Blake wishes she had a book.
She idly swings her leg back and forth, reclining on the hard steel bench, back propped up against the cool wall of her cell, staring up at the ceiling.
It doesn't even have to be a good book, she muses, golden eyes tracing cracks in the ceiling. She'd settle for a novelization of Winter Schnee's anti-Faunus manifesto at this point.
She thinks back to the early days following Beacon's destruction. One brisk fall afternoon when she had been forced to choose between a meal and a book, and had—to the shock and abject horror of Scarlet, who had accompanied her—chosen a book.
"Blake," he'd tried to reason as he'd followed her out of the shop, watching as she thumbed through the text. "You can't eat books, love."
She'd smiled slightly at the comment, looking up at him warmly. "I know," she'd responded calmly. "But they keep me from being hungry in the first place."
Books were her infallible escape. She couldn't be sad, or stressed, or upset, or vengeful, or any other range of undesirable emotions while lost in the pages of a novel.
But now she's going on her fourth day as a prisoner of the Atlesian Army, and she's growing horribly restless. She isn't scared really—Yang's convinced that her ex-partner holds the answer to all of the Sun Dragon's problems (she absolutely does not) and refuses to give an execution order until she's torn the Faunus to shreds, rooting through her remains for any last scrap of wisdom she can get her hands on.
She snorts at the thought. The years have done wonders to Yang's physique—she's grown even taller, her hair in a perpetual state of utter wildness, her muscles hard and taut, Ember Celica always engaged. But her hardheadedness and the stubbornness that borders on sheer ignorance have not changed a bit.
The pale woman rests her chin on her knee, darkly reflecting how lucky Yang is to have found a mentor in Winter Schnee. If not for the General's calm level-headedness, Yang would have doubtlessly performed a fatal misstep at this point. The elder woman tempers the Captain's anger. Her placid cruelty serves as a stark counterweight to Yang's blistering hostility.
Blake's ears twitch—Yang had forced her to remove her beanie, for no reason other than to be petty and vindictive—and she looks up just in time to see the door to her cell swing open. Her mouth tightens with distaste at the familiar face.
"We got him," Cardin Winchester announces, handsome face twisted with an ugly smirk. He carries a tray in his hands as he kicks the door to her cell shut behind him, his eyes gleaming. "Your boyfriend and his friends."
Blake sighs, closing her eyes and resting her head against the wall. It always starts this way.
"You did not catch Sun," she replies, recycling the same reply she's given him every time this conversation crops up. "That's a boldfaced lie."
His smirk grows into a sneer, and Blake cracks one eye open to watch as he stands a few feet away, looking grossly confident in his Army uniform.
"Yeah, but one day it won't be," he tells her, and she scoffs, shutting her eye. "Penny's never failed, Blake. She always gets her man."
"Penny is a robot, not a bloodhound," Blake flings back at him, dully annoyed. "She's not designed to track things down, she's designed to destroy things. Tracking is an art that requires finesse and delicacy. Not even Winter can program things like that."
Cardin keeps his smirk though—Blake can feel the tinge of arrogance and self-importance that stains his Aura. She huffs a sigh. This man is nearly as proud as Yang herself—at barely a fraction of the power.
"Well, forgive me for rooting against you," he drawls, shifting his weight in a way that instantly tells Blake he's planning on far overstaying his welcome in her cell. "The sooner we catch him the better."
She frowns, eyes flickering open. This isn't an argument she's yet heard.
"Why?" she asks, pulling herself up into a proper sitting position as she assesses him carefully. "What will you gain by catching Sun?"
Cardin barks a laugh, and Blake frowns at the noise.
"Don't you get it?" he asks, disbelief coloring his tone. He sets down the tray and Blake casts a cursory glance at the meal he's brought her, unsurprised to find it looks to be a small pile of canned beans slapped unceremoniously on a plate.
"Once we get all of you—once we take down the Black Sun—the Faunus will finally die." She flinches at the honest glee in his voice. A grin splits his features as he spreads his arms wide. "You'll all die."
She scoffs, tucking her legs under herself and angling away from him once more. She's heard enough.
"And yet you call us the monsters," she mutters, scowling at the wall.
She catches Cardin's expression darken at the edge of her vision, and turns to watch as his grin drops to an angry glare.
"Yeah, I do," he snaps. "If it weren't for the White Fang, Beacon wouldn't have fallen."
She winces at his words, wishing she had a counter. The truth stings—it always does.
