Rose, Qrow, Ozpin and Glynda sat around a small table enjoying a tasty dinner out on a balcony attached to Ozpin's office. The air was fresh and slightly brisk, the sun having dipped below the horizon about an hour ago, and night's chill was starting to creep in. Rose was feeling particularly relaxed, all things considered. It had been a busy few days and the chance to decompress after a week of her new job as a teacher was welcome. Small talk filled the gap between bites of fish, salad and sips of chilled white wine.
"Ozpin, what is your stance on teachers murdering students in a blood rage?" Qrow asked mildly, the question hanging in the silence of the night, broken only by the clinking of cutlery and Rose's slight snort at his question.
Ozpin hummed, chewing slowly and looking thoughtful. After a few, long moments, he swallowed. "Not positive," He answered plainly.
"What if they were getting rid of only the stupid ones? Raising the standards of the school, as it were."
"You'll find my lack of support in your endeavour to cull the student population to be unchanged, unfortunately," he told Qrow, looking suitably apologetic.
That is, not at all.
"And here I was, thinking to ask you how your first week of teaching has gone," Glynda murmured, reaching over grab another slice of grilled fish. Rose did her best not to stare as the bespectacled Head Mistress had her fourth helping of dinner. Aura was tiring to use in large quantities, mentally and physically, and fine manipulation compounded the issue. Glynda harboured a strength of Aura that a select few could hope to match, and with control that Rose was fairly certain none currently did. She was also very active physically - an understatement considering a Huntresses' lifestyle, had a high-stress job, and was quite a bit taller and larger a woman than average.
She burned through a lot of energy. Rose had seen Weiss put away a surprising amount of food before, almost as much as Yang, which was outright astounding when one considered just how stunningly petite she was. Glynda was many things, petite was not one of them.
All this meant that Rose understood why Glynda ate as much as she did, but it was still boggling to watch a woman with such an incredible figure eat enough to shame her father on his hungriest day. Especially considering she ate near as much as this consistently.
"You must spend a fortune on groceries," Rose mumbled absentmindedly, before pausing after she realised what she had said.
Glynda, to her credit, barely paused and nodded slowly as she chewed delicately on her fish. "One of the benefits extended to me as Deputy Head Mistress is that I don't have to pay for food or lodging."
"The Council is rather strict in what sort of salary I could offer my employees," Ozpin said with a small, pleased smile, "But they are rather generous with other 'smaller' benefits."
"The extra pay I was pushing for probably wouldn't make up a fifth in what it takes to keep me fed," Glynda admitted unashamedly, actually looking vindictively happy with herself. She made a gesture toward Qrow, who had began laughing quietly at the short story, and he passed her the last of the food on the table, a small serving of pumpkin salad.
"That's so beautifully passive-aggressive I might cry," Rose sniffed, before betraying her true feelings as she too laughed softly.
"We do our best," Ozpin told her nonchalantly, lifting his mug - which Rose would have sworn was another room entirely ten seconds ago - in salute, before turning his attention to Qrow. "I must admit, however, I am interested on your thoughts regarding your first week as a teacher."
Qrow grimaced, leaning back in his chair and scratching at the scar on his face he'd received in the battle with Izhar. "It could be worse," he said summarily. Ozpin, looking interested, gently prompted him to continue by rolling his hand. Qrow obliged, "For a lot of these kids, the most espionage training they've had is watching some old spy movies on late night specials. For some, it's obviously coming naturally, other not so much. I'm probably going to have a lot of kids wanting to drop out, or change courses. I say we let em'."
"Why?" Rose asked him, he seemed so passionate about teaching his new class, but also very free with allowing students to leave.
"I don't need a hundred Hunters-in-training with aspirations to be spymasters, just a few. It also isn't something I'm going to encourage them to pursue if they don't have an obvious talent for it." He replied, lounging back in his chair with a contented sigh. "Right now, I'm still coverin' the basics, and everyone should know them. Field handles, ID'ing friendlies and enemies, basic infiltration countermeasures and blah, blah, blah." Qrow finished quickly. "Easy stuff, but necessary. I'll let the kids that want out walk once we tear into real the sticky business."
"That sounds like an excellent idea," Ozpin agreed. "And yourself, Rose?"
"Combat Class was always going to be simple," she shrugged. "I help them with forms, I set up spars, I run PT, the whole works."
"It is a little more involved than that," Glynda chided.
"Well yeah, but nothing that really bears repeating. They've already trained for years to develop fighting styles. I can offer the standard Hunter package: experience, refinement, maybe some recommendations on new tricks, but the only thing I'm really going to be teaching is some cardinal Hunter Techniques, like using your Aura to enhance your body, improved Aura shielding, using your Aura as a light source and blah, blah, blah." She finished, gesturing with her hand toward Qrow and nodding at the same time, as if in agreement.
