Author's Note: Man have I missed these days of the RWBY fandom.
Brain: You mean when new and awesome episodes come out with new and exciting characters or new information about current characters is unveiled?
Hell yeah! That's when we get a whole new influx of fics of authors wanting to take advantage of all that! Everyone scrambling to write their impressions of Neo, after-episode scenes featuring their favorite pairings, all that good stuff! I totally missed that!
Brain: But we don't do that.
Naaah! We do what everyone else isn't doing.
Brain: Has served us pretty well, yes.
This is no different. What was my brain thinking when I watched Chapter 4 where you had the White Fang meeting, Grimm masks, highway battle, and all that good stuff? Weeeelllll…
Even if the marks were chalk-white, they were difficult to see under the veil of night. While total darkness was an unheard of thing when it came to city life – there was always some kind of minor illumination provided, even out here in the heart of Vale's storage and distribution centers -, if she hadn't known what she was looking for she would've completely missed them.
They were three narrow lines drawn with an obvious tilt that had them running down diagonally instead of straight. Starting at the top, she pressed the tips of her fingers which she bent accordingly in order to mimic a clawing motion as she traced the lines down. They thickened a fraction in the middle before thinning again and, despite only being drawn on the wall's surface, there was enough of a realism to them that had her knowing that her nails couldn't ever match them; they were too blunt.
This was the fourth one she's come across. She may've come here armed with the intelligence that she coerced from an old friend but she needed to make a couple sweeps around the perimeter of gathered warehouses before she spotted the first one that would start her journey. She actually passed it twice and would've given up had she not been successful the third time.
They were signs meant to guide a select few travelers through the labyrinth of buildings, the artist having drawn them in order for participants to reach a destination that only they were invited to. The young woman knew she wasn't one of such wanted company – quite the opposite, really – and she could only imagine what would be in store for her if she was found out, but she had a mission to accomplish and the twisting path that she's followed was an avenue that would allow her to do so.
Performing a quick scan to confirm that she was alone, she brought up her scroll and keyed in a number in order to deliver a quick progress report. She made sure to disable the speaker setting and lowered the volume before bringing it up to her ear.
Her leader must've been waiting anxiously for her because barely a second passed before she was already speaking and the hint of static did little to mask the worry in her tone as she exclaimed, "I was just about to call you!"
The smile that the voice encouraged carried the fondness that she kept from her own tone, preferring a more easygoing, "Sorry about that; it took a little longer than I thought it would to find this place."
"So he wasn't lying after all?"
"He knows better than to do that to me," she assured, fondness changing to smug confidence. "Even if I didn't know where he lives, someone like him does have a measure of pride when it comes to his reputation to keep him honest enough."
"Yeah but from what you've told me, he's as clueless as the rest of us."
"To be fair, this is a rather strange situation and no one has been able to make heads or tails of this. He couldn't confirm anything about Torchwick but I have somewhere to look for answers at least."
There came a pause and she didn't need to see how her leader was chewing on her lip worriedly before she voiced, "I don't like where that is though."
"This isn't my first rodeo, you know."
"But it is the first time that it's a corrupt organization that you're walking in the middle of," she pointed out. "Just because we want to confirm if Torchwick really is working with the White Fang, it doesn't mean that you have to go to one of their meetings, especially alone. He might not be with them at all and you're putting yourself in danger for nothing. The White Fang hates humans."
The young woman felt compelled to perform another examination of her surroundings to make sure she remained alone now that they were delving into the heart of the matter. Despite making a second confirmation, she was not immune to the caution that had her lowering her voice a fraction as she replied, "This is the only thing we have to go on. No matter how many more robberies and inconsistencies that you and Weiss may find, it's beyond weird that you happened to run into Torchwick doing the exact same thing."
"That was months ago though and he hasn't shown his face since then. It's not like Dust robberies are a rare thing."
That, she had to admit, was true. Lien was the currency that anyone needed to make a living but Dust had its own importance as a natural resource. One pristine crystal can be cut or grounded into several smaller crystals or vials that could be used to power any form of technology used today while people can become addicted to the power that they can wield with it. For some, power was more valuable than money – or was a more efficient method to acquire money - and they'd rather go for pure, refined sources that could be stolen from official channels rather than flawed specimens that were rejected in factories but were nonetheless recycled and filtered down to the black market to make some kind of profit.
It was only recently that witness reports and sightings have positively linked the White Fang to the string of Dust robberies that have been going on in Vale and Team RWBY had its own interests concerning them which has led them to performing their own private investigation and brought her to a faction meeting to get information on the group's intentions – one of which that may or may not involve a notorious criminal.
"Call it a hunch," she finally replied. "Going by what Junior said, Torchwick was in need of men and I don't think the money he paid with was meant for a onetime deal. The fact that they mysteriously disappeared after they were arrested leads me to believe that there's some plan going on that he didn't want to get out. Soon after he disappears, the White Fang begin robbing Dust shops."
The voice on the other end went silent and she used it as an opportunity to press, "It deserves a look. Besides, we were going to do something like this eventually so, really, I'm killing two birds with one stone here."
"Who was going to come with me? Weiss? Fat chance. And if Roman does happen to be here, he may recognize you. I'm the best choice."
"But what about Bl-?"
Already expecting the question, she cut her off with, "It may end up being tough enough with just one of us getting in. Having two humans increases the risk of being discovered and, between the two of us, I've done this before which is why I sent her to follow another lead."
"She could've still provided some kind of backup. She's your partner and she should be sticking with you."
She flapped her lips into the built-in microphone of her scroll. "There's nothing to worry about." Deciding on a placating approach to quell her worries, she added, "It should just be a typical meeting meant for recruitment and planning. If it looks like there's going to be any trouble, I'll bail out at the first sign."
A pause. "You promise?"
"Got my pinkie up right now." She followed her words with action, holding up said finger in front of her. On the other end, she expected her leader to be doing the same thing.
"Alright," she sighed. "Just be careful."
"Always." She suddenly grinned. "Look at it this way; now you get to spend some more time alone with your girlfriend while you two go over the information you collected."
"She's not my-!"
"Have fun, Ruby!"
The blonde tapped her thumb against the scroll, ending the call before giving the device an amused look, grin firmly in place. After a shake of her head, Yang pocketed the device while muttering, "Need I remind you who you're doing this for?"
That was an unfair presumption with Yang having voiced it as any big sister would when they wanted to embarrass their younger one which, for Yang, was quite often. As she alluded to though, the main reason they decided to conduct this investigation was on Weiss Schnee's behalf. Once the White Fang started upgrading from break-ins to thefts of entire cargo containers off the docks of Vale - delivered by Schnee-owned freighters -, the attacks against the company she was to one day inherit that were being performed in the same city that she was in had agitated the heiress quite a bit. Agitated being the polite way to describe her reaction, of course.
Yang and, in extension, Ruby, didn't need much persuading in order to fight crime wherever and whatever it may be but the brawler couldn't prevent the amusing thoughts that her baby sister in particular had seen this task as similar to what fairy tale-centric knights would undertake in the service of royalty. In this instance, the role of royalty was performed by the Ice Queen who just so happened to be her partner.
Though nicknamed as such, Weiss wasn't immune to Ruby's honest desires to assist her and has warmed to her. Or at least that's what Yang figured with the lack of resistance to Ruby's insistence on traveling to the Cross Continental Transmit tower with her to make a call to the Schnee Company headquarters in Atlas to acquire files about any more Dust robberies. An errand which could've been easily done in the library or some other location.
Sure, it could be explained away with Ruby's obsession of weapons and other technological marvels but where was the fun in that? It was much more entertaining to over embellish their growing friendship as reaching towards romantic heights whether or not that was really going on. Yang needed little reason to tease her sister and getting the infallible Weiss all flustered was an added bonus.
Alright, Xiao Long, you've got a meeting of human-hating faunus to infiltrate and I'm sure they would love to skin you alive if they discover you. With that in mind, she checked to make sure her disguise was firmly in place, carefully shifting the headband on her head which was thoroughly hidden by her locks that curled around and over it. Attached to the band and sticking out from her hair were round, furry ears that matched the blonde's color.
For a five Lien coin, it wasn't such a bad disguise if she had to say so herself. She could've gone with something more conspicuous like rabbit or fox ears but that would've also led to the all-around fakeness that came with cheap costume props to be better noticed. With her hair, there was just enough for someone to see them while also increasing the chance of the lion ears holding up against a thorough examination.
It helped that she chose an alternate outfit to wear for this night. The black, white, and dark gray ensemble of shirt, cream top, mid-sleeved jacket, thigh-high stockings, and boots, all affixed with straps and belts, was much less noticeable than her usual setup of yellow, orange, and brown. It blended well with the shadows and the cutback on visible skin would keep fewer heads from turning in her direction.
Gaze passing over the three claw marks, Yang carefully edged towards the bend that it designated as the path that would lead her to where she wanted to go. Upon looking down the alley, it was just in time to witness a pair of individuals emerging from a separate passageway but she no doubt shared their destination: a side entrance to one of the warehouses that had its own watcher.
They were all faunus. Under a single light that casted a pale glow from over the door, Yang was able to make out the short protrusions atop the newly-arrived couple's heads. At first appearing like standard horns, it took the blonde a moment to recognize the thin, symmetrical shape that was more closely akin to antlers on a deer. Considering that the young couple shared the same structure and hair color, Yang assumed that it was a brother-sister pair.
It was the brother who approached the lone sentry; a bearded, gray-haired man who was properly dressed with a brown suit jacket, tie, and trousers which was at odds with the siblings' more casual appearances. He didn't make a move until the brother held up a hand as if to shake his and while the man raised his own, he didn't clasp the offered appendage. Instead, he held out an item that Yang couldn't see but the younger faunus took. Once he had it, the man stepped aside and waved him and his sister on through the door.
Yang silently cursed to herself. Had that been it or had some other kind of message been passed between them to allow entry? She didn't know.
When the deer faunus disappeared behind the door, Yang waited until what she guessed was an adequate amount of time having gone by before deciding to wing it. In her mind, the worst that could happen was that she would be refused entry and if that was the case she would improvise. Such a thing may or may not involve just knocking the sentry out and hiding his body somewhere. Sometimes the direct approach worked best and it served Yang well on previous occasions. It came with the not-so-uncommon chance of making new friends in the process.
