Author's Note: No sue because no own.

Escalation: Crunches

Deep within the Headmaster's tower, they could still hear the despair-ridden sobs of the Groundskeepers outside. Their battle against the unending tide of vermin filth was a hopeless one as tidal waves of filth rose into the air to challenge the sky.

Of course, the filth rising into the sky was only the second most disturbing thing that everyone had to go through during the day; Glynda Goodwitch was completely flabbergasted.

Now, Glynda has been angry before. Furious with Qrow. Salty in demeanor with Ironwood. Certainly annoyed with students. But never once had she been struck so speechless, so stunned that no words of chastisement, no frown or scowl emerged. Something fundamental in reality had broken that day. Did a volcano merely leak without erupting? Did the winds howl but found too much lethargy to move? Did the cosmos shine without sending heat with its partner, light?

It was all proving to be too much for Saitama. "Yo, uh, Goodwitch. It's okay if you're angry. You should just let it out. Keeping it in is not healthy and might cause you to gain wei—uh, I mean have mood swin—it will make you feel bad."

The female present shook their heads at the foolish honorary teacher. Did he not know that the ire of women ran deep like a great sea stretching out beyond infinity? Did he not know that the gods of mass and esteem were not to be lashed with the ignorance of a male's tongue?

"Fool," Weiss and Winter hissed under their breaths simultaneously. They shared a quick fist-bump right afterward.

But no anger came to Glynda even after the dangerous remarks. "Hmm, yes. No, I'm not angry. Not at all." Qrow began eyeing the door as sweat began to pour from his crown. This couldn't be Glynda—there was an imposter doing a terrible impression of her. They had been infiltrated.

"Mr. Winches—Cardin," Glynda said. "Cardin."

The bruised and strangled boy had only recently been allowed a fresh allowance of oxygen, so he could be forgiven for his slow reactions. Blue handprints and swollen bulges protruded from his face from the savaging he took. His Aura broke sometime during the first five minutes of his punishment. Try as he might he couldn't break his abusers hold. Cinder had the arms of a model on the outside but she must have changed all her blood with gorilla testosterone because she could milk the soul out a Ursa with her bare hands if she was so inclined to.

Scooting further away from the smoldering demon that he barely knew as 'Ella,' Cardin didn't seem to hear anything Glynda said.

"Cardin," Glynda said, now with a drawing of a shirtless Saitama in hand, "did you draw this."

"Yes," he nodded finally, fear in his eyes.

Hands under the Headmaster's table, Glynda shuffled some more papers. "Did you draw this?"

This time a very naked Ironwood shielded only by strategically placed chains caressed Saitama's muscular thigh while he held a fainting Qrow in his arms, bridal style. "This one."

"Yes," said Cardin.

"Stop showing those," Saitama said, tired of this already, "please."

Cinder agreed with him. She wanted out of this office and away from these degenerates.

"This one," Glynda said.

"Yes. I drew all of them." Cardin admitted shamefully.

"But…why," Pyrrha asked.

"Because I admired him, dammit," Cardin choked back shameful tears, "he—he got both a legendary Huntsman and Atlas's Highest Military Commander. Got them in barely a week. How much of an alpha do you have to be to do that. This…this was all just a tribute to him."

Qrow leaned closer. "What do you mean by 'got,' kid?"

"Yeah. What do you mean?" Ironwood added.

"Well, it's obvious that you three are having an ongoing threesome, everyone knows about it."

"What! Nononono," said Saitama.

"That's faulty information," Ironwood said. "Absolutely fake!"

Yang had to hold Qrow back from drawing his weapon. "No, Unc. He's just a kid. Let it go. Let it go."

"We are not together," Saitama said. "Not in that way. We just teach the class."

Cardin blinked. "You're not."

"No."

"They're not?" Cardin asked the rest of the room.

"Impossible," Winter said, severely. "The General is inclined towards women, and even then, he hasn't spent any intimate time with one during for the last five years. He wouldn't betray his duty like that."

It took a great deal of willpower not to let himself take offense to that. "Thank you, Specialist."

"Of course, sir."

"Winter," Weiss whispered, being the more astute Schnee present, "I think that might have been a bit…insulting."

On the other hand, Winter was the Schnee of no social graces. "The truth is never insulting Weiss. Only the guilty fear it."

