v.2 beta: Andy1997
(Headmaster's Office, Beacon Tower)
(Vale City, Kingdom of Vale)
Unsanctioned fights on academy grounds. Alcohol. Drugs. Illegal weapon mods and ammunition, the untested, unsafe kind, being smuggled onto the school premises. No amount of training could have prepared the staff of Beacon Academy for the things they had to deal with, as cases of PTSD surged in the past month and the students found other ways of coping with their uncertain futures as Huntsmen. To fight not only the Grimm, but demons as well.
Fights. Booze. Drugs. Mods. And something familiar that Ozpin and Glynda were currently having to deal with.
"…she bought her teammates enough time to escape?"
Glynda could only nod, not taking her eyes off her scroll as it displayed the student file of one Pamela Sepia, with one word in big red letters across her photo: DECEASED. The same file was on Ozpin's desktop holoscreen, which he promptly closed. The man himself appeared cool and impassive, which contrasted how much Glynda was visibly straining not to break down.
"Will you inform her parents?"
"Written or verbal?" Glynda asked.
"Whatever you believe is best," Ozpin replied. "Her teammates?"
"I have a few candidates in mind to replace Pamela-"
Ozpin sighed, "I mean how are her teammates coping?"
"They're not," Glynda answered, bluntly. "They feel guilty, like they had abandoned her."
"Can we change the subject, please?"
Ozpin nodded, "Very well."
"Is there…something you wish to tell me?"
Glynda was pleading now, "Ozpin…please."
"…." Ozpin paused. "Very well."
Glynda braced herself.
"My memories are not as…clear as they used to be," Ozpin began. "In them I can still make out…a boy. Broken. Mended. Broken again. Mended once more. Broken once again before being shattered completely, and he stays that way because the people who were always there to put him back together have been long gone. His parents, his brother, his friends, his master…all gone." He paused. "And the creature that was watching this boy's torment passed these said memories down to me as part of its 'gift'."
Glynda swallowed, visibly intimated that, all this time, Ozpin knew more about the Slayer, and by extension Hell, then he had cared to admit. "Why?"
"A warning…about Argent D'Nur," Ozpin answered. "About Hell."
And Urdak, he neglected to add. She only needed to be concerned about Hell. The so-called Heavens were not part of this conflict…yet.
"And the boy – the Man – will come to Remnant. But Hell was already here waiting."
Ozpin's scroll buzzed. He answered it and saw that it was Port.
"Ozpin, every available hand has gathered in the amphitheater," Port said, jovially. "Are we ready to send these young and eager neophytes out against the forces of darkness once again?"
Glynda shook her head and sighed. Port has not made it a secret that he enjoyed fighting off the demons when Hell invaded Beacon, and he had jumped at the opportunity to lead a few of the 1st Year teams out on their upcoming patrols in Vale. Anything for the opportunity to spill more demon blood in case they hopped over the border from Mistral, but more Grimm would have to do for now.
"Are we right to even be doing this? Sending children out to fight?" Glynda asked.
"Defend," Ozpin stood up from his seat. "They only need to hold the line…until it is done."
Glynda looked slightly unnerved, 'Done?'
It was already packed by the time Teams RWBY, JNPR, CVY and CRDL arrived. At some point it was supposed to have been filled with teams from all over the kingdom in anticipation of the Vytal Festival. With it canceled and all the times that were selected to attend recalled, it was just Beacon's heavily armored and outfitted Huntsman-In-Training teams ready to be sent out. As Ozpin could see from behind the podium, hardly any of them were eager to be sent out into the fray. He thought about giving the speech he had planned, but decided on something else.
Something to alleviate their fears of ending up as sacrificial fodder on some altar somewhere. He closed his eyes, breathed in. And spoke.
"You have all seen the news, heard the rumors, seen the aftermath for yourselves. The destruction of Epsilon within the Kingdom of Atlas did indeed stop the armies of Hell from encroaching upon our world, but not without foreseen, significant cost," Ozpin bluntly laid it all out for everybody present. "We are encircled, outnumbered, outgunned and outmaneuvered – by Grimm, by demon, by traitors and madmen."
A spotted quite a few faces going pale before him.
"Nearly eighty years ago, the largest war in recorded history came to an end. We had hoped that no one here had experienced the kind of horrors that almost obliterated everything we, humanity, hold dear," Ozpin said. "However long before those dark times our ancestors, those armored warriors of old, thought otherwise. Through magic and enchanted steel, they forged swords and shields and fought against overwhelming forces, and by the grace of their gods they won." "…whoa…" Yang muttered, impressed.
The students found themselves being perked up.
"…Night Sentinels?" Ruby muttered.
"We fought our war to prevent the destruction of all forms of art and self-expression at the hands of tyranny. In the grand scheme, it was nothing compared to our ancestors' fight to preserve humanity against oblivion itself," Ozpin continued. "And today, that oblivion has returned in its newest form, and it falls to not just us – but all Huntsmen and Huntresses world over – to stand against it and drive them all off our world for good." He paused. "When you go out into the field alongside our experienced Huntsman to fight against either monster or man, keep yourselves and your teammates safe, remember your training and you will return to fight another day." He smiled, "May the blood of our enemies' on our weapons never dry, may our war never end until the guilty have been punished, and may this evil we face never again spread its shadow over another world."
By the end of it after Ozpin left the stage, the entire student body of Beacon Academy was in awe.
"That…was a bloody nice speech," Velvet could not help but admit that. "Even if it's just telling us to embrace the suck."
Yang smirked and pounded her fist into her hand, "And take as many of them down with us as we can."
"Like those armored warriors of old," Ruby repeated Ozpin's declaration with an exaggerated version of his voice. 'Like William and the Night Sentinels. Like the Silver Eyed Warriors.'
Her eager smile faded.
Weiss swallowed, "Let's not go planning our last stands too soon, shall we?"
"I agree," Blake added.
She wanted to at least see her parents one last time before the inevitable gibbing.
Soon, as both Teams RWBY and JNPR filed out of the Amphitheatre to look over their deployments broadcasted on the holo-screens, Jaune approached Yang, looking very apprehensive.
