So it's been a while since this was last updated. Many things have happened that continued to delay me on working on this. This was actually something that I already had written partially out a long time ago, but I hadn't had a chance to work on it because of IRL stuff and all that. I'm not sure I can continue working on this since RWBY has really gone pretty far since my initial plans on working on this story. Not really a big fan of the direction, either. Well, if I ever think of finishing, it will probably be limited to up to volume 3 of RWBY. This chapter has really been just something on hold for quite some time, but I guess I'll just put it up instead of leaving it on my hard drive. It's almost Xmas anyway.
"Do you think I look okay?"
Illya turned around to check her back in the mirror. She wanted to make sure that the dress was okay. That it looked perfect. Not because she wanted to look pretty for the dance tonight, but because… the dress was something really important to her.
"You look lovely," said Saber with a smile, observing the little girl from the side.
The dress was something Illya had put her whole heart into. It was a simple white dress with golden trims. Simple yet elegant. Exactly like she remembered it to be.
Illya watched her reflection from top to bottom. There wasn't a single stitch on her dress out of line. The materials she used had been a little more than expensive, but the quality was guaranteed. It took her some time to make it, but she enjoyed every moment making it.
"Hey, Saber…" she said. "It's okay, right?"
Saber went and wrapped her arms around Illya's small frame. "It is," she answered. "Your happiness isn't a sin. In fact, I am sure Irisviel would have been overjoyed to see you as you are right now."
The dress was a smaller version of the one her mother frequently wore back at Einzbern Castle. She had one that matched her mother as a child, but it was burned together with the rest of her and her mother and father's belongings by the orders of the head of the Einzbern family. Most likely it was done to fuel her rage against her father.
Though, even if she did still have it, it would no longer fit her. It had been a very long time since then, and she was no longer the small innocent child that she once was. The many years of harsh instruction in that cold castle had robbed her of that.
A soft knock came from the door.
"Illya?" came Sakura's soft voice. "Your friend came to pick you up. She's waiting downstairs."
"I don't look strange, right?" She couldn't help but look up at Saber as she held onto the arms wrapped around her.
Saber knelt and turned Illya around to face her.
"You are just as beautiful as your mother was, if not more so" she said. "Do not feel uneasy. You are surrounded by friends and those that love you here. Cherish these times of peace and take every opportunity to make more of them. I'm sure your mother would have wanted the same thing."
Tonight was a night for her to relax and enjoy with friends.
"I'm really glad I came!"
Illya happily twisted and turned in a dance with Ruby. She'd been nervous at the beginning, but Ruby and her friends were quick to get rid of that. It was a pretty lively affair. The music was great, the food was good (though theirs was better), and she was having fun dancing with a friend for the first time in her life.
After the song was over, they moved over to their table where Ruby's team sat. It had already been an hour since the party had started, but people were still as energetic as ever, dancing, eating and talking with others.
"I'm glad that's over," sighed Ruby. The young Huntress-to-be had been worried about stepping on her partner's feet. "Do I really need to wear heels for this? I can't fight like this. I can't even walk without worrying I might trip on my own two feet!"
"Aw, c'mon, Rubes!" Yang patted her on the back. "You did good. Both of you looked really great out there. Isn't that right, Weiss?"
"It was acceptable… for a novice."
"…Why is your face red?"
"I-It's not!" Weiss turned away while drinking a glass of water. "I just feel a little… overwhelmed by the atmosphere. They should really turn up the AC with this many people in the room!"
Yang shrugged and proceeded to fuss over Illya, begging her to dance with her next.
"Where's Blake?" asked Ruby. Their black loving, hidden faunus wasn't at their table.
"Still out on the dance floor," said Weiss. "They sure are having fun out there."
Blake and Sun seemed to be enjoying themselves as well, shaking their hips to the upbeat tune the DJ was playing. It was nice to see that she looked like she was finally opening up little by little after her secret was exposed to her friends.
Team CFVY did a real good job in organizing the entire dance. With General Ironwood's army assisting in an official capacity in the city, the missions for Beacon Academy students had gone surprisingly better. The Atlesian fleet were deployed to the surrounding areas that needed help with the Grimm. This meant that Team CFVY were able to fulfill their responsibilities with planning out the dance.
