Ugh, I am very, very, sick right now. It started last night and kind of ended with me taking loads of painkillers and going to bed, but didn't heal overnight as I thought it would. This chapter was written through that, unfortunately. College Fool didn't get so much as a peep of this because I was too ill to even remember it.

Chapter may be a little shorter as a result as well. Not much to say, not feeling good. Hopefully the quality doesn't suffer from it.


Beta: College Fool

Cover Art: Dishwasher1910

Chapter 28


"Ruby, to the left!"

"Look out!"

"Kite it! Kite it!"

"Argh!"

Their voices were all I could hear, along with the rapid beat of my heart and the pounding in my skull. It was a strange phenomenon where even the roars of the monster which had once been Merlot seemed dull to my ears. There was only myself, my friends, and the beast itself. Nothing else mattered. Nothing else would matter, because I could see as good as anyone else that it would sooner or later be only Merlot. We would be dead.

"Let me kite it!" Ruby cried out as she ducked under one of its tendrils and dashed to the side. "You can't tank it so let me!"

"Are you insane!?" Yang growled. She flipped over to the Grimm's side and used some flame-empowered punches to carve a chunk from its flesh. It roared and would have crushed her but for Pyrrha dragging her back. The Champion looked to Ruby.

"You'll be killed if it hits you," she said. "Don't you remember the Beowolf in our first Dungeon? If that nearly killed you in one hit, this will be far worse." Pyrrha tossed Yang aside and drew her weapon in time to deflect an attack. Even so, the force behind it sent her reeling. Before the Grimm could finish her off, Ruby darted across its vision and cut at its eyes. It hissed and chased after her.

"Any of us are dead if it hits," Ruby howled. "None of you can even take a blow from it. Our only hope is to kite it."

"It's too dangerous!"

"I don't care. I won't watch anyone else die!"

The back and forth continued, even as the monster tried to kill them. I struggled to follow it, mind still fogged over from the horror I'd witnessed first-hand. Even so, Ruby's words made my throat clench. She wanted to dodge tank that thing? One mistake, one simple mistake, and she'd be nothing more than a red smear across the snow. I winced as Blake clapped a hand to my shoulder.

"I'll help her," she said. "Out of all of us, Ruby and I are the only ones who can possibly do this."

Blake too? I reached out to stop her but she didn't even notice. She sped away, head low and daggers drawn. Why? Why would she even bother? She knew full well her tiny knives wouldn't so much as cut through its flesh. They were both going to die. I was going to be left alone. I was going to watch them go the same way Viktor did, and I'd be just as powerless now as I had been then.

The thought sickened me.

I wouldn't – couldn't – let it happen.

"I'm a part of this Guild," I whispered, digging Crocea Mors into the snow and using it to push myself up. "I am the leader of this Guild. I won't… I won't let you idiots fight it alone."

"A real Hero wouldn't need saving."

Viktor's parting words forced my eyes shut. I wasn't a real Hero, I knew that. He was, and he was dead. He'd stood before me to take the final blow and then, with the last of his strength, he'd freed my foot from the Grimm. He'd given everything to keep me alive. Maybe it was time for me to return the favour. Not in vain, however. An idea popped into my mind and I scanned the arena, the ruined temples and buildings that made up the battlefield we fought in. There had to be something I could use, some way of evening the odds. My sword was useless, as was I, but I remembered the first Beowolf we'd killed in the First Quest. Pyrrha, Ren, Nora and I dropped a building on it. There were plenty of buildings here.

It's too big for the weight alone to crush it, though. I need something it's weak to... I need something flammable.

It didn't take me long to find it. Atop the central temple, in the middle of a domed roof, stood a strange pinnacle. It looked like a cage of stone, with four corner pillars and a roof, but no walls. In the middle of it stood a huge, stacked pile of wood. Much of it would be rotten and dried from the snow, but it would burn well nonetheless. Maybe it once served as some symbol for worship, or a signal beacon. I didn't know. I only knew that it was the only idea I had. I dashed towards the temple.

To my right, the battle continued. I heard yells and cries, but none of pain – and certainly no grief. Please be okay, I begged. I'm coming as fast as I can.

