"Watch it!"

Sun ducks smoothly beneath the huge stack of planks carried between two beefy dockworkers, grinning widely. The workers give him dirty looks that hold no heat, and he flashes an apologetic smile before scampering off. The docks here are much cleaner than the ones he's used too back in Vacuo. Safer too, it seems. He hadn't seen a single pirate the entire trip, which was both good and bad.

Good, because Vacuo pirates are notoriously ruthless.

Bad, because, well, pirates are awesome.

Still, Sun retains his cheerful outlook, one hand tugging absently on the strap that runs across his chest, securing his staff to his back. He'd complained at first—it went against every instinct that had ever kept him alive to display his weapon so obviously.

"If you go pulling that staff out from under your shirt, you'll scare people," Jinni had lectured him. "And what do people do to things that scare them?"

Sun, reluctantly and not without plenty of attitude, had slid the strap over his head. "They hurt them," he'd grumbled back. It was an old lesson—one he'd learned early in his days with the nomads.

People attack that which they fear, that which they don't understand. It explained why there were always so many dead Aries around the hills of Vacuo. People—usually tourists—were horrified of the hulking creatures of Grimm, despite the fact that the bulls were totally harmless.

Sun pushes such thoughts to the back of his head, unwilling to let his good mood evaporate. He's in a new place. A new world, practically. The young Faunus all but vibrates with excitement as he makes his way out of the docks, taking everything in with eager anticipation.

This is Mistral. The place where Jinni promised he'd do great things.

"Go show those Easterners some Vacuo hospitality," Arvio, another of the nomads, had instructed, ruffling Sun's hair as they saw him off at the Vacuo docks. Iris had only offered him a quick grin, but Sun doesn't blame her.

She'd been watching their backs for pirates and bandits.

Jinni had rolled her eyes as Arvio's advice. "Just be sure of yourself, Sun," she'd told him seriously. Jinni was always serious, Sun reflected. He supposes she had to be, leading a huge group of nomads and keeping Vacuo's less-than-savory inhabitants well in check like she did. "You are exceptionally skilled and singularly gifted. You are smart as a whip and possess a tenacious spirit."

Sun had nodded, chest bursting with pride at her words. Jinni had always believed in him. Even when she'd found him getting mugged in a back alley by some bandits—a tiny, frightened, but utterly determined Faunus with dirt seemingly permanently smudged on his cheeks and a chip on his shoulder something fierce.

Even thenno money, no family, no nothing but a fire burning in his chest—even then Jinni had believed in him.

"Make us proud, Sun," Iris called shyly to him, smiling slightly as she gripped his spear.

"Yeah! Hurry up and become a Hunter so you can come back and take over here!" Arvio added with a wry grin.

Sun had just smiled confidently at all of them, and Jinni had touched her forehead to his in the traditional Vacuo farewell.

"Be safe," the old woman told him, white hair escaping her thick braid and blowing in the coarse wind. "Trust your eyes. Trust your heart."

Sun had given a firm nod and pulled back, stepping away towards the boat.

And now here he was. The promised land, in a way. Sun takes a deep breath to steady himself. He knows it's not going to be easy, but surely Sanctum can't be much more difficult than Jinni's grueling morning training sessions. That woman had him sweating before the sun was up.

He shrugs to himself, resolving that he'll just have to wait and see, and sets off.

Mistral is a large city—larger than even the largest urban districts of Vacuo—and Sun is immediately entranced by the tall buildings, glossy windows, and neat little gardens that sit it decorated pots around town. Shops and stands crowd the street corners, vendors calling out for the attention of potential customers. He sees a group of girls his own age playing some sort of game, all giggling at each other, and a pair of older boys watching something on a scroll, bursting with laughter. Sun feels himself smiling in turn. It's charming and delightful and he soaks it all up with a huge grin.

He peers curiously at a man wearing a uniform a few feet away. He knows—objectively—what police officers are, but he's never seen one in person before. His friendly instincts are dying for him to go over and say hi, but his Vacuo instincts stay him, keep him wary of authority. He's so wrapped up in his thoughts, he's caught a million miles off guard when the sharp horn of a train rips through the peaceful afternoon, and Sun realizes he's stepped out into the empty air of train tracks.

He tries to reclaim his balance—his tail desperately swishing out for something to latch onto—but he finds nothing and keeps falling forward and oh god, Jinni's gonna kill him if he gets hit by a train.

He feels a warm hand grab a fistful of his shirt and solid ground returns as he's hauled backwards. The train roars past him, and Sun sees his own stunned expression and his savior's smug grin in its glossy reflection. He huffs with surprise and relief before turning around to see who he has to thank.

