A/N - Huzzah! A new chapter at last! My sincerest apologies for making everyone wait so long! I considered continuing this on to the end of the day in-story, but there's quite a bit that happens after this. The pacing feels right to end things where I did, and I hope it doesn't throw anyone off. The good news is there's a definite plan for chapter nine. The editing has been set aside for the time being, mostly due to the Writing Prompt Wednesday special event: A Daisy Chain story being written by 20 of us, wherein we will attempt to tackle the backstory of Neopolitan. Come on over to the RWBY subreddit Tuesday evening if you want to see that bit of chaos unfold! Thanks for stopping by! :)
Adam followed Professor Goodwitch into the classroom, which he had yet to see. The hallway opened into an amphitheater, which was mostly a wide arena floor. There were doorways on either side of the hall, and the she led him to one set slightly apart from the others. When she opened it, Adam detected a faint aroma of wildflowers and vanilla. He wrinkled his nose and followed the Professor into her office. The wall to his left gently curved away, and held a variety of photographs, paintings, and even a few weapons. He paused at one, surprised to find a blade not unlike his own, with one minor difference – it was broken into several pieces. He leaned in to see if he could spot a maker's mark, but found none.
Professor Goodwitch cleared her throat, and he turned to look at her. He pointed at the shattered sword. "That must be an interesting story." He wasn't exaggerating – blood blades were practically indestructible. Whatever had broken this one must have exerted an incredible amount of force. She gave him a considering look, and then indicated one of three chairs in front of her desk.
"Perhaps one might think so. However, that is not why we're here, Mister Taurus. Please have a seat." Adam moved forward and settled into the middle seat while the Professor took hers. She reached for a pen and paged open a notebook. "Professor Ozpin tells me that you received combat training from Master Beryl Skrin, of Seglund, yes?" She uncapped the pen and held it at the ready.
"That's right. I studied under her for four years, and change." He knew he couldn't lie about this, so he planned to answer truthfully. He only hoped that she wouldn't ask him about anything from before – or after – that time. She jotted down notes on the page as he spoke.
"And when did you discover your semblance?" she asked, without looking up.
"About four months after I started training with Master Skrin." She nodded and scribbled more notes onto the page. He was a little surprised that she chose paper and pen over the scroll sitting within reach. There was a bookshelf behind her that held more tomes and notebooks, so maybe she just preferred the tactile nature of it all.
When she finished, she looked back up at him and set her pen down. "Tell me about this training, please. Give as much detail as you can." She leaned back in her seat as he took a moment to recall the events. His first manifestation had been a fortunate one. They had been training with practice weapons, and had been working at her instruction to Aura depletion exercises. It had been a grueling, frustrating experience for him, and he'd let his temper get the better of him. The journeyman swordsman he'd faced off against had suffered a fractured elbow and a very bruised ego.
Professor Goodwitch considered this as he explained it, only interrupting once to ask about any other incidents. After the first mishap, Master Skrin had taken a direct hand in his tutelage, which continued until she was satisfied that he wouldn't accidentally hurt any of her other students. Even then, she forbade him to use his semblance with any but herself and her two most experienced protégés, Verde and Lila.
"I see," she began with a nod. "Well, that certainly corroborates with all we've heard of the woman. Tell me then, how does the empowerment portion work?"
"I absorb attacks, either passively or while focused. Usually it would come from weapons fire – pulsed or beam weapons are best, but anything with sufficient force can be used." The greater his focus, the more he could make of whatever he took in. "The higher the energy, the greater the output." At this she held up her finger and then took up her pen to make more notations. She went on for quite a bit longer than his explanation had warranted.
"When you trigger your semblance, is all the stored energy released, or can you selectively portion it out?" This had been a tricky thing to learn, but months of thorough, tireless effort on his and Master Skrin's part had yielded some results. He had been able to divide it into three separate attacks by the time he'd returned to Blake, and had been close to a fourth. The Professor made marks next to two items when he elaborated. "As a single-stroke practitioner, am I correct to assume that edged strikes are what you use?"
"Usually," he answered cautiously.