The temple itself was as fractured as its fellows. The entranceway was cut off, hidden behind a huge pile of rubble, and there was no telling if the interior was the same. Instead, I looked at the wall to try and find a way up. It was ornamentally decorated, and some of the sculptures on the side stood out at odd angles. I tested one with my hand, then pulled myself up to see if it would hold. It did.

One arm before the next, eyes grit against the harsh wind as I fought for purchase to drag myself slowly up the side of the building. My armour threatened to weigh me down, but there was no time to deal with it and there was no telling if I'd still need it afterwards. A particularly brutal gust of wind caught my fur cape and whisked it to the side. It almost tore me off completely and I had to press myself against the stone. My fingers felt like they might break. The pain was unbelievable.

"I won't give in," I whispered. My body shook as I flung my right arm higher and gripped a rough-cut stone ledge. The muscles in my arm bulged as I used my considerable Strength to pull myself up. "I won't stop. Not while the others are still fighting." The wind didn't abate, so I clenched my teeth and kept going.

I reached the lip of the roof a few minutes later. My muscles screamed in agony but I managed to swing a leg over and drag myself up. On the domed roof, I paused to catch my breath. The material beneath me was bronze or bronze-plated. Idly, I wondered if I could melt it all and make it flow off the roof onto the monster. No, there was just too much surface area and the temperature was still sub-zero. There was no way the heat from my hand would spread far and fast enough to achieve that kind of temperature. I flipped over to look down below.

Blake had Merlot's attention. The Assassin danced away from his flailing attacks but never once tried to throw an attack of her own. She ducked behind a pillar, then fled away when it was destroyed in a cloud of smoke. A fireball ricocheted off the back of the Grimm's bulbous mass. It turned to find the source, but howled when another struck from the other side. Weiss and Kaedin were still in play. Good. I'd need them.

"Ruby!" I cupped my hands around my mouth to yell. It took the Reaper a few seconds to find me, but when she did her silver eyes widened. She opened her mouth to shout out a question, but I cut her off. "Ruby, I need you to lure it to this point." I pointed down off the temple roof in front of me. "As close as you can get it!"

"Jaune, what-?" Ruby cut off as someone cried out a warning. She sped away as Merlot crashed down on her position. I gasped and stood up, already half-turned towards the beacon.

"Just trust me!" I yelled.

I ran up towards it, slipped, landed on knees and hands, then crawled the rest of the way. The domed roof wasn't a perfect semi-sphere and began with more curvature than it finished. I struggled and dragged myself up the first part, but found it easier to stand and run the last thirty or so metres. My breath came out in harsh pants of clouded air when I reached the pile of wood. Relief tore through me as I ran my hand across it. It was dry, practically fossilised and impossibly brittle, but it would burn and that was all I asked of it.

A new problem revealed itself, however. The shape of the roof itself didn't allow me to see the battlefield anymore, and I had no idea whether Ruby was in position or not.

"Ruby!?" I yelled. "Is it close?"

Someone might have screamed a reply, but I couldn't make out the words. Were they ready, had someone been hurt, was it panic or fear? My heart hammered in my chest. I had no way of knowing. Did I just push and hope for the best?

"NOW!"

I didn't know who it was. I didn't know whether it was a signal for me or something else. I didn't stop to think of either of those things, however. Instead, I threw my weight against the huge stack of wood and pushed with all my might. It creaked and shifted, but didn't fall. I howled and put everything I had into it. It had to go. It just had to! I heard a few logs tumble, fall and scatter down the roof. With narrowed eyes, I threw myself against it. "Move, god damn you! Fall!"

The pile creaked ominously. It began as a single tumbling log, but was quickly followed by another. A third and fourth tumbled in quick succession, and then the wall I'd been pushing against gave way. Like an avalanche of wood, ice and dust, it rattled down the rooftop. I fell with it, carried along atop the wave. The precipice approached. There would be no time to stop myself, and I wasn't sure I wanted to.

This was all or nothing, after all.

With a quick prayer and gasp, the roof ended – and open air began. My body hung there, free from gravity for a few long moments as I sailed above and over the battle. Everything seemed to be in slow motion, and I was able to turn and look down to the battle below. Ruby's eyes met mine, like tiny specks of silver.