The color left Cardin's face. "I—I really messed this up, didn't I?"

"Oh, yeah," said Qrow.

"Not at all," said Glynda at the same time.

"Excuse me," said Qrow.

"I don't see anything wrong with this," Glynda said. "I do see something wrong with school walls being shattered and damaged, but that's a minor problem in a combat academy. There are no rules against drawings of smut nor pornographic material of any kind."

Dumbstruck Saitama's eyes widened. "There isn't?"

"You gotta be kidding me," Qrow said.

"Right," Ironwood said, just remembering with a scowl on his face. "Vale. Loose copyright laws. No restrictions on…expressing oneself."

"They're right, master," Genos said, actively searching through the networks. "To combat the negative influence of the crime, Vale has decided to increase positive by allowing for unlimited expression."

The storm clouds above Cardin's head passed by. And stopped over Cinder's. What kind of demented laws where these?

"Genos," Robin asked. "What's smut?"

He wasted no time in responding. "Pornographic material. Usually involving genital intercourse, oral intercourse, or other means of stimulation."

"What do you mean by intercourse?" Robin was more confused than ever.

"I will find a proper educational video for you later."

A wheezing sound went through Yang and she clapped Robin over the shoulder. "Stay strong, kid. We all become deviants someday."

Now Robin wanted to know what a deviant was.

"Genos!" Ruby's face was turning into a teakettle. "You can't do that!"

He looked confused. "Why not?"

"Because…because..." Ruby's mind was going so far ahead that her words couldn't catch up. "Penny? You're her guardian too right?"

Penny smiled. "Scrolls offer unrestricted access to information. She would learn of countless copulating positions much like all the other children by age nine. I see no abnormalities here."

"Penny," Ironwood said, "we're going to need to talk about your new role?"

"I have a new role?" she said, joy overflowing.

"Let's just talk later," Ironwood said, giving up.

"So," Glynda said, "Cardin, whatever issues you may have with the lecturers, you will have to sort them yourself afterward, but they are by no means allowed to force you to do anything." She swept her eyes across the threesome. "No. Means."

Cardin looked downcast. "It's okay. I'll stop—"

"Don't!" Glynda recomposed herself. "I mean, you have a very good eye for detail, Mr. Winchester."

"—but if I keep going, I'll just be making a mistake." Cardin shot Jaune a brief look. "Done that more than once."

"Hey, uh," Saitama tried to find the right words. How why the hell did he feel like the bad guy when they were talking about no drawing porn of him. He was supposed to be the victim here. "It's okay."

"It is?" Cardin's face lit up.

"The hell it is," Qrow hissed, pulling on Saitama's hood. "You can keep showing up in nude-teacher daily but I won't be, one way or another."

"That's fine," Cardin said, still caught up with how Saitama agreed, "you weren't that important anyway. He's the star."

It took a moment for Cardin to realize what he just said. Qrow got really close to his face. "Kid, you're not good with picking words, are you?"

"Let it go, Qrow," Glynda said.

"Why are you taking his side?"

"Because this can be a very helpful skill for a Huntsman."

"Drawing porn?"

"Not. It can be turned against the Grimm."

"Drawing Grimm porn?"

"No," Glynda said, "sketching new types of Grimm encountered for further detail. Designing weapons. Creating things for the public to be inspired by. Huntsmen must be masters beyond being mere weapons. And should they make it to retirement, they should have…other skills as well."

Qrow just fumed and folded his arms. "Fine. As long as I'm not in it."

A dam holding back an unstoppable rage inside Cinder crumbled. What the hell was wrong with these people? These are the guardians of the Kingdoms? The greatest Hunters of Remnant? They just spent the better part of a day trying to figure out smut drawings rather than deal with the White Fang's attacks or locate the missing Atlas ships or personnel? Was she to be insulted that these were her adversaries, or that was she to be infuriated that despite their utter incompetence, she just couldn't best that Oum-damned bald bastard in any way so far. "Professor Goodwitch, I don't feel well. May I leave."

"Oh, Miss…Tremaine," Glynda said. "you're a transfer, aren't you?"

"Yes?"

Glynda frowned. There was something about this girl that seemed familiar. Her eyes maybe. "You were strangling Mr. Winchester here. Why?"