"Mm? Oh, what's up, Jaune?"
Jaune looked awkward as she scratched the back of his head, "Um…listen, I…wanted to ask you if-"
Yang sighed, and smiled understandably, if a little teasingly, "Yeah no, sorry Jaune, not really looking to date anyone at the moment."
Having pretended not to listen to their conversion, Ruby couldn't help but snicker. Pyrrha abruptly paused and glared over her shoulder at the brawler. She knew that was not what Jaune was asking about, but Yang could not help but tease him. And Blake looked flabbergasted.
"Uh-heh, no…" Jaune chuckled. "I wanted to ask…" his tone became somber. "What was it like to…kill someone?"
Everyone in their little circle suddenly stopped what they were doing and were looking at the both of them. Yang looked like an endangered deer caught in the headlights, with her eyes wide and with a faraway look in them.
Yang could hear Eva Pioux's voice in her head, mocking her for throwing away her innocence when she put her fist through her chest. And somehow, she could feel the warmth of her blood on her face when she coughed into it.
And she realized she never really had time to process – and deal with - the fact that she killed a girl. Even if she had been a cultist.
Yang suddenly felt a bit light on her feet as she felt sick, "Oh…fuck…thanks, Jaune."
"Aw, jeez," Jaune groaned. "I-I'm sorry, I didn't mean-AH!"
He cried out in panic when he noticed a red portal suddenly open behind Yang and drew his sword. She turned around to see…
…Raven Branwen stumble through, badly beaten and unconscious. Yang instinctively opened her arm to catch her birth mother, her eyes now wide in disbelief as cries of alarm and disbelief were heard all around.
Blake stared at the two of them in shock and confusion, "Yang?"
"Y-your…mom?" Ruby dared call Raven that, unsure.
Right now, clutching her unconscious mother in her arms and the way her vision began to tunnel and her hearing began to dull as she could no longer hear her sister and teammates' cries of concern or Qrow shouting for everyone to get out of his way as he ran toward them, Yang just stood there, her eyes wide and pupils reduced to pinpricks as she desperately hoped that this was either a dream or a trauma-induced hallucination her therapist had warned her about.
"…dad," she whispered quietly, like she was hoping her father, the one that hadn't abandoned her, would materialize out of thin air.
He did not.
Two Sentinels II:
Apart from its resemblance to an ancient Earthen mythical creature known as an Incubus, almost nothing is known about the named demonic assassin that goes by the name of Marv Talg. Recovered texts from the Ungmar codex speaks of an entire subspecies of demon that were exiled to the outer regions of Hell after they were declared 'corruptive' by the higher demonic castes, and were all subsequently amongst the first to be completely exterminated by the Slayer, at least until recently.
Prone to bouts of hedonism mixed with psychotic rage and bloodlust, this last survivor of both purges has been extensively modified – both by Hell's own technology and advanced Atlesian prosthesis. Coupled with its near overwhelming healing factor which allows it to survive any grievous injury, including to the brain, Marv is not, until any circumstance, to be engaged until it can be determined how it can be permanently put down.
- Marv Talg
UAC Report File IQBA43O
"Two broken ribs, massive contusions around the torso, severe Aura exhaustion…I'd say a bad case of Slayer."
Blocking out the Academy's surgeon whose name he did not care to memorize and whose attempt at humor he didn't find amusing in the slightest, watching Raven unconscious and handcuffed to the bed had left Qrow feeling that telling her that 'he told her so' wouldn't give him the satisfaction he thought it would. Unless they were witnessing demon slaughter, seeing the effects of the Slayer's violence would sap the joy out of anyone, especially directed toward one's kin.
"…." Qrow grunted and looked down at his feet.
Whatever reason for the Slayer wailing on her like this, it had been most likely justified. It may just be the familial bias, but did even his own sister deserve this?
"Qrow?" Ozpin stepped into the infirmary, giving a sideways acknowledgment to the medic. Qrow glanced over his shoulder at him. "Compared to all the lives she's upturned; she got off easy."
"…thanks, Oz," Qrow deadpanned.
Ozpin looked at Raven quietly, and with pity. He turned back to Qrow, and realized there was nothing else that needed to be said, "I'll leave you two alone."
As abruptly as he had entered the infirmary, Ozpin stepped back out. He turned to the surgeon with a stern look. Exasperated, the surgeon shrugged and stepped out as well, muttering, "…I'm only the doctor…"
"…." Qrow glanced down at Raven. "We're alone."
Raven opened her eyes. She tried moving her left hand, realizing they really did handcuff her to the bed. She frowned, "Is this really necessary?"
"Just in case you decide to leave unannounced. Again." Qrow couldn't keep a resigned smile that definitely screamed 'I told you so' on his face. He snarked, "Lemme' guess: The Slayer didn't take bein' compared to you well, huh?"
Raven didn't respond. Her brother's smile faded.
"Didn't think so," Qrow crossed his arms. "That's the difference between you two: He only kills monsters and sons-of-bitches. You… well, it's not just those things you've killed all over the years."
"He attacked us unprovoked!" Raven exclaimed.
Qrow frowned, unamused, "Yeeeeaaahhhh…try again, Raven. Points for not blinking when you lie like you used to when we were kids, but no way Blazkowicz would go off the beaten path to hunt down a few bandits. My best guess, you were on a raid, he happened to be walking by and he took umbrage."
Raven looked away, frowning, "It…was a matter of survival."
"You couldn't have just asked villages for supplies?" Qrow asked. "In exchange for, I dunno, protecting them instead of just taking their shit by force? It's called 'not being an asshole', sis."
"The tribe will never be beholden to anyone for anything!" Raven responded, harshly. "I'd rather die than bring our family down to the same level as the weak."
"…." Qrow glared. "Why didn't you? Die, that is."
"W-what?" Raven was taken aback.
He wished she would stop throwing that word – family – around when she tries justifying her committing atrocities. There was so much hypocrisy in the room he felt like he could choke in it.