Upon hearing this, Goodwitch looked up from her writing, pen hovering over the page. "Explain." He recounted the final events of combat from the initiation, including how he'd used the flat of his blade like a bowstring. "And Miss Rose suffered no ill effects from that," she said as a statement, rather than a question. He chose not to contradict her, and she moved on. "Have you ever used your semblance without a weapon?"
The thought had occurred to him on more than one occasion, but he'd been too nervous to try. "I have not, Professor." She carried on with a litany of questions after that. Had he used other weapons, had he tried projectiles, were there any limitations, what was the most damage he had ever done. It went on for several minutes, and he answered each with a growing sense of impatience. At the same time, he began to appreciate her diligence. She was nothing if not thorough.
Once the Professor had exhausted her library of inquiries, she set down the pen and settled her palm against the desktop. She looked at him and tapped her fingernails for a few moments. Tap-tap-tap-tap-thump. Her fingers drummed at a measured pace several times, and then she asked, "Have you ever willfully injured anyone with your semblance, Adam?"
His answer was immediate. "No, ma'am. Not willfully, or under the direction of anyone else, or accidentally beyond that first time." He decided that discretion for Blake's near misses was necessary, not only for the Professor's questions, but also to keep his cover story intact. Thankfully her line of questioning hadn't turned in that direction. The blonde stared at him through narrowed eyes, as if she were searching for a lie in his own words.
She closed the notebook with a thump, and for a moment he thought she had decided against his participation with the other students. She relented after a few more moments. "Very well, Mister Taurus. I'm willing to accept that you have adequate understanding and control of your skills," he heaved an internal sigh of relief for that. "However, I too shall forbid you to do any semblance work with the other students."
He nodded and resigned himself to basic combat training; it wouldn't be for the first time. "Instead you and I will work together twice a week." The look of shock on his face must have been amusing. Her lips held no smile, but her eyes did sparkle briefly. "It is not unusual for Beacon to accept the occasional student that requires individualized training. Normally we reserve this for highly advanced pupils and second-years on up." She stood and walked around the desk, motioning for him to follow.
Adam joined her back in the hallway, and she sent him on his way with a final comment. "I will modify your schedule and send the update to your scroll. Thank you for your time, Mister Taurus." She dismissed him with a wave of her hand, which opened the door to the combat wing. He thanked her on his way out, not certain what to think of the exchange. He also couldn't shake the notion that he was missing something important, but he couldn't figure out what it was.
He exited the combat hall and stood on the steps just outside, trying to decide what to do next. His time with the professor, frustrating as it had been, hadn't really all that long. There was still an hour to lunch, and his only class in the afternoon was botany with Professor Peach. With that in mind, he made his way to the library.
Pyrrha and Jaune were coming from the opposite direction when he arrived, and she gave Adam a cheery wave that he returned, though not as enthusiastically. He paused at the foot of the stairs and waited for the pair to join him. "Hello, Adam!" Pyrrha said brightly. "I see you had the same idea we did."
If he had to admit it to himself, he was glad of the distraction. Discussing his training with the Combat Professor had stirred up things he didn't want to think about right now. "I suppose you could say that. I was hoping to find a copy of the book for Professor Peach's class; I didn't have any luck at the stores in the city before I arrived here."
Jaune nodded in sympathy, "Yeah, me neither. Pyrrha was lucky enough to find one before she left Mistral. We can share if we need to, but she still thinks it's a good idea if I had my own copy."
"That seems like sound reasoning to me." Adam gestured toward the waiting library doors. "Shall we?"
"Let's!" Pyrrha replied, and they closed the distance to the doors. Adam went to reach for the handle when the door burst open without warning. The three of them jumped back as a dark-haired, rabbit-eared Faunus girl dashed out, tears streaming down her cheeks. She pushed past Pyrrha and Jaune, and knocked the blonde down in the process.
"Oof! Hey!" he protested. The girl had already rushed down the steps and vanished around a corner. Pyrrha reached down to offer Jaune a hand, which he took. He patted at his trousers and shook his head. "I wonder what that was all about."
