Hey everyone. This chapter is (very) late. I don't like to make excuses, but it boils down to how every time I'd planned to sit down and write, something would come up that resulted in my inability to do so.

Oh, and life's been good! Later!


Beta: Knight of Cerberus

"Next battle (...) Everyone died. No damage dealt (...) Everyone."


Roman Torchwick drew in a long, relaxing breath through his smoldering cigar, and pulled it from his lips. He flicked the end of it with his thumb, then suffocated the dying flame with his gloved digit. The career criminal pocketed the remainder of his relief in his jacket, tugging his top tight around his shoulders.

His boss would be here any minute, though he loathed to refer to her as such. Cinder had long proven worthy of the title, but that didn't mean Roman gave it willingly.

"You gotta do what you gotta do." The words he'd expelled in smoke were a universal truth that crossed all boundaries and went beyond any law – though the man had long since ignored both.

Snorting to himself, the orange-haired man chuckled as his chair squeaked across the floor. Rising to his feet, he stepped towards the mirror stretching the length of the warehouse's office room, brushing the hair out of his eyes. Roman's vision narrowed as he scowled, seeing the sooty streak he left across his forehead taunting him.

The man wiped the mark away with the back of his glove before wheeling around and striding across the room. He lifted his hat from the coat rack by the door to his office and stepped out. The door closed behind him, latching with an echo that was nearly deafening in the relative silence.

The warehouse that had been home to racks filled with crates of Dust was completely empty. Even the tarp-covered Atlesian mechs that had dominated the floor in most recent memory had been pulled out and sent away.

Beyond what had happened with the SDC cargo heist, preparations for the current phase went off without a hitch.

According to Neo, whom Roman had so reluctantly loaned to Cinder, grinding the Schnee twerp's wrist into dust had crippled her for the better part of the month. The man had no sympathy, especially since she and that blond bastard ruined a perfectly good streak of flawless heists.

Perhaps he should get back at Little Red too? Roman considered it for a moment, but shrugged it off as his feet clattered dully against the metal stairs. He didn't have the resources to track her down right now, and what she had interrupted was only a minor robbery from a small-time Dust retailer, in the grand scheme of things.

Simple revenge was petty. In the case of Ms. Schnee and one Mr. Arc, they at least would still pose a threat to operations while Cinder's team was at Beacon. That made his plans for dealing with them – and Neo's surveillance – completely necessary, though the man had to caution her many times of Beacon's headmaster.

That man was most certainly the wild card.

As Roman's shoes touched down on the concrete floor, the sound of a door squeaking open echoed across the empty warehouse's floor.

Roman secretly raised an eyebrow behind his hair as he rested his cane against the floor beside him, leaning on the support as Cinder closed the door behind her. The woman's heels clacked against the cement dully.

"You look good in that uniform." The criminal had to admit such, retrieving his half-spent cigar from his jacket pocket as he moved to meet the woman. As he flipped his lighter open and fixed to light his treat, the flame grew beyond what the man expected and Roman winced, seeing the very tips of his hair curl at the heat.

He drew a long breath in as he grumbled to himself, smoke filling his lungs. He reached up with a smile and rubbed the ends of burnt hair between his fingers, spreading the faint ash across his gloves as he blew smoke up into the air.

"I'm not here for your jokes, Roman."

"It was an honest compliment." Roman grumbled as the two stopped paces away from each other. "When have you ever come here for my jokes?"

"I've never seen a bald clown in a smoking bowler hat. It might be amusing."

The man raised both hands in surrender at the warning, cane hanging in the crook of his thumb. "Relax, Cindy. There's no one else around." He played it all off with a laugh, gesturing broadly as his voice echoed off the distant walls.

The glare Cinder turned on Roman nearly made the man bring an arm around to defend himself, before his current employer – and he used both the words current and employer loosely – took a breath and relaxed her shoulders a bit.

"Everything's shipped?" Despite how Cinder seemed to visually relax, her voice still carried the bitterly strict tone as her piercing eyes scanned the empty warehouse. It was a wonder hadn't blown her cover at Beacon at all.

