Editor/Creative Assistant: Paragon of Awesomeness
A/N: I need a beer.
Revelations and Disputes
After the incident with the sword, the two of them sat back down in their respective seats in Ozpin's office. However the atmosphere was definitely different from before. Ozpin was still rather tense, not taking Archer's previous test completely well, even if the Counter Guardian had meant it as a way to verify his intentions. Said man was now back to sitting across the aged headmaster, and Ozpin could not help but glance at the elegant, surreal, sword resting in the red man's lap every few seconds. He had seen countless weapons throughout his many years as a huntsman, from mixes of rocket launchers and axes, to Ruby's scyther rifle, and even those like Qrow's that have seen more blood than the admittedly gruesome profession usually called for.
This sword was absolutely nothing like that. It had no special forms, nothing to fire Dust rounds from, but despite all that it seemed to exude some impossible form of Aura that was in a class of its own. The power leaking from it and washing over him. The Headmaster was caught off guard by it, and the oddest thing is, he was not oppressed by the energy.
Rather, the warmth embraced him like a hug old friend, lost over the years only to meet again decades afterwards, but the sense of kinship still holding strong. Yes, that's what he felt. Ozpin was certain that if it weren't for this sword, he would be much more jittery and impatient with this Archer character, but the calming energy seemed to reassure him of the bowman's intentions, that no-one could possibly be allowed to wield that sword unless they had the purest of hearts.
"So, you're asking me, 'What's my favorite fairy tale?' Why?" Ozpin inquired, his interest piqued at the man's question but yet wary of what knowledge that the man has to offer.
"The story behind this sword can easily qualify as a fairy tale of some sort." Archer answered the man. "I ask you again: what fairy tales are you the most familiar with?"
"Hmm..." Ozpin considered, looking at the ceiling thoughtfully. "There've been dozens if not hundreds of tales I have heard over the years. There is the Tale of the Two Brothers, and that of the Shallow Sea, the Girl in the Tower, as well as the story of the seasons." Even though he didn't seem to be paying attention to Archer, he nonetheless gauged whether or not Archer had any clue behind the true meaning of these stories, especially that of the last tale, but so far, he had no reaction whatsoever.
"I've heard of similar stories before," the red man commented. "The Tale of the Two Brothers sounds like a myth from Ancient Egypt... the Girl in the Tower seems awfully like Rapunzel. However, as for the other two... the Shallow Sea I have not heard of, and the seasons..." Ozpin unconsciously leaned closer to the man to see if his suspicions weren't unfounded. The ramifications behind that knowledge being leaked out would be disastrous.
"The societies of my land had many stories, especially ones that explain how the world came to be as it is. The Greeks spoke of the goddess Persephone being dragged to the underworld by the god of death, and due to eating a few seeds of a pomegranate from his table, she was forced to stay in the underworld for a few months every year, much to the sadness of her mother Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and harvest. Demeter's sorrow of being separated from her daughter caused the land to wilt and die during those months, and so the season of winter came to be." Archer explained.
Ozpin was a bit relieved but confused by this. There was a possibility that the man was trying to cover up for his knowledge of the Seasonal Maidens, but his story was entirely different than that of the Maidens. However, with all these names thrown around, the explanation brought up more questions. Who were the Greeks? Who was Persephone and Demeter, and if they were deities, why hadn't he ever heard of them?
When Archer had said those words, Ozpin's eyes widened and he gaped at the implications of that phrase. If this man knew of the Maidens, then what could he possibly expect from the Heroic Spirit? Would he seek to take that power for himself? If the Guardian so much even had a tiny desire for it, the headmaster would have another powerful enemy to deal with.
"I've never come across of any mentions of that myth, and I have traveled to a multitude of lands," Ozpin admitted.
"I figured as much," the guardian frowned. If his suspicions were correct, there was a possibility that he ended up somewhere much further from Fuyuki, or even Japan.
He began to recall the story of a certain King of Knights. "Where I hail from, there was a land once called Briton. It was ravaged by chaos due to the collapse of a great empire that once took Briton as a territory, along with many other lands. Amidst this chaos, a King rose, a king named Uther Pendragon. He bore a child with one of his servants' wives, the beautiful blue-eyed woman by the name of Igraine.
"However, this child was not the one they wished for to fulfill the prophecy that was told to him, where a successor would be born during those dark and tumultuous times to one day unite their land and transform it into a golden utopia." Archer recalled this part of Saber's story and found it to be extremely unjust. For the Once and Future King to be cast aside only because her father had hoped to find a more desirable, male heir… he found it infuriating.
"However," the Wrought Iron Guardian continued. "The king bestowed this child upon a great wizard of his court, a man named Merlin, as a price for ensuring the success of his and Igraine's love. Merlin had already help ingrain the spirit of a dragon upon this child and he was the one who told Uther of the prophecy. This wizard swore to protect this child and prepare it for the great destiny which lay ahead. However, this child was a girl, which was deeply troubling to Uther for in Briton only boys could wear a crown as a king. But Merlin on the other hand was ecstatic with joy all the same, as the prophecy did not care whether or not the heir was a man or a woman.
"She was raised as the son and brother of two knights, sworn to use her sword for her country alone, on the path to knighthood herself. Before she was even fully grown, the day of the prophecy came." Archer always became a bit uncomfortable recalling this part of her story. Even though it was the point where she became the greatest king to have ever lived, Saber herself remembered it as the point where she doomed her country to ruin.
"Merlin sought candidates from all over the land, to pull the a sword embedded in a stone. An inscription on it read, "Whosoe'er pulleth out this sword of this stone is rightwise king born of England." Over and over, great knights from every corner of Briton tried to remove it from the stone, and just as many times, they failed. Eventually after countless failure they decided that if no one could pull out the sword, the selection for the new king would be decided with a jousting tournament. After the last knight gave up on the test, they all went to the jousting field, leaving the sword in the stone.
