v.2 beta: Andy1997
(Somewhere in Mistral…)
Huddling in a ditch and with her emergency kit out, Heather Shields felt the tears literally burn her tired, reddened, mocha-colored eyes as she wrapped the bandage around her forehead, the blood staining her hazel-colored hair and dripping down both sides of her face as she fought to keep herself from accidentally tearing her scalp any more than the Ursa had, the ones that had shattered her Aura, knocked her down and mauled her.
Tearing the bandage, she gritted her teeth as she pinned it all together with a safety pin, and the pain was enough to cause her to briefly black out. Unable to deal with it for another second, she reached for painkillers and stuck the hypo into her right arm. It couldn't do anything to erase the image of the other two guys in her group – Leto and Shunji – getting torn to shreds by the sleuth of Ursa they had unwittingly wandered into. Ursa? The mission parameters given out by Headmaster Lionheart read they would be clearing out a small group of Beowolves. Five or six minimum, enough for three professional Huntsmen to handle.
Instead, however, there had been eight really big, ugly looking Ursa. And now, she was the only one that hadn't been eviscerated, the Ursa knew that and they were coming for her. Knowing that those beasts were still on the hunt for her, she went for her holster, her hand grabbing nothing but air and she realized that in the struggle her sidearm had fallen. And on top of her missing, broken thunder-spear she was completely defenseless.
'Oh Brothers, please help me,' Heather prayed to her deities of choice, closing her eyes tightly. 'Please let me see my husband again. Please let me see my daughter again.' The snarling of Grimm became louder as they were getting closer, and her tears were now falling in earnest, covering her mouth with her hand to stifle her sobs, hoping they would not hear her. 'Please let me see my family again.'
Those beastly growls that had been growing louder suddenly stopped, as if the Ursa had suddenly held their breaths. Heather opened her eyes and realized that she had been granted a reprieve. Then, the Ursa all let out a collective, panicked howl and the last thing she heard before she instinctively covered her ears was the sound of fur and bone being torn off the rest of the body, then she felt something land on the ground in front of her and she dared to open her eyes. To see the decapitated head off one of the Ursa staring up at her with its fading yellow and red eyes. Heather couldn't stop herself from letting out a panicked gasp as the Ursa skull faded away, and that in turn was drowned out by Fire Dust infused buckshot, more aggressive, panicked bellowing and Grimm being torn asunder.
Now Heather couldn't keep herself from letting out a panicked cry as an Ursa crashed into the ground some feet away from her, causing her to shield her face from the resulting dirt and dust. Shutting her eyes tightly once again, her blood ran cold and she froze at the sounds of a chainsaw and the Ursa's frenzy, her thoughts only of her husband Jie and daughter Mei as she tried to block out the sound of the chainsaw rendering it in half.
Soon there was silence, then it was armored boots treading across the ground toward her.
Heather couldn't stop herself from opening her eyes once again, and she choked out when she looked up and laid eyes on her savior, that last Ursa fading right behind him…
…and she passed out.
Prayer answered. Just not how she wanted.
The Slayer ejected the spent shells of his super shotgun, the smoke still rising from the gun barrels. He didn't take his eyes off the bleeding Huntress lying at his feet. The way she fixed her bandages she looked like she was trying to keep her scalp together after being mauled by those Ursa.
No way her and those other dead Huntsmen he came across willingly stumbled across these Ursa. They had been equipped lightly, and not to deal with heavily armored bear Grimm.
++This Huntress requires medical attention. You are familiar with basic first aid, correct? I can guide you on how to keep her stable.++
Two Sentinels I:
"It took so long to get the red out of…well…everywhere, the Slayer should have just burnt the whole place to the ground and let us rebuild over the ashes…asshole."
- Resident's account of the Defense of Shion
Alternatively known as 'The Shion Chainsaw-Shotgun Massacre'
(Training Field #11)
"C'mon kids, keep your guard up!"
Qrow's strikes against both of his nieces grew more relentless in the second hour of training, both Ruby and Yang just managing to hold off their uncle's ferocity and barely managing to launch any counters of their own.
"Gods dammit, you're not even trying! What the hell are you even-?"
"SHUT UP!" Yang exclaimed.
It came to a head as she dodged Harbinger's scythe by ducking to the right, prompting Qrow to shift it back to sword mode just as Ruby took aim with Crescent Rose's sniper cannon. She pulled the trigger, and Qrow deflected the bullet at an angle so that it hit Yang in the chest, knocking her flat on her back with her Aura shattered.
Ruby's momentary lapse of concentration allowed Qrow to zero in on her, grab her by the back of her head and slammed her face first into the dirt hard enough to destroy her Aura as well.
Qrow had barely broken a sweat this time. He looked over both of his winded nieces and scowled, "What the hell was that?"
Yang glared. Ruby rolled onto her back where she spat grass, "I-"
"That was even worse than yesterday!" Qrow exclaimed, gazing over all the other 1st and 2nd years that he had utterly trounced. Teams RWBY, JNPR, CVY…and CRDL. "All of you." He focused particularly on Jaune who looked winded, "Arc?"
"Uh…criminy," Jaune groaned, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand. "I knew it'd be hard to move around in armor, but not this hard."
"No excuses," Qrow replied, unsympathetic. "Armor beats having a demon put its fist through your chest and out the other end!"
"Hey, you wanna tone it down, old man?" Cardin said, rubbing his still aching jaw.
"Hey, you wanna keep your new dental work paid for by Beacon?" Qrow shot back. "I can always pair you up with Arc again."
Cardin froze, and dared to look over at Jaune. He looked back, and Cardin quickly averted his gaze as his jaw began to ache even more, phantom pain from over a month ago when Jaune knocked some of his teeth out in a rage. He was smart enough, since then, not to antagonize the leader of Team JNPR any further. And when his team began to join in on Qrow's training exercises, he elected to keep a considerable distance away from said blonde swordsman.
"Cardin has a point, uncle Qrow," Ruby said. "We're training as hard as we always do. You don't have to act like this. This isn't you."
Qrow frowned, "I'll be leaving in a few hours, so I'm makin' sure you guys can still put up a fight."
"We went straight through a literal hellscape last month," Blake shot back. "We can put up a fight."
"You had Blazkowicz carrying you. He's not here."