Cinder cursed internally. She didn't need to be wasting any more time in this office. She had schemes to make, plots to deploy. She couldn't be hindered by this. "I—I was offended for Lecturer Saitama, ma'am."

"Really," Saitama said, glad that he was appreciated once. "That's kind of neat. The defending, not the choking part."

Considering the situation for a moment Glynda sighed. "You get a warning: no more strangling students beyond combat courses or during spars. You may leave."

Cinder stood up and stopped. It's strange how chaos takes away your ability think rationally and plot accordingly, but it's almost comedic that fate had delivered this opportunity to her. Her, the glover, and Saitama. One room, one shot. A single touch and he would be her's.

Then there would be no need for any plans. Just death and victory.

"Lecturer," she said, with the most innocent expression on her face, "I like to tell you that you are an inspiration to the students. Beyond the smut."

Saitama was taken aback while Qrow and Ironwood shared a mirrored look of bullshit detection.

Weiss leaned down next to Ruby. "Isn't she the one that Qrow made run all those laps over and over again?"

"Maybe she's into that stuff," Yang said, suggestively.

Seizing her chance, she reached up slowly with a wicked grin across her face. "Please," Cinder said, taking a page out of Emerald's book of lies, "In the custom of my land, we pat our heroes on the head."

He looked somewhat torn. "Ok."

And so she did, and the darkness sinews dug in.

Sweating rivers, Cinder ran down a road that seemed to go on forever.

Every day, she did her sit-ups even as her abs turned numb, she hammered out her push-ups till her elbows clicked, she dropped down to her squats until her legs were too abused to stand. Only then did she run.

Most days she could run at her own pace, pushing herself without too much strain. But today was different. Today there was a special sale and she was running behind time. Much behind. She couldn't recall why this sale was so important but she knew it had to do with something about low-priced soap bars and cheap fish.

And with the amount she could save in mind, she drew upon her willpower and ran even as her body began to shut down along the way.

She had been training to be a hero for three months now, and every day was a new hurt, a new pain. But she persevered despite it, because heroes couldn't let a little bit of discomfort stop them for doing justice as a hobby. That would be very irresponsible.

Her arms flopped like a deflating doll tumbling down a staircase and her legs were catching her forward falling motion more than she was running.

Far ahead, she could see it: the mini-mart hosting the sale! There was only two minutes left to get to it.

She bit down and cast all her pain to the wind and poured willpower into where her exhaustion made gaps. Hellfire surged through her veins as untold sufferings tortured ever every move while the world began to blur. She was going to make it. No matter what. A hero would let nothing stop them from their goal. Not even the rules of nature.

For the briefest of moments she felt herself transcend something as a barrier broke before her and she felt a wall crumble while a stop-sign nearby her folded over like a bomb had just gone off. Turning to look at the stop sign, she didn't pay any heed to the path before her.

And her down came down on a discard banana peel.

Every limb on her body met the ground in a flurry of snapping tumbled as her skidded against the crack-ridden pavement face-first right before the mini-mart. A smear of red was left behind her. A cold void filled her body as she tried to willed her limbs to move, only to realize that she couldn't.

A whimper came out from her throat as she saw the shoppers begin to leave. This was it. She was too late. She missed the special sale; a miserable pile of flesh laying outside a closing mini-mart.

There was nothing that she could do.

Other than get up and try again tomorrow.

And so, he rose.

It took half a second for her strands to come apart blood poured out of Cinder's nose. Stumbling back, she steadied herself on whatever was nearby, first putting her hand down on poor Robin's forehead before collapsing onto Ruby.

The worse thing this bastard experienced is missing an Oum-damned sale? Cinder nearly died right there from the thought that alone. Only the fact that she failed drove her to continue living so that she might exact proper revenge on the bald fool that looked at her so concerned.

"Ella," Genos said with mild concern. "I am detecting multiple brain hemorrhages inside your head." He held up a finger and a laser-cutter extended. "I need to operate immediately to save your life."

"No," Cinder said. "No. Aura healz gud."

"Are you sure," Ruby said, holding up her fellow 'student.' "You don't look so good."

"M'fine," Cinder said, stumbling her way over the elevator. "Seez ye allz tomorrow."

