and the Vacuo students to come together. Ruby was hidden behind the wall and quickly panicked before she stomped her feet to feign her walking. She came around the corner and huffed, "Stupid Yang laughing at me. I'm gonna get back at her so - o-oh, hello." She waved as the older students looked at her oddly. The shorter girl suddenly felt very awkward and just chuckled nervously, "Um, I'm Ruby. It's nice to have you here at Beacon."
"Temari." The older girl answered while crossing her arms and stepping up to look over the shorter girl. Ruby shrunk down under her serious gaze before she finally spoke again, "You look really young to be in this school."
"I-I'm fifteen." Ruby spoke up. When the scary blunt girl looked back at her she flinched but continued, "I-I was accepted here early by the headmaster. That's why I look so young, because I am."
"Hahaha, and I thought only Vacuo was crazy enough to accept people early. And I thought we were special. Nice to meet you kid, the name's Kankuro." Ruby looked up at the black-haired boy who had paint around his face before he jerked his head to the side, "Sorry we're distracting you. We'll be on our way. Hey Gaara, you might not even hold the record anymore."
Kankuro laughed his way out and Temari walked with a shrug while the raccoon Faunus stayed behind. Ruby realized the intimidating Faunus had lingered back to stare at her before he stepped forward. Ruby was concerned that she might have done something to anger him before his voice came out in a quiet but firm tone, "Don't be afraid. I know how it might seem intimidating to be accepted ahead of time, but if they did that then they have faith in you. And so do all the people around you. Be strong, and be prepared to show that strength on the way ahead."
Ruby blinked in surprise as Gaara walked past her and made his way out.
Was...was he cheering her on?
"Ms. Rose! I'm not sure what is distracting you but we are waiting!"
"So you're saying you saw that Gaara guy do the same thing Naruto and all those other Faunus Blake was talking about can do?"
"The Noble Guards." She quickly corrected her partner's gross simplification before turning to her leader once again, "But are you sure Ruby?"
"Yeah, pretty sure." The hooded leader nodded as she was surrounded by all of her friends after telling them what she saw. They waited until after the matches were finished to bring her aside and get her full account of what happened, "One moment he was just normal and then he wasn't."
"But you're sure it was like this?" Naruto raised his arm and covered it in Aura again as it flickered like fire over his forearm, "I'm sorry but you have to be sure."
"I am! Just like that, but brownish. And it wasn't just the Aura, he had injuries too like his Aura didn't protect him or something. Just like you."
Naruto vanquished his cloak and looked Ruby in the eyes before nodding, "Okay, she's right. Not just anybody can do those things. He's one of them."
"Alright so we know this Gaara guy is one of those Guards. What does that mean?" Yang questioned, "I mean that doesn't automatically make him evil or anything does it?"
"No, of course it doesn't. But it means he's a person of interest, and as we've learned from that White Fang rally they've been searching for others like that too."
"He might not just be a person of interest." Naruto looked over at Blake and saw her nod in agreement, "Me and Blake saw these two Faunus at the rally talking to each other. One of them stepped up and covered himself in Aura and Torchwick said he was one of the Majesties. And then he looked back to the other guy and said they were recruiting more. He had red hair and ears on his head too."
"You're saying he's already part of the White Fang?"
"Probably." Blake answered but shook her head, "But we have to be certain. We still don't know anything about this Gaara person to make any kind of decision. And I doubt we're going to find any kinds of articles or newspaper clippings about one man."
"So is socializing not even anywhere in that skill set you got throwing around? Because I gotta worry about your future as a Huntress if you can't even go around talking to people." Blake flinched and they all turned around to see Sun grin brightly and Neptune stand confidently beside him as the Haven students joined them, "You guys talking about that Gaara dude, right?"
"Do you know him?"
"Not really but I heard his name a few times when I still lived in Vacuo." The monkey shrugged, "Although considering how a few of these other teams cheer for him he sounds like some big shot. So he's probably important. Is he important?"
"Yeah." Naruto nodded, "How do you think we should get anything on him?"
"I told you, socialize."
"Jūgo! Jūgo hang on!"
The massive taciturn man turned around to see his diminutive new friend come to a quick stop by his side. Her team and their two tagalongs followed up behind her before stopping and marveling at the large frame of the older exchange student. Ruby craned her neck back and asked her new friend, "Jūgo, you're from Shade, right? I was telling my friends - oh I haven't even introduced you yet. Everyone, this is my new friend Jūgo Willing. Jūgo, this is my team, and our friends Sun and Neptune."
