A/N: This is a SEQUEL. This story will stop making sense at the first line unless you have already read The Wolf in December. This story is the much-requested sequel to that story.

Where Wolf was a character study, drawing its narrative strength from the comparisons between the characters of Geralt, Team RWBY, and the Summer Rose developed therein, this is not quite the same. While the characters should still be cohesive, this story's objective is not to flesh them out and contemplate them, but to analyze what, in a very concrete sense, they have to offer one another.

The Wolf in December is a little over 20,000 words. This, I expect, will be considerably longer at about 50,000 to 100,000 words. It begins at the outset of RWBY Volume 2, with the start of Beacon's second term.

Some more bureaucracy at the bottom, but for now:

The Witching Hour


"Geralt," said Ozpin, standing to greet the new professor. "Welcome. Come in."

Geralt entered, closing the office door behind him. He glanced around the room. Each face was passingly familiar—Ironwood had greeted him when he entered Vale with Summer in tow, Qrow had come to meet him as soon as he'd been able to, once he'd heard of his teammate's return, and Glynda and Ozpin were both his colleagues now.

He had no idea what they were all doing in the same room, though.

He turned to Ozpin. "You wanted me for something?" he asked.

Ozpin nodded gravely. "I did, yes," he said. "After your performance in retrieving Summer, and what we know about your mode of operation, we have decided that it would be best if you were… brought in on a few less-known operations and ongoing projects."

Geralt's eyes narrowed. "Who's 'we?'" he asked.

"You know us, Geralt," said Glynda, her voice soft but firm. "We haven't changed, and our agendas are one thing we haven't hidden. It's just the details of the tasks we set that we don't make public."

Geralt glanced at her, then looked back at the headmaster. "All right," he said slowly. "I'm listening."

At that moment, he was interrupted by the sound of the door opening again. He turned, and there was Summer, slipping into the room, and carefully shutting the door behind her.

She gave him a warm smile. "Hey, Geralt," she said. "How are the preparations going for the class?"

"Fine," he said. "You're part of this?"

She nodded. "I told you Ozpin knew more about magic than anyone else," she said, finding a spot on the wall beside Qrow and leaning against it. "This is how I found out about that."

"Most of Remnant does not believe in any arcane force called 'magic,' Ozpin said quietly. "That is for the best. Magic is a great source of unease and uncertainty. There was a time when neighbors feared one another and worried that witches and worse might live among them. Such tension, at least in Remnant, can only lead to disaster."

"The Grimm," Geralt said darkly.

"Precisely," Ozpin agreed with a nod.

"This… group… has operated since the Great War," Ironwood said, watching Geralt closely, "and, we think, existed in some form for a long time before that. It's objective is the objective of every other Huntsman—to protect Remnant and her people from the Grimm. The difference is that we know a little bit more about the tools available to both sides of that conflict."

Geralt nodded. "Like magic," he said. "You have mages?"

"Not… exactly," Glynda said. "You aren't familiar with Remnant's fairy tales, I assume?"

Geralt snorted. "Never been a fan of children's stories," he said evenly. "They're usually a little too true."

"Remnant," Ozpin agreed grimly, "is no different. We have a story we call 'The Four Seasons'. In it, four young women, sisters, coax a hermit out of his loneliness and solitude. In return, he gifts each of them with great power."

Geralt rolled his eyes. "And they exist, obviously," he said.

"Correct," Ironwood said. "The four Maidens of Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, each powerfully magical."

"They sterile?" Geralt asked curiously.

Ozpin blinked. "No," he said blankly. "Why would they be?"

"Sorceresses are," Geralt shrugged. "I wondered. Sources aren't, though. How's it work?"

"The powers of the Maidens are passed down," Glynda said. "When a maiden dies, her power shifts to the last person in her thoughts—if that person was a young woman."

"And if not," Qrow said darkly, "it goes to someone completely random who is."

Geralt winced. "Yeah," he said, "that sounds hard to keep track of. So do you know who the Maidens are now?"

