A Long Week
Amber eyes stared up into an impassive, pale mask.
Blake had let her guard down. That was a mistake. With one step, Adam had crossed the separated train cars and now loomed over her. Ruby-red trees swept past them in a blur. The question meant many things: why did Blake think she could get away so easily? Why was she trying to leave the White Fang? Why was she trying to leave him?
"Why?" Adam growled again. He advanced a step, then paused: Blake's hand was on her weapon's hilt, trembling. Did she truly think he would harm her without even knowing her reasoning? His eyes narrowed, but he did not move further.
"I asked you a question, Blake."
"You've changed." This was a conversation they'd had many times before. That didn't answer his question.
"What of it?" he growled, uncaring when Blake flinched. "You've become weak."
Her bow flattened against her head. "Weak? I don't want to kill innocents; that's not weakness!"
"Innocents? Blake, do you remember who owns this train?" Adam swept his arm off towards the myriad of snowflake-stamped crates. "This is a Schnee cargo train! There are no innocent Schnees! No innocent humans!"
"Then how is the White Fang any different from them?"
Adam's blade, Wilt, was out of its sheath and pointed at her faster than even he could recognize it. Adam took the second of stunned silence to steady his hand, mask his shock at his own wrath, and regain control.
"Blake, you know how much I care for you..." But he did not lower his blade. "Which is why I am asking you to choose your next words carefully."
Curiously, Blake's stare only hardened. She didn't even make a step away from his weapon. "Not everyone in the White Fang are killers like us. What about the people just handing out fliers? Or donating? Or just driving our trucks? That's exactly what the people on this train are: non-combatants. Adam, if we kill them... if you kill them... you'll be just like the SDC. I can't stay with you like this. Not after guiding you to this point myself. This was my fault..."
Revenge. That was what he wanted to call it: revenge for their crimes against faunus everywhere. Yet, in their many arguments, he remembered when it wasn't revenge, it was retaliation. When it wasn't retaliation, it was self-defense. When it wasn't self-defense, it was just an accident. His eyes turned down to his crimson blade, pointed so quickly at someone who was all but a sister to him without a thought.
Adam's grip slackened. "It's the only way they'll listen, and you know it." His words were hollow.
Now, it was Blake's turn to step forward. Adam stepped back. "What happens when we win, Adam? Are we just going to bomb the humans once in a while to show them who's in charge? Just like they used to do to us? We'll only be ruling through fear!"
"No, that is ruling through power!"
"Whatever power has to be gained through massacring civilians isn't a power we need." Blake shook her head. "What happened to our revolution, Adam? What happened to you?"
Adam gritted his teeth and tried to ignore how her words struck him like a knife. "This is our revolution, Blake. This is me!"
Blake took a breath to steady herself, then turned away from him. "This is terrorism, Adam, and I won't stand by it any longer... and if that's what you are, then I don't want to see you again."
And, with that twist of the knife already in his heart, all thoughts of the White Fang abandoned him. Blake was truly going to leave him, just like that? She was his friend for as long as he was in the White Fang—before it, even. She was his partner, his comrade, and at one time, his lover. Maybe it was arrogance, but if he couldn't convince Blake of all people that there was something of worth in him, maybe there really was nothing at all. Maybe he'd lost himself and taken the White Fang with it.
He stared down at his blade. Engraved near the hilt was a symbol, a tenant from his mentor's home country of Mistral: Chuugi. Loyalty. His mentor may have scoffed at the notion—partially because, in her words, 'you might as well call it a shit stick'—but Adam kept it close ever since he had heard of it.
What loyalty was there in letting someone he'd known for years just walk away?
Adam looked up to see Blake already walking away. He took a deep breath, then made his decision. "... If you think the White Fang is wrong, then fix it." Blake stopped. "And I'll help you every step of the way."
Blake spun to look at him, eyes wide in shock. Her lips parted once to speak, but she stayed silent. Adam resisted the urge to smile as, slowly, her ears began to twitch, and her eyes darted across her surroundings. It was what she did whenever she was planning something. Adam had the utmost faith that, whatever her strategy may be, he would be glad to follow it.