"He wasn't here when we had to…" Jaune paused, remembering Team CRDL was here and that he, his team and CVY had been sworn to silence regarding the Vault underneath Beacon Tower. "Deal with Professor Peach.-"
"W-wait, you're leaving?" Yang cut in.
"Again?" Ruby cried. That wasn't the first time Qrow had to leave in the past month.
Qrow nodded, "Something big is going down in Mistral. And Oz wants me there making sure Blazkowicz' guns are aimed only at Grimm and demons."
Pyrrha shivered. The only news that was coming out of Mistral nowadays was always bad. Grimm invasions. Cultist activity. Villages and towns burning to the ground. Wholesale slaughter of innocent people and the Doom Slayer caught in the middle with reports that he was making his way to the capital. All Huntsmen and Huntresses in the area had been given the order:
In case of Doom Slayer - Flee on sight.
"'Going down?'" Nora asked.
"You mean besides all those towns being burnt to the ground and people fleeing to the capital away from all the Grimm, the demons and the cultists?" Coco inquired, coyly.
"Can't say any more."
"This isn't about…mom, right?" Yang asked, sounding more anxious than she intended.
She knew that Raven was in Mistral, and quite possibly smack in the middle of all that carnage. She wondered what would happen if she or her tribe crossed paths with the Slayer, and she couldn't stop herself from imagining the Slayer standing atop a mountain of dead Branwen bandits.
Her blood ran cold when she imagined William sticking a flag with his insignia on top of her mother's corpse.
"…." then she wondered why she even cared about Raven. She ran out on her and dad, why should she be worried about what happens to her?
Qrow said, smiling apologetically. "Sorry, kids. I'm just here to make sure you guys are brushing up on your badassery before I take off, so I don't have to worry about any of you."
"…aw, sweet of ya'," Russell sarcastically drawled. Yang growled and suddenly punched him in the arm, "OW!"
That didn't go unnoticed by Qrow, "And try not to kill each other while I'm away."
Ruby swallowed, "Can't I…can't we go with you?"
"Ha…yeah, no," Qrow replied, firmly and with narrowed eyes. He continued before Ruby could voice any objection, "Listen, the best thing for Vale right now is that it has as many Huntsmen and Huntresses here as possible in case Hell decides it wants another round with Beacon."
Ruby wanted to argue, but decided she was smarter than that. She conceded, "Ok."
"…ok?" Qrow was surprised by Ruby not trying to argue with him. "Eh…yeah."
"Listen, Uncle Qrow," Ruby began, unsure. "You know William's people?"
"Not personally, no," Qrow chuckled, jokingly. "What about them?"
"They're still alive, aren't they? They weren't all…destroyed ages ago, right?"
"That's what Merlot said during his bad guy speech back at Epsilon," Qrow said. "Why?"
"…." Ruby's silence caught everyone's attention. "Can't they help us?"
Cardin raised an eyebrow, "Say again?"
"If the Night Sentinels knew William was here, they might follow him here and fight with us," Ruby explained, hopeful. "He was their leader-"
"How about 'king'?" Yang interjected. "All this time, I bet he's a king."
"King?!" Jaune exclaimed. "Blazkowicz is a king?"
Yang shrugged, "C'mon, it's obvious ain't it."
"Oh yeah, that's just what we need," Dove said, sardonically.
Coco slanted her head, "More badasses in power armor?"
"More psychopaths in power armor," Russell added.
Weiss shivered, "Please don't tell me there's another slipgate somewhere on Remnant?" Horror dawned on her when she recalled the SDC controlling Sentinel ruins that were discovered in Mistral. "Oh…" She turned on Qrow, "Is that why you're-"
"Like I said, can't say any more," Qrow repeated, firmly. "Don't worry, Ozpin will make sure you're kept busy."
Glynda's voice over the public announcement system cut through the soundwaves, "Will all students please report to the auditorium?"
"There, what'd I tell ya'?"
Ruby turned to Qrow cautiously, "Qrow?"
(Meanwhile, back in Mistral…)
The Huntress felt herself stir from unconsciousness from the heat of the fire pricking her sweaty skin. She dared to open her eyes, noticing that out of the cave she was currently lying in that it was nighttime. She moved her eyes down to see that she was lying underneath the blanket that she kept in her travel pack, which was placed against the wall opposite her.
And sitting on the opposite side of the fire was the Slayer himself, seemingly occupied with what appears to be her scroll.
Heather gasped, "Oh Brothers!"
++Hello Heather Shields. Registered Huntress operating from Mistral Capital,++ VEGA greeted her. ++I am VEGA.++
"The Doom Slayer's rogue, unshackled artificial intelligence!" Heather exclaimed in a panic, hurting herself. "AH!"
++Please do not strain yourself,++ VEGA implored. ++We have further treated your head wound, reapplying and fastening your bandages around your head properly and minimizing the chance of infection,++ VEGA said.
Fancy way of telling her that her scalp is no longer in danger of sliding off the top of her skull like a bad toupee and she won't die of infection or shock before they get to Mistral. From how pale this huntress was after she woke up, she looked ready to get up and run for dear life. And she probably would if she didn't also look like she was in a considerable amount of pain.
++But you require proper medical attention.++
Heather groaned, "T-there's a village, Shion. It's not far from here."
++Does it have long-range communication facilities there?++
"Need a ride to Mistral," William said. He tossed her scroll on her lap, "You can get us there."
Having a Huntress call in a ride beats having to walk the last few hundred miles to Mistral.
Heather looked briefly alarmed, then it morphed into a scowl, "And why would I do that?"
++An attack on the city is imminent. Haven Academy will require our aid in it's defense .++
"D-defense?! Are you-AHH! " Heather cried as she tried to get up, only for the pain to nearly cause her to black out so she laid back down.
William frowned and harshly said, "Easy."
"It's your fault we're all in this mess in the first place!" Heather shouted. "If you hadn't caused that volcano in Atlas to erupt-"
++By my estimate, Much of the planet would have been consumed by the demons by now and there would have been no way to reverse it,++ VEGA interjected. ++Between a demonic invasion and the endless Grimm it would have attracted, the Atlesian military would have been unable to secure Epsilon indefinitely.++
The Slayer mentally scoffed. Fucking Atlesian propaganda.
