Author's Note: I'mma baaaaack!
Brain: FREE! FREEDOM! FREEDOM FROM THE HOLIDAYS! FREEEEEEEEEEEEEE!
Yep, had spent quite a bit of time away from Word documents. Took my vacation like I said I would, enjoyed a week of Halo 5, took some more time off, and then my holiday schedule came in at full swing with me doing very little except working, eating, sleeping, and so on. Could barely touch a Word document even if I wanted to.
But my holiday schedule is now past and I'm finally able to post this thing that I've actually had in mind for quite a while and was slowly – very slowly – writing up during the past three months. I'll speak more later as, for now, let's get this thing started.
The image used for the cover of this fic is the property of mirzers over at deviantart. If you have the chance, go ahead and take a look at his deviantart page that hosts a number of other RWBY artwork as well as others that may not be RWBY but are impressively-drawn nonetheless.
It's naïve to think that a common enemy could lead to unification. Even when surrounded by monsters at all sides that threaten their existence, human and faunus kind had always found a way to turn on each other, even when it meant willingly forfeiting those tiny plots of territories to those same beasts. It was simply in their nature with the Grimm only curbing it.
So what happened when the Grimm were no longer a factor?
That was what occurred many, many years ago. Eventually, the races of Remnant were able to rise up with their ingenuity and tenacity, defeating the dark-spawned monstrosities and purging them from all across what was now their world.
There was relief. Elation at being able to rise with the morning sun and to look towards that horizon without any fear of what had once always laid beyond it.
Next was prosperity. The expansion of those meager territories as villages became cities, cities became kingdoms, and for the first time ever, kingdoms became whole nations. An entire world was finally theirs for the taking and they took all that they could. There was more than enough for everyone.
For a while.
Eventually, the desire for political, social, and territorial dominance that was ingrained in these foolish beings won out, conflict flowing in and out like the tide all across Remnant and leaving ruination in each wake. Those fickle bonds forged for the sake of survival were ripped part, the only enemy that they could focus on now being each other. The world which they had been denied and desired for so long suffered, there no longer being any iota of respect or care for something that they now saw as theirs, free to do whatever they wanted with it.
This line of thinking inevitably led mankind to strive to greater heights. To the very stars, to be precise. Mortals believing themselves worthy of some form of ascension, the rulers of the various nations and social elites rose up beyond the limitations of a simple world and sought to make a place for themselves in space. With a mix of new power sources and the modifying of old ones, the shattered moon that had always hung over them soon became theirs, the debris that had orbited Remnant becoming the building blocks for colonies that were made in hollowed-out chambers of rock and metal, big enough to create new cities. New nations.
The populations that were left behind, predictably, fell into anarchy. Only when it threatened these new colonies did the ruling castes unite and return to Remnant to reestablish order, regaining control over the nations that they had abandoned.
Peace was once again established, but everyone knew it wouldn't be for long. Preparations were already underway for a new war, with weapons that would be suited for the battles that would take place on Remnant and in space as these people sought to quench their thirst for control and dominance.
However, an alternative was proposed. Where once there had been a tournament of their greatest champions that honored peace and life, for this latest age there was to be a new one that would facilitate war in a more…"civilized" manner. And instead of a floating technological marvel that would act as a ring, it was decided by the ruling powers that they already had a perfectly good arena floating right in the middle of space.
So every four years, a tournament was held with warriors representing their nations being sent to Remnant. There, they would fight…and fight and fight and fight until there was only one left standing with the winner granting the control of all of Remnant and space to the nation they represented.
It's been sixty years since this practice began, and the sixteenth battle was about to commence beneath a rain of shooting stars.
From the colonies themselves to carrier ships, an object was sent from each to go hurtling towards Remnant. Dozens converged on the planet, breaching the atmosphere and continuing on to the surface. Their landings were marked with fire that blossomed across the globe, every single one striking at the center of a nation.
This included the original nations: Atlas, Vacuo, Mistral. Once tiny flickers of light that refused to be smothered out by the Grimm, it was those old kingdoms and their warriors of the time that managed to overcome their enemies and usher human and faunus alike into this current age. Yet even they had agreed to become players in this competition, and the meteors that impacted within their borders were to be their entries into it. As for the fourth original nation…
The object that had been meant for Vale had gone completely off course. Rather than making planetfall on the continent that was home to both Vale and Vacuo, it had veered towards another. A small, out of the way landmass.
It was called Menagerie.
It was night on that side of Remnant. A dark, cloudy night that contributed to the brilliance of the object's arrival. If any denizens within the city had been roused awake by the growing brightness that pierced through the cloud cover or happened to be traveling around late and had their gazes drawn up, they would've seen it when the clouds parted, making way for the object that descended from the sky, glowing hot from the atmospheric entry.
If any of those rare few were looking hard enough, they may've been able to catch the short-lived jets of fire at the front – retrorockets that activated and created opposing thrust, slowing it down.
It hit with great force nonetheless. Amid an abandoned, broken down portion of the city, it made its landing with kinetic energy that generated a massive pressure wave that expanded out from the impact site. What decrepit buildings that were in the immediate vicinity were obliterated while the ground quake that traveled throughout the city shook the rest to their very foundations.
One man saw it all. On a mansion that was raised high above the rest, it gave him the perfect view of the object. And despite the chaos that was created by the collision, he still managed to spot it: a brief glimpse of the silhouette of a titan before it was sealed. Like the closing of a flower, petal-shaped slabs of metal rose and came around the giant. When they locked together, hiding it from sight, the rubble that had adhered to them created another layer as well as an illusion that all that hit really was a meteor.
But he knew better. Grinning from ear-to-ear, he ominously declared, "That's the signal."
Detective Pyrrha Nikos had been brought wide awake as soon as she felt the earthquake and was already half-dressed when the call came in through her scroll five minutes later. After saying that she was already on her way, she buttoned up her coat, snagged her badge from atop her night stand, and retrieved her service pistol. The last was done as an afterthought as, even with nearing four years in the HPD, it still felt odd every time her hand closed around the pistol grip. She held no connection to it, not like her other weapons, and hardly ever thought of it as such. She jammed it in the holster at her back nonetheless, making sure that her shirt and coat covered it.
She had killed the habit of taking a longing glance at the closet over at the side but just as she was about to make her leave, she did so now. She knew the reason behind it of course. As soon as she awoke, she had immediately known what was going on. It was why, when she did stare at her closet, it wasn't with longing but with apprehension. She entertained an idea of retrieving them but, after standing there for half a minute with indecision, she eventually threw open the door to her apartment and walked out without another look back.
She was on the streets shortly after, driving towards the scene. There were others that had come outside, citizens of Harborage that had stepped out of their homes to see what was going on. No one was panicking, not yet, but Pyrrha predicted that that would change soon once the news was released and the evacuation order was made. She knew the drills - had actually modified and added to them during her time here.
It was both a blessing and a curse when her car hit the first set of bumps produced by the fractured roads of one of the previous battlegrounds of the city. No ordinary citizen ever wanted to venture out here, which meant the rest of the way was free of pedestrians. However, what began to plague her instead were memories…and the guilt that always went hand-in-hand with them when all she saw was the destroyed landscape.
She was relieved when she hit the outer perimeter, the flashing lights of patrol cars and the uniformed men and women that milled about getting her to focus on her job. She stopped right at the edge, getting out and flashing her badge but she was already being waved on through before she even pulled it out. The nods that transmitted the respect as she passed them got her to smile just a little despite the circumstances.
Her attention was drawn to another officer as they were coming right towards her. She stopped when they reached her. "Get a whiff of anything that we should worry about?" It didn't hurt to be cautious with even the remote chance of radiation.
The officer – faunus, female, with thin horns jutting sharply from either side of her hat – shook her head in reply. "Nothing that anyone on hand can detect – not in any harmful amounts anyway. It's clean."
It was one of the perks of working with faunus and at least half of the positions in the HPD was still taken up by them. When it came to detecting harmful chemicals or other emissions that would require special equipment, most of the personnel here could take a sniff and sound the alert once they arrived. All the way out in Menagerie, it was quite the boon.
There were humans – Pyrrha being the prime example – but she was one of the few who not only reached her current position but managed to accumulate the respect that her faunus comrades showed her. Even if the relationship between faunus and humans were vastly different from how they were centuries ago – improving even further when there came the separation between Remnant and the Space Colonies -, in a faunus-centric city like Harborage, there were hurdles that needed to be overcome.
Within her first year though, Pyrrha applied and succeeded in making it into the detective squad and for the three afterwards she used her skills and previous training to clean up not only the streets of Harborage but the HPD itself, many of its personnel – most, regrettably, human with some faunus – corrupt and under the employment of the prominent crime lords that had settled in the city. Since then, a lot of heads were rising high again with respect and the name Pyrrha Nikos was commonly uttered as the one that deserved the most thanks.
Of course, now we have this problem, and I may very well be powerless to stop it. Pyrrha was looking over the horned faunus's head, towards the object of interest. "Am I free to examine it?"
The faunus stepped to the side and waved her on with a flourish that Pyrrha thought to be unnecessary. "All yours, detective."
"Thank you." Pyrrha walked past her and a few short yards later she was standing in front of the meteor.
Well, meteor would be what would come to mind first when one saw a giant rock in the middle of the crater. Unfortunately, Pyrrha identified the rather obvious signs that pointed elsewhere. To start, there was the complete lack of destruction normally attributed to the impact of a meteor.