"The White Fang never represented all Faunus," she whispers, falling back on the argument she'd guarded herself with so many times throughout her life. "They spiraled out of control, it wasn't our fault."
He scoffs. It's an ugly sound. "Tell that to Dove," he snaps. "I watched your old buddy Adam run him straight through that night. Or do Faunus even know what remorse feels like?"
His words breathe life into vile emotions that she tries to keep buried, and Blake clenches her jaw as her temper simmers.
As if she doesn't know what remorse feels like.
"Your word is small," she tells him dismissively. "And your viewpoint even smaller. You and the Captain are two of a kind—you'd rather cut a rope in half than try and work at untying the knots." She sighs, gazing back at the wall. "You think killing Faunus will solve all your problems, but really you're just killing your scapegoat. You're unwilling to admit that perhaps you share some of the blame." She shakes her head, suddenly feeling exhausted. "You're taking the coward's way out."
There's no real bite to her words—she's not necessarily looking for a fight—the words just spill out of her.
Cardin, however, takes her broad observations directly to heart, and openly glares at her.
"Awfully superior for a girl on death row," he growls at her.
Blake slides her golden gaze to him, unimpressed. "My morality towers over yours," she remarks, a touch of coldness to her tone. "Of course I'm superior—I have no trouble sleeping at night."
It's a lie—she hasn't slept well in ages, even when she could hear the comforting sounds of Team SSSN's breathing around her—but elicits the desired reaction: a furious Cardin.
His hand twitches towards the mace that rests across his back and Blake tenses, prepared to make a move one way or another.
"You're being particularly difficult today," he observes harshly, glaring down at her.
She shrugs, unable to resist one last barb. "I'm bored. And you're an easy target."
She sees the muscles in his arm tense and is throwing herself across the room in a heartbeat, listening as Cardin smashes the bench she'd been perched on with his mace.
Blake settles into a crouch, watching him from across her cell.
"And yet the Faunus are the blindly destructive ones," she muses loudly. "Interesting."
Cardin aims the weapon at her. "I'll kill you."
A smirk splits her face. "If you manage to touch me, I'll kill myself."
He prepares to lunge again, when the door to her cell is thrown open, crashing against the cement wall. Cardin immediately straightens, tucking his mace back in place, while Blake rises slowly to her feet.
Yang strides into the cell and their eyes clash—royal colors of amethyst and gold.
Winter follows at a stiff and leisurely pace, casting a sidelong glance at the destroyed bench.
"Cardin?" she calls lightly, eyes not straying from the mess.
His Adam's apple bobs. "General?"
She glances up, expression sharp and cold. "Kindly see yourself out."
Cardin hastens to leave, and Blake watches—utterly unimpressed—as Yang knocks shoulders with the young man as he passes by, forcing him into an ungraceful stumble before he finally vanishes.
"General," Blake greets her, arching an eyebrow, ignoring Yang for no reason other than to be petulant. The Captain scowls at the exclusion. "To what do I owe such a pleasure?"
Winter Schnee stares her down, icy eyes alight with malice.
"Tell me, Miss Belladonna," she begins, easing herself into the cell. "What do you know about Pyrrha Nikos?"
Panic lances through the Faunus, but she keeps her expression carefully schooled.
"I know she's one of the continent's top fighters," she answers, meeting Winter's frigid gaze head-on. "To my knowledge, she hasn't been seen since Beacon's fall."
The lie tastes bitter in Blake's mouth, but she just stares the other woman down. Winter lifts a single brow.
"I have received a report from my scouts in the east," the General says, the careful cadence of her voice making Blake's stomach clench in anticipation.
"And?" Blake prompts.
"Pyrrha's alive," Yang answers roughly, arms crossed tightly across her chest. "She was spotted in Mistral. Seems she's after some sort of False Maiden."
Blake's composure cracks, and her eyes snap wide.
God. Oh god. No. She can't know. She can't possibly know. No no no no no no no no—
"You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you, Miss Belladonna?" Winter asks, a smooth smirk curving her lips.
"What do you think?" Jaune asks.
Ruby glances up, frowning at her companion's appearance. "I don't know, Jaune. The helmet seems a little much."
Jaune sighs, yanking said helmet off his head. Ruby tries not to choke at the way his blond hair sticks up hilariously in all directions, stiff with sweat.