"She was not kidding about the big as a Beowolf bit." Yang whispered between her teammates as they all shook their heads, "Or the twitchy thing either."
After the large orange-haired boy had shaken his head Ruby looked up and asked, "Jūgo, can we talk to some of your teammates about something? It's kinda important. Can you text them or something?"
"Hey, it's the wonder kid from Beacon everyone's been talking about." The girls looked over to see a trio coming down the path to greet them. Once they stopped the girls recognized the boy as the one they saw fighting Cardin earlier, the wiry young man with the sharp teeth that turned to water. Behind him was a girl with bright red hair and glasses, and standing behind them was another redhead who looked like she would exploded on anyone who attempted to speak to her. The white-haired boy smiled, "If I knew you were Jūgo's new friend I would've met you sooner."
"You're part of Jūgo's team?"
"I'm the leader. Suigetsu Hōzuki, leader of Team SKTJ (Scout)." The boy pointed at himself before turning to the two girls behind him, "The one with the stupid haircut and glasses is Karin Hill." The girl lashed out with a fist that blew his face off, getting all the other students to jump back in surprise before the water gathered up again and he carelessly shrugged, "She does that a lot. And the one back there looking like she's crushing a rock between her buns is Tayuya Kári. She's not very friendly."
"Fuck off you soggy sacked dickhead."
RWBY, Sun, and Neptune blinked in surprise at the short girl's sharp language and the complete lack of shock on her teammates' faces. Ruby looked back at her team and saw them shrug in response before she continued, "Anyway, I'm Ruby Rose and it's nice to meet you. Your team's from Shade, right? We were wondering if we could ask you a couple questions about another team at your school? The one lead by that Gaara guy?"
"Okay well this sounds like a total waste of time." Tayuya groaned, "Hey dumbasses, I'm not gonna waste another breath gossiping with the brat and her color-coded posse while the ripped monkey and horny blueberry gawk on the side. So I'm going back to the room, crashing on my bed, and if you fuckers wake me up I swear your water trick ain't gonna save you from me making you into a girl."
Tayuya dragged her feet past them and headed for the dorms as the Beacon and Haven students gaped in shock. Yang was the first to recover, coughing into her hand before shrugging, "O-Okay, so she's a character. And that was a thing."
"Yes, I'd say she's just in a mood, but she's always a complete bitch. She almost started a fight the other day and we'd have been screwed if not for the timely intervention of that stud - student! I meant student." Karin coughed and tried to ignore the color in her cheeks, "So what is it you wanted to know about Gaara exactly?"
Blake stepped forward to carry the conversation, "We wanted to ask you a few questions about him and his team. Can you tell us a little about them?"
"Uh, not really much to tell." Suigetsu shrugged, "He's pretty popular with students from Vacuo but I guess you wouldn't really know about that. Basically their team leads the rest of the students when we have to fight. Vacuo has a lot of sudden Grimm attacks that can cause real trouble and we need to act fast, so when we have to go out there and fight their team acts like the vanguard."
"It's not official." Karin fixed her glasses, "We don't treat them like the heads of the school or anything, but a lot of students respect them. Even other upperclassmen depend on them for help and guidance. People in Vacuo don't really like being bossed around, but they do appreciate people they can trust and to have their backs in a crisis. That's why people in Shade trust them."
Ruby looked back to her friends and saw their surprised expressions after hearing SKTJ's words. She said goodbye to Jūgo and his teammates before she and her friends made their way back to the school. Once they were alone the little redhead sighed and thought back to the suspicious man in question. He certainly seemed intimidating, and Ruby would be lying if she said she didn't feel like she had swallowed her tongue facing the Faunus. But the way he interacted so sincerely with those other two from his team seemed just like it did when she was with Yang, Blake and Weiss.
"So anyone else feel guilty for suspecting this guy?" Sun hunched over and shook his head as his tail hung limply behind him, "They sound like good guys. What do you think Neptune?"
"-ocean on feet. He's an ocean on feet. He's an ocean on feet. He's an ocean on feet-"
"Not him." Sun ignored the repeated traumatized mutterings of his partner to turn towards the Beacon girls, "What do you girls think?"