Ozpin glanced at Qrow. "To some extent," he said hesitantly. "Come with us." He stood up. "There's something—someone—you ought to see."

"If you're going to be teaching Huntsmen," Summer said as he walked with her towards Beacon's courtyard where an airship was waiting to take her back to Vale, "you'd better have your Aura unlocked."

Geralt shrugged. "It's a tool," he agreed. "I'm not going to say no. How do I go about it?"

She considered him. "A person usually has to unlock it for you," she said. "The first Huntsmen, it's said, unlocked it for themselves by way of intense meditation and introspection. Once someone is unlocked, though, they can easily activate someone else's."

Geralt glanced at her. "Sounds personal."

"It is," Summer said quietly. "Intensely. I suggest you find someone you trust to do it for you. I know that's a tall order with how little time you've been on Remnant, but it's like you said: it's a tool."

Geralt stopped and turned to face her. "What's it entail, exactly?" he asked.

"The person pushes a portion of their Aura into you," Summer said, leaning back against the wall. "Doing so breaks some kind of mental block and allows you to access your own. The details have never been explained scientifically: some people say your Aura rejects the other person's so strongly it breaks the bond, while others say that having someone that… intimately close quickens your soul somehow. No one really knows."

"Is it dangerous?" Geralt asked. "Painful?"

Summer shook her head. "It takes Aura from the person doing it proportional to the pool of the one getting unlocked," she said. "But if they don't have enough Aura to do it safely, they can always stop without losing anything. It doesn't hurt either person—it can leave the person doing the awakening tired, but that's all."

Geralt considered her for a moment. "Would you?" he asked.

She smiled at him. "I'm flattered," she said gently. "Are you sure?"

He nodded. "I haven't met many people I'd trust as far as you," he said honestly.

Her smile widened. "Careful," she said teasingly. "Tai might get jealous." Then her face smoothed out again. "All right," she said firmly. "Close your eyes."

He did, and felt her hand press against his chest through his armor.

"For it is in sacrifice that we achieve immortality," Summer intoned clearly. "Through this, we rise above our own deaths to live vicariously through those we have protected. Individual in scale, but infinite in impact, I relinquish your soul, and with my life, defend thee."

There was a faint warmth, as of the kiss of sunlight, and then a snapping, somewhere deep and primal inside him, and his ears echoed with the faint howling of a wolf. Summer let him go and his eyes opened.

She was breathing just slightly more heavily, but she was smiling. "Well," she said. "That's that. Your Aura's unlocked."

He held up a hand, and tried to focus the warmth which had not left him into it. His hand seemed to shimmer slightly, as though encased in a grayish-white light, like the sun through winter clouds.

"Yeah," he said roughly. "Personal. I see what you meant."

She chuckled. "Each person has their own mantra," she said, in answer to his unspoken question. "You never know yours until you unlock someone's Aura, and then it… just comes. This is my second time."

"Ruby was the first?" Geralt asked.

Summer nodded, looking away. "It was…" she said, stopped, and swallowed. "Thank you, Geralt," she said thickly. "I don't think I can ever repay you for bringing me back to them."

Geralt studied her for a moment before giving a slow, sympathetic nod. "Glad to be of service," he said quietly.

She smiled again. "I know," she said.

"Are you taking T&T?"

The question was on the air among Beacon's first-years. The announcement of the new class, and the hiring of the new professor, had stirred them into a frenzy, and the question was whispered among them in nearly every conversation.

The class had only had a small capacity: some twelve students, in total, and had filled up within a day of its announcement. Ruby didn't know who the last four students were, but both Team RWBY and Team JNPR had managed to get in before it filled.

Class joined early. 7:00 AM was painful for the first day of class.

"Do I have to?" Yang grumbled dazedly from her upped bunk.

Blake reached up and grabbed the girl's dangling arm, pulling her partner bodily off the bed and sending her sprawling to the ground. "Yes," she said firmly. "We're not missing Professor Geralt's first class."

"Oh, he's Professor Geralt now," Yang muttered mutinously as she sat up, rubbing the spot where her head had struck the floor.