"Well, what do you suggest then?" he asks, tossing the helmet to the side. It clatters away, settling near a pile of similarly-discarded Atlesian armor that they'd procured from a pair of soldier's on patrol just outside of Vale.
Ruby chews thoughtfully on her lip as she picks loose threads out of her skirts. "I don't know," she admits. "I just don't think breaking and entering is really playing to our strengths."
Jaune shrugs. "Okay, so what? You think we should storm the place?"
Ruby sighs. "That's not a good plan either," she mutters. She huffs a sigh, frowning unhappily at the pile of armor. "I just don't know. This isn't like old missions at Beacon. I'm out of my element, Jaune."
The swordsman shrugs, scratching at his head and worsening the state of his hair.
"Well, we could always just wing it," he suggests. "I mean, in all honesty, that's probably what's gonna end up happening anyway."
Ruby sighs heavily. It had never occurred to her that the hardest part of telling Blake about her role as a Maiden would be actually getting to her. The young Huntress stares down at her boots, suddenly disheartened.
A flash of something catches her peripheral vision, and she snaps her head up in alarm. The figure ducks back out of sight—so quickly she wonders if it was a trick of the light.
But Jaune also notices, and his hand drops to the hilt of his sword.
"Did you see that?" he asks lowly.
Ruby nods, expression drawn.
"Grimm?" he asks, drawing his blade with a dull ring.
"Grimm aren't stealthy, Jaune," Ruby replies as her scythe unfolds like a blooming rose.
"A very un-stealthy Hunter?"
"You're right here."
He throws her an annoyed glanced, when she suddenly gasps, eyes going wide.
Across the hills, a figure eases into view. Tall and toned and sporting an open black jacket and a shock of golden hair—
"It's Sun!" she shouts, delight ringing loudly in her voice as he approaches. She races out to meet him, Jaune at her heels.
Up close, Sun Wukong looks very much like he had the last time Ruby had seen him—but she notices there's no easy smile flashed her way, like there had been every other time they'd crossed paths. She resigns herself to the fact that Beacon's fall had stolen lots of people's smiles. She notices his staff is out and clutched tightly in a fist that's not quite as slack at his side as she might have liked. She chalks it up to constant vigilance.
"Sun!" Ruby chirps, lowering her scythe. "What are you doing out here?"
"Ruby." His greeting is friendly enough, but he doesn't lower his staff. Jaune cuts a glance at the smaller woman, clearly trying to see how she wants to play the sudden standoff.
Ruby picks up on the tension, and her bright expression clouds. She takes a few steps back, frowning.
"Um, hi," she says, worrying her lower lip. "How've you been?"
Sun quirks a brow, jaw still tight. "Oh, y'know. Peachy."
"Peachy," Ruby repeats, not liking his tone. "Got it."
"Where's your team?" Jaune asks, voice hard as he takes a stand beside Ruby. "Last time I ran into you, you were with Sage, Scarlet, Neptune, and Blake."
Sun shifts his weight, and Ruby is struck at his physique. He's never been slight, and the years have only emphasized that fact. Her fingers curl around the grip of her weapon. A fight with Sun would be no easy victory.
It may not be a victory at all.
"I don't really think that's any of your business, Arc," he remarks, a cold bite to his voice.
"I don't want to fight you, Sun," Ruby tells him, a low warning in her words. "But if you push me—"
"Is that what you said to Blake?" he asks her roughly.
Ruby's eyes narrow. "Careful Sun," she murmurs, quietly adjusting her grip. "Don't let your heart pick your battles."
"Bold words from a girl with a hero complex the size of the sun," he counters.
Her silver eyes flash like struck steel, all signs of good humor and camaraderie vanishing. "I'd watch what I say," she warns him in a voice like thorns. "I may just make you eat those words."
His staff shines in the light as he swings it around.
"I know a threat when I hear one, Rose," he spits.
She scoffs at his bravado. "Then keep listening, because if you think this is threatening, you're in for a bit of a shock."
"What's Blake got to do with it anyway?" Jaune demands. "She's with you, isn't she?"
Sun waves his free hand at the empty hills that surrounded them. "Is she?" he asks sharply. "If you see her, let me know."
"There's no need to be so curt," Ruby rebukes him with a frown. "If you have nothing to say to us, then be on your way." She shifts her weight, eyeing him carefully. "We're not looking for a fight, Sun."
"Then what are you looking for?" SSSN's leader asks harshly. "Nothing much to be found here."
