Author's Note: I said I wasn't gonna done it and then I TOTALLY DONE IT!
It was a game of cat and mouse with Blake, ironically enough, playing the mouse.
However, it was a role she upheld to a certain point. Currently she may as well be such a rodent scurrying around in the dark while a bigger and fiercer predator was on the hunt for her. She was outmatched, this much she knew, and to be caught at this stage of the game would likely end poorly for her. With the two of them contained in an enclosed area, the odds of being located were not in her favor.
But she did not feel like a mouse. Mice don't bide their time, waiting for a chance to strike. And they most certainly don't find anything exhilarating about being on the run while they waited for such a moment, the risk of being caught not supposed to add to the excitement.
Blake's gaze was currently unobstructed. Not only did she need the full advantage of her night vision, she was also of the opinion that to not give it her all would be an insult to not only herself but her opponent too. Pressing her back against a crate, she carefully scanned her surroundings, trying to control her breathing all the while.
It was another warehouse similar to the one where they first met. This was populated with objects rather than people though, the building a storage center for numerous crates like the one she was leaning against. It created a little obstacle course that Blake had been navigating for...she had no idea how long. Time could be such a fickle thing when it came to circumstances such as this where what felt like minutes and hours were really condensed into seconds.
Within the center of the building burned a light that casted shadows all throughout the interior. How they wavered gave off the impression that a fire had been lit and Blake could feel the subtle increase in temperature.
The objective was simple: don't get caught. Blake had to constantly be on the move, keep her opponent guessing and on guard. She needed to keep the flames burning, her movements fuel that was added to them. She could've snuck off, left once the inferno came to life, but she couldn't do that and she knew that her opponent knew she wouldn't either. This game of theirs was something they wanted to enjoy to the fullest and what better way to do so than to play with fire instead of running away and playing it safe?
Besides, how did that saying go? The brighter the flame, the faster it'll burn out. She wanted to prove that she could last that long.
Blake carefully examined every shift of intensity of the surrounding light, trying to judge when it was safe to move. Funnily enough, it was when it was at its brightest that she considered it to be the right opportunity to do so because that would be when her adversary had their back turned and the source of this illumination would be fully presented. When she decided that such an opening was made, she quickly moved across one of the few but hazardous openings that could lead to her discovery.
It would've been quicker but she didn't use her Semblance. Other than her Aura levels being something she had to worry about, she couldn't allow any sound or minute disturbance that came with its usage.
She's become very good at picking up on it, Blake reminded herself during the crossing.
But a noise she made. Before this turned into a round of hide-and-seek, they had been fighting and Blake carried a couple injuries and strained muscles. Concentrating so hard on maintaining her footsteps to be light and silent, she was unprepared for a sudden spike of pain located at her shoulder blade. The suddenness had her gritting her teeth, her step faltering ever so slightly which resulted in one heel landing harder than it should've. The click might as well have been a gong being hammered in what had once been absolute silence.
When she reached the safety of another crate, Blake waited with bated breath. For just a moment, everything seemed to come to a complete stop which included the dancers of shadow and light.
Then there came a sudden, deafening cacophony of sound. A humongous bang followed by an ear-destroying screeching of metal. There came another bang but this was different from the first; whereas the initial sounded like the thundering of a cannon, the second was more of a collision between two solid objects. The screeching resumed, growing closer and louder, and Blake only had a split second to understand what was happening and then she was using her Semblance to leap high into the air.
The clone she left behind was rammed by the crate that she had been hiding behind a moment ago. It and two other containers slid along the floor of the warehouse before they smashed into the wall, crumpling and folding together into a messy heap. Blake landed on top of them, already looking in the direction that they came from.
Heat and light replaced the dying clamor, a golden blaze rising over the pile before coming for the cat faunus. She hopped aside, a fist punching through where she had vacated and impacting against the side of the warehouse. There came another report and a hole was blasted into solid concrete, sending chunks outwards.