"…I…." Heather stammered, trying to come up with a rebuttal. She had none. All of sudden she felt like she was trying to find someone to blame for the deaths of her friends and her nearly being scalped by a bear Grimm. She felt tears prick her eyes, turning her head in a vain attempt to hide her face, "We…the kingdoms were barely holding the line against the Grimm, we were barely surviving as it was, Then you came and…and-"
Spare me, was what William wanted to say as he mentally drowned out Heather lamenting over nearly being scalped by a bear. It was fast becoming a habit for the people on Remnant – including all the supposedly badass Huntsmen and Huntresses, to lay the blame on others for their suffering. To blame him and his rage for all the bad things happening in their miserable world and in their shallow lives. How was he to know anger was the catalyst for Grimm incursions?
And no, he wasn't a hypocrite in this circumstance, the Slayer decided. Hell, and everything in it, was to blame for his millennia of suffering, no ifs and buts. The Valesfolk, the Mistralpop, the Vacuodwellers and the Atlaspricks – excluding Weiss and maybe Winter – on the other hand needed to just suck it up and stop pinning all their misfortune on him.
Yes. The Doom Slayer was firmly convinced he wasn't to blame for Remnant sliding further down the crapper. The Kingdoms just needed to cease their bellyaching, pick up their showy, overly elaborate weapons and cut their own paths of vengeance through the blackened hordes of the Grimm, right through to the creature truly responsible – Salem.
…sometimes he wishes Hell had taken those tiny shreds of empathy he still had left.
++We should remain here until next morning,++ VEGA suggested. ++Give you some time to recuperate.++
Heather panicked when she realized she would be spending the night in a cave with the Doom Slayer. Until he got up and walked out of the cave, super shotgun in hand, and stood guard outside.
It was as if he was giving her some space.
Heather didn't take her eyes off his back, that is until sleep claimed her, leaving the Slayer alone with his thoughts.
++We have spent a month traveling across Mistral, and we are no closer to determining the identity of the Spring Maiden or locating Marcus Black.++
++You know what must be done if the Spring Maiden falls into the hands of either Salem or Black.++
VEGA being ruthless? War doesn't just affect little girls, apparently.
(The Next Morning)
Heather's Aura managed to take most of the sting out of her injuries by the time she woke up before the sun rose. Cautiously, she sat up to see the Slayer still standing outside the cave.
She took a swig from the cantina that had been left in front of her before the still warm cinders of the campfire from last night, still eyeing the Slayer's back wearily. He lowered his super shotgun, turned and stepped back into the cave, cracking his neck as he put the cinders out with his foot.
"Can you walk?" the Slayer asked.
Heather nodded, pulling the blanket off herself and stood up, and promptly had her weapon shoved into her hands – the one she lost: A single-edged dao sword, the whole length of the blade that appeared to be segments that were currently interlinked together, topped up with with an ornate handle which had the word 'Wave' inscribed on it in gold.
She gasped when she realized what she was holding, "You-you found this?"
++Last night, when we believed that Grimm were approaching our position,++ VEGA explained. ++Now, I believe we should head to Shion.++
Grasping 'Wave' as if it were her child, Heather looked up at William and nodded, "I know the way."
And she didn't sheathe Wave as she led the two of them through the forest toward Shion, her eyes darting left and right nervously, cautiously. On the other hand, an unarmed Slayer followed behind her, his weapons stored in his hammerspace module as he walked without fear of ambushes – by Grimm, demon and man alike. Heather glimpsed over her shoulder, at how fearless Blazkowicz was.
++You may relax, Mrs. Shields,++ VEGA said. ++My sensors do not indicate any hostile activity at the present moment.++
"…." Heather didn't respond. She watched as the Slayer suddenly removed his helmet and revealed his face to her, startling her by how out-of-nowhere that was, especially as it was to take a drink from the cantina. Then, she couldn't keep her mouth shut.
"Hey, I noticed something different…about you," Heather said. "Those Atlas Wanted notices of you described you as having a piece of your ear missing and a large scar across your face."
William took his lips off the cantina, "So?"
"Both of your ears are intact and that large scar on your face is faint," Heather pointed out. "And your face, neck and shoulders look…" She paused, trying to find the right words, "…beefier?"
The Slayer blinked.
He had no reason to doubt her words. Though, he felt his ear and the part of it that was missing, only to feel that it was restored.
++I speculate the events back at Epsilon have…what is the proper word?++ VEGA ruminated. ++Awakened whatever power remained dormant within yourself, and you have started to fully regenerate from your long period of inactivity.++
The Relic of Destruction tapped into the power given to him by the Divinity Machine? Might explain why the muscles in his body were recovering all the bulk he had lost over several millennia flat on his back in a sarcophagus in just over a month. And now, his whole entire body was beginning to feel a little tight underneath the armor, like he was slowly bulking up some more – in his arms, legs and torso.
William realized that either he finds a way to modify hell-forged armor plating before he finds himself unable to fit into his Praetor Suit, or find a replacement tailored to his increasing size.
This was all convoluted as hell. But whatever. William extended the cantina toward Heather.
She accepted the cantina cautiously. "I didn't know you had to drink water."
William shrugged and put his helmet back on, "I like the taste."
"Mm," Heather wiped her mouth. "Shion shouldn't be too far now."
++Movement detected to the right.++
Weapons drawn, they turned to the right toward the trees, and out emerged…
…a mortally wounded Huntsman in bloodied light armor and a cracked rick rice hat stumbled out from behind a tree and staggered toward them. The Slayer caught him as he fell forward and laid him down on the ground.
++His life signs are fading,++ VEGA pointed out.
"What happened to you?!" Heather cried.
"B-bandits…" the stricken man croaked. "Dozens of them…still there. Please…" He reached past Heather toward the Slayer. "Slayer, sir, p-please…t-they don't deserve to…to…" he pleaded. "S-save us… save them."
Heather struggled to comprehend that yet another Huntsman had died. Too many these past few weeks. She gritted her teeth, eyes watering as she dipped her head, as if to hide her tears from the Slayer, "Bandits?! Grimm on top of cultists and demons and these…fucking people…" that swear tasted like poison, but she was overwhelmed with anger, she had to let it out. She looked up at him, "S-"
William suddenly grabbed her by the arm, and yanked her out of the way of a Beowolf's claw and leveled his super shotgun at its chest, pulled the trigger and it exploded in a hail of black. Shrieking in pain, Heather curled up into a ball on the ground, hands covering her ears as her eardrums came close to exploding from close proximity to the Slayer's double-barrel.