"Unsurprisingly, the one you'll have the most to teach will be Ruby." Glynda pointed out.
Rose shrugged, "I don't really know how to use a sword, or a mace, or needle pointed sandals or any of the weird shit that works for some of these kids. They've developed the styles themselves, a lot of the time. But, you all know this, Combat Class is pretty general."
Ozpin frowned, "This isn't exactly what I was hoping for when I hired you on to teach, as you may remember."
Rose blinked at him slowly. "You do understand that I've been teaching them for a week, right?"
"They don't really trust or respect me all that much yet," She added. "Passing on what I've learnt from battles - what it is actually like... well, I'm going have to work up to that."
"Is that time we have to spare?" The Headmaster asked her, and she gave him a thin lipped smile.
"Maybe not, but what do you expect? I can't make these kids battle ready - not to face other people," Rose sighed with a deep weariness.
Qrow gave a slightly bitter chuckle, but the miniscule smile he gave Rose was consoling. "Look, there's no way you could ever do that. Grimm, sure, that's easy. We've been killing Grimm almost as long as they've been killing us. It's practically humanity's collective past-time." He shrugged, "But say what you will about people - we can be shitty, yeah, but most of us aren't murderers. Not deep down."
"Most of us," Rose replied softly, breaking eye contact and looking off into the distance.
Glynda chewed slowly, thinking as they all sat in the sudden pensive silence the table had descended into. Ozpin was an eery reflection of Rose, his eyes glassy and mind obviously elsewhere. Qrow looked like he had unexpectedly swallowed something bitter, but didn't quite know what to say. "I think..." She began slowly, getting the attention of everyone at the table, "That we can only do our best, trite as that may sound. Nothing, or no-one," She added, looking to Rose pointedly. "Can truly prepare anyone for war. It's an impossible circumstance, and the truth of the matter is that it does change people, whether for better or for worse." She reached over, gently grabbing one of Rose's hands in a gesture of silent comfort. "And sometimes, more than anything... it simply leaves scars."
Rose shuddered briefly, closing her eye as she fought a back a surge of emotion. The other occupants at the table shared silent, worried glances.
"Rose," Ozpin began delicately, "Far be it for me to pry, but have you ever spoken to anyone about your experiences?" Silence was his answer. "There is a reason we have teams, more than a practical application of martial strength. Your team-"
"Is dead," She snapped, her eye flaring open. A few tense moments passed before she sagged, the anger in her frame disappearing. "Or as good as."
"That is untrue," Ozpin said firmly. "They are alive, and they are very much present, if perhaps not as you knew them."
"But they aren't my team," She replied morosely, bitterness seeping into her voice. "They aren't the people I fought with, and they won't ever be - my team is gone."
"Do you think less of them for not having fought and killed as you have?" He cut in sharply, and she jerked in her seat. "Are they lesser for having experienced the pain and suffering you have?"
"Of course not!" She barked at him, her temper flaring. Qrow shot Ozpin a warning look as well, silently informing him that he was toeing a line.
"Then why do you say they are not your team? If not because they lack the same experience as you, then what?"
A startling moment of pin-drop silence.
Rose's chair clattered to floor, seemingly cacophonous in wake of the stillness that proceeded it, as she stood from the table, hands clenched. "I'm going to find my father," she said brusquely, turning and leaving the balcony before the other occupants could formulate a response.
"Oh, this is going to end well, I can just see it," Qrow muttered dispassionately, lifting his glass in grim mockery of a final salute before promptly draining the last of his wine.
Ozpin and Glynda didn't disagree, and after a few moments, followed suit.
"So, if you pull your arm back riiigggght now!"
"Yes! Exactly like that, kid!"
"Did you see that, Ren?! I don't think I've hit anything that hard before! And it's still going!"
"Ah... yes... yes I did."
"You're the best, Master Tai!"
"I know, right?"
Funnily enough, tracking down her father proved to be an exceedingly mild challenge for Rose. Stealth had never been his strong suit in the first place, but taking into account his budding apprenticeship with Nora? Well, if you followed the sounds of destruction...
"Now, are you ready for the next level!"
"...What's the next level?"
She'd obviously arrived just in time.
"Right!" Rose exclaimed loudly as she came into view, clapping her hands together to get all three gathered together's attention, "Dad, we've got to go."
Nora and Tai both let loose a plaintive whine that would be far more appropriate for a toddler being denied his favourite plaything than two semi-adults barred from a bout of evening demolitions. They were standing in what ostensibly used to be a training courtyard, but currently looked more akin to an artists interpretation of the final result of a smith-god's furious temper tantrum, with rampant destruction and liberal evidence of hammers being swung with unholy force. Training dummies lay thrashed and scattered about in a way that would be massively more disturbing if they were made from anything other than straw. Both were absolutely covered in dust, flushed from exertion - Nora far more so than Tai - and had the most unnervingly bright smiles stretching from ear to ear.