Roman nodded quickly, but took a moment to draw on his cigar before answering. "Yeah. Everyone's under strict orders to stay underground, barring our covert patrols. There's no CCT connection down there either."

Cinder stared into Roman's eye, and Roman stared back. Her lips parted.

"The point of no return."

The criminal nodded again somberly. He cared not for anything except his own wellbeing, but crashing a Dust-loaded train full of heavily armed human-hating terrorists into the middle of Vale was better than a certain death – or worse.

At Roman's acceptance, the corner of Cinder's lips turned upwards into a vaguely cruel smile.

"You're a proud man, aren't you Roman?"

He didn't need to give Cinder an answer, but he did anyways.

"I'm the greatest criminal mastermind in the history of Remnant." He let out with a wry smile. "You already know why I'm doing this."

Cinder chuckled.

"You're also a very selfish man. Twisted."

Roman hated when he couldn't read the woman – which was frequently. It was best to wait for Cinder to explain herself in such a situation, but as the silence stretched, he was forced to prompt her. "Your point?"

"You're the greatest criminal mastermind in the history of Remnant." Cinder parroted, turning her back on the man. She looked over her shoulder. "You'll survive."

Something cold gripped Roman's heart as his boss began to head towards the exit. She waved her hand over her head, and the man's cigar was snuffed out.

"Perhaps you should use the long wait before the final phase to think about what comes next."

Roman growled, relighting his stubby cigar.

Perhaps it wasn't too late to steal a couple hundred boxes of his favorite. He had a feeling he was going to need them.


With a half-hearted sigh, Weiss drummed her fingers against her thigh. As she watched Pyrrha Nikos stride into the combat arena, the white-haired girl blew thin strands out from in front of her eyes, flexing the fingers of her still healing hand.

She'd finally been freed of her cast in the morning, sawn off in the infirmary. Now, the girl's arm only had a simple brace that wasn't nearly as cumbersome. As Professor Peach had mentioned offhandedly, it wouldn't be nearly as jarring as wearing the cast to the dance.

Thinking yet again upon that remark, the girl bit her lower lip in frustration.

Why should she even go to the dance, she'd wondered then. The answer was simple, but it bothered her beyond belief:

She – Weiss Schnee, heiress to the Schnee Dust Company – had been walking around Beacon with her arm in a cast for a couple weeks, and the implications hadn't occurred to her at all. The fact she'd been injured alone was juicy gossip that the foreign students spread, all with their own wild tales.

Weiss realized if she didn't make an appearance at the dance... A girl who'd practically never missed an event like it in her life - mostly influenced by her parents - it would only get worse. Weiss would love to say she didn't care about rumors, but the reality was she couldn't afford not to. Her reputation was more important to her than her personal comfort. She was surprised her dad hadn't flown out to drag her back home after hearing about what happened.

If she made things worse, he'd do so for certain.

And she wanted to stay.

"Begin!"

The match below began, and Weiss blinked rapidly before realizing what she was watching.

It might not have been proper by any means, but the heiress felt antsy as she sat along with her team, watching the redheaded girl take a defensive stance before all four members of team CRDL, gesturing them forwards with her shield raised.

"Is she seriously fighting all of them?" She whispered to herself.

It wasn't that Weiss didn't think the girl could do it, but what came to the front of the heiress' mind was only questions for why this was permitted – or even why Professor Goodwitch approved of it. What did Beacon have to gain from showcasing its most skilled first-year beating down other first-years? In front of a room full of people from the other academies? Going into the Vytal Festival tournament with knowledge of your opponents was a huge boon, and yet here they were.

Even in the off chance CRDL won, what was the benefit? As Weiss pursed her lips and began to consider it more deeply, Ruby's excited voice broke through her trance.

"Emerald, who do you think will win?"

It must have been during a time where Weiss had been left alone in their room while her teammates fetched cafeteria faire for her, but Ruby had befriended a small group of students from Haven. There were three members of a certain team present, their leader off somewhere else. A sideways glance towards them had Weiss drawing a heavy breath through her nose, before softly spilling it out.