"Why don't you go out there too, Weiss?"
"I don't really feel up for it," sighed Weiss. "I'm satisfied enough to stay in the sidelines and relax. I don't really mind missing out on something like this. My family often threw a lot of parties back at home, so I'm good. Though, I have to say that the music here is a little more…" She winced as the rap song shifted into full gear. "…louder."
"Aw, don't be like that," said Ruby. "If you know how to dance, then you should give it a try! I did it, and I could barely move in these shoes!"
She glanced unhappily at the heels Yang had forced her to wear. If her sister hadn't done so though, she would have went to the party wearing her combat boots. She really didn't think there was anything wrong with that. Yang had said there was plenty wrong with it, and since she was the more sociably inclined of them, she had to reluctantly surrender.
"I think you're cute…"
"Your heels—the shoes!" Weiss looked even redder than before. She looked absolutely flustered. "I think they look cute!"
This time, Weiss emptied her glass and even took Yang's juice next to her.
"Besides, I don't even have a dance partner," she murmured quietly.
"Let's go together then!"
Weiss almost choked on Yang's juice. "Y-You… and me? You can't be serious?!"
"Why not?" smiled Ruby. "We're partners, aren't we?"
"That's… true?" Weiss knotted her brow in furious thought. "But what about Illya?"
Ruby can't just leave someone so young like Illya all alone. She was her dance partner after all.
Ruby pointed her thumb back on the dance floor. Illya was trying to mimic Penny doing the robot. Weiss thought she would have gone with Yang, but the apparent dejected blond was grabbing on to someone else and was now being consoled by a confused Blake on the dance floor.
"Harsh…" Weiss didn't think a cute little girl could be so cruel.
"She'll get over it," waived off Ruby. "So what do you say?"
"C'mon!" Ruby took her hand and dragger her off towards the dance floor. "It'll be fun! I promise!"
They stopped at the middle of floor. There was quite a bit more room now that everyone else had gotten a chance to dance. Together they waited for the next song to drop.
Weiss was stiff. Her mind was in turmoil. This wasn't exactly how she'd planned her night was going to go. After seeing that the partner Ruby had brought was Illya, she'd been content watch the party drag on until it ended. She didn't expect to be holding hands with Ruby like this.
"Oh, will you look at that?"
Weiss turned to see what Ruby was staring at.
Jaune and Pyrrha were heading to the dance floor as they held each other's hand, both of them slightly blushing red. Nora shouted from their table to have fun, then went to the DJ, whispered something to him and handed over a bottle of what looked to be red jam.
The lights dimmed, with the music switching into a soft tune that begins the song of romance. Couples started forming on the dance floor as the rest of the students vacated. Though Jaune and Pyrrah were both avoiding each other's gaze, they slowly swayed their bodies back and forth to the music, Jaune actually taking the lead for once.
"S-Should we head back?" muttered Weiss. She couldn't help but feel even more flustered due to the atmosphere. Though there was no bass to the song, her heart pounded wildly.
"But we just got here," pouted Ruby. She smiled and grabbed Weiss by her waist and hand. "Since we're already here, let's just go with it a bit."
Though Ruby had been the one wanting to dance, she wasn't doing too well with it. She would almost trip every few seconds, frowning every time at her feet. She was swift and agile in combat, but that didn't seem to translate well when it came to dancing in heels.
"…You're doing it wrong," said Weiss. Seeing Ruby struggle so much had eased her steaming mind a bit. "Here, let me lead."
Weiss switched with Ruby and guided her movements on the dance floor. They were moving much more smoothly than before, as if they were gliding on ice. It was a simple matter for the heiress of a huge corporation that had been born to high society. Her partner might have been worse than a complete novice, however, of all the dances of all the parties she'd attended, she'd never felt as involved as had right now.
"Oh, this is way better," smiled Ruby. "Thanks, Weiss. I'm glad you're here with me."
Weiss momentarily lost herself at seeing Ruby beam at her. Even though the lights were dimmed, that smile radiated brightly. It made her feel… strange.
