Salem is the one giving you a purpose.
You don't know how many times you've had to tell yourself that as you walk from village to village, following endless leads in hopes that you'll eventually find your target.
Salem had taken the news that there was a Silver Eyed Warrior from Vale that was an active huntress very poorly. The announcement that she needed someone to exterminate the woman in her place had come quickly. Salem only had so many agents, and since Arthur was active in Atlas and too far away to help, and Tyrian was still too young to do the job, the role had fallen to you and you alone.
At the end of the day, it's an assassination mission. You're aware of that. The weight of it and what it means is all too heavy on your shoulders, and there's absolutely no way that you'll be able to forget this mission.
It won't be the first time that you've killed someone.
It will be the first time that you've killed in cold blood and without provocation.
Assassination and self defense weren't the same thing. They never would be, and so you only could expect that it was going to be different different.
Once, you would have balked at the suggestion that you should do something like this. It was too scary to think about, too worrying in nature.
But Salem is the one that's given you a purpose and a place in the world, despite your many flaws. Because of that, you work for her.
Salem knows your burdens, and she doesn't judge you for the severity of then. From time to time, she'll even try to lessen the pains that weigh down on your shoulders, in her own way. She gives you a place to sleep that's far from the world, and gives you the resources you need to do your job. She keeps you fed, and she offers you survival.
This one was just another sin on top of everything else that you've done.
The difference is this time you're doing it for work. It's not your usual task. Usually, you would be going out into the world and seeking out usable information for the sake of Salem's cause. You're good at it.
You have enough of a history as a legitimate huntsman that you're able to pass as just about anything.
Nobody questions you unless you're in Mistral. In part, you're sure that it's because they're afraid of you.
You know fully well that it isn't a bad thing for people to be afraid of you like they are.
If anything, it keeps you safe.
You have to try not to think about the reasons for people fearing you 're too difficult, they're too heavy. They're images that flit behind your eyes and consistently keep you from sleep. They're the smell of smoke on your nostrils, and the red glow of flames as your home, your only home goes down in flames.
There were bodies inside.
You were sure of it.
You only had the time to run once you'd figured out what was going on.
That had always been your biggest weakness- your survival instincts were too strong. It had helped you out of countless sticky situations back in your academy days, but now things were different. Now, you were surviving despite being in situations where you weren't sure that you actually wanted to.
You'd traded your life for a wasteland where nobody was going to be able to remember you or your sins.
Monsters didn't care unless you were feeling so low that you could draw them in towards you.
A great weakness, if there ever was one.
You camp in forests and away from main roads. You're used to the forests. They remind you of your childhood, of an old cabin that you'd been raised in as your family tried to find its salvation. There wasn't always room in the world for everyone. Your family had decided long, long ago that the forests were better than society.
The worst part of the fire was that it took away one of the things that you'd learned to love when you were young. Once, you'd found comfort in the smell of wood smoke. It had reminded you of dinners outdoors, and of keeping the cabin warm in the winters. It was comfort and love.
When you build your camp, you never build a fire. You can't stomach it anymore. The foul memory is too ripe on your mind, it makes being around fire impossible.
So instead of fire, you use dust. It's a small packet of ground fire dust that keeps you warm. You'll tuck it down into your boots if you feel so cold that you can't rest or keep going.
You're sure that you won't.
Camping time is when you're able to stop and find all of the important information that you needed for your mission. There were certain specifics that made it more manageable than it could have been.
Silver eyes were a rare trait, after all. And they weren't just rare- they were noticeable. You didn't have to rely on rumors of unimaginable power- you just had to look your target in the eyes.
What you knew about your target wasn't much. It was just enough to be able to keep a thin layer of anonymity about it. You don't care to know her name, because you don't want to think about her as a person. That's your theory at least- if you don't treat the situation as one where you were after a person, you couldn't get bogged down in it.
It was never going to be enough though. The knowledge that you're going out into the world to murder someone was always there, buzzing at the back of your mind with the insistence of a nevermore's caw.
No matter how hard you try not to think about it, you're sure that this is a mission that's going to stick to you until the day that you die.
