Prologue: Silver Linings
"…I'm sorry pal. This is just how it has to be…"
A young man found himself laying in a rather uncomfortable bed, his consciousness slowly returning to him. His bleary eyes slid open, unable to process more than a messy swirl of white. He blinked a few times, clarity returning to him, to find he was in a sterile white room. He could see his arms and legs, covered in a patchwork of gauze taped all over, his left knee wrapped in a bulky cast. A spider web of IV drips ran from his right arm up to a line of bags suspended above him, below which was a heart monitor, beeping softly away while displaying his vitals.
"A… hospital?" His voice was hoarse, and he found it painful to speak, "What… happened?"
As if on cue, a door to his right swung open, and in walked a grey haired man, sharply dressed in a black suit, wielding a cane and coffee mug. The strange man pulled up a chair next him, and sat down, placing his mug on the bedside table.
"Ah, good. You're finally awake." He smiled warmly, "My name is Professor Ozpin, Headmaster of Beacon Academy. How do you do?"
"Oz...pin? Beacon? I don't… What happened… to me?"
"You, my fine young man, are in Vale Emergency Medical Center, ICU wing to be exact. You were found yesterday morning, March 19th, unconscious in an alleyway on Park Street. There was evidence that you had suffered injuries from a severe fall. The doctors suspect you attempted suicide. Do you remember anything?" Ozpin leaned forward, hands resting on his cane.
"Sui…cide? Me..? I don't… Guh!" He tried answering, but was stopped as his head started to throb.
He closed his eyes, hand rushing to his forehead. A scene began playing in his mind. He was somewhere high up. He felt a heavy force hit him, and then he was falling. His head stopped hurting and everything went black. He opened his eyes to see Ozpin still sitting there, mild concern on his face.
"I… fell? Something heavy… Then I fell… How?"
"How indeed? How could a teenage boy get to the top of one of two rather secure, upscale apartment buildings, completely unseen by residents and security cameras alike, in order to commit suicide in that particular alleyway. Very interesting indeed." Ozpin reached over for his mug, a hint of smugness in his voice, "In any case, you must have a particularly strong aura for you to not only survive that fall, and yet have no injuries that will affect you once you leave. Your knee notwithstanding, I'm afraid. You'll certainly need to take care with it."
"Easy… for you… to say. Hurts… like hell."
Ozpin chuckled at the retort, "I'd believe it. I can hardly imagine a situation where one could fall from such a height and be left feeling pleasant. Now, I did come here for a reason. I believe I may be able to help you, you see. However, I need some information from you first. When you were found, no-one could find any identification or documents on you. In fact, upon further searching, the police were unable to find anything about you. No home, no birth-certificate, nothing to prove you even exist. So I ask you, what can you tell me about yourself? Even so much as a name would do."
"Of course… My… my name is…" A blank. No matter how hard he tried to think, he couldn't remember anything. Not even a name. "I… I don't know… my name?"
"Retrograde amnesiac, then? How cliché, though I suppose that isn't exactly your fault. However, for me to help you, you need a name. An identity of your own. Now, what I would suggest is-"
"OZPIN!" A woman's voice called out as the door was thrown open, cutting Ozpin off. In stormed a blonde, well dressed woman with a scowl on her face. She skulked up to Ozpin and tapped her foot impatiently.
"And here we go with this now." Ozpin sighed, "Yes Glynda? Do you need me for something?"
She glared down at him, her voice incredulous, "Through all your schemes, I have sat back and trusted your judgment, but this is where I absolutely draw the line! The poor boy hasn't been awake for more than five minutes, yet you stroll right on in here trying to recruit him. It's completely unacceptable."
"Ah yes, I should probably introduce you. Young man, this is Glynda Goodwitch, a professor at Beacon and my second-in-command." Ozpin turned to Goodwitch, patiently smiling, "I understand your concerns, Glynda. But time is of the essence for us, and for this young man especially. We must act before-"
"No, we mustn't! We know nothing about him, Ozpin. Nothing! No name, no history, we don't even know if he has a semblance. This entire situation is highly suspicious at best. If we were to allow him into Beacon, what then? We've already selected the teams for this freshman class, so there's nowhere to put him. And that's even in he proves to be competent in combat. Accepting him into Beacon at this point is an enormous risk that we can't very well afford to-"
"Enough Glynda." For the first time, Ozpin actually sounded forceful, "As I said, I understand your concerns. I have thought it over many times myself, trying to figure out what to do about this. I'm no more enthused about this decision than you are, but there are no other options. Not for him. When he gets released from the hospital, he'll have nowhere to go. He'll be taken to an orphanage or be forced to live on the streets, at best! Without a birth certificate or any documentation, he may very well be deported elsewhere."