"Like a good buddy of mine said," Jaune interjects coolly. "I don't think that's really any of your business, Wukong."
Tension fills the space between the three team leaders.
"Why don't we all just…drop our weapons?" Ruby suggests quietly, looking between them. "We're all Hunters, we're all Leaders, and we're all capable of civilized conversation." She glances at the other two men, who glare resolutely at each other.
"I will when he does," Jaune says shortly.
"We'll all do it at the same time," Ruby tells him. "One, two, three."
Crescent Rose falls from her hands to land in the grass at her feet. After a beat, Jaune's sword and shield clatters as well, and Sun throws his staff down.
They stare at each other.
"Okay, now," Ruby turns her attention to Sun. "What are you doing here, and what do you want with us?"
"Don't I get to ask questions?" he bites back.
Jaune crosses his arms, staring the Faunus down with dislike.
"Someone's gotta talk first," he says flatly. "And since this is you crashed the party, you get the honors."
Sun just cracks his knuckles; tail swishing agitatedly at his ankles.
"A few days back, Blake and I were trying to break up an execution," he begins dully.
Ruby nods. "I remember. It was Velvet Scarlatina's. We were going to try and stop it too."
"Well, it didn't go so well," Sun informs her coolly. "Winter called Penny and Yang for backup. We were cornered."
"So what happened?" Jaune asks, surprise coloring is tone. Not many people could boast surviving such an encounter.
"Blake surrendered," Sun spits the words like poison. "Yang denied an execution order. They took her alive."
Jaune rocks back on his heels. "That's…good though, right?" he asks hesitantly. "I mean, alive is better than dead, anyway."
Ruby swallows at his statement, thoughts drifting towards a redheaded warrior.
Sun scoffs. "Not where Winter Schnee's concerned," he grumbles. "Woman's a psychopath. And it's not like Yang's been wanting to kill Blake for years or anything."
"Blake's smart," Ruby insists. "She can survive. She'll find a way to make herself worth keeping alive. It's only been a few days—they probably haven't even talked to her yet."
Sun watches her carefully. "So then where do you come in?" he asks. "Just wandering around Vale? Taking in the scenery?"
But Ruby's heard enough. Winter Schnee has Blake. The Fall Maiden is in serious jeopardy.
"We'll explain on the way," Ruby tells him tersely, bending down to scoop up his staff. She tosses it to him, and he catches it with surprise as she hands Jaune his weapons.
"Ruby, what are you—?" the swordsman begins with a frown.
"We have to go," Ruby responds, immediately folding up her scythe and tucking it away. She turns on her heel and her cape snaps as the wind catches it. "You too, Sun. Come on." She takes off then, leaving Sun and Jaune in her wake, stunned at the turn on events.
"Where are we going?" Jaune demands. "And why is Sun invited?"
"We have to get to Blake before she does," Ruby yells back, panic making her ignorant to her own slip.
Sun just slides his staff back into place and jogs after the Huntress. Jaune lags behind, slowly replacing his weapons.
"Before who does?" Jaune mutters to himself, eyes narrowing at Ruby's retreating figure.
Yang frowns as she follows the General through the halls of the Army's headquarters, arms crossed.
"If you've something to say, Captain, I'd have you say it," Winter answers her in a clipped voice. They pass a pair of soldiers who instantly freeze, snapping hasty salutes as the two women go striding past.
"Why did we just leave?" Yang asks. "You saw how much she freaked when you brought up Pyrrha—why not push her?"
Winter chuckles humorlessly to herself as they turn a corner. She does love her little teaching moments.
"That is your arrogance speaking," she rebukes the blonde. "And your temper. Ms. Belladonna has nothing to tell us that we do not already know. We're not truly interrogating her."
"So then what's the point of these mind games?" Yang asks harshly. "Why even keep her alive, if she's so useless?"
Winter smiles softly to herself. Yang is an indomitable fighter—a wildfire that roars across Remnant. She burned Blake's shadows, but the Faunus is a clever minx, and has a mental muscle that poses a serious danger to the Army and their plans.
"Wisdom will always bring strength to heel," had always been Qrow's favorite advice. He clearly never passed it on to his niece.
"Tell me, Captain," Winter begins, pausing as they near her office, turning to face the other woman. Yang has her beat by a healthy few inches, but Winter's Aura is frigid and stalwart in the face her subordinate's fire. "What do you know about the Maidens?"