"Why didn't you let Blazkowicz finish you off, then? You fled, and instead of returning to the tribe you decided to come here," Qrow pointed out. "So, by your rules, what does that make you?"
"…." Raven frowned and looked away, refusing to answer that.
Qrow titled his head with curiosity, "Why did you come here anyway? You didn't have anyone you cared about back at camp?" He scowled, "So, Yang was just convenient for you, huh?"
"Or, the family won't take back a loser who ran from the dreaded Doom Slayer?"
"…." Raven was visibly shaking with anger.
"Or, and this is really stretching it, Yang just happened to be on your mind when you thought you were gonna die?"
"Not gonna answer?" Qrow asked. He shrugged, "Fine by me. Plenty of time for you to stew over it, because there's no way you're runnin' away again any time soon." He indicated her left hand handcuffed to the bed. "Not until Oz decides what to do about you."
Raven gritted her teeth and angrily rounded on him, "So you're just going to do what Ozpin says? Have you given up thinking for yourself?" She saw the headband around his forehead, which covered the rune the demons had carved into it. "Did the demons happen to rip your balls off as well?"
Qrow scoffed at her choice of words. "Low blow, Raven." He paused, and sighed inwardly. That was a poor choice of words on his part as well. "Didn't give em' a chance too." He looked serious, "And between the Slayer, the demons and Salem, I have no idea what we're supposed to do now. And right now, Oz seems to be the only man around here with a plan."
"If he had a plan, would any of this even be happening right now?" Raven asked. "Why is Salem still alive? Why are the demons even here?" Her tone became venomous, "Why is the Slayer roaming free?"
The male Branwen shook his head, resigned. "Trust me, I don't know what the he…what we're supposed to do." He backtracked saying the H word. "Smart thing would be to just keep our heads down and wait for the Slayer to kill every horrible bastard, shuffle off Remnant for good and take his holy war with him." He paused, "The problem is if there's gonna be more than a chunk of this rock left when he's done."
"…." Raven was silent once again.
"No one's getting out of this one. Only thing that's important, that should always be important: Our kids getting through it," Qrow intoned. He appeared intense, "What do you think? Or was that too weak for you?"
Still wearing her armor stained with her birth mother's blood, Yang sat alone in an emptied library at a separate desk, burying her face into the back of her arms as she rested them on the desk. Her eyes were closed as she wrestled with herself and the rage that was bubbling up within her as intrusive thoughts of holding her estranged mother in her arms kept passing through her mind. Right after they put Raven on the gurney and wheeled her off to the infirmary, handcuffed to it, a whole flurry of emotions coursed through her – mostly anger – and she separated herself from her sister and her teammates and came here to collect her thoughts.
The good ones, at least.
Yang let out an annoyed grunt. Her face softened when she saw that it was Blake.
Blake swallowed, "Are you…ok?"
"…no. I'm not," Yang replied. She wiped her eyes, "I go without thinking about her for a few days, and now she literally drops in on me?" She gritted her teeth as her eyes started to water once more, "Into my arms no less. That felt like the universe was playing a joke on me." She turned to face Blake, staring her straight in the eyes, which startled her. "She left me and my dad, you know."
"Yang, I…" Blake started. She became silent when no words on how to comfort Yang came to mind. "I…don't know what to say."
The blonde regarded her partner tiredly, "That's fine. I don't think there's anything anyone could say to make this all ok."
Blake bit her lip, "Just so we're up to speed, you and Ruby have…different mothers?"
"Barely noticed the resemblance, huh?" Yang joked. "But as far I'm concerned, Summer Rose is my mom. Raven Branwen is just some woman that gave birth to me before she up and ditched me." She looked pensive. "And I've spent nearly my whole life wondering why one day, she decided to just walk out of our lives.."
"…." Blake didn't know how to respond to that. She could never imagine either of her parents just one day deciding to leave the family.
Yang noticed the silence. "You wanna hear more?"
"Maybe you'd feel better if you…opened up?" Blake replied, hesitantly "And Ruby should-"
"She doesn't need to know," Yang shut her down. "She doesn't remember…what happened."
"What did happen?"
Yang blinked, sighed and recounted the time when she ventured out – with Ruby in tow – to find answers about her mother, about how she led the two of them to some abandoned house in Patch's backwater, the Beowolves that were waiting for them…and their Uncle Qrow arriving just in time to save the two of them. It felt like a story told repeatedly many, many times over.
"…my stubbornness should've gotten us killed that night."
Blake shook her head, "But it didn't."
Yang scoffed, "Not that time." She reached into her pocket, and pulled out the Blazkowicz family photo-parchment, again catching Blake off-guard that she was holding onto it. Yang saw this and smiled, "Me and Ruby are taking turns looking after BJ's stuff." She unfolded the parchment to see the happy, ancient family. "It's insane."
"He used to be like…well…a normal kid," Yang explained. "Live thousands of years ago in a castle on an alien planet, sure, but he was normal. And now he's…" she searched her head for the perfect word. "Him." She appeared pensive, her eyes going over the burly blonde man that uncomfortably resembled her dad if he had a buzzcut, his silver-eyed brunette wife in the dress and their youngest son that was clinging to BJ as much as he was to his mom.
"Was losing his entire family all it took to push him over the edge?" Yang pondered out loud. "I mean….it could happen to any one of us." Her pupils shrunk, "Or was he born that way?"
"Ruby was always enthused about big weapon-"
Blake realized what was going through her partner's head.
"And she changed a bit after Summer passed-"
The blonde was startled by Blake raising her voice at her, and raised her voice when she snapped back, "What?"
"Are you seriously going to torture yourself over this?" Blake exclaimed. "Ruby's not going to end up turning into another…Doom Slayer."
"She came pretty close!" Yang argued, heatedly.
Blake's tone of voice was calmer, "But we stopped her. You, me, Weiss, even William." She was pensive now. "I think that's why he left for Mistral by himself."
"…yeah," Yang agreed.
"Attention, will Team RWBY report to the Headmaster's Office to meet with your assigned Huntsman?"
Yang and Blake froze when they heard the P.A.
