Chapter 79: Maiden Voyage

(The New Beacon) (Storage room)

Weiss never once imagined that she would see her sister in such a state. To her, Winter was the pinnacle of beauty and strength, someone who was unbeatable in her eyes. Out of everyone she knew she was the closest thing she could have to a true and loving family. The love Weiss had for her outshined everything in her life.

And now… it was all fading away into bitter memory.

"Winter…" A sob escaped her mouth as she cradled her sister's head in her arms.

"Weiss… I'm… I'm so sorry." Ruby knelt down, lowering her head in shame. "I tried… I really tried." There was nothing any of them could do. No way to bring the dead back to life. Years ago, Blake wouldn't ever imagine herself to weep for a Schnee. But seeing this sight and knowing the bond between these two siblings ache her heart even more.

Their mourning was however interrupted when Cinder bolted back up with an angry snarl as her eyes burned with blue and red. Everyone in the room could tell that she had become stronger. The power she radiated burned like the fire she represented and soared throughout the room in every manner.

"Looks like we have company." Blake motioned to Emerald and Mercury who rose back from their stunned position, grinning evilly like minions and master.

Cinder ignored her attackers for a moment to bask in her new found strength. She could feel the power of the Maiden coursing through her veins. It was amazing how much she missed after tasting a sip of that sweet nectar. She almost forgot how it felt when she first stole it from that pathetic woman on the streets. It was intoxicating, addictive and most importantly… it was complete. The hunger that tormented her for so long was finally satisfied. She no longer felt the need to feed or satiate her thirst with prudent luxuries. Because now, she was a full maiden, a being without equal in the world of Remnant.

"This doesn't look good." Ruby gulped worryingly. Considering their situation and their fighting strength there was no way in heck they can defeat their enemies right now. "I think we should retreat for now. Blake, you cover us while I take Winter out of here. Weiss can back you… up?" She never finished her strategy when the Ice Queen walked passed her with a terrorizing expression hidden under her bangs.

Anger, malice and pure rage flowed out of Weiss' mind. Streams of negative emotions flooded from her body attracting the Grimm to their location. But there was no stopping the young Heiress right now. At this very moment, all she could think of was the destruction of her enemies and bitter taste of revenge.

Cinder noted all those emotions were directed at her and much to Team RWB_ she returned it with a smile.

"Well well… this is rather… awkward." She began with an inappropriate humorous tone. "I don't suppose I can talk you out of a fight, Ms. Schnee? Considering that this ship is already on the verge of breaking, I would suggest we go our separate ways and continue this fight another day."

Silence was the Heiress' reply. She bit her lip as her grip tightened on her rapier.

"Weiss…" Ruby urged her back. "Don't do anything reckless now." It was rather hypocritical seeing as she was often reckless herself.

"You should listen to her." Cinder urged. "Believe me child. With the strength I wield now, this is a fight you cannot win."

It was true. Weiss could feel it just like everyone. Her aura was significantly stronger than before, perhaps even stronger than Jaune. However, she couldn't think rationally. Not right now. Anger tore through her logic and hatred blocked all thoughts of peace. She could barely even see the value of her life any more than the dirt beneath her boots. But out of all that malice, the Ice Queen was able to restrain herself just enough to get a few words out.

"I just have one question." The Mistress of Fire raised a brow while her minions glanced at one another in confusion. Her long stared silence hinted her to continue. "Why did you kill her?"

Again silence.

"Was it because she was a Maiden or something or was it because she got in your way?"

Cinder didn't seem to understand but decided to humor the avenger. After all, she deserved the answer more than anyone on board this ship. "She was my target. The power she was given didn't belong to her. I simply… took it back."

"That's your justification for all this slaughter!?" Blake yelled out. "Those people who perished in Vale? Mantle?! What's your reason for condemning them!?"

"I justify nothing." The Fire Maiden shot back angrily. "There is no moral high ground here. No virtues or innocence. If you wish to blame anyone, blame the Order that you follow. Those 'Protectors' as you call them, used the people as their shield to hide their true nature. They are the ones at fault. THEY are the ones who instigate this madness. Their arrogant beliefs are nothing more but smoke and mirrors hiding their crimes from the world. My hands may be bloodier than theirs but in the end, we are all murderers. I have killed thousands and will kill thousands more to achieve my goals. And I don't care who stands in my way."

"Good." Weiss said suddenly. "That's all I needed to hear." And with hardly a plan in mind, the heiress charged forward, thrusting her rapier at Cinder's chest striking at her aura forcing her back a few meters.

"Weiss!" Ruby cried out. She was expecting this to happen but she never really thought her partner would actually go through with her reckless plan.

But the Ice Queen wasn't done. With rage guiding her hands she unleashed a volley of glyphs firing wave after wave of icicles. Emerald tried to intervene but was blocked by a glyph that shoved her right out of the floor.