"The Maidens?" Yang repeats, frowning. "That old fairytale? Winter, my dad read that to me as a bedtime story. You can't possibly—"
"I can and I am," Winter cuts her off with a frozen glance as she turns to look at the great windows beside her. Atlas sprawls before her—the gleaming majesty of Remnant. The only Kingdom with the Army's protection, and therefore, the only Kingdom still intact. The Atlesian Army's logo flies on every flag, and Winter smiles to herself, pleased to see her family's emblem displayed as far as the eye can see. A snowfall of respect and reverence for her family.
She glances back to Yang, annoyed at her silence. It seems the younger woman is unwilling to play along with her train of thought. She lifts her chin, changing tactics.
"The fall of Beacon, then," she begins bluntly. "What do you remember?"
Yang pulls back, stunned at the sudden shift of conversation.
"I—what?" she demands. "What do you mean, what do I remember?"
Winter just waits for an answer, unimpressed at the blonde's anger.
Yang finally huffs an irritated sigh, realizing her coldhearted General isn't going to let this go.
"Beacon burned," she mutters, flicking her violet gaze away to study the windows. Her lips curl at the way the Schnee's sigil flies on every flag in sight. God, she hates headquarters. "By the time I got there, the White Fang had torched everything."
Winter nods. "And who do you remember seeing at the fight?"
Yang blows out a breath, running a hand through her wild hair. "Ruby and Blake. Weiss was already long gone. SSSN was there, and CFVY. CRDL. JN—"
Winter holds up a hand to silence her. "JNPR?" she questions, arching a brow. "Truly? You saw every member of Team JNPR at Beacon's fall?"
Yang scowls, disliking the interruption. "Yeah, I mean, I remember Nora braining an Ursa, and Ren was working with Scarlet to take out a Death Stalker. Jaune was with Velvet, I think, but I only saw him for a second…"
She trails off, and Winter allows herself a small smirk.
"And Pyrrha Nikos?" she prompts lightly. "When did you see her?"
Yang's brow furrows as she considers the General's question, mind spinning as she pieces back memories she'd fractured in her anger at her uncle's death.
"Pyrrha was there," she whispers, almost to herself. She drops her gaze to the floor, eyebrows slanted down in concentration, eyes unfocused. "She had to be there."
"Miss Nikos did participate in the Battle of Beacon," Winter tells her. "But only for a moment. She mysteriously vanished not even halfway through—that is why you missed her."
Yang frowns. "Pyrrha would never run from a fight," she argues. "If she left, why didn't she come back?"
"Why indeed?" Winter murmurs to herself. She chuckles quietly, turning her back on Yang to stride towards her office. "One last question, Captain."
The Sun Dragon stares after her, irritated. "What?" she snaps.
"Have you heard from you mother lately?" she asks lightly, glancing over her shoulder to watch as the brawler goes stiff, lilac eyes blowing wide with surprise.
"No?" she queries, amused at the stunned, strangled silence Yang is struck with. She places her palm on the scanner outside her office doors and steps back as they swing open.
"Pity," she comments. "Perhaps you ought to reach out to her. No doubt she misses you dearly."
"My mother is dead!" Yang shouts, so loudly she startles a group of soldiers who hastily hurry past. She flings her arms wide, the light filtering in from the windows making her gauntlets gleam like gold.
Winter turns to face her properly then, cold eyes reminding Yang of the deadly gaze Weiss Schnee had fixed her with as she tugged her blade from her uncle's chest.
"Why not ask Miss Belladonna?" she suggest mildly. There's a gleam in her eye that Yang knows—it's the same look the General wears when she gives an execution order. "You two have lots of catching up to do, do you not?"
The doors to her office slam shut, and Yang stares at them, dully surprised that her rage doesn't just burn a hole in the oak.
If Weiss is being honest—which she sometimes is, when there's no real need to be otherwise—she's glad to be back in Mistral.
She'd visited here with the team many times, and found herself charmed by the city's welcoming humbleness. The vendors were friendly, children played in the streets without fear, adults chatted on café patios. It had always struck Weiss as a less pretentious Atlas.
Now, however, as she and Qrow pick their way through the ruined arena, she feels nothing but a sick sensation low in her stomach. Her frost-colored eyes search the darkness for a shock of teal hair and the gleam of a trident.
"Ever spar here?" Qrow asks mildly. She shoots him an annoyed look.
"I spent a very sheltered childhood in very specific parts of Atlas," she tells him dryly. "No, I did not spar in dirty, decrepit, Mistral arenas."