Leaning lazily on a chimney, Archer watched as Illya giggled and laughed with her friends. He couldn't help but smile at seeing his master—his sister enjoy a normal party. Even if that party just so happened to be in a different world. It was quite a long way from their old lives.
Which might have been for the best.
Illya looked with awe as her friend Penny bent in cool and unnatural ways, doing the robot to the beat of the music, her joints popping and locking.
Looking at her now, it was hard to think that not even a year had passed when she was still fighting in the Holy Grail War, giggling, not at friendly jokes, but at the weakness and helplessness of those about to be crushed by the absolute strength of her Berserker.
Yes. It was vastly better. In a lot of different ways.
Archer held out his empty hand. A lovely jeweled sword appeared in it.
"Was it really all because of this?" he wondered.
Sifting through the jumbled memories in his head, the ultimate outcome that would befall Illya was always short and tragic. The only real difference was just how much time she had.
Illya hid behind Penny, as Yang seemed to be trying to coerce her into dancing with her. Illya might have agreed if Yang didn't have a predatory look that would illicit any animal's preservation instinct.
"It doesn't matter." The sword vanished into tiny particles of light. "Maybe this is the best outcome for her? Maybe it's the best outcome for all of us."
Putting one foot forward, he fell lazily down to the ground from a height that would surely have killed any normal man. He landed with a single step, with barely a sound on the ground.
He furrowed his brows as his keen eyes noticed something. With the superior eyesight of an Archer class servant, he saw that there were men laying down on the ground in front of a building not too far away. Their bodies hidden, covered by the shadows at just the right angles from anyone looking at their direction. Even in the daytime, no one would have probably noticed them right away if they didn't know where to look.
Archer decided to investigate.
"Do you think she's done yet?"
Mercury sighed as the DJ switched to another song. He'd never danced so much in his life. In fact, he never thought he'd ever dance at all when he first signed up for the job. Although, he'd be lying if he said his legs were killing him.
"My legs are killing me." He lied anyway.
"Want me to take them off for you?" said Emerald in what was probably a little too serious tone. "I'll have 'em off quick and easy."
Emerald smiled wryly. "Too bad. It would have probably taken a load off of you. Stretch them out a bit. Maybe hang them out to give them a little sunshine? Anyway, Cinder should be almost done, but we still have to make sure that she doesn't get any unexpected guests from the party running into her."
"Ugh," groaned Mercury. "I didn't get new legs just so I could break them in dancing, you know?"
"Don't tell me you put on two left feet again?"
"That only happened once!"
Emerald suddenly slowed their pace. She gestured with her head at the direction of the entrance.
"Tsk." Mercury saw General Ironwood talking with the headmaster of Beacon by the entrance, probably leaving the party. "Well that's not good. Of all the people here, it had to be him. No doubt he's going straight back to the CCT tower to make sure everything is okay."
"Oh, it just got worse…"
Following him out by his side was the headmaster. It would seem that rather than bidding his goodbyes, the general was going to be accompanied by his old friend.
Even though they had walked a considerable distance away, they could still hear the music coming from the dance. Though the sounds were gradually getting weaker the further they walked as the silence of the peaceful evening of the city grew.
"They are lively, aren't they?" said Ozpin. The headmaster was glad for it. If he could, he wanted to give his students as much opportunity to experience such things for as long as he could.
Sadly, the days had only grown numbered.
"…How is she?" he asked, the smile he had fading to a solemn look.
"She's… stable," answered Ironwood. "We did what we could with what we have, but you have to understand that we could only do so much. Though we've done the research, our knowledge in these things are still lacking. There are still many things we've yet to grasp. We had put our best into this—"
"She won't make it, will she?"
There was no need for Ironwood to make excuses. Ozpin knew well that even stabilizing the condition of the Fall Maiden was a miracle.
"…No," said Ironwood. The air was heavy. "There is nothing more we could do for her. It's only a matter of time now."
They walked the rest of the way in silence.
As Ironwood had said, their time of peace was running short.
"It's fine. I'm on my way out. I'll be gone before they get here."