Blake was an idiot and he was an even bigger one for listening.
Adam stroked his temples in what was quickly becoming his favorite action, now that he had no mask to worry about. He was brooding—not pouting, because there was a severe difference, he told himself—over the many other things he had to worry about, instead.
Like being on a loud, human-packed airship headed to Beacon Academy.
In Blake's grand wisdom, she decided that while she went off to Menagerie, he was going to take a nice little 'vacation' in Beacon Academy. Learn how to mingle with humans, she said! Make yourself less hostile, she said! He could've easily just spent time in a human settlement if she was so picky about it, but according to her, having to protect and listen to them would help even more. Yeah. He'd believe it when he saw it.
Not like he had much of a choice: the only faunus he even saw on this ship was the girl he sat next to now, one who tried to hide her cheetah ears under a hoodie. How demeaning.
He tried brushing his hand through his hair and nearly knocked off the new, black homburg hat hiding his horns. Ah, right. She wasn't alone in that demeaning act. Make no mistake, he hated every moment of hiding what made him a faunus, but it wasn't his own idea. Blake decided that it'd be easier to stay low if he hid his horns. She didn't want him to be targeted. Adam would have loved to be targeted by one of these fools... but, considering how the—right and justified—retribution he would rain down would more than likely get him outed as a terrorist or expelled, he supposed Blake had a point.
However, that did not mean he had to forgive her for getting forged transcripts that painted him as a hooligan. At the supposed age of nineteen, he, "Adam Belladonna," did not have a lick of formal experience or schooling. Even with his prodigious combat ability, it wouldn't let him start as anything but a first-year. Twenty-one, surrounded by seventeen-year-olds. Oh, the headache was coming back.
He was a drop-out.
Sure, that was true, but that didn't mean it had to be rubbed in his face by putting him with first-years! It was even more demeaning! Adam collapsed back into his seat and crossed his arms, muttering under his breath and ignoring the faunus girl scooting away from him.
... It was still brooding, not pouting!
"Watch it!" Adam barked at an apparently blind girl who decided to deploy a monstrosity of a scythe an inch away from his face. The red-headed wielder didn't even notice, chattering away to a taller, blonde girl. Typical humans. He stalked through the crowd, instinct drawing his eyes to anyone who could pose a threat. Adam grunted a halfhearted apology to some white-haired girl he nearly bumped into, not even bothering to turn to the human with a Schnee crest emblazoned on her back and—wait, what was that last part?
Adam spun on his heels to see none other than the heiress to the Schnee Dust Company dragging along her luggage and ordering around a pair of guards to collect the rest. Weiss Schnee. A Schnee. Alone. With only two guards. Within spitting distance of him. There were entire cells that would kill for a chance like this, and here he was with Wilt and Blush in hand and her back to him. Oh, what luck! What fate! What evil fortune!
Surely, Blake would excuse just a small slip of the blade for something this important. Just enough to satisfy all the White Fang would want, then escape, change his name—again—and start anew! Again! A simple plan—
The scythe-wielder tumbled right into the Schnee's Dust and luggage, interrupting his thoughts. Right. Others were around. Remembering not only who he now was, but what life he was supposed to be putting behind him, Adam thought about simply turning away... yet, he just couldn't upon hearing that Schnee ranting at the admittedly clumsy, young-looking girl for events she never could have foreseen. The ranting turned to screaming after, with naught but a sneeze, the clumsy girl created an explosion that unfortunately left the Schnee unharmed.
Petty victories against the SDC, Adam supposed, would have to do. Speaking of which, he thought as he picked up a bottle flung away from the explosion, it was time to make that nice bottle of fine, red Dust she dropped the first one... what? Blake didn't have any problems with stealing an entire train car's worth, surely one little bottle wouldn't hurt...
"Aren't you a little young to be attending Beacon?" The Schnee's shrill voice sliced through the air as Adam calmly approached, unheard and unseen both. And for his second petty victory...
"Aren't you a little old to be having temper tantrums?" Adam called out.
