Sigh... I've been neglecting you guys, eh?
I'm sorry. Things have been busy. But I promise I'm far from done in terms of fic writing. Expect more updates and even new fics soon.
But anyways... I present to you:
Chapter 6: AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR
As bad as being cramped inside of a small Grimm cage was, Blake took a little solace in the fact that she probably wasn't the killer.
"On the other hand," she grumbled, "I'm going to have to find some way to get out of here…"
The metal cage was uncomfortably small, probably fit for a Boarbatusk, and Blake found it uncomfortable to even lie down in, much less move around. She shifted herself in order to study the room that her cage currently resided in.
The first thing that caught her eye was a pair of hedge shears shoved neatly away on a shelf in the corner of the room. Unfortunately, even if Blake found some way to maneuver the oversized scissors some fifteen feet across the room all the way to the cage, they probably wouldn't be strong enough to cut through the two-inch-thick reinforced steel bars that lined the cage. The lock was not exactly an external attachment, either; it held two bars of the cage firmly together and made up a large portion of the deadbolt that kept the door shut.
Adversely, Blake's cynical side couldn't help but wonder why Beacon had hedge shears in the first place. The academy was far from well-known for its shrubbery; the most vegetation that manifested in the area was contained within the Emerald Forest.
Of course, the shears weren't the oddest things hidden around the school. Not by a long shot.
For example, concussive dust fire extinguisher.
Try saying that five times fast.
In any case, the room wasn't filled with much else, save more cages, empty boxes, and the occasional foot trap.
Even the cat faunus' quick-thinking mind couldn't find any viable solutions with the given objects.
Blake sighed and leaned her head back against the uncomfortable, cold steel floor of the cage as a dull pang of dread reverberated within her body. She shivered, half from the cold contact, half to shake off the unwelcome feeling that baited her.
From being completely self-brainwashed of her own motives to feeling like a pig at the butcher, Blake was not getting any breaks today.
Although in retrospect, some of her other fellow classmates were probably off have worse luck in their activities. Namely dying. To death.
Before the written descriptions of the scene could get too dry and vapid, Blake heard a door creak open. The cat faunus bolted upright, almost banging her head against the ceiling of the cage, to see…
… A blankly staring Lie Ren, blinking at the sight that he beheld.
Blake stared back, wide-eyed and cautious.
The staring contest went on for a good ten seconds before Ren awkwardly broke the silence.
"Huh… on top of being a killer, whoever this person is also disgustingly racist," Ren sighed, kneeling by the cage lock.
"Tell me about it," grumbled Blake, leaning back down against the hard steel floor. "Textbook evil person, I'm almost convinced this whole thing's some twisted racist joke."
"Textbook evil person?"
"I read a lot, in case you haven't noticed. I know my archetypes."
Ren frowned. "Being sassy in a life or death situation has never been beneficial to anyone."
For a brief moment, Blake toyed with the possible retorts she could use on Ren, but eventually thought better of it. "I'm sorry, Ren. I'm not in the best of moods."
Ren chuckled. "That's understandable, considering the situation we're in."
Blake smiled weakly. "So… can you help out maybe?"
The dark-haired boy nodded, examining the lock briefly before searching the room for a key. "There's a pair of hedge shears over here. Probably won't cut through the bars, though."
"Probably not," Blake groaned dismally.
She watched nervously as Ren dug through the contents of the room. After a few minutes he returned to the cage empty-handed.
"Damn…" Blake muttered.
"I'll see if I can find the key in any of the other surrounding rooms," offered Ren.
Blake paused for a moment, then nodded swiftly. "That would be wonderful."
Ren gave a slight nod in return and headed out of the room.
As his footsteps slowly faded away in the distance, Blake glanced around the room again. Surely, out of the myriad of boxes and traps and cages there could a key for this cage. Hell, if she was lucky, it would be a master key for all the cages so that she wouldn't have to sift through dozens of keys – if those keys even existed.
For some reason, her gaze was drawn back towards the nearest jagged-toothed foot trap.