Her worn boots make hardly a sound against the cracked floor, and Qrow's entire form gives off a soft pale glow that illuminates their path.
He snorts, shaking his head. "It wasn't always this ugly," he remarks. "In its prime, it was the greatest arena in Remnant."
"How lovely." Weiss' dour, disinterested tone draws a chuckle from Qrow. She glances around, chewing on her lower lip thoughtfully. The few people they'd spoken to had directed them to the arena, claiming they'd seen a man matching Neptune's description escaping with two other people who sounded suspiciously like Ren and Nora.
"Why would he leave his team?" she murmurs. "I just don't understand what could draw him all the way out here."
Qrow eyes her, and she turns so see he's wearing her least liked expression. It's his careful, cautious, I'm debating how much I should tell you face.
"If you've something to say, Qrow," she tells him with a frown. "I'd have you say it."
The spirit just shrugs. "You know how boys can be," is his thrilling response.
Weiss stops short, spinning to face him with a hand perched on a cocked hip as she stares up at him dubiously.
"This is not the time for stupid remarks," she states flatly. "If you know something I don't, you need to tell me."
But Qrow isn't listening. Something has caught his attention and he peers across the darkened arena, expression drawn.
Weiss rolls her eyes. "I know you can hear me," she tells him tartly. "Don't pretend like—"
Qrow holds out his hand in a forceful will you shut up? gesture. Weiss swallows her complaint with a scowl.
"Someone's here." Qrow's ghostly hand reaches for the hilt of his blade, ice-blue eyes narrowing. "The air…it tastes metallic."
"I don't think that's a cause for concern," Weiss hisses back. "And I'm not sure dead men can taste."
He doesn't rise to the dig, eyes sweeping the arena. "Focus, Weiss," he orders, his tone void of its typical macabre humor.
Frowning in concern, Weiss draws her blade, stepping sideways to place herself at Qrow's back as he withdraws Clockwork Noir from beneath his cloak.
"What is it?" she whispers, searching the darkness.
Qrow's features are drawn—eyes narrowed. "Don't drop your guard," he murmurs. "I've got a bad feeling about this."
She twists to try and catch a glimpse of his expression. "Qrow…?"
"Pyrrha!" he calls, his voice echoing throughout the abandoned arena. "I know you're here! Show yourself!"
Weiss feels her stomach bottom out.
"Pyrrha?" she gasps. She spins, trying to follow Qrow's line of sight, and scoffs with annoyance when he sweeps his hand out to keep her back. "Qrow! What are you doing—?"
"Just this once, Weiss," he says evenly. He hasn't taken his eyes off of some fixed point in the darkness. "Just trust me this one time. Please."
His words sober her, and she steps back. "I always trust you," she reminds him quietly. "That's kind of the reason I'm still alive."
A smirk tugs at his lips, but he says nothing.
A moment of silence rolls by before a figure steps elegantly from the shadows.
Weiss' eyes go wide as she takes in the familiar golden armor, flash of red hair, and eyes like emeralds. It's her—the Invincible Girl, after all these years.
"Pyrrha!" Weiss gasps, surging forward. Qrow sidesteps, blocking her movement, still eyeing the gladiator sullenly.
"Miss Nikos," he drawls, still deftly boxing Weiss out and keeping the heiress from advancing. "Gonna be honest—I thought you were dead."
A smirk tugs at Pyrrha's lips. Weiss notes a slice that splits her cheek and a purpling bruise that darkens her jaw. In fact, it seems the other woman is littered in wounds. Weiss' tightens her grip on Myrtenaster.
"I thought you were dead as well," Pyrrha tells him, her voice colder than Weiss remembers. She cocks an eyebrow. "It seems one of us was right."
Qrow shrugs, adjusting Clockwork Noir in a way that is too obvious to be absentminded. "I might be dead, but I can still kick your ass."
Weiss throws him a scowl. "Qrow!" she hisses, eyes narrowed. "What are you doing?"
"What are you doing here, Nikos?" he asks, gesturing at the empty, dilapidated arena. "Reliving old victories?"
"I am so sorry," Weiss says before Pyrrha can respond, pushing past Qrow to give the redheaded woman a look of earnest apology. "I don't know why he's being so terrible. It's really great to see you."
Pyrrha smiles softly. "It's nice to see you too," she murmurs, "Ghost Queen."
Weiss hesitates, disliking the way the nickname falls from the warrior's lips.