There was damage, the building that it landed on top of having been wiped out of existence with its neighbors having collapsed, but that was it. It didn't even take out the block. As for the crater itself, it could hardly be considered as such. The diameter wasn't that much bigger than the hunk of rock itself and Pyrrha predicted the depth of the center to be six feet deep, if that.
Pyrrha craned her neck, guessing it to be twelve meters high and one or two less wide. Very tame, she thought. Something this big, it should've definitely been a lot worse.
Despite the nighttime chill, Pyrrha couldn't even feel the barest of warmth radiating from the rock. Without any sign of fear, she lifted her hand, brought her palm less than a foot away from the surface, waited, and then had it lie flat against it.
It had taken her less than half an hour to get here, but she doubted a real meteor would've cooled off enough during then for her to touch it like this.
"Is that what I think it is!?"
Pyrrha sighed upon hearing the excited voice, letting her hand drop before she replied, "Yes it is, Jaune."
An instant later and a young blond man darted to her side, patted down one section of the meteor excitedly, and then he was suddenly at her other to repeat the process. Pyrrha spotted the mesmerized look that he sported before he disappeared from her view, the detective hearing him continue to physically as well as visually examine the object before he reappeared again, coming full circle around the meteor.
"You can touch it!" Jaune reported, still staring in awe at it.
Pyrrha had to hold back a snort, her tone light when she remarked, "Good thing."
It wasn't the first time she had been amused by what best could be described as Jaune's naivety, even in a situation like this, and it was actually part of the reason as to why she had decided to take him under her wing when he applied to the police department. After all the scum and crooked cops that she had helped put away, Jaune Arc joining their ranks was a breath of fresh air and a glimmer of what she hoped to be a brighter future for this little corner of Remnant.
"I mean…" Jaune waved his hands about, at a loss of what to say next before settling with, "It's cool! Uh, cool as in not hot but it's still cool in the cool sense, ya know? But in the temperature sense…" He patted the rock once more before confirming, "It's not even warm!"
Pyrrha remained quiet, waiting patiently as her partner continued, "Has to be some kind of cooling unit then, right? It lands, the collision heats and throws up a bunch of debris, and then when it cools it develops its own rock layer to cover it when the stuff fuses to it."
As much as she wished that he would sound a little less excited, she had to encourage the analysis. "A well-educated assumption. They're supposed to be able to handle anything but it seems like it hasn't stopped them from making further improvements."
"Then…this is it, right?" When Jaune regarded her, it was still with those wide, excited eyes that fit his sometimes too young face. "The sixteenth tournament's begun?"
Pyrrha shook her head. "Not yet. The fighters are being dropped in but until the first match begins, the tournament hasn't officially started."
Jaune frowned in consideration. "So, why did it land in this city? Our nation's fighter is already here and don't they usually get sent to their Remnant-based nations?"
"That's one of the more important questions." Pyrrha stared back up at the meteor. "Maybe our fighter and theirs have some kind of grudge. I've seen something like that before; two people who want to make sure whatever score they have is settled so one will come and land in their nation."
"What about if it just malfunctioned?"
"Doesn't look like anything malfunctioned to me. It landed fine, and did so within an abandoned location." Pyrrha shrugged. "Then again, that could've just been luck."
"You don't think they did it on purpose?"
"Article Seven states that Remnant is the ring." A hint of bitterness bled into Pyrrha's voice, both at what she said and just how easily it came to her. "Destruction of property on Remnant due to the tournament is not considered a crime." Including any loss of life along with it. "If there's two fighters with a grudge between them, they wouldn't let something like civilians get in the way."
"Well…what if this isn't a grudge match?" Jaune asked. "Maybe they have another reason for coming here."
"I can't think of any other." Pyrrha turned and began moving away from the meteor, shoving her hands into her coat's pockets while she did so. "Whatever this pilot's reason is for coming here though, it's created quite the mess and I don't mean this. I'm going to report our findings. In a few minutes, everything within five miles of here is going to be designated as a high-risk danger zone. We're going to be busy tonight, especially you and me."
"You and me?" It dawning on him that he was meant to follow, Jaune quickly caught up with her. "What are we going to be doing?"
She waved a hand back towards the meteor. "We're going to be looking for the owner of that thing. I'm sorry if this ruins any of your plans for tonight."
"Are you kidding? I'll take this over Return of the Grimm any day!"
The toll that Harborage had taken overtime was very obvious at night. In much grander years it would shine like any other city should during the night, joining the others to illuminate the entire planet in the light that had broken the grip of the Grimm.
It was with such an atrocious sense of irony that the ones who would cause that brightness to dim were the ones who brought it to begin with.
Too frequently was the urban sprawl broken by sections of ruin. Upright spires, sheltering the lives of today, while the fallen, shattered remains that were beside them spoke of the fatalities of the past. A daily reminder of a new cycle that had been firmly established in order to placate the need for conflict.
"It used to be beautiful," one spectator informed the other; two persons who viewed the city just beyond its limits. "Though most faunus had fought to prevent humanity's attempts to confine them to Menagerie, there was still a portion who wanted a safe haven away from the Grimm and the bigotry. They established a colony of their own, at the farthest point on the map away from the human kingdoms. Any faunus who wished for sanctuary were always allowed in with open arms."
"I'm guessing that's where the name 'Harborage' comes from," the other assumed.
"To harbor, to shelter, to protect. It never became as grand as any of the kingdoms but it and the faunus who made a living here were able to hold out against the Grimm for hundreds of years. When the cleansing started, Menagerie had been one of the last territories to be cleared of the Grimm. With them gone, the first all-faunus nation had been created: Bask."
The second bobbed her head, long, curly hair bouncing with the movement. "Poetic. Basking in the sun and the like, huh? And people say faunus don't have a sense of humor."
The too-cheery tone of her companion caused the golden-lit irises of the first to shift and narrow at her. Atop her head, one of the triangle-shaped ears twitched in mild agitation. "It was our greatest achievement. Between the cooperation of human and faunus in the cleansing and Basks's official recognition by the rest of the world, millennia of racial tension and prejudice had finally been put to rest with the majority of humans and faunus seeing each other as equals. When the Renewed Strife began, race had very little to do with the wars that occurred during then."
Perhaps having been aware that she had been touching close to a too-sensitive topic, the other woman didn't reply right away. Resuming her examination of the city, she paused at a sudden flicker; what she guessed to be an apartment complex, its floors darkening as the electricity went out. It hadn't been the first she had seen as there had at least been five others scattered around, their power fluctuating. Most managed to regain it but as she ticked down the seconds, there was no change.
"Menagerie actually got away relatively fine during the wars," the first went on. "It held little strategic value to the warring nations – not enough to warrant the resources that would've been needed to assault it. As it turned out, it made a very good safe haven for refugees, humans included. For how determined humanity was to relocate the faunus population to Menagerie, they desperately wanted in to avoid the bloodshed. The faunus allowed them in and sheltered them, Harborage being the center of the relief efforts and, thus, it gained a growing human population that increased as the years went on."
A frown came with her next words. "It also came with a building criminal presence among the refugees that hurt Harborage later on when the lawlessness broke out upon Bask's government ditching the planet along with the other nations and going to space. The Reunification War brought all Remnant-based nations back into the control of their space counterparts but the various crime rings survived and later flourished at the onset of the tournament."
She waved towards the destroyed portions of Harborage. "Being the capital of the nation on the smallest continent, Harborage got the worst of the fighting. During the sixty years, the city had been a battleground numerous times and suffered because of it. Each battle left more people without homes and many of them getting desperate and bitter enough to turn to crime. And now…" She sighed. "And now there's this."
While speaking the last, her hand been busy at her side, eventually finding and pulling out her scroll. After activating it, the light of the lit screen illuminated her pale features and black hair, better revealing the furred cat ears.
"Hei Xiong," she identified the picture when it popped up. "Other than a date of birth, very little is known about his previous life; record keeping's a bit spotty in a place like this. What is known is that he started off as a low-level enforcer, working on and off with the local crime bosses which I assume helped in his later reputation as an information broker. Acquired his own club that acted as a base of operations for all kinds of trafficking and prostitution – all alleged crimes, of course. Around three years ago though, his former employers started getting knocked off one by one through arrests, murder, and some just disappearing outright, never to be seen or heard from again. Once all was said and done, Hei Xiong essentially became the kingpin of all organized crime within Harborage, conveniently taking what holdings were left.
"And now he's Basks's chosen champion." She handed the scroll over to the other woman, the fading light lasting long enough to expose the severe frown. "A human criminal representing a faunus nation. How could they possibly let something like that happen?"
"Because he's strong," was the answer. Illuminated by the scroll, lilac eyes examined the screen, a finger tucking a curly strand of blonde hair behind an ear.
"That can't be the only reason. I'm sure there was plenty of bribery and blackmail to even be considered as a candidate. Bask's performance in the previous tournaments may not have been exceptional but to become this desperate to accept the likes of this scum?"
But the blonde didn't seem to be paying attention, index finger sliding along the screen and reading the text provided. When she spoke again, it was with a question. "You think he still keeps eyes and ears out for anything that goes on around here?"
The cat-eared woman paused and, though she had seen this coming, released another sigh. "Yang…"
"It was over six months ago, before he would've even been chosen for the tournament." Yang ceased her finger motions, not quite staring at the scroll. "We have no recent sightings to go on, but one of the most likely coordinates calculated would've put Menagerie as an area that she could've gone to. You said it yourself: it's a perfect refuge for anyone who wanted to get away."