It lay about an arm's length away, and it thankfully lay closed so that if Blake wouldn't have to be cautious if she needed to handle it.
"Huh," she wondered distantly aloud to herself. "Aren't these traps spring-loaded…"
A few seconds flew by, although they probably could've walked if they wanted to.
Then realization struck.
Blake's eyes widened. "You're a genius, Blake. Your criminal background is finally going to pay off."
With that, she scrambled to grab the disarmed trap and began to disassemble it in a frenzy.
Meanwhile, Jaune and Ruby stood in the commons, gazing upon the behemoth fortress that resided there.
"So… you said this is all Nora?" Jaune whistled.
"Yup," affirmed Ruby, putting a popping emphasis at the end of her response.
The blonde gave a half-hearted chuckle. "Why am I not surprised?"
With a shrug, Ruby walked up to the makeshift table door and gave it a rapt knock.
"Hello? Nora, you home?"
The red-head frowned. "Nora? It's me, Ruby!"
Alas, to no avail.
Ruby impatiently gave one, much harder knock. "C'mon, Nora! Ren told me you were here!"
You've probably read enough TV tropes to know how this goes by now.
With a sigh, Ruby turned back to Jaune. "You… you think she's okay?"
Jaune, pensive, walked up beside Ruby. "I sure hope so. But I think I've got one more trick up my sleeve. If she's here, then I'll get her out in no time."
With a brief grin at Ruby, the blonde cleared his throat dramatically.
"You fight with the strength of many men, Lady Knight!" he shouted up to the fortress. "I am Jaune, leader of the JNPRs, and I seek the bravest and the finest knights in the land who will join me in my court at… um… er… our dorm…? Uh, anyway, you have proved yourself worthy. Will you join me?"
There came not a sound, not even the chirp for a cricket, for they had all fallen asleep.
Ruby shot Jaune a sideways glance. "So much for that plan," she smirked. "What the hell was that, anyway? Did you just make something up or –"
"Ah, I'm not done yet," grinned Jaune, then turned his attention back to the fortress. "You make me sad! So be it!"
Jaune placed his hand on the "door" and began to shove against it.
No sooner did he do that when a voice boomed from inside the fort.
"None shall pass!"
Ruby started. "Uh, what?"
"None shall pass!"
The red-head blinked and turned to Jaune. "That's Nora, right?"
Smirking, Jaune called back to the fortress. "I have no quarrel with you, good Lady Knight, but I must enter this fort."
"Then you shall die."
"DIE!? Wait, what?" At this point, Ruby started to panic. "No no no, we don't want that! Please, Jaune, tell her we're just here to help!"
The blonde ignored her. "I command you, as leader of the JNPRs, to stand aside!"
The "door" of the fortress slammed open with a mighty crash to reveal the lady knight in question, hammer at the ready. "I move for no man!"
"So be it!" Without a second of thought, Jaune drew out his sword."
"STOP!" Ruby shrieked, running to place herself in between the two and using Crescent Rose to fend them both off. "WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?"
The two JNPR members stared at Ruby, blinking slowly.
"Uh… did you just cuss?" muttered Nora, lowering her weapon.
"Yeah, I did!" Ruby sighed in exasperation. "How did you manage to make me feel like the weird one here…?"
Jaune chuckled. "Sorry about that. It's just that if I've learned anything from being her teammate for a year, once Nora takes on a role, like being 'queen of the castle,' she sticks to character. Or, more accurately, a lot of characters based on… stuff. Besides, it's not like we were actually going to kill each other, right Nora?"
"Oh… we weren't? I-I mean, yeah, we weren't!" Nora stowed the hammer quickly and flashed a sheepish grin at the two newcomers.
"Uh… yeah! See, Ruby?" Jaune laughed nervously, rubbing the back of his head.
Ruby simply stared back in response.
"Yeah… that's a reasonable reaction." Jaune coughed awkwardly. "So, uh… you've been busy, Nora."