"The girl, Arturia, went up to the sword in the stone while all the knights were off at their little tournament to see which among them was the best at knocking another man off his horse with a big stick. As she reached to pull it out, Merlin came to speak with her, warning her that once she took up that sword, she would never be able to live her life as a woman, or even as a human, but as a king. However, Arturia already knew all this. She shuddered every day and night dreading the day, and despite her fear she resolved herself to become the king her country needed, even though she knew it would mean giving up her very humanity, and with it a chance for happiness. And so Arturia Pendragon took hold of the sword, and finally pulled it out of the stone. A brilliant light shined upon her, bathing the area with a golden shine as the King of Knights was chosen."
"This," Archer picked up the sword and brought it into the two men's lines of sight. "Is the sword that she pulled out of the stone. It's the first Holy Sword of King Arthur. Forged thousands of years ago, it is the Sword that Chooses the One True King, descended from Gram, the most powerful demonic sword of the Nordic Hero Sigurd. This sword chose her, and she chose to accept her destiny that wielding this sword meant. Caliburn, the Golden Sword of the Victorious."
"As beautiful as a weapon it may be," Ozpin began, "Isn't this legend you tell me of just a fairy tale? Surely this weapon is just based off of the article this King was described to have."
While Archer knew that the headmaster was partially right, in that the sword he was holding wasn't the true article, he was still incorrect in assuming that the story was a mere fantasy.
"Every fairy tale has basis in reality, headmaster, something I suspect you already know quite well. This sword is just one of the many truths behind this one," he cryptically explained.
Ozpin leaned forward further onto his desk. "Mister Archer, you speak of this king's story as if it's widely known, yet I have never heard of this King Arthur before. Tell me, where exactly do you hail from?"
"Hmm... I figured as much. I can easily tell the cultural dissonance between the lands I traveled and here. Before I could completely explain to you who I am and where I come from, can you tell me where exactly I am right now?"
Ozpin leaned back into his seat and replied, "I assume you're asking about which country you found yourself in, since you spoke of some sort of 'cultural dissonance.' We are in Vale, one of the Four Kingdoms of Remnant." He placed his scroll down onto the table and projected a map of Remnant for the man before him.
"Vale is located here," Ozpin said, pointing to the Central-Western coast of a large continent in the middle of the map, "While Atlas is located to the north," he then pointed to a large island in the north, "Vacuo is found here," he moved to point at a deserted area to the far west, "and finally, Mistral is located to the east of Vale," Ozpin finished, pointing out one of the last large continents far to the east.
"Before we continue," Archer began, "When I say Japan, United States of America, United Kingdom, China, Russia, or United Nations, do those... words have any meaning to you?"
"I'm certain that I've never heard the use of those terms before in my life," Ozpin answered.
"How about..." Archer continued, "The Mages Association, Clock Tower, Atlas Academy, Sea of Estray, Holy Church, Holy Grail War, or Heaven's Feel?"
"Hmm... Atlas Academy is the academic institution for huntsmen in the Kingdom of Atlas, but given the other terms you listed, I'm guessing that's not what you're referring to. And while there are some legends that refer to a Grail, I must say that I have not heard anything regarding a war for it. As for clock tower, you obviously don't mean any big tower with a clock on it like the one here at Beacon."
This made Archer silent. It seems as if he was right, and that he wasn't in his own world anymore. Carefully choosing what to say next, he unconsciously gripped the sheath of Caliburn, as if looking for guidance from the Holy Sword.
"I see that there is something troubling you," Ozpin observed. forcing Archer to break from his own thoughts.
"Fairy tales, like the one I just told you about the King of Knights, have some grain of truth in them," the Guardian half-answered. "As you can see, not every aspect of these stories is... as fantastical as most people believe. This sword for example, even though it came from such a fairy tale, was still real. In fact, like many other legends and tales, the whole story is real. Every little bit of it."
Archer took a deep breath before he dropped the bomb on the headmaster. "From the moment Arturia was imbued with a draconic essence, to the moment where the sword poured light upon the landscape once it was drawn. Everything I told you was true. Down to the existence of Magic."
Ozpin had to hold his breath at that. "Surely, you must be referring to the existence of Aura and Semblances?"
Archer shook his head at this, "Even though I have my suspicion's regarding what those truly are, magic, or magecraft as my people called it, goes far beyond that. Tell me, to you, what exactly is an Aura or a Semblance?"
"Aura is a manifestation of one's true soul. A power resting innately in all humans and Faunus alike, some just don't have it unlocked. It takes the form of a sort of energy or shield around an individual's body. Only people have it, not inanimate objects nor Grimm. A Semblance, however, is a manifestation of one's own abilities, a reflection of your soul. They're almost always unique to the person, though some can be passed through bloodlines. If you recall team RWBY, Ruby, the one dressed in black and red, has a Semblance which grants her immensely increased speed. I guess you could call them some form of magic in their own right."
"That may be true, but-" Archer brought up Caliburn to sight. "-this? This isn't the original article. My magecraft focuses on recreation of objects and reinforcing their attributes, especially swords and other weapons. I can even recreate an item's individual history. That's why you can feel it's power."
"Can that not just be a product of your semblance?" Ozpin asked half-heartedly, already knowing the answer to his question.
"Look at this sword again, closely," Archer requested. "Does it strike you as... different? Unique? That may be because of the energy this sword innately holds. If Aura is what I believe it is, you can already tell what makes this sword so special."
Ozpin could not help but agree with the red garbed man. That sword was not some mere piece of steel. It seemed to have a soul of its own.