The man turned towards her approach, letting her better see the long, thin bat ear that swept along the left side of his head. Ears, horns, fangs, claws, tails; Yang had seen at least one specimen of each and some faunus came equipped with more than one extra physical trait. Usually this included an enhancement or additional sensory perception and the bat ear bred a nugget of worry at the idea that this faunus may have one that might see through her disguise.
She tried to convince herself that it was just that miniscule feeling that made her think that the sentry was looking at her longer than the deer faunus and she forced herself to hold out her hand confidently. During that time, she couldn't help but notice that this faunus only had one bat ear; there wasn't one to match it on the right side. Would the cause happen to be genetic or had it been...removed? His hair and the insufficient visual angle that the blonde fighter had kept her from finding signs of it potentially being the latter.
The faunus sniffed, his nose wrinkling, and just as Yang felt her stomach begin to drop in anticipated failure, he produced something from his jacket and held it out to her. Suppressing any sign of her internal relief, Yang took the proffered item with little examination and entered the warehouse when he waved her on.
Only when the door settled back behind her did she inspect what she had been given. Delicately taking it in both hands, she tilted it this way and that for a thorough look. It was a mask. An angular, gray mask with two slits on either side that she figured were meant for the wearer to see through. Other than the slits, there were no other markings on the otherwise solid surface. It was small - nowhere near enough to cover her entire face.
Being a Huntress-in-training, Yang couldn't help but experience a sense of familiarity that linked the mask to another that has become common to her sight since her entry into Beacon Academy. It's almost like a...Grimm mask.
The coloration was off - gray instead of white -, it lacked a red design, and it was clearly meant to be worn on a human or faunus face but Yang couldn't help but be reminded of the skull plates that the creatures of Grimm formed over their heads whether they took the form of mammals or reptiles. Whether it was on purpose or not, Yang couldn't help but find it to be rather...grim.
Her self-congratulations were cut short as a voice called, "You! Hurry up!"
Yang jerked her head up, only now realizing that she had entered a hallway and, at the end, were the two deer faunus recruits who were following what had to be a full-fledged White Fang member. The mask was a dead giveaway though it was nothing like Yang held in her hands. It covered most of his - he sounded like a male - face, leaving only his mouth and chin exposed. Other than possessing plates that covered the cheeks, a pair of what looked like fangs adorned the mask, framing what of his head that was exposed.
The uniform sealed the deal; black leggings and shirt with attached hood over which was a white tunic. When the Fang member turned to resume leading, the blonde saw the symbol of the red wolf head displayed on the back of the tunic complete with three claw marks similar to the ones drawn outside except crimson and appearing much more savage.
Yang jogged to catch up, slipping the mask on while she did so. It fit perfectly, the ends resting behind her ears while the center settled over her nose and, although she knew it to be a trick of her mind, having even this amount of her face concealed did assuage her somewhat. The glances that the deer faunus – having donned their own masks – didn't disturb her as they might've had they been able to see her eyes and vice versa. It let her act as nonchalant as she wanted when she fell in step behind them.
"New recruits, keep to the right," the uniformed faunus instructed, directing them with an arm as they reached the doorway at that led into the center of the warehouse. Another of his comrades was standing guard but while he was equipped with the bulky shape of a firearm, it hung from his belt as relaxed as he was, only giving them a nod which Yang returned.
Beyond, it was for Yang to see that the warehouse had been converted into a dimly-lit auditorium complete with a stage having been set up at the end. What typical storage units usually came with such a facility were pushed off to the side and the four corners, keeping them out of the way in order to make room. Yang idly wondered if any of the crates and other containers held any stolen Dust.
She might have to make another visit to Junior later. Get the warehouse block and number, see if he can find a name of ownership to go with it. What facilities weren't dedicated to the storing and distribution of trade goods amongst the four kingdoms could be privately owned and, seeing all this, Yang had to assume that the White Fang had taken to renting and using them for their private meetings and, potentially, storing the spoils of their thefts. Any names would probably be fake and tracks could be sufficiently covered when you dumped enough Lien over them but it was a lead.
Right now, she concerned herself with the massive gathering of White Fang members who stood in front of the stage. A good two-thirds of the warehouse was filled with row upon row of their numbers which was much too high for Yang to keep count. To supplement them were overhead sentries who had taken up positions on top of the various crates and overhead catwalks, many of them armed with rifles.
Oh boy, she thought. I might be starting to regret not having backup.
That was when she began to have a bad feeling about this. Weiss had a few choice words to describe the White Fang but Yang hadn't been expecting this show of strength that hinted to more than this being just a simple recruitment drive and meeting. Thieves, murderers, and terrorists were a bit different from what was looking like an army.
Disturbed by this revelation, the brawler followed the previous direction to stick to the right where a separate crowd made up of recruits stood by and appeared poorly disorganized when compared to their uniformed comrades. It was more than how they stood with a lack of order as, like she witnessed outside, their dress hinted the various faunus coming from different tiers of society. Many, such as the deer faunus, were young and dressed casually but there were a couple here who wore ties and suits that hinted to a more successful life yet here they were.
Is it really this bad? she wondered. She knew that being a faunus could be tough but to join a terrorist organization? She was more willing to believe that their numbers made up of the young and rash or those down on their luck but…she turned to give the more seasoned members another look.
Most of the White Fang members were using their uniforms to disguise their traits but Yang could see how their hoods may've been purposely cut for their second set of ears or horns to poke through. She even caught a faunus that she hadn't seen before; one with tusks that jutted out from behind his jaw and curved forward as one would find on an elephant.
That wasn't what eventually caught her attention, nor did it cause the distress that she soon felt. Oh, shit.
There were kids. There were the typically tall and muscled goons, smaller and slenderer forms that belonged to women, but then there were the short, scrawny individuals that had to be as tall as her fifteen-year-old sister. The masks and uniforms were doing their best to make them as intimidating as the adults but, for Yang, it didn't change the fact that there were kids here. Children who were taking part in a meeting of killers.
It took a staggering amount of willpower for Yang to turn away and bring her attention to the stage.
Dominating the center was a makeshift curtain which had a large example of the bloody wolf symbol painted on it. Standing in front of that was another associate of the group but there were differences in his appearance that had the young Huntress guessing that he was some kind of lieutenant or someone of higher rank. Unlike everyone else here, his mask completely covered his face and was decorated with red, angry eyes painted over where his should be and streaming down from them were thin streaks of the same color that reached the bottom of his mask.
Yang couldn't tell what breed of faunus he was as, even if the hood was down and his black hair was closely cropped, there was nothing extending from them. A swirling black tattoo decorated a muscular arm but its full shape and potential meaning was lost to the blonde. It was that and the other arm he raised, beckoning for silence, and what conversations had been occurring around Yang swiftly died.
"Thank you all for coming!" the lieutenant spoke, his voice, loud and deep, echoing throughout the open space as he addressed the crowd, his arms shifting as if intending to take them all in. "For those of you who are joining us for the first time tonight, allow me to introduce a very special comrade of ours! I can assure you, he is the key to obtaining what we have fought for for so long!"
The last must've been made for when that 'special comrade' stepped out from behind the curtain. It was due to the silence that fell upon his entry that Yang managed to make out his polished shoes tapping against the grating of the platform, his cane joining in the efforts before coming to a halt.
Yang couldn't believe her luck. Not even five minutes into the meeting and she's got the answer to her question. Torchwick!
It was indeed the one who's she come to find and confirm his association to the White Fang. Standing in his suited glory complete with way too much black eye liner was the wanted criminal who was constantly sought after by the VPD yet the yellow-themed Huntress found him just like that. Then again, no one could've truly expected to find him in the spotlight of a human-hating faunus organization and the reactions of the crowd was a testament to that.
There were a couple cheers over at the veteran members who probably already knew about him but going by the rumblings of discontent and outright condemnation of the rest clearly outweighed them. Unaffected and even taking some amusement in it, Roman tauntingly exclaimed, "Thank you, thank you!" He stepped to the center of the stage as if to better place himself at the face of their jeers. "Please, hold your applause!"
With him being at the forefront of the attention, Yang almost missed how someone else chose that moment to come into view and, even if the slits of the mask limited her sight, she couldn't miss the shocking amount of pink that she followed to the source. Woah, some hairstyle she's got there.
Only half of her hair was pink though and even that amount had similarly eye-catching streaks of white. The other half was dark brown and, with her low ponytail, the multi-colored strands were like streamers that fell behind her as she walked off to the side of the stage. Once she reached the corner, she turned to fully face the crowd, her brown eyes and how her arms crossed over her chest creating an appearance of boredom as she scanned the gathered White Fang before coming to rest on Roman.
Her entire outfit consisted of the three colors, starting with the short white jacket and the pink interior. The front only covered her chest, the open collar exposing a disorganized mess of necklaces, while the back continued down with the ends reaching the back of her thighs. Her brown pants transitioned to white, knee-high boots. The only inconsistencies in the theme were the black gloves covering her hands while a black corset hid her middle except for the slices of pale skin at her sides when it curved inwards.
She was young, probably around Yang's age if not younger although that could be attributed to her small frame. She was also human but, like Roman, didn't show any sign of unease at being at a White Fang rally where being such could warrant a lot of trouble.
A new henchman? Yang wondered. Even with her rather colorful appearance, she wasn't ringing any bells to the brawler.
"What's a human doing here!?"
Yang was brought back by the cry that was issued by one the deer faunus that she entered the warehouse with; the sister. Up on the stage, Roman turned towards her, a smile that he presented meant to seem pleasant as he said, "I'm glad you asked that, deery!"
Ha. Even out of the mouth of a wanted criminal, Yang could appreciate a good pun and the slight twisting at the corner of said criminal's lips told her that it was indeed on purpose.
"Now, I'll be the first to admit: humans…" During a pause, Roman held up his cane and emphasized his next few words with a shake for each. "Are. The. Worst." He tapped the fingers of his free hand against his feathered bowler cap. "Case in point."
Looking amongst the helmeted faces lined up before him, he went on, "So I understand why you would love to see us all locked away or, better yet, killed."
And the part where he gives them a reason not to do that right now is…?
As if able to detect Yang's silent question, Roman held up a finger. "But, before the claws come out, I'd like to mention the fact that you and I all have a common enemy: the ones in control, the people pulling the strings, the dirty, rotten humans that run our kingdoms."