The Schnee jumped slightly at someone as tall as him being able to sneak up on her. Any fright, however, swiftly gave way to rage.
"Excuse me?" she growled. "Do you even know who you're talking to?"
The clumsy one managed a smile as Adam smirked. Poor question.
"Of course. My deepest apologies. I should be much more pleasant when speaking to the heiress of a beloved and well-respected Dust propellant producer..." He waited until the Schnee opened her mouth to continue, "Unfortunately, no such person is here. Instead stands before me Weiss Schnee, heiress to the most reviled and discriminating corporation since the abolition of slavery. Well, official abolition. You should know." By the time he had finished, the Schnee had gone from just angry to flustered, indignant and stuttering to form a response. Her cheeks were growing red with embarrassment and rage both.
"Oh, and by the way, Schnee," he spat her name like a curse. "Before you insult someone for looking young, maybe wait until after puberty hits."
The clumsy one snickered and stuck her tongue out at the spoiled girl.
"Unbelievable!" With a strangled growl of frustration, the Schnee stormed off without even grabbing her suitcases.
A job well done, and a petty victory well-earned. Satisfied, Adam turned to leave.
"Hey, uh, what's your name?" the clumsy human asked.
Adam raised an eyebrow. "Adam." He decided to walk faster, lest the human girl mistake a common enemy for an alliance.
"Oh, I'm Ruby! Nice to meet you!" Unfortunately, she chose to follow him around like a lost puppy. Adam sighed as she trailed behind, rattling off about her scythe, her hometown, her sister, and having the terribly annoying tendency to take his grunts of agitation as reason to continue. It was only when he heard a second voice did he realize someone else had joined along: some blonde human boy who... actually, on second look, was the one vomiting on the airship a moment ago.
Adam made sure to lose the two in the amphitheater as soon as possible.
As Ozpin walked away from the microphone with a limp in his step, Adam smiled: dark as his speech may have been, it did rather well in unsettling the new blood. That would prepare them better for what was to come... but that was also quite odd: the entire reason he was sent to Beacon by Blake was, according to her, the much more pleasant atmosphere and human-faunus relations.
So far, he was seeing little of both.
Humans were loud. Humans were very loud. While the other students were preparing for bed or playing around, Adam had long since given up on the thought of actually going to sleep any time soon. Not only would the noise keep him awake, but he hadn't been able to get a good night's sleep with others being awake around him for years. The only exception to that was Blake and, as he snapped his Scroll shut, he was reminded once more of her absence. No new messages.
His back to the wall and his hands busying themselves with inspecting his crimson blade, Wilt, and his sheath-rifle, Blush, for even the slightest imperfection under the light of a nearby candle, Adam decided he would just need to wait until the others were asleep. Every last one of them.
It was going to be a long night.
He'd already begun to push the din of humanity to the back of his mind, turning it into ambient noise fit to ignore. Being further back where many of the faunus had unofficially segregated themselves helped.
Restless sleep or perhaps none at all. What wonderful choices. The din grew louder: Adam supposed it would have to be no sleep, after all. It wouldn't be the first time. He carefully ran a cloth along the side of the blade—
"Hey, don't be a punk! Can't you see my sis is trying to talk to you!"
Adam paused, becoming aware that the din had been calling to him the entire time. To his agitation, there were now two girls in front of him: the clumsy one—Ruby, was it?—and some other, much louder one.
"Really, Yang, it's fine, I don't really, really need to talk to him! He's busy!" Though in her pajamas, the clumsy one was protesting against her apparent sister's actions and trying to drag her away, to no avail. Strange. The clumsy one had crimson hair fading to almost completely black at its roots, alabaster skin and silver eyes he'd never seen before. The... loud one now scowling at him, Yang, had blonde hair as ridiculously long as it would be dangerous to her in combat and lilac eyes. There appeared to be zero relation between them at all.
"See, Rubes? I got his attention for you!" She'd bounced from agitation to happiness awfully quick.