"By the standards of magi where I come from, I'm just a third-rate magus, specialized only in this one aspect of magecraft. I know magi that can use jewels as bombs, protective barriers, and much more, and this one person can utilize her magical energy in order to directly worsen the health of another magus. She, too, can reinforce objects as I can, and that's only scratching the surface of how varied her magecraft is. The difference between magecraft and Semblances is that all the things this girl can do? She can teach someone else how to do it, too, provided they possess the right qualifications of course.
"And onto my existence. In my life, I was a third-rate magus. I was absolutely abysmal in every field of magecraft except reinforcement and projection. However, at one point, I learned that the only reason why this was is because I was meant for a specific branch of magecraft. My Origin and Element were both abnormal. While some people had fire, water, or other things, both of these, for me, were Sword."
'I Am The Bone Of My Sword.'
Archer continued, "I strove throughout my life to become my ideal: a hero of justice. A sword to defend the innocent. I did not wish to see anyone cry if I could help it. It was my belief in this to create a contract with a force of my world: Alaya, an existence that embodies the will of humanity's desire to survive. I wished to continue striving towards my ideal of saving others even after death, hence, I became one of Alaya's beasts, a Counter Guardian. I had ascended time and the Samsaric cycle, or reincarnation, in order to be called upon at any time, past or future, to do Alaya's bidding. I am the last and strongest line of defense to stand in between mankind and its destruction."
He didn't elaborate on the darker portions of his tenure, especially when he was called upon to protect humanity from itself. It wouldn't do him any favors if he told Ozpin any of it, as the man was supposed to be heading the supposed paragon of light and duty of the Kingdom of Vale.
Ozpin took a moment to properly process the information and what it entailed for his operations. Common sense dictated that the event which sparked this man's arrival was the breach itself, where mankind faced the threat of a massive Grimm invasion. However, he knew that this wasn't the only thing to consider. There was the possibility of another cataclysmic event that could even be worse than that day's breach. Even though casualties were low, if the Counter Guardian wasn't there, it would've been a complete and utter massacre.
"Let's assume that I believe what you have told me so far. From where I stand, I can tell that you obviously appeared in reaction to the Breach, but surely, there must be more," Ozpin eventually chose to say.
"Possibly, possibly not. Every time Alaya deploys me, I fade away from the world once my task is fulfilled and the threat has ended. Right now, my connection to Alaya is incredibly weak, meaning that if the Breach was indeed a disaster warranted my presence, Alaya's strength in this world is too weak to command me. Another, worse, possibility, is that the threat is far from ended, but given my lack of information about this world and my weak link to Alaya, I cannot be directed to it. But I am leaning towards the former, as Alaya hasn't been supplying me with the power that I would be receiving if I had been deployed."
"...How can this so called embodiment of humanity's will to survive be weak?" the green garbed headmaster inquired, leaning forward a bit more, disbelief bleeding into his voice. "After millennia of battling Grimm, we've come to a peak of prosperity, the four Kingdoms are more well off than ever before in history. What more can signify the desire of our species to live?"
"Tell me, what is the population of all of Remnant, Professor?"
"From the last of estimates, just over the realm of ten million, including Faunus, of course. The majority live in the Four kingdoms, as Grimm don't allow for too much expansion"
"That's it." Archer finally had a good idea of the reason why Alaya was so weak. "Where I come from, our population was just about to hit seven billion when I died. And from what I've observed, there's a very good possibility that this world is, I suppose you could say descended from my own."
Ozpin sat back in his seat, his eyes wide at the bold claim. He could barely process all the ramifications of his conjecture. If Archer's was correct though... that would mean that there must have been some cataclysmic event of global scale millenia before even the founding of the four Kingdoms. It made sense that with just over .1% of the original population remaining, that this Alaya, this planetary force of mankind's will to survive, be almost completely diminished.
That had one problem, and the Headmaster couldn't leave it to be unanswered. "So, if this planetary spirit is as weak as you say, how were you... summoned here? I'm just inferring based on what you've said, but given how powerful you claim these Counter Guardians are, it must take an absurd amount of power in order to summon even one of your kind."
"I thought so, too," Archer began, "-until I noticed the amount of magical energy around my area of summoning. The girl with white hair, I believe their teammates called her Weiss, was present, and she was the only one in the vicinity. Much of the energy was focused around her, or more specifically, her rapier. I analyzed it and found that the entire blade was coated with an immense amount of magical power. I do not know what she did, and frankly I doubt she does either, but the results of it are clear."
This was problematic for Archer, as the bizarre circumstances surrounding his summoning could present issues in the future, and even though he felt no connection to the white-haired girl, if he had left something to chance, such as the possibility of the girl being completely drained of her own power, by supplying enough mana for Alaya to use to summon him. This could possibly result in her death, and he would prefer to avoid that if at all possible. Even though she seemed fine while she was being 'carried' around, it didn't mean any symptoms wouldn't pop up later on.
Ozpin would have to question the girl soon, and while he didn't wish to strain her just after she wakes up, the information she might have could be vital. The headmaster had to work with the man in front of him in the future in order to prevent any calamities. At first, he was rather distrustful, especially after the act with his flying sword. But when he had conjured up, no created, the golden sword currently resting in his lap, he found himself hard pressed to distrust the bowman, even though he could hear an imaginary Glynda screaming at him to expel this man from the academy, preferably from the Kingdom of Vale, immediately.
His conversation with the man proved to stun him even further, and while he knew the man was hiding things, he was nonetheless truthful with his testimony. Working closely with Archer would allow him to find out more things he wished to understand, and see if anything the Guardian had hidden from him would warrant action.
"So, what is your goal?" Ozpin asked, the future of their alliance resting in the answer to this one question.