"I think that Pyrrha girl's got this."

"Yeah, she's pretty awesome, isn't she?"

There was a darker skinned girl with pale green hair - the aforementioned Emerald - who was hunched over, offering Ruby an affable smile from the side. Her partner sat a row or two up, looking as relaxed as ever as his eyes followed the combat far below silently. Weiss followed his gaze down, watching Cardin swing his large mace wide. The heiress looked over again, and scowled to herself.

The black-haired girl - their team's leader's partner, Mint - was practically glued to Jaune's side. Yang was sitting behind them, leaning into the narrow gap between Jaune and Mint as she laughed, pointing and laughing at something happening in the fight, though Weiss didn't peel her eyes from the short mute girl.

She was what bothered her the most about this group from Haven in particular.

After that short laugh, Yang turned her gaze to Weiss, and offered a smile of apology that made Weiss' glower more. The heiress's eyes shifted to the other blond, stuffing her chin in the palm of her good hand as she sighed.

Jaune still hadn't talked to her about his outburst that day. Not about what crazy things he'd said, nor what she'd done to him in turn. Everyone who knew something happened between them knew they hadn't talked. Though, it wasn't like she was eager to approach her friend, either. They both still needed time, Weiss had realized.

It made it aggravating that he sat only a few places over. The rift between them couldn't have been wider.

All words the two had exchanged over the last few days were greetings. It felt like Weiss' chest was about to explode when all Jaune would say to her was a very nervous 'hi', and then nothing else. He was always somewhat jittery when she saw him, and she could see he was trying to avoid broaching the topic.

But this Mint girl nearly hanging off his arm? Weiss shook in her seat for a moment before taking a calming breath and turning her eyes back to the fight.

According to what Ruby said, the girl was mute and had trouble making friends outside of her three teammates. Her cloak-clad leader had even overheard Jaune say the tiny girl reminded him of his littler sisters, only that Mint wasn't nearly as loud, and after guiding her to the bathrooms once, their sudden friendship came to be. Of course, Yang had to go and make a joke after that, though. Not a pleasant one, either.

Perhaps this Mint really was just a mute who had trouble making friends. Considering Jaune, the boy was going to be nice to her, reach out his hand. It was just who he was, after all. Any other occasion, Weiss might've pitied her too.

That certainly didn't stop the heiress from trying to bore holes into the harlot's skull with her eyes, though.

Even if Mint was the sweetest girl in the world, the heiress doubted she could forgive her for even unintentionally flaunting the closeness she currently had with Jaune. As Pyrrha's weapon clashed with Cardin's mace and her shield caught Dove's shortsword, Weiss felt her neck muscles tense.

"Are you alright, Weiss?"

The heiress whipped her head around, glaring at Blake before blinking and letting her mouth hang open for a moment. The black-haired girl put her hand on Weiss' shoulder.

"Y-yeah, I'm fine." Weiss lied, turning her gaze back to the match. Sky was knocked flying, but the heiress could hardly focus on the fight at all. "I think I was up too late."

"Maybe."

It was obvious enough Blake didn't believe her, but the girl didn't pressure her any more. While Weiss had struggling at her lowest, Ruby and Yang had always been supportive, to the point Weiss was beginning to think Blake hadn't really cared – but it was much the opposite of that. If anything, Blake was the one who'd been the most understanding of team RWBY. The black-haired girl had given her space when she needed it, or was a reliable pillar at least. It was such a strange thing to reflect on, Blake's own version of helping her; however, that didn't mean the other two members of their team hadn't helped.

She was going to have to do something nice for all of them, once she felt up to it. Treat them to a meal, maybe?

Pyrrha's impressive display of skill seemed to entrance the audience, cheers fading into audible gasps as she barely dodged swings. Over time, even Weiss was wrapped up in the girl's fight. Her gaze followed Cardin as the boy swung his massive mace wildly, before choking up on it for a tighter, faster swing.

The impact of his weapon colliding with Pyrrha's shield actually felt like it shook the seat beneath Weiss.