Ren in contrast, was sitting far, far to the side of the court, and was so pale Rose swore she could see his veins popping up against his skin. He also looked unutterably relieved at the sight of her, and she got the distinct impression that he was moments away from raising a shrine in her honour. He stood up and strode over with a grace that was almost eery, walking over as much rubble as he was.
"Really, just give us one sec Rosie," Tai pleaded.
"Pllleeeaaasse?" Nora added with huge doe-eyes.
Rose lifted two fingers, "One, I like the nickname," she said, and her father smiled at her before she continued. "And two, no, we really do have to go."
"Seriously! Just one teensy moment, we were just getting to the good part!" Her father protested.
"You have already trained more than is most likely healthy today, Nora," Ren said calmly, his demeanour at odds with his still clammy pallor. "Perhaps it is for the best we turn in, and the lesson can be resumed another time? Nowhere near civilization." He continued mildly, the last added in low undertone that Rose was surprised she'd managed to hear.
In all fairness, it would probably be for the best...
Nora scuffed her foot on the floor, nodding sheepishly as she capitulated to Ren's good sense. He was, like, way more sensible than her. His senseyness was unbeatable really, which was why they made such an awesome team! With his senseyness and her unsensyness, they were unstoppable, they could take over the entir- Ow. Ok, forehead flicks meant Renny was being almost-nearly-completely serious, so she nodded again and stowed her weapon. Tai-Yang was dismayed.
"But if we had jus-" Tai began, but Rose cut him off.
"Dad, stop." He did. "Think. What were we going to do today?"
Tai-Yang slowed downed, thoroughly confused, but then jerked harshly as if he were suddenly poleaxed. "Fuck!"
Nora retreated behind Ren slightly at the sharp burst of harsh language, staring at Tai in surprise - in all the time she had spent with him, she'd yet to hear him swear at all, even in jest.
"Ah, sorry kiddo," Tai told Nora genuinely, "But I've really got to run. This is important."
"Important enough to forget until someone else reminded you?" Ren accused through slightly narrowed eyes, unimpressed.
"I tried my best," Tai told him with a grimace.
Ren immediately backed off. He didn't care for being manipulated or lied to, but by that same token, he realised when he wasn't entitled to the truth. This was either personal, above his station, or both. And judging by the distant gaze of what he'd already accepted as Nora's new mentor, and the sheer spun-wire tenseness he sensed in Rose, this seemed to be latter.
There was something entirely off about Rose, and the sudden flurry of changes and activity wrought by her arrival, but once again, he wasn't so close to those in charge or important enough himself to influence the situation much at all. He supposed he would be infinitely more worried if he didn't trust those involved. Qrow Branwen he didn't have much of a concrete opinion on yet, but he'd already learned to respect the man's cunning if nothing else - the new classes on subterfuge were immensely interesting and the enigmatic Hunter was proving to be a master of his craft. By that same token, he had already spent a significant portion of time under Glynda Goodwitch, and as stringent as she could be, she was also undeniably a Huntress of almost unparalleled calibre that meant nothing but the best for those students who didn't waste her time.
As for Rose and Tai themselves? There was an undeniable goodness to the both of them that set a deep part of him at ease. Not only had Tai-Yang raised Yang and Ruby, two of the most pleasant, dedicated and inherently just people he knew, but every member of their little family seemed to exude an air of honest benevolence that was inimitable. Their souls fairly thrummed with the light inherit in all of them, and as a young man who prided himself on his ability to detect and identify all aspects of Aura, those thrums echoed loudly indeed.
Beyond all that, however, he could tell Tai and Rose were involved directly involved also, and he'd bet good money that Ozpin wouldn't miss anything 'important' happening to his friends and colleagues. It wasn't even particularly difficult to piece together. Team RWBY were seemed more reclusive than ever recently, only truly talking to his own team and then only briefly. Rose would undoubtedly be in direct contact with her sisters, and from what he had gathered had apparently taken their entire team under her wing. There was also additional evidence - more often than not he could often spot one of the aforementioned adults walking together and talking in quiet, unobtrusive voices that would have blended into the background if he hadn't specifically began paying them more attention.
How was it that everyone else just seemed to accept a cadre of Elites like 'Duchess', 'The Man-of-many-Masks', 'The Unassailable Aegis' - and as Ruby had informed him, 'The Crimson Harvest' (and a moniker that ominous was not earned lightly in the world of Hunter's) had left on a mission together? There was stacking the deck, and then there was throwing everything you could at something in order to solve a desperate situation - but sending a team comprised solely of what were likely the most powerful men and women Ozpin could muster...?
