A/N: This probably isn't the best chapter in the series. I personally consider it a transition chapter more than anything else. Though, I will admit, the character interactions were actually pretty fun to do. Anyways, I personally don't think this is anything special, but I hope you all enjoy it nonetheless!

Disclaimer: I do not own RWBY of My Hero Academia. They belong to Monty Oum, Kohei Horikoshi, and their respective publishing companies. Please support the official releases.

I do not own the cover image

Chapter 68: A Simple, More Honest Soul

Oscar weaved through familiar motions without erring in his step. The air hummed as the cane swung around once, twice, thrice, and was jabbed suddenly forward with such force that a burst of air sounded in the small training room beneath their place of residence.

"Huh... that was new," Oscar said as he took in a few breaths.

"You get used to it after a while. Don't worry about any physics breaking potential you may have seen there. I built my cane to store momentum in its length," Ozpin explained.

"I... guess that kinda makes sense. But I thought your cane could... store time? How do either of those work?" Oscar asked, entirely confused.

"Well, they are, in a sense, the same thing. Storing the kinetic force in the cane itself at the moment of impact and then releasing it in a final motion took a while to figure out, in addition to gathering the momentum of continuous motion."

"... Um... What...?"

"The more you swing it, the more punch it'll pack."

"You see, that... that makes sense," Oscar said, completing another kata with The Long Memory before collapsing it back into its hilt. He walked over to the side of the room, and took up the slender blade he'd inadvertently received in Malt.

"I will admit, it is far easier to simplify these things, since they're.. well, for lack of a better term, rather complex enchantments. You'll eventually pick up my vernacular given time, but until then, I'll have to tone it down."

"Is this a roundabout way of indirectly insulting my intelligence?" Oscar asked.

"Of course not! You're many things, Oscar Pine, but unintelligent shall never be one of them."

"... wasn't expecting such a serious response," he replied.

"I take the matter of people's intelligence very seriously. Believe me, I've been with far worse minds than yours, young Oscar."

"I can certainly believe that," Oscar said as he gave his slender blade a dexterous flourish. "And I think I finally have a name in mind for this thing."

"... please, no."

"By the power vested in me as your wielder, I hereby dub you: Grimmsbane!" Oscar declared with another, far flashier flourish.

Ozpin's disapproval of the name was noticeable through the sheer about of force he put into his groan. "That is, quite possibly, the single most corny name for a weapon I have ever heard. Keep in mind, that's in comparison to the considerable amount I know of. I am thousands of years old; I have wielded, repaired, and destroyed a myriad of weapons you could not possibly begin to imagine, and not one of them was quite so corny as that."

"Buzz off. It's my sword, I get to name it," Oscar said, his simple argument rather ironclad in its simple logic.

"... curse you, using my own logic against me," Ozpin said, dejectedly.

"Hey, if it works, it works," Oscar replied.

"Here here!"

.

..

"... how long have you been standing there?" Oscar asked, an embarrassed blush running over his cheeks as he turned to face the staircase, where Ruby now stood.

"Oh, just long enough to hear something about differences in naming opinions on your sword," Ruby admitted. "How are you?"

"I'm fine. A little sore, but that just comes with training."

"I'm still annoyed about the ridiculous name you gave to your sword."

"Oz says hello, by the way," Oscar continued.

"Oh! Hi Ozpin!" Ruby said with a cute little wave. It was weird, having someone say something to you and know it was meant for the other person in your head, but it was probably one of the least stressful things he'd learned to deal with over the past while.

"So, how is training going, by the way?" Ruby asked.

"Well... I'd say it's going well, but that would usually involve some form of consistency. There are times where I go through the motions and I know exactly what to do. I know every step of a kata, and even adjust for little things without a thought. Then there are times where I have no idea what to do and just fall flat on my face."

"That sounds rough," Ruby sympathized.

"Nah, those are just the extremes. More often than not, I'm somewhere in the middle of those. I am getting better, though," Oscar said, giving his blade a practical, defensive flourish, meant for countering other blades and tangling chain-esque weaponry. "Just... not as fast as I'd like."