The head that the wildfire burned upon turned towards her, narrowed, crimson eyes meeting with wide ambers. No matter how many times Blake peered into them, there was always that fear mixed with the thrill of being so close to such raw, primal power that was clearly displayed within that smoldering gaze. It was these experiences that always made her feel so alive and why she would always look forward to the chance of the two of them meeting again as they were now.
Of course, such meetings always held the risk of her one day being scorched inside and out as those same eyes promised.
Blake hurriedly drew Gambol Shroud, not to attack but to defend as her opponent whirled towards her. Not even bothering to pull her fist out of the wall, the Huntress-in-training known as Yang Xiao Long just had her arm tear through more of the concrete in order for it to swing towards Blake. The faunus managed to get her weapon in position. It didn't do much.
Yang's fist landed directly against the flat surface of the black cleaver and was joined with the explosive force of Ember Celica. Blake nearly lost her weapon right then and there and she was unsure of how she managed to maintain a grip on it, but the same couldn't be said for her footing as she was sent off her feet and soaring over the edge of the cargo crate. She went with the momentum, twisting in the air to land sloppily on the ground as she took several steps back.
Her body tremored, having been shaken up by the jarring sensation of enduring such physical strength and she was reminded of why places such as at her back were plagued with strained muscles. Forget about being scorched, it was clashes such as that that had Blake wondering when her mortal construction of bone and flesh would fail against such an onslaught as it had on occasion.
Yang jumped after her, already firing off orange-yellow flares as she fell. Pushing her body through its weaknesses, Blake was leaping back as the bright projectiles whistled all around her. Knowing it was the other girl's plan to keep her in place now that she found her, Blake was doing all she could to foil it as to remain in her sights meant to eventually be overpowered.
She spun horizontally, two flares streaking above and below her, and when she landed she managed to add another meter between them before she was forced to use Gambol Shroud to slap a third off course. She unsheathed the sword portion, using it to split another one in half with the pieces flying harmlessly by.
She did away with four more in the same manner, taking as many steps as she could back in order to move further away from Yang. When she was like this, with her Semblance activated and she at full power, any plan of Blake holding her ground may as well be madness. She was a walking, fiery juggernaut who took any and all damage she may endure during battle and turn it into strength. While her enemies became exhausted as the fight went on, she became more powerful.
Unstoppable would be one way to describe her if Blake didn't know her weakness. All that energy that she absorbed, contained, and then had coursing through her body made for a very extravagant show. One must question as to what would happen when that energy was used up.
Blake could win. All she needed to do was let Yang burn herself out.
And Yang needed to beat her before then so Blake was expecting the moment when, instead of another projectile, the young Huntress shot herself towards the faunus in a desperate bid to end the fight now. It was one of her usual methods to get in close, using her gauntlets to propel her forward, and Blake had suffered dearly each time she was caught. She got better and better at countering it each time though.
Blake fell backwards, avoiding Yang's grasping arms, and kicked both of her feet into her stomach, sending the flame-haired brawler arching high up into the air. In her one hand, the sword half of Gambol Shroud converted into its pistol form and Blake trained it on her airborne opponent before letting loose with several shots.
Yang had nearly touched the roof of the warehouse before her body started jerking with each bullet that impacted against her Aura. When gravity began bringing her back down, she recovered enough to start blocking the remaining slugs with Ember Celica. She landed hard, ending on her hands and knees and she suffered from another direct hit before she got her gauntlet back up.
Blake was rolling on the ground, still firing as it was now her who was attempting to keep Yang at bay. Her efforts met similar results, the girl easily intercepting each shot as she not only stood up but began to charge towards Blake. By then the faunus was back up as well, retreating but still shooting to slow her down as much of possible.
Her foot bumped into something and Blake spared a glance down to see that there were Dust crystals lying around her. She didn't need to check to know that these particular crystals had to have come from the smashed crates and instead used the moment to reposition her foot and kick the one she touched towards Yang. When she switched targets, the muzzle of her pistol pointing to the crystal, its rapidly growing closeness to the light of Yang's hair let Blake make out it's purple coloring before she squeezed the trigger.