Heather saying 'fuck' drew the Grimm. Who knew?
The Slayer reloaded his super shotgun, "Can't stay here." He looked down at Heather, and the way she rolled on the ground, in pain, "Hey."
Once the ringing in her ears faded, she angrily rounded on the Slayer, "What's wrong with you, you… you idiot?! You could have-AH!"
The Slayer grabbed her by the wrist and lifted her off the ground so that they were eye level. Now, Heather felt terrified that she had aggravated the Slayer with her rather shameful display.
Eyes wide as saucers, Heather could only nod.
"…ready to stop bein' useless?"
Another shaky nod. He put her down, and handed her Wave, still in its sheath.
++We will have to engage human opponents momentarily.++
"HEY, PUT YOUR HANDS-oh shit…"
Three bandits wearing a red bandanna, red armband and a red eyepatch respectively felt their grips on their weapons loosen considerably when they saw some random bandaged huntress accompanied by the Doom Slayer, and both of them were covered in blood. It took effort on their part to not visibly panic at the Slayer walking toward them, menacingly.
"Ah...w-was Raven serious about-?"
"Yes! She said to just let him through, and she'll be able to talk him down."
"If…if she says so."
The bandit leading them lowered his battle rifle as the Slayer walked up to them.
"Ah…L-Lord Slayer. We don't want any trouble…"
The other two of them quickly dropped their stances, one of them sheathing her sword while the other dropped his axe.
"…Raven told us we should be expecting you-FUCK!"
The Slayer smacked the sword and it's scabbard out of the hands of the second bandit before driving his knee right into her gut, shattering her Aura and leaving her gasping in pain as she fell to the ground. The third bandit panicked and tried to grab his axe off the ground before William brought his elbow down on the back of his head, his Aura shielding him from a caved in skull and instead rendering him unconscious.
That first bandit screamed in agony as the Slayer grabbed his arm, crushed the bone underneath his mighty grip, pulled it right of its socket. He lifted him off the ground and tossed him over his shoulder and he face planted onto the ground, knocking him out. The Slayer drew his super shotgun
Heather blinked. That whole time the Slayer hadn't even turned his head to look at them as he was dead set on seeking out the leader of these bandits. She stepped over the dropped bandits, the third bandit letting out one last gasp before she fell unconscious, leaving the two of them alone before the front gate leading into Shion.
++They mentioned Raven – Raven Branwen,++ VEGA said. ++Yang's mother.++
"Whose mother? Wait…" Heather scowled. "We're going to talk to these thugs?" Heather asked, harshly. "Whose side are you on, Blazkowicz?"
He didn't need to give it much thought, "My side."
"Who else is on your side?"
++Obviously not the bandits pointing weapons at civilians,++ VEGA snarked, in a monotone.
"…." VEGA was getting to be a bit mouthier these days, William noticed.
Heather's thoughts once again went to her husband and daughter.
"Please…just take whatever, or whomever, you want..."
Yet another settlement that was easy pickings for the Branwen Tribe. Raven thought at this stage she should feel some degree of pity toward these peasants and how totally inept they and their huntsmen guardians were at keeping bandits out. And not for the village chieftain currently groveling at her feet, begging for his life and offering them whatever they wanted.
Which they were with gleeful abandon, the red-clothed bandits of the Branwen Tribe taking everything that wasn't bolted down, forcing the village folk on their knees outside their homes as they made them watch.
"Whomever, eh?" one of the bandits, an unshaven man with long-dirty blonde hair and gray eyes who wore a red bandanna over his bandit outfit, gleefully asked, putting his foot on the back of the chieftain's head and grounding his face into the dirt. He looked over many of the women amongst the captured village folk, noticing quite a few of them were reasonably attractive, and Raven's piercing glare through her Grimm mask. He threw his hands up and smiled nervously, "Hey, he offered."
"Shay," Raven said, warningly.
"Just joking, chill," the man – Shay – replied. He looked over the haul that the rest of the bandits were gathering in a pile. "These hicks were sitting on quite a bit."
"Oh, please," one of the village folk cried. "That's…that's our stockpile for the winter."
Raven stepped forward, hand on hilt, "We could have settled this amicably. You could have just let us in through your gates without conflict. But you resisted us, so now you must pay the-"
The sound of fist making impact with one's chest was heard, and a bandit's distant screaming became louder before he suddenly landed face first on the ground, bouncing off the ground and landing right in front of Raven. Briefly startled, she looked up to see none other than the Doom Slayer walk toward them, and not in an offensive posture, but more casually. His companion on the other hand, a huntress, followed some feet behind him, hand on the hilt of her dao.
Though Shay had been told along with everyone else to be expecting the Doom Slayer, he had to restrain himself to make sure he didn't void his bowels with fright, "O-oh fuck…"
The village folk all gasped. The village chieftain lifted his head up
"Oh…no…" he bemoaned. "Not him."
"…uh…why not?" another villager asked, hopeful and counting the seconds before the next inevitable bloodletting. "These assholes are gonna get what they des-"
"Shut up, you!" Shay exclaimed, pistol whipping the unfortunate villager with his feeble-looking revolver.
Taking a deep breath through her nose, Raven relaxed her rapid heartbeat and felt composed enough to take a step forward. The Slayer paused, and one could see his eyes scanning all the scared townsfolk, all frightened of both the bandits robbing them, and the Doom Slayer – who for the past month, brought death and destruction wherever he roamed.
"William Joseph Blazkowicz III," Raven nodded in his direction. "I knew you would find your way back to me."
"…." the Slayer narrowed his eyes.
This was really happening, then?
"This meeting was inevitable, really," Raven went on. "I suppose it's only fitting you should see for yourself how only the strong survive on this world-"
++The Relic of Destruction. Where is it?++
The Slayer tapped at his helmet.
++Kindly remove your mask,++ VEGA said.
"...tch," Raven scoffed.
She did so, and William scowled when he thought it was Yang staring at him with permanent red eyes, the lines around them an indication of not just age, but all the conflicts she has no doubt been through.
"Now, you take off your helmet," Raven asked. "That would be the polite thing to do."