After a moment of awkward silence, Ruby looked from her sister to him. "Uh... hi! I'm Ruby, you know, from the explosion... followed you here..." Ruby trailed off under Adam's blank stare.
"What, are you too cool to talk to people or something?" Yang goaded. "Come on!" Still apparently annoyed with him, she snapped him out of his thoughts by leaning down and waving her hand in front of his eyes.
"I was busy." He returned to polishing Wilt, hopefully in peace, this time. Yang growled and turned to Ruby to say something, but by now, he had already pushed the noise back into ambience. Though, he could hear Yang mumbling something colorful along the lines of 'jackass' under her breath as they walked away. Adam sighed and ignored the little, Blake-sounding voice in his head reminding him that he was supposed to try and make friends.
"Is that an Akakuni-make blade?"
Adam's gaze snapped up from his weapon. Ruby peered down at Adam with a curious smile.
He blinked. "Yes... yes it is, actually." It was rare enough for anyone in Mistral to recognize a blade forged by Akakuni, let alone anyone in Vale. The meaning behind his trademark crimson blades had quickly fallen by the wayside since his original withdrawal from the public. The world of weapons moved quickly.
"Ooh, I'm so jealous! I followed everything he did when I was younger, before he... y'know..." Died from an order sent to a gang gone wrong. Ruby leaned down as Adam raised an eyebrow. "Wait... a straight-edge chokuto sword? This must be one of his first, unless... it's a mecha-shifting weapon?" Her eyes widened as she spotted Blush. "A fire-propelled quickdraw-type? I take it back, this must've been one of his last works! How'd you get your hands on it! Where'd you find it? Are there more?" Any sense of being impressed rapidly faded back to agitation as Ruby got increasingly and uncomfortably closer with each question.
"You... certainly know a lot about weaponry." He narrowed his eyes. "And not a lot about personal space..." Adam grumbled, now all but pressing himself back into the wall with Ruby's sparkling eyes only a few inches away. She didn't get the hint until her supposed sister physically dragged her away.
"Yeaaah, don't mind her, she gets like this about every weapon." She held Ruby back as only more questions tumbled from her lips. "... I'm Yang, by the way!"
Adam warily looked between the two sisters. "I'm Adam," he drawled.
"And I'm trying to sleep!" The shrill, frustrated and decidedly Schnee voice broke through their conversation.
"Oh, not you again!" Ruby shouted.
Adam sighed and sheathed his blade. This was going to be a long night.
Scratch that, it was going to be a long week, Adam thought as he was catapulted through the sky above the Emerald Forest. Everything about this sounded insane: find a partner who you will work well with, Ozpin says? Sensible, if only your partner for four years was not determined by who you first make eye contact with! Professor Ozpin was kindly and understanding, Blake claimed! 'Destroy everything in your path or you will die' did not sound particularly kind! It was not that Adam was incapable of doing so, but this would have been outrageous for his cell, let alone these prissy Huntsmen!
With a gunfire-boosted draw of his blade, Adam sent himself whirling through the air and slashing through branches until he'd slowed enough for his aura to soften his fall. Right. First things first: locate and partner with someone who he wouldn't want to murder for what could be the next four years.
Adam was an honest man... to himself, anyway. He knew such a task might wind up more difficult than he thought.
He just didn't know how much more difficult such a thing would be.
With negativity came the creatures of Grimm, and right now, Weiss was a very negative person. Why shouldn't she be? Did the Schnee heiress' first day gain her friends? Allies? Maybe even just some knowledge on who some likely partners would be? No! She got nothing but hatred, anger, and people literally coming out of nowhere for no purpose other than to make her day worse! It was like she was in Atlas all over again! Half of the reason she had even come to Beacon in the first place was that so she could make a fresh start and—as much as she loathed to admit it—actually make some friends for once. At least Pyrrha Nikos seemed fond of her.
At least she wasn't universally reviled.
Unfortunately, all of those dark feelings had invited Grimm to the little clearing she'd paused in: Weiss counted at least five Beowolves circling around her. They were sizing her up and looking for weaknesses. Fortunately, that give her the time to strike first!