'But nothing's stopping us…Ruby…from getting sent back out there,' Yang bitterly noted. 'Right back into Hell.'
Team RWBY were surprised to find that Qrow was there waiting for them, along with Glynda and Ozpin sitting at his desk with his terminal activated.
"Uncle Qrow?" Ruby began. "You're leading our team?"
Weiss crossed her arms, recalling that Qrow said he had places to go, "But earlier you said-"
"I know what I said," Qrow interjected. "Things have changed."
"Because of…Raven?" Yang questioned.
Blake thought to change the subject, "So, what's our mission? That's why you called us here, right?"
"…actually," Ozpin cleared his throat. "There is somebody that I would like to introduce to you." He paused, noticing the looks of confusion on each of their faces. "And she very much relates much to your…repeated experiences last month."
"Who is 'she,' professor?" Ruby asked. "And…uh…shouldn't Team JNPR and CFVY be here as well. I mean, they've had…some of our experiences as well."
"They've already met our guest, as have Team CFVY," Glynda explained. "And it's only right that you must as well, and know what is truly at stake here."
The girls each started to feel dread. Ruby and Yang looked at Qrow, silently looking for answers.
Qrow sighed, "Believe me, I know."
Weiss raised an eyebrow, "Wait, where is Team JNPR?"
(Bullhead in transit…)
Team JNPR were uncharacteristically silent as they all sat quietly across from their shadow – Hazel. The large man had his arms crossed as he stared at the portside window right beside Jaune, which really made the team leader uncomfortable.
"…." Jaune rolled his eyes and twiddled his thumbs as he tried to think of something to say. "Soooooo…village just outside Vale City, reported sightings of Grimm activity, sheriff requesting assistance. Anything left out of the briefing?"
"No," Hazel replied, firmly.
"…oh, alright." Jaune raised an eyebrow when he heard his scroll beep. Opening it, he saw that he received a message…
He's keeping something from us.
Jaune blinked, and thumbed a response…
U know 4 sure?
…only for someone else to join the conversation…
No duh. -_-
...and another to advise caution…
We should proceed with caution.
…which received a response…
"Our mission's clear," Hazel suddenly cut into their text, as if he knew what they were doing. "We go in, assess the situation, take care of any Grimm or demonic presence, then we extract." He cracked his neck, "Any questions?"
Pyrrha swallowed, nervously, "Uh…there have been demon sightings, sir?"
Dread encompassed Team JNPR.
"Cults, mostly," Hazel clarified. "The actual demons, the ones that fled Haven Academy after their attack failed, are keeping themselves to Mistral. We're leaving them for the Slayer." He cracked his knuckles next, "We're just taking care of whomever and whatever was lucky to avoid him."
Jaune appeared ill, "So we're killing these people?"
Hazel frowned, "Try not to think of them as 'people.' As far as I'm concerned, they're all animals that deserve to be put down."
'Including your sister?' Pyrrha thought.
"That's dark," Nora commented.
"…." Ren said nothing.
"We're about half-a-click from our destination, I'm setting you all down here," the Bullhead pilot spoke over the intercom, each of them feeling themselves descend.
Jaune was surprised that they would be wasting time legging it the rest of the way to the village, "Why here?"
"In case it's the worst-case scenario and we're spotted," Hazel explained. "We're not touching down, get ready to jump."
"W-what do you me-AH!"
Hazel grabbed Jaune's arm as he leapt out of the cabin, out of the Bullhead and landing on some damaged, cracked asphalt. The rest of Team JNPR followed their team leader and assigned shadow, weapons drawn and ready in case of the Grimm. The Bullhead made its ascent and left the area, leaving the Huntsman and the Huntsmen and Huntresses-In-Training near an abandoned ranch located on a green plateau.
"Area's clear," Ren reported, relaxing his stance. Producing his scroll he pointed west, "Village is about ten minutes that way."
Letting go of Jaune's arm, Hazel nodded and turned to Jaune. He gruffly asked, "Team leader?"
"…uh…move out?" Jaune ordered, unsure
Breaking into a light run, Team JNPR and Hazel headed east, weapons still in hand as they kept on high alert.
"I couldn't see much as we touched down," Pyrrha said, her voice filled with dread. "I hope nothing has happened."
Jaune smiled reassuringly at her, "Don't worry. I'm sure the village is fine and everyone there hasn't…"
(Ten minutes later…)
"…been torn into greasy shreds of human jerky?" Nora finished, masking her fear and disgust with gallows humor.
Weapons drawn, Team JNPR were all visibly pale and queasy at the sight of so many dead civilians that either littered the walled village's cobble roads or lying crumpled up in their burning homes where they had been shot, stabbed, sliced or any other methods of atrocities inflicted upon them by madmen.
"…." Hazel narrowed his eyes, stoic. He cracked his knuckles as he took a step forward, stepping over a dead body lying in a way that suggested he tried to run, but didn't get far. He growled out, "Get ready, kids."
Wincing from the heat of a cart on fire, Pyrrha looked like she was in denial of the carnage before her. "Is…is this what they always do? They go into a village, and just kill everyone?"
"We don't know that," Jaune replied. "Keep an eye out."
"Yeah, we're not doing this," Hazel grumbled. Taking a deep breath, he shouted out loud, "STOP WASTING OUR TIME AND COME OUT HERE NOW-!"
Jaune let out a startled yelp as the hatchet blade stopped an inch away from his face courtesy of Hazel's quick reflexes. Hazel hurled it right back where it came from, skimming past Gretchen's face, and the handle hitting the cultist right beside her and knocking him out as she stood on a second-story balcony overlooking them. Gretchen looked over her shoulder at her unconscious companion and blinked at the surprising sight.
What were the odds?
"Gretchen," Hazel called out, momentarily put off by all the red his sister wore, and most of it had to be blood.
"Hazel," Gretchen responded. Addressing Team JNPR she said, "Extras."
Nora hissed, taking issue with the dismissal.
Gretchen frowned, "So where is she? Where is that red silver-eyed bitch?"