The previous insults had begun to wane and Yang actually turned her head to try and vainly catch the "Yeah!" that someone shouted behind her – a shout that came somewhere within the new recruits. That alone seemed to commence a new wave of murmuring from the crowd but it wasn't like the mean-spirited remarks from before.
Taking advantage of the opportunity, Roman began throwing up more fingers as he said, "Government, military, even the schools; they're all to blame for your lot in life!"
Each digit and listing was another log on the fire that was slowly spreading amongst his audience, fueling a growing chorus of agreements that became full-blown cheers. In contrast, Yang quietly regarded the shift in attitude all around her, her face covering hiding her expression of incredulity. Weren't they just waiting to take his head off a moment ago? Now it seemed like he might as well be one of them.
"And they're all pests that need to be dealt with!" The criminal began wandering off to the side. "Fortunately, I'm the best exterminator around – no offense to any rodents in the room." Coming to a stop, he snapped his fingers.
His repositioning had been meant for the second part of the presentation that the noise signaled to begin. When the curtain – which Yang was now correcting as a tarp that had been hanging from something big – fell away, there was nothing to obstruct the sight of just what, exactly, had been behind it.
That's a big robot, Yang identified as her head slowly craned up to take in the several meters of the mechanical monstrosity that was just unveiled.
It stood on two bipedal legs; thick and powerful which was how you could describe the rest of it as Yang's gaze traveled up to the wide body that was bristling with weapons. Two arms which were bent and pointed ahead ended in gun barrels while additional, double-barreled guns were attached to the sides. Up above and on the back, Yang was able to make out two rocket pods honeycombed with holes which she theorized could unleash a deadly salvo of explosives.
She wasn't a technogeek like Ruby but her frequent gushing had Yang nonetheless taking note of the ball-like construct at the chin and similar protrusions along the rest of the mech. Some of what was once incomprehensible babble wormed its way into her brain to give her the idea that they were sensors or something of similar nature.
In spite of the circumstances, the brawler smirked. I could totally take it.
"As some of you may've heard," Roman began explaining, knuckles tapping against the armored leg, "this right here is Atlas's newest line of defense against all the scary things in the world."
The rest of Roman's presentation began falling on increasingly deaf ears as something caught Yang's interest. It was only her continued examination of the mech and Torchwick's timely tapping against the leg that allowed her to notice something hidden in the shadows that was cast by the machine.
It was Roman, the girl, and the White Fang lieutenant who stood out so obviously at the center of the stage, taking in most of the spotlight. With the unveiling of the Atlesian mech, the nearby foot soldiers may as well be insignificant. That wasn't who caught Yang's attention though.
At the rear of the stage, back pressed against the warehouse wall, was someone else and their apparent preference to stick to obscurity rather than out in the open was what drew Yang to them. Considering the already dim lighting of the warehouse, their position behind the ongoing presentation made them little more than a dark figure. Yang could make out what she assumed was the black leggings and beginnings of the white tunic of the terrorist group but there was an inconsistency at the arms.
They were bare, lacking gloves or sleeves, but there was something wrapped around them that, at first glance, almost looked as if the figure's arms were in fact bound together at their chest. There came a miniscule shift, enough for the blonde to be corrected in that the black bands around the individual's arms were wrapped separately around each limb instead of together.
The movement transferred to their head and Yang felt a jolt go down her spine. With that veil of darkness hiding their features – Yang couldn't even tell what kind of mask they were wearing -, the only thing she could make out was what she thought was the rounded shape of a hood. It was difficult to tell what they were looking at but the young Huntress nonetheless felt like whoever was over there was looking back at her. An impossible notion to be sure; Yang was situated in a crowd of what had to be a hundred others and wearing the mask came with the advantage of allowing her eyes to wander wherever they wanted while the slits stared straight ahead.
Except she was staring right at them – eyes and mask. For just a moment, everything else in the warehouse was blurred and it became just the two of them: Yang staring at this figure whose head she could now be positive was fixed right at her. With a jump that she hoped she managed to suppress, Yang returned her attention to Roman with the hopes of looking inconspicuous.
Everything came rushing back, including the cheering that signified a coming end to the human criminal's demonstration as he began wrapping things up. "Now, many of your brothers have already moved to our new operation in the southeast. If you'd rather stay within the city…that's fine." His tone said otherwise and soon he was adding, "But if you're truly ready to fight for what you believe in, this is the arsenal that I can provide you."
Producing a cigar from within his suit, he tipped the end towards his audience. "Any questions?"
There were none, only the cheers that were further punctuated with waving fists to show that this human had won the entire assembly over. Taking it as his cue, the lieutenant came forward. "All new recruits, please come forward!"
And that's my cue to leave, Yang decided. She's accomplished her goal and, really, got plenty more than she had set out to gather. She confirmed Torchwick's association to the White Fang, has gotten an idea as to how the group was able to get their equipment and facilities, and any more snooping would just put her into unnecessary trouble. As much as she enjoyed a good fight, the kind that could be initiated here would way more than a brawl in a nightclub.
Fighting against the current of recruits that were following the order that was given, Yang tried to think of a suitable exit. Back the way she came? Most obvious but people are going to notice. And, when she glanced back, she could see that the door had been closed and locked sometime during the onset of the meeting with there now being three guards instead of one. She could punch through it probably but that might take time.
Hm… Searching for a more unique route, the girl's gaze swept over the line of windows of the warehouse. Exit stage left it is.
Before she could enact her escape plan, a blade was positioned at her throat.
He had never learned the name of the lieutenant and, as much as he cared, he would be satisfied if he never did. So when the faunus leaned over, that grotesque mask merely a scant foot away from his own face, he had to hold back a sneer when he informed him, "We may have an intruder."
That voiced possibility did accomplish in setting his disfavor in associating with such an animal to the side at least. Having been about to fish for his lighter, Roman instead pinched his cigar in order to pull it away from his lips. "You don't say."
As soon as the faunus stepped aside - Oh, just assuming I'm going to take care of it, are you? -, the criminal peered at the unruly congregation that was his duped listeners. Guessing that the apparent intruder would be amongst the new converts, Roman examined that section.
Considering the rest had become such eager followers, it didn't take long for the man to find the anomaly within their excited ranks. While the rest were coming forth as directed, there was one in particular who stood out due to how she refused to go with the tide. Well, that and the excessive amount of curly hair.
Blondie... It was the hair in particular that stuck out for Roman, mostly due to how one Mr. Xiong had a visit from such a girl of such hair as soon as Roman left after their business transaction had been finalized. Considering the results that occurred during that visit, Roman should've taken heed to the omen concerning the quality of Junior's men.
But, hey, he could be a fair man and he certainly hadn't been expecting his own girl trouble - this one being a little red one whose size may've made that scythe of hers look even more ridiculous if not for soundly defeating the henchmen that he paid a rather large sum of money for in a span of a few seconds. Nonetheless, that didn't save them when he needed to tie up a few loose ends after their apprehension. Hazards of the job after all.
Although the only misfortune he's had with this plan so far was rooted to that redhead, he wasn't one to take chances. Keeping his cigar safe between his fingers, Roman walked along the stage, catching yet another girl's attention. Able to perceive something that was troubling him, one brown eye steadily began to change to a pink hue and a corner of her lip quirked in anticipation.
Ah, Neo. Such a doll, she really was; down to that swirly mix of hair and deceptively sweet smile. Out of all the kids he's ended up with, she was definitely his favorite. Does what she's told, doesn't talk out of turn - or hardly at all, really -, keeps her nose clean, and even goes to bed on time instead of sneaking out and meddling what was strictly his affairs. If only the other two could learn by her example then things would be going so much smoother.
Though he would love to reward her for the good behavior that she's displayed, Roman gave her a slight shake of his head in negative. He wasn't one to shy away from the messy portions of their job - far from it -, but their boss was a devil woman who wanted to keep as much discretion as they possibly could. And Roman had to admit that, even if he had been directly overseeing a few of the raids on the Dust shipments coming in, his ties with the White Fang remaining hidden was a wonder that he felt like having last for a little while longer.
Besides, he was feeling too much like the trained dog lately. High time he unleashed one that the White Fang kept penned up, especially since it was their fault for having an intruder in the first place.
It was the one at the back of the stage that he went to. Like Neo, this dog - he internally chuckled at the ironic twist - was one that he held a certain amount of...something for that wasn't shared with the rest of the mongrels of the White Fang. Respect seemed too formal but there was something that he admired about her. It wasn't about skill as it was that he recognized a person who's become disillusioned with what she once believed in and was now left with what she is and what she's done; that being a killer.
He preferred killers as they were such an honest bunch. Soldiers, warriors, revolutionaries, what have you. Roman disliked them and how they plugged their ears and covered their eyes with so-called causes that they believed made the exact same deeds that they performed different. Roman knew who and what he was and took pride in how people feared him and not what self-proclaimed title or belief he could've used if he wanted to hide. He held no shame for what he did as he was exactly what everyone would say he wasn't: human.
There came a minute movement of the shadowy figure's head at Roman's approach, signaling that he had her attention. Standing unwaveringly in front of her, the human pointed his cigar over his shoulder. "We have an unwanted guest."
He knew immediately that he didn't have to specify who it was as she soundlessly pushed herself off the wall, her crossed arms coming down to rest at her sides in a clear show that she was ready to be set upon them as soon as he issued specific instructions.
"No need to kill her right away," he said. "Nothing like some product testing to bring this to a close." He gave her a smug smile. "You know, a better show for the troops."
She didn't respond to his clever wit, something that he was a little disappointed in. I think the brats are starting to rub off on me if I'm coming to expect backtalk from everyone. Roman barely managed to catch the movement that came after that thought and when he tried to locate her he found that she had disappeared into the shadows to begin her assignment.
Feeling like all was still wrong in the world, Roman placed the end of his cigar back between his teeth before retaking his place at the front of the stage to better watch the ongoing procession.
If there was one thing that the criminal prided himself in being, it was that he was a very down-to-Remnant man. He took enjoyment from the finer things in life such as money, clean suits, sweet cigars, and all those material things. Apparently, in civilized society, such indulgement – not to mention acquirement - of physical things was frowned upon and he would constantly hear condemnation from the lips of Lisa Lavendar or an ordinary person about his habits. Instead of believing something that they could touch and experience, people nowadays liked to put stock in what they couldn't such as the laws made by their governments or those supposedly left behind by some make believe gods, thinking that it made them better that way.
