Here's the chapter, the usual CF disclaimer here. I hope you enjoy the chapter.


Beta: College Fool

Cover Art: Dishwasher1910

Book 3: Chapter 11


In the end, the consensus was that Blake and I should be the ones to meet with the Mercenary's Guild. I knew Coco after all, so could ask her to introduce me to the leader, while Blake was strong enough to keep me safe, and attentive enough to notice if we were being followed. The others would defend the Lodge while we were gone, just in case Torchwick tried anything again. We were low enough on funds that if he sent any more repair people, we needed someone there who could turn them away before we started owing them money.

"You say you have a contact in the mercenary's Guild?" Blake asked.

"An Archer name Coco," I said. "I sold the bow from our first Dungeon to her, but she didn't have all the money available. She did me a favour in return for the rest, and she told me about the Guild."

"Was she strong?"

"Stronger than me…"

Blake frowned, but refrained from pointing out how that wasn't a difficult thing, especially back when I was low levelled.

I was grateful for her silence.

"How are we going to pay them?" she asked instead. "If you want their help with this, I can't help but think the cost will be a little beyond us."

I bit my lip. "I have something in mind."

"I hope it works out."

Yeah, so did I.

The stone path gave way to dirt as we moved through a slightly less congested area of Beacon's Guild Village. There were houses on either side of us; some small and others large, but they started to give way as we moved into the open plains before the mighty castle. In terms of size alone, it was the largest by far, and I couldn't help but marvel at the pale stone and tall towers. It looked capable of withstanding a siege, which was a little pointless given its location.

How much would such a thing have cost? There was no way the Mercenary's Guild had gathered that much lien in just a few years. This must have been a Guild that had existed for decades, with each leader perhaps storing some money away until they could afford this. It was strange, and also a little impressive, to think that the Mercenary's Guild of old had sacrificed their own hard-earning money just to better the Guild in the future.

I wondered if the Hunters would have that same longevity. Would we take on new students in time, and pass the torch on to them? Or would the Guild die when we graduated from Beacon? If we graduated from Beacon, that was.

Blake walked beside me in silence, not an altogether unusual thing from her, but it was perhaps the first time she'd been at my side since Atlas. "Why did you join the Guild, Blake?"

Amber eyes shifted to me and then away. "Do I need a reason?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"People generally do things for a reason," I said. "I very much doubt you just had a whim to join a Guild and lose most of your money in the bargain… and to risk your tenure at Beacon."

"Maybe I did."

"Blake…"

"I'm a complicated person. I crave danger."

I rolled my eyes. Trust her to not give an answer, even now, with our future on the line. From a girl who made it a habit of warning me off any dangerous plans, I very much doubted she craved any excitement at all.

I sighed and looked ahead. "Thanks anyway…"

"Hm?"

"For saving us, I mean. Thank you, Blake."

She scoffed and looked ahead, but there was no mistaking the tiny smile that danced across her lips. "At least you remembered to thank me this time. I guess I won't have to avoid you for several weeks until you get the hint."

Ah, she was too kind sometimes. I laughed to myself, and liked to believe she was laughing too, albeit internally. Such mirth soon died as we reached the huge drawbridge and the weight of the situation came back. We made our way inside; passing people in the same tabard Coco had worn. None of them looked our way, or not for very long. Visitors were apparently common. There was a Mage behind a counter to the side, and he waved us other once it was clear we had no idea what we were doing.

"Are you here to request a contract?" he asked. "If there's something you need, I can help."

Blake looked to me and nodded her head, indicating I should do the talking. I nodded back and stepped forward, smiling as best I could. "I'm looking for Coco Adel. Is she available?"

The mage looked at us strangely. "Do you have an appointment?"

"Uh, no…"

"Is she expecting you?"

"No, otherwise I'd have an appointment."

"I'm afraid she's not available to speak with at the moment," the Mage said. "You have to go through other channels. If you have a request for the Mercenary's Guild you can speak to me. It's my job after all."

I sighed and crossed my arms, doing what I could to hide my frustration. There was something off here, or he wouldn't be so insistent. For a panicked moment I wondered if he was under Torchwick's employ, but it was too early to think like that.