Nora glanced up at the fort. "What? Nah, not really! Only took me, like…" Her face scrunched up as she pondered the time it took. "I actually don't know. I have no idea what time it is."
"Well…" Jaune glanced out the tall windows of the commons. "It's still dark outside, but yeah, I don't really know how much time's passed either. I guess I've been too busy thinking about other… things…" The blonde trailed off.
Ruby glanced in his direction and knew that the restrained grief on his face probably mirrored itself on her own.
Nora didn't get the hint. "Oh yeah! I've been busy with things too! I made a fort!"
Jaune chuckled. "Well, yeah, I can see that. Hey listen, we kinda lost Blake on our way here, and we've been trying to find her. Has she passed through here at all?"
"Nope." Nora shook her head. "Just you guys, Ren, and Yang!"
Ruby turned away at the mention of her sister. "Thanks Nora. I guess this means we'll have to go back on the hunt, right Jaune?"
The blonde boy hesitated. "It might actually be safer if we stayed here and helped with the fort."
"If we do that, we'll just be three sitting ducks grouped conveniently together," countered Ruby.
Jaune paused, mulling the fact over, then nodded. "You're right. Can we trust you to keep the fort warm for when we get back, Nora?"
Nora puffed out her chest in pride. "I'm invincible!"
Ruby shook her head. "You're a loony…"
"I fart in your general direction!"
"Well, your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries…"
"Alright, then!" Jaune, who seemed to have ignored this exchange between the two, gave a wide grin. "Ready, Rubes?"
"Yup." Ruby nodded her affirmation. "Let's go find Blake."
The two headed off into the maze of hallways once more, with Nora looking after them as the disappeared from view. "If she's alive, that is…"
"I'm very much alive!" gasped Blake as she tumbled out from the confines of her now unlocked prison.
As she flopped onto the floor in triumph, the pins and springs that made up her makeshift lockpick slowly rolled out of her unclenched hand.
Blake kissed the floor that she lay sprawled upon, uncaring for any cleanliness factors involved. "The cat…" she breathed, "… is out of the bag."
Ren poked his head in through the doorway. "You were in a cage."
"Fuck off, Ren."
"Currently fucking off," replied the dark-haired hunter, and he promptly left.
"So you've seriously never read any of Blake's books before?" Jaune mumbled, innocently enough.
"Nope! Yang never even let me get near that bookshelf," answered his red-haired partner.
The two had been walking down yet another of the numerous hallways in Beacon, and even with the task at hand to focus on, small yet constant conversation helped keep the two hunters from going crazy.
"Surely you must've been curious at some point?"
Ruby shrugged. "Sure, maybe. I love reading, but y'know, becoming a team leader at one of the top hunter schools in the world kinda keeps you busy."
Jaune groaned. "Ughhh, tell me about it. I'm still trying to learn how to be better at this fighting stuff. Or, at least… I was learning, anyhow…"
"Come to think of it," Ruby shuddered, "What are we gonna do once this is all over? I… I don't really know if I wanna go back to Beacon, not after everything that's happened tonight."
"I feel ya." Jaune gave her a sympathetic yet strained smile. "Maybe we'll figure this all out once we find Blake and the killer. Right now I just want this night to end. It feels like this whole thing's been going on for like… six months…?"
The redhead frowned. "Yeah. Kinda feels like we took a really long break, too. Like out of those six months, we did nothing for three."
"Huh," the blonde mulled over Ruby's statement. "I wonder why…"
Without any such warning, a crash emanated from behind the pair.
"YIKES! What was that!?" yelped Jaune.
"I-I have no idea, but I think we probably should find out what that was!" responded Ruby hurriedly.
Jaune blanched. "You really think that's a good idea?"
"Well, we gotta do something! People are dying, Jaune."
Jaune glanced in the general direction of the crash, then back to his friend. "A-Alright. Let's go."
The two cautiously made their way back up the hallway, eyes darting in every direction so as not to miss any hidden surprises. Eventually, the hallway meandered into a fork.