How ironic that it was those material things that could so easily sway the so-called integrity of the mortals who believed, controlled, and interpreted such things yet maintained a clean appearance to the masses. If life was as good and perfect and peaceful as people wanted it to be, men such as him couldn't rise above such limits due to their preference for money and power. Nor would they be allowed to take advantage of what society mistreated for the sake of the continued illusion of prosperity. Case in point: the White Fang and his involvement with it.
Money and power was a factor - as well as the threats of a certain fiery-eyed boss of his - that led to his participation but, really, Roman enjoyed the idea of pulling the carpet of civilized society out from under the people who stood on it. Being able to play them, to test and break their flimsy beliefs, and to be there when everything was stripped away from them and leaving nothing to differentiate them from someone like him was a bonus.
Toss out a few treats, throw in a couple toys, and the faunus of the White Fang were as whipped as any other mangy curs once you told them that it was all for their cause when it was that cause that labeled him as an enemy. Those masks they wore were just another method of self-deceit. If they were really so righteous, they would not be ashamed to expose their faces nor would they wish to constantly remind themselves of the partial lie that it was humans who were responsible for their actions. Partial because it was human ignorance that led the faunus to this but the legions that they decide to slay will be done by their hands.
He still wasn't sure what, exactly, was being planned but he was starting to be able to form guesses. For most of them, it would involve what people would describe as bringing a piece of hell to Remnant. Roman grinned wickedly at the thought and he took particular interest in the small figures that were mixed with the adults, the fists they raised tiny but waving just as eagerly for blood.
Even Roman recognized that hell had the decency to spare the innocent and the lord of such a fantasy realm would prefer the slow temptation and corruption of innocence rather than the outright slaughter of it.
Yes, humans really were the worst. Then again, faunus were equally so. It was a punchline that he'll be sure to laugh at every time he flipped to it in the history books years down the line.
Well, that would be if he lived that long and if there would be anyone to write it down. He wasn't any more immune to the hazards of this job as anyone else was. The payoff just happened to be worth the possibility.
She slunk through the crowd as easily as she did within the shadows. With the participants lost to their excited vigor, they failed to notice what was a flicker of movement at the corner of their vision. Even if there was anyone who bothered to look, they would find nothing as she's already moved on to stealthily approach her target.
Though the bodies she passed were different, the target she kept in sight was always the same: a descending blanket of golden hair that would swish and sway with the searching motions the person's head. What she was looking for - most likely a way to escape - didn't matter to the approaching agent as her only concern was to make sure she wasn't inadvertently spotted when her target's gaze began traveling in her direction.
Once she reached her, this person's life who she dubbed as the 'intruder' would be forfeit. Whoever or whatever she was didn't matter as she was someone who didn't belong and, for that, she would die.
That was all that went through the agent's mind and it was all that she would allow. Once, a long time ago, she would've been inclined to give some kind of thought. Ask such things as to who they were or why they were here but no longer would such distractions cloud her mind. It would make things simpler that way; both the deed and the lack of what would usually come afterwards.
By the time she was in position, the intruder's head turned to the left, her chin raised, and she couldn't ask for a more perfect setup to remove her blade from the sheath at her back, the act devoid of any sound, and putting it right to the blonde's neck.
It was shy from touching her jugular but she reacted all the same, the intruder freezing as she caught the curving of the blade that created a slight arch at her neck. The short spike located on the spine near the tip was perfectly positioned so that a quick motion of the agent's arm would rip open the vital arteries and end the intruder's life.
But she didn't even though she wanted to. The desire didn't come from any hate or malice as it was a task that she wanted to just finish and be done with. She didn't want to be distracted by unnecessary thinking and one way to prevent that was to not give any time for it to come to her.
Unfortunately, she was given an order to restrain, not kill, although that would come later. The plan that it would be someone else who would do so did little to relieve her and she chose to keep silent and still.
Despite the weapon at her neck, the intruder decided to turn her head in order to look at the agent. She couldn't turn far and the restriction to visibility when it came to the Grimm mask would keep the agent from coming fully into sight but the eye slits managed to be directed far enough that she would be able to see the hint of her assailant.
The agent refused to meet what of the blonde's eyes that she may be able to make out with her superior vision. She shifted her attention to their surroundings and saw for herself how the other recruits were only now noticing what was going on. The silence that began around them and stretched outwards said it all but she could see for herself how turned heads revealed puzzled faces that morphed into surprise. Mouths dropped open, there were hastened steps made to put distance between them and what was going on, but even with all that the confusion wasn't completely banished as they tried to figure out what was going on.
She decided to help them. Her one hand and the sword it held staying in place, she reached with the other to venture into those golden tresses. They were soft and real enough to be considered as pleasant to her touch.
The rounded ears, on the other hand, were soft but in a way that was so very fake. The plastic band was more so and, gripping it, she pulled it roughly from the intruder's head and flung it away.
"Woah, careful with the merchandise. The hair, that is."
She heard half of what the intruder - a clearly human one - said and she was briefly put off by how she seemed to be completely ignoring the severity of her position to throw out such a casual remark. The rest of it was almost drowned out by the reactions of the nearby faunus who were displaying a wider range of emotions as they gained a better understanding of what was going on.
When the agent next viewed them, it was to see that surprise again but the confusion gave way to anger, hatred, disgust, and those open mouths were closed with the snapping of teeth that became bared in time with the growls that were issued from numerous throats. Shortly after, curses and insults were uttered and directed at the human and the agent's hearing let her make out quite a few of them.
One voice echoed loudly in order to be heard over it all. "I see that we have a minor infestation!"
She glanced up to see that one of the few other humans in the building - Torchwick - had taken notice of the commotion that she had instigated under his order. Smiling over the bud of a now lit cigar, the tip flared as a sign of the man taking in a draft before removing it in order to blow out some smoke and to speak without obstruction.
"I'm sure our audience wouldn't mind a live demonstration to allay any doubts about the reliability and firepower of this machine that'll be assisting in their cause." Like a conductor he lifted one arm up, the smoking cigar his baton that encouraged a hesitant but growing crescendo of passionate approval. Pleased at the response, he directed attention back towards the mech. "The Atlesian Paladin-290 comes equipped with all manner of weapons to exterminate what human scum the pilot may wish to target. Sadly, I'll have to take the missiles off the selection as I believe they'll cause too much collateral damage given our current location. However, a portion of this suit's power core supplies enough to the Lancer FDCs - Focused Dust Cannons for those unaware - to provide continuous and accurate fire with the help of the latest in targeting software."
The White Fang agent found herself tuning out the criminal-turned-comrade, his voice lowering to an incomprehensible mumble. Though her brethren tossed out votes as to what should be the fate of the intruder, she didn't feel inclined to do the same. In fact, her hidden eyes strayed from the human she kept in place to take in the faunus who have yet to be minted by the group.
Do they truly know what they're getting into?
She didn't mean to think it but it was out there before she could stop herself. She immediately stifled it with another. It's not your concern about what they do.
It used to be. She used to worry about the actions of her brethren and how they were to find a place in this world. During those times, she would've been appalled at what measures they've decided to undertake in order to seize it. But this was the present and her people had already tossed aside one course of action in favor of another. Unlike the last, however, this one was more permanent as it required complete and utter commitment with no chance of going back. The only faunus in this room were ones who have already made that sacrifice and ones who were about to. Whether the latter knew it or not, just the fact that they took this first step meant that they were going all the way.
She was of the former so she knew for a fact that there was nothing left in this world for her for she had given up the possibility of anything else. The only thing left was the White Fang and her bloody duties to it. Whether it was right or wrong, fair or unfair, if she truly believed in it anymore or not - it didn't matter; it was all she had now. Any doubts or questions or any semblance of free will would do her no good.
For the White Fang agent known as Blake Belladonna - the once independent faunus who had been an advocate but has now become a slave to her cause -, all she could do was carve a path forward until she found the end whether it be in the blood-soaked dirt or the better future she had always wanted but knew was no longer for the likes of her.
Every single faunus here had or was about to sacrifice their place in it for the sake of the few who would go on without them when all was said and done.
The noise was bizarre considering the other ones that filled the air were either Roman's smug words or the incomprehensible collection that was shouted out by her people. Even with her advantage of enhanced hearing, it was almost drowned out and she needed it to repeat itself in order to confirm its origins.
Blake found herself focusing on the blonde human who's neck was at her blade. Her mask didn't have eye slits as she was one who had chosen more sight-friendly holes covered by transparent lenses when she had been given the opportunity to customize it once she had 'proven' herself so she was able to better see how the intruder had kept her head slightly turned in her direction. When she perceived that she had gotten Blake's attention, the human gave what tilt she could of her head that wouldn't result in getting her throat slit.
Her first instinct was to ignore her. Engaging in conversation with a human, especially one who was about to die, was something she tended to avoid. For a few seconds, she did just that.
The smooth line that was Blake's mouth twitched and with the lower half of her face not being covered by her mask or the shadows of her hood, the human probably saw it if another minute motion of her head was anything to go on. It was that and the ridiculous possibility that she would only continue if Blake didn't say anything that had the agent asking in a monotone voice, "What?"
The human shrugged so naturally and easily that Blake had to flex her fingers around the hilt of Gambol Shroud to double-check that her sword was in her hand and the blade was at the blonde's throat. "Nothing. Just trying to make conversation."
For a moment all the faunus could do was stare at her incredulously. "I think there's one right now that you should be more concerned with."
"What, you mean the one going on onstage? I wouldn't exactly call that a conversation as it is some guy in love with his own voice. Going by how everyone else is acting, I get the feeling that I won't have any luck with them either. Besides, I prefer the quiet, dark, and mysterious who I now realize has a nice voice. Like the lack of growling but a little more emotion wouldn't hurt either."
Blake pressed her lips together to reform the line.
"Oh come on, don't do that," the blonde admonished. "If you stop talking, what am I supposed to do to pass the time?"
Her captive fulfilled her demand after a huff.
What is with this one? Blake wondered. It was like this human wasn't even registering how the end of her life was being voted on right in front of her while a blade kept her in place and promised to deliver the final blow itself if she tried anything.
It didn't seem to be dawning on her either as, once Roman started moving on about the double-barreled cannons that fired more 'classic, ballistic munitions', the intruder was then asking, "Could you at least enlighten me as to what gave me away? I mean I know the disguise was cheap but I thought I'd be able to get by because we look so much alike."