"Is that why you had your pod land here?" She had figured out Yang's true intentions almost as soon as her partner declared there being a 'malfunction' that made her lose her link to her carrier pod and forcing them to separate and follow it down into Menagerie. "We're supposed to be in Vale right now, in a hangar undergoing final preparations and planning out on who we should challenge first. Straying so far from the plan, in enemy territory with no nearby support no less, is putting us at a distinct disadvantage for the tournament. You were lucky enough that they actually gave you the chance to compete. If they find out that you had done this on purpose, they may very well replace you for endangering any chance of winning the tournament."
"As if they would find anyone better," was Yang's sharp rebuke. Her finger stabbed into the scroll, shutting it off before tossing it roughly back to its owner. "They need me more than I need them. I don't give a damn about this tournament, nonetheless winning it. I'm in this for one reason and this just happens to be the best way for me to get it. If they don't like it, I'm completely fine with doing it on my own, without their support. No one knows this better than you, Blake."
No, I suppose not, Blake quietly conceded, putting the scroll away. To Yang, the complete control of all Remnant and space-based nations was nothing to her own search – her own goal. Vale's ruling council had negotiated for her to represent them. In exchange for fighting for them, they would give her all the support and freedoms that came with being their champion.
Blake had also been involved in those negotiations as one of Yang's conditions. If Yang was going to fight for Vale, she had wanted to do so with her closest friend as her partner.
The feeling was mutual. Not only was it for their friendship, but there was a debt that Blake had to the Xiao Long family that she believed she could never repay. She would devote all her skills and knowledge to make sure that Yang achieved what she desired.
This included supporting her, no matter what. Even if Yang's quest ended up turning everyone against her, Blake would always stand by her. Then again, not like we aren't up against the rest of the world already.
So, after giving Harborage another look, Blake began thinking of how to get Yang what she wanted out of this latest mess. "Alright. With your pod now the latest tourist attraction and us already being here, I guess we may as well go ahead and do this."
"That's the spirit!" Yang cheered, smacking her fists eagerly in anticipation. "Here's my idea-"
"And here's mine," Blake interrupted. "I'm going to go into the city and investigate where Hei Xiong is located, and when I meet with you again we'll come up with a plan of action."
Yang dropped her fists, Blake's exceptional eyesight letting her see how the human's expression fell. "Wait, so what am I doing?"
"Exactly what I was implying: you're going to wait until I contact you again once I have a definite location on him. Everyone's going to be looking for you right now, Yang, and this being a mostly faunus city, I'll attract less attention. Not only because I'm a faunus but because I'll be a lot more subtle than whatever you're planning."
"We don't have time for subtle," Yang grumbled.
"Take the time to orientate yourself. Even with the improvements in artificial gravity, it's not perfect and we spent a good portion of our trip in zero-g." Blake stood on her toes before dropping and rolling onto her heels, testing her own weight. "I'm still feeling the effects of being in natural gravity."
Proving her previous point, Yang was a bit showier, making small jumps with some fast practice punches thrown into the mix. "Nothing that a rousing round of persuasive questioning can't fix."
Blake digested and translated 'persuasive questioning' in short order. She suddenly crossed the distance between the two of them, hand moving lightning fast and darting into Yang's jacket.
"Hey!" Yang cried, too late to stop or to grab Blake's hand when it pulled out.
"I'm taking these," she declared, the jingling of keys sounding from within her closed palm before shoving her spoils into a pocket. She took a step back for good measure when Yang tensed, not sure if the blonde was actually going to try and retrieve them.
Though her stare was angry, Yang didn't try and get them back. Instead, she just crossed her arms and tilted her head to the city. "So what? I can still walk there."
"Yang, I'm choosing to go along with this and help you despite the risks and my own reservations concerning your recklessness. In return, I want you to do one simple thing: wait for me. This'll be a lot easier if we do this my way."
Yang just stood there, still glowering at her.
"Now I want you to swear that you will not do anything until I contact you again." When she continued to stand there, Blake stressed, "Yang."
"Alright, alright." Yang dropped one arm but held the other up. "I swear that I won't do anything until you call me again."
Blake stuck Yang with a narrow-eyed look, not appearing to take any relief in it. But when all Yang did was stand there with her hand up and looking at Blake expectantly, the faunus finally spun around to take her leave. "I promise to not be long."
Yang didn't reply, watching Blake walk off and then listening when she disappeared. Soon, the roar of an engine cut through the night and a sleek motorcycle took off from where it had been parked, heading right into Harborage. She waited until it disappeared into the city and finally dropped her hand.
Then she pulled out the other that she had kept behind her back with fingers crossed and a grin spread across her face. "Oooops."
Miltiades Malachite knew that she was breaking her self-imposed limit but she tapped the bar counter anyway, silently demanding another drink from the bartender. Kesten had her usual fixed up and sliding across the smooth granite of the bartop and Militia delicately took the glass between her fingertips before taking a sip. A poignant taste; semi-sweet but with a sour kick that better masked the not particularly strong alcohol.
The temptation was there for something a bit more but she was already risking enough with this additional glass. She didn't take a second sip immediately after the first, instead languidly swirling the liquid contents and floating ice cubes around before surveying the interior of the club.
It was by no means exceptional, but within Harborage there were very few places that would be any better. At the very least, it was one that had reliable power unlike some other sections of the city and was able to easily support the holographic displays along the edge of the club and the lights above, flashing at a steady tempo that was meant to calm rather than excite patrons. Other than taking a seat at the bar, there were various booths along the walls of the club and seats that lined the short platforms, atop of which were scantily-clad dancers for the viewing pleasure unless there were those who wished for more and were able to afford it.
It was a bit of a dive, one that took advantage of the miseries that afflicted a portion of the populace. The club was a means of shelter for those to escape the deteriorating conditions of Bask's once grand capital, supplying all the temptations that could lead visitors to a blissful night of vices.
Off in one corner of the bar was a hanging holo screen. The volume was too low and the music was too loud but Militia recognized the news room of the HNC. Accompanying the lip movements of the suited anchor – seeming more relaxed by leaning back against his puffy squirrel tail than his chair -, an image of a police cordon somewhere within the city and at the bottom of a screen came the floating words of High-Risk Zone Declared.
Miltia was certain that the announcement of a "meteor" and what it entailed was responsible for the sudden rush that had people looking to spend what could be their last night before the inevitable chaos hit in pleasure while others worried about evacuating. It had been four years since the last tournament but the kind of damage that could be wrought wasn't something that could be easily forgotten during that time.
The sudden increase in traffic was only part of the reason why Miltia craved an extra drink. The other was another announcement that was made, this one from her employer.
There was another nation's fighter lurking somewhere in Harborage. A direct threat to Junior and one that he wanted them to find and bring to him – alive. Considering that this club had once been Junior's main base of operations, it was believed that whoever the pilot was, they would likely come here if they were looking for Junior and knew anything of his previous career.
She had already informed the bouncers and other employees. Anyone that wasn't of their normal clientele – faces that they didn't recognize or any sign that would label them as a foreigner or just plain wrong – were to be watched and she was to be alerted to them immediately.
Her and Melanie that is, and Miltia felt a flash of annoyance at her sister. She was currently in the back, entertaining a guest in one of their private rooms. Though they had come far in this business, having gone up from another pair of dancers enticing others with their bodies to Junior's lieutenants, they were still vulnerable to the carnal desires that they hadn't left behind when they got their promotions. If a client could match their price, it was a very difficult lure to ignore.
Or if they matched their tastes and Militia shuddered a little when she thought of who Melanie brought back with her. Their individual preferences could differ widely and that went double for faunus. For Miltia, a reptilian faunus was downright grotesque. In contrast, Melanie got a secret thrill at being at the receiving end of such a predatory stare that was enhanced by slitted pupils and the scales that could sprout on their skin and what she could touch during a session of intense copulation was, as she once described to Miltia, "Stimulating".
Miltia banished the unwanted images from her mind with the help of another sour-filled spike from her drink. She needed to focus on work, and not that kind of work.
Taking her drink with her, she made a slow round of the club, passing by the stationed bouncers, giving and receiving nods to show that they were alert and that nothing had registered as out of the ordinary yet. Her gaze swept along their current customers and she had to hide a sneer at the unashamed ogling of supple bodies while others were slumped in a drunken stupor with glazed looks.
Such dirty and desperate folk, and some of the resentment she felt was directed at herself for having once been one of them. Her and Melanie, they had been no different. Scraping by with what scraps they could find, and when that proved to not be enough, they convinced themselves to sell the last of their dignity to stave off starvation and get some kind of roof over their heads. Able to see for herself as to what they had once been, Miltia realized that that had been a mistake. But what had they known?
Nothing until Junior came into the picture, approaching the sisters and presenting an offer to regain some self-respect. The price: help him take their boss out of the picture. That had been during the aggressive police crackdown on the various crime lords and Junior had added to the efforts by pitting them against each other while quietly dispatching those that the HPD had been too slow to deal with. Once the last of the competition had been swept aside, it was Junior who became the new top dog with his sides occupied by the two of them.
Miltia had no intention of losing this position, having earned it when she personally tore out the throat of her previous employer. All it had taken was a moment of weakness which she had exploited, so there was no way she was going to fall to the same vulnerabilities.
So when she saw that golden mane of blonde hair, she was immediately suspicious. That and the new arrival's confident strut that had tantalizing hips swaying, broken with a pause that had her curvaceous form angling around for her to get a better view of every corner of the club. Despite the dim and flickering lights, the latest arrival stood out like a beacon, so at odds with the degenerates that were residing here.