Archer had to contemplate his answer very carefully. He, too, knew that his answer would shape his future at Vale. After a few moments, he answered, "I have never desired fame, glory, or power. I never wanted any of that when I sought to become a hero, and even if I did I certainly didn't receive any as a Counter Guardian.
"I died at the hands of my former allies and the people I had saved, a scapegoat for one of many tragedies that I had prevented, because they could not understand why I wished to help them. But despite this I didn't harbor any ill will for them, even as I was being executed. If I wanted recognition, I would've loathed them, but instead, I died happy, taking comfort in the fact that I had spent my life doing all I possibly could to make the world a better place." He had to stop, taking a deep breath to focus himself, the discomfort resulting from delving into unsavory memories of his past.
More and more he was reminded of the boy, Shirou Emiya, who had proved the Counter Guardian wrong. No, it was more accurate to say that Shirou proved himself to be right. Archer was right, too, in a sense, but it was when he had turned his back on the ideals he had once held so dearly that he became wrong. The bowman continued, "I only wish to save as many people as possible. Even if I can't save everyone."
"Don't worry Tohsaka, I'll be fine. I swear, I'll try my hardest from now on," the Heroic Spirit recalled his promise to Rin. At the end of the War, Shirou Emiya had a serious effect on the Guardian, even making him accept his own existence as a Hero of Justice. He was far from becoming the naive and idealistic boy once again, still somewhat bitter over the things he was forced to do for Alaya.
'Can I keep my promise to her? Or will I end up betrayed by my own ideals, again, and then betray them in turn?' he wondered. If he followed the Path of the Shura as Kiritsugu once had, he would end up abandoning his own ideals, and stomping upon the promise he made with his former Master, his former friend, his former lover. However, if he stayed true to his ideals, it was almost certain that he would be forced into the worst of spots, the tightest of corners. After all, it was impossible to save everyone.
Yet, as Shirou would've said, "If you walk down the path that you believe is right, you cannot be wrong."
He knew the first path would be, in the end, the easiest path to take, if he fully committed himself to the weighing of human life. But he was not that type of man. He was not Kiritsugu. If he was, then he'd be even more of a faker. He had not been brought to this world to play god. As a human, he could not act as if he was a supreme being, nor could he pretend that he knew which lives mattered more than others. Even if it was the more difficult path, he would not, could not take any shortcuts.
"But...even if it's only remotely plausible, if there's the most infinitesimal chance that it can happen, I will save this world. I promise you that." Archer finished, with a tone of finality and resolve, as if no amount of arguing or pleading would change his mind, change his goals, change his ideals. His eyes were set straight at the grey orbs of the Headmaster, and were filled with absolute determination. His jaw was set straight, and his posture radiated confidence.
If Ozpin had heard this from any other man, he would've raised an eyebrow and change the topic. However, staring into the Guardian's powerful orbs, gazing into the man's very soul, he could not help but stare. He could not even blink, finding Archer's determination too much to do so. It was like he was staring into a mirror, gazing at his younger self, and gazing at the spirits of all the children he taught, but there was a difference. All of those wishes and promises that children make to become heroes, to save everyone, were all filled with naïveté and were bound to change.
Archer, however, was nothing but naive. He had seen the horrors of man, the horrors of war. Ozpin was certain the swords he created were invisibly stained with the blood of many. But for a man like him to claim that he would save everyone? It goes beyond the realm of the absurd, but even then, it seemed like the world and reality itself would bend to meet the will of this man completely. His tone, his voice, his determination all seemed to show that.
Many children, from his hunters-in-training, to even him and Glynda at one point in the past, wished to become the ideal he strove for, no, the ideal he met. The difference between Archer and those children were simple. Ozpin's students, his children, wished to be Heroes of Justice. Even the greatest of hunters and huntresses wished to meet this ideal, but always fall short of it.
Archer did not need to do so. He was already a Hero of Justice. The very crystallization of his ideal.
"Very well, sir. You have my support," and my respect, he silently added. "I look forward to working with a man of your caliber in the future. For now, I'll personally show you to where team RWBY is, along with Miss Schnee, of course." Ozpin stood up, and led Archer to the elevator leading back down to the ground levels.
"Do not worry about the glass, Glynda can fix it for me at a later date. Come, I'm sure that the students are eager to formally meet you."
"Well, that was a thing."
Ruby was the only one on her team that remained completely unscathed. Yang ended up with a few bruised ribs, her aura taking much of the damage being thrown into the building. Blake was faring about the same, with a few more bruised ribs as well as bruised arms from being thrown around by the Manticore. Weiss was still unconscious, but had about the same injuries as the rest of them, with a few more cuts and slashes around her body from actually fighting the beast. Her aura was completely drained, regenerating much slower than it should due to her condition. The rest of them were already almost fully healed from their injuries, so they opted to sit around their white haired teammate's hospital bed until she woke up, which according to the nurses, might take a few more hours.
Even then, she wouldn't be allowed to leave the infirmary until she'd completely healed, which would take a few more days at least. Yang couldn't even begin to imagine how incredibly boring it would be for Weiss to be stuck in a hospital bed instead of being up and about. She'd have to ask Blake for a few books to read while she's confined.
"Yup," Ruby popped the p, still not completely herself after the Breach. She was supposed to become a huntress, but she felt so helpless today, not even being able to help her own teammates in time. She didn't want to think about how things would've ended up if Archer hadn't come to Weiss' rescue, let alone what might've happened if he hadn't decided to expend the effort to eliminate the Grimm horde.