As the door closed, she slid down the wall and felt her Aura knit her wounds back together. Focusing on all the strands going out from her, she made sure that the rest of her Thralls were still connected. Weakly, Cinder grimaced as she clenched her fists. "Why can't I just break you. Why!" The inferno threatened to spill out of her eyes. But then it stopped.

She remembered. "He was hurt."

He wasn't always strong. That's why he was doing the workouts. The constant workouts. The workouts that went past the time.

Perhaps it was brain damage, or maybe it was just an epiphany but Cinder's knew what she had to do next. Her resolve became unbreakable.

Back atop, Glynda sighed at the group gathered before her. "Alright. It's been a long day. Longer week. I'll be letting everyone today. You're all free to go."

They all just stared. "Well, go on. Get out. Prepare for class tomorrow."

The group slowly shuffled away towards the elevator, chattering amongst themselves for things to come.

"Saitama," Glynda said.

He turned.

"You were right, you know."

"About what?"

"Living beyond being Huntsmen. Practicing what you like. That will probably make our students more well-balanced at whatever they choose to do anyway," Glynda said.

"You know, you not really as scary as the kids think you are," Saitama said. "Did the damage earlier truly even bother you?"

Glynda winked subtly. "Seriously. Don't tell anyone. I'm the disciplinarian in a school of well-trained, well-armed Huntsmen and Huntresses. If they don't fear me then nothing will keep them under control."

"What about the other Professors?"

She smirked. "Especially them."

Beneath the desk, Saitama heard the shuffling of papers.

"You're keeping those, aren't you?" Saitama said.

Glynda forced a stern look on her face. "The elevator is waiting on you, Lecturer." She whipped her crop and him and a telekinetic force began to drag him smoothly into the elevator. He just waved all the way until the doors closed.

Sitting down on Ozpin's chair, Glynda sighed and levitated a picture with Saitama flexing. With a crack of her crop a nearby slab of marble shattered. "Now how am I going to reconstruct you using marble?"

Cinder came through the door like a storm was on her heels.

"Cinder," Emerald said, "I was so worr—"

"Move off the bed."

Mercury didn't. "What?"

"Move off the bed. Now."

He did as she said.

With a brutal kick, she shattered the bed apart and threw herself on the ground where the bed once was. She was about to do something, but stopped and stood back up. From her pocket, she pulled out a folded piece of paper and ripped a nail from out of her finger.

"Cinder!" Emerald yelped at the act of self-abuse. "Why!"

Ignoring her lackey, Cinder unfolded the paper and leaped. She struck true and buried her nail into the middle of the paper, where the nail pierced through a smiling shirtless Saitama's forehead.

"Take that you Oum-damned, bald bastard," Cinder seethed, so openly vituperative that it was unlike her. Mercury never even heard her curse before. And seeing her eyes flare, he couldn't imagine what the bald professor did to deserve this.

Back on the ground, she immediately began to do crunches. "Bald bastard. Everyone knows that sit-ups are for the weak. Crunches build the right power."

"Cinder," Emerald said.

"What are you waiting for," Cinder didn't even look at her, "get down and do crunches with me, the both of you."

Mercury and Emerald shared an uncertain look.

"Now."

Lying down next to her they crunched alongside her, tentatively staying behind her in pace. "Faster. We go faster."

And so, they did.

"So, uh, Cinder," said Mercury, starting to feel a bit of a burn, "how long are we going to be doing this?"

Her eyes burned with intensity. "Until we get strong enough to do them forever."

Mercury's lip quivered. "Metaphorically right? Cinder? Cinder?"

He received no answer.

Snoring softly on the couch, Torchwick slumbered while his scroll rang loudly under his jacket. The terrible ringtone that violated ears with lyrics about how friendship was magic and something to do with ponies. A door flew off the hinges nearby and the angry slaps of slippers followed.

"Agh," Torchwick hissed as something kicked him hard in the shin. "Neo, what the hell?"

The diminutive ice-cream headed girl tapped her foot and pointed at Torchwick's ringing scroll.

"Hm," Torchwick looked the time. "It's past three. Why the hell is Cinder calling us."

Neo shrugged and collapsed on the couch with a tired huff.

Turning on the screen, only an empty room greeted them. Until Cinder's straining face suddenly came up out of nowhere causing Roman to jump in fright. "Oum's ever-present soul! Cinder, what are you doing?"