The realization of what the results of her actions were going to be coincided with her bullet shattering the crystal. The hue of the surface identified this particular Dust as Force. It was not one of the four basic elements, instead an artificially-created one that came with combining them. Although not as volatile as it's powdered form, a reaction could still be made by destroying a crystal in a way that Blake did - especially one that was made through forcefully mixing differing elements.
It all seemed to happen in slow motion. The added shot of adrenaline and alarm granted Blake a moment of clarity that allowed her to see how the pieces of the destroyed crystal began to break apart...and then stopped. They hovered in place, purple energy crackling between them. For a split second those pieces seemed to draw closer together as if they were going to reform and recontain what had just been unleashed.
Then the very air appeared to shudder, heralding the shockwave that launched those crystalline pieces and everything within the immediate vicinity everywhere. Blake was able to discern a transparent wall of the same color of the Dust that produced it just as it hit her. She managed to dig her heels and bring up her arms in preparation but she was still sliding as a result. Fortunately for her, it was nowhere near as strong as one of Yang's full-powered punches.
Unfortunately for Yang, she had been much closer. When Blake lowered her arms and looked to see what happened, it was to see her adversary removing herself from an indent that perfectly matched her form within the metal side of a cargo crate that warped a corner of the white painted snowflake on its surface. Once freed, the girl stumbled and dropped to a knee. With her lowered head, Blake could see how the flames on top of her head, once so strong and lively, now weakly grasped at air as if struggling to remain in existence.
This was her chance. Understanding it as such, Gambol Shrould's blade flipped and extended upright, ready for the next part-
No, no blades.
The thought was accompanied with something that was out of place in this duel: concern. When there had been nothing previously except a stimulation of excitement and the thrill of such a ferocious battle, this sudden worry of another's well-being was painfully noticed. It caused Blake to do something that she had never done before: she hesitated.
And during that moment of hesitation there came the image of black blood. Blood that seeped out and stained brown leather, trickling down a blade of the same color.
It was that sword that Blake held in her hand.
Blake sheathed Gambol Shroud.
She had a better, more satisfying way to win anyway.
Yang lifted her head just as Blake was almost upon her and the faunus used her Semblance to clear the remaining distance and knee her in the face. Yang dropped, arms flailing, and Blake caught one of them at the wrist, her hands slipping beneath Ember Celica's golden plates and the barrel that protruded from it. She followed Yang down, bringing her legs around either side of Yang's shoulder, extended the arm, and then began to do the same with her body.
The gun barrel was dangerously close to her. If Yang had anymore shells left, she could potentially hit Blake with a point blank shot.
But she was empty. Blake knew she was. If she wasn't she would've used one to soften her landing when Blake had kicked her. She would've fired back with Ember Celica while Blake was shooting at her with her pistol or attempted to come in close again like she did before. No, she used her shots in a bid to end the fight right then and there.
Yes, they've come to know of each other and their capabilities very well. That was what would make this victory perfect. To be willing to get this close to the blaze that was Yang Xiao Long, to beat her with her own strength and the knowledge that came from the experience of several of these duels - it was an opportunity that was too good to pass up.
As Blake levered Yang's arm though, about to create the hyperextension that would turn into an inevitable break, the sudden tensing of her opponent's muscles and the halting of the movement that Blake sought to perform told her that her plan wasn't going to go as she wanted it to.
She caught sight of Yang's eyes. Much like her hair, those red orbs had been weakening and specks of lavender began breaking through. The sudden suppression of the second color and the reinforcement of the other made it quite clear to Blake that she was about to get burned. For her legs, it became literal. The fire that encompassed Yang's hair was revitalized and the cloth of Blake's black leggings were inadequate to protect her against the spike of heat that started searing her skin due to the strands that were draped over it. Usually her Aura would protect her from this and the fact that it wasn't indicated how low it's become.