"I just can't believe we couldn't do anything, to protect the city until Archer showed. Like, that guy said he wasn't even a huntsman, and he took all of the Grimm by himself! If we're going to become huntresses in just a few more years, we're gonna have to get a lot better," Ruby said. The fervor in her voice was rarely seen from the normally bright and carefree girl.
"Ruby, he's... different. Even though the guy isn't a huntsman, he's nothing like any person I've ever met, human or Faunus. Honestly, I believe that he's more powerful than some of the fully fledged huntsmen and huntresses out there," Blake explained. She knew that the Professors with them should have easily been able to deal with the Grimm, but in between hold off the monsters and protecting civilians and injured students, it was much more difficult for them to deal with the Breach. The mysterious man's Semblance seemed comparable to Pyrrha's, but he was obviously much more experienced with using it on a massive scale, with all of his weapons hitting on target. He did a better job than even any of their teachers could think of doing.
However, it was what the Faunus saw in the man's eyes that startled her. His gaze was hard, and his eyes filled with not darkness, but an odd mixture of sadness and power. It was like almost like looking into Adam's eyes again, except that she knew this man had spilled even more blood than her former friend and partner. His form radiated power, but his eyes were that of someone who'd experience not just one war, but many.
The last true war happened decades ago, but the bowman seemed to have experience something of even greater magnitude to the point where he was used to it. She'd seen veteran members of the White Fang, and none of them had eyes like Archer's. She couldn't even begin to guess what he had seen in his life, or what he had done. And that scared her.
Ruby broke Blake out of her reverie, "I know Blake, but... remember when we talked about why we wanted to be huntresses? I wanted to be like those heroes in the stories I heard growing up, saving everyone and not letting anyone innocent get hurt. People... died today Blake. If we were only better, we could've saved them..."
"Don't think like that Rubes, it's not like you," Yang spoke up this time, trying to get her sister out of her funk. "You're supposed to be the fun-loving, jumpy, bee's knees sister that we all know and love!"
Ruby smiled a bit, beginning to feel a little better. "You're right, Yang. I can't just keep thinking about this! I'll be a bad leader if I do, and like I promised Weiss, I'll be the best leader I can be! We'll all save everyone next time! We'll be heroes just like in the stories! Oh, I wanna be like the knight who saved the Princess of Mantle from the horde of Ancient Grimm! Cooler than being like a cop, or a-"
"Don't be foolish, girl."
The three girls immediately turned to the open door, where a certain tall, white-haired man dressed in red and black was leaning on the door frame.
"Wha?" Ruby asked, not really understanding what the Counter Guardian had just said to her.
Blake narrowed her eyes, "What are you doing here?"
"I've come here to check up on the girl who brought me here." The man then stood up from his leaning position and walked over to the bed side of the Schnee heiress. He seemed to examine her wounds, see if there was anything problematic with her condition.
Archer continued, "I couldn't help but overhear your friend over here talking about fairy tales and saving everyone. And I have to say, you sound like a foolish child."
"Hey!" Yang burst out, standing up. "Don't talk to my sister like that! Even if you're cute, I won't let-" Yang was cut off with a harsh glare sent towards her way, and she couldn't help but sit back down and shrink into her seat at the sight of the man's hard eyes.
"I am merely speaking the truth. She wants to save people because she wants her life to be that of fairy tales and bedside stories for children. It is nothing but childish naïveté. Better men than you have tried to save the world and failed, and you mean to tell me that at the end of the day, the reason you charge into battle against monsters and protect the innocent is because of the tales that your father told you before tucking you into bed? That you want to be the knight in shining armor? Pathetic"
"Hey, you meanie! I thought you were going to be a nice guy, for saving Weiss, but you're starting to sound really rude," Ruby huffed out. "Who're you to tell me that my dream is dumb! You can't say that you can't do it until you've tried, and be-"
Those two words silenced Ruby, her eyes widening at his declaration.
"What do you mean, you have? That you've seriously tried saving everyone? I call bull," Yang argued, a little incredulous at his statement.
"I don't care what you believe," Archer told her off. "I've a feeling that we're gonna be around each other's company far more often, so I'll say this now. I have tried saving everyone. My whole life was dedicated for that one purpose. I didn't want to see anyone cry if I could help it. But during my life, I have been constantly betrayed by the same ideals that I held dearly. That's why I can speak about it with such certainty. I have fought through countless battles, seen more war than I care to remember, waded through Hell far to much for any one person, and killed more people than I ever atone for, all for what?"
The question was left hanging in the air, none of the girls able to answer the man properly. Yang just looked at the man incredulously, her arms gripping the armrests of her chair. Blake on the other hand balled her fists, looking intensely at the man with narrow amber eyes. Ruby, on the other hand, just dejectedly looked down to the ground, tears welling up in the corners of her eyes and her hands conjoined in her lap.
"I didn't want to do it because of myself, only so I could brag about what I had done. I, too, was saved, once upon a time. And all I wanted was to feel the same emotions that I saw in the face of the man when he saved me. But I wasted my life trying in vain to save someone without ever having to kill another."
He turned to leave, making his way towards the door, his back turned towards the huntresses-in-training. The air was ice-cold, and no-one dared to interrupt the tense silence.
Before Archer opened the door, however, he shot over his back, "Do not misunderstand me when I call you foolish. I believe that your wish is noble, and is worth striving for." He sighed, looking down at the white tiled floor, seemingly lost in thought.
"If you think there's even the slightest chance that your dream can be realized, you should take it. Just know that if you seek to create any kind of paradise for anyone, it will mean walking right into Hell."
He turned away from the girls. "If you're going to subject yourself to something like that, make sure your reason for doing so isn't one that will drag you down and drown you. The real world is nothing like fairy tales, little girl. It's cold, cruel, unfair, and if you give it the chance, it will tear you and your ideals to pieces without hesitation.