"Can you at least let her know I'm here? Tell her it's Jaune Arc, and that she once said if I needed help, I could come and talk to her. If she doesn't want to speak with me after that, then I'll deal with you here."

The man opposite him paused for the longest time, but eventually nodded and waved someone else over. He whispered into their ear, and then sent them jogging off. What remained between us was nothing but silence, and quite an awkward one at that. I half-wished Blake would say or do something to interrupt it, but being who she was, she had no problem with it.

Great… I probably looked like the kind of asshole Mom always talked about, the customer who demanded something unreasonable and wouldn't leave until you gave in, or they were forced out.

Eventually, the other person came back.

"She's said she will see them."

The Mage spun on the spot. "What, she has!?"

"Those were her words," the large and burly Warrior said. "I'm to escort them to her immediately," he turned to them. "Please follow me and stay close. The castle has twists and turns that can be confusing to newcomers."

I waved for him to lead on, and Blake followed as we made our way deeper into the structure. With stone floors, stone walls and stone ceilings, it might have been cold and dark, but hungrily burning torches lit the way, and warm rugs were strewn over the floors. Tapestries hung from the walls too, and it was honestly a lot nicer that I'd expected given the outside. The Warrior noticed my surprise and laughed.

"We are one of, if not the, wealthiest Guild in Beacon. The Mercenary's Guild has existed for over fifty years, and we have a lot of members. Always have. Wealth for wealth's sake is meaningless however, or so our creed says. We spend what we can on making our own people stronger, and then invest the rest into the Guild itself."

"Investing in assets," I said, looking at an elegant statue we passed. "That's smart."

"I don't really understand it myself, but it's apparently better to have fixed assets than liquid. I'm just a Warrior though. I'm here to fight things, earn money and get stronger. I leave the organisation to the boss."

"We might have to meet with the Guild Leader later," I said.

"Might?"

"We want to hire some people, but the situation is… complicated," I explained. "Coco said I could come to her if I needed help, so I want her opinion on what your Guild can do before I talk to the boss."

"Ah, I see." The man chuckled. "Well, that ought to be a simple matter then." He brought us to a large and ornate door with two figures stood guard on either side. "She's through here. I will wait out here until you're done, and escort you back out."

"Thank you…?"

"Yatsuhashi Daichi." The man bowed. "I am a close friend of Coco's. Please enter, she awaits you inside."

Inside, huh? I glanced to Blake, but she shrugged and stepped forward. The guards on either side watched us, but made no move to impede our path, and the door creaked open as I pushed on it. The room inside was large and spacious, with a fire roaring in a heart on one side, and a huge, wooden desk in the centre of the room.

A figure sat behind it on a large chair, her legs kicked up atop the desk, and several pieces of paper on the floor. The moment she saw us, she cursed, swung her legs down and started to scribble randomly on paper.

"I'm working, I'm working!" Coco Adel growled. "No need to check on me, Yats- oh, never mind." The Archer laughed and tossed her quill aside, relaxing and kicking her legs back up once more when she noticed who it was. "Jaune, how's it going? It's been a while. Come in, make yourself comfortable."

"Coco…?" I stepped in and looked around. "Are we interrupting your work?"

"If anyone asks, yes! In reality… no." She laughed. "I'm all worked out and need a break anyway. So, what's up?"

"You said if I ever needed help I could come and talk to you…"

"I did," Coco said warily, "but I didn't say it would be free. This is the Mercenary's Guild."

"I know, I know. I didn't intend to ask for something for nothing…"

Her face cleared up and she smiled. "Great. I just wanted to get that out. You'd be surprised how many people think we're some kind of favour service around here. We work for lien. That means everyone gets treated fairly."

"Right…" I wasn't sure if what she said was a good or a bad thing, but I ran with it anyway. "We have a problem," I explained. "Our Guild was recently attacked by another's, but we don't have any proof we can give to the teachers."

"Are you sure it was them?"

I nodded. "We're sure. The thing is that they dealt with all the proof we could find, but they made a mistake and stole something from us, something that the headmaster personally knows we own. If we can find it in their possession, we can use that as the proof we need, but we're worried they'll try to sell it if we delay or hesitate."