And even then, Rose had returned half-dead by all accounts!
'No,' he thought to himself as he watched father and daughter together, the gallows walk of those about to commit themselves to unenviable task, 'Something in this world is incredibly wrong.' And Nora was startled when Ren barked out an uncharacteristically bitter laugh, 'And on Remnant, isn't that an absolutely terrifying prospect?'
Click, snap, click click, snap, thud-
Tai-Yang put the headphones of his music player in his ear, and the sounds of his team gearing up faded away... well, maybe not so much faded as drowned out by a thunderous tsunami of heavy metal clamouring for his attention. But for once, he was a little too preoccupied to really get into his meditation.
He wasn't stupid.
Things weren't alright. They hadn't been for a while. Before the woman out of time - his own daughter, no less - had delivered the fate of Vale's imminent destruction, even. They hadn't been alright for years, if he was honest with himself. Better than they had been than in those dark times after Summer's death, perhaps, but never quite as bright as they had been when he still held his daughters mother in his arms.
It had taken countless arguments, and more literal blood, sweat and tears than either man would admit to before he'd mended his relationship with Qrow. Love was the glue that held his family together, and by some terrible irony, it was the same thing that had almost torn it apart. Qrow and Summer...
Qrow and Summer. Hell, he'd admitted it to himself years ago, nevertheless it still shamed him that he'd nipped that in the bud. His late wife had always admonished him for saying so, quite rightly telling him that her choice was just as important his, but what if the choice hadn't ever been available. If... if Raven had never left, had been the mother to Yang that she always should have been, would it still be so impossible?
He didn't think so. There had been a spark of love there, just as true as the one between Summer and himself, and he'd snuffed it out before it could flourish. And it was the the fact that he didn't regret it that had hurt Qrow most of all.
But how could he? His time with Summer had undeniably been the happiest in his entire life, the joy of raising your child with the woman you loved? Indescribable. And then there was Ruby, and dear Oum, he couldn't remember loving someone more. If the joy of parenting could be indescribable, then the moment he still remembered, when Yang greeted her sister to the world with those brilliant lavender eyes, a sloppy kiss and massive smile, outshone only by the radiant joy of Summer... that was unimaginable.
And now his little Ruby was hurting. His eyes flickered to her form, hunched over as she was, intently taking in the state of her unquestionably pristine weapon. 'Not so little anymore,' he amended. He could see it, plain as day, like he'd always been able to. How could he not? He was her father, no matter how old, clever or badass she got. She would always be his little girl. And he could read her like a book.
And he was waiting. He wouldn't with Yang - not anymore. Not since she'd taken gathered her things, put them in a trolley, and determinedly walked out in the middle of the most Grimm infested section of the woods on Patch and nearly gotten both herself and Ruby killed in the process. Yang could be fiercely independent at times - probably a result of her effort to help raise Ruby, bless her soul. This was a blessing and a curse. No man was an island, but Yang wouldn't ever extend her hand first. He knew now that she would open up to him, she loved him just as much as he loved her after all, but he had to make the first move.
Ruby was different. She'd never hesitated to come to him with a problem, or a thought, or just a request for a shoulder to cry on. Whereas Yang always strove to provide more support than she received, Ruby gave and took in equal measure. She was fully herself with her family, and accepted everything of those she loved in return
He got the feeling Rose hadn't outgrown that particular trait. Buried it, maybe, deep down where it wouldn't hurt as much after almost everyone she considered family had died, but not lost completely. She was every bit the full-grown Huntress, an Oum damned warrior of legend if he ever saw one.
And she was his little girl, so he'd wait, and she'd come to him. It might be ugly, shit, it'll probably end in absolute catastrophe, but it was inevitable. When she came to him, he'd be there.
So he ignored the sidelong glances Qrow and Glynda sent at Rose.
Ignored the slight pause and tightened grip whenever Rose caught them at it.
"Operation Maskfall is now underway, godspeed." Ozpin's voice crackled over the earpiece Tai-Yang wore, and he sighed as his team made their way onto Qrow's airship, the Corvus.
It seemed now that he'd come to terms with issue of deep mental trauma of his battle scarred, warrior-general daughter that had come from the future, he had about two hours to prepare himself to go and rescue the woman who had abandoned him and their child from a group of zealous, militant terrorists lead by a woman hellbent on world domination, or in spite of that, the complete genocide of the human race.
'Bugger me, poppa wasn't kidding when he told me life wouldn't get any less complicated.'
Then he turned up his music, lifted his hammer, zipped his fly and got on the fucking ship.
FAVOURITE~REVIEW~FOLLOW!Better late than never, eh?