"We need to back her up!" Ruby ordered rushing in with Jaune's shield raised. "Blake, you take Emerald. I got Mercury."

"Got it!"

And so the next battle had begun.

While Ruby and Blake dealt with the minions on their own, Weiss returned her focus on the witch in front of her. Unsurprisingly, Cinder got out scot free from her previous attack. She shrugged it off like it was just wind in the air. And to add insult to injury, she gave the finger bait taunting her to give it her best shot.

And to no surprise, the heiress answered that challenge unleashing everything she had in her arsenal. She fired up glyphs after glyphs, throwing all manner of objects she could get her sigils on and exhausting her already depleting Dust supply in her rapier. It was perhaps one of the most incredible displays of power that Weiss has ever done in her life. If Glynda had been here watching her performance, she'd probably give her an easy A+ right on the spot.

She grinded Cinder position with every manner of attack, creating a crater of smoke in her wake. Even Weiss would admit that not even Ozpin himself wouldn't leave unscathed.

"Very impressive." But she was proven wrong when the fiery maiden walked out of that smoke with nary a dent on her or her clothes. "That might've actually hurt me… 10 minutes ago." Irritated, Weiss readied her rapier again launching even more glyphs. Cinder dangled her finger in return. "Uh ah. You only get two free strikes. Third one is mine." With a wave of her hand, she blasted a stream of flame and followed it with telekinesis. Shrapnel and other heavy and sharp objects launched themselves at the heiress forcing her to go on the defense.

Weiss brought up a shield deflecting most of the attack but it drained her much of her Dust supply. Seeing as ranged attack didn't work, the Ice Queen launched herself towards her enemy, closing the distance just enough for her weapon to reach. The Maiden returned the gesture, summoning her twin blades as partners for this dance.

"Ha!" Their blades clashed, sparks flying between them like firecrackers. Weiss was able to get one or two good hits in but the woman's aura was simply too strong to pierce. No, it was more like it was enhanced to repel any kind of attack.

"Poor child." Cinder pitied her. "All this talent wasted on your end. You would've made an excellent addition to our side."

"There's plenty more where that came from."

(Outside Fort Lagune)

Flynt gave a troublesome sigh as he waited irritably outside the mighty fortress gate of Atlas. When he heard from the teachers that they were being drafted into the big fight he was expecting to be in the thick of battle fighting Grimm alongside soldiers and his fellow Huntsmen. He wanted to fight monsters like they were trained to do but instead they were given one of the less interesting jobs.

Guard duty.

Normally he wouldn't mind that either. With all the guard and escort missions he did back in Vale and at the outskirts of Atlas, he and his team often get into a fight with the local Grimm population. But here, at Fort Lagune, they were nothing more but unnecessary guard dogs with little to do but bark at strangers.

The streams of refugees coming from Mantle and the other settlements have been coming in nonstop. Every minute, people are processed while the injured are taken into the infirmary for treatment. Haunted faces and relieved expressions were counted in equal measure all hoping to find safety and refuge within the mighty walls of the kingdom. And every once in a while, they would hear whispers of the frontlines by people and soldiers who return.

"Flynt." Neon, his partner and the coolest cat on the block noted him eyeing the line of refugees. "You alright?"

"What?" He was taken from his idleness by her voice. "Oh… yeah. It's no biggie girl. I'm cool. I just feel like some dolled up scarecrow."

"Well at least we still look pretty." Neon added showing her cheesy grin. "But that's not what's bothering you, is it?"

"No." He admitted lowly. "It's just that… all this fighting and people running scared. It kind of reminds me of Vale all over again."

"Yeah… I can imagine." She nodded back, pitying the poor souls leaving the large airships hoping to find sanctuary. It wasn't uncommon to find people migrating into the kingdom. Those from frontier towns do it all the time. But this one however was completely different.

Never before has an entire city been evacuated before. Now there were tens of thousands of people trying to get in and Neon was starting to wonder if there was going to be enough room.

"Still… I guess it can't be that bad." Flynt looked on the bright side. "If people can escape, the damage in Mantle might not be that big of a deal."

"You always gotta look for that silver lining." Neon gave a sweet grin. "I just hope we get sent out soon. I'm getting depressed just looking at them."

"That, we can agree." But their little laugh soon died out when the trumpeter noted a couple of soldiers whispering at the back of the refugee column. Despite their thick helmets, it was easy to see with their body language, that they were having a rather heated discussion and they were trying to keep it on the down low. "Yo Neon, give me a second."

"Huh?"

"Hey!" Flynt called out to the two whispering guardsmen. "What are you talking about?"

"Huh? Oh n… nothing." It was an obvious lie if Flynt ever heard one.

"You came in with the second group, didn't ya? What's the word on the front? The last thing we heard was to standby here. We need updates man."

"I'm… sorry sir, but we're not permitted to disclose any information right now." He stuttered back. "It's to keep people from panicking."