Cinder clicked her coms off. It was good that everything had gone smoothly, otherwise time might have been severely short for her to escape. The guards at the tower were completely outmatched against her, just as she'd expected. There were no real threats to her among the General's troops he had brought to Beacon besides himself.
The elevator dinged opened to the bottom floor of the tower. On her scroll, she checked on the outside CCT surveillance systems to see how far the General and Headmaster were. It was a good thing she did, because she immediately needed to hide herself behind one of the desks surrounding the floor, silencing her breath as best as she could. It wasn't even a second before she could hear the footsteps coming through the doorway.
"So…" said a voice she failed to recognize. "I take it you shouldn't be here?"
Cinder didn't answer. She could tell it wasn't Ozpin or Ironwood, but that made things all the more confusing. She didn't have long to take a good look on her scroll, but it was obvious that the man was not ordinary. Zooming in on the security feed, the man dressed in red and black wore a red cloth wrapped around his head. The way he carried himself looked like he was relaxed, but there was a firmness to it that told her he was far from defenseless.
He was clearly not one of General Ironwood's men.
She could hear the man give a loud sigh before suddenly, a white blade protruded through the desk she hid behind, just a few inches of her head.
"I think it's best if you stopped hiding now."
Cinder could hear the whisk of a second blade high above her. She could see that it had flown too far and high, given that she could see it from underneath the desk. However, it suddenly spun back downward and impaled itself to the left of her this time.
White and black scimitars with a red cloth covering his head. It was the exact same description of one of the people that were responsible for what happened at Forever Fall forest.
She hadn't planned for this.
"I won't ask again."
It was obvious that he knew where she was. Staying in her current position would only make her a sitting a duck, but she still refused to move, not moving an inch. She knew that she needed to stay right where she was.
"Are you really that stubborn?" The man clicked his tongue when she failed to respond. "Fine. I'll have to drag you from underneath there."
Cinder could hear his footsteps as he walked towards her. She could feel her heart beat louder with every step he took. She could only hope that her timing was right.
"Hold it right there!"
Cinder never thought she'd be so glad to hear General Ironwood's voice.
Archer clicked his tongue in annoyance.
"No sudden moves!" shouted General Ironwood angrily. No doubt seeing the condition of his men had put him in a foul mood. It was not hard to see why as the unconscious bodies of his soldiers littered the scene.
His back still turned, Archer considered briefly his options. He had obviously been mistaken for the intruder responsible for the downed soldiers all over the place, with the actual intruder hiding just a few feet away from him. They would also most likely remember him from the incident at Forever Fall forest. And here he thought his luck hadn't been so bad as of late.
"Hands up and turn around slowly," commanded General Ironwood.
Archer did as he was told.
He could see that the general wasn't alone. Professor Ozpin gazed at him warily whilst Ironwood held his gun pointed at him.
"I think they're more grey than silver," Archer said lightheartedly with a shrug.
"Who are you?!" demanded Ironwood.
"Nothing more than a simple archer."
Archer projected Kanshou and Bakuya into his empty palms and threw them at General Ironwood, who dodged and fired two successive rounds at him. He deflected the shots with a new set of his favorite swords and, much to the surprise of his opponent, covered the distance between them in less than a second. Before Archer could kick the general out of the way, Ozpin intervened by thrusting his cane at his head that he managed to avoid with only a slight tilt of his neck.
General Ironwood was quick to follow up, and fired another set of rounds at him, forcing Archer to momentarily back off.
"He's intending to escape, James," said Ozpin holding his cane with a steady hand. "The enemy has long past our doorstep and wants to leave after making a mess. We cannot allow him to do so."
"It would be easier if you just ignored me, you know?" sighed Archer. The Headmaster had clearly seen through his plan. Both he and the general were now blocking his path, clearly making sure that there was no room for him to escape. Archer guessed that since two of them were here, it wouldn't strange if others came soon as well.
He really didn't want to take things too far since Illya was still likely still enjoying her time at the dance. But it would seem that the two in front of him weren't going to go down easily without putting up a fight. It looked like he'll have to make it up to her later.