Qrow narrows his eyes, but Weiss waves him off.
"Yes, well, that is the reputation I've garnered for myself," she answers awkwardly. "But if you know where I've been, may I ask where—?"
Something catches her gaze, and Weiss goes stock still, eyes growing wide.
A beat of absolute silence fills the arena.
Qrow's wraithlike fingers flex on Clockwork Noir's hilt.
Pyrrha subtly shifts her weight, eyes narrowing as her free hand creeps towards her sheathed weapon.
Weiss can only stare.
"Levin Tierce," she whispers, and Qrow breaks his glare with Pyrrha to turn towards the young woman, alarmed at the pain in her voice. The outlaw has eyes only for the weapon she's only just spotted peeking out from over Pyrrha's shoulder.
She'd know that guandao anywhere. She's sparred against it a million times.
"Princess?" he asks, concern coats his words as he frowns at her. "Weiss?"
She lifts her blade, aiming it directly at the redhead.
"Where is Neptune?" she demands. "What have you done to him?"
Pyrrha holds her hands up in a gesture of surrender. "Please, Weiss," she says softly. "I was only defending myself."
"From what?" Weiss asks harshly, holding Myrtenaster in a white-knuckle grip. "What attacked you?"
"Easy, Princess," Qrow murmurs. "Check your temper."
"Mind your own damn business," she snarls back.
"You are my damn business."
Pyrrha smoothly pulls the weapon off her back. Weiss' stomach drops to her boots at the sight of it.
"The fight was fairly quick," she explains. "Some things got lost in the shuffle, it seems. Neptune was so preoccupied with running away, he forgot something."
"Neptune did this to you?" Weiss gasps. Her eyes flash to the worst of Pyrrha's injuries, unwilling to believe a boy with a cocksure grin and goofy goggles put them there.
Pyrrha takes a few steps forward to offer Levin Trice to Weiss, but Qrow blocks her path.
"That's far enough, Pyrrha," Qrow calls. He levels his sword at the warrior. "Get behind me, Princess."
Weiss ignores him, anger rushing through her veins. "Explain!" she demands. "When did you see Neptune? Why did you fight?"
Pyrrha's pale fingers curl around the shaft of the weapon. "He attacked me, Weiss. He and Ren and Nora. I was only defending myself."
Qrow scowls. "She's lying through her teeth," he spits.
Pyrrha's eyes narrow. "Mind yourself, phantom."
Qrow bares his teeth in a feral snarl. "Why don't you go a few rounds with this phantom and see how long you last?"
"Why did you fight?" Weiss asks again, a harsh edge of disbelief to her words.
Pyrrha switches her gaze back to the outlaw. "As I said, he attacked me. He cornered me in the arena and rushed me without warning."
Qrow scoffs under his breath—ugly and sharp. "Yeah? And you couldn't handle one little Hunter? I thought you were the best in the business."
"Ren and Nora soon joined him," she replies smoothly, glaring at the spirit. "You cannot possibly fault me for failing to defend myself against three fully-fledged Hunters."
Weiss mulls over her words, expression still cold. "And how did you come to posses his weapon?" she asks archly, letting her eyes skate across the length of Neptune's guandao as Pyrrha slides it back into place.
"He dropped it," Pyrrha explains with a small shrug. She turns over her hands, showing the once-heiress her empty palms. "As you can see, we had something of a trade. He stole my shield."
Qrow and Weiss seem to unconsciously lean towards each other.
"What would he want with her shield?" Qrow mutters to Weiss, frowning at the redhead's explanation.
"Why would he instigate a fight against her at all?" Weiss murmurs back, arms crossed as she considers Pyrrha's tale.
"Weiss," Pyrrha calls. "There is no reason for us to fight."
"I can think of a few," Qrow mutters. Weiss throws an elbow.
"We can work together," the redhead continues earnestly. "We're destined to work together."
At this, Weiss pulls a face. "Destined?" she echoes, thrown. "Pyrrha, what are you talking about?"
Qrow leans down to hiss in her ear, "She has no idea, Weiss. She's got nothing but cuckoo clocks going off up there."
Weiss grabs a fistful of Qrow's shirt, forcing a bright smile at Pyrrha. "Just excuse us for a moment," she requests lightly, turning on her heel and dragging her spirit after her as they pace away from the gladiator.
Once their out of earshot, Weiss releases him. Qrow wastes no time in sharing his thoughts.