"Cardin's really improved." Ruby pitched chipperly, to which Weiss nodded.

The burly boy still wasn't a match for his opponent, however, and neither were his friends. Pyrrha launched a kick into his gut, and the bout ended with Cardin's team sprawled out across the arena and a spear at his neck. Weiss slid backwards a bit, literally having been on the edge of her seat as the overly large crowd applauded.

Pyrrha helped the leader of CRDL to his feet, and smacked the chest plate he wore with a friendly smile. The boy scowled and walked off, his team still scattered before they got to their feet and went after him.

Some things never changed. Weiss turned her eyes to Professor Goodwitch as the woman cleared her throat.

"Well done, Ms. Nikos. I doubt your team will have any difficulties moving through the tournament qualifiers." The blonde instructor nodded along as Pyrrha bowed softly, heading towards the edge of the arena.

Weiss watched on as the professor tapped at her scroll, before the woman's green eyes turned upwards towards her. A few seconds passed before Goodwitch turned her eyes back to her scroll with pursed lips.

It didn't take a genius to figure out what was on the instructor's mind: Weiss hadn't fought for almost a few weeks now, almost like what happened with Jaune prior. Aside from light exercising and the mock spars she'd done with Yang to go through the motions, Weiss hadn't wanted to agitate her impaired limb. She also wasn't about to risk reinjuring it, especially with the Vytal Festival so close.

"We have time for one more match. Are there any volunteers?"

To Weiss' right, Ruby let out a quiet gasp that drew the heiress' attention.

"I'd like to fight, Professor."

The heiress looked the dark-skinned girl up and down as she proceeded down the stairs to the front of the viewing area. Her eyes traced the unusual-looking handguns that crisscrossed Emerald's lower back, and hummed. Was she simply a sharpshooter, or was there more to her and her weapons than that?

Just because she couldn't fight herself didn't mean Weiss couldn't use her brain, and she started considering what she'd do if she was on the floor.

"Ms. Sustrai, was it? Excellent. Always a pleasure to see others so invested in my class."

The green-haired Haven student nodded, and Weiss rested her chin in her hand again, gritting her teeth just slightly. Getting to fight a foreign student before Vytal was a huge opportunity.

"Now, who should be your opponent?" The instructor pursed her lips, finger tracing the screen of her scroll.

"Actually, I'd like to pick my opponent myself, if that's alright."

The murmur of the crowd matched Weiss' own curiosity. Who did Emerald want to fight?

Professor Goodwitch nodded curtly. If she was surprised, she didn't show it. "Of course."

Emerald jerked her thumb over her shoulder, pointing it back in their general area. "The blond."

Yang sprung up to her feet immediately. "Oh hell yeah-"

"Sorry, not you. The other one."

"Me?"

Weiss' eyes widened slightly as Jaune pointed to himself, the black-haired girl next to him looking over at Emerald with a somewhat furious expression.

'What are you getting so defensive for!?'

Emerald nodded, her red eyes peering at the boy as he shuffled uncomfortably.

"Mr. Arc, you haven't fought for a while. I approve of this challenge." Goodwitch stated almost proudly, putting a fist on her hip. "Your match starts in three minutes."

"Great." Weiss heard the boy bemoan, standing and grabbing his sword from where it laid at his side. He trudged off without even turning back.

He didn't even glance her way.


"Why hasn't she said anything?"

That sole thought plagued Jaune's mind as it parted his lips, sliding Crocea Mors out of its sheath slightly, before pushing it back in with a satisfying click. His mind was far from his impending match, and was focused instead on one of the spectators.

He stopped himself from casting his eyes upwards to where his team, RWBY, and Mint sat. The last thing he wanted to know before he fought is what kind of expression Weiss' face held.

"Just ignore it. You'll fix all this soon, don't worry."

The boy continued to mutter to himself, blinking his eyes towards his opponent – his challenger.

"Just gotta wait for the right moment..."

Though he considered it when she'd initially called him out, Jaune wasn't concerned with why Mint's teammate decided he was worthy of a fight. Maybe she was testing him, or something?