"Can't say I didn't warn you."
"Oh, man. I didn't think slow dancing could be so exhausting."
Ruby stretched her body on the wooden bench. She and her partner had decided to take in some of the cool, night air just outside of the party.
Weiss handed her some chocolate milk she got from a vending machine.
"Dancing is just as hard as fighting," she said. "It's… something my parents used to say to me as a child."
"After what I've been through tonight, I won't disagree on that," said Ruby after sucking her chocolate milk dry. "I don't even want to imagine going through that as a kid. And here I thought you were such a spoiled princess, Weiss. I know you said it wasn't easy at all before, but I think I might really understand it better now. Although, I really hope you're not mad I stepped on you once or twice."
"Five times," answered Weiss, causing Ruby to smile awkwardly. "It made me consider the usefulness of steel-toed heels."
"That bad, huh?"
"I'm joking, Ruby." Weiss began to giggle. "You did good. I'm glad you dragged me with you to dance. It was fun."
"Really?! Then, maybe we can you can try teaching me again sometime?"
Weiss didn't think that would be such a good idea. She didn't think being too close to Ruby was… right, even though she wanted to. She realized she had to say no if she wanted the feelings in her chest to subside. To remain nothing more than a minor inconvenience that would someday disappear, no matter how much it pained her right now to even think of it.
So she had to say no.
It might have been possible if Ruby hadn't been looking at her with large, sparkling eyes filled with innocent begging of a pure hearted child.
"Thanks, Weiss!" Ruby grabbed her into a hug. "I'll do my best! I promise you won't regret it!"
Weiss thought that she should be fine, so long as nothing else happens. She was only going to teach Ruby how to dance, she convinced herself. As long as she was cautious and held to her convictions, there was nothing more that would come out of it aside from strengthening their bond of friendship.
A large boom echoed through the night.
The sound had startled Ruby and caused her to stumble and fall over the bench, pushing down her partner along with her. It took a few seconds before Ruby could push herself up and recover from the daze of falling down. She cast her eyes over at where the explosion had came from.
"Did that… come from the CCT tower?" Ruby examined the small cloud of smoke that began to rise from the tower. "Are we under attack?! Come on, Weiss! We should go see if they need help!"
"Y-Yeah, let's go!"
Weiss was practically leaving Ruby behind, given that she was better at running on heels than her partner. In truth, she didn't want her to see how red her face was and hear how loud her heart was pounding. The explosion was unexpected, but so had what happened a moment ago.
Ruby might not have noticed it, but Weiss had been pinned down by her weight and by her lips when they both fell. It was then that the feelings she'd struggled to put away had caused her conviction from before to crumble away, like a house made of straw. Her warm feelings from before couldn't compare. She couldn't even feel the cold air on her face since it felt like it was practically steaming.
She was now left with only one option to escape this reality…
"Whoever is responsible for this," said Weiss through gritted teeth, "I'm going to wipe the floor with them!" She was going to channel those feelings into anger, like a lot of emotions that people would rather not face. "I swear they are not going to get away with this!"
It was only temporary solution, but at least it was working.
"Wait up, Weiss! I can't run in these shoes!"
Murmurs and whispers spread throughout the gathered students and guests. The music had stopped playing and teachers and staff were either calming people down or talking with each other in hushed tones. Everyone there had heard the explosion.
"What is going on out there?" asked Professor Goodwitch to one of the soldiers stationed to guard the party.
"We're not entirely sure yet, Ma'am. From the reports just now, it would seem that someone had attacked the CCT tower. We're currently sending forces there to secure and investigate it. If possible, we'd like some of the Huntsmen and Huntresses among the staff to accompany us. General Ironwood had ordered us to cooperate should anything happen."
"Of course. Let me make sure to keep the students safe first, then I'll take some of the professors along with me to accompany you."
As soon as Professor Goodwitch explained the situation to the rest of the school staff, she and a few others quickly departed with the soldiers, leaving only a few staff and soldiers behind to keep an eye on the students.
"Hey, isn't this kinda serious?" said Yang.
"Professor Goodwitch just left with some of the professors, so it probably is," said Blake.