Miltia followed the woman's progress as she moved from the entrance and ventured further into the club, keeping at what she thought to be a discreet distance and making sure there was plenty of the environment kept between them. When she passed the nearest bouncer, she tapped them once and covertly pointed to her target, wanting the word to spread that she wanted eyes on this individual.
The woman was triggering all kinds of warnings that told Miltia that she didn't belong. Taking what looks that she could when the opportunities presented themselves, Miltia was sure that the blonde was human as she couldn't spot any obvious animal traits like ears or a tail. Even if she did, she wouldn't be able to hide them very well with her attire. The brown leather jacket was the most extensive of her clothing and even then it was only partially zipped, doing a poor job of hiding the short yellow top that gave a view of her midriff and cleavage.
She was attracting stares, actually diverting them from the dancers when she happened to cross in front of a couple patrons. Miltia saw her take note and, quite daringly, grin and offer up a wink to her sudden admirers.
No, she wasn't a typical citizen of Harborage – not one that would come to a place like this. All confident and self-assured, with a spirit that hadn't been worn down from the low-caste life of a far-flung land by even Remnant's standards. She did not belong.
Yet she was taking a seat at the bar, signaling for service and Miltia was advancing close enough to hear her order.
"Strawberry Sunrise. No ice. Oh, and one of those little umbrellas!"
Miltia wrinkled her nose a bit, somehow finding it in her to judge the woman's tastes. Kesten played it off as just another order from another customer but when he turned to fulfill it, he briefly caught Miltia's eye and she could read that he found something wrong with her too.
She didn't act on her suspicions though as, right now, that was just what they were. Choosing to maintain her observations instead, Miltia casually took a spot at the end of the bar, leaning against her elbows while nursing her glass.
The blonde had spun around in her chair so that she was leaning back against the counter. In that position combined with her location, Miltia got a full view of those long legs when they became crossed, the criminally pair of short shorts that covered only what was necessary leaving a tract of smooth skin that the half-skirt of cloth and leather did a poor job of concealing. A booted foot bounced in time with the current beat of the music, the woman entirely at ease in the environment.
An eye of startling bright purple slid over to catch Miltia in its view but she didn't make any reaction, having expected the woman to notice her at some point. Remaining expressionless, she restricted herself to calmly halving what little remained of her beverage. As for the stranger, she swore she saw her easy smile curve just a bit higher before she readdressed the rest of the club, adding an extra lean that drew Miltia's gaze to what she saw to be a very ample chest.
Kesten returned with her order and the blonde swiveled back around when it hit the counter, producing a Lien chip from an inside pocket of her jacket. When he tried to take it though, she didn't let go, leaving them both pinching an end of the chip.
"While you're here," she began, Miltia straining to hear her, "I wanted to ask if you've perhaps seen someone that I'm looking for."
A surge of alarm raced through Miltia at what could be the biggest red flag. Fishing through her jacket again, the blonde pulled out what appeared to be a very old-fashioned photograph. Miltia couldn't see what the picture was but she could make out the jagged edge of where it had been torn.
"Does this woman ring any bells?"
Kesten, who Miltia had to admit was a master at concealing what emotions he may have had, squinted at the picture for a few seconds before shaking his head. "Never seen her before."
The blonde didn't put away the picture or let go of the Lien. "It would've been around six months ago."
He shook his head again. "Can't help you."
"I see." Visibly disappointed, she put the photograph back in her jacket and finally let go of the chip, trading it for her drink.
While she downed a good measure of it, Kesten turned away, briefly meeting Miltia's questioning look before he subtly shook his head in negative.
Miltia figured as much once she learned that the person being sought after was a woman. Such instances weren't uncommon; wanderers coming to Menagerie, searching for long-lost friends, relatives, or even enemies that may've ended up here for whatever reason. That could explain the presence of who Miltia was confident was an outsider but…it never hurt to be too careful.
And like Melanie, Miltia had her own tastes with long-legged, busty blondes happening to be one of them. It would be a good cover to do a more thorough investigation of this individual and if Miltia decided that this woman really wasn't who she was looking for…it was going to be Melanie's turn to be on watch by herself when she was done. Downing what was left in her drink, Miltia used the opening to sidle down the bar until she had a spot practically right next to the blonde, playing off the action as coincidental by shaking the ice within her now empty glass, demanding a refill.
"Sounds like no one is having any good luck tonight," she said, taking the initiative.
"I haven't had any good luck in a long time," her now target for the night stated. Although she maintained the existence of a grin, it wasn't like as it was before, now burdened with discernible dourness
Miltia feigned sympathy. "How sad." She motioned to where the photo had disappeared to. "So what's the story? Friend? Lover?"
She risked the chance of offending her target but, to her delight, the blonde chuckled quietly while a thumb played with the umbrella that stuck out from her glass. "Bit of a too personal subject to share amongst strangers, don't you think?"
"I'm willing to fix that if you are." Miltia offered her hand, clothed in an elbow-length glove of red to match her strapless dress, adorned with fur and feather accessories to establish a more exotic appearance in a bid to contend with the faunus employees. "Miltiades Malachite, but you can call me Miltia for short."
"I think I will; Miltiades Malachite isn't that easy to roll off the tongue." A bit more of that carefree life making a resurgence, the woman took Miltia's hand in her own. "Not that mine is much better. Yang Xiao Long – or just Yang."
"A pleasure." Something which Miltia meant, the strength in Yang's grip coaxing her to move from inspecting the fingerless glove and bracelet to the defined muscle and sinew of her arm. Oh, she was going to enjoy this one. When they released each other, she boldly asked, "Since you seem to be without company tonight, maybe I can serve as a temporary companion for your night?"
That got both of Yang's brows to rise but she did not broadcast disgust. Instead, with a grin that bordered on coy, Yang rotated in her seat and pointed with her glass to the other dancers. "I dunno. Was thinking maybe I should check out the other selections before I settled on a choice."
Playing a little hard to get. Miltia was really starting to like her. "I could generate a listing, but I feel that I should mention that this," she trailed a slow hand down the length of her body, "will not be on it."
That seemed to get her interested. "Aha." With a shift and a lean, the distance between the two of them decreased significantly, those purple eyes twinkling so seductively close. "Sounds like I'm being offered something quite exclusive."
Miltia became aware of how a mere glance could give her a view of that cleavage. Suddenly she was taking back her previous judgment of Yang's drink choices, the fruitiness of the Strawberry Sunrise mixing well with the absolutely clean scent of the blonde. "You have no idea."
"Well, I may have to disagree." Yang leaned back. "'Cause I'm thinking that you have a lot of pull around here. Meaning that you could point me in the right direction to Hei Xiong."
There was no better way to ruin the seductive air so thoroughly than when Yang spoke the name, Miltia actually needing several seconds to catch on to what had just been said.
No one used Junior's real name.
Her refill had already been set down on the counter but it was only now that Miltia was reaching for it. Keeping her tone cool, she questioned, "And what business would you like from him?"
"Well, I was hoping that he could give me some information about who I'm looking for." Yang raised her drink, paused with the edge right at her lips, and, as an afterthought, added, "Oh, and to kick his ass, I guess, what with him being Bask's champion."
Miltia couldn't help it, actually gaping at how casually Yang had declared her intentions. By the time Yang was tilting her head back to down her drink, Miltia's hand had resumed its path past her glass and underneath the edge of the bar counter, fingers wrapping around a hidden weapon. And without a second to lose, she was slashing at the blonde's face with her steel claws.
Yang jerked her head back, dropping her glass in the process as the three sharp tips barely missed scratching her nose. Miltia had already reclaimed her other set of claws and was about to perform another swipe before Yang not only straightened but leaned forward to spit a mouthful of her Sunrise right in her face.
Miltia cried out when it got in her eyes, instinctively stepping back and bringing her hands to her face. The stinging became the least of her concerns when the flat of a palm struck against the bottom of her chin, lifting her up, and setting her up for a blow aimed at her solar plexus. It flung her back, Miltia knocking into and toppling over a couple bar stools before she hit the floor, the wind knocked out of her.
Blinded and finding it difficult to catch her breath, the array of sounds that assaulted her ears next didn't help. She heard a shout, a couple gunshots, and that was all it took for all hell to break loose as there came screams and stampeding feet of dozens of the club's patrons fleeing in a panic.
She could still make out the sounds of fighting and she desperately wiped at her eyes to clear her vision. When she looked up, all she saw were blurry figures that then gave shape to Kesten's arm being twisted in Yang's grip, a pistol having fallen at her feet, and she drove the bartender's face into his counter. As he dropped and disappeared from sight, one of the bouncers arrived to come up behind Yang, stabbing for the spot between her shoulder blades with a metal rod with an electrified tip.
With not even a glance back, Yang sidestepped, the stunner thrusting right past her. Her arm came down and locked the bouncer's in place at her side and an elbow with the other arm struck him in the face. It got his grip on the stunner to weaken and Yang pulled it out, flipped it around, and drove the business end right into his chest.
A second bouncer was arriving, armed with another stunner. Much like before, Yang didn't need to see him coming. After dropping the relinquished stunner which fell next to the twitching, jerking body of her first foe, she dropped down and a took his feet out with a leg sweep. The bouncer managed to catch himself on one hand, losing his stunner in the process, and when he tried to push himself up, his reward was an onslaught of fast, speedy punches that assailed him. Somewhere in the middle, the weak cartilage of a nose was broken and blood was flung about.