Momentarily cringing as the demonic reverb overtook Gretchen's voice, Jaune gripped his sword and folded his shield out, "Ruby's not here!"
"Why do you want her?" Nora exclaimed.
"You in the habit of asking stupid questions?" Gretchen asked. She addressed Hazel, scowling. "The Old Man knew I was here, didn't he? Sent you here instead of his pet half-breed Sentinel." She growled, "The one in red, I mean."
"Gretchen," Hazel grounded out, warningly. "You can end this right now."
"…bloody right!" Gretchen's literal face splitting smile tore the skin around her mouth, drawing blood and causing Nora to shriek with fright. "KILL THEM ALL!"
Following the resounding war cry, an entire pack of crazed men and women dressed in cultist garbs smashed their way through the windows, doors and walls of the buildings surrounding them and came at them with an assortment of freakishly sharp blades and impractical looking multi-barreled weaponry.
"BEHIND US!" Jaune shouted as he and Pyrrha raised their shields to guard against a hail of bullets. Bracing himself, he shouted over his shoulder, "REN!"
With StormFlower at the ready, Ren jumped up and leapt off Jaune's back, avoiding cultist bullets as he got a bead on about twelve cultists and returned fire, the bullets slamming into their Auras, forcing them to lower their arms as they ran to take over, allowing Pyrrha to close the distance, slamming into one of them with her Akoúo̱ hard enough to send him flying through a wall. Miló was in its sword configuration and parried another cultist's blade and countered with another swing that slashed open his throat.
Watching the cultist topple over, Pyrrha's eyes shrank and her heart sank when she realized she had just killed her first human being.
Not Grimm. Not demon. A human being.
Feelings of guilt, shame and sickness came at her in waves, and she forced it all down.
'It's us or them,' she repeatedly reassured herself. 'It's us or them.'
"Pyrrha!" Jaune dove in front of her, raising his shield to block another's cultist's strike. "Come on! We need you!"
"Uh...r-right!" Pyrrha cried.
Another two cultists leapt at them, their swords immediately knocked out of their hands, and much of their blood, as Hazel cut in with a powerful, straight left jab that sent them flying with their torso's pulling a full one-eighty each.
"Are these the best you got, Gretchen?" Hazel barked up at his sister.
Nora's eyes widened by Hazel blatantly tempting fate, "…oh, crap,"
Gretchen smiled and shook her head…
SHAWN'S GOT THE SHOTGUN
- ANDREW HULSHULT
…followed by several beastly roars and crimson beams of light behind the buildings all around them.
Jaune's face sank, "Oh sh-"
Several Mancubi smashed through the buildings and walls all around them, roaring and opening fire with their flame cannons, causing Team JNPR to scatter. Jaune cringed, feeling the hotness of the flame shot as it skimmed past his face, and raised his shield to block another shot, gritting his teeth as he felt his shield heat up.
"…shit," Hazel grumbled. He caught a flame shot to the chest, feeling the burn through his Aura. "AH!"
The Mancubus kept firing at him, Hazel swatting the next flame shot with the back of his left palm, then his right, then back to his left, his right, right up until he was in the Mancubus' face with his hand gripping both its cannons, digging his fingers into the steel as he put his foot against the demon's face as he pulled.
The Mancubus howled as it was forcibly relieved of its massive cannons, Hazel tearing them right off, scattering blood, bone and chrome all over. Brain matter quickly followed as Hazel slammed both cannons against both sides of the Mancubus's head. Hazel's determined scowl quickly faded, realizing he has never had to resort to this level of brutality before, and the horrified expressions on Jaune, Nora, Pyrrha and Ren were a testament to that. At least toward something that bled red.
The Slayer was not just rubbing off on the kids, it seems. Shaking his head in annoyance, he looked up at Gretchen, angrily.
"How many innocent souls did you sacrifice to summon these beasts?" Hazel questioned, loudly.
Gretchen smirked, "Do you remember how many-?"
And she was abruptly cut off as she took a rifle shot to the forehead that was absorbed by her Aura from Pyrrha, shifting Miló back to its javelin configuration and raising her shield to tank a Mancubus' flame shot. She hurled Miló at full force at the Mancubus, which countered by raising its left cannon…which the javelin pierced through, sending steel and electrical static flying. The Mancubus' jaw was agape in surprise, even more so when Pyrrha threw Akoúo̱ like a disc that nailed the fat demon between the eyes with a loud clang, winding it long enough for her to dash toward it, use her Semblance to draw Akoúo̱ back to her arm to deflect a hail of gunfire before leaping up atop the Mancubus' left arm cannon as it wildly fired about in a blind panic, tearing Miló out with her Semblance, gripping it tightly and driving it through the Mancubus' skull, gritting her teeth as it's blood sprayed all over herself.
Feeling a migraine beginning to settle, Gretchen got back up seething in rage at the Champion of Mistral. She would have leapt over the wooden balcony and made a lunge for her if her brother hadn't punched the supports out from underneath her, collapsing the front part of the house she was in and bringing her down amidst a mess of splintered wood.
Noticing one large splinter stuck in her left shoulder. Without nary a wince, she tore it right out of her shoulder and stood up, brushing herself. She turned around to see Hazel before her, looking ready to throw down.
"Don't start something you can't finish, Gretchen," Hazel growled. He put his fists up, "Fight me."
"And lose?" Gretchen drawled. "Those spars we used to have made that very clear."
"That wasn't a request," Hazel fired back, and charged her.
Gretchen leapt back, not only to avoid his left hook, but from the newest abomination that leapt through the remains of the building she had been standing on, sending more wood and concrete flying as it positioned itself right between the siblings and letting out an affirmative, dominating, machine-like screech. Hazel crossed his arms in a guard against the new demon bringing its mechanical appendages down on him, knocking him back and giving him a good look at their newest strain of hellborn nightmares.
The mechanical spider-demon that resembled an insectoid crossed with a brain that sat on a mechanical platform with large mechanical insectoid legs belted out another screech as it raised its claws, its back mounted plasma cannon charged, primed and ready to fire. Jaune felt his left eye twitch at the grotesque sight of the damn thing. He knew he should not be surprised at how grotesque the demons can be, but somehow, they always tend to top themselves.