"Panicking?!" The trumpeter shouted back angrily. "Have you looked around lately? There are hundreds of people scared to death over here. I think we're beyond panicked."

"I'm sorry sir. It's just that…"

"Oh forget it Mike." The second guard burst. "None of the higher ups would care so we might as well just spill it." Flynt turned to the more open guard waiting for him to continue. "It's… not exactly good out there, sir."

"How bad can it be?"

"Really bad." His answer held a hint of fear and anguish within. "The whole city is… gone. I heard it was bad but its way worse than what they tell you. The whole fleet stationed there was being ripped to shreds, the city was on fire and there were Grimm… just… everywhere. There were people trapped and… then there was this huge fog hovering over the whole place. It scared the willies out of me."

"The Fog Grimm?" Flynt sputtered looking over the fort's balcony noting an oddly dark cloud looming over the horizon. "You mean that thing that folks have been talking about? It's real?"

"Real enough for us." The other guard admitted, his voice shivering out of fear. "That damn thing is spitting out Grimm like there's no tomorrow. Heh… thinking about it now, there might not be a tomorrow for that city."

"And?" Flynt asked. "What's the army doing about it?"

The reluctant soldier shrugged back in reply. "Not a clue. They're throwing bodies and bullets at everything out there but as far as I can tell… there's no stopping that thing. Our orders are to bring in as many survivors as possible. They'll probably do one more run before they order the retreat."

Flynt eyed the dark clouds in the horizon, the sound and sparks of cannon fire and explosions can be seen even from here. He can only imagine what their comrades were handling things out there. While they're out fighting monsters they're stuck here watching the house. He wasn't sure if the teachers were just giving him the boring jobs because his team was incomplete but it was certainly ticking him off. He needed to be out there, helping folks and fighting the nightmares that haunt humanity.

And he was going to do it… one way or another…

"Hey." He called the guards. "Your airship gassed up?"

"Huh? Well… yeah, it's standard procedure for all airships to be refueled when…"

"Good, I'm gonna borrow it."

(New Beacon)

Ruby grunted back as she was being forced on the defensive. She wasn't used to handling Jaune's massive shield. At first she thought it to be light and durable like one of those food trays back in the school cafeteria. But in truth, it was a heck of a lot heavier. It almost felt like she was carrying weights. Now she can understand why nothing has been able to pierce this shield. It was safe to stand behind it but it doesn't really help when she wants to go on the offense, especially in a small room like this.

"Where's your scythe, little lady?" Mercury taunted as he delivered a flurry of kicks and shots at her. "I thought you and that farming tool were inseparable. And what's with your boyfriend's shield? Did you trade it in for that ugly thing?"

"Why don't you come closer and find out?" She bluffed though she did a good enough performance to keep Mercury at bay. Right now Ruby was wishing she still had her Crescent Rose. If she did, she probably would've torn the assassin a new one. But while she dealt with her problem, the Red Riding Hood couldn't help but cast a worried glance over on the battle at the center of the room.

Ruby had always known Weiss to be a calm and calculated friend, someone who has always kept a clear and level head in any situation. But it seems like this situation was an exception. Right now she was furious. Every fiber of her mind and body were focused on the destruction and annihilation of that woman in red. Weiss was tossing out Dust and flexing her semblance to the fullest like she didn't even care how much stamina it drained from her. She can't exactly blame her either. If Yang was in the same position as Winter, she didn't think she would be able to hold it together either.

But despite the heiress' best attempts, Cinder's power was just on another league of its own. The Fiery Maiden was every bit as powerful as Amber, perhaps even more powerful. Bolts of lightning poured from her fingers, temperature rose and fell at her command and the very air around her obeyed her every whim. Even the laws of nature and physics seemed to make her the exception.

"Where are you looking, Red?" Ruby's thoughts were thrown back when she felt another one of Mercury's kicking flurries coming right on her. She felt their weight on her shield pushing her back even further. "You shouldn't worry about Ms. Rich-Lady. I'll be sure to send you two on a long dirt nap."

"Grrr…!"

"Ruby!" Blake interjected, cutting a suave between the two fighters before retaliating with her pistol emptying her clip completely. "You alright?"

"Yeah… I'm fine… I think." The little rose replied through heavy pants. "But this isn't looking good. How did they get this strong so quickly? They weren't this tough back in Beacon!"

Emerald gave a chuckling reply. "Merc and I had some protein shake. It works wonders for your body. You can't even begin to imagine what it feels like." Her partner rightly agreed. "But as much as I want to play, I think it's time we put the two of you down for the count."

"We're not going down that easy…" But Blake regretted those words when Mercury suddenly dashed up to her delivering a drop kick that sent her right to the wall.