But you have to do your job, and so you do your best to stick to the facts and what you did know.
What you do know isn't all that much, but that isn't such a big concern to you.
The woman's only a few years younger than you. She'd been on a Team STRQ or something similar (it was one detail that you didn't particularly care to confirm. All that mattered was the woman's eye color, and whether or not she was capable of using that power.) She wasn't travelling alone. She was travelling with one other man, but you didn't know much about him.
The people that you'd talked to while you were searching information had told you that the man had red eyes and used a scythe.
Ultimately, nothing of great interest. Hunters used all sorts of weapons out in the field, and you're best when you get up close and personal. Your talent was in a brawl.
If the huntsman got in the way of you finishing your mission, then you would be able to strike back and take him out of the picture.
It would be unnecessary to the rest of the mission itself.
At least that one you might be able to pass off as self defense over murder.
The facts only tell you so much about what you should be preparing yourself for. You're fine with that, you've been through plenty as a huntsman before.
This isn't the first time that you've killed.
At the end, that's the thought that you cling to before moving on.
You search for her for weeks. It's a hard path to follow. It seems like she has a home somewhere and will drop off of the mainland for the sake of it. You don't follow her home, despite the fact that you could very easily go and take care of her while she rested.
While it would be easier, you don't want the implications of what would happen if you saw her at her home. You don't want to know anything about her other than the bare minimum.
It's just better off that way.
You don't want to give yourself a chance to draw comparisons between her and anything else in the world. You don't want to know if she's travelling with a teammate, a partner, or something else entirely. You don't want to know whether or not she had a normal life aside from being a huntress.
When people had come to find you, they'd taken the chance to get the same details of what your life was like. They'd used the fact that you had a wife and child as a bargaining chip.
You refused to think of this in the same sort of way. You don't want anything else to be able to get close to what you'd been through yourself.
It's another thought that's too painful, and so you push it back before the memory can get dragged up. You don't think of the fire, or the scars that had been forged upon your arms, you don't think of the bodies, or the way that the village had been in despair. You don't think about the aftermath of it all, when the monsters had come.
You'd run to the forests for safety.
Maybe the woman you were hunting would hide in the forests.
But of course, she didn't know that she was being trailed. You know better than to let yourself get too close to let yourself be detected at any point. It's another layer of distance between the two of you, and it's something that you don't want ruined.
It keeps you safe. It keeps you from falling back into the pit of despair.
The only reason that the grimm don't come after you is because Salem keeps you safe. She offers you protections unlike anything that was even possible for the average person. Even a huntsman couldn't achieve what Salem had.
It was entirely possible that Arthur had similar protections, but he preferred his noncombatant roles. He was best used playing politics and meddling in governments.
He's not like you. He's not cut from the rough and tumble cloth of a woodsman. He doesn't wear heavy calluses on his hands. He doesn't have scars in anywhere near as many places as you do. Sometimes you're jealous of Watts, and now is one of those times.
You're sure that he would have no qualms about killing the woman. He would have found the information that he needed, and he would have struck her down from a distance. There's a part of you that even thinks that he might have relished in the act.
But it's up to you to fulfill the task for yourself.
It's what Salem wants, after all. You have no other options, and so you must do what she wants to be done while you can.
Time ticks by, and you eventually make your way into the woman's orbit. You don't let yourself get so close that it's possible for you to get dragged in with her and her companion. It's better for you to draw in closer, day by day.
You're waiting for the perfect time to attack.
Salem had been incredibly clear when she'd briefed you on the implications of the job that you had taken. Silver Eyed Warriors were deadly to grimm, and they could do devastating damage to another man if given the chance. It was a mission, and it came with its risks. You were fully prepared for whatever could happen when you went into the battle against her.
You don't want to feel your skin being cooked by what you could only think of in terms of being divine light. You don't want to come out of this battle with more scars than you already have. You don't want to fall.
That's a point where you aren't entirely sure, though. You know fully well that this could end with your death.
You aren't sure whether you relish victory more.