"Okay… makes sense." Coco tilted her head. "I'm not seeing where we come into this."

"We can't sneak into their Guild hall. Even though Blake is an Assassin, they have more people, and we've got no idea where the item is kept."

"We can do a lot of things, but investigation isn't one of them," Coco warned. "I can take the contract, but I can't promise you the best results. Assuming that's what you want. I've got a feeling it isn't."

"It's not…"

"Heh, called it."

I bit my lip and tried to find what little confidence remained. This was a crazy idea and I knew it, but it was all we had and our only hope. "We're in a bad situation," I admitted. "If we don't find proof of this, then we're going to be forced out of Beacon, and there's a chance we'll lose everything. We really have nothing to lose, so this may sound ridiculous, but we're going ahead with it."

I took a deep breath.

"We're going to attack his Guild."

It was the second time I'd said it now, and although Blake had heard it the first time, she still shifted awkwardly. Coco, on the other hand, lowered her feet to the floor and took a more official position at her desk. Her face was flat.

"You intend to attack them?"

"Our goal is to find the item – a staff we were given by an incredibly powerful Mage in Atlas. It's worth almost a hundred thousand lien."

Coco whistled appreciatively.

"When I say attack, I don't necessarily mean fighting, and if we can get away without that, I'll be happy. The thing is that I don't think we can. My plan is to break into their compound and rush through it. We'll find the staff, fighting whoever we have to until we find it."

"The teachers will notice," Coco warned. "They won't sit idly by."

"I'm counting on it. Once we find the staff, I want them to find us. Then we can use it as the proof we need, and they'll secure us our way out of the enemy Guild."

"A clever plan… at least if one ignores the stupidity of it." Coco sighed. "Where do I come into this?"

"We're not strong enough to do this alone. We can try, and we will, but if we could hire a few extra people, it might go a lot smoother. I know this is a dangerous plan, which was why I wanted to speak with you first, before I talk to the Guild Leader here. I figure if I could explain it to you, you might be able to convince them to listen instead of just throwing us out."

"Yeah, there's a small problem with that…" Coco said.

Blake stepped forward. "You are the Guild Leader."

What!?

"Got it in one, girlie," Coco said, smiling. "Welcome to the Mercenary's Guild. I am Coco Adel, Acting Guild Leader. It's an elected position," she explained. "I got the job because a whole bunch of jackasses thought I'd be best for it, and voted against my will. All of a sudden, I'm stuck behind a desk doing paperwork. Some friends they were, huh?"

I could barely form any thoughts. Coco wasn't just some member of the Guild, but the leader? I'd come to the leader asking for advice on how to phrase my request to the leader? This was bad. Very bad.

"Coco, I-"

"You want to hire members of my Guild to help you break the rules and attack another Guild."

"They're breaking the rules as well. They've cheated and attacked us, and stolen from us as well."

"I understand that, and I trust you. I really do. The problem is that without proof, there's very little I can do to help you. You're asking me to send people who trust me into trouble. I can't do that. How did you even intend to pay us anyway?"

"A deal," I whispered.

Her eyes narrowed. "What kind of deal?"

"If we were successful, we'd give you the staff. If we fail, then we'd sign an agreement saying that all of our equipment will belong to you."

Blake stared at me, but didn't comment. She probably understood the idea anyway. If we failed, then everything we owned would be lost to Torchwick anyway. We might as well give it to someone like Coco. At least then we'd know it hadn't gone to waste. As for the staff, I didn't think Kaedin would be upset. Not with his thoughts on friendship and protecting those you cared about. He'd probably be pleased to know his weapon had been sold to save so many people.

"That's a lucrative deal, I have to admit."

"You could also say you didn't know the full details, or that we tricked you," I argued. "You and your people would be innocent because we're the ones who convinced you to do this, and because you didn't know anything about it. They'd be blameless."

"True," Coco accepted, stroking her chin.

I dared to hope.

"But they could be hurt," she said, sighing. "The moment they break into another Guild, their rights are waived, and the defenders will fight back. I won't send people into something they're not prepared for, and this could end in lives lost. I'm sorry, Jaune. I cannot help you." She watched my face fall and sighed. "It would be different if I could tell the truth. I trust my people, and they're more than capable of looking after themselves, but your ruse – the entire premise of my people being innocent, relies on them not knowing that they're breaking the rules. I'd be tricking people who trust me. I can't do that. Not to them."