The boy's cheeks tinted a bit when he considered he might have just inserted himself in to some sort of lovers' quarrel. Mint looked appalled and quite upset with her teammate when he'd been called out. His rampant imagination made his eyebrow twitch, as he wondered what sort of mess he might have managed to make for himself.

A moment later, Jaune stared at his feet, frowning and smacking himself in the head.

A lover's quarrel? How could he even think of something like that?

He shook the thought off and looked over to Goodwitch on the far side of the arena. She met his eyes, and it looked to the boy like the professor took a steadying breath.

Was she concerned? The boy realized he did just smack himself in the head in front of at least a hundred students.

"Are you ready, Mr. Arc?"

Jaune nodded, pulling his sheath from his belt and gripping it firmly.

'Come on, focus!'

"Begin!"

The blond's eyes widened and his shield expanded before him, the first few rounds from Emerald's handguns forcing him to kneel and bring up his guard. He reached for the hilt of Crocea Mors and drew his blade, one leg extending as he began his dash forward. Shots rang out, one landing near his foot as he charged.

He glanced over his shield once he was much closer, seeing Emerald dash to his left. He ducked behind the steel as he flinched, a chain of sorts raking against the edge.

A blade nicked the boy's cheek, and he pulled his shield cross-wards to his right. The edge caught chain, and he twisted as he was tugged along, bringing his sword close to his torso.

Jaune's arms were tangled with the chain of Emerald's weapon, and his eyes followed the links. He spun on his back leg and pulled harder, hearing his opponent gasp as the tension disappeared.

Jaune fell back into a ready position, one of Emerald's revolvers on the arena floor as he took a step towards her. He shook his arms free and the chain he'd caught fell from his shield.

The boy was forced to duck behind his shield as the girl brought her remaining gun up, firing quickly as she skirted the outside of the wide open arena. When she lowered her gun to reload, watching him, Jaune lowered his shield and dashed forwards.

Without even hesitating, the girl brought her weapon up and pulled the trigger. The bullet ricocheted off Jaune's shield as he brought it back up, impacting against the arena floor.

She'd feigned a reload...?

Jaune drew in a breath, thankful he hadn't lowered his shield too much. As Emerald dashed away, emptying her casings, the blond moved to position himself between the girl and her lost weapon. With a flick of the girl's wrist, it took her a but a moment to load in fresh rounds.

In that time, the boy had only been able to kneel, scoop up her revolver, and tuck it in his own belt clumsily. It would've been faster to toss it to the edge of the arena's barrier, but this way she'd have to close the distance with him if she wanted to get it back.

The girl did just that, rushing forwards and swinging. Her bladed revolver raked through the air above Jaune's head as he ducked, and backed up. On his back foot, Jaune shifted his weight and pulled his sword back, intent on pushing his shield into Emerald's gut.

Within the next moment, Jaune had to push up against Emerald's weight as she hand-planted against the top of his shield, the barrel of her revolver in his face. The boy smacked it away with his sword the moment it fired, ears ringing at its report. When he backed away again, the girl brought both guns up, and fired again.

'When did she-'

Jaune lowered his shield after the barrage of bullets and brought Crocea Mors back. Emerald's arms were crossed before her, and she threw her arms out. The bladed chains extended, and Jaune held out his shield arm as they looped around his protection.

Emerald had her entire body's weight behind her as she yanked. Jaune held onto his shield with all his strength, before grinning.

He collapsed his shield with a metallic slide, and Emerald stumbled back as the chains loosened. Jaune ran forwards, slashing downwards diagonally.

The two clashed again and again. The fight drew out, and Jaune had to flick the sweat off his brow as he stared the red-eyed girl down, panting. He glanced to the monitors on the far side of the room.

They were still well into the green, both of them.


Weiss' fingers bunched up in her skirt as she let out a slightly labored breath, eyes darting between the two participants in a fight she'd hardly expected to get herself so riled up for.

The match itself put one of her smallest concerns to rest, at least, seeing the blond trading blows with his opponent. He certainly hadn't stopped training as hard as he had been, back when they were still together.