Militia managed to regain enough of her breath and used it for one loud call. "MELANIE!"
Two more bouncers would fall as easily as the ones before with Miltia unable to do anything but watch as she struggled back to her feet. During then, she noticed something that she admitted to frightening her.
Yang was smiling. At the center of the discord, with more men breaking free of the fleeing customers to confront her, she orientated towards each and every one with a big smile before an overwhelming barrage of attacks felled her next opponent. Not once did it falter.
Not until a door towards the back leading to their private rooms was knocked off its hinges and came down with a crash. It was because there was a break in her supply of adversaries that Yang turned to the noise, seeing for herself a half-naked woman in white lowering her foot, light glinting off the surface of a wicked blade that extended from the heel of a boot.
Miltia saw Yang pause, her expression turning curious as she examined the new arrival and then glanced down at her. She did it twice, taking in the features of the two women. Miltia had short hair while the other had long, and though their faces were done up with makeup made in their respective colors, it appeared to dawn on her that they possessed the same vibrant green eyes and facial features.
"Twins." Yang's grin returned with extra strength. "Nice."
As soon as the dispatch came in, Pyrrha spun the wheel right around, nearing clipping another car with her violent u-turn. It got a girlish scream out of Jaune in the process who immediately slapped his hands over his mouth and glanced at Pyrrha with the obvious desperation that she hadn't heard him. In all likelihood, she probably hadn't.
I knew it. The three words repeated over and over again like a mantra, accompanied with a swift mental kick to herself with each repetition.
Junior's old club had been a place that she had marked as one of the more likely ones to be visited by her suspect. As much as she wanted to patrol that and her other top potential targets exclusively, she couldn't ignore some of the problems that came with the city once the evacuation was announced. Calls of looters, traffic collisions, and other crimes that were typical in situations like this had been coming in at a steady pace and Pyrrha couldn't ignore them all – conscience overriding logic. Things could get a lot worse if she didn't find her suspect and send them packing but she just couldn't ignore calls for help in the face of a larger threat. Even after being proven right, she couldn't find it in her to hate having given in to those distractions.
She felt less guilty of not abiding by the traffic laws though and she probably killed a good five minutes off from her estimated time of arrival by doing so. The club came into view and she could see a few curious civilians present but keeping back. A couple had to jump in fright when Pyrrha's car came screeching to a halt.
Jaune groaned and rested his forehead against the dashboard. "I think I'm going to be sick."
Pyrrha nudged Jaune hard against his shoulder before she unbuckled her seatbelt and flung the door open. "Keep people away from the club and wait for backup."
Jaune was half a stumble out before something seemed to occur to him, head whipping towards Pyrrha. "Wait, where are you going?"
Pyrrha didn't bother answering, instead focusing on a nearby cat faunus that was standing off to the side. "HPD, get back!" Leaving Jaune behind, the detective ran up towards the entrance, nearly knocking over a man who was tripping over his own feet while trying to leave, a hand over his nose with blood leaking between his fingers.
Belatedly, Pyrrha realized she was forgetting something once she passed through the threshold but when she went to reach for her pistol, she stopped when she had to duck beneath a body that flew over her head and hit the wall behind her. She took a moment to examine who it was and recognized them instantly. Miltia Malachite.
Pyrrha had gotten acquainted with both of Junior's lieutenants and the red twin was currently slumped where she had fallen, knocked out. Her signature weapons were nearby but the blades of one of her claws had broken into pieces.
Where there was one sister, the other was almost always nearby and this ended up being the case when Pyrrha took in her surroundings. Miltia hadn't been the only casualty; there were bodies of what had to be the bouncers strewn about along with knocked over or outright broken furniture. One faunus bouncer tried to get back up, only to fall to the floor when he got a quarter of the way up. Above him, a hologram fought just as valiantly to remain active, stuttering due to its damaged projector.
A short distance over and there was Melanie, one leg up with the blade at her heel slashing at the air in front of a blonde woman, the razor edge just missing those golden strands as she gave Melanie ground. The white twin pursued, raising and dropping her feet and their armaments while twirling like a ballerina, trying to psyche out her opponent before she eventually struck with another series of slashes that the woman further retreated from.
That was until she suddenly advanced, ducking under a high kick and elbowing Melanie hard in her abdomen. The sudden attack stunned her, leaving her open to the woman's own kick that took her across the face and downed her.
Unaware of Pyrrha's presence, the woman gazed down at Melanie, slowly circling around her and the detective swore she saw an amused smile on her face. Melanie appeared unconscious until one of her feet shot up, attempting a last ditch attack that was halted when the woman casually caught her ankle. She cocked her fist for a finishing blow.
"Enough!" Pyrrha charged forward, forgetting her pistol in favor of curling the hand that had been reaching for it into a fist and striking at the woman.
The blonde jerked her gaze to Pyrrha, the detective catching her look of surprise before her knuckles hit right in the center of it. The blow sent her staggering, letting go of Melanie in the process who Pyrrha stepped over in order to follow her first attack with another.
The blonde recovered fast. Much faster than Pyrrha expected. The second punch she threw missed when the woman's head slid to the side and Pyrrha suddenly found her wrist being grabbed and pulled on, drawing her in to be kneed in the stomach. Air came out from her lungs in a rush, Pyrrha folding over the knee before it was removed so that she could slam into the floor when there was what felt like a hammer striking her in the back.
The detective coughed where she lay, finding herself in a similar position to Melanie when she caught the booted pair of feet circling around her. Against her body's complaints, she pushed up on her elbows, slowly getting up. I overcommitted. Stupid, amateur mistake.
"You're tougher than the other ones," came a voice above her when she got to her knees. "You don't look like them but, hey, you chose this fight."
The easygoing attitude and her self-criticism created a mix of anger and shame that gave her strength, her teeth gritting together as she rose. The blonde let her, watching her with that amused smile. Pyrrha's shoulders slipped from beneath her coat and she threw it to the side before getting in a fighting stance, bringing her arms up and spreading her feet.
That got the woman's brows to climb up but the smile remained. Soon, she dipped into her own fighting stance to match her. Pyrrha let her go first and without warning the blonde lunged at her.
She's quick! The space between them disappeared in an instant and Pyrrha was almost too slow in blocking a sudden series of punches that beat against her defenses. Shifting her body and lifting or lowering her arms to shield her against them, Pyrrha grunted at each powerful hit that she took, amazed at the strength behind them.
A break came in between the assault and one that Pyrrha took advantage with a quick jab to that smirking face, briefly erasing it, and then she was ducking under a return swing. She attempted to maneuver around behind the woman but as soon as she did she was leaning back when her opponent turned her missed punch into a backwards strike, nearly catching Pyrrha if she hadn't turned her lean into a retreating handspring.
The blonde was quick to follow. Pyrrha hopped back as soon as she straightened, slapping aside a kick from her right foot with the blonde only switching to another kick with her left. Pyrrha instinctively guarded high and too late did she realize the feint when the foot stopped and then dropped low, hitting her in the knee and getting it to buckle beneath her. She turned her fall into a roll, barely avoiding another punch.
From what she had seen and what she was experiencing firsthand, it was clear that she was up against someone who specialized in hand-to-hand. She may be able to hold her own for a short while but if she wanted to win, she needed a weapon.
Pyrrha's roll brought her within arm's reach of a fallen bar stool. Reacting more than thinking, she grabbed it by two of its wooden legs and swung it towards the blonde.
She had been in mid-charge when the stool came for her and rather than avoid it she held up her arm. The stool impacted and splintered into several pieces against her forearm, the blonde not so much as flinching. The legs in Pyrrha's hands snapped off. She tossed one away – too short – but the other...
The length suited her needs and her Aura flooded out, encasing it quick enough for her to use against the blonde's next onslaught. Pyrrha sidestepped away from one punch and when the blonde launched her next, she used the stool leg to knock it aside and then whip it back around, catching the woman across her cheek with her improvised weapon and getting her to stumble. Pyrrha advanced and then stabbed one end solidly against her chest.
She wasn't smiling anymore, now wide-eyed and wheezing from the blow that forced her back, palm against where she had been struck. Pyrrha remained where she was, holding the wooden leg as if it were a sword with the tip pointed ahead. Despite herself, she experienced a burst of pride and she could feel the tips of her lips curve up because of it. Her heart pounded with the adrenaline and even if it was a piece of furniture, there was just something about how she held it and herself that felt so right.
She was rusty but she hadn't forgotten how to fight. What she did forget was what it was like to be in one and she felt a genuine sense of exhilarating nostalgia. With it was a longing for the old days when she had fought and dominated against opponents just like this young woman.
There was a tingling at the back of her right hand, the one that currently gripped her weapon, and it was upon feeling it that Pyrrha swiftly killed her recollection along with her smile. That wasn't her anymore – not that silly girl.
The woman in front of her wasn't an adversary either. She was a criminal in her city and Pyrrha wanted to stop her, not beat her. So she regarded her coldly when she finally recuperated and when she resumed smiling at Pyrrha, the detective let nothing but disdain show.
"You've got skills," the blonde admitted and lifted her fists back up. "Looks like I'm going to be having a bit more fun."
"This isn't a game," was Pyrrha's cold response. She brought up her empty hand, holding it out towards the blonde's direction, and then her fingers closed together before she yanked back hard.
"What are you do-?" The woman was interrupted when one of the metal poles for the dancers was wrenched free of the stage and collided into her from behind to knock her forward.