It's a girl. Dark skinned and with platinum blonde hair gathered in a bun at the nape of her neck, a few strands escaping and curling around her face as she drops her hand.

She arches a brow. "Easy there, kid. It'd be awfully disappointing to make it all the way here from Vacuo just to get hit by a train."

Sun blinks as she crosses her arms, cocking a hip at staring down at him, curiosity and amusement lighting her olive eyes.

"You're from Vacuo too, aren't you?" he asks. His eyes don't lie, and there's just something about her that tips him off. The steady set to her shoulders, the way she carries herself, the peculiar gleam in her eye. If this girl wasn't raised by the harsh deserts of his childhood, he'll eat his shoes.

She smirks slightly, relaxing. "Good eye," she comments, and Sun tries not to beam at the praise. She offers her hand. "Arslan Altan."

"Sun Wukong," he sticks out a hand, chest puffed up in pride.

She nods, and he tries not to tense when he feels her looking him over. Her eyes travel the length of his staff, the leather gauntlets on his arms, the scratch on his face that still hasn't healed.

You're not in Vacuo anymore. And she's not a threat.

As if sensing his discomfort, Arslan snaps her gaze back to his face, flashing an easy smile as she drops his hand.

"Sorry," she apologies. "I've heard a lot about you. Guess I'm a little curious."

Sun cocks his head to the side. "Curious?"

She nods, and gestures for him to follow as she leads him away from the train stop. He does so easily, still interested in her explanation.

"You're the talk of the town, kid," she remarks. He searches her for some sort of weapon as they walk, frowning when nothing obvious grabs him. But then, he supposes, she looks plenty capable of a bare-knuckle brawl. She carries the countenance of a prizefighter.

Sun watches the muscles of her right arm flex as she lifts a hand to wave at someone across the street, glad she's apparently taken a liking to him.

"Why?" he asks, still tripping after her as they move through the city. "Why do people care?"

Arslan shrugs. "Vacuo fascinates people. It always has. Everyone has a Semblance, but what we have is more." She glances over her shoulder, that knowing smirk back on her lips, holding out her right hand. Sun's eyes grow huge as a small wisp of fire flickers in her dark palm, before she curls her fingers over it.

"You're attending Sanctum, right?" she asks casually—like she hadn't conjured fire—and Sun nods, excitement bubbling back up in his chest. Arslan seems pleased.

"Good. It's a good school, and you'll do well." Pride glows warmly in Sun's chest. "I'm a third-year there. Give me a shout if you ever find yourself in trouble, yeah?" She smirks again. "Us Vacuo kids gotta look out for each other."

He nods earnestly, and she turns away. Sun assumes that's the end of their conversation, and he opens his mouth to thank her, but he catches sight of a handful kids standing a stone's throw away, openly staring at Sun and Arslan, whispering behind their hands.

He frowns at the familiar scene. Kids were always pointing and whispering at him back in Vacuo. Sun Wukong—the boy with magic eyes who ran with Jinni and her ragtag band of misfit nomads.

"You'd better get used to the staring, kid." He glances around to see Arslan studying him. She arches an eyebrow. "You're the most interesting thing to roll into town since that scythe-wielding Hunter a few months back."

Sun frowns unhappily. Arslan chuckles.

"You want my advice? Let your staff do the talking." She points to the weapon strapped to his back. "You can talk all you want, but no one's gonna listen. You start swinging that thing around?" She scoffs, cocking an eyebrow. "People are gonna hear you out."

Sun frowns. "But…" he barely stops himself from saying that's the whole reason he left. That's what Vacuo was like—you proved your worth with a weapon and that was that. He frowns at the memory of gang members—kids tougher, rougher, and meaner than he'd ever be trying to coax him away from his life with Jinni and the other nomads, to lend his skills to their less-than-noble causes.

She peers at his expression, clearly picking up on the displeasure rolling off of him.

"You're an outsider," she explains with a shrug, and he blinks, looking up at her in confusion. "A Faunus from Vacuo. That's two strikes before you've even told them your name. People are interested in you, but interest and suspicion aren't so far off."

He frowns. "You're from Vacuo too," he points out.

She shrugs. "My parents and I moved here when I was ten. The only people who know I wasn't born here are professors who've read my transcript and pesky little natives like you." Her eyes shine with humor, and he knows she's only teasing him. He huffs a sigh, letting his eyes drift back to the small crowd of people watching them.

"Hey." Sun looks up when she touches his shoulder. "Breathe, okay? Focus. What do people always say back home?"