"They certainly sound good," Weiss nodded, "But we can't be sure simply from a conversation with a third party. We came to get information, not make a decision about whether we stop our investigation after our first reconnaissance."
"Yeah but maybe he wasn't always a member of the White Fang?" Yang pointed out, "Maybe he only started getting into contact with them after he came to Vale?"
"That's possible, but until we're certain we can't rule out the possibility that he's already a member. We should know better than anybody that some members can hide themselves in the open."
"Former members." Weiss spoke after Blake had finished her point. The Schnee girl crossed her arms, "Don't sell yourself or Naruto short just to prove a point."
Blake nodded apologetically, "Sorry. But we still need more evidence of who he is. Let's just hope the others are getting something as well."
"Oh yeah, Temari and her team are the best! She hangs out with us sometimes when classes let out."
"So she's an upperclassmen?"
"That's right." Nebula, the leader of Team NDGO (Indigo), told Sasuke as they sat together and ate in the cafeteria. The Shade student was skeptical about letting this other student suddenly sit with them, and even more suspicious when he started raising questions about another team from their school. Probably gathering information for the tournament soon. She wanted to wave him off but the rest of her team invited him to sit down, whispering something about finally getting to talk with a 'hottie' from the Beacon hottest student ReadIt thread. The leader sighed in defeat as the girls forced him to sit.
Oh well, maybe they could get some information back from him in return. That was all they needed. Definitely not because he was very pleasant to look at. She was much more professional than that.
"The entire team is already in their third year." Octavia said as she slid up closer to Sasuke's side to get his attention, "Team GRKT (Gradient) got accepted a few years early and everyone started watching them. It's thanks to them that so many people in Shade think they can still be Hunters."
"What do you mean?" Sasuke questioned.
Gwen took a bite from her pizza, "Vacuo doesn't have as many resources as it used too. Either it's used up what it had or anything it has left is being dug up and taken out of the Kingdom. If we wanted to make a weapon as fancy or capable as the ones from Beacon, Haven, or Atlas we had to have both money and connections. A lot of people loss the nerve to join the academy when they realized they couldn't make weapons that could wipe out Grimm in a single hit."
"And GKRT changed that?"
"Yep." Gwen smiled, "When we joined we saw just what people with the bare minimum could do. They only had fans or their fists or whatever they could find and prove all they needed were their skills to protect people. After that most of the school was fine with what they had. We made due with our staves, or knives, or swords and proved we could do anything."
It was true that Vacuo students had to use more basic weaponry than other schools. He doubted he ever saw someone from Shade that had complex mecha-shifting weapons, a plethora of Dust rounds at their disposal, or anything even close to a giant scythe.
It was actually pretty damn respectable. They didn't have the resources for weapons like other schools in order to compensate for a student's lack of ability or weaknesses. In order to thrive they had to trust and hone their own abilities and survive in a wasteland filled with tough living conditions and Grimm. The students of Shade were more capable than many people gave them credit.
But he wasn't here to praise another school. He was here for information.
"That's pretty admirable." Sasuke noted before looking between the girls, "And what about the members of the team? What are they like?"
Octavia looked up in thought, "Well Temari is pretty cool but she can be stern when she has to be. She sorta just stares at someone and that makes them stop whatever they're doing. Kankuro pretty much keeps to himself. He doesn't hang out with anyone but his teammates. Lee trains a lot - like a lot - and he's..." She looked around her table and there was a resounding wave of silent nods from her team, "Yeah he's weird. And Gaara doesn't usually socialize. He keeps quiet most of the time and only really speaks up when he needs to. You might think he was creepy at first sight but he can actually be really nice."
"Sorry but what is this about?" Nebula leaned forward and looked Sasuke in the eyes, "Is there a reason you're asking about them?"
"We're interested. We saw his fight earlier with one of our classmates and wanted to know what he could do." Sasuke lied with the excuse he had made up in case this line of questioning ever came up, "I was interested in hearing about his skills and abilities."
"That's what I figured." Nebula nodded before smirking, "Well just so you know we aren't giving him up like that. And even if you knew, you wouldn't have a way to beat him."
"Fair enough. I guess we'll just have to see when the time comes." Sasuke got out of his chair but was immediately pulled back into it. He saw Octavia holding onto his arm, "Um-"
"You can't leave just yet! You still have to - uh-"
"Trade numbers with us." Gwen blurted out while holding up her Scroll, "You come talk to us and you think we don't get anything in return? No sir."