"With parts manufactured and supplied by the Union Aerospace Corporation," Gretchen said.
Hazel glowered. The UAC? The megacorporation from that other inhabitable world mentioned in the codex the Slayer and VEGA provided, Earth. They were already collaborating with Hell again.
Blazkowicz won't be happy to hear about this.
"ARACHNOTRON!" Nora randomly blurted out, her mind combining 'arachnid' and 'automaton' together and she could not help vocalizing it. "EEK!" She cried as the 'Arachnotron' unleashed a barrage of plasma, prompting Team JNPR and Hazel to retreat off the street, ducking and weaving through the alleys, the spider demon's energy blasts cutting through brick and mortar. Cultists came at them from all sides, Hazel taking them on with only his bare hands, smashing them against the floor, against the wall, shattering their Aura as he reduced them to bloody pulp.
Team JNPR did everything they could to just incapacitate their human opponents, shattering their Aura and knocking them down and out. Ren had StormFlower on full auto as he wore down the Auras of every cultist that came his way, Nora being there to knock them down. That is until she shattered the Aura of a cultist that blindsided her…
…and Ren fired, reducing the top half of her head to mist, the cultist blown against the alley wall.
"REN!" Nora exclaimed, the blood spray all over herself.
"…." Ren froze up, realizing that he too had just killed someone, a human, and splattered her red all over himself and Nora. "…shit."
"REN, WAKE UP!" Nora cried, smacking him upside the head to snap him out of his shock. "We-"
She stopped when she saw red-blaring explosive mines launched over the wall and landing at their feet. Shifting Magnhild into a grenade launcher she grabbed Ren and leaped into the air as far from the mine's detonations as possible, the resulting force sending them both flying. Turning herself in midair she took aim at the Arachnotron that stepped through the rubble of the building walls it demolished, launching a round at it that exploded into pink electrical Dust that enshrouded the spider, causing it to screech as it tried to bat the Dust away from its eyes.
Ren landed painfully on his back, his Aura barely holding, while Nora landed on her feet. Shifting Magnhild back to its maul configuration, she lodged a grenade into its cannon and launched herself back toward the Arachnotron…
…the spider-demon gaping in wide-eyed surprise as Nora slammed herself into it, the maul splattering its body/brain in half and renting the mechanical platform's steel. She took notice of the Mancubus nearby.
Already energized by the spider demon's short-circuiting machinery, Nora put a fist completely through it, her Aura absorbing more of the voltage and doing its work. The Mancubus's beady eyes widened with panic and it raised its arm cannons. Ensnared with purple static as her Semblance empowered her, Nora's grin now predatory and with Magnhild gripped tightly she leapt up into the air and brought her maul down on the Mancubus' head and caving it right into its torso, before the sheer force split its body, and the ground it stood on, in half in a hail of viscera, concrete and the dirt underneath the concrete.
Nora's electric, demon-slaying euphoria ended when she knocked another cultist and she felt herself hesitate. The cultist was open for the kill, and he was staring up at her pleadingly, at the same time rolling his eyes toward a pistol that laid on the ground. She saw this and growled, "Hey, I got a really big maul! Don't make me bring it down on your puny little-"
The cultist dove for the handgun, Nora brought Magnhild down, the mess that followed, however, left Nora frozen in panic, especially when she felt the warmth of cultist blood all over her face and clothes, leaving Ren…
…to dive in front of her and parry the blade of another cultist that made a beeline for her, bringing the barrels of StormFlower against his chin and firing, reducing the top half of his head to red mist that sprayed all over both of their faces.
Getting over his own shock, Ren shouted, "NORA!"
They were both knocked down when Pyrrha was sent flying in their direction. She only had Miló in her sweaty hand, Akoúo̱ the hands of a hulking cultist that converged on her. Gripping the shield with both hands, the cultist swung at Pyrrha as she got back up. She raised Miló in a futile attempt to protect and was swatted hard through the wall of a residence, shattering her Aura. The cultist stepped in after her, and closed in…
…bringing Akoúo̱ against her neck and pinning her to the wall, her feet dangling above the floor. Pyrrha pushed with her might against her own shield as she slowly felt her throat begin to be crushed and it became difficult for her to breath. The cultist's sadistic, taunting, toothy smirk threatened to burn itself into her brain
"Slayer's not here to save you!" the cultist exclaimed, pushing Pyrrha's shield harder her throat. "The fuck you gonna do about-BLARGG"
Pyrrha manipulated a piece of rebar from a wrecked part of the house with her Semblance to fly toward the cultist like a spike projectile, piercing through his throat and spraying blood all over her face. His grip on her shield weakening, Pyrrha pushed him off her before kicking him down, grabbing Akoúo̱, and bringing it down on the cultist's head.
And again. And again. And again, until there was a crater between his nose and his eyes and his brains and he wasn't moving. Pyrrha's eyes were wide, fighting the bile down when the reality set in that she too was a now a man slayer.
And she snapped back to reality by Jaune shouting at her as he rushed into the house after her, and she instinctively swerved to avoid another cultist's sword as he barged in through the door on the other side of the house. The cultist was then knocked aside by an Arachnotron that smashed through the wall, which attempted to lunge at Jaune and impale him with its front legs. Jaune raised his shield, the mechanical leg bouncing off it, prompting him to thrust its side under its platform, piercing through the steel and stabbing it from underneath itself, eliciting a squeal from it. Letting out his own war cry he lunged forward, swinging his sword and slicing its plasma cannon right off its platform, pushing himself off it and forcing it to collapse to the ground.
Standing up tall, Jaune smiled, relieved. Until the spider demon glared, opened its mine launchers, and lodged live explosives halfway through the ports. The mines flashed red repeatedly…
…and Jaune barely raised his shield before the Arachnotron exploded in a geyser of fire, blood and grey matter and sent him flying, his Aura shattering as he hit the ground and rolled around a few meters, before coming to a stop. This drew the attention of the few remaining cultists and they rushed him, murder in their eyes.