He lifts his chin, eyes flashing in the Mistral sun as he recites the phrase Jinni had taught him—the phrase all Vacuo children are taught to call upon in hard times.

"Keep your face towards the sun, and the shadows will fall behind you," he says.

She nods her approval. "Just remember that, and you'll do well." She reaches out to ruffle his hair, and Sun smiles at the genuine camaraderie he feels with this girl. "Keep your chin up, kid. I'll see you around."

-0-

Sun is—for once in his life—actually early.

The man working the administration desk at Sanctum is kind, if a bit chatty, and Sun drums his fingers on the side of the desk as the worker types away at a keyboard. The Faunus takes the free moment to look around the lobby of the school.

There's no primary school of any kind in Vacuo, yet Shade staunchly refuses any applicants without a diploma from some sort of previous combat academy. Jinni had explained that those rules are in place to keep those who legally can't leave the Kingdom—bandits, pirates, thieves—from applying and entering the school.

But as Sun had pointed out, it also makes it hard for people like him—down on their luck kids without a penny to their name—hard to get in, too.

The look Jinni had given him in reply made Sun's stomach turn over uncomfortably.

Regardless, the nomads had scraped together enough money to get him on a boat, and Sanctum had accepted his application, so here he is.

Four years, he tells himself. Get through four years at Sanctum and then you'll be back home in Vacuo.

He likes Mistral—what he's seen of it in the half-mile he walked from the docks to the school's entrance, anyway—but Vacuo is home. A home that routinely knocks him on his ass, but a home nonetheless.

"Well, there we are," the man announces cheerfully, and Sun stills his movements. The man looks up to offer him a friendly smile. "You're all checked in," he reports. "Your first class is bright and early Monday morning."

Sun nods his thanks. "Where do I put my stuff?"

Not that he has a lot, really. All he has is a few changes of shirts, a spare pair of jeans, a medical kit, some of his favorite desert jerky, his book of Vacuo myths, and a note from Jinni that essentially reads: "be yourself and call me before doing anything stupid."

But still, what he has is precious to him, and he holds the straps of the battered duffle bag a little tighter.

The man just smiles kindly. "It'll be a campout of sorts in the main hall until classes start and professors decide who to group up." He nods to the grand double doors that lead to the main hall. "You can just place your things in there."

Uncertainty twists Sun's stomach as he turns to enter the main hall. Leaving his belongings out in the open and unattended leaves all sorts of bad tastes in his mouth. Aren't there thieves in Mistral too?

He sweeps his gaze over the piles of bags that line the walls of the main hall, trying not to feel self-conscious about the amount of luggage some people have brought along. He finally spies a simple olive-green duffle bag not too different to his own, and drops his stuff off beside it, casting a quick glance at the nametag.

Hopefully this Sage Ayana guy doesn't go through his stuff.

-0-

Sun spends the rest of the day milling around the city.

He can't get over all the noise. The backwoods deserts of Vacuo are silent as a grave, save for the roaring wind and occasional cry from a Grimm. Sun, a natural chatterbox in his own right, falls into easy conversation with anyone who will spare a moment to address the overly-excited blond darting around the marketplace. He's received warmly by nearly everyone, but he can see a few people give the staff on his back and the tail dragging behind him a second glance.

He's listening to a woman running a fruit stand explain the complications of growing paopu fruit, when he hears a shriek go up from somewhere deeper in the market.

Frowning in concern, Sun turns towards the noise, pushing his way through the crowd until he spies a pair of girls huddled together, watching warily as a boy with turquoise hair stands with his arms crossed, staring down at something on the ground.

Sun can see his cocky grin from where he's standing, but can't see what he's looking at. He turns to try and get a better vantage point, still listening in.

"Just kill it, Neptune! It's creepy!" the first girl complains, eyeing whatever it is with fear in her eyes. Sun jumps lithely from the tabletop of an abandoned stand to grab the edge of a nearby roof, neatly pulling himself up on top.

Neptune just laughs. "Aw, it's not hurting anyone. Look, I think he likes me." Sun peers over the edge of the roof to see the boy extending his hand towards whatever it is. Sun squints, trying to get a good look…

"Come on, Neptune! This isn't funny!" the second girl protests. "It could be really dangerous!"

Neptune lifts his head to give the girl a self-assured smirk, taking his eyes off of the tiny, jet-black creature that sits before him. Sun's eyes go wide when he sees the scorpion-like creature rear back, the stinger flashing in the light as the thing prepares to lunge forward—

"Look out!"