Sasuke was forced to trade his information was the excited girls before they looked to their leader, "Nebula, you wanna trade numbers with Sasuke too?"
"Don't see why I have to." Nebula coughed before pulling hers out as well, "Then again maybe we can glean some information off him next time to make it even. We'll give you a call sometime when we wanna talk."
"Or whenever you wanna talk with us! Don't be a stranger!"
Sasuke bid his goodbyes as the girls waved him goodbye. He made his way out of the cafeteria and came to meet the faces of his grinning teammates. He frowned, "I still don't see why I had to be the one that went to ask them."
"It should be fairly obvious why you had to be the one to go ask them." Naruto smirked, "We'll just have to make sure that Weiss doesn't hear about this or she'll throw a fit."
"Why'd you bring up Weiss?"
"No reason, but we're still not gonna tell her because she's totally gonna be pissed."
Sasuke's eyes turned cold but he just sighed and gave up on their little joke, "I couldn't get anything substantial from them. Nothing about his habits or any sudden changes he's gone through. They seemed content talking about the team and what they've done for the other students."
Tenten sighed, "Geez, and I thought we were getting better at the information gathering game. God knows we do it more than enough."
"Nora might be our best chance." Kiba said, "She told me she was gonna try meeting with her friend from his team tomorrow. She tried finding him today but apparently he was out running a few laps in the Emerald Forest. If that's gonna be our best chance then I'm happy to let Nora and the rest of JNPR handle him."
"We gotta be careful." Naruto muttered, "When we confront Gaara we need to prepare for how he might react. I don't know what he can do but if he can destroy weapons and beat someone with a gourd then we should be careful."
"So," Tenten inquired, "What are we going to do if we confront him and he isn't part of the White Fang?"
"If he isn't and he's just considering joining then we'll convince him not to. Tell him they're just lying to him so he would join their cause. That the White Fang are only trying to hurt people, and they're planning something much worse too. If we can get someone else from the Noble Guards on our side then that'll be a blow to Torchwick and the White Fang."
"And if he is?"
"If he's already a member..." Naruto's eyes narrowed, "Then I'm gonna make him tell me everything he knows. Everything I want to know."
Gaara moved through the streets of Vale at night as he made his way to the rendezvous point. He wasn't going back to that warehouse anytime soon, nobody was. After the chaos that unfolded at the rally and the sudden activation of the mech that tore through the warehouse and toppled it over, the authorities were more prevalent in that area now.
So now he had to go to an unfamiliar part of a city he didn't know his way around to meet with the representative.
Although this city was beautiful. Much different from Vacuo and its landscape. No sand to drag your feet in or sweltering heat to bear down on you. Although he would be lying if he said he wasn't missing the familiar stomping ground.
He walked into an open park and watched dozens of people happily talk and pass each other along the way. A few of them were couples, enjoying the sight of the sun setting over the buildings. His eyes panned over the space before spotting his target sitting on a bench. He sat down besides his fellow redhead and leaned back into the seat, "What is it Rōshi?"
"You sound unenthused."
"You called me out here rather abruptly and now we're just sitting on a bench. I'd like to know what was so important that you needed me here so soon."
"Very well. I suppose that's fair." His representative from the White Fang, an old ape Faunus with a big bushy red beard groaned as he sat up in his seat. Gaara was surprised to learn that there were other people in the world who had abilities like his, and even more surprised when he actually got to meet one of them. Rōshi had shown him his Semblance, and Gaara was surprised to see what an old man without much combat experience was capable of doing just by walking. The ape ran a hand through his hair, "The leaders are excited at the prospect of you joining us. Many people will look up to someone like you. A figure the Faunus can look to for guidance, and a warrior to lead the charge against our growing enemies."
"I think you greatly overestimate my ability."
"I think you greatly underestimate your own."
Gaara shook his head, "So when can I meet the leaders of this operation?"
"In due time." Rōshi was quick to respond, "There's something else you need to do before I can introduce you to them. You're currently in Beacon right now, correct?"
"Does this have something to do with what Roman Torchwick was spouting off in the rally?" Having to watch the crook with his face plastered across all of Vale's media rile and rise an audience of angry Faunus was equal parts astonishing and disturbing, "Your flattery is appreciated but I'm not going to bring down a school by myself. Nor am I going to assassinate a headmaster or a military general."