She'd drawn Merlot below me. She'd done it. My eyes traced the huge avalanche of wood as it rained down above him. My armour carried me further, away from him, but the rest would fall like hail across his body.

"Weiss!" I screamed. "Set it alight. Now!"

Red light flared from my left. Heat whistled past me, almost close enough to singe my eyebrows. I didn't care, however. Even as gravity took hold of me and my flight became downwards, I watched with grim satisfaction as timber burst into flame. The curtain of searing fire roared and rolled down atop Merlot's bloated mass.

The screams were indescribable. No lungs large enough to make such a noise could ever be imagined, let alone explained with words. A great pillar of flame engulfed him, and it reached almost ten metres above his already gargantuan form. At least fifty, perhaps sixty metres tall. It was a bonfire the likes of which I'd never seen.

My impact robbed me of the chance to see anymore. Snow exploded around me as I hit the ground, and if I'd thought it would make the landing soft, I was woefully mistaken. Every bone in my body cried out. Air was driven from my lungs, and then a little more was taken out as well. I retched and gasped in equal measure. I could barely move.

"Jaune!" Ruby rushed up to place an arm under my head and lift me up. It only made everything hurt more, however.

"Is it dead?" I rasped.

"Not yet, but… the screams. It must be dying. It can't possibly survive that. You did it!" She looked down on me as I winced. "Are you okay? Are you hurt?"

How was I supposed to answer that? I opened my mouth to try, but the words were drowned out by another high-pitched scream. Our heads shot to the side, in time to see Merlot throw his body against the temple I'd slid off the top of. Perhaps he thought it attacked him, perhaps his complete mindlessness had robbed him of the capacity to understand what happened, but it looked like he wanted nothing more than to destroy it.

The flames still roared off his body. I could hear skin bubble and pop. The others didn't dare approach. Each backed away, giving space for the monster as it thrashed and tossed itself against the temple. The already damaged structure proved no match. Dust exploded outwards, along with rubble and debris, as it collapsed in on itself.

A pit opened in my stomach. Why wasn't it dead yet? Why wasn't it dying? I struggled to sit up with Ruby's help as it continued to thrash and scream. Fall over, I thought. Come on… die already. I've dropped an entire roof on you. I've set you alight. We don't have anything left to give, so die!

It didn't. Merlot, skin charred and running down his form, turned to face us. One of its eyes exploded, but its cavernous mouth opened to reveal rows and rows of razor-sharp teeth. One of its tendrils wrapped about a nearby pillar and pulled its body towards where I'd fallen.

Pyrrha leapt into its path. The Champion ducked and weaved between angry tendrils that tried to rip her to pieces. For a moment, I feared the worst, but against all odds, she seemed to hold her ground. Her crimson hair flew behind her as she dashed to one side, reversed on the ball of her heel, and cut through one of Merlot's tentacle-like limbs with her sword.

"She's doing it," Ruby said. Her eyes shone. "Pyrrha's doing it!"

She was… had we weakened it that much? I saw Pyrrha hop over another attack and score a strike in return, but it was as her hair flicked back that I noticed her eyes flickering bright green. They glimmered like fire.

Some kind of Skill?

"Let's get you out of here while she holds it off." Ruby settled her hands beneath my shoulders and tried to tug me away. The weight of me and my armour proved too much, however. She huffed and growled, but my body only shifted a few inches. I groaned when it did. It felt like something dug into my leg. "Jaune!" Ruby let go and rushed back to my side. "What is it? I'm sorry!"

"I-It's nothing," I said, and then sighed when I saw her irritated expression. "It's something," I amended. "I just don't know what. I think I might have broken something when I fell. I'm not really in any shape to move." I closed my eyes against the thought of what it might mean even if we defeated this foe. We were atop a dangerous mountain where the cold could kill me. There was no way they'd be able to carry me all the way down.

"We'll think of something, Jaune. I promise. Just… just hold tight for now, okay?"

I waved a hand. It wasn't like I could choose to do otherwise. I idly wished I knew anything about medicine, or that we had a healer-type Class at all. They could have diagnosed what was wrong with me, but as much as I could see my own Statistics and such, the most I could get on what was wrong was that something was wrong. Not ideal, given the circumstances.