"She's crazy," he tells her, his voice low and harsh. "I know crazy, Princess. And she's got a nasty case of it."
"But how did it happen?" Weiss asks softly. "Do you think Neptune—?"
Qrow cuts her off. "I think we need to kill her and move on with our lives."
Weiss treats him to a look of flat annoyance. "Your suggestion has been duly noted," she tells him dryly, readying her blade. "Enjoy limbo."
"I don't trust her," Qrow hisses. "Don't you dare dismiss me!"
Weiss scowls back at him. "I don't trust her either," she whispers. "But we aren't exactly overflowing with options, Qrow!"
But Weiss has made her choice, and she slashes out with her blade. Qrow's expression turns to ice as a glyph unfolds beneath his feet.
"You'll regret this, Weiss," he warns her darkly.
"And what a remarkable twist of fate that is," she replies crisply, sarcasm tainting her words. "Me? Regretting something? Completely unheard of."
Their eyes clash, and Weiss watches as his icy gaze flickers to ruby.
"Don't do this," Qrow Branwen grows, and Weiss' eyes widen as she watches color spreads across his cape like a bloodstain, slowly turning back to its proper red.
But the Ghost Queen is made of stronger stuff—more substantial than spirit and shadow—and with a practiced flick of her wrist, Qrow vanishes in a flash of light.
Weiss stares at the spot where he'd stood, a sudden uneasiness falling across her shoulders. She wonders—a bit wildly—when she'll see her ghostly guardian again. Brushing such thoughts aside, she strides back to where Pyrrha waits, determinedly ignoring the glow of Neptune's weapon where the other woman holds in slack at her side.
"So, what's the plan?" Weiss asks, sheathing her sword and trying to fight the sudden emptiness Qrow's departure left her with and the feel of his blood-red gaze. "Since we're destiny buddies and all."
Pyrrha gazes back evenly at her. "We kill the False Maiden."
Weiss bobs her head in easy agreement. Crazy or not, she doesn't stand a chance against Pyrrha Nikos. She has to go along with the redheaded warrior until she can escape or betray her.
"Right. Of course. Naturally." Weiss taps her slender fingers on Myrtenaster's hilt, cocking her head to the side. "Who is that, exactly?"
Pyrrha blinks, like she's surprised at the question.
"Haven't you guessed?" she asks. "It's Blake Belladonna."
GUESS WHO'S BACK NERDS
It's me, your dream girl, in scrunched up socks and a blanket cape. Three months late.
I don't even know how to excuse the delay. College, work, other projects, a new writing blog. It's hard to keep RWBY at the forefront of my mind when the show's on hiatus. A bunch of reasons. I am Hoping with a capital fucking H that I can finish this thing up soon-ish because I have so much other RWBY stuff I want to dedicate my time too.
I have another AU in the works that I'm debating putting up or waiting until I finish Nevermore. This is the pitch, maybe you guys could tell me what you'd rather see. (Not that I'd abandon Nevermore, I'm just trying to gauge if I should even bother putting time into this other story.)
Here's the pitch:
Arc of the Covenant: a RWBY OC prequel/AU. If by chance you've ever wondered about Jaune Arc's father, a younger Team STRQ, and more Maiden headcanons, then here you go. Join Valletta and Rim, two morally ambiguous Huntresses of Team VALR who are trying to track down and kill the Maidens because they think it's dangerous to have that kind of easily corrupted power wandering around Remnant (among other, less noble reasons). Arthur Arc, Jaune's father and a member of VALR, has decided to work against his team and is trying to get to Vale to warn Ozpin.
So if snark, world-building, fortune telling, moral gray area, semi-casual murder, grand seductions, foreshadowing, culty religions, gambling, arranged marriages, hardcore backstabbing, fights to the death, and a general darker side of RWBY and the world of Remnant is your thing, then let me know.
Feedback would be swell. Like I said, I'm not going to bother embarking on another RWBY AU if there's no interest.
Anyway, I'll see you again much sooner than in three months. Hope I picked things back up okay.
ALSO AND THIS IS IMPORTANT there's like? Fanart? For this? Because people liked it so much? And people like, wrote stuff based on it? I can't link any of it because FanFiction says a hearty fuck you to any and all links, so you'll have to go to my blog ( midwestern-duchess on tumblr dot com) and search 'nevermore au' in the search bar. There's all kinds of fun stuff there.
Thanks team. Hope you enjoyed.