We aren't alike, was Blake's instinctive answer that she prevented herself from saying aloud. It was to prove that they weren't that convinced her to say, "Your perfume."
Blake could smell it: a strong, sharp scent that offended such an acute sense. "Most faunus don't use perfume because it bothers them. Even if they did, they wouldn't use one as strong as yours."
"Oh, that? I was kind of visiting a friend of mine before coming here and decided to spray some on." With a sudden grunt of understanding, she said, "I guess that's why the one at the door was looking at me funny."
"It also made you stand out more," Blake condescended. "The other faunus were keeping their distance from you. You were easy to spot."
It was more than just the perfume. Her hair, her body language; faunus were known to pick up on more subtle things due to their senses and other attributes. Those with tusks, horns, and those who didn't have their ears on top of their heads like Blake's tended to favor shorter hairstyles to keep their hair out of the way. Considering her line of work and how long she's been in it, it was natural for Blake to spot the long, bright, and wild hair of the intruder. The faunus around her giving some extra space allowed the agent to note her random, wandering looks that could be due to natural curiosity or a difficulty to handling the low light of the warehouse.
And she wasn't as...enthused as the recruits were. All Blake needed was the confirmation - possibly passed down from the same door guard - of an intruder and it was a simple matter to deduce the most likely suspect.
No, faunus and humans weren't alike at all. While humans focused on the more obvious traits that made them separate, faunus could make out the slight discrepancies that did the same.
The blonde seemed to be taking it all in, resulting in a delay in her response. "I'll have to keep that in mind; I'm not usually fond of sneaking around."
Blake decided not to point out that it would be a waste of effort, favoring on another lapsing of silence between the two of them and letting the ongoing noise of the dozens of faunus answer to why that was. When the blonde finally decided to face forward, the agent hoped that that would be an end to this discussion.
But it seemed to be the crowd itself that got her attention going by her what she said next. "I didn't think it was this bad."
Blake didn't reply although she did notice that the human didn't seem in the mood for jokes anymore.
"If you really hate and want to kill humans, why are you letting a guy like Torchwick order you around? It sounds like he's doing more than just selling you giant robots."
It was a question that Blake couldn't fully answer. At least not to the extent that may've been desired. All she could say was, "We were pushed too far. At this point, we'll do anything to get our message across."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
She shook her head. "No, you're not." The only thing that this human was sorry for was how the change in circumstances wasn't beneficial to her in this instance.
"I'm sorry that you think that."
That gave Blake a pause, especially as she thought she could hear a measure of sincerity which was something she had never heard from a human before. She didn't let it sway her and she was regretting having said so much as a word to this intruder. Seeking an end to this discussion, she made a sharp, "It doesn't matter what anyone thinks anymore. It's too late now."
The blonde turned her head in another vain attempt to look at her face. "You know, I was starting to like your voice. Now it's kind of pissing me off."
As Blake just said, it didn't matter what the intruder thought now. She was remotely aware of the votes coming in: apparently the method of execution that was most likely to be chosen was to use the Paladin's transforming arms to tear the human apart.
"So is this the part where I try to plead for my life?" she asked. "Would that even do any good?"
For a brief instant, Blake wasn't inside the warehouse anymore. The walls and ceiling closed in in order to create a smaller, more compact space. The only noise she heard was the clicking of her heels and how she walked away from the door to the next train car that she destroyed the lock of to jam it shut. Behind it were muffled pleas of mercy.
She had her sword in one hand, blood staining the blade, but the other wasn't empty. Her thumb flipped up the safety flap of the detonator she held in order to expose the red button that served as the trigger to the charges that were planted.
She would push it minutes later but the distance traveled during then wasn't enough to put the resultant display out of her sight. When she pushed the button, it was more than the train and its crew members that went up in fire and smoke. Staring at the raging cloud that formed, she felt a part of herself die in the wake of it. In that moment, the words she spoke in her head while the ones Adam spoke in her ear to remind her of the good of the cause became meaningless.
The very concept of right and wrong became meaningless. Her views of the world became harshly narrowed and the only room in it was for what she had done and how the rest of her life would be all about that.
For most of her comrades, they've chosen to lay blame or find other means to justify their actions. Blake tried to do the same. To try and find or conjure up a meaning for her actions but what became paramount in her mind that drowned out all efforts was that the deaths she caused by one push of a button - something that was so easily pressed but could've been just as easily thrown away - was her decision and hers alone. Their objective was the Dust. The human crewmembers were collateral damage that she decided to inflict.
Just as she wouldn't accept any excuse for herself, she didn't accept any from anyone else. Life was cheap, death came easily, people killed one another no matter how simple or complex their reasons were or what their status may be, and while she may've once detested the war, she was deep in it after having established herself as just another killer who would go on to take more lives because that was how it is.
Coming back to the warehouse, Blake met the hidden gaze of the soon-to-be latest casualty. "No."
She could plead all she wanted whether it be about a loved one or family member who would miss her when she was gone or because she was coerced to come here in some way. Blake heard it before and even heard it repeated several times from different mouths but it never convinced her to treat one life as differently as any other. More often than not, it made her dispense with them quicker.
The intruder didn't try but not because of the futility of it. To Blake's surprise, the half of the mouth she saw curved up before a question came from it. "What's your name?"
Shaking it off, the faunus coolly replied, "I don't think you'll live long enough to remember it."
An all-encompassing cheer suddenly ran throughout the building. The votes were in: torn limb-from-limb by the metal juggernaut it was. The surrounding faunus turned towards the human to issue another stream of curses and taunts while uniformed Fang members started pushing through in order to properly restrain and bring her to the site of her chosen execution.
Neither the agent nor the intruder paid any mind and it was the latter - still with that smile - who queried, "You think so, huh?"
It was the expression and the words that prompted Blake to break her rule. "Who are you? You're not VPD."
She definitely wasn't. While her infiltration may be as brazen and clumsy as if it was performed by one of the department's detectives, her easy manner and overall behavior didn't match any of the ones who tried and failed to do so in the past. For once, Blake began to closely examine her captive.
"Like I'd ever want to even involve myself with those chumps."
She was young. She was tall but her voice, the hair, the perfume, the smooth and healthy features that Blake could see, all of it pointed to someone who may very well be as old as her. She was no ordinary human girl though; not with how she stood so confidently despite the danger all around her. That tall frame of hers, she saw, was also packed with muscle beneath that flawless skin.
"Atlesian military?" Some kind of spy may've been sent from some branch of Atlas's government, what with Torchwick having been able to smuggle samples of the latest mechanized battlesuits. A sudden urge had Blake reaching up and ripping off the Grimm mask from the human's face to better see the rest of it.
Now visible lilac eyes stared at her mirthfully. "I heard that faunus can see very well in the dark."
The decision came and was reinforced when Blake caught the sounds of mechanical whirring and clacking that was coming from the human, somewhere at her lowered hands. Without a second thought, she made the cutting motion to bring the spike of her sword across her throat - which then bounced off.
She has an Aura!
A bright and powerful one at that. Blake was barely able to see the outline that not only protected the human's throat but encased her entire body before it transformed into a miniature sun that blinded her in spite of the protection of her mask. The cries that issued all around her told her that she wasn't the only one but that was the least of her concerns considering what sounded like two shotgun blasts going off right in front of her. The loud noise and a sudden shove had her falling backwards.
Fighting against partial blind and deafness, Blake pushed her mask off from her face to better rub at her eyes with one hand. She was getting up even before her sight started coming back and when it did it was to see chaos having taken over the assembly.
What recruits who hadn't been similarly blinded were running amok while the White Fang were pushing them aside. What they were looking for and what they were trying to do Blake had no idea as the one who they should be after - the human - was gone.
Her hearing recovered enough for Blake to catch her name over it all. Snapping her head to the stage, it was to see the lieutenant pointing up high, to her left. A look in that direction revealed the line of windows with one having been shattered to pieces.
"Don't let her get away!"
The order came from Roman but Blake was following it anyway. Having had the mind to keep Gambol Shroud in her grip, Blake picked her mask back up before running and pushing through the press of bodies. Once she was close enough, she jumped and used a shadow clone to send her flying through the window and out of the warehouse.
She landed on the pavement in a roll before coming up to a swift stop. She whipped her head left and right but found no sign of the human within the surrounding lot.
She's got a head start, she began thinking. Not much but if she has any nearby transportation-
A sudden roar of an engine gave credit to that theory. She ran through the lot, breaking through the outer perimeter of the warehouses in order to reach the main street, gaze already turning to see what she expected to find: the small, thin shape of a motorcycle disappearing down the street.
North. Already working to predict her escape plan, Blake sheathed Gambol Shroud and took off in a run. She'll head for the highway. The faunus placed her mask back over her face. It's all about speed now.
That was something she had too, as well as the terrain. To prove it, she hopped onto a parked car and used the extra height and her Semblance to reach atop a two story building. Sprinting across the rooftop, another jump and another clone got her to a second which added another story to her ascension.
The method will negate the advantage of the vehicle and the open streets that the human was using. By the time she got to the highway, Blake will be there to intercept. This chase has only just begun.
"You're at least wearing a helmet, right?"
"I hardly think that's something we should be worrying about right now, sis," Yang rebutted, needing to raise her voice over the sound of Bumblebee's engine. The motorcycle bounced beneath her as she hit the ramp that began leading her up to one of the various highways that snaked and twisted around each other a hundred or so feet from ground level. "But, yes, I am."
Once she patched a call to Ruby, the young leader of RWBY had taken note of the background noise which she had come to be familiar with as Yang talking on her scroll while driving and immediately asked if the brawler was obeying at least some of the traffic laws. Her yellow helmet was currently resting protectively over her head and Yang even threw on her aviator shades soon after she took off on her bike.
As much as she found Ruby's worries of such things as safety to be adorable, it wasn't like Yang was using one hand to drive in order to talk to her. A slight modification to Bumblebee that she added shortly after joining Beacon was a little slot located behind the small windscreen that she could set her scroll in. With her body bent, Yang could hold a conversation while keeping eyes on the road.
Granted, even with her scroll's volume all the way up, she still struggled a tiny bit to hear her sister's voice over the typical sounds of one who was on the road. "So did everything go alright?"