I understood, I really did… but that didn't do anything for us. I clenched my hands into fists and looked away. "I get it…"

"I'm sorry, Jaune."

"It's fine. Forget about it. This was a stupid idea anyway."

"I wish you well."

I laughed bitterly. "I'm afraid that won't matter. We'll be gone within a week, forced out of Beacon, or maybe killed before that." I turned away, and Blake followed me, eyes unreadable. "Goodbye Coco. I hope things go well for you."

The door slammed shut behind us.

/-/

Yatsuhashi escorted us back out of the Guild in silence, and although he clearly read the move and tried to make excuses for Coco, neither Blake nor I responded to him in any way. We were too lost in despair or disappointment, or I was and Blake was simply silent. Another plan down the drain, another opportunity lost, and I'd have to go back and tell the others how I'd failed.

Again…

I wish we'd never met that bastard, Azure, in the first place. If it wasn't for him, then this would have never happened. Or it would, but it would have happened to someone else. As selfish as it sounded, I'd have been okay with that. We didn't deserve this.

"We're back to square one," Blake whispered.

"No, we're not. Square one still had options available to it, or hope. We're far beyond that now. There's no one left to help us."

"We can help ourselves."

"We're not strong enough, Blake."

"We can still try. Don't give up hope."

There was something darkly amusing about the fact that Blake of all people was trying to cheer me up. I shook my head and pushed on, unwilling to even consider it. I was in a bad mood, and a part of me didn't want that to end. Beacon was supposed to be my chance to be a Hero, and while it had fulfilled on that, there hadn't been any mention of crap like this. Why was Torchwick allowed to do this? How had no one cottoned on to it by now?

We crossed back over the drawbridge and down into the Guild Village once more. The houses on either side of us looked abandoned or closed, and there was no sign of movement.

"Let's just get back and tell the others," I said. "We might as well get it over wi-"

Blake held an arm across my chest and stopped me.

"Blake…?"

She held a finger to her mouth, and then nodded toward the surrounding area. Heart suddenly beating wildly in my chest, I looked around. The houses were as they'd always been, but the windows were shuttered and closed. There was no one on the path, but there hadn't been when we made our way here either. I didn't see anything noteworthy, and looked to Blake for an answer.

"You can come out," Blake called, tone bored. "You already frightened off all the birds. A road with houses nearby would never be this silent."

My hand fell to Crocea Mors immediately.

Up ahead, two figures stepped out from behind houses on either side of the road. One was dressed in red, the other white – and both looked disturbingly similar. There were two other men behind them.

"The Malachites," I whispered to Blake. "Yang and I fought them before. They have a Passive where they're ridiculously strong if they fight next to one another."

"They're not the only ones, Jaune. We're surrounded."

My eyes widened, and I spun on the spot, drawing my sword free with a loud hiss. Behind us, six or so people in black tabards blocked the road. The Guild symbol was that of a red axe on a field of black; the Red Axe Guild. I stepped a little closer to Blake, so that our backs were touching.

"What's the meaning of this?" I called out. "Why are you blocking the road?"

One of the Malachite sisters, the red one, stepped forward. She smiled coyly and flashed her claws in the air. "Let's not pretend you don't know why, little boy. Did you think the last time we met would be the last?"

"Be nice, Miltia," the other giggled. "We're not here for you, little Knight. If you want to pass safely, you can. We just want to have a little talk with your friend."

I didn't move a muscle. There was no way I was leaving her.

"Why?"

"Our employer wants to speak with her. You don't need to know anymore."

"I'm afraid I do. She's part of my Guild now. She's one of mine."

It was apparently news to them, for their faces darkened for a second. They stepped back, and whispered between themselves, clearly discussing what to do. I took the time to do the same with Blake, keeping my voice low while I asked her if she knew what they were on about.

"I became a target," she replied, voice even and unconcerned. "They're likely working with Torchwick, and he fears I'll be a means for you to pay your debt. If I could provide all of that lien the first time, then clearly I could do it again."