"Yes, Yang, he is," Weiss said firmly. "And he deserves respect as such. Get up, why don't you?"

Ruby giggled sleepily, already fastening her cloak over her battledress. "Come on," she said. "We don't want to be late, do we?"

Ren greeted her as she helped Weiss and Blake drag Yang out of the room. He seemed to be the sole guiding force on his team; Nora was basically sleeping in his arms, and Jaune and Pyrrha were leaning heavily on one another.

"You worked with Professor Geralt last semester, didn't you?" he asked them as they moved down the hall. "What was he like?"

"He didn't talk much," Blake said. "But he knows his stuff, that's for certain."

"I, for one, am looking forward to class," Weiss said. "Come on, Yang."

They made it, somehow, pushing Yang through the door and following after her, Ruby staying back to help Jaune and Pyrrha.

Geralt of Rivia was kneeling in the center of the podium at the front of the room, his eyes closed, garbed in his leather and chainmail armor. His two swords were strapped to his back, alongside a crossbow. Along his chest was a belt of vials, each labeled with a different color on the lid, and about his belt were several pouches. The three rows of desks conventional to a lecture hall were mostly piled high with chairs not lowered for seating; only the front row was prepared.

Ruby glanced up at the clock on the wall. 6:54. They were a touch early.

"Is he asleep?" Jaune whispered.

Ruby half expected Geralt to speak, but he sat in perfect silence, as though Jaune was right.

"I don't… think so?" Blake replied.

"He meditates, I think," Weiss hazarded. "Not really sleep; he's aware of us."

"I… guess we should just wait for seven," Pyrrha said with a yawn, helping the dozing Nora to a seat and taking one beside her. Jaune sat at her other side.

Ruby took a couple of steps towards their teacher. For a moment, she considered trying to speak with him. Then she shook her head and turned to her team. "Find seats," she ordered. "Class doesn't start for five minutes anyway."

At that very moment, the door opened again and in walked a team of second-years; one of which Ruby recognized.

"Hey, Velvet!" she greeted, waving.

Velvet smiled. "Hi, Ruby!" she said, far too cheerfully for the early morning. "I guess you're taking this class too?"

Ruby nodded, then glanced at the Witcher in the center of the room. "We think he's waiting for the class to officially start," she said. "Is this your team?"

"Yeah," Velvet said, turning to them. "This is Fox Alistair, Yatsuhashi Daichi, and Coco Adel, our leader. Guys, teams RWBY and JNPR. I have them in history."

Suddenly, with a rustle of disturbed leather and the chink of mail-rings, Geralt stood. "Class is now in session," he said. In one motion, he reached behind himself with his left hand and loosed a bolt from his crossbow at the desk where Nora's head lay.

It embedded itself in the wood with a thunk, and she started up with a snort of "Pancakes!"

"Anyone who's asleep should fix that," he said. "Anyone who's standing should do the same."

In silence, Velvet and her team found seats.

Geralt sighed. "I know the subject of this course wasn't explained in a lot of detail," he began. "That's because even I'm not sure what it's about. But in general terms, I'm going to teach you about expanding your toolkit. Any questions about that before we start?"

Ruby raised her hand. Geralt gave her a nod in silence.

"What do you mean by 'toolkit,' Professor?" she asked.

Geralt grimaced. "Call me Geralt, please," he said. "And I guess that's a good question. Here's one for you: what do you bring when you're going out to kill Grimm?"

Ruby blinked, then considered the question. "I guess I bring Crescent Rose, a few magazines of ammo, and a magazine each of the primary elemental Dust rounds," she answered.

Geralt nodded. "Then that's your toolkit," he said. "It's all of the things you bring to do your job. A technician's toolkit might be a box, where he keeps everything from screwdrivers to hammers. A scribe's might be a pack of unused paper, maybe a blank book, pens and ink, and so on."

"Now, consider the technician," he said, turning away from them to walk around behind his desk. "Say this technician's toolkit is a set of screwdrivers. That's all he brings to his job, every day, and it works, most of the time."