Yang shrugged and spoke with nonchalance. "Eh, you know; ran into a couple snags but nothing to worry about. I got out fine."
"Oh, yeah, Torchwick was there so we can definitely say that he's helping the White Fang. He was actually showcasing a new toy for them. Some big robot."
She could practically imagine Ruby coming to extra-straight attention. "What kind of big robot?"
Yang dedicated a moment to roll her eyes before increasing the throttle, coaxing a bit more speed out of Bumblebee and some deft handling had the Huntress-in-training navigating through the night's traffic. A car honked in protest but it was nothing that Yang couldn't answer with a universal gesture that she tossed over her shoulder with one finger.
Once she set her hand back down, she struggled to remember what of Roman's sales pitch she hadn't ignored out of boredom. "Um...it was big, had a lot of big guns, made in Atlas. Oh, I think it was something called a Paladin."
"The two-ninety!?" came Ruby's excited inquiry.
"You know of it?"
"Weiss and I saw it for the first time today! We managed to catch some big public presentation that was going on with General Ironwood showing off the latest security android models! The old 130s are being replaced with the 200s by the way, and they look so much cooler!"
"The Paladin didn't seem like an ordinary android," Yang pointed out, more scavenging of her vague memories producing the reference of a pilot being at the helm of the machine.
"That's because it's meant to be a battlesuit. A pilot is supposed to operate it as a command and control unit to better manage forces. It has a sensor net that includes scanning lasers to supply as much information as they can of the battlefield. But it's armed with a lot of weapons and transforming components to turn it into a tank or another mode to let it move quickly." There came a barely-recognizable sigh that seemed whimsical. "We only saw a hologram of it though; all the stuff featured are coming out later in the year."
"The one I saw was clearly not a hologram."
"I wish I was there to see it," Ruby complained. "Scatter missiles, the dual-FDCs, autocannons-"
Yang pulled her head away from her scroll, using her sister's fond detailing as a break to look over her shoulder. She hadn't seen any sign of pursuit and that hadn't changed. Now that she was on the highway, any chances of a chase seemed pretty moot. I did leave them with a rather stunning exit.
"I'll be sure to tell you all about it when we get back to Beacon," Yang informed Ruby as soon as she returned to her scroll. "Including the part where they wanted to test out all those nifty things on me."
That seemed to break through to Ruby if the brief silence that followed was anything to go by. "Right, I guess it is a little worrisome that Torchwick managed to get one of those."
Yang grinned cheekily. "Just a little."
"We're at the skyport right now with the next flight ready to depart in twenty minutes. We've started going through the files and we may have already found something that might be interesting."
"Can't wait to hear it." Yang was able to catch the words of the holographic sign hanging overhead right before she sped by it. "I'm on Highway Sixty-One right now and the exit should be coming up in another minute. Plenty of time to stash Bumblebee and make the flight."
She suddenly caught movement to her left, the black shape a sharp contrast against the turquoise energy that formed the safety barriers along the sides of the highway. It landed on the roof of a silver four-door sedan, the driver of which swerving a bit in response to the unexpected passenger.
While the figure wobbled in an effort to stay on their feet, Yang used the opportunity to make out the familiar black-and-white ensemble that they wore. By the time she realized that it was the uniform of the White Fang, the figure threw something at her that let out a bang which served to increase its velocity.
The shock that she hadn't escaped as cleanly as she thought she did prevented her from reacting accordingly, and all the brawler could do was take the object right in the head, releasing a cry that was more surprise than pain at the impact.
That was the last she heard of Ruby before Yang was flying back, having been knocked completely off her motorcycle which toppled over. Any instinctive worries that came for her bike were drowned out by the blaring of a horn and screeching of tires and the blonde only understood what was about to happen before she smashed right into the speeding car behind her.
The glass of the windshield shattered and the hood caved in against the impact but it did little to lessen the momentum that had Yang tumbling up and over the roof. The vehicle went on despite the collision, screeching off to the side and leaving her to tumble in the air for the second it took to land on her back in the middle of the road.
…Good thing I wore a helmet.
And an active Aura. While it was that protective field that saved her from serious injury, Yang knew she was going to have some nasty bruises in the morning. The wind having been knocked out of her to go with it, the brawler shakily began to push herself with one arm while she felt at her head for her helmet. Her vision was distorted which she attributed to the cracked lenses of her shades. Unlike the fake ears, they were not cheap.
A time for mourning would have to come later as her brightening surroundings and another car horn reminded her that she was still in the middle of the highway. Instinct overrode pain and Yang gathered her second wind in time to push off her arm and roll to the side. Foot travel was strictly off limits when it came to the highway so there were no walkways for such pedestrians, meaning that there was no true safety for the unseated blonde. She was mostly banking on the sense of not being in the middle of vehicular travel to keep her from getting hit a second time. At least immediately.
Miraculously having retained them in spite of the crash, Yang's shades vanished somewhere during her frantic rolling. Wind swept by her, the blaring of cars hurt her ears, and it was those sensations that told her of at least two near misses before she hit the metal base of the safety barriers. She pushed herself up halfway and her unhampered vision let her see that the only car coming was already screeching into the next lane to avoid her.
Safety having been attained, the next thing on her mental checklist was looking for the one responsible for attacking her. Throwing off her helmet, Yang looked back down the highway to spot them.
She found the White Fang agent just as they were jumping from the roof of another nearby vehicle, having apparently leapfrogged back to where Yang had fallen. They twirled in the air, the ribbon that stretched out from them matching the maneuver, and Yang would've called it graceful if not for the fact that, at the end of the fabric, there was a weapon that came with a sickle-shaped blade descending down towards her.
She rolled again, that blade stabbing into the pavement she had been crouched at a second later. The wielder landed right in front of it.
With the street lamp raised above them and the lights of passing vehicles, Yang was able to finally see her assailant. It was the one who had snuck up on her and put her sword to her neck, the black ribbons at her arms an obvious indication. As much as she tried, Yang never got a full look at her face. She still couldn't, but she could make out her mask in its entirety.
It covered the upper half of her face and, really, it wasn't that much dissimilar from the one that Yang had to wear when it came to the basic shape. The color was different; the solid material having been colored white instead of gray. There were eye holes instead of slits, the lenses that covered them tinted gold with violet paint bordered around them. Beneath the eyes and right above her bare cheeks were black, curving lines that stretched outwards. Although she didn't have the cheek guards like the full members, a pair of fangs protruded down from the covering. They were painted fully black.
To Yang, the mask was more reminiscent of a cat rather than a Grimm – the lines like whiskers and the golden lenses glittering like such a creature. A glance at the top of her attacker's head – the hood had either fallen or was pulled back - told her that that was exactly the point.
"I guess this really is turning out to be one big cat-tastrophe," she joked when she saw the black, furry, and feline ears amidst long ebony hair.
There came a slight jerk and how her mouth fell open a fraction told Yang that she caught the agent off guard with the pun. She recovered immediately afterwards, wrenching her weapon from the road before lunging at her. The sickle blade flipped and straightened, turning more into the sword that the brawler remembered being held at her throat and was now being swung to accomplish cutting it open.
Yang jumped back, avoiding it, and at her arms Ember Celica formed over her limbs to intercept the second strike when the agent followed her and tried again. With one gauntlet holding back the blade, the brawler drove a quick jab into her opponent's abdomen. What power the fast attack lacked was made up for when Ember Celica fired, the resultant blast launching the agent back.
"Yeah, I said I wasn't one for sneaking around." Giving her opponent time to recover, Yang moved towards her with a steady gait, hands on her hips. "Now this, this is more of my specialty. And since it's just you and me, you're going to have to rely less on sneak attacks and more at coming at me with everything y-"
Well, she proved her half right and half wrong. Just as Yang came to a standstill, her opponent came right at her. What Yang didn't expect was how she did so. For a moment, she was kneeling on one hand and one knee, Yang taking in the satisfaction of how the agent was realizing that she might have to start taking her seriously.
Technically, she was still there when she attacked and Yang wondered if that car hit her harder than she thought because she swore she was seeing double. Suddenly there was one agent still kneeling, and then there was another, identical one that was right in her face and swinging a sword that was also identical to the weapon the kneeling one held.
No, they were exactly the same. It hit her as hard as the blade did across her torso, slashing against her Aura with the force having Yang stumble back. Instinctively digging her boot into the ground, she sought to respond with another punch except the agent – both of them – were gone, her fist hitting nothing.
There came another attack, this one behind her and it drove the brawler to a knee when it came down across her back. A turn of her head to locate her opponent was rewarded with a kick to her face that rose her up and had her back hitting the safety guard, her head just a few inches too short to connect with the energy shield, smacking the metal base instead.
Continuing to rely on instinct and training in the wake of her opponent's dizzying ability, Yang covered her front with Ember Celica and felt a flash of success when it blocked what had to be a sword. It waned as another kick, this one aimed at her left knee, connected right at the cap with enough strength that had the limb locking in place but not enough to push it back further and break it. Yang went with the resultant fall in order to make herself smaller and limit angles of attack.
She finally caught sight of her opponent – in front and whipping her foot to take her across the face. The blonde brought an arm up, blocking it, but before she could try and snatch the leg and turn it into a grapple, the cat faunus vanished.
It's her Semblance! Yang managed to figure out when she located her adversary at her right. With a two-handed grip, she brought her sword down with the intention to break through her guard but Yang deflected it aside with one arm and attempted to answer with an uppercut.
She hit her but didn't hit her. Her knuckles punched something solid and Ember Celica sent it high up into the air but in the middle of the journey what she assumed was the body of her opponent vanished.
Clones. She saw that the Fang agent – the real one – was finishing a handspring that created some space between the two of them. She can create clones.
She's seen something like it before. A certain monkey faunus who recently transferred to Beacon had a similar ability except he can create multiple clones, each one able to be controlled separately. For this cat faunus, she could only make one but she can create it quickly and move quickly with its help. It explained the speed of her attacks.
Yang straightened up to see the agent taking a ready stance with her sword held back and high while her free hand was held towards the blonde, two fingers pointing up. Even with the distance between them, the hand-to-hand specialist was barely able to make out the hints of a smirk.
It was just fuel adding to the fire that was on its way to becoming a full blaze. It was no secret that Yang enjoyed fighting – her style focused on the closest, most personal form of combat – but few understood just how much she could really enjoy it. Having already taken a beating that would begin wearing most combatants down, the pain was actually rejuvenating her. Energizing her, really.