"We aren't asking that. That's too much to ask of anyone, not to mention it would be dangerous to lose powerful figures like that so quickly when we aren't sure how the remaining power would react. No, we aren't going to ask that of you."
"Then what are you asking me to do?"
"Right now, in Beacon, there are two people of interest the White Fang has their eyes on. The heiress to the Schnee Dust Company that has denied our people their basic rights and treated them like second-class citizens. And one of the few remaining descendants of the Uchiha bloodline, that damnable clan that hunted Faunus and treated our deaths like sport. They're in that school right now. We want you to bring them to us."
"The Schnee girl should be fairly obvious. If we have her we can make demands of the SDC; force them to improve work conditions, increase wages for working Faunus, make them admit their previous transactions against our people. I'm not sure you are aware of this but there is a group of people calling themselves Uchiha that have been opposing us for a number of years. Among them is a real Uchiha survivor, someone we believe to be closely related to the boy from Beacon. We believe we can smoke them out if we have him in our grasps."
Extortion. Terroristic threats. And there was little doubt when those Uchiha were outed then they would simply be captured and kept in a cell. Gaara looked ahead, "I would need some time to apprehend them-"
"You have less than 24 hours." Gaara looked at Rōshi in silent surprise before the ape stood up from his seat, "I'll be contacting you soon about where you need to bring them. I'm sure you have the skills to carry it out."
"That's too fast-"
"And we are on a timetable. We need to act fast. And we need to ask the same of you Gaara." Rōshi looked down at the boy as Gaara narrowed his eyes. This was a test. They were making him take action now. They wanted to see what he did next.
"I would get started. Your clock starts now."
((((((((Extra: Confined with Fear))))))))
"Come on, come on, come on. Dammit, stupid thing is busted." Suigetsu punched the elevator door before stepping back and leaning against the wall. He looked at the other victim of their unfortunate circumstance, "Dude, you don't have to be so scared. I'm sure they'll fix it soon enough."
"Y-Y-Y-Y-Yeah! T-Totally!" The shaking man pushed into the wall away from him.
"You gonna be okay? You look like you really need to take a piss."
"I-I might but not for the reason you think!"
"Alright well hold it just a little bit longer. They're gonna get us out sooner or later."
"God I hope it's sooner."
"Well if you're busting then we can just try doing this ourselves." Suigetsu stepped up to the center of the elevator and cupped his hands together, "You can step up on here and reach for that latch on the roof."
"Yeah! Good idea! But how about we concentrate more on the floor! Like this!" He pulled his weapon off his back and fired a blast of concentrated electricity into the floor, blowing out a hole that emptied out into a bottomless darkness. He happily jumped in and went plummeting into nothingness, "See you later~!"
Suigetsu stared down in shock before he heard a ding through the elevator. The doors opened to several workers standing outside it before Sun stepped forward, "Was my partner in here?"
"He was." Suigetsu shrugged and pointed down, "But he went that way."
"Ugh, of course. If he does something else super stupid then I'm never gonna forgive him."
Meanwhile, multiple levels down
"Well hey they gorgeous. You're looking super sexy in that tank top and skirt." Neptune got his confidence back after falling hundreds of feet down the shaft and ending up wherever he was. His swagger came back just in time to hit on the babe in front of him, "Love the tanning booth you're in. But maybe you should get out to get some air, huh?"
He pressed a button and the top opened so that the girl inside was open to walk. Neptune smiled, "So what's your name?"
He was cut off when a massive explosion echoed out from the other end of the hall. The smoke cleared and Cinder swayed out with fire dancing over her hand, "Found you."
"Whoa, I'm more popular that I thought. Cool guy act is totally working for me." Neptune smiled and stepped down, "One at a time ladies. One at a time."
When you got it, you got it. Don't let any firebending woman with death in her eyes let you think otherwise.
Anyway, where was I before this? Oh yeah, Gaara's proper introduction to the story. Welcome, one of my favorite characters from the original series. I wanted to add Gaara into my To Love-Ru and Medaka Box stories but when it was obvious I was never gonna get around to that I was happy to bring him into this.
So this volume is already a good ways finished. It probably won't be done by the time Volume 5 rolls out but it could totally be completed by the time that one is done instead. Speaking of Volume 5, god damn didn't Weiss look gorgeous in that short? I can't wait to see Blake and Yang's shorts next.
Thank You and Bye