PAN: RTX was so much fucking fun guys! Not only was the RWBY panel really cool and informative, but wandering around Austin and drinking with friends was just as fun too. Besides the pictures, I also now have a tattoo to show for the trip haha.
Not only that, but I also got to personally talk to Kerry Shawcross! It was awesome to get some one on one talk in with the guy now responsible for bringing Monty Oum's dream and vision to life. He also shared some really cool advice about writing in general.
I'd love to make this whole thing about what the panel talked about, the new teaser, and all that, but I figure that A) you can probably find a stream of the panel archive somewhere and B) the trailer is already out for viewing.
That said, if anyone wants to fan girl over anything or wants to know my opinions and such, my pm box is always open.
All the RTX stuff out of the way, let's talk story!
I'd like to welcome the slew of new readers to this venture of mine! It's cool to see you guys reviewing chapter after chapter in like one go. Tells me that y'all are just binging this and the idea of someone spending that much time on this is really crazy to me.
Also, thank you for not letting the less than stellar quality of those first few chapters deter you. With Dylan Millwood doing a reading of this, it's been kind of eye opening to see how rocky this all started out.
It's been a very long minute since I've seen the need to do a QnA section...and that trend continues! Really, it seems that I've reached a point with this that most of the reviews are just compliments or you guys musing over where I'm taking this.
That said, this chapter will definitely do a lot of that. Plot, here we come!
As Naruto and Pyrrha walked off the arena after exchanging a few parting words with Jester, they were greeted by a grinning Yang and Weiss.
"What're you guys doing here?" The blond captain questioned.
Weiss rolled her eyes, "Our fight is up next you dolt."
Naruto childishly stuck his tongue out at the heiress.
Pyrrha only giggled at the interaction, "Well good luck in your fight you two. We'll be watching from the stands."
Yang cockily bumped her fists together, "No worries, we got this in the bag."
"Show 'em how we blondes do it Firecracker!" Naruto cheered.
With nothing left to say, the two pairs parted ways, the power couple of Beacon making their way to the stands while Yang and Weiss confidently strode out to the arena.
Right as Naruto and Pyrrha found themselves at the stairwell leading into the bleachers, the latter felt her scroll vibrate. Turning to see what had made his girlfriend pause, the blond quirked a brow upon seeing the confused look on her face.
"What's up Pyrrha-chan?"
Pyrrha could only shrug, "It's a message from Professor Ozpin. He wants me to meet with him in his office later today."
The blond scratched at his chin, "Maybe he wants to congratulate you on our victory?"
While she wasn't exactly sure her boyfriend was right, it was really the only plausible answer seeing as she couldn't think of anything else that would warrant the Headmaster wanting to talk to her specifically.
Hearing Naruto's scroll go off in his pocket only confused the pair even more.
Popping the little white device open to see that he had also received a message from the coffee loving head of Beacon only gave the whiskered teen a sinking feeling in his gut.
'Accompany Ms. Nikos to my office later today. We must discuss the weather today.'
While the meaning of the message flew completely over Pyrrha's head, Naruto knew exactly what was being said.
'Why is he going to tell Pyrrha about the Maidens!?'
Naruto's brain was working overtime as he tried to figure out what reasons their enigmatic headmaster would have for wanting to tell Pyrrha about the Maidens, something that was clearly a well guarded secret.
'He's going to make her into a Maiden,' Kurama answered through their shared mental link. While he was currently quite comfortable on a certain scythe wielder's lap, he had easily sensed his container's unease and heard the thoughts racing through his head.
"WHAT!?" Naruto couldn't help but shout aloud.
While his red haired partner looked worried by the sudden outburst and the shocked look on his face, Kurama maintained a calm facade.
'That is the only feasible answer I can think of. That man made it very clear that the Maidens are specifically called that because only young women can inherit these powers, however he never said exactly how these powers moved from host to host.'
'I would've thought it'd either be completely random or hereditary like Hagoromo-jiji's sons!' Naruto expressed.
Kurama grunted, 'I thought the same, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Neither you or I have sensed anything out of the ordinary from Pyrrha, and something like these Maiden's powers would be hard to miss. This can only mean that the headmaster has a way of transferring the powers.'
Raking a hand through his wild mane of golden locks, Naruto couldn't help but sigh as he looked at the concerned look on his partner's face.