There were few opponents who could make her feel this way. Even at Beacon, despite there being other Huntsmen and Huntresses to fight against, their controlled and monitored duels could never truly satisfy her. The Grimm – the monsters she was supposed to fight – didn't do as much for her either.
There was nothing like what she was experiencing here: fighting a true, thinking, living being. Not only that, she was fighting someone who was ready to kill her. This faunus had tried and when that spike had touched her Aura around her neck, Yang had known that and she had felt a jolt of excitement like never before. Honestly, she was beginning to feel overjoyed that this girl came after her.
But that smirk was contributing something else to the pain, adrenaline, and energy that was flowing through Yang. It was a desire that any fighter felt when they came face-to-face with a worthy adversary: a need to prove that that they were also worthy to be fought. That emotionless, condescending tone that the faunus spoke to her for the first time had started it but seeing that smirk made Yang want to make one thing absolutely clear: she was to be taken seriously.
When Yang was about to make a move towards the White Fang member, she cocked her arm back further and the brawler could make out the blade shifting back to its sickle form. She was prepared for when the agent threw it, a crack of gunfire propelling the spinning weapon towards her, and Yang ducked her head to the right so that it passed over her shoulder.
She was no fool and she was going to make sure her opponent knew that. The cat faunus was now gripping the ribbon that was trailing behind the weapon and after a swift tug, there came another bang and Yang moved again so that the returning blade flew past her a second time. The agent was already sprinting towards her, snatching her weapon on the run, and one of her clones appeared to send her flying towards Yang, swinging the now sword towards her.
Two mighty blasts from Ember Celica had Yang spinning in place and she extended her foot for a roundhouse kick that struck the agent right in the head. It didn't hit the mask, Yang knowing the feeling of her foot smashing and jarring the flesh and bones of a perfectly solid jaw all too well.
Having kept their fight contained to the side of the highway, the blow sent the agent soaring across it. Yang watched her travels which almost ended without incident until the semi appeared. She was high enough to avoid a collision with the cab of the truck but the trailer had that necessary foot to clip her, turning her flight into a chaotic tumble that ended when she slammed into the energy barrier on the other side of the road, the wall of light flickering but not dissolving.
Yang ground her teeth impatiently as she waited for her opponent to pick herself up. Stray bangs that fell over her vision, she noted, glowed with an increasing intensity to its yellow coloring but she suppressed the power that it signaled. Not yet. Not. Yet.
"I can be fast too!" she hollered over the roar of traffic.
Whether it was thanks to her cat ears or not, the faunus managed to hear her. After retrieving her sword which she dropped at the end of her journey, she brought herself back to her feet and turned towards Yang at her shout.
"I told you that I'm not some chump!" she continued to yell, fists shaking at her sides. "If you wanna beat me, you have to take me seriously! I'm not going down that easily!"
It was hard to tell what the faunus was thinking, especially with the ongoing flow of traffic passing between them, but for a while all she did was stand there. Yang decided to supply her words with action and launched one of her flares from Ember Celica. She didn't fire it carelessly, the projectile demonstrating the skill of the shooter's aim and timing by streaking towards the Fang agent without impacting against any of the speeding vehicles.
That got her to act, dodging to the right to let the flare slam into the barrier which, again, held but the turquoise energy flickered as it struggled to maintain its form. Yang didn't stop. With feet planted shoulder-width apart, she began punching at the air in front of her, each action ending with a brightly-lit projectile that flew across the highway towards their target.
The black-clad agent dodged left and right, Yang feeling some satisfaction when she had to use a clone to give her the necessary speed to dodge one, and then another. Just as she was thinking that she was going to keep dodging and that she was going to have to come to her, the faunus suddenly launched herself forward, slicing the latest flare in half with her sword before landing on the roof of a car.
Her weapon transformed into its other form but she didn't hurl it at Yang. Instead, when she pointed it at the blonde, she started firing slugs of her own from what was in fact a pistol that was built into it. It got Yang to pause from her own salvo, needing to use her gauntlets to begin blocking the multiple shots that were fired at her. Keeping her pinned down, the faunus hopped from car to car in order to come closer.
Yang didn't wait. After deflecting one more shot, she used Ember Celica to rocket herself towards her opponent.
They met in the middle, the faunus understanding what she was doing at the last second and her next clone put her on an intercept course with Yang. Sword and gauntlet impacted, the two fighters passing in mid-air, turning around when they landed, and then coming back together. Yang's right gauntlet blocked an overhead swing, her left tensing in preparation for a blow – only to quickly switch to a defensive role as it had to deflect a second blade that came from the same side.
The sheath is a blade too!
Her clearly dual-wielding opponent used that opportunity to perform a backflip that had her feet smashing against the brawler's chin to send her reeling. Still in the air, she manifested a clone that shot her back down and Yang felt her sword and sheath slicing across her side as she went by.
Yang was much faster to recover this time, spinning around to block the dual weapons. She tried another quick jab but the faunus moved her head aside so that the punch – and the flare that was fired – went by although Yang saw her grimace. The brawler guessed that having something as loud as Ember Celica firing right next to her cat ear could be disorienting. She made sure to use that to her advantage by planting her foot into the faunus's chest.
She was about to press home her advantage until a honk and headlights warned her about the incoming car. She jumped back, the vehicle driving on through.
When it passed, Yang had to return to being on guard when she found her opponent already back on the offensive with another help of a clone.
They were shortly forced to separate again, the faunus using her Semblance and Yang using recoil to bring them to opposite sides of the highway to avoid a delivery truck. Both of them took this time to reload, a pistol magazine clattering to the ground and the White Fang agent producing a replacement tucked in her sash while Yang's shells scattered around her and she dug out two rolls of shells.
It was while the lines of ammunition wrapped around Ember Celica that Yang wondered about their battleground. Maybe she should try to move their fight elsewhere to avoid possible collateral damage and innocent people getting hurt.
A shot echoed and she ducked under a bullet. Ember Celica blocked a second.
Or they could keep fighting here and try harder to kill one another before that happens.
It was that that Yang decided on and it was actually hard to believe that she would entertain any idea that would involve delaying or pausing their battle now that they were both truly serious.
She loved it. When they reengaged, it was to continue this tango of theirs. The difference between their fighting styles were obvious: the cat faunus with her speed and acrobatics, Yang with her durability and strength. The brawler thought the only way she would ever get the fight of her life was if she fought against another hand-to-hand combatant such as herself. She was proven wrong.
Though putting emphasis on speed and Yang predicting that the agent wouldn't be able to handle powerful blows as well as she could, the faunus held no reservations about coming at her head-on. All it led to was her trying to avoid as many blows as possible from Yang while trying to land just as many on her. Yang wasn't as fast and was put more on the defensive because of it but there was something exhilarating about spinning her body around to block the rain of blows that were coming at her from all sides; a dance she was forced to follow to the letter with failure risking one of those blades finally getting through her defenses and carving her open. She wasn't given any breaks, only able to throw out a punch or kick of her own before the faunus was moving around it and she would have to address her next series of attacks that were administered with her dual weapons.
It didn't mean that Yang didn't land any hits. A calculated prediction had more than once allowed her to know when the faunus would next appear or she would be able to find a break in her seemingly unrelenting offensive that had her knuckles landing true with a blast of Ember Celica following right after to drive her back.
But it was her feline adversary who undoubtedly landed the most blows, each one causing Yang's pulse to pound harder and blood to soar to greater heights. The threat of her Aura finally giving out but, at the same time, her Semblance allowing her to grow stronger with each attack landing on her was an intoxicating mix.
She turned, barely in time to block the sharpened edge of the sheath. She felt the shift that she had swiftly become familiar with – it was that, or die faster if she didn't – and it led to a prediction that assured her that a twist of her body, enhanced by the explosive power of Ember Celica, would allow her to morph into a whirlwind of motion that not only allowed her to slap aside the incoming sword but follow it up with a backhand that knocked the faunus herself aside.
Yang was already lunging at her opponent – now on her back – and brought her fist down to send her right through the road with how much power and adrenaline were charging her muscles. The agent was able to move at the last second and Highway 61 soon had a pothole that was going to need to be filled as the pavement was obliterated in a five foot radius around where Yang's fist was planted three feet deep.
Sweat dripped from her face and fell into the makeshift hole. A wad of saliva and blood followed, the brawler having bitten the inside of her cheek and leaving a metallic taste in her mouth. A trail of crimson went down her other arm; the source being a cut across her upper arm when she had miscalculated a block and the sword managed to hit where Ember Celica didn't protect and where her Aura had been at its weakest.
Even with the cuts that her Aura did block and keep from splitting her flesh, it couldn't completely protect her from the brute force behind each sword swing or lucky bullet. There would be more bruises that have and were forming beneath her clothing. And there were instances when what would've been such devastating injuries had only been reduced to minor incisions that nonetheless created slits in her top and shirt, exposing added rivulets of blood. A wet yet searing brand across her back told her that that was where the faunus struck her the worst.
Amidst all that, only one thought went through Yang's mind: This is more like it!
The White Fang member was rising slower than usual, a sign that even she was beginning to tire despite her relentless onslaughts. Twisting towards her, Yang used her gauntlets as the propulsion system that launched her to her.
She saw her coming but it was too late. Yang plowed into her, her arms seizing her, and together they impacted against the energy barrier. One arm came to press across the agent's throat, pinning her in place. Her other hand curled into a fist and got to work by imprinting itself into her opponent's middle.
She sent three punches total, one right after the other. Each one had the agent gasping and crying out with each hit with the loudest coinciding with a crack that was nearly lost over the howling of Ember Celica but Yang felt how solid bone crumbled beneath her knuckles. Her back was repeatedly hammered into the barrier, the energy field beginning to blink unsteadily.
She removed her arm from the faunus's neck but only so she could grab and push against her head so that one side was flush with the failing barrier. Her gaze locked squarely on that Grimm mask, Yang sent one last punch straight into it.
As soon as it landed, the safety barrier failed. Its end marked by a shower of turquoise sparks, the two of them began falling down the hundred or so foot drop towards the ground. Yang tried to keep a hold on the faunus but received an elbow for her efforts before she was suddenly ripped from her grip.
A quick search gave her the answer to what happened: the faunus had thrown and embedded her sword into one of the nearby support columns and was currently swinging towards it with the aid of the ribbon attached to it.