Jaune groaned painfully. There was a ringing in his ears, it felt like he cracked a rib (again), the remainder of those cultic psychos were nearly upon him…
YOU ARE. GOING TO DIE. FRAUD.
…and now the voices were back, as if the cosmos decided to torment him some more before he faced oblivion. No more fitting way to die, he supposed.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO, THOUGH.
Jaune blinked, stunned.
Were they being nice to him now?
YOU LIVE. NOT FOR YOURSELF. FOR OTHERS.
"Who…what are you?" Jaune forced out through clenched teeth, tears welling in his eyes as he felt emotions not his own.
The others? Like for his team?
UI-THRANX! PEOPLES OF THE SILVER STAR! CONSUMED!
He saw one of the cultists raise his sword as he approached him. "What do you want…from me?!"
PAIN! HURTS! LOSS!
DEMONS! TAKE EVERYTHING! OUR WORLD! OUR CHILDREN! OUR BODIES!
"JAUNE!" Ren shouted as the cultists were upon him.
FEEBLE LIAR! GIVE US!
Jaune felt his grip on Crocea Mors tighten…
YOUR SWORD! GIVE US!
…as he stood up…
YOUR SHIELD! GIVE US!
…and lowered his visor…
YOUR FLESH! GIVE US!
…in time as the next cultist charged him…
YOUR RAGE! GIVE US!
…leaving Jaune to parry the cultist's sword with his shield…
…leaving Jaune with an opening to thrust his longsword through the cultist's chest with berserker might, pushing himself up off the ground and shoving him backward into another cultist, leaving themselves open for Jaune to frantically swing his sword, the blade cutting through flesh, muscle, and bone easy enough and putting them both down in bloody pieces.
And leaving Jaune winded and open for another Arachnotron to prime its plasma cannons and open fire. He brought his shield up to guard himself, but the force of all that plasma was enough to knock him down. Gnashing his teeth, he gripped the handle of Crocea Mors and hurled the sword at the spider demon, slicing its 'tail' and plasma cannon off, its mechanical screeching hurting the berserking youth's eardrum.
Ren was alarmed when he saw the red in Jaune's eyes past his bangs…
…and cried out to him as he charged the Arachnotron, narrowly dodging the mines it suddenly launched at him, the explosion sending him flying forward toward it. The Arachnotron managed to let out another mechanical screech before Jaune split it right in half, putting all his strength behind his sword to cut through the grey matter and the steel, mechanical platform it laid upon.
And right behind its smoking flesh wreckage was Gretchen, the cultist standing there fearlessly, her syringe-wrist blades filled with liquid Fire Dust readied.
"You…" Jaune growled, his voice now laced with a deadly edge that startled Gretchen
Suddenly, she wasn't feeling very fearless, "…oh…shit…" Fearfully, she took a step back. "What…what did you do to yourself!?"
She knew what possessed looked like. This scraggly blonde wannabe was not the normal kind.
Jauen didn't answer. Another cultist came at him with a sword, putting him on the defense and forcing him to parry, leaving him open for Gretchen to quickly swallow her fear, remembering that she couldn't feel pain and make a lunge for Jaune, syringe-blades nice and sharp and ready to pierce flesh. The berserker swordsman knew she was coming at him and dropped his sword, gripped his shield with both hands and struck the cultist across the head and swatted him aside, then swung it at Gretchen, shattering her syringe-blades and spilling Fire Dust that were ignited by the flames around them. Jaune raised his shield to ward off the resulting flames, rendering his shield red hot…
…causing him to drop it.
"GRETCHEN!" Hazel exclaimed.
"…." Gretchen wordlessly stared at her hands, and how horrifically burnt they now were, the remaining pieces of her wrist blades fused to her flesh. And she didn't feel anything.
The elder brother tried to reach them, and was tackled by a Mancubus that rocketed against him with its flame cannons. "GET OFF ME!"
Now wanting the slaughter to end, Jaune was now fighting against his 'guests,' gritting his teeth as he tore his helmet off…
"…s-stop it…! STOP IT!"
…gritting his teeth and gripping his shoulder-plating tightly, struggling not to lose himself.
Pyrrha slew another cultist as Jaune's cries caught her attention. And she saw him, gripping his head as if trying to fight off whatever was inside him. Gretchen narrowed her eyes at her brother, seeing him rip open the Mancubus' fat stomach, spilling its guts right out as he reached up into its chest to tear its heart out. Hazel could feel his sister's eyes on him, and looked over to see the way she was glaring at him, then she turned to Jaune…
…ignoring her brother's cries as she rushed Jaune…
…Pyrrha screamed as she ran toward him bringing Jaune back to reality, reflexively throwing his left arm back before unleashing a straight jab at the monster that was charging him, and punching right through its…her stomach…
Pushing the dead Mancubus off himself, Hazel let out a panicked gasp as he watched Jaune pulled his fist right out of Gretchen's gut and shove her to the ground, now panicked out of his mind. There, the Ui-Thranx released its hold on Jaune, leaving him standing there shaken, confused, and with his arms covered in blood.
"I…I…" Jaune's pupils dilated as he staggered backward, desperately trying to wipe the blood off his arm. He cried out when he saw Gretchen was still alive, albeit with a hole through herself, then remembered that he put his fist through her; and her brother was standing behind her. "I…I didn't mean to…gods, Hazel…I wasn't trying to-"
"Go check on your team," Hazel ordered, not taking his eyes off Gretchen, and sounding calm in the face of her impending death.
Remembering that he was the leader and at least should act the part, Jaune kept the bile down as he stumbled over toward Pyrrha when she looked ready to break down in a panic attack, "Wha…wha-?"
"Pyrrha…" Jaune rushed up to her. "Are you-?"
She surprised him when she shoved him aside, gritted her teeth and shouted down at Gretchen, "Why did you do this?!"
"…." Gretchen just stared wordlessly back up at her.
Pyrrha turned her head to see the dead civilians all around them, "What did these people ever do to you?!"