'Together?'

The heiress grumbled to herself, watching as Jaune brought his shield around after Emerald kicked off of it, flipping and whipping at the boy with her bladed chains. She stumbled as she landed – just a bit – and Weiss could tell the length of their fight was really wearing down on both combatants.

The girl glanced up at the board, seeing Jaune and Emerald in near identical positions to where they were minutes ago: still in the green, but bordering on dropping into the yellow. Their fight had been going on for far too long, well past the official end of class. A handful of students had left, but Professor Goodwitch had made no move to stop them. That just proved even more how spectacular a fight the ones who remained were experiencing, that so many had stayed.

"It's hard to believe he's holding his own so well. She out-speeds him and has a huge range advantage."

Weiss curled in on herself in pride, hearing an unfamiliar voice praising the boy she'd trained. When Emerald ran forwards and had to hop back out of a swipe of the blond's sword, the heiress found herself smiling even wider.

If this had been an actual tournament bout with a roaring crowd, Weiss would've been cheering alongside them. Instead, she held it in lest she garner stares. That, and the last thing she wanted to do was be a distraction for Jaune and cost him the match. She was forced to let her outbursts stew inside her, and so she gripped her skirt tighter.

The two clashed once more, before separating and standing on opposite sides of arena, Jaune lowered his arms as he looked up to their estimated auras on display.

"Draw?" He offered, and it echoed off the walls of the arena before the crowd began to murmur.

Emerald lowered her weapons as well. "Draw." She agreed.

The crowd began to clap, and Weiss was instantly reminded of her inability to do so with any reasonable enthusiasm. Jaune looked up to the crowd, but his gaze never turned to their side of the arena.

Weiss hummed, seeing Goodwitch converse with both Jaune and his opponent. The blond looked to Emerald, and she offered him a smile and a shrug. Whatever exchange was occurring on the floor, it was far out of Weiss' earshot as students murmured and got up to leave, and Goodwitch wasn't exactly 'instructing' the way she usually was.

As far as Emerald's teammates reactions – at least the two that were present – Mint was clapping excitedly, while Mercury seemed to be resting his chin in hand, leaning forward. There were murmurs and hushed speaking from JNPR as well as the two Haven students got up to leave.

Weiss eyes remained on Jaune as he climbed up the steps to the viewing area. The boy's blue eyes met Weiss', and she smiled to him.

She shuddered just slightly as he gave a soft smile in return, but the girl's excitement waned, noticing something else behind his eyes as it faded. The boy then immediately turned and went over to his teammates, waving to Mint as her teammates gathered and made their way out. The heiress watched on as Ren shook his head, Pyrrha patting Jaune on the back.

The white-haired girl drew in a breath, before letting it out in a half-delighted, half-frustrated sigh. On one hand, the boy smiled back to her, which was better than a lot of their recent, failed interactions. On the other, they still hadn't spoken.

Nothing had changed. It wasn't good enough. And with the dance only days away-

'The dance...!'

The heiress stared at Jaune's back as Nora pulled his hood over his messy hair playfully, Pyrrha smiling at him. He turned to say something to Ren, and Weiss tensed momentarily at seeing his face in profile.

Could she? Should she?

As the heiress stared down at her slung arm, she tapped her foot. She stood and quickly strode over to where Yang sat. The blonde looked up to her with a grin that faded.

"Wh-what's with that face, Weiss?"

She was beyond embarrassed as she realized that, despite all of the many suitcases she'd packed and brought from home, it had never occurred to her that she might have been missing something. Weiss leaned in and spoke in a hushed voice,

"I realized... I might need to go dress shopping, for the weekend..."

The blonde's fading grin grew wide, and the girl hopped up, forcing Weiss to back away lest they collide.

"Well then what are we sitting around here for!? Hey, Blake! Get your nose outta that book! Ruby, let's go! Come on!" Yang's sudden outbursts only made Weiss want to shrink in on herself more.

The members of JNPR looked over, but she was already turning to avoid a certain boy's curious gaze.