Goodwitch's gaze softened slightly, "That may be. But what good will bringing him to Beacon do?"
"We can give him a name and documents for starters. That would be enough to keep him from being banished from the country. He would have a job, housing, even a purpose in life. I'd say that's much better than living on the streets. And, Gods willing, should he prove to be a capable Huntsman, perhaps someday he can find whatever it was that happened to him. Rediscover his old life."
"I knew it. You're up to something, aren't you?" Goodwitch sighed, "Even so, something of this magnitude… It isn't a decision we should force on him. Especially when he just woke up. He should make it with a clear mind."
"No… I'll do it." The young man spoke up at last, "What difference… will waiting do? Nowhere… to go. No other option… If you want… a Huntsman… just train me… to fight."
Goodwitch covered her face with her hand while Ozpin grinned, "Excellent. Now if my hunch is correct, and they usually are, combat should come to you rather easily. Glynda, do me a favor, if you would? I left my bag with all the necessary paperwork in the waiting room. Can you go fetch it for me, please?"
She shook her head dubiously, but silently left all the same. The young man did his best to prop himself up to a sitting position, finding his muscles a bit week. He lowered his voice, "Ozpin… She said you… were up to something. I have… to agree… What exactly… do you know… about me?"
"Well, aren't you the sharp one, even in your state?" Ozpin chuckled, "Now, I don't want you thinking I'm trying to deceive you. I have only good intentions in mind. As for what I know, only three things really. First, you seem to me to have prior combat experience. Despite your age, you have multiple scars on your torso that had to have come prior to your fall. Scars that can only come from combat. As to what you used to do beforehand, I have no idea I'm afraid. Second, I know for a fact that you do have a semblance. You activated it unconsciously when I came to see you previously. What it is, well, I'll wait to tell you until you're on your feet again. Don't want you trying it out here and hurting yourself. Ah, and here is the paperwork for you."
Just as Ozpin had said, Goodwitch had returned, bag in hand, a skeptical look still plastered on her face. She unceremoniously dumped the bag on Ozpin's lap, then went to pull up a chair in the corner, sitting with her arms crossed. Ozpin began digging through the bag, pulling out a few papers and a fountain pen. He turned the bedside table so that it hung over the young man's lap, placing paper and pen on top of it.
"Fantastic. Now then, this paperwork will serve two purposes. It will enroll you as a student of Beacon, and we will use it to get documentation for you. I'll help you fill it out, should you need assistance. Just ask when you need me."
The young man looked the papers over, a glaring problem coming to mind immediately, "I still… need a name."
"AH! Yes, of course. My apologies. Let's see now… A name… Any suggestions, Glynda?"
"Why are you asking me?" She shook her head, "I don't know, John Doe maybe?"
"No, no. A name needs some originality otherwise it's suspicious. A name like 'John Doe' is obviously fake. But still… Ah!" Ozpin snapped his fingers, "How about 'Farran Park'? Does that sound good to you?
"Farran… Park? Huh…" He thought about it for a moment, then nodded, "I like it… but why?"
"Well let's see, Park because you were found on Park Street. I think that would be easy to remember. As for Farran, it comes from an old word meaning 'iron grey'. I'd say it's pretty fitting."
"Grey?" He reached behind his head, pulling some of his long hair forward, realizing now that it was black, "But… what about me… is grey?"
"Well, silver may be more appropriate, but I think it works. You'll find out what I mean soon enough. When you activate your semblance, that is."
He nodded. Farran Park, huh? That's my name now. Farran began pouring over the paperwork, filling in the boxes with bits of information Ozpin gave him, some made up since no-one knew, others, like his physical traits, came from his chart. Hair: Black, Eyes: Blue, Height: Six feet Two inches, Weight: 185 pounds, etc. For a home address, Ozpin gave him the address of an apartment complex apparently close to Beacon's campus, knowing that any mail he may receive would be redirected to the school itself, and that nobody would bother checking its legitimacy. As for a birthdate, they decided that it should be eighteen years ago on this day, since it was the first day of his new life. Happy Birthday to me, I guess. Wake up in a hospital on pain killers and get told you tried to off yourself. Fun, fun… After about thirty minutes of scribbling away, the paperwork was complete, and Ozpin sat back in his chair, smiling as he filed it away.
"Excellent, truly excellent. Now Farran, from what I've heard from your doctor, your aura is healing your injuries at a satisfactory rate. You should be able to walk on your own within a week, and, should everything progress as planned, you will be released in ten days, a week from Sunday. On that day, you will be meeting your team and begin your combat training with them. I have a team in mind that will most likely allow you to join them, even though it is rather unconventional to have anyone join a full team of four. Unfortunately, your new name will throw off the naming conventions we usually have for teams, so…"
"Don't worry… I don't… need billing. Just a place… to call my own. Then I'll… be happy. I'd actually… prefer not… to stand out."
