Two explosions. Several seconds after that, gunfire and another, larger explosion, followed by a smaller fourth one a second later. A second or two after that, the sounds of a Dust storm gone wrong.
This would not do. Ozpin returned to the past, now.
Ozpin remained in his office, mere minutes earlier. To him, causality was a tool, not a constraint. He wasn't sure exactly how his Semblance functioned—if it moved him back in time, sent his memories and thoughts back in time, or was simply a form of precognition—but he found it incredibly useful for managing a loosely-run school full of hormonal teenagers, volatile Dust, and the occasional Grimm.
Ozpin exited through the window of his office and looked in the directions he would hear the explosions from, waiting.
After a few minutes, Ozpin heard the first explosions, small enough to be contained inside. It came from the dormitories. Glynda exited through a window and carried herself with her Semblance, flying towards the commotion. The gunfire came from that direction, as did an explosion which engulfed what looked like several bedrooms. A fraction of a second later, an exterior wall exploded, causing a large part of the roof to collapse.
This gave enough information for a general overview, but left too many questions unanswered to allow for any kind of theory or explanation.
Ozpin was in his office again, but quickly exited. This time, he climbed along the roof to approximately the right area. Most of the few people who were likely to look at the roof were doing something Ozpin would prefer to know about, anyway.
Closer, Ozpin saw the explosions once more. He could identify the dormitory that the original explosions took place in as Team RWBY's. He also noticed further details; for instance, Miss Belladonna leaped out of the window and attempted to recruit the aid of Team CFVY, whose leader shot RWBY's dormitory, and Glynda attempted to put out a fire with a Dust-invoked rainstorm...which must have reacted with some other Dust anomalies, as it swiftly mutated out of control.
Ozpin had learned all he could from these superficial observations. It was time to go deeper.
Ozpin timed his next jaunt to let him be walking by the RWBY dorm right as the explosion took place. A second later, a flaming corgi fled from the room. There is nothing crueller than setting a dog on fire. Shortly thereafter, the door across the hall opened.
"Headmaster?" asked Lie Ren.
"Do you know what is—" The dog set a plant on fire, and Ruby exited the room, presumably pursuing the dog.
"Help?" She said. But Ozpin's help would come much later in one way, and far, far sooner in another.
Gunfire erupted, bullets ripping through the dormitory and detonating Dust. Ozpin decided that there was nothing more to be learned this time.
Ozpin slipped back to a time when he was already on the roof, before shimmying down towards the dormitory. He peered into the window of RWBY's dormitory. Miss Xiao Long entered the room, with the corgi on a leash. She closed the door, removed the leash, and began combing her hair. The dog began bothering Belladonna, who threw a treat to him. Dogs being dogs, he chased it, and ran into Miss Xiao Long. Miss Schnee noticed the headmaster for a moment, before a furious Xiao Long literally exploded. The explosion detonated the Dust Schnee was working with.
"Headmaster!" Schnee cried.
Ozpin released his hold, hitting the ground a moment before Belladonna.
"Headmaster? What are you doing here?"
Learning nothing of importance I did not already know. But fear not; I'll be back.
Having learned essentially all he could from his jaunts, Ozpin decided to begin attempting solutions, which required a jaunt farther back than his previous several. It was practically effortless to jaunt backwards seconds, and hardly affected his Aura to go minutes, but hours began to have a toll on his Aura (naturally, one which could not be reversed by messing with time), and Ozpin had risked a jump of more than a day only a few times.
He considered what he knew. Xiao Long returned from walking the corgi. The corgi bothered Belladonna. Belladonna threw the dog treat. The corgi chased it and ran into Xiao Long. Xiao Long ripped out some hair, and detonated. Schnee's disassembled weapon's Dust detonated. The room and corgi were set on fire. Belladonna fled, perhaps seeking help. Schnee searched for some Dust, presumably attempting to find some solution. Belladonna asked for aid from Miss Adel, who shot the flames and detonated Schnee's additional Dust. Xiao Long detonated to free herself from a wall she found herself in. Glynda arrived, her storm complicated by the residual Dust. Xiao Long attempted to free herself with her weapon as fires and the Dust storm spread.
A catastrophe worse than any Ozpin had dealt with for a while, but not beyond his power to fix discreetly. He just needed to find one or two ultimate causes to disrupt.
Xiao Long detonated in anger when she tore out her hair. She tore out her hair when the corgi crashed into her. Preventing the corgi from entering the room would solve the problem. Perhaps the corgi could be tempted away from his owner?