"Well, yeah. It does take time for this stuff to really sink in. It's annoying, but I think the world would be pretty boring if we could learn a skillset in one attempt. Still, you're going at a faster rate than a lot of us were! You're gonna be combat-ready in no time!"

Though she said that last part with a smile on her face, that same smile escaped her eyes. Saying it was obviously painful. As though it brought back memories that were once bright and happy, and now were nothing but bittersweet.

Oscar opened his mouth to speak, to comfort her, to do... something. But, as he did... nothing came out. What could he really say? He had heard rumors, he had heard stories, but he hadn't actually been at the Fall of Beacon. It would be a day that, twenty years from now, would be discussed in classrooms as a national tragedy, the likes of which had never been seen before. It had killed thousands, with dozens of professional hunters among the many who had fallen to the Grimm. How could he even begin to understand what she had gone through; what any of them had gone through? If only he could somehow understand...

"Oscar, it's happening again! Brace-"

Oscar had no chance to respond as Ozpin's voice was drowned out by a sudden, sharp pain in his temples and a flurry of scattered images that spoke of pain, despair, and myriad of other emotions that Oscar could not name.

The image of a girl with fiery blonde hair blowing out the kneecap of her opponent. Shock. Worry. Confusion.

The image of a girl torn asunder, with wires and bolts making up her insides. Surprise. Horror. Fear.

The image of a black queen piece on a red backdrop. Recognition. Calm. Resolution.

And finally, an image he had seen in dreams so often. The image of a silhouetted woman, her lips curved into a manic grin as she cackled and laughed into the empty air beneath the ground. Resignation. Regret. And, distantly, Hope.

And then, as quickly as it had begun, it was over. The pain, however, had yet to fade, and he clung to that spot on his forehead as Ruby rushed forward, obviously worried about him.

"Are you okay?" she asked, a supportive hand on his shoulder helping to keep him upright.

"Yeah. It just... happens sometimes," Oscar answered as the pain began to fade away.

"Um... and what did happen, exactly?" Ruby asked, genuine confusion on her face.

"Oh. Well... jeez, I've never actually had to explain this. Give me a sec," Oscar said as he gathered himself. This hadn't ever really come up before. The whole reason he hadn't told Izuku or Yang was because, outside of the occasional dream, he'd received no further visions from his past lives. Still, how to explain this...

"It's like... well, it's kinda like getting a really bad migraine. There isn't much warning, and it usually doesn't last very long, but it's still inconvenient. Except, whenever this thing in particular happens, I get glimpses of memories that belong to my past lives. Oz calls it a 'Memory Flash,' and he says that they're a part of the combo process. I haven't actually been through one of them in a while. Guess I just got used to not worrying about it much."

Ruby nodded, seeming fairly clear on how the rather odd process worked. Still, her next question was a hesitant one. As though she knew the answer, but feared to hear it spoken aloud. "So... what did you see?"

.

..

...

"... Beacon. Some of it, anyway," Oscar answered. "It was... I didn't see much, but what I did see horrified me. And even then, I... how the hell are you all able to handle this? After everything that's happened! People are dead, tensions between humans and faunus are on the rise, and the world feels like it's beginning to tetter on the brink of war again; how... how do you keep..."

His words failed him as he began to breathe erratically. The images and the feelings associated with them were starting to sink in. Oh, Oum. All of that suffering, all of that panic, all of that destructive negativity... it was enough to make him want to vomit.

Ruby recognized the sudden conditions he exhibited and gently took him by the arm to a nearby bench, allowing him to sit while she calmed him down. It wasn't an easy thing. She knew firsthand that coming down from a panic attack was a process, not a single moment. She rubbed circles on his back, held him close to her, to let him know that she was there, and whispered to him to breathe, deep and slow; that he was alright, and that he would be alright.

After two long minutes, Oscar's breathing steadied, and his muscles lost their tension. He took a deep breath and set his shoulders again, relaxing as he let the tiredness of the day's training overtake him. It wasn't pleasant, but it was passingly familiar. It helped to dull the pain of what he had just witnessed.

"... how do you guys keep going? How... how can you be okay with any of this?"

It was not a question that he wanted to ask. It was not pleasant, nor was it at all distracting from the Memory Flash he had just experienced. But it was a question that needed to be asked, perhaps because it was so unpleasant. The necessary things were rarely something to look forward to. This was no different.