Raven frowned, miffed by William's disrespect.
"HEY!" one of the bandits exclaimed. "YOU DON'T REFUSE A COMMAND FROM OUR LEA-"
That particular bandit suddenly cringed when he noticed the Slayer glancing angrily at him out of the corner of his eyes, he felt his whole body seize up in fear of the Doom Slayer, and his underpants becoming slightly heavier. Still focused entirely on Raven, William stepped forward, causing every bandit present to adopt an attack stance toward them, at least until Raven waved them down.
"It has to be providence that we meet each other on this day," Raven said.
++Or that we merely encountered one of your victims – a huntsman. The only one that managed to get away, and survived long enough to tell,++ VEGA replied. ++Which one of you is responsible?++
Silence followed, and the bandits except for Raven all suddenly felt their hearts clench tightly in their chests. Then all of a sudden, chuckling as one of the bandits stepped forward and raised his hand, confident that the Slayer wouldn't try anything while under parley, "Think that was one of mine."
"You?" William inquired.
William noticed the way Raven quietly stood to the side, as if she knew what was about to happen next. The bandit smirked, "Yeah, I ran that prick through. He thought he could take us all on, so I gave him all eight inches of steel through his che-"
He wasn't smiling when a buckshot tore him right in half, painting the wall behind him and the bandits that were to his left and right. The Slayer ejected the spent shells from his super shotgun and reloaded, double-barrels still pointed in the bandits' direction, as if daring them to challenge him. Raven appeared nonplussed that he just killed one of her men, merely drawing Omen as she stood over the gasping torso of the bandit that had just been bisected.
The bandit managed a pained, relieved smile at seeing his leader. And it was wiped off his face for the final time as Omen's blade pierced his heart, Raven putting the murderous bandit out of his misery. For a few seconds, no one said or did anything, until…
"ARGHHHHHHHH!" another bandit screamed in terror.
"Silence!" Raven exclaimed. "We are still in parley."
And that shocked the other bandits even more.
"Wha-? RAVEN!" one of the bandits gasped, shocked. "You…Tomas-"
"The weak die, the strong live," Raven reminded her underlings, raising Omen, wiping the blood off Omen with a cloth before sheathing it. "Those are the rules." She turned back to the Slayer, "We're much alike, Blazkowicz."
The bandit was shocked for a second, before she reluctantly nodded and acquiesced to her leader's logic. And other bandits lowered their weapons as well.
"…." he just blasted that asshole in half, and Raven still wants to parley.
Did she write her own tribesman off as being weak? Or did she simply not want his super shotgun pointed at her next?
Was she afraid of him?
"What we're doing here, it's a matter of survival," Raven declared. "The people of this village have proven they are incapable of protecting themselves, instead relying on others to defend them." She indicated the corpses of the huntsmen and huntresses scattered all around the street. "In this world, they are just useless, worthless mouths to feed, and it would be mercy to just leave them for the Grimm." She looked him straight in the eyes, all serious, "You should know that more than anyone, Slayer. These people are going to die."
"…." William couldn't bring himself to refute her philosophy, for over a mountain of corpses he was the strongest there was and that was an undeniable fact. Didn't mean he was just going to stand by and let her practice said philosophy on people who didn't even want any part of the carnage that was just brought to their doorstep. Yang's mother or not, she and her little army of moving targets weren't leaving here alive.
…she said they were alike.
"It takes a lot to feed an army, Slayer," Shay said, putting a little too much overemphasis on William's title, maybe a little too condescendingly. He realized his error as the Slayer turned his glare on him. "Uh…that is-"
"OH, FUCK THIS!" another bandit frightfully cried, before he turned and ran in the opposite direction, ditching his crossbow in an attempt to lose the weight. The dozens of other bandits all looked ready to cut and run as well, but only that one followed through.
The Slayer frowned. Smart man.
++It would seem we are at an impasse,++ VEGA pointed out.
"…." Raven frowned. "I know why you're here. And I know what you expect to happen. It doesn't have to go that route." She indicated to the cowering village chieftain, "He surrendered himself, his people and his village to us, so by right-" she paused as the Slayer took a step forward, past another bandit.
"HEY!" that bandit shouted, more panicked than commanding. "T-THAT'S CLOSE E-"
Without even looking at him, William smacked him in the face with the back of his fist and broke his nose, causing him to stagger backward. And due to how frightened the rest of these cowards were, not another one of them decided to voluntarily take him on.
"Ow…my fuckin' nose…."
"Quiet!" Raven exclaimed, drawing silence from her underling. She turned back to the Slayer, "Are you here to 'save' these peasants? Extend their miserable lives by a few days before the Grimm comes to finish them off?"
++What is it that you expect from us?++ VEGA inquired. ++Are we to leave them to their fates?++
"…yes," Raven replied, bluntly. "And keep your war away from us."
Unless William was mistaken somehow, Raven had expected him to just let her and her cronies loot this village and just ignore the innocent lives they were threatening, by 'virtue' of the two of them being the strongest.
++Counteroffer: Return what you have stolen, collect your dead and your wounded and leave this region,++ VEGA intoned. ++Pursue only Grimm, cultist or demon targets in the future and we will have no reason for further conflict.++
Taken aback by VEGA's brazenness, Raven glared, "Control your AI, William."
The Slayer stepped forward, ignoring all the weapons now pointed at him as he towered above her, wiping the defiant glare right off her face as she could see how angry his eyes were.
"You should do what they say," Heather pointed out, hand on Wave's hilt.
Everyone said nothing, did nothing. It was just the Slayer standing right in front of Raven, the Branwen Tribe leader seemingly at his mercy, where none of her kinsmen were willing to come to her aid, especially how the Slayer slowly raised his super shotgun.
"We are nothin' alike," the Slayer declared.
The bandit closest to Raven drew his sword, "YOU FUCKIN' MONS-!"
Those were the bandit's last words, that is if one didn't count the momentary gargling that came out of his mouth as his head was spun a complete one-eighty when the Slayer struck him with a powerful backhand that twisted his spine and sent him flying off to the side and he made impact against the wall of a house, blood splattering on the wall as he slid down it and onto the ground in a crumpled, paralyzed heap. The bandit managed a few more pained gasps before expiring, leaving everyone present at a momentary loss.