Right into Pyrrha. Gripping the leg in both hands, she stepped forward and put all her strength behind her attack that had the wood slamming so hard against her opponent's back that, even with her Aura, it broke in half. The woman dropped to her knees, stunned, and after tossing aside her now useless weapon, Pyrrha grabbed her by the arm which she twisted around over her shoulder and, with a shout of exertion, she threw the blonde towards the bar.
She went end-over-end above the counter, her flight ending when she hit the shelf of drinks. Her pained grunt was drowned out by the sound of over a dozen bottles and glasses falling from broken shelving and shattering on the floor. She soon joined them, disappearing behind the bar counter.
Pyrrha waited with her body slightly bent from the throw. When the seconds passed and she didn't reappear, the detective started moving to the bar, her noise wrinkling when she detected the overpowering scent of alcohol that was now exuding over there. She made a brief stop at her discarded coat to grab a pair of handcuffs and was just about to reach the counter with them in hand when she froze.
Glass shards dropping from her shoulders, hair and clothes wet and dripping, the blonde stood up ominously from behind the counter. Steam curled from her form, Pyrrha realizing that it and the hissing she heard was the liquid evaporating. Yet the sight didn't turn demonic until the woman lifted her chin, exposing an infernal pair of glowing red eyes.
"I guess this means the warm-up's over." The sinister glee in her voice matched what was in her grin. She tilted her head to the left, then the right, a pop issuing with each motion. "Fine by me."
Pyrrha was rendered still and speechless in the face of that red gaze…but not for long. Letting the handcuffs fall free, she reestablished her fighting stance, meeting those eyes with a determined stare. Her heart renewed its pounding and the extra clenching of her fists was influenced by the tingling sensation of her right hand. She tensed when the red-eyed woman crouched, appearing about to vault over the bar to reengage.
They both spun their heads around and saw the small grouping of uniformed cops at the front of the club, all of them with weapons drawn and pointed at the woman. A moment later and Jaune came pushing through, immediately looking worriedly to Pyrrha. "Pyrr- Detective Nikos. Are you okay?"
"Wait a minute." At the sight of the cops, all fight vanished from the blonde, her red eyes gone and replaced with surprised purple. They switched to Pyrrha. "Detective!?"
"How was I supposed to know!?" Yang shouted, her legs kicking beneath the table of the interrogation room in frustration. Her hands were currently cuffed together behind the chair she had been restrained to. "You just ran in there and hit me! Aren't cops required to identify themselves first, then start punching!?"
"Uh, ma'am?" Nearby but keeping a safe distance from the raging suspect, Jaune tentatively asked, "Could you please calm down?"
"How can I calm down!? This is bullshit! And stop calling me ma'am! I've only got to be a year older than you at most!"
"Exactly my point so stop calling me that! Makes me feel old like your friend over there who won't stop touching my stuff!"
Pyrrha tuned her out, busy going over the possessions that had been relieved from her suspect once they brought her in. Her jacket had been removed and was currently laid out at the end of the table along with everything that they managed to pull out from the pockets. Turned out it wasn't much; just some Lien and an old photograph. No passport or any kind of ID. The only reason they got the name Yang Xiao Long to pin to her was when she told them voluntarily while being cuffed.
If that's her real name. Pyrrha moved on to the only other items of interest to her: the pair of golden bracelets that Yang had been wearing. Appearance-wise, they could look like any other pieces of jewelry but the thickness and some of the other features of it was wrong to her. She hadn't been wearing any other kind of jewelry and even before she got a good look at them Pyrrha felt something wrong with how they stood out on her wrists.
The detective picked up one of them, getting a feel of the weight. Heavier than it looked and when her fingers rubbed against the gold, she didn't get the sense of it being delicate like typical jewelry. More like a hardened plate of armor and she took particular interest at how the top flared out a bit further back, black lines cutting through the gold. Imagining it on her wrist, the resemblance to armor really stood out.
On a hunch, Pyrrha stretched out with her Aura, enfolding the bracelet. As she tried to penetrate into its inner workings, she uncovered exactly what she suspected. Beneath its simple exterior was actually a very intricate construction; metal folded and compacted tightly together and somewhere in between them she caught a fiery sensation that came to life as soon as her Aura touched on it. It reminded her of when she had stared into Yang's red eyes but Pyrrha knew the source for this one.
There was Burn Dust loaded in this bracelet which Pyrrha could confirm was a product of the age-old practice of folding frame technology. Such a thing had retained its popularity amongst warriors even to this day as personalized weapons. Hand-crafted, perhaps by Yang herself, and without a proper understanding of the bracelet's true form and how it folded out and in, Pyrrha couldn't activate it herself. After a half-hearted attempt at trying anyway with the folded metal resisting, Pyrrha settled with keeping it in her grip while she picked up the photograph.
In an age of holographs where digital images to short, seconds-long scenes could be recorded and repeat in front of the eyes of any who viewed them, the still picture on this slip of paper felt downright ancient and it looked the part. The image was faded and a piece of it had been torn off. Pyrrha brought it close and her eyes squinted as she tried to make out the face of the person in the center of it. A woman, but it appeared that it was meant to be a group or family photo as Pyrrha saw the signs of other people being around her – an arm, a leg, or a whole half a body – before the great tear that cut through it blocked them out.
"You recognize her, detective?"
The inquiry brought Pyrrha back over to Yang to find that she had calmed down and was regarding her with undisguised interest. She placed the photo and the bracelet back on the table before answering. "No, I don't, and I don't think that's something you should be worrying about right now." Pyrrha turned to address her fully, crossing her arms across her chest. "You're looking at quite a list of offenses that you've managed to make for yourself tonight."
Yang immediately scoffed at that, reverting to the angry young woman from a minute ago. "What are you talking about?" She inclined her head to Jaune. "I already went through everything with your junior detective here. None of them were my fault!"
"Hey, I'm not a junior detective!" Jaune, offended, held his badge in front of Yang's face and waved it from left to right. "Do you see junior anywhere here on this badge?"
"Jaune, please," Pyrrha cut in.
Her partner immediately appeared chastised when he put his badge away but complained, "If she doesn't want me to call her ma'am then she shouldn't call me junior."
Refocusing on Yang, she continued, "First, let's start with assault and destruction of property of the club."
"Which I said they started!" Yang defended.
"That's not what witnesses say."
"Of course they're going to say that! Your witnesses are the ones that I beat into the floor when they attacked me! Where was the one bitch in the red dress? Miltia Malawhat'sit. She tried to claw my face off first!"
Pyrrha wasn't sure when it happened but somewhere in the middle of her and Yang's fight, one of the twins – she assumed Melanie – had used the distraction to her advantage, leaving and taking the other sister with her. They were probably informing Junior about what happened right now if they hadn't already which was making Pyrrha's window grow smaller and smaller.
With that in mind, Pyrrha continued listing, "Then there's assaulting a detective of the HPD and resisting arrest."
"And that one's on you!" Yang returned hotly. "You didn't say a word about who you were – not when you hit me or at any point during our fight! Once your friends came in and had the decency to identify themselves and you, I let you take me in! Lucky for you that they did."
The last comment stung at her pride and Pyrrha swiftly crushed the demand for retribution. "On top of that, we don't even know who you are other than what you've told us as you decided not to carry any identification on you."
"I didn't decide not to carry it! I lost it! I had a passport but I must've dropped it at the club or when I was getting manhandled here! Everything I told you is the truth!"
Not everything. What Pyrrha considered as the most important question hadn't been asked but after all that she had seen, she could safely conclude that this Yang Xiao Long was who she was looking for. Arriving and starting a fight at Junior's club, her fighting skills, and the bracelet that she just examined. There was very little doubt in Pyrrha's mind as to who Yang really was.
"We're running your name and the information you gave us through our database to confirm your identity," Pyrrha said, stepping over so that she was standing off to Yang's side. "Procedure clearly outlines as to what will happen later when we confirm it and, I assure you, it will be a lengthy process covering what you're guilty of and what charges and punishments will stick."
Yang opened her mouth, about to rage out another retort, but Pyrrha swiftly held up her hand as a sign to wait. "But I'll make you a deal. I'm willing to wave off all that you're accused of and let you walk out of here, right now. All I want you to do is one simple thing."
It got her attention, purple eyes blinking in mild surprise accompanied by a curious head tilt. Yang's mouth closed and she quietly regarded Pyrrha. She wasn't the only one as Jaune was giving her a similar look.
"As soon as you walk out of this station, I want you to leave Harborage," Pyrrha declared. "Drive, walk – I don't care. Leave immediately and never come back. Take what business you may have here out of the city."
Yang took a few seconds to continue examining her and then the tips of her lips curved up into a knowing smirk. "And what business do you believe I have in your city, detective?"
Pyrrha frowned critically. "I know who you are. You're a fighter, aren't you?"
"Well, yeah." Yang's expression turned cheeky. "In case you couldn't tell from the club, I am a pretty good fighter."
"And like I said at the club, I don't want any games."
"Yeah, you made that pretty clear." With her cuffs keeping her in her seat, Yang leaned as far forward as she could, grinning up at Pyrrha. "Very skillfully too. I don't think a regular police academy could teach the kinds of moves you were demonstrating at the club. Then there was that pole. It didn't fly over and hit me in the back by itself."
"This isn't about me," Pyrrha rebuked. She leaned forward, clutching the edge of the table as she lowered her face to glare right into Yang's. "I'm giving you a free pass here. All you have to do is admit to who you really are and take your business out of my city."