With that, the white-haired man walked through the doorway and closed the door behind him. Yang shot up from her seat and followed closely behind, fist clenched in anger, heels stomping loudly on the ground, throwing the door open so roughly it cracked the frame as well as the wall. Blake couldn't see her partner's face, but she was sure she was gritting her teeth out in anger. She probably would've done the same thing, yet she couldn't deny the truth in Archer's words, and she hated that. However, the simple fact was no one spoke to Yang Xiao Long's little sister like that, and with Ruby being both the leader and 'little sister' of the team, none of them would take kindly the manner which this man dared to speak to Ruby Rose.
Yang rushed up to catch up to the man who had 'seemingly' saved her sister's partner. Even though he seemed quite amiable at first, his latest encounter with them turned that opinion completely inside out. She thought the guy would be fun and a nice change of pace, but with the attitude he just displayed, Yang knew better than to hope for a good outcome with him.
'How can a cold bastard like him possibly have the heart to save Weiss, or anyone else for that matter?'
She finally caught up to him, landing a hand on his shoulder and spun him around, "What is your problem, Archer? You seemed to be perfectly fine on the ride back to Beacon, but now, you're acting like a complete asshole to us, especially my sister. Who the hell do you think you are, trying to put my little sister down like that!"
Archer merely raised an eyebrow at her outburst. "I told you, I'm just a lowly Guardian, Xiao-Long. I believe I need to meet the headmaster in the courtyard, so If you don't mind I'll be off."
He turned around to try and walk away from the blonde brawler, but was harshly tugged back around to face her again.
The Guardian narrowly avoided getting punched in the face, ducking down beneath the blonde brawler's fist and catching her forearm. Yang tried to wrench her way out but found that the man's grip was as strong as the steel that made up his swords.
"Hey, let go of me!" Yang tried to assault him with her other arm, but she froze when her eyes met his steely gaze.
Enraged red eyes met the coldest of iron. After a brief struggle, Yang's eyes faltered, but the steel in Archer's eyes retained its firmness.
"Pathetic, trying to assault me like that because you don't like what I told your sister. What are you, a toddler? Is this what your academy has to offer? Tell me, girl-" Archer seethed,"-why did you choose to become a hunttress? To follow that stupid dream your sister has?"
"Shut up! Shut up, shut up! Her dream isn't stupid! It's beautiful! It's amazing! You can't possibly know anything about saving people, you asshole!" Yang swore. "I became a huntress so I could protect her! So I can have a little excitement and do something with my life!"
The harshness in Archer's gaze receded microscopically, "Yes, it is a beautiful dream..." he trailed off, looking down unto the floor.
However, as soon as they did, Archer's eyes shot up to meet Yang's own again, his piercing gaze became even sharper than before, as if he was staring directly into her soul. "Yet, her dream is completely useless and doomed to fail if her reasons are utterly pathetic!" the bowman shouted. He threw Yang's arm away from him, causing her to stumble back a bit from the Guardian. She caught herself and attempted to get into a threatening pose, but she faltered under the cold presence the man before her seemingly exuded.
"Ruby and I both have the same dream, but unlike your sister, my reason isn't some naïve delusion!" his voice climbed louder and louder. "I strove to protect those who weren't able to protect themselves. I strove to save those who were beyond saving! I strove to feel that same happiness that my father felt when he saved me! Your sister's reason for following her dream is because she wants to live in a fantasy land!"
Archer cut her off fiercely, "Silence, girl! How can she expect to find the power and determination to change the world if the only thing she has that drives her is the fact that she wishes to become some sort of fairy tale! Look around! Life isn't some sort of fantasy! People died today because you and your comrades couldn't protect them! What are you going to do about that? Get irate and punch your way out of it like you tried to punch me?"
She had more than enough. Her hair began burning with the heat of a thousand suns and her eyes screamed for blood. However, before she could continue, he dug a fist deep into her solar plexus, disrupting the power that her Semblance granted her. She tried to get up, but the blow was stronger than she had anticipated and she fell down onto a knee.
"Even you, your goals are just as MEANINGLESS!" he roared at her, making her cower in fear as if a predator was staring down at her. "You're training to become huntresses, girl, not just some monster hunter seeking a cheap thrill! Don't be a fool unless you want to die a fool's death! This isn't some kind of sport, where the winner's the one who brings home the most kills! This is a war! A war against the scourge known as Grimm waged by humanity itself! If you treat it as if it's a game to partake in for your own entertainment, then people will die. You endanger not only yourself with you foolishness, but also your sister, your friends, your teammates, and all the people you are meant to protect.
"J-just-" Yang tried to choke out, but the Guardian wouldn't have any of it
"Unlike you, girl, I know a few things about life!" Archer growled out. "You're just but a little girl in a world full of monsters. Don't act like you have more perspective than your naïve sister back there. You're both the same! How can you expect her to become strong enough to pursue a goal such as hers when you coddle her?"
Yang couldn't even begin of coming up with a retort, the oppressive aura halting her thoughts and rendering her brain as useless as mush.
"I, too, was weak at one point, much like your sister. I was foolish enough to believe in an ideal I couldn't hope of realizing. However unlike her, I grew. I became strong enough to understand what my ideals really meant. But it was only after those same ideals broke me. You, your sister, and everyone else in this school, are children in a world filled with monsters. And there are three things that happen to such children. They run away so they can continue being children, they grow up so they can be strong enough to defeat the monsters, or they die.
"You and your sister are fortunate in that you're both still young enough that you can decide which of these paths you will take, and assuming you're not like me when I was your age, you'll make that choice while you still can. If not, one day your sister might just wake up and find that she's become me."
As the Counter Guardian walked away however, Yang found the courage to get in one last parting shot.