"Dammit," muttered the blonde. "Which way did it come from?"
"I don't know…" Ruby whispered distantly.
The pair exchanged a glance, knowing full well what the other was thinking.
"We're gonna have to split up, aren't we."
The way Jaune said it, they both knew it wasn't a question.
"Yup," nodded Ruby grimly. "Well… I guess I'll see you on the other side?"
Jaune heaved a sigh. "Yeah, I guess so." It took every bit of willpower in him to refrain from uttering the word "hopefully."
The redhead extended a hand with a weary smile, which Jaune grasped tightly.
"Good luck, Jaune."
"You too, Rubes."
With that, the two went on their separate ways, Jaune going off to the left and Ruby taking the right.
Huh, thought Jaune. This situation seems familiar…
Once again, he was alone, sword brandished and bumbling through the hallways. He hadn't been alone since the beginning of night, and the gravity of such hadn't hit him until now as the feeling of profound and oddly familiar loneliness gripped at him once more.
As if that gnawing feeling wasn't bad enough, a crash similar to what Jaune had heard earlier while he was with Ruby rang out immediately to his right.
"EEEEEEEP!" Jaune jumped and fell flat on his ass. A startled glance in the general direction of the crash revealed a closed door.
"Okay, get your shit together, Arc," he muttered to himself. As his heartrate steadily slowed, Jaune slowly got to his feet and walked towards the door.
Sword at the ready, he twisted the handle.
A brief scan of the room in the dark seemed to reveal several end-to-end shelves as well a large table in at the end of the room. Inching closer to the table, Jaune made out what seemed to be a small-ish lamp, and with a sigh of relief, he turned it on.
With the added illumination, Jaune realized that he'd stepped foot into an alchemy room of sorts, with the shelves filled with such ingredients such as various containers of dust, Ursa claws, vials of King Taijitu venom, and other such items that the blonde failed to recognize.
The lone table in the room looked like makeshift laboratory, with beakers, clamps, and hot plates scattered haphazardly on its surface. Some of the equipment even lay in pieces. Perhaps this was the source of the crash?
Seems kinda inconvenient to only have one lamp in an important room like this, wondered Jaune. Although now that I have some light and a little privacy…
The blonde glanced at the knapsack that hung around his waist. With a shrug, he pulled out the two smuggled books and lay them on the table.
"Alrighty… this was the book I keep hearing about," smirked Jaune, glancing at the copy of Ninjas of Love. "Let's see what the hubbub's all about."
He opened the book cover with a smile… and his heart sank.
Instead of a page with the title of the book to greet his curious eyes, Jaune found a rectangular-shaped cutout burrowing deep through the middle of the book.
Laying snugly in said cutout was a now-ticking pipe bomb.
"Oh, come on!" groaned Jaune in spite of himself. "That's the oldest trick in the boo-"
The room went up in a cloud of multicolored dust.
If one had been staring intently at the face of Yang's slightly bloated corpse at that very instant, they might've noticed the corners of her lips twitch upwards.
Curiousity killed the cat and then there were four.
I might've painted this one out to be the hardest one in the game, but I feel like you guys definitely proved me wrong. Out of the those of you who submitted a guess, a good third of you got the correct victim and a whopping 40% of you got the the right weapon. Not quite as well as the last round, but still pretty good job! Our winner this round(haha, I would say "week", but I'm not gonna assume I'll make any more deadlines for this) is... wait for it... Cheatengine343! Well done! You can expect a message from me in the not so distant future... hopefully. Hehehe.
For any of you who's been following my works recently... I've got a monster of a fic in the works that you might wanna keep an eye on. Just a heads up. Hopefully it won't be three months before you hear from me again!
To refresh on the rules, check the Notice 2 in the chapters.
To refresh on the riddle, participants, and weapons, check the Riddle in the chapters.
To take up the next survey, click the link on my profile!
Good luck and hopefully, TRULY, I'll have the next chapter out on time. Hopefully.