If there's anything that Salem's getting out of the direct contact between the two of you, it's that you're beginning to fail emotionally. She's too keyed in to how you, Tyrian, and Arthur feel. It unnerves you most of the time, and you aren't able to get away from it.
But Salem never reaches out to you directly while you're on this mission, and so you're ready for whatever comes next, consequences be damned.
The time comes eventually though. You have the upper hand in the terrain, you have the ability to move in and attack at any time.
The woman and her companion- a man named Qrow, were sitting down and preparing to rest for the night ahead of them.
They've built a campfire, and it has you feeling nauseous.
But watching them from your position at the absolute edge of the treeline is the closest that you've ever gotten to her.
She has a name.
You hate knowing that she has a name.
Her name is Summer.
It reminds you of a hot sun, and laughter, and so many things that should have been good or pleasant.
Her name is a good one, it seems to fit her. You realize that as you watch her. She's kind, she's even playful towards her companion. The two of them toss packages of rations back and forth at each other before they've been opened and laugh along with the exchange.
Other names get thrown around.
You don't let yourself think about any of them. You don't want to know about her connections beyond her teammate.
It's just safer that way.
You don't want to know if she's like you.
Eventually, Qrow gets up and goes on a patrol, and you're left to wait and watch for whatever is going to come next. He's doing a perimeter check, and Summer is there at the campfire, stirring a pot of something foul smelling. It smelled like bad rations, probably the low-budget kind that most would prefer not to use.
You could have been using that sort of food yourself, but you had found other solutions. Ones that didn't put you over a campfire that made you feel nauseous.
You move in eventually, only once you're sure it's safe. She hears you moving in the underbrush and is almost immediately armed the second that she realizes what's happening. For you, it's important to be up on your feet and ready. You take your time preparing yourself.
You crush a pair of dust crystals between your hands and focus your aura to shape the residue around your them, like brass knuckles made of stone. Around your knuckles, the crystals form in large jagged sections. It's almost as though your weaponry has been cut from geodes.
It's good for someone like you.
The only question that you have is what you're going to have to face once she decides to fight.
You rush her, prepared for almost anything that could end up happening once things got going.
She looks over at you, and your eyes meet.
That's all that you focus on.
She has silver eyes. She's smaller than you, but that was to be expected- most people are. She's wearing a white cloak. If you need to, you figure that the cape will be rather convenient. It'll keep the woman from getting away from you.
Of course, you didn't know whether or not she had a semblance that would help her.
But Salem wouldn't have taken you into her ranks if she didn't think that you were capable of taking on just about everything. The fact that you had been chosen to kill someone that was supposedly as deadly as a Silver Eyed Warrior alone was a testament to how Salem regarded your abilities as a fighter.
Now, it was just time to put them to the test.
She tries to talk to you, and you have to work hard to block out her questions before they started to get too close for comfort. You don't want to let her know anything about you, really.
You don't want her to even know so much as your name, let alone your face.
She tries to ask you every question that you could have possibly imagined. She asks who you are, what you want. She asks who you're working for, and you never answer a single question.
After all, you aren't sure of whether or not she is even aware of the larger game at play. Salem was working under the assumption that a Silver Eyed Warrior had been brought into the enemy's fold (you have to think of him in terms of an enemy. Any other way of considering Ozpin strays too close to personal and leaves you feeling nothing but anger.)
Unfortunately, the work that you've done to track this woman involved little talk of fairy tales and legends. You didn't need any more reason to come off as weird or creepy when you were already tracking a woman. Of course, the reason that you gave when you asked about her was that you were looking for a friend and had heard a rumor that she had moved through the area lately.
There had even been a few times where people that you'd gone asking questions to had given you weird looks or been otherwise reluctant to answer your questions.
If you'd brought in fairy tales, you would have only come off as a raving lunatic.
In other words, dangerous.
She knows that you're dangerous though, that much is true. When she looks at you, there even seems to be a momentary flash of recognition. She realizes that you're there for her, and she realizes that you're there to kill.