Blake endured. Teeth gritted and exposed, a growl of pain and exertion issuing behind them, she struggled and fought to complete the deed as she pulled on Yang's arm. It refused to budge and, soon, it was not the arm that was bending with her body but her body that was bending with the arm as Yang flexed it. More than that even as Blake found herself being lifted along with the limb.
She saw a grin slowly spreading along Yang's face. She didn't make use of her free arm. She didn't have to nor wanted to. She desired to show Blake just who was really the strongest of the two of them.
She made that abundantly clear when she smashed Blake into the same crate that the faunus sent her into earlier. The collision stunned Blake, her grip weakening, but she was quickly hammered into the container again before it gave out.
Then there was a bone breaking.
Blake must've blacked out but only for a moment. When she came to it was to find herself slumped with her back against the crate. She could feel the dents that were made by Yang and her.
There was also pain. Water had gathered in her eyes and a couple tears slid down her cheeks as agony tore through her shoulder, the faunus hissing in response. It returned her to full consciousness and Blake pushed her suffering to the side when she noted that tall, infernal figure that stood over her.
Once she managed to raise her chin up to look at her, Yang tilted her head, brow quirked in question. "You done?"
Blake said nothing for a few seconds, forcing her gaze to remain locked on those burning eyes. Then she bowed her head, releasing a breath of defeat while she relaxed. "Yeah, I guess you had enough."
There came a snort. "Good, cause I am beat!"
And just like that, the flames on top of Yang's head were extinguished as if doused with water, sending the interior of the warehouse into complete darkness. Blake's night vision took over, adjusting right as Yang dropped to the floor unceremoniously. She rested on her butt, arms back and holding her up, but that didn't last long as she toppled over completely, limbs splayed out all around her as she panted for breath.
Blake couldn't prevent the curving of her lips as she viewed the state that this seemingly invincible girl had been reduced to. Long hair even messier than before laid out beneath her like a blanket, well-endowed chest heaving with every gasp that echoed, and Blake could make out the tears in her clothing and blemishes on her exposed skin that acted as her own collection of marks of battle. It was difficult to see with the rest of her clothing, but Blake could nonetheless make out how that yellow top clung to her sweat-soaked skin while her bangs did the same at her forehead.
Blake wished she could lie around just as carefree but she dare not make even the smallest of movements with the risk of aggravating an injury that eclipsed whatever she had done to Yang. Resigning herself to remaining in this position, she looked to the gasping blonde and commented, "You lasted longer than last time."
Yang lifted a finger as a sign for Blake to give her a bit more time to regain her breath and what could the faunus do but wait patiently? Eventually the deep and heavy breathing began to lessen in severity but the brawler didn't lift herself back up, instead shifting her body just a bit in order to bring Blake's silhouette into her inferior human sight.
"I'm only as good as my opponent," Yang finally responded. "How strong I become depends on the amount of damage I take. You've gotten better."
Made sense and Blake experienced a satisfying sense of pride at the praise. She couldn't help but ask, "You were out, right?"
"Yeah." Yang lifted up her arm again, giving it a shake to better show off the bracelet that used to be a fully-formed gauntlet. "I made do with what I had left after I got you out of hiding. If I didn't get you then, I wouldn't have been in the shape to do so later anyway."
"Could've fooled me; I thought you really were out of it when I approached you."
"Oh I got knocked pretty good when you shot the Dust - real quick thinking, by the way - and I was pretty surprised when you decided to come in close. That was kind of risky though, don't you think? Even for you."
Blake was about to shrug to better sell an illusion of nonchalance until she remembered that she couldn't. She settled with trying to keep her tone as light and untroubled as possible. "Risk versus reward. I felt like having a bit more to gloat about."