My eyes widened, "He wants to kill you?"

"Or force me out, or threaten or blackmail me." Blake sighed. "He didn't know I was a part of your Guild, but this will change things. It might make him more desperate… perhaps enough to make him take drastic measures."

"And abducting people in the middle of Beacon isn't drastic enough?"

"It could be worse," she warned. "And I have a feeling it's about to."

Her words proved prophetic. The Malachites didn't speak, but they fell into fighting stances, as did the people on either side of them. I swallowed and raised my sword, bringing my shield up in the other hand. This wasn't going to be good. It was almost ten against two, and the Malachites weren't pushovers when they were together. Yang and I had managed to separate them the last time, but it was clear they weren't going to fall for the same trick twice.

"You take the ones behind us," Blake whispered.

I glared back at her. "Are you insane? Those two are the leaders, and you want me to leave you to fight against them alone?"

"Yes. I am stronger than you."

"But are you as strong as the both of them!?"

"I have no idea, but I know you're not." Blake sighed and pushed back against me. "There's no time to argue. Cover my back."

"Blake, wait!"

She didn't. Blake pushed off my back, knocking me forwards as she dashed towards the Malachites, head held low and blades slipping from her sleeves. The two sisters were caught off-guard by her speed, but recovered quickly. Their first attack missed as Blake blurred into black shadows once more – and suddenly I couldn't pay any more attention because the others were on me.

A sword almost cut my cheek, thrust into my face as I leaned to the side and used my gauntleted hand to knock it away. My shield came up, catching a flanged mace that sent painful vibrations up my arm and into my shoulder. Something else struck from behind, hitting me in the lower back but being absorbed by my new, thicker armour.

There were too many of them. This was insane!

Rolling to the side to build distance, I surged back up and lashed out at the first enemy to reach me. Crocea Mors bit down hard on his sword, and he seemed ill-prepared for my unusually high Strength. His arm buckled, his guard broke, and he gasped as the blade cut into metal armour and drew blood. Not enough, of course – and not enough to kill, but more than enough to put him out of the fight.

Sadly, it also put my sword out of the fight, as he fell with it still lodged in his armour. The leather hilt was torn from my fingers.

"You bastard!" another of them howled.

"You attacked me!" I argued back, not that it made a difference. A knife flashed for my face, and although I flickered back, he lunged forward and drew a thin line down my cheek. He was a Thief – and faster than me, a constant problem. On his next attack, I decided I'd had enough of it and threw myself forward. What he had in Dexterity, he lacked in Strength, and although his knife clattered off my shoulder, he was completely unable to dodge or deal with my weight. He fell to the ground, crushed under my weight. I rolled off before he could stab me, and stole the dagger from his fingers. He groaned weakly and clutched his chest, while I staggered back up and swung the tiny thing at his friends. "Who wants some!?"

It was a poor choice of words. Apparently, the answer was everyone. Everyone wanted some. One fighter jumped me from the left, another hurtling forward and ducking low, wrapping his arms around my legs. I jammed the knife down into his shoulder, but he grunted and took it without complaint – and suddenly there was a woman behind me, an arm around my neck as she tried to lift my head and expose my throat.

They were actually trying to kill us! This was insane!

Panic set in. My hand latched back, catching her wrist and then burning her flesh as I Stoked the Forge straight into her. The scream she let out was agonising, and she let go of me as if she'd been scalded. She had, except far worse – as my finger marks in her skin would attest. With her gone, it left me able to join both hands above my head and slam them down onto the back of the person clutching my lower half. He grunted once, and then gasped as my armour-plated elbows crashed down. He slumped down to my feet, and fell unconscious as I kicked his face with steel-tipped boots. I ran to the left, tearing Crocea Mors free from the wounded opponent.

Just in time to spin and block a foot aimed straight for my face.

"Tch, you're stronger than the last time," Melanie Malachite hissed. "If it wasn't for the blonde bitch, you'd have been screwed. Looks like you have a thing for hiding behind strong women."

"Like your boss?"

"Cute."