"Ruby's nothing like you!"
But of course Archer had a rebuttal. One that terrified Yang simply because of how honest it was.
"For her sake, I pray you're right."
'Maybe I went overboard,' Archer mused.
He didn't necessarily want to be so harsh, but these girls were to be the protectors of their world. They couldn't afford to be lenient, they couldn't afford to believe that they could save everyone even before they had the skills to do so.
Shirou learned that he had a long way to go before he could save everyone, and in order to compensate for it, he helped others in minor ways. Those girls however were becoming disillusioned. Ruby was a pure soul. At the end of the day, she wanted to help others. She had the same goal that Shirou Emiya had: to not let anyone cry if they could help it.
But her path was childish. She wished to become a huntress because she believed that it was 'cooler' and like a 'fairy tale.' She didn't understand that heroes are not made from fairy tales. Heroes made themselves. And that's what set Archer off. The difference between her and Shirou Emiya lied their reasoning. The boy had more noble reasoning, if not a more suicidal and self-destructive one.
The boy was saved. The emotion he saw in Kiritsugu's Emiya's eyes when the Magus killer saved the dying boy made him wish to feel that same emotion. That mix of pure happiness and relief. He came to adore the man, to adore the dream that he passed down onto the boy during his dying moments. He wanted to feel that same emotion of being a savior. Maybe it was a bit selfish, but at the end of the day, it was a beautiful reason for an even more beautiful dream.
The girl was a pure soul, while Emiya was a saved soul. The boy he once was understood the depraved state of the world. He understood that his dream might never be reached, but he did so anyway. The girl didn't understand this. She couldn't have, as her soul was pure. She hadn't seen anything truly horrible in the world, nor did she know what she was up against.
However, Archer had found a kindred soul in her. Both strove towards the same dream. But if she were to reach it, she needed to understand that her dream might be unreachable. She needed to understand what she truly fought against. She didn't just fight against Grimm. When she finally understood both of these things and made the decision to still strive towards her goal, she could truly start making the necessary leaps to meet it.
"That was quite an impression you made on the girls there, Archer." While the Guardian was lost in thought, the headmaster snuck up to his side with two mugs of coffee, and offered one of them to the bowman.
"While I say that you were a bit... harsh," the headmaster took a sip of his steaming coffee, "you were for the most part, right. While your goals remind me of Ruby's own, she needs to develop a certain level of maturity in order to teach them. While she is the youngest student Beacon has ever accepted, she is a team leader. I let them be children because there's little time for them left, but it doesn't mean they can stop growing."
Archer took a sip of his own coffee and was pleasantly surprised with the rich taste that it offered him. It calmed him and allowed him to relax for the first time since arriving in this world. The guardian had a wild ride up ahead of him, and he'll take any form of repose when he can.
"These girls, these students of yours. They're to be the future protects of this world?"
"Yes. I can only hope that I was able to guide them through their lives here so that they can survive. The world needs them, now more than ever before."
Archer paused to think. The girls he met were to become future hunters, saviors, heroes. They'll follow a similar path to his own. Like it or not, some of them might become what he once was, and still is to an extent.
"Then we have our work cut out for us, don't we?"
The two white haired men walked through the rest of the corridor in a peaceful silence, side by side, gazing towards an ever-distant utopia.
There were bodies all around her, bunched up and strewn around, flies flying around the decaying carcasses. She was in a mountainous area, military vehicles of some sort lying abandoned in ditches alongside their drivers. There was no trace of life, and the air was filled with a suffocating smell of death and despair.
The searing summer sun scorched her alabaster skin and seemed to set it on fire. She seemed to be dripping in sweat, blood, and grime. She saw a tanned man covered with a white robe, standing on the edge of a cliff, staring into the horizon. The sun was setting behind them, and when it dipped below the horizon, the man turned to the side, somehow knowing that she was there. All she could see was a single eye, and for a second she thought she could see tears dripping down his face.
She saw hell.
The alleyway was filled with blood and garbage, some corpses piled on top of garbage bins and other bodies alike. She saw the slaughter and wanted to vomit out her lunch. The stench was unbearable and threatened to make her cry just out of pure disgust. Yet again, there was no trace of life, the air still and the street the alley led to lacking of cars or people. The lights above her flickered on and off, revealing the mix of water, mud, and grime that tainted the walls like some twisted form of painting.
She found the same man staring into the wall at the end of the alley. He didn't wear his white robe this time, instead garbed with a skin tight black sleeveless top with silver lines adorning it. A midnight black bow was strapped onto his back, but she couldn't seem to find any of his arrows.
He turned his face to the side again, and she saw the same expression from before. Despair. Regret. Pain. This time, he didn't cry.
She saw hell.
The scene changed. She was standing atop the rubble of buildings, an insatiable inferno blazing around her. The flames danced onto her skin and she felt the intense heat even through her aura. The flames were the hottest she'd ever felt. It was unnatural, seemed to be filled with a disgusting taint. There flames weren't burning to clean or purge. They burned to destroy.
She saw a dark haired man with a mess of spiky hair digging through the rubble. She knew he was searching for survivors.
She wanted to tell him, it's useless, no one could survive this fire.
However, when she spoke, she couldn't hear him. She looked closely and observed that the man had found a boy, a boy with messy raid hair and empty eyes. Those empty eyes unnerved her, but the man did not care. He was crying in joy. She couldn't understand. In the midst of all this despair, he had a reason to smile?
"I found someone, my god I found someone. I'm so glad that I found you..." the man choked out, tears streaming down his face like the rivers in Mistral.
The boy seemed to be dying, and she didn't think the man could save the poor thing. She wanted to help, but deep down inside she knew that her help wouldn't do anything. However, she still stepped ahead, but before she could go any further, she heard a voice from behind her.