He turned back to face them. "One day," he said, "this technician comes across a nail he has to hammer in. But all he has are screwdrivers. Sure, he can hold the strut and hammer it in with the handle, but it'd be a lot easier with a mallet."

He shrugged. "I'm sure a lot of you are thinking, 'well, that technician was an idiot: of course he's going to need a mallet, he should have brought one to begin with.' Right?"

He looked around the room. After a moment, there was a general murmur of assent. Ruby didn't join in; nor did the rest of her team. Having seen the man work, she had a feeling she knew where this was going.

"Well," Geralt said, "I've gotta say, I feel much the same way about your toolkits."

That brought a couple of students up short. Coco looked actively offended, Pyrrha and Jaune looked surprised.

"You go out to fight the diverse and badly-understood Creatures of Grimm," he said, "with only a weapon, usually with both a blade and a gun, and the rounds to use it." He began to slip one vial and then another out of their pockets on the belt on his chest, laying each, one by one, on his desk before him. "Sure, you can kill any given Grimm with just an edge and some bullets. Hell, you can do it with just a conventional sword. But it could be so much easier if you had the right tools for the job."

He placed the last vial on the desk and began to unclip pouches from his belt, laying them in a neat order beside the vials. "That," he continued, "is what this class is about. For one hour, three times a week, I'm going to be teaching you how to expand the number of tools you have access to. I'll be giving you some of my tools, but I'll also be teaching you how to recognize what tools might be useful."

"Any other questions, before we get started?"

There was silence.

"Good," Geralt said, drawing his two swords, one at a time, and laying them across his desk. He took out the crossbow and laid it down beside them, and withdrew from his side a miniature quiver of bolts and placed it alongside. "Now," he said, gesturing at the table strewn with various vials, pouches, and weapons in perfect order. "This is my toolkit. I'm going to explain each part of it. Anyone have something they want to start with?"

Jaune raised his hand. Geralt nodded at him.

"Uh, Professor," he faltered, uncertain. "Why the two swords?"

"Geralt," the Witcher corrected firmly. "And this one," he raised the first, with a square guard, "is steel; it's intended for humans and other nonmagical enemies. This one," he replaced the first and raised the second, with an angled guard, "is silver; magical creatures are allergic to silver, so I use it against them."

Coco chuckled. "Sorry, magical creatures?" she asked sardonically. "You mean Grimm? Pretty sure they're not allergic to silver."

Geralt closed his eyes for a moment before looking over at the second-year. "I'd hoped to get there later," he said, "but I know your type; you won't trust a word I say until I prove I know what I'm talking about. Fine. Get down here."

Coco blinked, then shrugged, stood up, and strolled easily past her teammates and down to the center of the room.

"You're armed?" Geralt asked.

Coco nodded and held up her handbag. "This baby's all I've ever needed," she said.

Geralt nodded. "Hit me, then," he said, shortly. "I'm unarmed. Try and hit me."

Coco cocked her head. "I thought you were all about using tools?" she asked dryly.

Geralt snorted. "Magic is a tool," he said, and up came his left hand, his fingers shifting in a strange pattern. There was a whumphof released air and Coco was thrust backwards, hitting the desk behind her with a sharp crack as her head hit Velvet's workspace. The faunus girl yelped and fell backwards, only to be caught by the arm by Yatsuhashi.

Coco picked herself up, blinking at Geralt. "Was that your Semblance?" she asked as she recovered.

Geralt snorted. "Don't know my Semblance," he said. "I've only had my Aura unlocked for about four weeks. No, this is a skill, not an ability."

Coco shifted her grip on her handbag, a slight, excited smirk spreading across her face, but Geralt shook his head. "I have access to your files," he said. "Not in the mood to get the room shredded day one. If you can't keep it contained, we can go a few rounds in the arena later, between your classes. For now, though, sit back down, and let's move on.

Coco pouted at him for a moment, before relenting and stalking back to her seat.