It was because of her superior vision that she was able to witness how Yang lifted her head an inch from the floor and how her eyes squinted in a vain attempt to make out Blake's features or, at the very least, the subtle lie in her words. The faunus kept her face unreadable if only for the off chance that the human somehow found a way to improve her eyesight enough to start being able to see in the dark.
Whether that was truly the case or not, Yang seemed satisfied and there came a smirk. "You think the reward would've still been worth it?"
Blake mirrored the expression. "Definitely." The pain having waned enough to try moving, the faunus lifted the arm that she could still move without problems. She gripped the wrist of the one she couldn't and held it close to her body and she groaned painfully at the manipulation.
Yang quickly sat up, her exhaustion having miraculously vanished. "Alright, yeah, I heard it. What did I break?"
No matter how many times it's happened already, Blake would always still feel slightly put off by how much concern this berserker - this human - was capable of giving when, moments ago, she had tried smashing more than just one bone in her body. She went with it nonetheless. "Collarbone. I can't see how bad."
Blake was about to mention that she couldn't but Yang already had a fix for that. She fished for her scroll, the light that came from the device offering a source of illumination as Yang leaned towards Blake. She carefully took the shoulder strap of Blake's white tunic and eased it off, letting it hang down her arm. Blake tried to smother any reaction but she flinched at the stab of agony that even that minute action promoted.
Muttering a "Screw it", Yang set her scroll down between them before ripping the black bodysuit beneath to expose the designated area.
It was the closest that a human had ever gotten to her without Blake doing something to push them away, usually with violence. The aggression that had become all but instinctive when a member of that race came in such proximity was absent as well. It let the faunus admire Yang while she was tended to.
Although she had excellent night vision, she couldn't distinguish color so it was only with the light of Yang's scroll that she could see how her irises had reverted from such hostile red to her normal lilac that exhibited nothing but careful examination. Her touch had similarly changed, fingertips ghosting over the space between Blake's shoulder and neck whereas once the hands they belonged to had been nothing more than tight-fisted, bludgeoning weapons.
"The break's not bad," Yang informed, gaze not so much as wavering. "It's gonna swell really good though." She looked back over her shoulder. "I don't exactly carry ice on me but there should be a Freeze Crystal-"
"Let's not," Blake interrupted, already knowing what she was getting at. Yang's fighting skills were impressive and abilities astonishing but controlling the power of Nature's Wrath was not one of them. Trying to manipulate its power - especially when it's an element that was in stark opposition to Yang's preferred one – for some improvised Dust triage was not something that Blake was willing to test and see. "This isn't the first one that you've been responsible for. I'll just concentrate my Aura on the site to heal it until I get it looked at."
"What Aura? If I'm running low then you've gotta be damn near empty."
She had a point there and it was truer than what Blake would like to admit but it wasn't anything she couldn't handle. "I'll be fine. I have..." She trailed off.
Moments like these, it was so easy to forget. Sitting here, together, tending to the injuries they've inflicted upon one another while complimenting each other's abilities, the bleed-off of adrenaline and endorphins leaving them to bask in the satisfaction of a battle well-fought and the aches and pains that they relished in with a mix of pride and a confirmation of how alive they remained despite how much it hurt.
It was so easy and so freeing to just shut out the world and the complications that came with it, simplifying it by just focusing on the two of them. It was those same complications that would usually make something like this impossible.
"...I have help," Blake finished. She had people. Allies. Comrades. Something that Yang was not.
At the same time, she didn't consider Yang as an enemy either.
"Right," Yang replied, her tone signaling that she understood too. It regained its airy quality when her hands went to her scarf. "Well, nothing wrong with making a proper sling until you get it."
Blake stared pointedly at the fabric. "Not with that."
The blonde stopped just shy of touching the scarf. "Ah, come on; just call it a trophy or whatever. I took your sword once."
Despite herself, Blake glanced down from Yang's face and to her brown jacket. To be exact, she stared at a point beneath the girl's right breast where a line of stitching was located. It was nearly impossible to notice unless you knew where to look for it but Blake did know and could see it. She didn't stare long and motioned to her good arm. "Use those."