"Hey, you know that's hell you're walking into."
She saw hell.
However, the scene faded before she could look behind her. Instead it was replaced with a blinding white as she blinked her eyes open for the first time in hours.
"Weiss? Weiss! You're awake! We have to tell Professor Ozpin!" a high pitched voice resounded.
"It's okay Weiss, you're alright, you're okay. Everyone's fine," she heard someone else say.
Who am I hearing again?
Her eyesight was still fuzzy and she could barely make out the form of someone, no, Ruby, beside her bed.
She didn't have the power to say anything, however. Her mind was focused on the vivid dream she seemed to live out. It was something she could never forget, and she feared that she would relive it every single night.
However, something broke her out of her reverie. All her teammates filed into the room, relieved that she was awake. The headmaster walked into the room next, still calm and collected as he always is.
She couldn't make out any of their voices, save for a singular one, deep and powerful.
"Hmm... you seem to finally be awake, master. We have much to discuss."
A/N: I'm back! Edits took a while but honestly they were much needed. Thanks to Paragon Of Awesomeness for the editing and proofreading!
I know you guys are going to have some concerns with Archer's mood change between Ozpin's conversation and RWBY's, most specifically Yang. He's angry, but not as angry as first depicted. He's more irritated angry rather than truly angry. And yes, Archer does know of how harsh he was, you can see that in his thoughts after his argument. He's cold and calculating. It seems like he let his emotions get the best of him because Ruby triggered him, but in reality, he listened to much of the conversation and due to the background information he received from Ozpin, he ascertained that the best course of action was this little "act not really an act."
The world of Remnant is harsh and Archer realizes this full well, and he came to the conclusion that, in his eyes at least, he couldn't coddle them (as if he could) and did what he did with Shirou, albeit more consciously. He used negative incentive/reinforcement. Shape up or face an undesired outcome. He is the outcome that Team RWBY doesn't want, and he used his cold and cynical attitude to accentuate this. This in turn, as seen with Yang, will allow them to be more proactive in avoiding said outcome: Ruby becoming like EMIYA. This possible and it makes it ever the more scary to the rest of team RWBY, and even to me. Ruby's too adorable to become Archer, no siree.
Good work to Paragon on that little part of the conversation. Honestly, at first, that negative incentive was "die" but this worked out much better, especially with the rest of team RWBY. They don't want their little Ruby to become a stone cold killer. "Not even if he has rock hard abs."-Yang.
I can't give out a specific date of update, and I know it's a pain for me to say that I'll upload by this day(especially since I'd say my other story would be updated before October came) so I'll just say dates might be erratic. College applications are tough and my top schools (MIT, Columbia, etc.) require a lot of effort to actually have a good application. Other than that, school's a pain and physics homework is a bitch. Seriously, figuring out the center of mass of a parabolic plate with a circle cut out of it is already hard enough, but having the density change according to an quadratic equation? Nope.
I know it's pretty early to be saying this but hey, if anyone wants to make any fan art, go on right ahead! I kinda want a unique picture for this story. Barely noticed that Paragon's picture for his latest story was the same, damnit me. Chibi Archer... hmmmm...
And would you look at that! 385 favs, 499 (damn that last one) followers, 69 reviews! Awesome! That's so much! Seriously, to whoever's reading and reviewing, you guys are the best!
So I'll be putting out recs on what to read based on my recent reads. I might add an Omake instead if I choose for the next few chapters Here they are:
RWBY or RWBYxFate
Letters to Winter, by Mallobaude. Very nice story with eventual White Knight, although the romance hasn't really kicked off yet. If you like White Knight, this is for you. Reminiscent of:
Just A Few Pointers, by Myareska. The older story between the White Knight stories. Similar "Weiss trains Jaune" premise but takes different routes with how they alter canon and how this arrangement came to be.
Remnant, by Fell the Tempest. FatexRWBY A bit of inspiration came from this story. Beautifully written, the first few chapters are shorter than the last few but I seriously love the character interaction and the take on the aftermath of it all. Bumblebee is there (not very developed as of yet), but romance is not a focus and it's realistic. I normally hate the inter team shippings, especially White Rose (Ugh Tsundere cliche but worse), but this I could deal with.
What a Wonderful World, by Aurora313. Very unique RWBY travels to STRQ era with a twist. I like how Raven's character is developed there and *gasp* Qrow's sober!
Gloria Dei est in Tenebris, by Teninshigen. Unique Jaune is badass story, with added supernatural elements. I cannot recommend this enough. Jaune is still Jaune with some of his dorky qualities but the trauma of dealing with the outlands has changed him. I love the premise and it seems some of it is also Fate inspired, just a little. And just noting, going along with Classical Latin Grammar rules, the title means "Glory to God in the darkness/The Glory of God in the darkness." Damn Latin IV haunts me. Beautiful story indeed.
A Fake Familiar, by Paragon of Awesomeness. A Fate and DxD crossover. Not just advertising for my editor's story, but I seriously like this story! A little take on if Archer was summoned by Rias as a familiar.
Sword of Origin: Protector of Zero and Champion of Distant Dream, by WhizKidHV. The first is Zero no Tsukaima and Fate. If you've read Whiz's A Different Path, this takes the "Shirou"/Sword of Akasha of its normal ending and places him/it into the world of Louise de Valliere. The second is Campione and Fate, and takes the Shirou's soul from the same ending and places it with within the Campione verse. Very good work, and I love the development both Shirous go under throughout the story. Highly recommend if you guys like the other two franchises, not much recent work from both crossover archives has been this good.
Next Story Update: very long overdue, I'll get to work on the next chapter of Die Another Day right after I post this.