"I...I might know what Ozpin wants to talk to you about." The curious look on his partner's face coaxed the blond into continuing, "It's not something we should talk about in the open though and I could be totally wrong, but if it's not what I think it is, I've got some big news to tell you guys."
"Okay," Pyrrha answered simply with a smile, showing just how much she trusted her significant other.
For once, Naruto found himself hoping that both he and Kurama were wrong, a sentiment the Bijū shared.
'Kami, you're a bitch,' Naruto cursed.
As soon as he and Pyrrha had entered their Headmaster's office, a silent Qrow waiting by the elevator, the blond couldn't shake the feeling of dread that hung over him.
When Ozpin inevitably asked, "What's your favorite fairy tale?", Naruto had to use all of his willpower to not grab the nearest piece of furniture and chuck it out a window.
When the silver haired Headmaster then declared, "And we believe you are next in line to inherit the Fall Maiden's powers", the blond Uzumaki felt his left eye develop a tick while the only thing going through his mind was, 'You've got to be fucking kidding me'.
Now here he was with Pyrrha - crammed into an elevator along with Ozpin, Glynda, Qrow, and Ironwood - headed to Kami knows where, his red haired girlfriend shooting him confused looks and desperately clutching his hand as if it were her only lifeline.
However, as the elevator passed the lowest floor and kept going, Naruto's displeasure with the situation was overshadowed as he sensed something very familiar suddenly begin to permeate the air.
Something or someone nearby was using Senjutsu.
As the elevator came to its final stop, several floors beyond what either Naruto and Pyrrha thought was possible, the couple found themselves simultaneously awed and confused.
Flickering emerald flames cast just enough light so as to illuminate the finely polished marble floors and walls, the odd coloration of the flames bathing everything in an eerie green glow. Arches decorated either wall, the many openings leading to tunnels far too dark to properly see down. The back wall of the sparsely decorated vault had an odd runic symbol seemingly etched into it, giving the underground place a semi-religious motif.
As the pair followed after the confident strides of Ironwood, Ozpin, and Qrow, Glynda took in the deeply confused look of the students with a hint of concern.
"You must have some questions."
Despite the growing strangeness of the situation, Naruto snorted, "SOME questions? More like a couple dozen."
Qrow chuckled at the blond's sense of humor, though neither Ironwood or Glynda seemed to find it appropriate.
Ignoring her boyfriend's sarcasm, Pyrrha asked, "You said I was next in line to receive these powers? What did you mean by that?"
Glynda sighed before explaining, "The Maidens have existed for thousands of years, but - much like in nature - the seasons change. No two summers are alike."
Naruto narrowed his eyes at that, suddenly paying rapt attention to his fellow blonde.
"When a Maiden dies, her power leaves her body and seeks out a new host, ensuring that the seasons are never lost, and that no individual can hold on to that power forever," the strict deputy headmistress finished.
"So it's kind of like reincarnation," Naruto suddenly piped in.
Ozpin glanced back at his blond student, "Although it shares similarities with that idea, the way the Maiden's powers chooses a host is entirely different."
Naruto quirked a brow. Taking note of the fact that the power apparently chose its host, the whiskered teen asked the million Lien question, "And how does the power choose its host?"
Qrow scoffed, "Through a series of stupid and convoluted rules."
Goodwitch snapped her gaze to the cape wearing Huntsman, growling, "Qrow."
The crimson eyed uncle remained unfazed by the stern blonde, "Hey, don't get mad cause I'm right."
More than familiar with Qrow and his mannerisms, Glynda sighed before turning to address the still confused couple.
"At first, the only thing that was certain was that the powers were specifically passed on to young women. But, as time went on, it was discovered that the selection process was much more...intimate."
Both Naruto and Pyrrha's eyes widened.
Quickly glancing at her partner, the emerald eyed teen gulped, "Um...intimate?"
Not realizing what her word choice had done to the two teens, Glynda nodded, "As we understand it now, when a Maiden dies, the one who is in her final thoughts is the first candidate to inherit her power."
"Unless it's a dude or some old hag. Then the power goes to someone random and our job gets a lot harder," Qrow added.
Finally fed up with all the dancing around the topic, Naruto stopped where he stood, causing everyone to do the same and stare at him with questioning gazes.