Ozpin caught a squirrel and released it near the Huntress and her dog. Unfortunately, the dog was small and weak, while its owner was one of the physically strongest students at Beacon.
There was no time for additional plotting. It was time to try again.
Attempts to send Xiao Long to her room and comb her hair before the corgi could interrupt her had failed. Plan B had to involve some other interruption in the process. Perhaps taking her comb?
Ozpin jaunted backwards enough to sneak into the RWBY dormitory while the team was still in class. He opened the door—being a Headmaster had its benefits—and searched the room for any and all combs, which could be hidden.
The door opened. "Headmaster?" asked Miss Schnee. Ozpin immediately jaunted backwards several minutes. She left class early...good to know.
There were too many combs to hide easily, and Ozpin had realized an easier way to prevent the problems. Separate the Huntresses. If Belladonna was not in the room at the time Xiao Long finished walking the corgi, Belladonna would not throw the dog treat, the corgi would not run into Xiao Long, and the disaster would be averted.
But how to separate them? The simplest way came to mind immediately. Distract Belladonna by placing one of her possessions elsewhere—perhaps her locker.
Ozpin searched the room for an appropriate item, but failed; Schnee interrupted once more.
Ozpin had a revelation. Very simple was that plan, and plausible enough...as most wrong plans are. I don't need to distract Belladonna. If I hide something belonging to one of her friends, she or Yang or both will attempt to help her. This also provided a clear, simple item to hide...if he could separate the object from its owner.
Ozpin searched a number of janitorial closets, searching for a small bucket and some disgusting but not dangerous substance. Unfortunately, in doing so, one of the students noticed him. When he could simply undo any such unfortunate leaks, why not do so?
After many attempts aborted due to discovery or running out of time, Ozpin found a small bucket and a bottle of cleaning solution. He placed the latter in the former, added water and some dirt, then opened the door to RWBY's dormitory slightly, and placed the bucket on top.
This plan was unsuccessful; Cardin Winchester found the open door and not only wasted the solution, but also presumably had some form of mischief in mind.
By not placing the solution over the door until after Winchester had walked by, and adjusting the positions of the bucket and the door after a few trials, Ozpin had a more successful maneuver. After waiting for Schnee to go to the restroom, soaked and filthy, Ozpin entered the dormitory and took an item of great value to her, before placing it in her locker.
Then Ozpin waited.
Ruby, Belladonna, and Xiao Long returned to their room. Ozpin was seated on the roof above their window, waiting for any indication of how his plan went. Perhaps two minutes after her teammates returned from class, Weiss entered the room and shrieked at her leader, assuming it was Ruby's fault that Myrtenaster was missing. Ozpin winced; such were the costs of this sort of operation. The team immediately set out to find the missing weapon. Less than half an hour later, the teammates all return to their dormitory. Xiao Long begins walking the corgi, and Ozpin returns to his office, hoping for the best.
He does not receive the best.
Ozpin often found this brute-force method of problem-solving wearisome and irritating. He had lived the past hour or so eighteen times, and the last several minutes fourteen times more—to say nothing of thirteen further times living fragments of those periods. Often, he despaired of finding an ideal solution and tried to find a barely acceptable one; but Ozpin had a power most knew not, most could not help.
Whenever a voice cried out for aid, whether to some mythic spirits or dragons or gods, or to family or friends, or the Council, or the Huntsmen, Ozpin had the power to help—even if that voice did not know, would not have even thought of the Headmaster. Worse, Ozpin could make it so the voice never had to cry out at all. And because he had this power, he felt guilt if he ever failed to use it...or if he wasted his strength on trivial things, rendering him unable to do anything that mattered.
Ozpin was no god, to answer every prayer. But he tried. Oh, how he tried. And oh, how his failures—even his successes—weighed on him.
Sometimes, Ozpin wondered if it was worth all of this effort—this expended effort—this exhaustion. A drop from the bucket every iteration, sometimes more. He remembered thinking once, while working so hard just to save some cheerleader, that she wouldn't save the world—what would it matter, for one person to die, or become injured, in the great scheme of things? Shouldn't he conserve his strength, use his power to perform greater feats?
But Ozpin was not a god. He could only do so much. He did what he could—and to the cheerleader, and her family and friends, her life was the world.
This time, Ozpin ignored the explosion, barricaded his office, rested. He drank coffee—not a replacement for Aura any more than it was for sleep, but it kept him moving. He focused himself, and continued. He would go back to the future, but not until it was the right future, the best future.