Ruby did not flinch. Her eyes did not widen, nor did she gasp. In fact, if it were not for the recognition Oscar saw in her silver eyes, he'd have thought she hadn't heard him at all. But she had. She took a moment, made a motion that seemed like steadying oneself for something difficult. And then, she spoke.

"I want to say that I keep going because of the friends I lost. That I want to make sure Penny Polendina and Pyrrha Nikos didn't die for nothing. They were two of the best people that I've ever known. They were strong, bright, always smiling... they were amazing. I want to say that whenever I think of giving up, I think of what they'd do and get back up. Grit my teeth, get back on my feet, and keep moving forward.

"And that is true. At least, in part. But the truth is... I keep going because if I stop... if I stop, I don't think I'll be able to keep myself together. This thing, this mission, it's been driving me forward for almost half a year. It's really the main thing that's been keeping me together. Sure, I put on this act of being as cheery as I used to be. I try making dumb jokes or mess around or help the others with their stuff. Because that is who I used to be. And it's still part of who I am. Just... not as important to me as it used to be. And now, I'm... I'm scared that if I stop moving, I'll just sit down somewhere quiet and go numb. I'll let myself fade into woodwork and background noise, not caring about anything. Least of all myself. It terrifies me."

.

..

"You're not wrong for feeling that way."

"... what?"

Ruby turned back to Oscar, a look of genuine surprise and confusion on her face. This was no sage advice from Ozpin. This was not another Memory Flash that had played out in the silent seconds following Ruby's admission of fear. This came from Oscar, from a conversation he'd had with his aunt a long time ago, when he felt like sitting down and letting the world pass him by.

"Feeling the way you do now, especially given your situation... it's not wrong. There is nothing wrong with being afraid. I know that your friends will be there to remind you that you're important to them. That you can feel more things than simply being numb. And I know this might not count for much; I've only been around for a little while, but... I'll be here too, if you ever need me. I know that this kind of thing is a process. It won't be overnight, and it certainly won't be easy. I'm not going to ask you to do anything you don't want to do. But... I will ask you to try. Take it at your own pace, and deal with it however you feel you need to. That's all."

She was quiet at that. The silence that followed was not the choking, frozen thing from just a minute earlier. Instead, this was pensive, and thoughtful.

Then, she answered him. "Heh. Thanks, Oscar. For what you said. I... I need to think about this. But... thanks. I needed to hear that. Even though I really wasn't expecting it.

"Anyway, we should get upstairs. We're gonna be cooking dinner soon, and you look like you could use a few minutes to rest," she said before giving an exaggerated sniff. "And maybe a shower, too."

"... do I really smell that bad?" he asked, sniffing lightly at his admittedly damp shirt.

"Not quite as bad as some things I've had the displeasure of smelling, but... yeah," Ruby said, a casual shrug rolling out from her shoulders as they ascended the stairs to the house.

(about thirty minutes later, the kitchen, Ruby's POV)

The conversation Ruby had with Oscar was still weighing heavily on her mind. The full implications that she had truly, genuinely talked to someone, despite her fear, despite her doubt, and that Oscar hadn't just listened; he understood. On some level, large or small, Oscar understood what she was going through.

It was strange to think about. It hadn't really occurred to her that someone else could possibly feel like this. She had hoped no one else would ever feel like this. She felt like a damn fool. Of course other people could feel like this. But she could never let herself think that it was okay to let herself off the hook, once in a while.

Now that Ruby had a chance to step back, though that step coincided with her preparing Udon noodles, she realized something that seemed rather obvious in hindsight. She had never, not even once, allowed herself to have a real, legitimate break. Sure, there were times where she had fun with her friends, but that was always more for them than for her in any capacity.

She had never considered that she might need one because... well, she couldn't need one. If she took a break, who was going to help everyone when they needed a shoulder to lean on or a friend to laugh with? It had worn down on her, bit by bit, day by day. Recently, it had been all she could do to keep her smile up. A conscious effort that kinda made the muscles around her jaw hurt.

I... I guess I could take a day for myself. Maybe. I want to try.