"…nothing. They did nothing…to me."
Gretchen chuckled, coughing. Despite herself not feeling any sort of pain, that didn't mean her body agreed with having a hole through it, and it should as she struggled to even talk. "Seemed…like a good place to set up an ambush." She wiped her mouth, "These poor bastards…were simply fodder." She glared up at Team JNPR, "This isn't over. Hell will-"
"…yeah, yeah, 'Demons-Will-Tear-Us-To-Pieces-And-Hell-Will-Consume-Our-Souls-Doomguy-Can't-Save-Us-Now-Bla-Bla-Bla'," Nora rattled off, mimicking a moving mouth with her right hand. She glared, "You cultist creeps are a dime-a-dozen these days. Seriously, you come off an assembly line or something?" She glared harder. "One made of flesh, steel and cliches?"
"…fuck you. They will bring back the world…that existed before…the Grimm…" Gretchen snarled, painfully now as her Semblance started to fail her. Her ears darted toward Ren and she gritted her teeth. "Marcus is gonna personally reach down your throat and pull out your-"
"Enough," Hazel calmly declared, as if his sister were an unruly child and not a psychotic cultist. "Save your strength."
"Why? So Ironwood…can apply some more of that old timey Atlesian…'enhanced interrogation?'" Gretchen chuckled painfully, coughing up blood. "I'll pass, bro. This…is it for me."
"…." Hazel's left eye twitched
"What're you…upset about?" Gretchen forced out. "You…finally did it. Took you…long enough...but you finally killed me…"
"Gretchen…" Hazel grounded out.
"Those Grimm didn't kill me…the ones Ozpin…sent my team against…you didn't stop him…from sending us to our…deaths," Gretchen coughed. "I understand, really. Since our parents died…your whole life…revolved around me…I was holding you back…"
Jaune glared down at the dying cultist. He knew she was trying to bring him down.
Hazel shook his head and said firmly, "No. You were my responsibility and I accepted it. And I failed you." He closed his eyes tightly, looking away from her. "That day, you came back from that ambush, I…should've seen all the signs." He clenched his fist, "Ozpin shouldn't have put and your team out there, and Marcus Black poisoned your mind-"
"There you go…blaming everyone else again,"Gretchen spat. "You'd…murder children and blame Ozpin for it-"
"I would never harm children, Gretchen," Hazel interjected, coolly. He saw how Nora was looking at him wearily, "That's not me."
She glared at him, hard, as if she knew something about him that he didn't. The way she vocalized it, Hazel felt his heart nearly give out, "Liar."
"You'd…crush some kid's skull if…they were in your way. You're a liar!" She grinned, "I was shown…another world…and in it…I was your twin…and I died… you were Salem's bitch…and you wasted your life blaming…everyone…in the end…"
Gretchen coughed up blood.
"Salem?" Ren questioned out loud.
"…you died a pointless death…" Gretchen choked out, eyes bulging as she forced out as many words as she could. "You…fucking flesh puppet…see you…in…" Ren stepped in front of her, staring down at her. She glared up at him, "What are you…looking at…peasant boy-"
Ren just continued to stare down at her, a look of tired pity on his face.
And he was first to ever look at her that way. She was no longer feeling hatred for every living thing around her. And her hatred within her suddenly died, only to be replaced by an overwhelming feeling of guilt…
"W-why did I-?"
"…why am I…?"
"I don't…I don't wanna die…I…don't…wanna go…to Nekravol…"
The tears were flowing freely as she cried in fear, eyes now her own and not Hellish red. Team JNPR were visibly unsettled by Gretchen's abrupt change in temperament, except for Ren.
'Nekravol?' Pyrrha thought, the mere sound of that word sounding ominous.
"I…I don't wanna die…I…Hazel…" Gretchen sobbed, the demonic inflection leaving her tone of voice, all traces of hatred and rage snuffed out within her. "I…don't wanna…die…I…why am I here?"
Hazel gritted his teeth. He knew what was coming next, "Gretchen…"
"…I was…walking through a…red fog…I…Haz…el-"
She expired, leaving a burnt out, bloodied husk. Team JNPR noticed that Hazel appeared emotionless at the face of his sister's death. Jaune, Pyrrha and Nora also saw how resigned Ren looked.
"…." Hazel turned to Ren. "That wasn't your Semblance?"
Ren shook his head, "No, it was just pity, I guess. No one deserves to go carrying that much hatred."
"…." the Huntsman activated his scroll and dialed their transport and said without any hint of emotion. "We're done here. Pick us up."
Departing the village on the bullhead, Hazel and Team JNPR were all sitting in quietude as they flew back to Beacon Academy.
"Did I just call Blazko 'Doomguy'?" Nora finally realized, breaking said quietude. "Weird."
"This isn't the…" Jaune began, irritated. He then sighed, realizing there was no way to win out over Nora's quirkiness. "Yeah, that was weird." He turned to Hazel, and swallowed, "Hazel?"
"…." Hazel didn't appear to acknowledge him, continuing to just stare out over the horizon from the bullhead's cabin.
"Did Ozpin know all this would happen?"
"You knew Gretchen would be there, did you?"
"Do you…want to talk about it?"
A/N: FINALLY, DONE! NO MORE HIATUS FOR ME!
No Doom Slayer this chapter. Figured I'd give Team JNPR this one, which is a shout-out to the level of the same name from Doom II.
Sorry for the long delay. I've been suffering from low motivation to write for a long, long time. Buuuuuttttt…recently I finally got my driver's license and being able to move around more freely since restrictions are being gradually lifted, it feels like a massive weight has been taken off my shoulders. So here we are.
That part where Gretchen goes meta, sometimes I wonder how a Slayer vs. Hazel fight would have gone if I had kept him as still part of Salem's inner circle in this fic.
Stupid question, I know.
Oh, I and changed that part with Ren. I realized his Semblance doesn't work that way. It just masks emotions, not change them. And Ren is adept at suppressing his own.
Hopefully this is old news, but in case anyone's having problems with email notifications, change your email to something other than Hotmail.