Pyrrha looked in the direction the girl had run. "Should we go see if she's alrig—" she was interrupted as the door crashed open again. Adam was forced to leap back to avoid sustaining a potential concussion. This time it expelled another dark-haired girl, but instead of rabbit ears, she sported a beret and a dark pair of sunglasses. "Oh! Hello, Coco," Pyrrha exclaimed, slightly surprised at the sudden appearance of another student. Adam looked through the open, swinging doors in confusion. Were there more girls waiting in line to ram their way through the middle of their little group?
Coco pulled up short to avoid colliding with the trio. "Pyrrha," she said with a perfunctory nod. "Which way did she go?" They all pointed wordlessly. She paused for a moment as she settled her gaze on them, looking at them curiously. "Wait, you're all first-years, right? In Teams Juniper and Rowan?"
"Umm… That's right," Jaune answered for them. "Is everything okay, Miss... Coco, was it?"
"Coco Adel, and no, everything definitely is not okay." The scowl on her face didn't bode well, but it turned thoughtful after a moment. "I need to go after Velvet, but can I come find you guys after the evening meal? I've been trying to figure out how to deal with a problem, maybe you can help out." Adam had a pretty good idea what that was going to be about. He didn't want to get embroiled in any drama, but Jaune spoke up before he could say anything.
"Yeah, sure, we can make some time." He turned to face Adam. "Can you let Ruby know?" Adam suppressed a sigh before finally agreeing with a nod. This Jaune kid sure was quick to make decisions for others.
"Sure, let me message Ruby." He pulled out his scroll. Coco gave her thanks and set off in pursuit of her teammate.
'Ruby, Coco would like to talk to us tonight after dinner with JNPR.'
'Sure! … Who's Coco?'
'A second-year, I think.'
'Oh, that's cool then! I'll let the girls know! Everything go okay with Goodwitch?'
'It was fine. See you at lunch.'
'Okay, seeya then! :)'
"That's alright with her," he said as he pocketed the scroll.
"I wonder what that was all about." Jaune hauled on the library door and held it open for them. "I guess we'll find out tonight. Do either of you know Coco or Velvet?" Adam shook his head, but Pyrrha spoke up as they went inside.
"I know of Coco Adel, mostly from her family's businesses in Mistral. They're involved in textiles, I believe. We even met once, after a tournament a few years ago." She had a thoughtful look on her face that was interrupted by laughter. It came from one of the tables at the far side of the study area. Adam frowned at the source; Team CRDL were seated, and Cardin was gesticulating with something in his hand. Whatever he said, it elicited another fit of laughter from the four.
"I thought people were supposed to be quiet in a library," Jaune frowned. "Is that a… a rabbit's foot?" Adam took a closer look at the object, and it was indeed a 'good luck' charm.
Pyrrha scowled as she realized the likely reason for Velvet's distress. "Dispicable. What on Remnant possessed him to torment the poor girl?"
Adam grimaced and kept his voice down. "Cardin Winchester – he's got an ugly disposition toward the Faunus." It didn't take much logic to figure out what had happened.
"I can't stand people like him. Has he given you any trouble, Adam?" she asked.
He shook his head. "Not yet, anyway." That probably wasn't going to last. "People like him are predictable. I'm sure it's just a matter of time."
"Well, I won't remain silent," Pyrrha replied. "That sort of behavior isn't civilized."
"Yeah, man. We've got your back, and Velvet's too, if that's what Coco wants to talk about," Jaune added.
Adam knew he could take care of himself, but he was completely alone here: Allies would be welcome. "Thank you. Let's see if we can find those books." They ignored Team CRDL's antics and proceeded to a reference terminal to sort out where to go.
After a brief search, they only turned up one copy. Jaune and Pyrrha decided to continue sharing hers, and they let Adam have it. He leafed through the pages of the field guide while they walked to the cafeteria. Jaune was going on about some comic book character, trying to convince a dubious Pyrrha of the hero's merits. Adam wasn't really paying attention until Pyrrha repeated his name a third time.
"I'm sorry," he said as he slipped the book under his arm. "What were you saying?"
Pyrrha gave him an amused look. "I was asking if you wanted to join us in a trip to the city this weekend. It might afford us an opportunity to shop for supplies we still need."