"This is a nice history lesson and all, but why is Pyrrha the one to inherit this Maiden's powers? Why take the time to not only tell the both of us, but take us down to this secret bunker?" Turning his gaze so he stared at Ozpin directly, the blond teen asked, "What's really going on here?"
Each of the four adults took the time to look at each other, a silent conversation that neither Naruto or Pyrrha were privy to happening in a few looks.
Eventually, Ozpin stepped forward.
"You two are already exceptionally capable warriors and intelligent in your own rights. Your mission record says as much. Having spent so much time outside the bounds of our kingdom's walls, I'm sure you've noticed; the Creatures of Grimm are growing stronger, more prevalent. Beasts that have slumbered for decades have suddenly awoken. New types of Grimm are appearing."
It was here that Ironwood finally spoke up, "Although everything seems to be business as usual on the surface, tensions are running high. As much as it saddens us, we fear that soon, the peace we've worked so hard to build and maintain will come crashing down around us."
Pyrrha gasped as she finally realized just what the two Headmasters were hinting at. Shakily she asked, "You can't be talking about...a war."
Atlas' General and Headmaster sighed, "Not a war between nations, no."
Naruto frowned, "But a war nonetheless."
Growing irritated with all of the talking, Qrow took a swig from his flask, "Look, we can fill you both in on all the gritty details later, but right now all you need to know is that one of the Maidens was attacked and, for the first time in history, part of her power was stolen."
Realizing that they had eventually arrived at the back wall of the bunker, Naruto's eyes widened as he took in the source of the Nature Chakra he had felt earlier.
Eyes closed and garbed in a pair of stark white undergarments, a mocha skinned girl who looked to be roughly about their age lay inside of some sort of pod. The most shocking thing, aside from her putting off waves of Nature energy, was the horrid burn scar that marred the left half of her face.
Beyond shocked by now, Pyrrha could only ask, "Is that...?"
Ozpin, his face suddenly overcome with no small amount of guilt and shame, sighed, "Yes. This is Amber, the current Fall Maiden."
Looking at all the machinery crammed into the area around this girl, Naruto had to wonder, "How is she alive?"
"By using state of the art Atlas technology," Ironwood confidently explained. However, his shoulders sagged as the sight before reminded him just how grave the situation was.
"Still, there is a lot about this situation that is...unprecedented."
"What do you mean? If...when she dies," Pyrrha interjected unsurely, "won't her powers just move on to the next host?"
"Probably not," Naruto intoned with a frown, catching the others off guard. "More than likely, the power will look for its other half. Even if that wasn't the case, on the battlefield, your thoughts are usually focused on your opponent, so…"
Recalling his encounter with Sora, the young monk who had housed a small portion of Kurama's chakra, and the way they reacted to each other, Naruto was willing to bet that whatever this power the Maidens had would act similarly.
Despite the brevity of the situation, Qrow scoffed before fake whispering, "Wow, look who's been paying attention, these kids really are smart."
Glynda pinched the bridge of her nose in a weak attempt to fight her usual frustration with the alcoholic scythe user.
Naruto cracked a grin, enjoying the caped Huntsman's sense of humor.
Deciding to act like she hadn't heard Qrow, Pyrrha instead turned to regard her Headmaster, "So unless something is done, whenever Amber...dies, the powers go to her assailant."
"Exactly, and that does not bode well for anyone," Ozpin sighed.
Pyrrha turned to stare at the unmoving form of the Fall Maiden who somehow lay on the line between life and death. Part of her wondered why - despite pretty much having her whole world turned upside down and being forced to question everything and everyone she thought she knew - she felt so...calm.
That wasn't to say that it didn't terrify her to hear both Beacon and Atlas' Headmasters tell her that war was all but knocking on their doors. It didn't belittle the sadness she felt as she stared at the poor girl, who was undoubtedly only a scant year or so older than her, trapped between life and death with only one of those roads open to her.
Feeling a warmth spread through her, Pyrrha turned to see Naruto placing a hand on her shoulder, a reassuring smile plastered across his face.
'Right. My boyfriend is a literal ninja from thousands of years ago, partners with what amounts to a literal force of Nature, and is gearing up to fight his ancestor who was responsible for orchestrating the fall of his time despite being sealed away...in the moon. My tolerance for all things...odd has been set pretty high recently.'
Grasping the hand on her shoulder, Pyrrha returned the smile before turning to face the questioning gazes of Ozpin and his group.