"I still really wanted to fight that Nikos chick. Maybe we could've figured out what it is that makes her so damn good."

"I'm sure it's just skill." Emerald let out with a sigh, popping open the cylinders of her guns and letting the spent casings fall out in the trash can of their immaculate dorm room. "Besides, Neo was the one who wanted me to fight the simpleton. She's been tailing him this whole time, so I assume there was a reason for it."

Mercury dropped into his bed, stretching his shoulders. "Cinder's gonna want a report from today."

The girl scowled, reminiscing. "That boy's probably the weakest member of their team, but he's a pain in the ass to fight."

The grey-haired boy sat up with a tilted eyebrow. "Really? It didn't look too bad to me. You had it handled."

The girl had to give it to Mercury. She certainly had it handled, but that wasn't the issue. "For me it was a struggle, at the most. Even if I'd gone all out, the fight would've still lasted as long. His Aura's stupid." Emerald set her weapons on the dorm's desk, caressing the grip of one of them. "If things go wrong and we can't rig the tournament, running into that team is going to be troublesome no matter what round we're up against them."

"Then we'll just have to hope things go well on the weekend." Mercury pointed out, Emerald forced to sigh in acceptance.

Emerald sauntered over to the window, pulling the curtain aside a bit. "At least we always have our backup plans. If it weren't for those, I'd be a lot more nervous."

"C'mon Em, you think an operation of this size wouldn't have that much thought put into it?" Mercury chuckled. "Do I have to say something to Cinder about how you don't have faith in her part of the plan?"

Though the girl immediately recognized the boy's taunting, joking tone, cold fear still gripped her heart. "Don't you dare." She barked back.

"Testy." Mercury sat up, dangling his legs over the side of the bed. "Back on topic, did you learn anything about the boy's semblance? Anything we can exploit?"

"That's another concern. There wasn't any visual cue that he was using a semblance at all."

"Unless it's something like yours."

Mercury's comment made Emerald's muscles tense as she let the let the curtain fall back into place. "Or it's not something combat oriented."

"Possible." Was her partner's dry response.

"Regardless, if we fight in the four-on-four rounds, one of us is going to have to run double duty." Emerald started, sitting on her own bed. "It might take two, or even three of us to run that Nikos girl down. That blond would try to stop us from doing that."

"Unless you used your semblance to keep him separated from the others."

Emerald shook her head. "I'm supposed to use it sparingly, in case people start to catch on."

"Do you think I could take that blond easily?" Mercury gestured to himself with a little bit of cockiness that Emerald really wanted to ignore.

"Better than I could."

The door to the dorm room clicked open, and Emerald's back straightened reflexively. Cinder's bright eyes peered into the room, staring at Mercury, then in turn Emerald's own eyes.

"Things went well today?" The woman's voice always held a tone that was hard for Emerald to decipher exactly what her mood was, but as she strode in and sat next to Emerald – surprising the girl entirely – the green-haired girl let out a breath.

Mercury leaned back, glancing back and forth between Emerald and their boss. "We haven't blown our cover at all, so things are still running smoothly. Neo's still stalking that blond from that Nikos girl's team, and Emerald tested him out today."

The girl almost wanted to glare at the boy when he brought it up, but feeling Cinder's eyes on her prompted her to speak. She turned, lowering her head just a bit. "He won't be much of a concern, but fighting him gave me a better idea of how they'd possibly act in a four-on-four match."

Cinder nodded softly. "We won't have to worry about them in the first round of the tournament. Pyrrha Nikos will probably be their singles-round competitor. Did you not learn anything about her?"

Emerald winced, but Mercury spoke up quickly. "She single-handedly demolished one of Beacon's other first-year teams. We'll keep a closer eye on her coming up. They'll be in the tournament for sure."

Cinder leaned back for a moment, and Emerald watched for the woman's reaction. When she rose and stood from the bed, skirting around to the other side of the room, Emerald looked to Mercury, who looked back in return.

"Nothing changes." She finally spoke again. "The plan remains the same."