"Blake! Gwahh!" Ruby barely had time to react when a string of chains wrapped around her with Jaune's shield in tow. Emerald had used her weapon wrapping the girl up like a sack of meat and pulled her in for the kill. Ruby closed her eyes waiting for her aura to take the hit. Her head probably would've lobbed off her neck if she was unlucky. But strangely enough the blow never came. Slowly she slowly opened her eyes finding Emerald's knife trapped against a large blade.

"I'm really starting to think you're taking after me, kiddo." Qrow said softly before delivering a punch on Emerald's face. Her chains unwind from Ruby's body, retracting back into her knife. "And here I thought your sister was the reckless one."

"Come and try me, old man." Emerald gave pause when she noted a pair of giant hands reaching out for her. "What in the world!?"

"Targets acquired." A robotic voice stated with a red slit following as the thief dodged the grapple just by a second. "Prepare to be exterminated."

"Uncle Qrow and Quarter!" Ruby cheered with relief. "I didn't think you'd get here in time. How'd you know where I was?"

"With all that noise you were making? I'd find you anywhere, kid. Looks like all the trash are all gathered here."He scanned the room for a moment before his eyes locked with Winter's cold body in the corner. Slowly, the anger in his stomach began to churn up fuel like crazy causing him to fire several shots at the green haired killer. "You guys… are gonna pay for that…"

"Do you take cash, credit or teeth?!" Mercury leaped in but was parried by Ruby's shield which her uncle followed with a kick to the assassin's face. "Gahh!" The blow sent him reeling but only for a bit.

"Come on Uncle Qrow, we can take him." But oddly enough, the old man stopped her.

"Hold your horses, little lady. We gotta set our priority straight. We're here for Winter, not them. Besides… I think this little man has bigger problems than us."

Mercury looked at him confused. But it quickly washed away when he heard a pair of footsteps coming in from behind. He turned around and the sight before him chilled the blood in his bones.

"Hey Mercury…" Yang Xiao Long pumped her fists together as she put on her most sadistic smile on her face. "Remember me?"

"Oh no…" The boy whimpered in reply as the first punch came through knocking his socks off.

Over on the other corner, Jaune had arrived just in the nick of time firing Ironwood's pistol forcing Emerald back from Blake's corner. He still wasn't used to the recoil but he had to admit that those shots were powerful.

"You ok Blake?"

The black cat shook the dizziness off her head before getting back up. "Yeah. I'm… good. And personally, you really need to stop saving me. At this rate it'll take me forever to pay you back."

"I'll put in on your tab." The boy laughed back before darting off. "Come on. We need to buy time for the others. Can you still fight?"

"I'm right behind you." And with that remark the one-sided massacre became an all-out battle with the odds favoring neither side.

Seeing a massive fight starting to get underway, Qrow thought to join in and give that fiery witch a good beat down. He was holding back a lot of pent up anger since they left Vale, so he was more than inclined to let off some steam. Readying his scythe, he leaped into the thickest of the battle, going against Cinder herself.

"Hey there ladies. Mind if I cut in?"

Cinder paused for a moment, taking in the figure before returning to her usual posture. "Well I'll be. If it isn't the mighty Qrow Branwen himself. I'm honored."

"And I'm guessing you're the mastermind of this whole fiasco." He shot back with a snarling look. "Can't say that I'm a fan of all the fire and death you and your cronies caused here. You know that this is supposed to be a funeral, right?"

"Oh most definitely." Cinder remarked, grinning suggestively. "But don't you worry. I think there's some extra room in the coffin for the both of you." Sparks began to fly as the Maiden closed her fists channeling unnatural power through her fingers. "Now… who wants to go first?"

Readying his scythe, the old goat took note of the heiress joining his side. "Hey… you ok there, kid?"

Anger and malice poured from Weiss' voice as she replied. "No matter what happens… she's mine."

The grim reaper nodded in understanding. He and the Schnee might not see eye to eye, but when it comes to revenge, he can relate. "Whatever you say, Ice Queen."

And with that, the battle was on. Bullets and Dust were thrown at each side, blasting anything and everything altogether. Blades and boots mashed while others blurred into speed monsters cutting their way to victory.

Cinder struck first blasting a stream of fire from her hand expecting to scatter the two. However Weiss countered, projecting a shield glyph in the way. Qrow followed it up attacking from above. His scythe met its mark but it hardly cut through that impenetrable barrier of hers.

"Oh?" The Fiery Witch made a remark as the old goat withdrew his blade from her skin which barely even made a mark. "That might've actually hurt me… about 10 minutes ago."

"Well I'll be dipped…" The old man cursed out loud. Seeing his own attacks not even cutting through that shield put some doubts in his mind.

Cinder noted this and thought of resolving this fight quickly. "Now you see the difference between you and I. We can continue fighting here for hours and it wouldn't change the outcome. Why don't you grow a brain and back off while you can."

"Don't sell me out just yet, Missy." Qrow spat back. "Just because you got some fancy powers doesn't make you any less human than the rest of us."