"Is…" I gasped for breath. "Is Pyrrha still holding it off?"

"She is," Ruby said, and then lifted my head up so I could see. True to her words, my friend was fighting toe to toe with the monster. How, I wasn't sure. She'd been knocked aside easily by it before, but now I watched her deflect a blow with her shield and stagger only a few paces. Pyrrha scowled up at Merlot, and I noticed her eyes continued to flicker like emerald fire.

"Pyrrha, keep it busy!" Nora yelled, running in. Pyrrha's face twisted in fear,

"No, Nora, wait!"

She didn't. The Barbarian had already covered the ground and swung her hammer into the Grimm's flank. Still on fire, and flesh still weak, it sagged to the side and roared in agony. The rush of victory was short lived, however. Pyrrha's eyes flickered and died. One of Merlot's tendrils slammed into her shield, and this time it crushed the metal against her body. Even with fifteen or so metres between us, I heard her arm snap like dry tinder. Pyrrha slammed into a stone staircase nearby and didn't move.

"Pyrrha!" Nora yelled. "Ren, get her out of-argh!" Her words were cut off as she hopped over one tendril but was left unprepared for the other coming the opposite way. Had both hit, her top and bottom halves would have been torn apart, but instead she was slapped aside like a ball. She crashed head over heels into a half-destroyed wall. The impact finished the job as brick and rubble rained down to bury her.

No… It wasn't enough. It still wasn't enough. I choked back a sob and slumped in Ruby's arms. How could everything we'd done not be enough to kill this monster? We had nothing left to give and no more heavy-hitters. In the distance I could even see Weiss, sagged on her rapier, which was buried into snow. She was spent. Ruby's hand reached for her scythe, the one I'd made her. I shook my head.

"Don't bother," I said. "You know you can't tank it. Get out of here. Run."

"I'm not leaving you behind." she whispered.

I groaned as Merlot dragged himself closer. A fireball exploded on his back, but he no longer seemed to care, not even about Kaedin. Deep within those crimson eyes, hate radiated, and it was all focused on me. Maybe he'd figured out who was responsible for his current agony. Whatever the case, it seemed that murder was all it cared for. "I don't think you're going to have much of a choice, Ruby." I said. "Get out of here. Save yourself."

"I won't!" Ruby laid me down and took a position before me, scythe at the ready.

"I said, get away!" I yelled. She was next to useless, we all were, but she was the worst person to try and hold a position in front of me. She would be swept aside with ease, torn asunder in a single blow. I struggled to move, but couldn't. Were my bones broken? "Ruby, don't be an idiot. You can kite it at best, but there's no way you can stand in front of this and live!"

"I won't watch anyone die when I could stop it, Jaune. I'm not moving anywhere."

That stupid girl. "Ruby, as your Guild Leader, I order you to get out of the way!" Over the sounds of screamed warnings, the monster's roar and the sound of the inferno, I could barely hear anything. Ruby's response, however, reached me even over that noise.

"No..."

"Move!"

"No!"

"God damn it, Ruby!"

Merlot reared one of his arms into the air. His mouth opened wide, and steam gusted out from within. My only solace was that I'd be killed instantly out here and not drawn into that terrifying maw. To watch Ruby die first, however, was not something I ever wanted. I tried to force my feet to move, just to kick her out of the way, but agony shot through my legs and I screamed in a mixture of pain and defiant rage.

As did Merlot.

A thick, black, tendril slammed down onto the snow a foot to my left. It twitched and flailed, but began to fade away, severed at the base.

"Ruby?" I whispered. She didn't reply. The Reaper hadn't moved, nor had her weapon. Ruby wasn't responsible for this. In fact, her eyes were locked on something a little to the side. I followed them, and my mouth fell open.

It was a swirling portal, a rich purple in colour, with light that formed within. Before it stood a figure clad in armour a mixture of metal and cloth, of greens and cream that rushed up her body towards the head. Neat orange hair made me think of Nora, but the face wasn't hers. In the girl's right hand hung a bizarrely oversized cleaver. It was slick with black blood. I could only stare at her. Had she rescued us? The portal winked out of existence.