And still, she tries to talk to you. It's almost like she thinks that by talking to you she'll be able to inspire enough guilt in you that there will be no way for you to follow through on the job. It's wishful thinking on her part.
Perhaps if you were a greater man you would have fallen for it.
But you weren't a good person. All of the chances of that, of normalcy, had gone out the window barely even a year before. That's not something that she needed to know.
For you, it was best if she saw you as a monster. But you weren't like Salem, where that could be assumed at first glance. When you'd first arrived, she'd thought that you were another huntsman and had seen the glow of their fire through the treeline.
Not technically incorrect.
But you have to do your job.
And you know that she knows the first time that she sees the dust formed around your hands.
She knows what this is.
The last look that she gives you before you make the first strike is one of pleading. She doesn't want to die, but that's survival instincts kicking in you tell yourself. It's animal, it's normal. A rabbit would feel the same things, you'd even felt the same things.
She's a little rabbit, and you're a wolf there to devour her whole.
The poor thing deserved better than to be there at your hands, but you are a good fighter and you're loyal to Salem.
A wolf devours its prey, but first you must take her down.
It's the hardest fight that you've ever gone through over the course of your entire life. She's too strong, she's too fast. Every strike you make is met with two from her, each at double the speed that you're even capable of.
But it's an even match nonetheless. You may be slower but you can hit like a freight train every time.
Hit by hit, blow by blow, you work her down into nothing. Eventually, you will have to grab hold and you'll have to try and catch her and take her down properly. Salem gave her orders very clearly about this young woman.
You were there to kill her. Salem needed her dead, and you weren't going to turn the task down.
Salem didn't want anything out there that could kill her in a single look.
You make a fast decision, one that doesn't quite make sense to you. You offer her the chance to come with you, and in exchange you will spare her. It's a lie. The moment that the two of you are alone and you have her trust, you will kill her.
But she disagrees.
You accept it for what it is, and you strike out to try and make the killing blow.
You were about to drive your weapon into her skull when her eyes had begun to glow a blinding silver.
You were about to strike when her teammate seemed to figure out what was going on, coming at full speed.
Your closed fist and your weapon make contact before the silver can get any more intense, but it still leaves some damage on your body. It practically fries off some of the skin on your arms.
It's too much.
You manage to get away from the scene before Qrow could intervene and stop you. He's too caught up with the fact that he'd almost made it in time to save his friend.
It's not what matters to you. It's not your priority.
You got the job done.
It's the heaviest job of your life. With every step that you take closer to home, your head swims with more and worse thoughts about what had happened. You can't stop yourself from thinking about the fact that you'd killed a woman. You try not to think about the names that you'd overheard getting mentioned between Summer and Qrow while you'd waited for the chance to attack.
Now, hearing Qrow's wails out in the distance, you can hear them getting mentioned again.
Teammates, you would guess. It wouldn't be the first time that someone was left as the final piece of an old team, and you suspect that you just whittled the numbers on an old team down to one.
It's not your place to focus on it.
You don't want to entertain the possibility that there's anything similar between you and the dead woman. She was an enemy, and you'd just been doing your job. It was what was necessary to maintain your place with Salem.
The fact that she was old enough to be a mother wasn't something that you could let yourself focus on. The fact that you had just taken someone away from a team, from a family is something you couldn't let yourself focus on.
Even despite your own history and the losses that you'd suffered for yourself, you can't focus on it.
It isn't so simple. It never will be.
Summer Rose is dead. That's what matters. You've completed your objective. You'll ultimately return to Salem's lair and see some slight reward for your efforts before going to sleep in your own bed.
You have reason to believe that this will not be the only job of this type that you will have to do.
It eats at you, but it's no more than the injuries on your arms do. When you make it to safety, then you will treat your injuries.
You don't know if Qrow got a good enough look at you to be able to report to anyone about who had killed Summer Rose. Either way, you aren't so sure that there could be a much worse blow to your reputation than the things that had already happened over the course of your life.
This was just another sin on top of the heap.
It won't be your last.
You go to Salem, and she looks down on you with pride at the revelation that you'd completed your task.