But that comment only made her laugh. "Oh but Qrow… that's where you're wrong. You see, I am more than a human now. My powers have grown way beyond what you can possibly comprehend. Neither you or your 'incompetent' students can hurt me now."

"Wanna bet?" Weiss launched herself forward thrusting her rapier with all her might pushing her semblance even further summoning a time-dial on herself. With the increased speed her attacks became quicker and more precise. But just as Cinder declared, none of those attacks made a proper connection. They simply bounced off her barrier like hitting a brick wall.

"Is that all?"

"Nope…" Weiss gave a grin before encasing the woman in ice. "How's that for an incompetent student?" Even Qrow had to admit that it was a good shot. He might've fallen for the same trick if he was just as arrogant. But before he could praise her for a job well done, Cindy simply burned herself out of that ice-block.

"Not a bad shot kid." Qrow added. "But I'm thinking it'll take more than that to take someone like her down."

Over on the other side of the battlefield, Emerald was duking it out with Jaune and Blake, holding on her own with great skill.

"Hyaaaa!" Jaune charged in with the Crocea Mors in hand, swinging it in an arc against Emerald who blocked it. Normally this wouldn't be much of an issue for the green haired thief but sadly she could feel the effects of the Black Dust fading from her body. Her battle with Winter must've drained much of it. "Blake! Go!" The black cat asserted herself slashing at the thief's waist ridding her of her aura. "Nowhere to run now."

"Who says I'm running?" Emerald shot back before suddenly vanishing from the boy's sights.

"What the?" Jaune was startled and faltered back a bit as he scanned the room for his mark. "Where'd she go?!"

"Jaune? What are you doing?" Blake shot a puzzled look and tried to warn him when a kick came to his face. "Focus Jaune! She's standing right in front of you!"

"Am I?" Emerald grinned, turning her semblance to the cat, vanishing into thin air causing the black cat to recoil in turn.

"Wha? How did…?" Blake got her answer in the form of a sucker punch to her face.

"I'm over here." An image of the thief projected itself. Out of manic anger the feline member of Team RWBY fired her pistol only to discover that she was shooting the wrong target.

"Hey! Blake!" Yang shouted. "Watch where you're shooting!"

The former White Fang assassin looked back confused. She was sure that she had the right mark but now her senses were all over the place. Immediately she began scanning the room trying to find that little thief but she was nowhere in sight.

"Peek-a-boo…" Emerald whispered swinging her blade at the cat. She had hoped to rid herself of a powerful enemy but was blocked by a certain knight. "What!? You again!?"

"Not on my watch!" Jaune countered kicking the thief right on the gut giving them some room to maneuver. But again she disappeared from his sights. "How does she keep doing that?"

Though oddly enough, Ruby felt herself left out in those fights. Her exhaustion coupled with the repeated use of her semblance seemed to have drained much of the energy out of her. She wanted to throw herself in and fight like the rest of her friends but she was just too weary to even lift Jaune's shield. She could barely lift her legs for that matter.

Her thoughts of inferiority were however interrupted when a croaking voice called out her name. "R… Ru… by…" She snapped her head back discovering the source from Weiss' sister. She dropped the shield, mouth agape when she rushed to her side, unable to comprehend how the woman was still talking.

"Holy cannoli! W… Winter!?" She stammered softly, her hands going around unsure whether she should hold the injured woman or leave her be. "You… you're alive! I can't believe it! I thought you were… well we all thought you were dead!" Winter's remaining good eye weakened with every waking second. She struggled to speak, even gasping and wheezing for what little air her lungs could take. "Don't talk. I'll uh… I'll… get help." But the little red reaper was clueless to what she could do in this situation.

"Bl… ial."

"Blial?" Ruby tried to make out the words the woman was trying to say.

"Blu… vi…"

"Bluvi? You want a movie?"

Struggling, Winter raised her finger, pointing in the general direction of the med-kit she brought earlier. "Blue… vial… adrenaline."

"Blue… vial…" She repeated slowly translating it to her basic understanding. "Oh! A blue vial! Of course! Got it!" Using her semblance, the red riding hood dashed to the box tossing out the nonessentials out rapidly. "Come on come one! Where are you? Yellow? No… green? No… pink? Aha! Here we are! Blue vial!"

"Good…" Winter rasped. "Now… inject…"

"Oh… oh ok." Ruby complied grabbing the syringe within. "Uh… just so you know, I'm not really good with shots… usually I'm the one getting them. So… sorry if I don't get it right on the first go." Using what little strength she had, Winter offered her neck up for the girl, signaling where to put the needle in. "Alright… here goes nothing."

One moment passed after the contents of that vial was put in her. Ruby could only wait and watch hoping and praying that she did it correctly. The fighting behind her seemed to have grown distant for a brief moment before escalating into another explosive result.