"Who… who are you?" I asked. "Where did you come from!?"

"Salutations, ally. Archmage Ironwood saw you light a signal fire and assumed it was a call for aid. I see it is no signal fire, but that the latter holds true." The girl slowly walked towards the huge monster. "You may relax. I have been sent to assist you as required."

"W-Wait," I called. "He's too powerful. You can't just head straight in like that!"

"Do not worry." The girl turned her head to meet mine and smiled. She looked happy, ecstatic even. "I am combat ready."

A tendril pierced through her stomach. It erupted out of her spine.

I choked on my breath, one hand held out towards the girl who'd died, just like that. Ruby gasped and made to take a step forward, but didn't seem willing to leave my side, even to help this person. The girl took her eyes off the Grimm. She took her eyes off it because he had called out to her. Had he killed yet another person because of his foolishness?

"That," the girl whispered, "was rather rude of you." The cleaver fell to the floor, but faded into particles of green light. She gripped the limb buried through her body with both hands. "I was in the middle of a conversation with somebody. Please do not interrupt."

The girl tore the limb from its socket – and then ripped it out of her own body. Almost negligently, she threw it behind her, unheeding of her wounds.

"W-What…?"

"Jaune, look!" Ruby knelt and pointed at the girl's wound. It was a hole, roughly the size of my thigh, that penetrated through her entire body. I could see open air on the other side, but that I could also see was a complete lack of blood, gore or skeletal structure. Instead, her body seemed to consist of nothing but green light. It shifted and moved, almost like thread, until several strings of it met in the middle and began to close the wound before our very eyes. "What… is she?" Ruby asked. It seemed the girl heard, for she turned once more to smile.

"I am Penny Polendina, Remnant's first artificial Hero." She pointed one hand above her head, to where I saw her name and Class. It read simply; Construct. "I am a Magical Construct created and given sentience by Archmage Ironwood. Fear not, I am here to supply aid." She looked back to Merlot. "I shall deal with this monstrosity now."

"It's weak to fire!" I yelled.

"It is currently on fire, friend. I am not sure more fire can be reasonably applied."

"Oh, right…" Maybe I had a concussion too? It might explain why I was having such a vivid and bizarre hallucination. I took several deep breaths as Ruby helped me watch the girl, the Construct, stroll towards the monster that had so easily beaten us. She seemed unconcerned with its size, strength or the fact it was a walking bonfire. She doesn't have a weapon, I realised. She's going to get killed.

Merlot roared and swung one of his arms at her. Penny glanced towards it and held up her left arm to block it. The size differential alone was ridiculous, but I doubted she could stop that even if her body was 100% muscle. There just wasn't enough weight to her. Penny's eyes flared green, as did her arm. Before my eyes, it shifted and grew. It was like forging a weapon, except that the metal glowed green instead of yellow. In a matter of moments, she wielded a huge shield on the left side of her body. No… she didn't wield it; her arm became a shield.

The blow still caught her hard, and her feet skidded across snow as she was pushed a full ten metres to one side. Despite that, not a wince so much as crossed her face. The moment the tendril pulled back, she dashed forward. She was slower than Ruby, not that it meant anything since I'd never seen someone faster, but Penny's pace wasn't that much greater than my own. Merlot had plenty of time to react, and brought down a crushing overhead strike. Penny held her left arm up at an angle and deflected it down into the snow and rock beside her. She turned and slashed at it with her right, which shone green and became a thick broadsword the moment she struck. The limb was severed in a single blow.

Penny's arms morphed back into regular limbs once more and she charged forward as the Grimm was distracted. It flailed wildly to try and hit her, and I gasped as it managed to cut across her stomach in its rage. Green light spurted out like blood, but the girl didn't stop or acknowledge the damage.

Could she really face that thing on her own, though?

As it turned out, she didn't have to. Penny swerved away from the next attack and turned both her arms into large, curved blades more akin to a butcher's knife than a sword. Merlot roared and tried to hit her, but a huge pillar or rock lunged out of the ground beside her and crashed into his face. The Grimm reared back as Kaedin walked forward, staff gripped in one hand. There were no words from the Mage, not of grief, anger or hate. He simply clenched his teeth against some hidden emotion and cast spell after spell.