Geralt sighed and returned to his spot behind the desk. "So, magical enemies," he said. "Since we're on the topic, I'll just give you a quick primer. They exist, my job as a Witcher is to fight them, just like yours is to fight the Grimm. That's why my toolkit is so diverse; they're more diverse than Grimm are. But, as Team RWBY can attest, just because you're not Witchers doesn't mean you'll never encounter them." His eyes sought Ruby's. "Nor does it mean they can't change your life for the worse."

Ruby swallowed.

Geralt's gaze left her and scanned the room. "Any other questions?"

"What kind of explosives do you use?" Nora asked excitedly.

"Well," Geralt said, fingers skimming over the pouches. "Your team saw the Moon Dust bomb in action, at the end of last semester. That one doesn't do a lot by way of damage; instead it scatters silver slivers all over the place. Stops any kind of magical transformation until anything in the blast shakes off the silver."

Coco raised her hand. Geralt sighed. "It's the magic thing, isn't it?" he asked her.

"Well, yeah," she said dryly. "Magic doesn't exist."

Geralt massaged his temples. "At some point it's impossible to prove that," he said, "because 'magic' is just a name. I'm not a scholar, and I don't really know what defines it. All I know is that there's something that a lot of the things I hunt, and a lot of the people I work with, use. I use it for my Signs. Dimeritium nullifies it, silver prevents certain uses. You can call it what you want, but it's not Aura. Dimeritium and silver do not nullify Semblances, or Aura shielding. Keep that in mind."

Coco shrugged. "Fair enough, I guess," she said breezily. "I hope you can show us that it works, sometime."

"I could easily slip on a dimeritium shackle," Geralt told her. "It'd prevent me from casting Aard, like I did to push you earlier. But you wouldn't really know that I wasn't doing it deliberately. I'll see if I can't get a demonstration."

His fingers plucked up another pouch. "Moving on," he said. "Grapeshot is the bread-and-butter grenade. Just pure fragmentation of a silver casing. Damages monsters and humans alike."

He moved on, introducing one grenade after another. Samum, Dancing Star, Dimeritium bombs, Dragon's Dream, Northern Wind, and Devil's Puffball. Each unique.

"I use each of those against different enemies," he said. "Sometimes I use a few in combination. The Dragon's Dream and Dancing Star bombs are an obvious pairing; amplify the blast from Dancing Star. Another good one is combining Northern Wind with Devil's Puffball and Samum: if I can just hit them with the first one, I'm guaranteed a solid hit with both of the others."

Ruby found she was taking notes; had been for a while. She'd jotted down the names and functions of each of the grenades, and was now noting the combinations as he rattled them off.

"That's bombs," Geralt said, laying the last pouch carefully back on his desk. "What next?"

"Your crossbow," Ren said. "Is there anything to it beyond a ranged option?"

Geralt's lips twitched. "Would you believe the crossbow was the last addition to the kit?" he asked dryly. "Seems like one hell of an oversight. Witchers don't traditionally carry them, though—at least, not in the Wolf School, which is mine, or the Griffin School, which was the one closest to it in style. They weren't ever common, even in the others. But this hand crossbow's my best option to get a solid hit on an enemy in the air or underwater.

"That being said, it's not quite as simple as that," Geralt added, picking up his quiver. "This thing has compartments—you see how the fletchings are bunched and color-coded? That's because I keep a few different kinds of bolts on me at all times. Steel-tipped ones for humans, silver-tipped for monsters, same as the swords. Then I also keep a few explosive-tipped ones, some broadheads for when I want to apply a real wound, blunts for when a bludgeon will work better than a sharp tip. Then there's the precision bolts, which are designed to pierce armor."

His fingers lingered over two more sets of fletchings. "These two are weird," he said, "and I don't have a lot of either. This one is baited at the tip—the tip is dipped in lard or some other kind of meat product, and the feathers are Griffin. When I loose that one, it draws monsters to wherever it lands. Useful if I'm in over my head, but useless against humans, faunus, or Grimm."