Standing off to the side, forgotten, Jaune was viewing the two of them uneasily, constantly switching between them and taking note of minor differences from each pass. An added curl to Yang's lip, the tightening of Pyrrha's grip on the interrogation table, a flicker of another coloring within purple irises followed the hardening of green ones.
For some reason, he felt like he was about to witness the two resume what had been interrupted back at the club, so he was immensely relieved when the door to the room opened and a faunus poked his head in, forked tongue flicking out and getting a taste of the heavy air before saying, "Detective, someone's here to bail this woman out."
Pyrrha quickly faced him, looking like she couldn't believe it as she cried, "What!?"
Yang, meanwhile, leaned back in her seat and smiled in a way that said she had been expecting it. "Well, guess that means I'm done here. Oh, don't worry about the cuffs." There was a brief metal tink before Yang brought her hands in front of them, the chain of the cuffs broken, and proceeded to pry them off her wrists. "I got them. I'll be taking my stuff back too."
While Jaune gawked at her, Pyrrha ground her teeth together while she watched Yang begin to throw on her jacket and take up her bracelets. The faunus officer that came in stepped to her side and handed her a booklet. "Her ID," he explained in a hushed tone. "Chief says that she's to be released immediately."
Pyrrha snatched it from his grip and opened it up. Unlike the photograph, paper was still the preferred material used for important personal documents like passports and as she flipped through it, she came across a smiling face of her suspect.
"Yang Xiao Long," she read aloud, the name, age, and other details printed on the side. "Citizen of Vale. Reason for travel…" She read the last with disbelief. "Tourist?"
"Aaaannnd, thank you," came Yang, tugging the passport out of Pyrrha's grip before it disappeared into her jacket. "Now if you don't mind, I'd like to finish my tour of your department with the exit."
The three left the interrogation room together, Yang at the center with hands clasped behind her head and a lazy arch to her back, humming to herself while Pyrrha strived to burn a hole into her back with how she glowered at her. Jaune was, wisely, remaining quiet, unsure of which of the two women he should be more afraid of.
It was only when they got outside that Pyrrha moved her gaze from Yang to the person who was standing at the bottom of the steps to the HPD. To her shock, the familiarity that came at seeing the young brunette turned into full-on recognition when she saw the cat ears. It had only been for a brief moment, but Pyrrha was able to remember telling this cat faunus to stay back right before she entered Junior's club and got into that fight with Yang.
The faunus herself didn't show any signs that she recognized Pyrrha, her attention solely on Yang. She didn't look happy.
"Couldn't ask for a sexier sight to see on my day out of prison!" Yang proclaimed, retaining her cheer as she descended down half the steps before clearing the rest with a hop that put her at her bailer's side.
"This doesn't change anything," Pyrrha warned. "Enjoy your stay as long as you're out of Harborage within the hour or you'll quickly find it to be very unpleasant."
Yang was already walking away with the cat faunus in tow. Not even deigning to reface her, the blonde just performed a short wave back in Pyrrha's direction. "I'll keep that in mind."
They stood there, she and Jaune, at the top of the steps even after the two turned a corner and disappeared from their sight. It was the latter who decided to say something first. "She was…something."
"Atrocious," Pyrrha all but spat. "People like her really haven't changed."
"So, was she really the one who we were looking for? The pilot?"
Pyrrha nodded sharply. "She definitely is."
Jaune examined her curiously. "All that and we're just letting her walk?"
"We can't hold her; she's protected. Even if that faunus hadn't come to bail her out, she would've been allowed to leave as soon as we got the proof ourselves as to who she really was."
"Wait, so if we were never going to be able to hold her, what was the point of all this? Why spend the night looking for her and going through all this if all that we were going to end up doing is let her go?"
"When you only look at it like that, it does sound like we just wasted our time." Pyrrha bobbed her head in a consenting fashion. "And that probably really is the case. Nonetheless, when you consider what might happen, a few less hours of sleep and a little bit of bluster is worth it for the chance of preventing it."
Jaune visibly mulled it over and, while he agreed, he found himself with another question. "Wouldn't she have known that she had immunity? Why did she let us take her in?"
Pyrrha was slower to answer, needing to think about it. "Playing with us, maybe? Honestly, I can't think of an answer that even I can get behind. The only thing I can say is that she seemed to have fun with it."
"She's really strong," Jaune added with a hint of admiration.
Pyrrha thought of their fight. Of those red eyes and how Yang stood so imposingly behind the bar counter. Of the strength and speed of her attacks, her recovery and durability. "Yes." Her fingers of her right hand flexed at her side. "She is."
An odd silence hung between them as they stood outside and Jaune asked the question that Pyrrha knew she was contemplating. "What now?"
"Paperwork, and if the Vale government really did step in like I'm sure they did to gain her release, there'll be quite a bit to do." Pyrrha turned and pushed the door to the station open. "Along with praying that that's all we'll have to worry about."
Jaune didn't choose to reply, instead crossing back into the station with Pyrrha holding the door open for him.
He glanced back. "Yeah?"
The angry lines had smoothed over, the last few hours finally seeming to catch up to Pyrrha, but a small, grateful smile pushed its way through it all. "Thank you for your help. I appreciate it. Really."
Jaune was extremely lacking in fortitude, the sudden surge of embarrassment that was produced by that sincere smile of his senior that warmed his cheeks forcing him to stare ahead. "N-no problem."
"I distinctly remember you swearing that you were not going to do anything."
Yang shrugged easily. "I had my fingers crossed."
Blake didn't appear surprised by the confession, instead just shaking her head in disappointment. "Of course you did."
Ahead of them was Bumblebee, the motorcycle having been parked nearby, unmolested, but Yang held no worries about her precious vehicle being vandalized or stolen, even if it had been left in the shadier parts of the city. Much like her bracelets, she had her own upgrades and modifications that she had hidden in her bike to deter anyone who tried to do something to it.
They still hadn't reached it before Blake sarcastically asked, "Did you have fun?"
Yang lifted and waggled her hand in a 'meh' manner. "Eh, I got myself orientated like you suggested."
"So glad you took my advice on that at least." How Blake said it sounded like she was anything but glad. "Because I had to get in touch with Vale to get you out and other than explaining to the councilmen how it happened, I also had to explain as to why we're in Harborage in the first place with your lousy excuse."
"Hey, it wasn't lousy. It's a perfectly generic and foolproof story that they won't be able to disprove and I'm sticking to it until they forget about it. For curiosity's sake though, what did they have to say?"
Rather than get up on Bumblebee, Blake turned and leaned back against it once they reached it to continue giving Yang her grouchy kitty look. "Pretty much what I expected them to say: they want you to return to Vale as soon as possible and staying is only further endangering our chances of winning. Oh, and they say they have at least three other candidates already in line to replace you."
Yang quirked a brow. "Wow, three? If they're gonna lie, at least make it believable."
Despite her irritated appearance, the barest indication of something opposite wanted to be displayed on Blake's face but the faunus smothered it. "Lying or not, they made it quite clear that they weren't happy with any of this."
"Beating Hei Xiong will keep them quiet. Once I take him down and the whole thing starts, it'll shut them up real quick."
Now it was Blake's turn to lift a brow. "Did you even find out where he really is?"
"Um…" When she had nothing else to add to that, Yang rubbed the back of her neck awkwardly.
Blake hung her head.
"I was getting to that!" Yang insisted. "I was actually about to question someone who I was sure would know something but then that redhead butted in."
Blake kept her head lowered but her cat ears rose a fraction higher. "You mean the detective that beat you up?"
"Woah, hey! She didn't beat me up! She got one or two lucky shots in before I willingly went into police custody. Although…" Yang stroked her chin in remembrance. "I will admit that she had some pretty good skills – much more than what a detective should have if you asked me. If I had to guess…she had to have picked up training from somewhere. Couldn't have been self-taught, especially those Aura techniques. Not a combat school since when was the last time those were ever around? Someone had to have taught her how to fight like that…"
Blake remained bowed the entire time, only choosing this moment to straighten. Yang was startled to see her partner looking at her as if she couldn't believe what she was hearing. "No wonder you wanted me as your partner. I shudder to think as to how you would've survived without me. You haven't changed even after all these years."
"Uh…" Yang scratched her head in confusion. "What?"
Blake was already pulling out her scroll. "I thought you would've at least been knowledgeable in this given the subject but are you really going to tell me that you don't know the name Pyrrha Nikos?"
All Yang ever got from the detective was a last name. Detective Nikos hadn't rung any bells but the human was hearing a small chime at 'Pyrrha Nikos'. "Pyrrha," she muttered aloud. "Pyrrha, Pyrrha, Pyrrha. Pyrrha Nikos."
It was right at the back of her mind, hanging just out of reach of her recollection, but repeating the name over and over actually worked as Yang began grasping and retrieving details. "I…know the name." She suddenly jerked as it hit her. "Wait a minute. Wasn't she some kind of big-time tournament winner?"
"A three-time tournament winner," Blake corrected. "She's the reason that Mistral has ruled over all the nations for the past twelve years."
"Twelve years?" Though she had made that comment about her age, when Yang thought of the detective, she didn't really think she was that old. "How old was she-?"
"She won the thirteenth tournament when she was sixteen," Blake finished for her. "Then went on to win the fourteenth and fifteenth. Her victories had caused a huge controversy among the nations; aggressive development on new weapon technology, disputes over several rules and regulations, possibly banning Nikos from the sixteenth tournament, and so on. Some say that an uprising against Mistral wasn't out of the question. And then Pyrrha Nikos disappeared."