Yang complied, untying and unwinding the ribbon that was wrapped around the limb, being careful so as not to touch or jostle the other arm and potentially hurt Blake. Once she had a length of it, she began forming an improvised sling. Despite the care she took, Blake still winced or bit back another hiss or groan in response to another sharp sting of pain.
In between, she once again found her attention being drawn to Yang, particularly when the girl's face drew particularly close to her own in order to loop the ribbon behind Blake's neck. When they first met, Yang had been wearing some kind of perfume that had been overbearing to the faunus's sense of smell. Even now she couldn't detect Yang's real scent, it being covered up by that burnt, acrid stench that would permeate every inch of her form after the firing of several of her shells. The residue of the powdered Burn Dust that was loaded into them had a particular smell that coated over whatever may be purely Yang.
The same could be said to her skin. She was undoubtedly strong and Blake could make out the bruise beneath her gold bangs that hardly affected her but the area surrounding the black and blue was smooth and peach colored. These souvenirs of battle had used to be enough for Blake, the faunus gaining gratification when she saw for herself just how she had managed to break through Yang's defenses and land a blow on more than one occasion during their battles.
They always met in combat though. Lately Blake had been wondering, as she was now, just how Yang looked outside of it - without her gauntlets, without violent intentions, or any signs of battle on her.
Blake blinked, it dawning on her that her sling was done but, instead of pulling away, Yang was examining her injury again. "What is it?"
"Black lace." A smirk lit up on her face, those lilacs that were in fact trained beneath Blake's broken collarbone twinkling. "I figured but didn't want to presume."
Blake forced her brows to lower threateningly. "If I could, I'd hit you right now. I still might."
Yang leaned back, the smirk lessening but remaining. "Alright there, kitty-cat."
The slight curl to Blake's lip wasn't as forced, a notable fang glinting in the dim light. "Don't call me that."
The smirk did die off completely at that with Yang realizing that she had gone too far. It was par for the course where, once another match has been settled, that the more jovial of the two would try to make jibs and generally poke fun at the darker combatant. In the beginning it would be a struggle to get even this far but each of their duels tended to end with Blake being increasingly willing to respond to them.
That being said, there were still limits with the strictest one being placed on anything that referred to Blake's heritage that was responsible for the pair of cat ears on top of her head. Nevertheless, such a nickname that Yang uttered would've ended with her at the end of a pointed sword rather than just a critical rebuke. One could call that progress.
Yang raised her empty hands to dissuade Blake from thinking about drawing her blade on her anyway, a tense silence ticking past between them. It was only when Blake's lip fell back over that incisor as if sheathing that tiny weapon that the human considered it safe to speak. "Anyway, the sling's done. That should make it pretty convincing for your White Fang buddies."
Blake inspected Yang's handiwork and silently agreed. For a brawling berserker, Yang wasn't that bad of a medic and the faunus assumed that Beacon taught it's trainees at least some basic first aid. That or their engagements had given extra incentive for Yang to learn how to put their bones back together with how often they tended to be taken apart.
"It'll do," Blake admitted aloud. She gestured to Yang's sloppy attire. "Will that be enough to convince your team or should I really hit you one more time?"
The joke served to discard any lingering misgivings. Grinning, Yang replied, "I doubt my team is any more willing to think we've got anything else going on either. Honestly, it was a little difficult getting away from the main fight to follow you. They don't exactly like you and don't want me fighting you alone."
Thinking of how she and Yang have crossed paths again - another Dust robbery with Team RWBY just happening to be at the same place at the same time once more -, Blake wondered, "Think they've finished?"
"A while ago," Yang predicted. "I've probably got a boatload of messages asking where I am right now."
As if orchestrated, there came the blinking and shaking of Yang's scroll, the vibrations causing light to play across their features. Another message but one that the blonde wasn't inclined to leave unanswered as she picked it up. Blake barely managed make out part of a name – Rose – before the screen was out of view.