Schnee's teammates would arrive at the room before Schnee herself finished searching. Another distraction was needed, another thing to search for. One alone would not work—they would all unite and the same thing would happen again. But there was another solution.
Ozpin went about preparing the mixture, experimenting a little. Adding a little oily, some cornstarch, letting the mixture condense into wibbly-wobbly slimey-wimey stuff. He placed the bucket in just the right place, before shooing the corgi out of the room—
Ozpin swore at his own stupidity as the corgi knocked the slime-bucket down.
Only a brief jaunt. This time, Ozpin shoos the corgi before placing the bucket and observing from the roof. Schnee noticed the bucket this time. How? What changed? Ozpin pondered, traveled, and pondered more.
Ozpin was a great man, a clever man, a powerful man. But he was not a giant among pygmies, a man among children, or a master intelligence among intellectual moles. He had limits...but with work, and enough time, a man can work around even the firmest of limits. Ozpin finally managed to find a way to make Weiss not notice the accursed bucket. And thus, with a shriek of disgust, this—perhaps final—trial of Ozpin's plan would commence.
Weiss left. The others returned. Ruby noticed the corgi's absence. They set out to find the corgi. Ozpin needed to be in more places than the one to understand the events further, but perhaps that was not needed...?
Xiao Long returned with the corgi, leashed him, and saw Ozpin peeking in.
Ozpin did not reveal his face this time, as Xiao Long left. Her teammates returned, and in time, so did Xiao Long. Minutes later, an explosion sounded in the room below—
This beginning to rival that time Winchester tried to sic rapier wasps on Nikos.
Arranging the rest of the events would require more detailed information on what had happened; Ozpin had found such over a number of iterations.
Ozpin was getting tired. His Aura was strong, relatively speaking—even if the jaunts thus far cost him, perhaps thirty or forty percent of his Aura. He had been awake...seven hours before the madness started, Dust knew how many since...thirty-five? Forty? More? His body was awake, as awake as one was at one or two in the afternoon, but his mind was exhausted. As it always was at these times.
But what Ozpin felt, what he experienced, he remembered, was irrelevant. What mattered was what happened to the rest of the world. That was his gift to them...wonderful memories. Even if they didn't seem so in that timeline.
It was time to spend more time planning. Then more time executing his plans.
Ozpin chugged a mug of coffee.
This was always the worst part. The plan in general was complete, now the details had to be determined...actions altered slightly...times his interference was detected, erased and retried...so long. So tedious.
But at long last, it was over.
Schnee was irritated at having a dress soiled, embarrassed at somehow losing her weapon in her locker. Her friends were amused. Nothing was exploding, or on fire, or being shot.
Temporal resolution in my favor. All right. Take that, causality!
Having been awake, mentally, for at least two days and nights, Ozpin retired to his office and retrieved his "victory coffee," which he only drank to cap elaborate temporal maneuvers or—sometimes—in the middle of them. Expensive, yes, but very energizing; it would accelerate his mental exhaustion falling to the level of his physical exhaustion.
But there is no perfect crime, even to one like Ozpin.
Glynda came into Ozpin's office and eyed his coffee.
"What brings you here this afternoon, Glynda?"
"I suspect you know."
"Weiss Schnee claims a bucket of slime struck her after she went to her room after Peter's class. It had been carefully propped on the slightly-open bedroom door. After returning to her room, she says her weapon went missing."
"That is, indeed, concerning," Ozpin said. "If someone had stolen her weapon—doesn't she have a sparring match?"
"Luckily, she found it in her locker," Glynda said. "However, there was more trouble for the team. Ruby's dog escaped, somehow."
"Perhaps the dog escaped when whoever set up the bucket did so, or when he stole the weapon?"
"Quite probable. And I have another set of unusual reports. Peach and Teel both say they thought they heard someone mucking about in janitor closets and the like, but when they checked they saw nothing. Several items were misplaced, several items of furniture moved. And you were missing from your office for an hour."
"I have much to do in this school," Ozpin said. "And rest assured, I have no reason for wanting to embarrass Miss Schnee one way or another, or to free dogs, or anything which you seem to be suggesting I did."
"Directly," Glynda said.
Ozpin sighed. "We've had this conversation before. A human mind can't just visualize a whole school's architecture, and all the school functions, and what about the population? How could I go on planning, with only my human-sized brain? Intelligence isn't enough to do that. I'd have to be a god."
If only I was, Ozpin thought. It would make this so much easier...
This story was inspired by a Whose Line Is It comment, posted today by...well...me.
And yes, it relies on Ozpin being a time traveler, but that's an amusing and interesting if improbable theory.