Blake, Yang, Penny and Illya had taken to a corner of the room. They stood gathered together near the windows, watching outside where they had heard the blast. It wasn't really that far from where they were.
"Do you think it's them again?" asked Sun. There was no need to say who.
Blake shook her head. "I don't know. But for now, we should find our teams in case they need us to go out and help. We have to be ready just in case."
Sun nodded and left to go find Neptune.
"It's going to be fine, Illya." Yang wrapped the silent girl in her arms, seeing the worried look on her face. "We're right here with you. We won't let anyone hurt you here."
Illya gripped tightly on to Yang's dress, burying her face. On any other occasion Yang would have been ecstatic, but she couldn't really be happy of what's going on right now. She had no way of knowing that the little girl was conversing with her brother through their mental link.
"Ozpin!" General James Ironwood called out. He knelt on the ground, nursing his bruised ribs as he tried to look through the smoke around him.
"I'm fine, James."
His friend appeared next to him through the smoke, leaning a bit on his cane.
"It appears our foe has left us," said Ozpin, his eyes surveying the area around them. The fight had left a good portion of the building damaged, the ground missing entire chunks, and the furniture overturned and broken into pieces. "Along with a good amount of repairs to make," he sighed at the sight. "I suppose I'll have to ask Glynda to take care of things again. And she was looking forward to getting a good rest after the party too."
"Dammit!" Ironwood's metal arm made another addition to the repairs as he hit the ground. "I can't believe we let him get away!"
"Don't be too hard on yourself, James," said Ozpin. "He was stronger than we had originally thought. I'm not even certain we've seen the full extent of his capabilities."
"And there's more than one of them," frowned Ironwood. "What was he even doing here?"
"That is the question, isn't it?" Ozpin wanted to know what the man was doing there. "There must've been a reason for him to be here. From what we've known of them, they had always preferred to hide their activities from us. Why then would he make a brazen attack on us?"
"I don't know, Oz." Ironwood slowly got back up to his feet. "But you can rest assured that they won't be able to do this again. I'm going to ask Atlas to send in more knight and paladin units here."
"Is that a wise choice?"
"Do you have any other options?" Ironwood looked searchingly at him. "Given this recent attack, they might be speeding up whatever plan they have. Are you willing to risk that?"
Ozpin sighed. There really wasn't much of a choice. It wasn't just the students and the city that was at danger.
"I'm not going to stop you."
Ironwood nodded, satisfied.
"But I still have another card to pull," said Ozpin. "He'll be here soon enough. And once he arrives, hopefully we'll be able to put things together in one piece."
"Where did all this smoke come from?"
Weiss struggled to see through the dusty smoke that enveloped the area. As soon as they got close to the tower, a bigger and louder explosion occurred that sent a billowing cloud of smoke that covered everything around them.
"Ruby!" she shouted.
She'd lost sight of her partner after what happened.
Through the smoke she could see the faint outline of someone moving to her left.
"Ruby!" She grabbed her arm before she lost her again. "Try not to get lost. It's really easy to…"
Her voice trailed off as her vision of the person she grabbed onto slowly became clearer. The smoke and dust distorted her vision, but she could tell from the silhouette that it was definitely not Ruby she had grabbed on to.
Weiss tilted her head and squinted her eyes to see better.
When Weiss looked behind her towards Ruby's voice, the person she'd grabbed onto slipped out of her grip, disappearing through the smoke. Before she could decide if she should give chase or not, Ruby bumped into her from behind.
"I finally found you!" cheered Ruby. "It's so hard to see right now. I thought I'd never find you. Maybe we should turn back?"
"Did you… see someone else just now?" asked Weiss. "I thought it was you but…"
"Huh? All I saw was you. Did you get a good look who it was?"
"It's kind of hard to see, but she looked familiar."
"Well, we'll worry about that later," said Ruby. She grabbed hold of Weiss' hand. "Right now, we have to stick together and find our way out of here."
Weiss felt that the person she met was suspicious. She would have given it more thought, but Ruby's hand on hers sort of blew it away at the moment.
That short and partial encounter would eventually come back to her.
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