Most of them were rock-based, likely because it was already as on fire as it would ever get and he didn't want to put it out with ice or water. He created a small forest of rock for Penny to weave and hide behind, and my eyes even spied Blake atop one of them, crouched down as she hurled a dagger into Merlot's last eye. How she'd made it through the fight so unharmed, I had no idea. I guess Blake really is a higher level than most of us. I never did find out what, exactly.

"I should help them," Ruby said. My hand, the last part of me that could really move, gripped her ankle.

"Stay," I growled.

"But I can help."

You could die, I thought. I knew she wouldn't listen to that, however, so I tried a different approach. "I can't move, Ruby. If it comes for me, or even knocks something in my direction, I'll be killed." It was callous, perhaps, but she looked down at me and bit her lip. "I need you, Ruby."

That did it.

"O-Okay…" I could see it hurt her to look at the melee and not be a part of it, but it was only Yang, Blake, Kaedin and Penny who were even capable of fighting anymore. Ren was down by Nora's side, digging his friend out of the rubble, and Pyrrha was on hands and knees, barely able to stand. Weiss was slumped nearby, devoid of whatever magical energy she needed for her spells. We had to trust in those four.

Merlot lost whatever patience he had with the obstructing stone pillars. With two tendrils, freshly spawned from his body, he swung horizontally through their bases, toppling them down. Blake rode one as far as she could before she leapt off, but Penny was lost in the smoke and debris. The Grimm face moved closer. Eyes damaged beyond repair, it used smell, hearing – or whatever sense Grimm had to detect negativity.

It wasn't prepared for the green shape that jumped directly into its fanged mouth.

Neither was I, really. I gasped. "Urk…"

"No," Ruby said. She held one arm out uselessly, as Merlot chomped down with glee, ripping the strange girl inside of him. The entire battle seemed to pause, as suddenly no one knew what to do or how to fight it. What if she was still alive inside? Did they dare attack it?

"What do we do?" Yang asked. She looked towards me, as did Blake. Were they honestly seeking leadership from a semi-crippled Blacksmith?

"Hold off and see what happens," I said. Ruby nodded and yelled out my order. We watched as Merlot dragged himself towards Blake and Kaedin, who backed away from the monster. I bit my lip and whispered a prayer. Come on… you weren't eaten. You threw yourself down its throat. Tell me you had some kind of plan, you crazy girl. I winced as another lance of pain shot through me. Show me you're not as stupid as me. Show me you can beat it!

The monster surged forward once more. One of its limbs wrapped around some rock, but before it could pull itself across the ground, it paused. I watched with bated breath as its face, Merlot's face, seemed to twitch.

Nobody dared speak.

The Grimm shuddered and opened its mouth, but no roar emitted from it. Instead, a faint green light did, followed by a gasp as its body reared back and shook violently. A point on its flesh, below the eyes, pushed outwards. It looked like a growth, a triangle that poked up, until the flesh broke with a wet pop.

A green lance appeared, or perhaps a spear. It withdrew a moment later, but was replaced with the head of a battle-axe that tore through skin and muscle. Merlot writhed in agony and tried to attack whatever hurt it from within. Its limbs flailed against its own body, but that only made the wound worse. The Construct's arm appeared first. The hand had formed into the shape of an axe, but it moulded back to fingers as she pulled herself out from the wound. Her other arm was a spear, but shifted into a blade which she used to cut the hole wider. Bright green light ran down her body like blood, and I could see numerous cuts and holes knit themselves back together.

Through it all, her face remained calm, polite, almost. "It is time for you to die now," she said, and raised her left arm-sword above her. "I shall make it as painless as I am able."

Merlot roared angrily – but was silenced as the blade slashed down between his eyes. It pierced deep, and green light flooded from the wound. Based on how that only occurred when she changed the weapon, I dreaded to imagine what she was doing to his insides.

The beast twitched and shivered, and then fell in on itself.

"Is it…?"