I grunted and fell back, blocking her kicks furiously. Each time, I tried to counter-attack, but she only ever had one foot on the floor, and the attacks came from every direction. When I tried to push forward and force her off balance, she instead swirled around me and slammed her bladed foot into my back. The armour protected me, but I still stumbled over one of the nearby bodies.

A quick glance told me that Blake was fine, and actually winning handily, but there were more enemies coming out of nearby alleyways. It looked like they'd brought the whole Guild, and I didn't have the time to call for ours. Melanie laughed and hopped forward, balanced on one foot as she prepared to sweet her heel into my face.

There! An opening!

My eyes spotted it instantly, a chance to duck low and under, catch her heel with the back of my hand, then attack her while she couldn't defend herself. Before, I would have been far too weak to take advantage, but now after Atlas and everything else, I wasn't the same person. My body moved, eyes narrowed as I slipped under and aimed Crocea Mors towards her heart. She smirked, but there could be no doubt. I had her.

I thrust up.

Something tugged my arm back.

"Got you!" she yelled, right as I looked down and realised that the unconscious person behind me hadn't been as out of the fight as I'd thought. He had his arms wrapped about my wrist, holding my sword back and leaving me wide open.

My eyes widened as the bladed boot came in for my face. There was no time to dodge, and with my sword caught by one of her goons, I was completely unable to dodge Melanie's attack. I vaguely heard Blake call my name, and it was clear from her panicked tone that she wouldn't reach me in time. I clenched my eyes shut and prepared for agony.

It didn't come.

There was a sound of steel against steel, followed by a sharp, female cry. Something large pushed me back, and my sword fell free. I staggered and opened my eyes to see a huge expanse of green armour and dark flesh.

"Are you safe, Jaune Arc?"

My eyes widened. "Yatsuhashi?"

"It is I," the Warrior from the Mercenary's Guild said. He wielded a giant sword almost as tall as me, and had it point-down in the dirt, the flat side blocking attacks from two different people. "I am not alone, however. Do forgive me for a moment while I deal with this distraction." He turned back to face ahead of him. His muscles bulged visibly, and he swung his huge blade in a mighty arc. The two men attacking him were thrown bodily back, and they slammed into the wall of a nearby house.

His Strength was monstrous!

"What are you all doing?" Melanie growled. "Deal with him as well!"

Several more people rushed forward, but they were halted as an arrow struck the ground between them and the Warrior. It exploded a second later, engulfing the area in flame and fire that drifted lazily into the sky.

"Deal with him, huh?" an amused voice asked. Atop a nearby building, one foot on the thatch, and another on a windowsill, Coco perched. She wielded the bow I'd sold her what felt like months ago. "You see, that's a funny idea. I'm normally the one who does the deals around here, girl. So if you've got some official business with the Mercenary's Guild, you can share it with me."

She nocked another arrow and aimed it at Melanie. Her eyes flashed and the tip ignited.

"Go on… I don't bite. Much."

The girl in white backed away. Her eyes were narrowed, but it was clear she didn't want anything to do with Coco, or maybe the Mercenary's Guild in general. "Miltia," she called. "I think we're breaking it off here."

"Tch…" The other sister backed away from Blake. "You got off lucky this time, bitch. It won't be the same the next we meet."

"The next time we meet, you won't see me coming," Blake warned. Judging from the lack of wounds on her, and the copious ones on her opponent, it was no empty boast.

Miltia certainly didn't think so, for her eyes widened and she scurried away. The two fled, taking with them what men were conscious. That still left three or so unconscious on the ground, along with two that Yatsuhashi had thrown aside. After a few seconds, we were alone with our saviours. Relief poured through me, and I fell to the ground, panting.

"You saved us," I gasped. "T-Thank you."

"Do not thank me, young Knight. It was Coco who insisted we escort you back to your Guild. She became anxious once you left, and didn't with to leave things be after your parting message."

"Lies and slander," the Archer growled, stalking past him. She knelt by one of the unconscious fighters. "The Red Axe Guild…? This is Junior's Guild, but why would they be after you guys? There's something you're not telling me here."

"They attacked us once before," I said. "I'm guessing Torchwick sent them after us. He was after Blake since she bailed us out, though I guess now he'll know what happened here." That didn't bode well, especially if he'd moved up to attacking us directly. "I'll have to warn the others. He might even attack the Lod-" Coco's hands grasped my armour and dragged me up. Her eyes blazed. "C-Coco!?"