Whatever doubts that Ruby may have had about Oscar, conscious or otherwise, were mostly a moot point. She could admit to herself that, while she was happy to meet Oscar, she was even more relieved to have Ozpin, eternally wise beyond his appeared years, back in their corner. But that talk hadn't come from Ozpin. In that moment, there hadn't been even a single inflection of his brand of otherworldly wisdom. That was all Oscar.

So, she decided to heed his advice. She would try. She... she...

I owe... I... Oum, this is way harder than it looks, she thought to herself. I will... I am going to try, damnit. Maybe I won't get better soon, and it might be the hardest thing I ever do... but I'm going be better to myself. I owe myself that much.

The rest of the dinner preparations went by fairly quickly. Nora wanted pancakes and various other sweet things, but she was quickly dissuaded from that by Ren, who was their main chef of the night. Normally, the cooking was split between him and Jaune, but, since the blonde knight was currently elsewhere, she was the only other person in the group who had anything close to a talent for cooking anything even remotely edible. And that was only due to her obsession with cookies and the occasional ramen packet.

It was still better than what Shoto had made when they were on the road. That was... an experience, to say the least.

By the time the door opened with a steady, oaken creak, dinner had been made and set out on the table in front of them. Since she and Ren had been unsure of the number of people who would be coming, they'd made plenty, and he'd also prepared some Mistralian green tea as a kind of welcome. It wasn't a tradition that she could exactly wrap her head around, but she4 took the tray with the cups and teapot to the door without a hint of complaint.

"Hey there! Sorry if there aren't enough seats; we weren't sure how many of you were-"

An involuntary gasp broke the silence when Ruby saw who was at the door. Her shock was so great that she hardly noticed when her grip slackened, causing the tray and its contents to drop to the floor, shattering and spilling all over.

Her sister, golden-haired and violet-eyed. Her partner, snowy-haired and pale-skinned. Her hands rose to her mouth as she tried to hold in a sob. She failed. Briefly, she noticed that Izuku and Qrow were there as well, along with a red-haired man with a consistently clever look in his green eyes. She noticed Jaune behind Weiss, quietly giving his support as he stepped away, just within reach. And she noticed the already lightly reddened eyes of both her sister and her partner, likely from the shedding of tears.

Despite recognizing this information, she could not process it. Instead, there was a long pause. And then, suddenly, Ruby zoomed forwards, trailing rose petals, and tackled the two of them into a hug. Despite her petite frame and minimal strength, she embraced them as tightly and closely as she could. They were back. Her best friend was here. Her sister was here.

So they let the tears flow. For a while, they all just stood there, hugging each other, crying tears of joy that they were together again. And for the moment, that was all that mattered.

A/N: So... yeah! That's a wrap for things going on in Mistral, for now. It'll pick up relatively soon after this moment, but the next chapter is going to be in Menagerie! Man, I haven't actually written about it in a while. It's going to be fun visiting the place again! And now:

Review Responses:

Shadow Joestar: I think you'll have to wait a while, but I will introduce more members of his family within this Volume's duration. Specifically, Verda and Braun.

JNDragneel: I know! I cried for almost ten minutes when I first heard that song in Tales of Ba Sing Se. I thought it'd be appropriate for the scene, even if I was crying while I wrote that part. Also, I get it, not every ship is going to appeal to everyone. I was something of a fanatical Arkos shipper back when Pyrrha was still around, but these later Volumes have kinda put me onto the White Knight train. I honestly can't tell you why. It just happened. Also, Menagerie is coming in hot next chapter! Be prepared!

RHatch89: I think they did too. I thought it would be a nice way of starting a bond between those two, which I will be expanding upon later on down the line.

AndyKurosaki98: Yeah, that last chapter could get... rough, emotionally speaking.

WriterForFun365: It was actually my favorite part of the chapter to write, specifically in how Weiss responded to Jaune's admission of truth and how that would reflect her own growth. It was hard, but in a pleasantly challenging way that was also pretty fun. And, of course, Leaves from the Vine will always leave me in tears, even when I'm just humming it to myself or singing it in my head.

Next Chapter: Oct. 23rd

Seeya in the next one!