Another moment went by, each second now feeling like hours for our little red reaper. She knelt down trying to see if she did something wrong. And finally after what felt like an eternity, her prayers were answered.

Winter's lungs once again gasped for air as her body lung downward to the floor. Black toxic fluids choked out of her mouth while her weary conscious kept herself awake. Ruby rushed to her side, patting her back, trying her best to keep her in the land of the living.

"Oh my gosh, I can't believe that actually worked!" The red riding hood beamed out joyfully. "Are you alright?"

"W… Weiss…"

"She's out fighting right now. Don't worry. They're winning." Ruby tried to assure her though considering how the tide of battle was going, she may have been lying. Quickly she grabbed Winter only to note she was a lot heavier than her sister in more ways than one. "Ugh… oh boy. You're a lot heavier than you look. Hang on!"

Slowly but surely Ruby pushed onward, carrying the wounded Winter on her shoulder with all the power she could muster. She elbowed the button opening the door and dragged herself through.

"We're almost there. If we can just get through here. We'll be…"

*Woof!*

"Zwei, not now! Can't you see I'm busy at the moment? Go help Yang and the others. They need…" Her sentence was cut short when another one of those giant black tendrils pierced through the ceiling destroying the only safe passage out of that storeroom. "Oh no no no! Not good!" And to make matters worse were the Grimm spawning from it. Creepers and Boarbatusks poured from the walls of that living organism and glared at the two menacingly with their beady red eyes. "This is really not good! Um… ba… back! Get back you big bad meanies! Don't come any closer! I got Zwei with me!"

*Woof!*

But sadly the red's attempt at intimidation against the Grimm proved useless as they kept on coming closer, some licking their lips as if wetting their appetite. But just as the first monster was about to strike, Winter summoned the last of her strength to freeze those beasts, trapping them in a glacial wall.

"Ugh…"

"Winter!" The woman slipped from Ruby's shoulder hitting the floor with a defining thud. The black ink that splattered all over her body was gnawing itself to her skin. It throbbed with life and skittered angrily like a monster dwelling within. "Oh man. This isn't good. We need to get you help."

"No… no more…" Winter stated crawling herself to a corner. "I can't… I won't… last much… longer."

"No no no don't say that!" Ruby pleaded. "We can help you. We've treated this thing before." The boy in question came to mind. "Jaune! That's right, he can cure you. We just need his help and…"

"Ruby… please." But the Winter Maiden shook that idea away as she could tell her time was coming. Whatever life that still breathed in her lungs was slowly slipping away. "Please do this for me… I… I want…"

"Winter…"

"Weiss…"

Drops of tears bottled themselves at the corner of Ruby's eyes. The feeling of powerlessness swept over her as she desperately looked for a way to help. She wanted to bring Jaune over but the battle was starting to get out of hand. In a matter of moments they will have to decide to abandon the whole area entirely. This can't go on.

"Save… W… Weiss…"

The little red riding hood noted her weary patient slowly slipping away. Her face growing paler every waking second. She may not have known her for long but she could tell that she held her sister in a special place in her heart. Even now as she inches closer to the great beyond, she still thinks of her sweet little snowflake.

Ruby held onto her hand tightly, holding on to her for as long as possible. Every breath she took weakened her lungs and every movement pained her greatly.

"Winter!" The red reaper choked as she noted the woman's eyes closing. "No… no no no… stay with me! You can't go yet!" Finally… the last breath escaped her. All the strength she had left drowned away leaving nothing more but a broken body in return. Ruby could feel the pulse leaving her fingers as her hand dropped to the floor.

Try as she might, the truth laid before her.

Winter… was gone…

"No…"

xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Back on the battlefield, Cinder had taken the upper hand in her fight against the Hunters. Qrow delivered flurries of attacks along with Weiss. But despite their best attempts, none of their blows seemed to connect at all. That blasted woman was simply shrugging them off like the wind going through her hair.

Weiss had exhausted her Dust supply and her rapier was beginning to lose its edge from countless attacks. All that she had left was the rage burning in her heart which made her reckless and inefficient.

"Target acquired." Quarter attempted to assist raising its fist at the maiden but its body couldn't withstand the molten temperature of the woman. "E… error! S… systems, failing. Coolant unit… dam…ged. Shutting… down…"

Finally, Cinder's patience wore out and she decided to end the fight once and for all delivering an unavoidable shockwave tearing the whole place apart. Qrow felt the blast firsthand sending him to the ground while Weiss braced it with another of her glyphs only to consume the last of her strength. Quarter on the other hand, had its body torn apart limb from limb.

Weary, wounded and depleted of her aura, the heiress knelt to the floor in defeat. She tried to raise her weapon in one last act of defiance but the fiery maiden simply brushed it off like a used toothpick. Weiss had nothing left. Not even the strength to stand up and face her opponent. The hatred that surged in her body still burned brightly. But even that power was useless without a host to move.