"Oh fuck…!" Shay exclaimed as he drew his revolver, only to cringe as the Slayer reached forward and grabbed his right hand, eliciting a pained cry from the dirty blonde bandit as he crushed his hand and swung him into another bandit and floored them.
Raven panicked and went for the hilt of her sword, screaming…
VEGA made their situation absolutely clear.
++Negotiations are now over.++
- OLIVIER ZUCCHARO, NECROMUNDA: HIRED GUN OST
William drew his chainsaw from his hammerspace module and deflected Raven's quickdraw, his sword generated by Fire Dust, eliciting angry shouts from the surrounding bandits who rushed the Slayer, their reverence for their leader overriding their fear of him. The village folk ran for cover, prompting Heather to activate Wave's secondary mode, the dao splitting into a dozen fragments resembling a heavy, bladed whip; a battle cry escaping her lips as she swung, sending several of them flying into the air with one blow, blood spraying from each of them.
Sparks and fire flew from Raven's sword as she and the Slayer exchanged furious blows, William dashed backward to dodge another blow, and was set upon by more of the Branwen tribe, each of them raining blows from swords, spears, kusarigama and bayonets…and they all fell to the massive rotary blade of the Slayer's chainsaw, sending blood and body parts flying all over with one swing as if it were more like an oversized greatsword than a tool.
A blood mist followed, and Raven emerged from it all covered in her tribesmen's red…
…bellowing in rage as she unleashed more strikes, forcing the Slayer back on the defence as he guarded against each blow, until he drew his super shotgun. Raven dodged the buckshot, allowing more bandits an opening to fire upon the Slayer from the rooftops. The Slayer launched his meathook, piercing through the chest of one of the bandits, propelling himself toward the rooftop and leveling a kick to his head that sent him flying right off and through the wall of the building right behind him. He drew his combat shotgun, switching its mod for the charged burst and fired from the hip, ripping through the Aura of two more and tearing them to shreds.
Heather shifted Wave back into its sword form to deflect a bandit's blade when he tried to thrust it into her from behind, countering with an upward slashed that hit his Aura and knocked him off his feet and hit the ground, which shattered it and left him clutching his face and moaning pathetically. Gritting her teeth, she cried out in might and raised her dao, prepared to finish him off…
…and her head was throbbing in agony as the stress of her actions aggravated her wounds and she found herself struggling to keep her balance. She was barely able to react as Raven converged on her, parrying her strike but leaving herself open for Raven to kick her in the gut and knock her into a market stall, the broken wood pinning her down to the ground. Raven scowled as she stood over her, watching her trying to push the pieces off herself.
"Weak," came Raven's spiteful observation.
Blasting another bandit with his plasma rifle, the Slayer saw this unfold and reacted, jumping down and rushing toward them. Heather's eyes shrunk as Raven gripped Omen's hilt, with intent to slice her head off with one swing…
…but a villager, emboldened by both the Slayer and Heather, charged at Raven and would have tackled her if Raven hadn't proved faster, stabbing him through his heart, sheathing Omen and ducking out of the way in time for the Slayer to catch the villager in his arms before he could fall to the ground.
The villager was dead before the Slayer had caught him, but he still turned his back to shield his body as another bandit opened fire on him, hitting the Slayer on the back of his torso. The Slayer closed his eyes and gritted his teeth as he felt the physical pressure of the bullets hitting and bouncing off his suit, drawing only sparks. The Slayer paused, before dropping the villager's body and charged that bandit, left arm reared back for a punch.
All the while the Slayer didn't notice that divine static circulating up his left arm as he swung a left hook. The bandit only managed a let out a surprised yelp that was abruptly cut off as he was liquified when the Slayer's punch connected with his head, releasing that same golden energy the Relic of Destruction had emboldened him with in what it had referred to as a 'Blood Punch.'
Fittingly, so. The resulting mess was all over the place and it brought everything to a standstill. Heather's mouth agape in shock while the remaining bandits quickly lost their will to fight and scurried behind Raven, the bandit chief struggling to rein in her own fear as she forced herself to step forward and confront the Slayer. The Slayer balled his bloodied hand into a fist as he stared down Raven.
"EVERYONE, GET BACK!" Heather exclaimed, stretching a hand toward the villagers, backing herself toward them and giving both the Slayer and Branwen a wide berth.
Raven kept a protective stance between the Slayer and the remainder of her followers. Drawing Omen she summoned a portal…
…and beckoned them to flee through it. Shay and those remaining didn't hesitate to save themselves, leaving Raven alone in Shion, with the Doom Slayer. After closing the portal, she turned back to face the Slayer, not bothering to hide the tears rolling down her snarling, enraged face.
"I saved your life! I led you out of Atlas and I set you loose to continue your damned crusade," Raven shouted. "And you're wasting it protecting these…weaklings?"
"…Yang an' Tai weaklings?"
Raven momentarily froze…
…and barely dodged a stun bomb from William's plasma rifle, leaping up in the air, drawing Omen with a Fire Dust blade, William guarding with his chainsaw as she brought it down on it hard enough so that it exploded, powerful enough to send the Slayer sliding backward across the dirt, leaving a trail before him and smoke rising from his blackened armor. Raven on the other hand was sent flying, through the doors leading into the community center, turning herself in midair so that she landed on all fours.
And she was breathing harshly, realizing that it was just her now. The Slayer stepped through the broken doors after her, plasma rifle in hand. It surprised her to see him suddenly holster it back into his hammerspace module, before cracking his knuckles.
++You have murdered innocent people this day,++ VEGA said.
"Face it, we've had to step over innocents to get where we are-"
She paused when she saw the way the Slayer just glared at her.
"…." Raven's wide, stupefied eyes blinked once, disbelief all over her face. "You're joking."
"…." William glared harder.
"We've both got blood on our hands, but you're responsible for more deaths than I ever could bring myself to inflict, ever since you landed on Remnant!" She gritted her teeth, "What makes you better than me?!"
"…." William shook his head and sounded resolute when he answered, "Never meant for any of em' to die"
++That is the difference,++ VEGA added.
"Neither did…neither do I!" Raven exclaimed, in disbelief that the Slayer refused to acknowledge her point of view. "But they all keep getting in my way-!"
"…what?" Raven sounded almost fearful.
Which the Slayer caught on as he repeated, "Liar."