Sun is a golden flash as he leaps straight from his perch and takes the boy down with a tackle that wouldn't have won any prizes, but successfully sends them both tumbling away. They end up with Sun pinning Neptune to the ground, looking around for the bug-like creature.

He sees it scuttling away and—one hand braced on the ground, the other reaching for his staff—snaps it in half with a practiced flick of his wrist, aims Jingu Bang's gun, takes the briefest of aim, and fires.

His aim is true—Sun's a dead shot with his gunchucks thanks to countless afternoons spent shooting down old soda cans in the desert with Jinni—and the creature drops dead, curved tail going limp. Sun releases a breath, relieved beyond measure.

"Ow," the other boy complains, glaring pointedly.

"Oh, sorry!" Sun scrambles to his feet, hastily offering a hand. Neptune eyes it darkly before pulling himself to his feet, dusting his coat off. Sun tries not to be disappointed by the rejection, and stuffs his hand in his pocket.

"You looking for a fight?" Neptune asks sharply, blue eyes flashing as he rounds on Sun. The Faunus pulls a face. This boy clearly has no idea what Sun just saved him from.

"That was a Maeasm!" Sun protests, pointing at the now very dead creature. One of the girls behind them gasps at the name, and he's glad at least someone has the right idea. He'd always thought they looked like a cross between a King Taijitu and a Death Stalker, but tiny. Like, palm of your hand tiny.

Either way—creepy. And totally deadly.

"Their poison can stop your heart," Sun says, repeating the same words he'd heard Jinni tell tourists who wandered too far into the desert. He wrinkles his nose as he peers at the small creature of Grimm. "How'd it get all the way to Mistral?"

"You idiot!" Neptune snaps at him. Sun blinks at his sudden anger, too shocked to react even when he plants his hands on Sun's chest and shoves him backwards.

The Faunus stumbles, but he catches himself, eyes narrowing. No way he gets pushed around his first day in Mistral. And especially not for helping someone.

"What's your problem?" Sun snaps back, properly scowling as he shifts back into Neptune's space. He's got one hand on his staff, and sees the shaft of some sort of weapon sticking out over the other boy's back. A spear, he assumes. Or a lance.

Good. He'd been brought up sparring against spears and scimitars—the preferred weapons of pretty much every nomad but him. If it comes to blows, Sun likes his chances. But there's something about this boy that rankles him—something he can't name that's gnawing at that part of his brain he associates with his eyes. His ability to see through disguises, lies, and pretenses of all kinds.

But he stubbornly sets his jaw, ignoring the stirrings of his gift. He doesn't care what this boy's hiding. Nobody gets to push him around.

Neptune glares back. "I didn't need your help," he sneers. "So take a hike."

Anger flashes in Sun's stormy gaze. "You were about to get stung by one of the deadliest Grimm in Remnant," he snaps. "A thank-you would be nice."

Neptune's anger matches his. "I had it under control," he says stubbornly. "I know what a Maesam is!"

Sun scoffs. "Yeah? Then you'd think you could say the name right."

The boy flushes, but recovers quickly. Sun glowers at the smug smirk that twists Neptune's lips.

"I know you," he says. "You're that goat herder from Vacuo."

Sun bristles when the girls snicker at Neptune's description. "I did a lot more than herd goats," he snaps back, balling his fists. "And you don't know me."

But Neptune isn't listening, he just turns back to the girls, giving an exaggerated eye roll. "Can you believe this guy's trying to steal my thunder?" he asks, and Sun balks when the girls coo sympathetically.

"I don't care about your thunder!" Sun protests. "I just saved your life!"

"Look man," Neptune dusts off his coat and gives Sun a blunt, unrepentant look. "I can't bee seen with you, okay? I've got a reputation to keep up. And there's no room for a dirty Vacuo kid in my life. Got it?"

Sun scowls as Neptune offers him a jaunty salute before turning to stride away.

"Fine!" he shouts after him. "Next time, I'll just let it sting you!"

He turns away, still scowling fiercely as he shoulders his way through the crowd. He passes the fruit vendor he'd been speaking to earlier, noticing she's now chatting with an elderly man.

"Children can be so cruel," the man mutters as Sun stalks by, and the woman hums in agreement.

Four years, Sun reminds himself with a frown. He continues his march back to Sanctum. Four years.

Tears sting at his eyes, and he scrubs at them stubbornly.


OH BOY HERE WE FUCKING GO

So yeah. It's another long, multi-fic because SSSN needs a fucking origin story dammit.

Beware, lots of my personal headcanons and a few OCs abound. I don't mean to ruin your guys' own canon, but like the RWBY crew didn't give me a lot to work with.

I hope you guys like it!