"Crunches," she said, breathlessly huff as she disappeared again. "Lot of them."

"Why?"

"Because that's how I'm going to beat him."

"Beat who?"

"The bald bastard that keeps getting in the way of our plans."

"With crunches," Roman said, not buying a word. "Cinder…maybe you should take a break. Y'know. Let me and Neo handle things. We'll knock over City Hall. Threaten the politician bozos. Take their money. Pretend we're Atlas with the rest of the Thralls coming our way for added conflict."

Cinder came back up. "Do what you will, Roman, but should they take you prisoner again, I will not come for you." She went down again and with an animalistic growl unbecoming of her she used her rage to pull herself back up. "Because you're a useless, weak little milksop who will never amount to anything!"

"What?" Torchwick wasn't used to being talked to that way. No one called him a milksop beyond his mom when she was hitting him with a bottle when he was a kid. Tears welled up in his eyes before Neo laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. "W—why'd you call me that? I—Cinder, are you okay?"

"Look at you, sleeping right now, not doing crunches," Cinder scoffed and went down. What happened to her? She was always more a smoldering fire. Now she was a raging one. "This is the way to true power! It's obvious. It's the way he trained before he was powerful. And it's the way I'm going to be the one to break the Kingdoms. You've always been the type to choose the easy way, so, you'll do what we planned—indeed, you will strike at City Hall as Atlas in disguise, and hit all the targets. I need the city in disarray before the next part of the plan can proceed. Tell me when you're do—"

"Cinder," gasped Mercury. "Emer-Emerald isn't—guhh." He dry-heaved. "She's not breathing."

Angrily grumbling, Cinder crunched away from where the scroll was toward a power line the wall. She punched through the weak concrete and pulled the wires loose without ever stopping her crunching. With a resounding cry, she slammed the wires into Emerald's chest and let the currents flow. "Wake up."

Coughing violently, Emerald breathed in oxygen that was in short supply in her blood as her heart pounded weakly after the five-hour long abuse session. "Cin-Cinder, please."

"Look at me," Cinder said, gasping Emerald's cheeks and pulling her in. Not once did she stop crunching. "Never stop. We're never stopping until we can never stop. Can't let him be better than us. Strong."

"Cinder," Emerald sobbed, "it hurts."

"That's just your brain being traitorous. It's an illusion."

"I can make illusions, Cinder," Emerald said. "This isn't an illusion."

"Don't reason with me, crunch!"

With an agonized cry, Emerald resumed her death march to limitless strength.

Cinder shuffled back over the scroll. "Anyway, do what I told you to. Hit City Hall. Bring disarray to Vale. And when that is done. You'll receive the next instructions. I expect both of you to be working hard in the meantime to compensate your lacking power."

Then she killed the session. Without any sort of goodbye.

What the hell, Neo motioned. Should we call child protective services? I mean, I don't like Merc or Em much and CPS is pretty useless but…that was pretty obviously wrong.

"Let it go, Neo," Torchwick sighed as dark memories came back to haunt him. "This is Remnant. Child Protective Services won't do shit for anyone here."

Meanwhile, at the White Fang encampment, the thralls followed in the Prime-mind's example and crutched away endlessly. Many tired bodies collapsed into unconsciousness from overwork while the others pressed even as their abs began making popping noises, tearing off the bones and tissue from overuse.

"What the hell are they doing now?" cried Adam as an unending chorus grunts and inappropriate noises of exertion stopped any of the Fang getting any sleep that night. "Get them to stop!"

"We're trying, Brother Taraus," said a Fang, desperately trying to hold his Thrall back from doing another crutch, but she did so anyway like his hands weren't even there.

"Baldy," muttered the Thrall.

"Baldy," repeated all the Thralls.

No one got any sleep that night.


Note: So…Cinder has gone down the path of the bald to combat the bald. As the old saying goes "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if start doing weird crap that makes another fella bald, it might just start removing your hair too." Time will tell if this works out for her.

Next time:

Cinder awakens…

Saitama attends his first political meeting proves that crime statistics are very punch-able

Genos accidentally starts a cult in his Master's name using Cardin's smut

Shifty individuals look around to get baldy

Jaune finds a new trainer

And Qrow tries desperately to hold on to his hate for Atlas and Ironwood in particular while the rest of Beacon realize new opportunities