"I'll do it, I'll become your Fall Maiden."
The confidence in Pyrrha started to waver as she was met by a general sense of unease and wariness from the four adults.
Confused by their reaction, she asked, "Isn't that what you wanted?"
Ozpin shook his head, "It is, but I'm afraid it's not that simple. Given Amber's condition, you won't be able to inherit her powers naturally."
Just as confused as his partner, Naruto asked, "We figured as much, but if you guys had already chosen Pyrrha to take the spot as Fall Maiden, wouldn't that mean that you have already have another way to give them to her?"
Ironwood stepped forward, "We do. You see, for the past few years, Atlas has been studying Aura from a much more...scientific point of view; how it works, what it's made of, and how it can be used."
This intrigued even Kurama, who so far had been content to simply be a passive viewer through his connection with Naruto. The fox doubted even Kaguya had such an understanding of chakra. Then again, this was Aura they were talking about, the purely Yang side of chakra, possibly meaning it mas that much easier to study.
"We've made...significant strides," Ironwood continued, "and we believe we've found a way to capture it."
Naruto had to resist the urge to groan at that. 'Really? They're civilization is so much more advanced than ours ever was and they've barely figured out what shinobi have known how to do since literally the birth of chakra?'
Kurama had to agree with his container. The way Ironwood had talked made it seem like he and his scientists could create an artificial lifeform with a soul or something.
Irritated with all the beating around the bush, Naruto asked, "So you can capture it? Then what?"
Ironwood frowned at the teen's brusque manner of speaking but nonetheless answered, "We can't give you Amber's powers alone, but we can give you what they're tied to…"
"Her Aura," Pyrrha whispered in realization.
Ozpin nodded, "Her soul would become intertwined with yours. The question is-"
"-What's that gonna do to you?" Qrow finished, finally giving away what they had each been concerned about.
Pyrrha gasped as the full weight of the situation finally landed on her shoulders. She could become far more powerful than she had ever dreamed of, making both her dream to do some immense act of good for the world and her goal to help Naruto combat whatever enemies he had, that much closer to reality. However the cost of that power could very well be her very existence. Her identity as Pyrrha Nikos could be washed away by Amber's.
Before her mind could continue on that train of thought, she was brought back to reality by the feeling of Naruto's arm circling her waist.
Thankful for the small bit of comfort the gesture brought her, the redhead turned to her headmaster again as Ozpin spoke again.
"You have an important decision before you, Miss Nikos. There's no guarantee this transfer will work and there's no telling if you will be the same person if it does. I advise you to take time on this matter. But understand that before the Vytal Festival is over, we will need your answer."
Gazing at the suddenly imposing figures of the four adults before, Pyrrha shakily nodded her head.
Seeing the shaken form of one of his precious students, the bespectacled headmaster turned a meaningful gaze to the blond currently holding her, "The assailant that attacked the Fall Maiden has made their first move and there's no telling when their next move will be."
Naruto understood the unspoken message loud and clear.
As much as Pyrrha had a role to play in the coming events, so too did he.
So did everyone.
Sunset at Beacon was a sight to behold.
While night time blanketed the campus in an ethereal and soothing aura, sunset likewise brought its own certain beauty to the school.
Bathed in the setting sun's purples and reds, a certain couple found themselves quietly seated atop a roof, enjoying the final rays of the sun.
"How much of that did you know?" Pyrrha asked curiously. There was no accusation in her words, she was simply curious to know how much of what they had just learned was Naruto privy to.
Raking a hand through his hair as he stared at the setting sun, Naruto sighed, "Ozpin had only told me what the Maidens were and that they were still around. Everything else is new to me."
Absentmindedly playing with a stray lock of her hair, Pyrrha had to ask, "What...what should I do?"
Naruto grinned, "We take option C."
Now fully focused on her boyfriend, the redhead of team NNPR stared questioningly into the grinning blond's eyes, "There's an option C?"
"While Ironwood thinks his kingdom's 'discovery' of containing Aura and putting into something else is this great breakthrough, we shinobi have been able to do that literally since the beginning!" Naruto practically ranted in excitement.
Recalling the story of Kaguya and her two sons, Pyrrha realized what the Jinchūriki was getting at, "You're talking about the jutsu used to bind a Bijū to a human!"