"And comic books!" Juane crowed. Pyrrha laughed and shook her head. "Come on, Adam, help a fella out here!" 'Fight your own battles' Adam thought to himself. Pyrrha was decent as humans went, but her team leader set his teeth on edge.
He shrugged noncommittally. "Well, I don't know about comics, but I do need to see about finding an odd job or two to pay for things. I also don't want to keep the library's copy for the entire semester," he tapped the book as he said it. "A visit to Vale sounds like a good idea." In truth, he probably should have asked Tukson to help him line something up beforehand. The little bit of Lien he had left wouldn't go much farther.
"Do you really think you'll need to find work?" Pyrrha asked. "Won't it take away from your study time?" He shrugged again. "If you need help, I'm sure we could all pitch in."
That did make him smile a little. "I appreciate it Pyrrha, but I prefer to pay my own way. It shouldn't be too bad as long as the price of Dust doesn't go up drastically."
"If you're certain…" Pyrrha trailed off. They entered the cafeteria and joined the queue of other students, making plans for the coming weekend while they waited. Trays of food were finally claimed, and they found their teams already sharing a table. This was made easy by way of Nora jumping onto the tabletop and enthusiastically shouting their names while frantically waving her arms.
"She seems… excitable," Adam commented, mostly to himself.
"It grows on you, or so Ren says anyway," Jaune said with a grin.
When they sat, Adam took the empty space that Yang patted beside her. He noticed that Weiss was conspicuously absent, and when he quietly mentioned her name to his partner, she merely shook her head, giving Ruby – who was chatting happily with Ren – a pointed look.
"They haven't made up yet. I saw her out on the terrace earlier. She seemed to be thinking about something, so I let her be. How'd your one on one with the Professor go?" The chatter among their group stilled when she asked that, and all eyes turned to him. He looked at them all, confused at their sudden interest. "Well come on, don't hold out on us, Red!" Her comment was met with cheers of encouragement, and an inappropriate remark from Nora.
"Guys, it's not a big deal. She just wanted to know about my training and stuff. I can spar with everyone, but she insisted on individual training, too." Ruby's fork paused halfway between her plate and her open jaw. The others looked equally stunned, though Pyrrha appeared to be both surprised and a little jealous. "What?"
Yang chuckled. "Oh, man. You either just won the lottery or became the envy of the table. Both, actually." She shook her head. "Rubes and I have heard stories about her from dad – you've got some kind of luck."
Ruby's shock wore off enough for her to put her fork down. "You suck, Adam. How'd you even manage that on our first day?" she asked with a frown. He held up his hands, wondering what the fuss was all about. "Glynda almost never gives private lessons. I'll say it again, you suck."
He was about to respond when a cry drew their attention across the hall. "Ow! That hurts!" Velvet was standing, or rather trying to stand. She was being prevented from doing so by Cardin, who had one of her long ears gripped in his fist.
Adam didn't even realize he was creeping up behind the jerk until he was right on top of the other boy. The four were so entertained with Velvet's head being jerked back and forth that they failed to notice until Adam took a vicious hold of one of Winchester's own ears. When he applied a twisting pressure, Cardin seized up.
The rest of Team CRDL was taken aback, and Adam leaned in close to the unfettered ear. "It only takes eight points of pressure to tear off a human ear, Aura or no Aura. Let. Her. Go." Cardin growled, but complied when Adam tightened his grip. Velvet stumbled away from the table. Pyrrha and Nora tried to stop her as Jaune and Ren came up, but the Faunus pushed past them. Jaune sent Nora after her, and the rest turned to face the confrontation.
Adam released his hold, and Winchester stood angrily. "Bastard, you'll pay for that!" The rest of his teammates stood up nervously as Cardin gripped a food tray.
Yang spoke up from behind him. "There's four of you, and six of us. I like those odds, dickhead. Try it."
Cardin's face screwed up, and he was about to say something when another voice rang out. "Actually, Miss Xiao Long, there are ten of you, and one of me. I don't think I have to explain to you the odds of that." They all turned to face the newcomer, who turned out to be a very displeased Glynda Goodwitch. Nora and Velvet were both standing directly behind her, the former looking on eagerly while the latter stared fixedly at the ground. "What is going on here?"