"You fought well." Cinder gave a rare praise to her enemy seemingly impressed with the effort the Ice Queen put in this fight. "You put up far better than most of the Huntsmen that I've fought over the years. Given enough time, you would've made an excellent Huntress. But unfortunately for you, I was your opponent." Weiss raised her head, malice glaring through her eyes. It was a feeling that Cinder was familiar with. "But take heart. You will be joining your sister… very soon."

"Weiss!" Yang shouted out trying to reach her but was blocked off by Mercury.

Weiss could only wait and watch as a fiery end came to her. The power pouring from Cinder's hand radiated with such destructive force that could be felt far and wide. The heiress cursed her weakness. She cursed her inability to save her own flesh and blood. Even after everything she poured in this battle, she wasn't able to take revenge.

If only she had more power.

God… she would do anything for that. She would trade her soul for the strength to wipe that woman from the face of Remnant. Be it the blessings of gods or a deal with the devils themselves, she was ready to strike that bargain no matter the price. The last of the Schnee will have her vengeance…

And as luck would have it, someone heard her silent plea and decided to grant it.

Just as the moment Cinder readied to deliver the finishing blow, the power she conjured in her hand suddenly dissipated. A moment of confusion passed the fiery maiden for a brief moment before strange and unnatural sensation coursed through her body.

"Wha… what?! What's… happening!?" The Maiden of Fire felt the power sap from her body. A feint shade of bright light seemingly forced itself out from her like something had ripped her soul right from her chest searching for a better host. "No… this… can't be!"

Weiss barely had a moment to wonder when that light flew right towards her. It sunk deep within the bosom of her breast warping her… changing her. The heiress felt power coursing through her veins, her body pulsing with more energy that could even imagine. Aura radiated from her eyes as the air around her tightened.

"Well… that's something you don't see every day." There were few things on this planet that could surprise Qrow. The stuff he'd seen in his travel can make a Huntsman wet his pants, but every now and then, the world had a way of surprising him.

"No… that power!" Cinder cursed out loud charging up a flame attack. "That power… belongs to me!"

Weiss chafed from that attack only to feel that ball of fire bounce off harmlessly against her mighty aura. She didn't know what to make of it but she knew that she now had the upper hand in this fight. She was given the power to destroy her enemies. After a moment she focused that new found energy into her fingers trying to make sense of it all but what happened next, caught everyone by surprise.

A giant glyph appeared in front of the heiress. It was larger, more powerful than anything she had ever done. Symbols and hieroglyphs decorated the ring opening a hole to her mind. A giant blade poked out of it, then a hand… a foot… then a body… and a head. A large Iron Knight towering even taller than an Atlesian Paladin came through that portal, shining in magnificent brilliance for all to see. It brought the fighting in the room to a standstill as all eyes glued to it.

"You… stupid little…" The giant didn't even seem to hold the concept of mercy as it swung its blade downward with all the intention to kill Cinder. It knocked the woman clean off the floor sending her to the walls. "How dare you!? That power is mine by right! It belongs to me!"

But Weiss was hardly done with her act. Tapping into that new pool of power once more, the heiress summoned two more glyphs, both just as large as the first. Two more giant knights followed, one carrying a long pike while the other wielded a mighty hammer that made Nora's weapon looked like a child's toy in comparison.

"Whoa…" Jaune gasped in disbelief unable to process this whole awesome scenario.

Not being one to run away from a challenge, Cinder decided to go against her better judgment and challenge the giant knights. She summoned the fraction of the Maiden's power within her and launched a flurry of lightning and explosions. But those giant monstrosities barely even felt a tickle and cared only for the will of their mistress much less for their own safety. The first knight swung its blade against the fiery maiden while the second one stabbed the floor. The third smashed everything and anything breaking the ship's segment to pieces.

"What's going on!?" Yang cried out both in awe and in panic as the fight raged on.

Blake couldn't even begin to understand either. The Black Cat was too engrossed on Weiss' glimmering form to even think. "I don't know! Is this Weiss' doing?!"

Seeing their mistress in danger, the two henchmen quickly rushed back to Cinder's side while attempting to damage the rampaging hunks of energy as best they could. But like before, their attacks were nulled and they were easily beaten back by a brush of their giant arms.

"Uh… that's… not good." Mercury muttered seeing how his barrage of boot-bullets barely even grazed his opponents. "Uh… Em… a little help here."

The thief quickly hooked herself to a broken pipe building momentum and speed before launching herself against one of the giant hunk of steel. But again her blade barely even scratched the surface of their armor.

The sudden tremor brought Yang out of her stunned demeanor. She rushed over to help the Ice Queen but Qrow stopped her. "Uncle Qrow?"

"Don't even think about it, Fire Cracker. There's nothing you can do there that'll change the outcome."

"But Weiss is still in there! She might need our help!"

The old man huffed. "Trust me on this, kid. That fight is on a whole'nother level. You'll just get in the way."