Raven's eyes bulged as if she was beginning to hyperventilate, tears forming in her eyes. She had both her hands on Omen's hilt as she charged the Slayer, intent on killing the one she had pinned all her hopes on. Instead, she took another super shotgun blast to the chest that sent her flying back out the hall and onto the street. She let out a cry of pain as she hit the ground, her Aura finally breaking and leaving her vulnerable and Omen's fire blade shattering as it hit the ground.
Still, she got back up, gripping Omen's hilt tightly.
++Please stop,++ VEGA said, monotone as always. ++You are beaten, Raven Branwen. Further conflict is pointless at this stage.++
Raven quickly sheathed Omen and switched to another lighting blade, screaming as she went for a quick draw. The Slayer raised his left hand and caught the blade, the static engulfing the entirety of his suit. Error messages popped up in his HUD threatening 'OVERLOAD', but he held onto the blade tightly, long enough so he could level a right hook underneath Raven's ribcage…
…causing her to taste copper, her eyes bulging out in pain. The Slayer followed up by grabbing her by the head, his palm wrapping itself around her face.
He should just crush her skull right there and now, rid himself of someone that was never going to stop causing problems in the future. It would be so easy to end her right now.
Then Yang came to mind. He pictured her reaction to her mother's death. He imagined her going full, complete berserk against the forces of Hell. And she would eventually get herself, and maybe even Ruby and the rest of their allies, killed because of her recklessness, spurred on by the fact that someone she thought had been a friend had killed her mother.
That, and he realized that he didn't like to be reminded that he was responsible for so many people's deaths and he was just taking it out on Raven. Energy crisis on Earth. Grimm rampancy on Remnant. Throw a curveball at Hell, people still die.
The Slayer threw her back the way they came, right back into the community center's hall. Groaning in pain, she coughed out more blood as she moved into a fetal position, never feeling that kind of pain before. But it was not as agonizing as the fact that her followers were dead, she was beaten and was now at the mercy of the man she thought would see her and her tribe as kindred.
This wasn't supposed to happen. The Slayer was supposed to just go on his way, acknowledge the law of nature and leave her and her tribe alone to do whatever they wanted with a village full of weak people that shouldn't even matter to a demigod like him. Instead, he just had to show empathy of all things. He wasn't supposed to…act the hero. Just like all those deluded, idealistic fools at Beacon. Every last one of them Ozpin's puppet.
And that just caused her face to twist in pained rage, as she heard the Slayer's footsteps approach her.
"Why don't you just…kill me?" Raven forced out. "You killed my people-"
Raven looked up to see the Slayer looking down at her, glaring, "For Yang."
There was a reason he decided not to take her and her bandits out at first sight.
++ For your daughter's sake,++ VEGA clarified. ++If you care about her, about Taiyang Xiao Long, you must realize the greater threat that is Hell, and we need you, your resources and your numbers to hold the line wherever we are unable to. It would be a considerable waste to terminate your tribe if they are unable to stop themselves from attacking irrelevant, innocent targetss.++
Raven gnashed her teeth, "I don't want anything to do with your war! It's not mine." She spat blood, "'Innocent targets?' We needed food; these villages won't willingly share with us unless we force them!"
Yeah, no shit. Come rolling in with people intent to pillage and burn and force is the only option.
++ You are on the same plane of existence that risks being pulled into the Hell dimension,++ VEGA explained. ++Your possession of the Sword of Destruction puts this world – perhaps all worlds – at great risk. If either Salem or the demons gain possession of it-++
"You can't…make us fight. We wouldn't stand a chance!" she looked up at him, pleadingly. "Please…don't force this on us."
"…the strong live, the weak die."
The Slayer cracked his neck and glared, Raven looking shocked that her own words were being thrown back at her.
"Aren't those the rules?" the Slayer asked mockingly, his head tilt to emphasize how much it must suck for her to be on the receiving end of her own philosophy.
Something that wasn't lost on Raven, and caused something to snap within her. She shut her eyes tightly as she grinded her teeth, her inner rage all of sudden rivaling that of the Slayer's.
William felt the ground underneath his feet begin to shake, followed by the winds gathering around them. The Slayer was caught off-guard, and looked down at Raven in time to release a sudden burst of elemental power that knocked him back, William digging his heels into the ground and braced himself as Raven floated off the ground.
When she opened her eyes, her eyes blazed with supernatural fire.
++Her power is consistent with what is said to belong to the Spring Maiden,++ VEGA said, urgently. ++Raven Branwen is the Spring Maiden.++
"Brilliant deduction, VEGA," Raven drawled sarcastically, eyes glowing even redder as she glared even harder at the Slayer as she began to float off the ground, creating a vortex of wind, fire and lightning that surrounded the two of them and began to tear the community center apart. "The Seraphim chose wrong."
William's brief moment of surprise faded and he sighed…
…and was blasted right in the chest through the wall, sending wood flying all over as he skidded across the ground. Grunting, he rolled over onto his chest and coughed blood which pooled in his helmet, feeling his suit once again malfunction and flash error messages in his visor as it attempted to purge the elemental power that was attempting to short circuit his armor.
"Blazkowicz!" Heather cried, shocked to see the Slayer laid on the ground. Looking toward the source, she panicked, "Oh my gods…"
The roof of the community center was blown out. Raven, now shrouded in a powerful, elemental aura, floated up through the hole, eyes glowing as she prepared to unleash the full fury of the power of the Spring Maiden. To the Slayer, all he saw was the might and majesty of the Elemental Wraith, the godlike beings to emerge from the tears of Argent D'Nur caused by the World Spear that pierced his homeworld from pole-to-pole millions of years ago.
"Godsdamn you for making me do this!" Raven exclaimed.
And the way Raven looked at the Slayer with murder in her eyes, she was about to unleash that power on him. Instead, however, her head lulled and she fell back down to earth, barely about to summon a wind current to cushion her fall to the ground.
William didn't waste time drawing his chainsaw and making a dash for her.
++Blazkowicz, stop,++ VEGA intoned. ++We need her alive.++
Yang could hate him all she wanted for killing a mother that had fucked off and never gave a damn about her anyways. No way he was going to risk a Maiden falling into demon hands.