"You said Torchwick," she snarled. "You said Torchwick, right!?"

"Y-Yes!"

"He's the one doing this to you!?

"Didn't I say that?"

"NO!" Coco threw me away, and I would have fallen were it not for Yatsuhashi catching me. Blake hovered nearby, eyes fixed on the Archer who stomped around the area angrily mumbling. She knelt by another man and started to slap him awake. "Wake up, damn it. I need answers!"

Blake coughed lightly and tugged me out of the Warrior's grip. "What's wrong with her?" she asked.

"We did not realise your problems came from Torchwick, and the news has caught Coco off-guard. We have a… tumultuous relationship with that fiend."

"What happened?"

"When we were first years, we were tricked into borrowing money from him for weapons," he explained. "Coco was the one to agree, though I hardly blame her for that. Back then, there were three of us. Myself, Coco, and our good friend, Fox. I expect that the terms of our agreement were not dissimilar to your own." He sighed and shook his head. "Before we really knew how, we were in a bad situation, and owing money we could not hope to repay. We tried to escape time and time again, but ultimately came to accept our fate as inevitable."

"It wasn't if you're still here."

"We are here, but Fox is not." The larger man's eyes closed. "We convened for a final night together, where we would drink and be merry to create a single lasting memory. Fox drugged our drinks. He took some concoction from Oobleck's collection and used it on us. When we awoke, it was to find that he had sold everything he owned to pay off our debt. He had also convinced the headmaster that it was his alone, and that he should be expelled." Yatsuhashi growled. "Through his sacrifice, we were spared."

"It wasn't a sacrifice we wanted," Coco howled. "It wasn't a sacrifice we would have accepted! If only that bastard had given us the choice."

"We never saw Fox again, and we have no idea where he is. Our best guess is that he would have been knocked down to the Soldier Caste in disgrace, but neither I nor Coco could accept that. We decided that we would earn all the money we could so that we might find some way to help him back into what he deserves." He sighed and indicated the battlefield before them. "Hence our decision to join the Mercenary's Guild, and Coco's drive which led her to the top…"

"And yet nothing," the Archer spat. "Not a damn thing… and Fox vanished like he never existed in the first place. I knew there was something wrong with that, but it wasn't like we could prove something. Torchwick had a hand in it. I just know it."

"We have no evidence, Coco."

"We do now." She stood and strode over to us, eyes flashing angrily. "Your stolen weapon is real, right? If you lie to me here, I'll snap you in two."

"It's real, I swear."

Coco stared into my eyes, and then nodded slowly. She lowered me down, eyes flicking to Blake, and then back to her Yatsuhashi. "This is it," she said. "This is our breakthrough."

"This is dangerous, Coco. There will be no going back once we set foot on this path."

"I'll take full responsibility. Besides, are you saying you're not up for this?"

"We shall take responsibility, my friend. And no, that is not what I am saying." He smiled. "I am simply making sure you are aware of the consequences. If your decision is clear, I shall alert the Guild. We will convene in the grand hall."

"Do it. I don't want a single person out of place." Coco turned to us when Yatuhashi ran away. "You two get in touch with your Guild and tell them to meet us at the castle as soon as they can. Torchwick will know of this soon, so there's no time to waste. Tell your people to be prepared."

Everything was moving too soon, and I could barely keep up. Despite that, the faint wisps of hope stirred inside of me. My eyes shone, even as my mouth felt dry. I took a step forward. "Ready for what," I asked. "Be prepared for what?"

"War."


And there we go, Coco is the leader de facto of the Mercenary's Guild, and naturally Torchwick has made a few enemies in his time. Will the Grand Alliance be able to face the might of the TRE, or will news reach the teachers and stop the whole thing before it can even begin?

Where does Jaune fit into this, and why is brown sauce considered a flavour? I mean, it's a colour. You can say red sauce, but you know it's ketchup, while people just say "Yum. Tastes like brown sauce."

It's a bloody colour!

Ahem… yes, plot relevant, I'm sure.


Next Chapter: 14th August

P a treon . com (slash) Coeur