Weiss held a grin as she commanded her small legion forward, pushing her enemies to a corner. In a quick instance, the tide of this battle turned to their favor. She didn't quite understand where this power came from or why it came to her. But she wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth right now. At the moment, her sole focused was the complete and utter destruction of Cinder and her crew and she was going to relish every second of it.

"Gahhh!" Mercury let out a mighty grunt as he was flung from the floor hitting the ceiling above. Emerald tried to cover him but the knights proved too powerful even for them. Even with the Black Dust, the gauge in strength was far too different. It was as if the heiress was brought to a whole new league on her own.

Was this the power of the Maidens? Cinder pondered on that thought as the heiress summoned even more glyphs this time, launching countless icicles in her direction, pouring a near never ending rain of hail. But the Fiery Witch wasn't one to be outdone in terms of magic. She countered with an array of attacks and for a moment they would seem equals… but only for a moment. Using the rage burning in her chest, Weiss conjured even more power and directed it at the opponent, which ended up covering Cinder's arms in blocks of ice.

"Cinder!" Emerald cried out as she reached for her boss only to find her path blocked by the knight with the long spear. "Damn it! Get out of my way!"

Seeing the woman disarmed from her power, Weiss moved in for the kill. She would have vengeance for her sister today if god was willing.

The fiery maiden watched as the heiress approached, their roles reversed in a matter of minutes. She controlled the power within the palm of her hand and… like her… she would use it to destroy those that got in her way.

But right before Weiss could deliver that crushing blow, a bolt of lightning struck against her shield, blinding everyone in the room. A man in a gray overcoat stepped out from the shadows pushing the heiress back. Cinder's eyes widened when she realized who her savior was.

"Watts!?"

The villainous doctor grabbed the woman by the arm, carrying her to his level. "And here I was, thinking you have the situation under control. We need to leave, now. This whole place is coming apart and I for one am not keen as to go down with a ship full of idiots."

"I'm not done…yet!"

"You are now!" He yelled out bluntly before eyeing the rest of the enemy. He certainly didn't want to fight especially with the legendary Qrow himself. "Believe me, in another time, I wouldn't hesitate to leave you to your failures. But at the moment, you still have a portion of the Fall Maiden's powers within you. Her Eminence would be doubly disappointed if you were to lose that too."

Cinder didn't argue with him. As much as she wanted to get that power back she must admit defeat this day. A prolonged fight here would only risk losing all of her powers completely and there was no way she wanted to disappoint her mistress even further. Besides, those three towering giants were looking far too intimidating to handle. The best option she had right now was to escape. As long as she was alive, she can make amends for her failures. Salem will show mercy with the destruction she caused today.

With a silent nod, Cinder signaled her cronies for a full retreat which they agreed wholeheartedly. The Maiden of Fire used her remaining power to burn the area creating a smokescreen leaving Qrow's party blinded.

"Hey! Come back here!" Weiss opted to give chase but Qrow again stopped her. "What are you doing!? They're getting away!"

"Let'em go, kid." The old Huntsman spoke. "You'll have your payback, another time. Right now… Winter needs you." The mention of her sister brought the heiress out of her enraged state. Surprisingly the power she radiated disappeared along with her knights, which vanished into thin air. Immediately she turned to the corner noting her leader holding Winter in her arms.

With dread in her heart she rushed to Ruby's side seeing the tears falling down her cheeks. It didn't take much to put the pieces together.

"No…" Weiss muttered softly, kneeling beside her sister's body.

The little red riding hood choked a sob. "I'm sorry, Weiss. I'm… I'm so… so sorry. I tried everything. I really did. I swear. I wanted to… I wanted to help her. But… there was… there was nothing I could… do. There was… really… nothing…" The little girl looked as if she was begging for forgiveness for her weakness. Her hands cradled over the cold body, trembling with fear.

"Ruby…" Yang sulked to her sister's mood. Her lust for battle melted away from this sorrow. Even though their opinion on the former Winter Maiden varied, it was still a tragedy.

Qrow too seemed conflicted with his emotions. Though he would still call this battle a victory, this whole ordeal left a bad taste in his mouth.

Weiss' felt her heart breaking. Her legs gave way as the death of her sister sunk in. The pain that followed was bitter and unbearable but she endured it nonetheless. She had too… for her sake. Quietly she reached out for her sister's hand, hoping to feel her touch once more.

But alas, someone had beaten her to it. All heads turned to the boy at the center of the group as his eyes burned with same determination he held the day Vale fell.

"Jaune?"

He didn't answer. The young hero simply smiled softly at his Snow Angel before pouring his aura out with all the might he could muster. The daunting prowess of a hero showed itself… and once more, a bright and warm light engulfed the room like a blazing star amidst the darkness.

'That is my dream, my wish. I—want to be a hero of justice.'

-Siegfried- Fate Aporcrypha