Naruto nodded rapidly in agreement, "There's tons of different Fūinjutsu out there that do it! Heck, I heard that each of the villages had their own way of doing it!" Suddenly growing even more giddy, the whiskered Uzumaki grabbed Pyrrha's shoulders, "You know what the best part is!?"
It was at this moment that Kurama decided to join the conversation, "The scroll we took from Konoha contains a copy of the sealing array the brat's parents used as a basis for the one that binds me to him."
Naruto pouted, "Spoilsport."
Slowly it all clicked into place for Pyrrha. There was a way to gain the Maiden's powers without sacrificing who she was. There was a way for her to help the world as Pyrrha Nikos.
Flooded by a sense of relief and joy, the redhead did the only thing she could think to do.
She kissed her boyfriend.
Caught off guard by the sudden action, it took Naruto's brain a moment to catch up.
Needing to breathe, the couple pulled apart, a blush prominent on both their faces.
"Oh sure, he gets the kiss for telling you even though I'm the one who helped him figure it out," Kurama groused.
Laughing at the sight of a pouting Bijū, Pyrrha grabbed the shrunken Kyūbi and pulled him in for a hug, gently kissing the top of his brow.
"Thank you for your help and concern Kurama," Pyrrha giggled.
Stunned, Kurama needed a second for his brain to reboot, unable to believe what had just happened. As he recollected himself, the sentient force of chakra grunted, "I didn't ask for your validation."
Neither member of team NNPR could take the fox's reply seriously considering they could easily see the deep red stain on his furry cheeks.
Shaking his head, Naruto rose to his feet, "Well we should get back. I want to look into this whole sealing a Maiden's powers thing and Nora said something about helping you get ready for the one on one rounds."
Pyrrha's face was suddenly torn between abject terror and what may been an attempt to smile, though it looked far more painful than a smile should have.
"Oh, Nora wants to help train me? How...wonderful?"
Naruto could only sympathize with his partner. While he took his training regimen pretty seriously, Nora could sometimes take the cake. If he didn't know that the hammer wielder was actually pretty well versed in fashion, he'd be worried about her suddenly donning a tight green jumpsuit and shouting about the "Springtime of Youth".
Remembering Konoha's two Taijutsu specialists, Naruto had to repress a shudder of disgust.
Thank the Kami Jiraiya had put his foot down and stopped him from ever even trying to wear one of those horrid green monstrosities.
'The hell was I thinking at the time?' The blond wondered.
Any further pondering on his formerly bad fashion sense was halted when he felt the now familiar feeling of Pyrrha interlacing her fingers with his own.
"C'mon. Like you said, we've got a lot of work to do."
Looking at the smiling visage of his girlfriend, something he didn't think he'd ever get tired of saying, the whiskered teen decided then and there he was going to make damn sure that she continued to smile like that.
"Ladies and gentleman, meet the eight individuals who have proven their strength and skill and now stand as this year's Vytal Festival finalists!"
Naruto grinned as he watched Pyrrha demurely wave at the cheering crowd while Yang basked in the glow of the spotlights.
This was it. The final leg of the Vytal Festival Tournament. From here on out it would be one on one battles fought on a completely vacant field. The combatants had no teammates to fall back on and no terrain to use to their advantage. To win these matches, the fighters would have to rely solely on their own skill and tenacity.
Part of Naruto wished that he was up there competing as well, but he knew how unfair that would be. Hell, he was pretty sure he could take all eight of the finalists on by himself. After all, one needed a pretty specific skill set to combat a Jinchuriki, let alone one capable of tapping into their Biju's power.
"And the two fighters kicking off the one on one rounds are Yang Xiao Long and Mercury Black of Beacon Academy!"
Instantly Naruto's grin fell and a pit of dread formed in his stomach.
Fists clenched so hard that his hands were near pure white, the blue eyed Uzumaki stared across the field to the bleachers opposite him.
Glacial sapphires bore into mischievously dancing ambers.
The next move had been made.
AN: I'm pretty sure that every time I've posted a new chapter, the ending AN has some sort of excuse as to why it took so long. At this point it's pretty pointless to say anything really other than...there it is.
Hope you guys liked it?
Alright I'm gonna be honest here, I'm grasping at straws. For once, I have nothing to blabber on about.
Sooo...yeah. I'm gonna go noodle around on guitar for a few hours. Maybe get some more Ghost Recon in.