Raven let out a cry of fear, and raised a barrier of stone spikes out of the ground. One spike shattered as it hit the Slayer in the chest and embedded an inch into his suit, just above his heart. Swinging his left forearm, he shattered the spike and punched through the stone barrier, only to see Raven open a portal with Omen with one hand as she wiped blood away from her mouth with the other.
Panicking, Raven sobbed as she stumbled toward the portal, "Stay away…from my...family..."
Losing consciousness, she practically fell over through it and it closed right behind her, leaving the Slayer standing in the middle of a bloody, ruined town. William groaned and took off his helmet before coughing blood into his hand. He frowned when he replayed her mentioning her 'family', as if the word meant something to someone who abandoned her kin.
Which 'family' was she referring to? The one she abandoned or the one she was going to lead to their deaths?
Samur chose wrong?
Dad wouldn't have stuck around at Beacon. Would have just found a way off-planet immediately without pissing about and letting himself be bothered by teenagers playing warriors. But then again, things would have turned out a lot different if he hadn't stopped Cinder and Adam from carrying out fuck knows what plans they must have had for Vale, and Beacon Academy.
What a crock of shit.
++Circumstances have changed. We require Raven Branwen alive,++ VEGA said.
"…why?" William asked.
++Ozpin informed me that a vault underneath each of the Huntsmen Academies can only be opened by a Maiden,++ VEGA explained. ++Only the Spring Maiden can access the vault underneath Haven Academy and access the Relic of Knowledge.++
Well, shit. Convoluted rules wins again.
If VEGA had mentioned that earlier, or if Ozpin had done so much, much earlier, William would have settled for crippling Raven instead of just outright trying to kill her.
He turned to see Heather running toward him, weapon in hand. Her eyes widened, when she saw how thoroughly beaten up the Slayer was.
Heather couldn't keep herself from voicing concern, "Do you…need a moment?"
The Slayer turned his head, hawked up and spat out a bloody loogie, "…."
++The fighting here would have most likely attracted the attention of the Grimm,++ VEGA pointed out.
"Yes. They'll be here any second now. We need to-"
William didn't bother to stick around, super shotgun once again in hand as he put his helmet back on and walked toward the front entrance of the village, to Heather's bewilderment. She watched him go. Utterly thrashed by what she guessed was one of the Maidens of legend and still rearing to jump back into the thick of it.
++I would advise you to call for transportation from Mistral City immediately,++ VEGA advised over her scroll. ++And safeguard the civilians until they arrive.++
"…I'll do that."
This was going to be a long morning. Yet…
…when the midday sun sat firmly in the sky, an airship from Mistral followed the smoke rising from the village as it made its approach…
"What in the world…?"
…the pilots and the Mistral city guardsmen on board were caught off-guard by the amount of death and destruction present, where one would expect to find no survivors. Instead, they felt their spines chill when they saw the Doom Slayer with his foot on a Beowolf neck as he finished it off with a double tap to the head with his pistol. William looked up and recognized the Mistral insignia upon the airship's sails.
"Oh, shiiittttt…it's him."
The village folk emerged from the more intact buildings that were still left. Beaten, bruised, bloodied, bandaged but alive, and accompanied by a huntress with a bandaged head. The airship slowly touched down, the guards stepping off first with rifles trained on the Slayer, and trying very hard not to void their bladders at the sight of him. The huntress stepped forward.
"You sent out the SOS?" the pilot called out from the airship.
Heather nodded, "We need immediate evac and passage to Mistral immediately."
The village folk present became alarmed, none more so than the village chieftain "You're leaving? But the Grimm could return!"
"So, deal with em'," the Slayer replied. They couldn't stay behind to hold them off indefinitely. "Got places to be."
And a Haven Academy headmaster to interrogate, and kill.
"I repeat: We need transport back to Mistral and Haven Academy now," Heather reiterated. "The city could be in danger as we speak."
"We?" the pilot turned to the Slayer, alarmed. "You can't be serious." Heather glared at him, the Slayer following suit with an even more intense glare, pausing a moment to wipe the blood off his left gauntlet. "You are serious."
++Headmaster Lionheart is expecting us. The Mistral council must be updated on cultist activities out here.++ VEGA said. ++We must depart immediately.++
The pilots turned to each other, before nodding and beckoning the two of them on board, leaving the Village Chieftain stuttering…
…before putting his foot down hard, getting both the Huntress and the Slayer's attention.
"You're just going to leave us like this?!" the Chief exclaimed, angrily. "You being here is going to keep bringing the Grimm here for who knows how long."
Way to rub in his perpetual failings, old man.
"The Grimm will just keep on co-!" He hadn't noticed that William had picked one of the fallen bandit's assault rifles, wrenched the severed hand off the handle and shoved it into his chest. "What?"
"…." William glared down at him.
After a few moments of intense glaring, the Chief didn't need any further convincing, wrapping his hand around the rifle and holding it tightly, now frightened more of the Slayer than the Grimm that were sure to keep coming. The Slayer spared the rest of the villagers standing in a daze at the bloody carnage that decorated their village, accentuated by the bisected torso of a Branwen Tribe bandit falling of the roof of one of the houses and splattering at the feet of a woman, who screamed mercilessly.
Just another day, William decided. He stepped onto the airship as the engines powered up.
"Back to Haven Academy?" Heather asked.
"…." William reloaded his super shotgun as they took off.
There were two Sentinels on Remnant. Against evil, two would be enough.
Heather added with an undertone of deadly seriousness, "Back to Haven. And Leo…."
A/N: Welp, word limits are now out.
First upload of the year. Took a long time to get this chapter out, I know. I've been spending a lot of time reading actual novels, hoping they would inspire me with my stories and help me improve my writing (hopefully the writing in this chapter reflects that). That and just simply taking my time and letting that love for writing slowly come back to me, and taking advantage of the time I felt inspired to write this.
Meet Heather, another minor character that Leo killed off screen in canon has gotten another lease of life in this fic.
And yeah, I played Necromunda: Hired Gun. It was…ok. Focus Interactive needs to give its developers a bigger budget and more development time for their next (hopefully Warhammer) game. I figured the music in this game is the kind you listen to as you read the Slayer slaughtering Branwen bandits the same way you fight hive-gangers in Necromunda.
Anyway, this is all I have at the moment. Wherever you are in the world, I hope you keep healthy and safe.