Then he produced one of the last type of bolt, which had an odd red sheen to the tip and shaft. "This one is target-seeking," he said. "Dunno how it works, really hard to get. All I know is that if I shoot it at an enemy that's flying to teleporting, it will hit that enemy unless that enemy manages to dodge it for something like two minutes. Can be useful, but rare enough that I don't use it often."

He slipped the bolt back into the quiver. "Seems like that leaves us to alchemy," he said, putting down the quiver. "But that'll have to wait—" he was interrupted by the chiming of the bell, "—until next time. No homework, obviously. I'll see you all in two days. See me if you have any questions, and Coco, if you want that fight, just let me know."

And then the day was over and classes were finished. Team RWBY convened back in their room.

"So…" Yang said leadingly. "Classes. Interesting, huh?"

Blake nodded, already reclining on her bed and reaching for a book. "I thought Professor Port's class was particularly fascinating," she said idly.

Ruby giggled. Yang looked less amused.

"Port can stuff it," she said, rolling her eyes. "Geralt. What did you all think?"

"It was certainly intriguing," Weiss said. "We really don't have enough to judge the class by yet, however."

"Those were a lot of different bombs," Ruby said, sitting down on her partner's bed. "I wonder if he'll teach us how to make them?"

"I wonder why he uses a crossbow instead of a pistol," Blake said, looking at them all over her book. "Surely a firearm would be more effective?"

"They don't have guns in his world, remember?" Yang said, and then blinked. "Holy crap, did I just say that in a casual conversation?"

Weiss snorted and sat down beside Ruby. "It is still a little… difficult to swallow, isn't it?" she asked. "Our newest teacher is from another world. That's certainly not something I ever expected to have to try to explain to my father."

"He's good, though," Yang said, nudging Blake's legs. The faunus curled them up obligingly so Yang could sit, resting her arm on her partner's knees. "Really good. Doesn't fight like any Huntsman I've ever seen, but you saw how he and Ciri dealt with that monster."

"Yeah," Ruby agreed. "I'm hoping Coco actually does challenge him, so we can see how he fights against a person."

"I wonder if she has a chance," Blake mused. "He fights people, yes, but has he ever fought a Huntress?"

Yang considered this. "Point," she allowed. "Now I'm curious, too."

There was a knock on the door.

"Come in!" Ruby called.

Jaune stuck his head in. "Coco and Professor Geralt are about to fight!" he said breathlessly. "In the arena!"

Ruby jumped up. "All right, team!" she said. "Let's go see this!"

Geralt looked up at the display, where two Aura bars were now displayed alongside photographs of himself and his student. Not that she was his student yet, nor would she be unless he won here.

"Are you sure you want to do this, Geralt?" Glynda asked him quietly. She'd agreed to arbitrate the contest in her capacity as combat instructor. "It's not generally… policy for professors to accept their student's challenges."

Geralt shrugged. "She's not going to learn anything from me unless she thinks I know enough to teach," he replied in a similarly low voice. "This is faster than finding and capturing a monster to show her." And it might be fun, he thought, considering the girl, stretching idly, across the arena. Her posture was relaxed, but there was an anticipatory smile on her lips. She seems to think it will be.

Glynda sighed. "Very well," she said. "Good luck to you."

"Shouldn't need it," Geralt said dryly, "but thanks."

Glynda withdrew as Coco entered the arena, handbag swinging in her grip.

"Hey, Prof," she said with a grin. "Ready to lose?"

His eyes narrowed. "Geralt."

Her grin became a smirk. "Win and we'll talk."

Geralt rolled his neck on his shoulders, loosening the latent tension in his muscles. "Sure," he said. "Maybe then you'll be less of an entitled brat."

Coco's face hardened behind her sunglasses. "Oh, now you're asking for it."

"Ready?" Glynda called from above.

Geralt drew his steel sword and held it at his side in his right hand, even has he stretched the fingers of his left in preparation for casting.

"Begin!" Glynda declared.