How they spoke and acted seemed much too reminiscent of a couple who was trying to hide an affair from those closest to them. When you got right down to it though, this setup of theirs was hardly that much different to the methods that living beings would take in order to make the world a bit more bearable with its stresses and burdens. Some chose to drown their troubles with drink, others to deaden or twist their sense of reality through other substances, and even more may decide to lose themselves in guilty passion with the company of another.
Blake had dabbled in such a selection, trying to replace what had been lost to her in ways that human and faunus turned to. Fortunately, it became apparent to her early on that the reason she couldn't find any comfort or, at the very least, a distraction, was due to a quiet acceptance that such things – self-destructive they may be – have become invalidated to her. Any such worldly things she's become immune to because of how she knew that she had given up any future in the world itself.
It made her wonder why she took so much enjoyment in these duels of theirs but she thought she found an explanation for it. Their fights embodied everything that was both true to the world but, at the same time, true to the delusions that Blake had once entertained. The reality of how human and faunus have warred and are still warring for generations with the briefest respites that took place in between – moments dubbed as 'peace' – being few and brief before war would break out once again.
In contrast to the rest of their respective species though, the two of them didn't fight out of hatred or fear. They fought with the objective to prove who was better in a pure contest of their skills and strengths and nothing else. Race was not a concern, ideals that could motivate but more often than not deceived were set aside. Their desire for victory and the intense but exhilarating emotions that came with such combat were completely pure with no strings attached. And when they did take their breaks as they did now, Blake felt a true sense of what one would call peace even as pain wracked her body.
Of course, the pain fulfilled two purposes. One was to confirm that Blake was indeed alive and what she was experiencing after a job well done was real. As for the other, it was to serve as a punishment for all those times she had killed without feeling anything before.
As much she would like to completely forget about everything, there was always something that will pull them back to reality.
For Yang, it was the worries of her team. Looking back at Blake after lowering her scroll, she said, "I gotta get going. I said I'd meet them a couple blocks north of here so that should give you space to leave without trouble."
Blake nodded, working through the pain in order to sit up straighter. "I'll keep it in mind. Th-" She paused, the motion that her tongue was twisting into so bizarre that it made her do so. Forcing it to complete the deed, she finished, "Thank you, Yang."
It had been a long time since she had said that to anyone, not to mention doing so genuinely.
Yang smiled that easy, carefree smile of hers and began to stand before halting. She looked down at the scroll she clutched in her hand, teeth chewing on her lip with deliberation. "Actually, I have something to ask before I go."
This was new. They never really asked each other about anything. Although they were willing to meet this way despite what would be the obvious objections of their respective sides, they had never gone so far as to disclose confidential information even with the chance of increasing the likelihood of their meetings such as, say, Blake happening to let it slip about the next shipment or shop the Fang was planning on hitting that she would be a part of. They maintained their loyalty even if, for Blake, it was loyalty without substance.
The only other thing they could ask were questions about each other but they had also silently agreed to limit that to the bare minimum. Other than their names, what they did know about each other were things that they could and had figured out for themselves.
"I tend to ask this to almost everyone I meet," Yang explained, finger tapping on her scroll. "Really the only reason I haven't asked you 'till now is because I figured you wouldn't know but just in case…" Finding what she wanted, the blonde flipped the scroll around and presented the screen to Blake. "You wouldn't happen to have seen or know anything about this woman, would you?"
It was a picture. A woman, young – early to mid-twenties if Blake had to guess but no more than that – and lacked any obvious faunus traits so, unless stated otherwise, human. She didn't recognize her and Blake was about to say as much without any second thought as to why Yang was interested in her but stopped.
It was the hair. Long, curly. The color was different but…Blake glanced back up at Yang and her own disheveled mane. It was then that she noticed how the other girl was looking at her with eyes having grown subtlety tight with analysis.
"No," Blake replied honestly. "I've never seen her before."