Then Yang hit the ground.
Blake's feet touched the surface, the faunus trying to control her momentum with rapid footsteps but she ended up falling and tumbling along the ground when she let go of the ribbon and, soon after, did the same with her sheath. Her back hit the column and she couldn't stifle the scream even if she wanted when pain exploded along her front, body curling up on itself while her arms were drawn against the source of her agony.
It hurt to breathe, each inhale and exhale carrying with it immense pain as muscles meant for the task pulled on ribs that were broken. That and the throbbing at her head forced her to roll over before vomiting.
She had never felt something so unbelievably excruciating; an unbearable mix of pain, dizziness, and nausea that was robbing her of all sense of the world, leaving her nothing but this realm of suffering that her body kept her imprisoned in. Each breath encouraged renewed torture that was augmented by the heaving that was a natural but such a painful response to what had been done to her.
Then there was her hearing. Once so reliable and sharp, it was now distracting her with a ringing that kept any other sound muted.
She lay there for some time even after the following dry heaves gave it a rest and she became still. Her face lying firmly against the ground, Blake blindly searched for the source of the partial loss of her hearing. She felt the thin trickle of blood running down the right side of her head and she didn't need to touch her ear to know what happened: blown eardrum. Only the more sensitive, faunus one though and not the other. Permanent? She hoped not.
The odds of that will increase in her favor the sooner she got medical attention. Placing one hand against the surface of the support column, she struggled to her feet. She made sure to pick up her sheath while she picked herself up, not wanting to bend back down to do the task later if she didn't retrieve it now. Once she placed it on her back, she wrapped one arm over her ribs.
Something clinked onto the ground when she was halfway up. Peering down, it was to see white metal fragments falling and gathering at her feet. Just as she was wondering where they came from, the rest of her mask came apart.
The amber lenses that matched her eyes fell and shattered. Out of the larger pieces, she could better make out the black, curving lines that she had painted onto them. The fangs that were of the same color were nearly buried beneath the mess.
There were occasions when her comrades – usually the more violent ones – had asked about her design choice. They asked why it was that she didn't pick something fiercer…or why she put so much of her real self onto it. Most of the time she chose not to answer, instead letting them come to their own conclusions. For the few who she did give an explanation to, she didn't give them the truth.
Though they were supposed to be her comrades, none of them would've understood her disinclination to follow in their tendencies to hide what they are or put blame for what they do.
Despite the freedom of her sight, it was nonetheless debilitated. Other than her mask and her hearing, that last punch had caused the right side of her face to swell up with her eye having nearly become shut. She managed to locate the hanging ribbon of her embedded sword and she gave it several tugs that caused her ribs to protest but didn't stop her from freeing it.
It clattered to the ground next to her but she didn't pick it up. Instead, with her grip on the ribbon, she dragged her weapon behind her as she turned around and began walking.
The human was lying on the ground, unmoving, with that hair having become a golden blanket that was draped over her form.
And I thought she would never go down, Blake mentally admitted with some amazement.
She just couldn't believe it. Out of the two of them, it was the human she hit way more than the other way around. She kept up, she'll give her that. Even with her Semblance, the girl managed to keep up with her and block or deflect her attacks, even get a few shots in, but it was Blake who managed to get consistent hits with Gambol Shroud.
Yet she wouldn't go down. More spectacularly, it seemed the opposite. Blake had been able to feel it; how the air became charged with energy that sent the hairs on the back of her neck prickling along with the fur at her ears. Though she trusted her eyesight as much as her hearing, it had to be some kind of trick of their surroundings or the intensity of the fight that had her imagining there being an extra shine to that hair or how it appeared almost as if it was glowing.
And it had to be due to the pain of her ribs breaking that made her mistake what she knew to be purple eyes having become red.
Maybe some trick with her Aura, she reasoned. She was a Huntress after all.
With those gauntlets, she had to be. There were very few people who carried such weapons. There was her and Adam and some other elite members of the White Fang but the practice came from institutes that trained such warriors who built such exceptional armaments.
Like many other things in her younger days, there was once a time when Blake had been entertained by such stories. Once, back when she was more naïve, she had fantasized about becoming a Huntress. No matter how many other organizations and institutes had banned or restricted the attendance of faunus, those Huntressing schools were always open to them.
Alas, another opportunity she gave up. Another life she could've had but chose to forsake.
And just as she gave up the life of a Huntress, she had taken this human's chance of becoming one. She doubted she was a fully-trained Huntress, not by her age, and Blake doubted she could ever take one with how she was now. A student, most likely, and one who couldn't stay out of trouble but, she had to admit, she had been strong.
In fact, she was kind of startled at experiencing a sense of remorse. They were enemies, they had tried to kill each other – or, at least, that was Blake's intention -, but there was just something about her…
Blake shook it off. It didn't matter now. The intruder was dead, she completed her mission, and now it was time to return to the shadows until she was called again.
That was her intention anyway until the human moved. She had been mid-rotation, just about to put her back to her completely, when she caught the movement.
The arms moved first. Hands slid along the ground until palms lay flat against it. What muscles that weren't hidden beneath the plates of those gauntlets visibly flexed.
The eye that wasn't swollen began to slowly widen as the human began to slowly rise. There's no way.
She lifted herself up enough to place her knees beneath her which assisted in boosting her up.
There's no possible way!
As her opponent began to stand, she wondered if this girl was really human. If she wasn't, it might explain why she was starting to like her.
The outrageous idea came when that hair began to glow just as she thought she imagined it having done so before. It was no imagination this time and it wasn't just glowing. The smoke heralded the flames that set that entire mane alight. They didn't burn her, instead caressing her form as if giving her the needed support to stand on her feet.
She wobbled in place and Blake could see how she was favoring one leg over the other. That fall didn't leave her unfazed then.
Any and all indications of weakness were dashed when Blake saw those pure red eyes that she now understood were so very real.
Back when she saw the inferno that consumed the train and its crewmembers, Blake had been staring right into the heart of it. It was in that moment that that part of her that used to care about such things as right and wrong perished when the unexplainable complexity of it had led her to committing the act. She was diminished, her world was narrowed, and she resigned herself to the understanding that there was nothing else for her other than what she's chosen.
Staring into the heart of this latest walking and very alive blaze, Blake's world narrowed even further. There was nothing else in it except for her and this human. And yet, despite the increased limitation, she didn't feel another part of herself die. Quite the opposite.
Pain still contaminated every breath she took. The ringing was dying down but she still heard it. A struggle to open her right eye any further caused another tingling of pain.
Never had she felt as alive as she did right now.
In front of her, a blood-stained grin spread across the human's face, droplets dripping from her chin. "You didn't really think it was over, did you?"
Though her other three working ears struggled to listen clearly, Blake heard enough to know that there was nothing else to it. That grin didn't transmit any kind of resentment or animosity, neither did the comment. None of the ones from before did. When she had been shouting at Blake, provoking her, none of it had been meant to mock her. She had wanted her to give everything she got. They had been fighting one another but the fight itself hadn't been made out of ill will. They were enemies but the human didn't hate her for it. All she saw was an opponent who was worth enough to engage in a contest of skill where death was the possibility but not the intent.
Death had been Blake's intent but as the fight went on she felt the change. Death took a backseat as the main goal gradually became to prove to this human that she was not only worthy but better than her. Not better in race or better in life but the better adversary in their little duel.
At this moment, it was just the two of them. Blake found it not only simpler but more enjoyable this way.
She was grinning too. It was only when she removed her arm from her ribs in order to obtain her sheath that Blake realized that she was doing so. She kept her grip on the ribbon of her sword but didn't bring the hilt into her hand, settling with what she had. "Honestly, I was hoping it wasn't."
The human responded by bringing her fists up, gauntlets at the ready, and her legs struggled to slide into a proper stance. "Good, although I'm not sure how much time we have left. I was talking to my leader before all this started and I did happen to mention where I was. She may not be that far now and she might be bringing her partner with her."
"Yeah, so if you plan on killing me tonight, you better do it quick and do it right. In my case, whatever doesn't kill me really does make me stronger."
Blake held up her sheath. "In that case, the name's Blake Belladonna." At the human's puzzled expression, she explained, "On the off chance that they do arrive on time and we do have to end our fight, I want you to remember it so that you know who to look out for."
Brows lifting in understanding, the blonde returned with, "Well, Blake, the name's Yang Xiao Long. Make sure you remember that."
Oh, she will. When it's the name of the only person who can make her feel alive again, Blake will be sure to remember and look for it however many times she could.
Author's Note: So while this was an idea, this was also an experiment. Throw in a little bit of novelizing but with one hell of an AU twist, it let me try out some new things and also try writing some characters who I'm beginning to get a better impression of. In regards to the last, I did use this fic as an opportunity to write more of Roman Torchwick.
Brain: And write an AU one-shot with Blake as part of the White Fang.
You know for such an obvious AU idea, I think I've rarely seen anyone use it. While halfway through this, I did a quick search to look for fics with Blake still being with the White Fang. The only one I could find was the fic Just a Job by Hiccup251. That and a three-sentence snippet by Tigerlilly. So when Chapter 4 came around, it gave me the opportunity when the possibility kept swimming around in my mind.
Honestly, I don't expect many reviews for this fic despite the time I put in and the length it ended up being. This was just a fun, silly thing I felt like doing using the age-old cliché of two enemies-turned-respected-battle-rivals no matter how good/evil each cause they follow may be. It definitely has flaws and doesn't have that much sense in it and you are all free to point them out in your reviews.
Brain: That and I wouldn't leave you alone.
Now that we're on that subject, NO MORE! Destiny's coming out, you convinced me to create one last monster before then, and now I want my hiatus! September 9th is gonna come around, I'm gonna pick up my pre-order, and then I'm gonna PLAY THE HELL OUT OF THAT GAME!
Brain: But we should totally continue this AU!
NO! No more! This is it! We aren't expanding it!
Brain: Maybe we should try something different. Maybe have Yang as a Huntress, Blake a White Fang member, have them married without knowing, and then they become torn between loving one another to killing one another!
THAT IS STUPID AND CLICHÉ! BRAIN, STAHP!
Brain: Oh, oh! Since we're not novelizing Volume 2 and, depending on how it turns out, maybe we should think about rewriting Volume 2 with Blake being with the White Fang for the entire thing!