Geralt's left hand was already coming out and up, his little finger raised, as Coco unfolded her handbag into some sort of massive multi-barrel gun.

His hand shifted; the small finger lowering as the index finger rose, and a pale sign appeared in the air before him. Axii.

Coco started, the air around her head growing blurry. Her eyes glazed over and she staggered slightly.

Geralt rushed her, picked her up bodily, and threw her out of the arena.

"Match," Glynda called, clearly stifling amusement. "Geralt wins by ring out."

Coco was shaking her head and glaring at him. "That," she growled, "was not a win."

Geralt shrugged. "You want to go again," he said flatly, "I can do this all day."

"I'll be ready for that this time," Coco said, standing up and stalking back into the field.

Geralt turned and returned to his side.

Glynda sighed audibly. "Very well. Ready?"

Geralt's finger's twitched in preparation for a sign.

With a weapon like that, he thought, her best call would be to keep me at range. She can do that with a normal enemy fairly easily, since getting close basically means being perforated. I could try to shield myself with Aura, but Quen will do just as well, as long as the shield survives a few rounds.

"Begin!" Glynda ordered.

Geralt's little finger dropped; his ring and middle fingers conjoined, and his thumb was tucked into his palm. Quen. The golden flare appeared around him even as he began to charge.

Coco was unfolding her weapon again. She began to fire when he'd closed half the distance. He felt the bullets impact on his shield in quick succession—each Dust-propelled round taking a chunk out of the defense. But Quen, trained for years to withstand even the heaviest strikes, held just long enough, collapsing even as he brought the steel whipping around towards Coco's shoulder.

The Huntress in training was forced to bring her weapon up to parry, and from there, it was Geralt's fight. He beat her back, one strike after another, carefully feinting any proper parries and sidestepping any counters, even as he waited for his body to recover in preparation for another sign. He wasn't getting any hits in, but he didn't need to.

Coco, however was getting frustrated, as he saw by her increasingly frenzied shoves in melee. Eventually, one left her exposed, leaning forward in a great push which he had dodged, and then he struck, bringing his sword around and only barely remembering to strike her with the flat of it, hard, in the back. She yelped, and stumbled forward, and he struck her again and again in a flurry, always with the flat of the blade, until at length she managed to get her weapon up to defend herself. His sword glanced off her guard, bouncing to his right.

But his left hand came up, middle finger lowered and all digits splayed, and then went out like the beating of a drum. Aard.

Coco fell back, her guard dropping again, and he beat her down again, one rapid strike after another, the flat of his blade ringing out as it hit her legs, sides, and cheeks.

Eventually she recovered and wildly swung with her weapon, shifting it back to a more compact form for melee, but he caught her wrist in his left hand and bashed her with his right shoulder, pushing her back and opening her again.

This time, though, he just raised his leg and kicked her in the belly, sending her sprawling.

"Match!" Glynda said firmly. "Geralt wins by ring out."

Geralt breathed deeply for a moment before striding forward and offering the girl a hand. "That enough of a win for you?"

She looked up at him, eyes hidden behind her sunglasses, before a grin touched her lips. "Yeah," she said breathlessly, taking his hand and allowing him to pull her to her feet. "Yeah, I'll take that. Thanks for the match... Pro—Geralt."

He grinned back. "Anytime," he said—an acknowledgement and a promise.

A/N: I will be posting this story first in half-chapter chunks at my account on the Spacebattles forums. These 2,500-word chunks will be rougher and intended for debate and critique. Once two of those go up, I will take a day to consider what has been said, make edits, and then post the final 5,000-word chapter both here and at the Archive of our Own mirror, as well as reposting the final version on Spacebattles. Keeping this in mind, feel free to read on whichever site you prefer.

In the original Spacebattles version of this chapter, there was some discussion about Coco. She was originally written as much more bitter about Geralt's use of Aard in the lecture, and generally less pleasant. I decided to clarify matters with minor edits to her dialogue, expressions, and a single added line to Geralt's stream of consciousness.

As with all my works, reviews and comments are appreciated but not demanded.