Weiss darted forward under a swing from the largest of them and thrust her rapier forth in three swift jabs to the lead Beowolf's hide. Following the natural rhythm of battle, she flipped away from the Grimm's desperate swing and twirled. Decidedly not following the natural rhythm of battle, however, another Beowolf slapped her out of her spin and sent her sliding right back into the center of the ring of Grimm. They'd stopped, now, all kneeling low in preparation for combat. She had to remember her training...
Once more focusing the lead Beowolf, she turned Mrytenaster's cylinder until she found her red Dust and gathered her aura...
The sounds of ferocious combat from afar immediately drew Ruby's attention. Finally, she thought: she'd been searching for someone for what felt like forever now! The roars of Grimm called to her like a beacon, and Ruby dashed in that direction as quickly as she could: she couldn't let her to-be-partner be stolen by someone else, after all! She kicked off of trees and sped up, soon spotting the signature white spikes of a powerful Grimm peeking out from between the brush.
Ruby unfolded Crescent Rose, cranked up her Semblance and kicked off a final tree for extra momentum. She had to take at least one down, or else they might see her as weak! With a ferocious battle cry—at least in her mind, anyway—she swung down at her target!
This search was going nowhere, Adam thought. It was not the matter of finding anyone that caused so much trouble; no, he could tell where these freshmen were from a mile away with how little stealth they tried to use. It was the matter of finding anyone worth partnering with! There really weren't that many faunus at all in this class: unfortunately, the cheetah faunus from the airship had been picked up by some human who sounded disgusted he'd even caught sight of her. It took effort and the mental reminder that they were being watched to not have him have a little... accident that would free her up. A little lovetap to the head would've been enough to knock him out. Blame it on a Grimm. He'd find another racist human partner later. Or die.
No big loss.
Speaking of humans, a boisterous mace-user shouting out for 'his bro Russel' as he laughed and smashed a Grimm's skull in did not look particularly pleasant. Nor did the odd redhead with a warhammer just sitting in the branches, humming, swinging her legs and perpetually scanning the horizon. Adam had no clue what she was looking for, especially since his attempt to question her was just met with a "Nope!" and not even a glance in his direction.
He could always just go to the temple alone and wait to see if anyone else had the same idea, Adam wondered. His thoughts were broken, however, by the low growls of Grimm, including at least one alpha, from the sounds of it. Upon listening closer, he could even hear the beginnings of combat: a student versus multiple Grimm and believing themselves capable enough to fight them alone? It was either suicidal or promising. Adam picked up the pace and jogged off in that direction.
The plan was simple: show off. Kill the alpha in a single blow and it should establish himself as a powerhouse to be followed and feared, and this would no doubt be something the instructors would notice as well. It would be an easy cruise towards leading a team. One of the Grimm came in sight as his jog turned into a full on run.
Weiss glided at top speed towards the Beowolf, channeled her aura into her rapier, and nearly shouted out in surprise as a blur of a black and red shot out from nowhere and struck at the Grimm, landing right in her path. She stumbled and lost focus, turning her well-timed blow into a wave of flame that decimated a nearby tree and the dry grass surrounding it.
"What! You want some too?!" The Ursa reared up to meet Yang's challenge... and stood stock-still as a meaty thunk resounded from its back. It slowly toppled over, revealing the crimson scythe embedded in its back and the grinning, giddy face of Ruby Rose.
"Have you lost your..." Weiss trailed off as the 'stranger' whipped the shadows from his blade and slowly sheathed it in unison with the falling halves of the now-bisected Alpha Beowolf. She winced and tried to look away as he turned to face her. She was too slow.
Emerald eyes met ice blue.
"You," they both growled.
It was going to be a long month.
Surely, that would be how long it would take before Adam couldn't take being near his new 'partner' Weiss Schnee any longer.
A/N: As you may be able to tell, Adam's a touch different from V6!Adam. Namely, his lack of scar and different eye color. This fic was started around V4's time, and it's too late to make a change that drastic now. The scar can be explained. The eyes... just consider it a difference between this Adam and true canon's.