There was a pause that Blake thought stretched longer than necessary. It ended when Yang pulled back her scroll, that analytical look melting. "Yeah, I kinda figured you wouldn't. I mean I suppose I should be glad that you don't all things considered."
"Right." Blake had said it quietly but Yang didn't seem to notice as she was looking at her scroll.
While she had her reasons to keep meeting as they do, Blake had never put any serious thought into any possible reasons as to why Yang has gone along with this. It was more than something else that they don't ask; Blake would never think about it at all. Yang never gave off the impression of having any kind of motive than what Blake had eventually settled on: she was a thrill seeker. She fought for excitement and Blake was someone who could give her the rush that her personality always craved. It was a simple explanation for an unusual situation but Yang was an unusual human all around.
But Blake saw how Yang was looking at the picture. Usually so jovial, the grin that she sent Blake was already weakening, about to waste away completely until Yang closed the picture.
Blake knew that look, having once worn it herself. That was the look belonging to someone who had a goal that they were pursuing. The faunus didn't know how long Yang has been searching for this woman, but the implications she could make out and the questions that she could tentatively answer such as when that picture was taken had her guessing it was for a while.
However long that may be, she could see the cracks already forming within Yang's resolve. Much like how she could recognize someone who possessed a cause, she could recognize the vestige of the strain that came when it was beginning to ask for more than what the individual could give. As time went by, there was only so much that hope and your own miniscule efforts could accomplish before it starts wearing you down.
Maybe that was why Yang did this; to use it as a distraction. To keep her mind off of how she has yet to obtain what she's been seeking and-
It wasn't Blake's concern.
The faunus slipped a hand beneath the sash around her waist, retrieving the item that she had set aside at the onset of their duel. An angular mask of smooth, white metal, the design of which only letting it cover the upper half of the wearer's face. Amber lenses glittered where the eyes would be located, violet bordering around them while black, curving lines stretched outwards. Descending from beneath were a pair of black fangs.
This was all that her life was now. It wasn't what she wanted but it was what she chose and she would follow it until she finally, truly left this world. She sacrificed her place in it a long time ago, all for the sake of her own cause that she had been devoted to and what had now enslaved her. She could have her fun but nothing changed about what she was.
With her one hand she slipped the Grimm mask upon her face. She pulled her hood up afterwards.
This was the only look left for someone like her.
Yet even as she began forcing herself to her feet, groaning all the way as she used the uneven surface of the cargo container as leverage, a light grip took hold of her shoulder and began helping her up, relieving her of her burden long enough for her to get her back on her feet. A turn of her head unveiled the source to be Yang with a rejuvenated grin – whether genuine or a mask of her own Blake wasn't sure.
"Catch ya later," Yang spoke, tapping her scroll to her forehead in a form of a salute before turning and taking that bit of light with her to guide her out.
Blake watched Yang turn and walk away, that long, curly curtain swaying behind her. Something, she wasn't sure what, compelled Blake to watch as Yang returned to that pile-up of crates she was responsible for. Even with the illumination, the brawler made a slight noise and stumbled, nearly slipping on one of those fallen crystals, but was soon hopping up to the top of the crates in order to reach the hole in the wall to exit.
Once she was gone and, with it, the light that she carried, Blake was once again shrouded in darkness. Turning around, she began to walk deeper into its depths, each of them going their separate ways until the time came to meet again.
It was just another night for the two of them. Blake could only wonder how many more they'd be allowed to enjoy before it would all have to inevitably come to an end one way or another.
Author's Note: Wanted to complete this in one big oneshot but after having such an erratic work schedule and messing around with a couple other fic ideas I ended up dumping after writing a couple pages, I decided to post what I have now with more to follow later. This is mostly me using this AU of mine for more experimentation…with the rating perhaps being a hint as to what I may be experimenting with.
Brain: Hey! HEY! Iron Banner Event is starting in Destiny and- hey, what are you doing?
*immediately closes page* Nothing!