"Dead," Ruby whispered. "I think it's definitely dead now. My god…"

I heard footsteps behind me, and looked over in time to see Ren help a limping Nora over to us. Both seemed haggard and bruised, but neither as bad as I. Behind them, Pyrrha carried herself with great difficulty. One of her arms hung limp at her side, the other clutched to her shoulder.

"I'm alive," she said. "Hurt, but… Jaune, are you-?"

"Hurt," I sighed. "Unable to move. I think something is broken."

"Some things from the look of it," Ren said. "You fell off a roof in full armour. You'll be lucky if your spine is in one piece."

"RENNY!" Nora hissed. She punched his arm. The Monk was so exhausted, the blow almost knocked him out. He slumped to his knees, and suddenly it was Nora having to support him. She mumbled apologies to him, frantically running her hands up and down his arms. Snow crunched nearby as their saviour ran up towards them.

"Your party appears to be all alive," the strange girl said. Her face was set in an almost ecstatic smile. "That is sensational! I am pleased I was able to arrive in time."

"Yeah, us too," Yang said, holding Weiss up beside her. Blake and Kaedin brought up the rear. The Mage's face was blank, too blank. Yang helped sit Weiss down and then collapsed beside her. "You said Ironwood sent you?"

"He saw you light a signal fire. At least, he believed it to be a signal fire. Because there are no inhabitants in these ruins, he assumed the worst and decided to send myself to reconnoitre the situation." The Construct bowed. "It was an honour to fight beside you all. I am enthused to see you are all unharmed."

A signal fire? She meant how I'd set Merlot alight. Had that really saved us?

"I wouldn't call us that," Blake sighed. Her eyes raked up and down my form, and although I saw the naked concern in them, she didn't dare approach. "I don't see how we can make it down the Fang like this. Our supplies have been destroyed and most of us won't last the night in this condition."

"That will not be necessary," Penny said. She held out one hand, and a small ball of green light formed in it. With a huff, she threw it high into the air. It hung in the sky, bathing the snow in a sickly green light.

A few moments later, a small portal swirled into being.

"Archmage Ironwood was able to calculate and cast a portal, all the way from his office." Penny sounded proud, and my eyes widened as I remembered how he'd pointed the mountain out to us. There was a window in his office that faced it, I recalled. How lucky were we that he happened to be in his office, that he happened to face the window, that he happened to decide the strange lights were a cry for help, and not just a trick of the light? I laid back with a sigh. Had we even really completed this Quest?

Viktor and Kaedin helped us get this far, saved our lives against an avalanche, against freezing to death, and then an army of Grimm. Viktor had then given his life to save me from Merlot, a foe we'd been too weak to significantly harm… and then now, at the end, our lives had been saved again by the Archmage and this girl.

Were we really that useless?

I didn't have the time to think of an answer. Several robed and hooded figures came from the portal. Four moved towards the dissolving form of the Grimm, and I could see the slumped body of Merlot reappear as it faded. He didn't move, and from the amount of blood around him, he never would again.

Good riddance.

A small group of white-robed figures approached us, however. One, a Priest, knelt beside me and placed a gloved hand on my chest. The glow that permeated it was comforting… both to my eyes and my body. "Badly injured," she whispered, "but alive. Sleep now. I shall see to your wounds, young Knight."

Sleep? I didn't feel like- a yawn escaped me as fatigue struck like a hammer. It was too sudden, too immediate, and I glared balefully up at the Priest. She was casting a spell on me. She smiled down, the barest hint of apology there.

My eyes sagged. The last thing I noticed before sleep took me, was that my body felt like it was growing stronger.

Drastically stronger.


Ugh, by comparison, my body is growing drastically weaker. Yay. I hate being sick. Anyway, chapter is all of what, 500 words less than normal? It's good enough. I hope the quality didn't tank too much, but maybe I pulled a Viktor with it - who knows.

Oh right, you'll know.

Jaune will give us a stat update in another chapter. I literally cannot bring myself to calculate it and check against my notes right now. It's too planned for me to just rush it. We'll just say he didn't stay awake long enough to find out, and so doesn't know yet. Yeah, that sounds like a good excuse. That's my story and I'm running with it!

I'm going to go off and be sick now.


Next Chapter: 8th May

P a treon . com (slash) Coeur