"A month after her victory in the fifteenth, she suddenly disappeared which may've contributed in preventing all-out war between the nations. Mistral managed to defuse the situation and maintain their reign although it had to agree to some compromises. As to what Nikos has been doing since then…" A beep issued from Blake's scroll. "The HPD's database may shed some light on that."
Yang looked at Blake dubiously. "You just hacked into a police database?"
"Vale's given us everything they have to ensure we win," Blake explained calmly while she read whatever information was currently on her screen. "This includes their latest decryption and intrusion software. I wouldn't try this on Atlas or any of the more developed nations but Bask? Cyber warfare is much more than what it used to be. Anyway, Detective Pyrrha Nikos…"
Yang waited patiently, watching as Blake's brows lifted higher and higher the longer she read. "Now this is interesting," the faunus muttered. "Applied and was accepted into the police academy less than four years ago, scored with top marks, spent only a few months as a regular officer before she was transferred into the detective squad. That's when things get really interesting going by the impressive number of arrests that she's responsible for for the majority of her career and there's quite a few big names in there. I can safely say that, going by what I know of Harborage already and what I'm reading, Pyrrha Nikos may've been one of those most responsible for dismantling the operations of the former crime bosses that were once in charge."
"But why is she here in the first place?" Yang wondered.
"Hiding, maybe?" Blake guessed. "Being Mistral's champion would've put a lot of threats and pressure on her. Maybe she wanted to get away from it."
Yang hummed, not really believing that, and held out her hand to Blake. "May I?"
Blake handed her the scroll and the first thing that Yang saw was Detective Nikos's profile. As she expected from her partner, there were other tabs with additional information for Yang's viewing and she cycled through them, finding some of them to be stats collected from the previous tournaments. No losses, obviously, but Yang let out a low whistle at the number of victories that Pyrrha accumulated during each tournament. She wasn't like some champions who held back and fought the minimum amount before the finals took place. Throughout the three tournaments, her number of defeated opponents remained steady.
A warrior through-and-through, Yang commented. She tapped and lined the portraits of Pyrrha that came with the data. Three of them were taken at the start of each tournament while the fourth was a picture of her in the HPD with the time stamp informing her that it had been updated two months ago.
For the first three pictures, the description of 'warrior' stuck and Pyrrha liked dressing up as one. Some kind of bronze circlet with hanging emeralds was on her head, and Yang had to stare for a long moment to make sure that she was seeing some kind of gorget around the redhead's neck which led her to assuming that the mix of bronze and leather that covered what of her torso was visible to be some kind of lightweight armor.
Yang was drawn to those vivid green eyes. They were unnaturally bright, illuminated by a young, fiery soul that the blonde felt she could relate to. Whatever wasn't covered by her armor, Yang could see a strong, muscular body.
This repeated with the other Pyrrhas – the twenty and twenty-four-year-old versions – with the only differences being how her body grew and matured to not only be more attractive but stronger to better demonstrate that warrior spirit that had obviously found its purpose and thrived in battle.
Moving on to twenty-eight-year-old Pyrrha though…
She was done up in the same outfit that Yang had met her in with the coat and shirt. There was no armor and no ornamental decorations. That long red hair that used to be done up in a high ponytail had dropped lower and the once bright red had dulled with age. As did the green in her eyes – the color and the fire that burned within them having similarly dimmed. She didn't hold herself as upright as she used to when she was younger and she wasn't smiling. Her expression was a familiar sharp and business-like image that Yang became accustomed to but after seeing the Pyrrhas of the past…this Pyrrha was rather lackluster.
But she still has skills, Yang though, remembering their brief skirmish while she tabbed back over to her actions since joining the HPD. And it's not like she decided to dig up and hide in a hole for herself. She doubted that simple threats and public opinion would've put someone like Pyrrha into hiding so…what happened, then?
Yang looked up when Blake spoke and she just looked at the faunus blankly before realizing that she had been staring at the scroll silently for a good minute now. Regaining her wits, Yang grinned and teased, "You know, six years and beyond is usually past my comfort zone but Nikos has aged pretty damn good, don't you think?"
Blake snatched the scroll from her grip and Yang tried not to let her amusement show when she caught the signs of jealousy in her friend's features. Blakey, you're too easy.
"While you were wasting time," Blake began, shoving her scroll a bit roughly into her pocket, "I did manage to track down where Hei Xiong is hiding out. His change of residence only occurred recently which is why we have no record of it."
"Which means the fun is really gonna start." Yang rolled her shoulders in anticipation. "Where is it?"
Blake opened her mouth, about to answer, but she froze in time with her cat ears suddenly standing to attention. They swiveled to the side with Blake following with her gaze to stare across the street. Her golden eyes glinted dangerously. "We should go."
Yang glanced in the same direction, catching sight of the alley that attracted Blake's attention. "Someone there?" She couldn't see anything but she wasn't going to second-guess the faunus with perfect hearing and night vision.
"Was," Blake explained. "Could've been nobody. Could've been somebody. I suggest we leave and discuss our plan elsewhere."
Yang nodded, for once going along with her partner's advice as she prepared to get on her motorcycle before Blake held out a hand to stop her. "No, you're sitting in the back. I'm driving."
Yang pouted. "Whaaat?" One of the first things she had been looking forward to do was ride her motorcycle through a city.
"This is part of your punishment," Blake revealed. "You didn't listen to me, so you're not driving. I still have your keys and I know where Hei Xiong is." She swung herself over onto the bike, gripping the handlebars. "Get on."
"Fine, fine." Her pout remaining, Yang double-checked on her passport, pulling it out and flipping through it to make sure everything was in order. "Can't believe I lost this thing."
Yang blinked. "What?"
"I took it from you when I took your keys." A different kind of glint, more playful, was in Blake's golden gaze when she cast it back at Yang. "I figured that would get the police to hold you longer and give me extra time to investigate."
"Wait…" Yang unconsciously slid her passport back in her jacket, her brain occupied with a sudden thought. "Did you expect me to go to the club anyway?"
"More like planned on it. That's how I found out about Hei Xiong, by the way; I followed those twins when they left the club."
"But that would mean that you were…and that would mean…wha…" Yang stood there, dumbfounded, as the she connected the dots. Then she glared at Blake. "Wait, so I'm being punished for doing exactly what you wanted me to do?"
"You're being punished for not proving me wrong. Get on."
"You know," Yang muttered while she did just that, sitting down behind Blake and putting her arms around the other girl's waist, "I should be mad but, really, I'm disappointed. All that sneaky sleight of hand stuff and yet you didn't cop a feel for yourself."
Blake didn't say anything but Yang felt the added tension in the faunus's body and detected the long pause before she keyed Bumblebee's ignition, the engine roaring to life.
It gave Yang an idea shortly after they started driving. Upon the temptation becoming too irresistible, Yang sidled up a bit closer against Blake, the faunus not paying any mind to it until one of Yang's hands reached up and squeezed.
There was a surprised shout from Blake, a honk of a car that they almost hit when they swerved into oncoming traffic, and Yang's mad cackling soon after.
Author's Note: So ends Part 1. This was actually supposed to be just a big oneshot but upon reaching 14k+ words and realizing just how much left there still was, I ended up deciding to turn this into a two-shot. This chapter was something that I worked on in little bits during the past three months and if anyone was following me during my writing of Burnout, you may have an idea as to what my time was like during the holidays except it was worse this year. I'd be lucky to get an hour to sit down and write. So even though I went back through this a few times later, trying to clean up and make things flow a bit better, there may be some hang-ups and portions where I breezed through.
This includes the fight parts. I know the action wasn't up to my usual standards but that's because of what I have coming in the next chapter.
Brain: No explanation will make that Miltia and Yang scene okay though.
*hits his head against desk* I knoooooowwwww…this is why I'm never picking up chicks in a bar. If people actually liked that scene….sweet. I still felt awkward writing it though, lol.
I had intended to make Yang the main character but seeing what I've written now and knowing what I'm gonna write later…I dunno. Pyrrha's starting to turn out to be more of a main character than I expected her to be. I suppose that is partly due to what's going on in Volume 3. On that subject, holy jeez at what's been going on in Volume 3. So far I think the volume's going on awesomely. Plenty of interesting plots and lorez, complete with new, interesting characters, and damn all those twists and stuff and bad things that are on the horizon.
This includes the poor Yang. Part of the influence for me posting this now is that I needed some funny Yang again where she can't walk into bars without starting a fight and having a ball with life, including making passes on various characters. Been seeing too much fanart and fanfiction of Yang in jail and despairing about what's coming next. To top it all off, there's Pyrrha too.
Brain: Why is RT going after the team moms? Leave the team moms alone you animals!
Anyway, yeah, Volume 3's turning out great so far. And before people start pointing out in their reviews, yes I'm very aware about the latest World of Remnant skit concerning space travel in Remnant. This is an AU – and an AU that I already had 11k words written for when WoR came out – so I just put the people of Remnant finding some new or modifying old power sources to get to space. Anyway, I'm happy to be writing again, and not only are the holidays finally past but I also recently quit one of my jobs so I'll have plenty of time to do fun stuff. Maybe writing…maybe finishing Legacy of the Void. I dunno. Maybe I can compromise. Nevertheless, I doubt it'll take me three months to get the second part of this up.
I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who figured out just what this AU is going to involve. For those who don't…well, there's the next chapter. See you all there!