"I appreciate your humility, Farran. I'll make sure that everything works out just fine. Now, you'll have to fill your team in on your situation, since they're the ones you will be training and living with. Unfailing trust is needed for our teams after all, so it wouldn't do to force you to lie to them. If anyone else asks, you are a transfer student from Atlas Academy. Transferring between the academies is quite rare, but it should be enough for most people. We will make sure all your school supplies and uniforms are delivered to your team's room before your arrival. That all being said, I must bid you farewell for the time being. We need to get your information into the system after all. I will be back in ten days to escort you to the Academy. So, for the time being, until we meet again, and get well soon, Mister Park." Ozpin slung the bag over his shoulder, grabbing his cane and mug, and gave Farran a bow farewell before walking towards the door.
Goodwitch took his place, setting a stack of books on his table with a kind smile, "Mister Park, I hope my earlier reluctance and… exasperation do not give you the idea that I'm against you. I honestly look forward to teaching you. I don't know the full extent of your memory loss, but once you feel up to it, these books should get you caught up on most of what you need to know. Now then, I'll see you in class the Monday after you arrive. Until then."
As she walked away, Farran called out, "Hey Ozpin… Earlier, you said… you knew three things… about me. You only said two… What was… the third?"
"Mister Park…" He started, frowning, "It's not so much something I know, so much as it's another of my hunches. I can tell you, but I don't want to scare you so soon after waking up."
"I'm fine… Just tell me… what you know… please."
"In that case," Ozpin peeked out the door, looking both ways before closing and locking it, "Mister Park, the official report states you tried to commit suicide. I, however, see it differently. I am of the belief that someone forced you off of the top of one of those buildings, intending to kill you. I have no idea who, just that they were able to manipulate things that there was no evidence of you ever being there. I also believe they are the ones responsible for erasing any proof of your existence. That is why I was so desperate to get you to come to Beacon. If the person responsible finds out you still live, they may come to finish the job. Under my watch at Beacon, as well as at this hospital, you will be safe. Now, are there any other questions I may answer for you?"
"Just one… do you know… who found me? I need… to thank them… for saving me."
"I do. In fact, the one who found you is a student at Beacon. If at all possible, it will be their team that I get you assigned to."
"A name… I need their name… please.
Ozpin smiled, "Mister Park, the one who found you is a girl named Ruby Rose. It is my hope you will meet her when you arrive at Beacon. Now, is there anything else I can help you with?" Farran shook his head, "Then I really must bid you farewell. I will see you in ten days, Mister Park. Let us be off, Glynda."
Ozpin unlocked the door and the pair left, after exchanging one last round of goodbyes. As he watched the door close behind them, Farran slid back down, laying his head against his pillows. He looked about the room once more, eyes lingering on the textbooks Goodwitch had left him. He brought a shaky hand to his forehead. Going to Beacon. Becoming a Huntsman. Committing suicide… or was it attempted murder? Just who the hell was I? And what did I do to get myself into this mess? As he thought, Farran felt his eyelids growing heavier by the second. Finally unable to keep them open, he relented and let sleep swallow him once more.
In the dark midst of sleep, Farran felt himself falling once more. However, unlike before, it felt more like he was floating, slowly sinking down the empty expanse. As he fell, the darkness before him steadily turned from black to a soft blue. Through the haze of blue, he could see what looked like the outline of a butterfly gliding toward him, until it finally entered his chest.
The next thing he knew, Farran had regained a bit of lucidity. He looked around, trying to get a bearing of his surroundings. Gone was the void of blue he had felt himself falling through, replaced with what he recognized as a courtroom. Around him, the walls and stands were covered in tapestries, colored the same blue that had once consumed him. He found himself sitting on a wrought iron chair in the middle of the courtroom, the seat itself covered in a soft velvet. He slowly turned to look in front of him, to judge's podium. Behind it sat a rather gangly, eerie old man dressed in a black suit, his gnarled, gloved hands curled together under a rather ridiculously long nose. To his left, in the box usually occupied by witnesses was a girl who looked about Farran's age, with shoulder length blonde hair, dressed in a gown that matched the rest of this room. She calmly peered at him from above with her golden eyes. Behind this odd pair, a sapphire statue of Lady Justice towered over the room, her golden scales hanging over Farran. One, reading innocent, was being held much higher than the other, reading guilty, which contained a roaring fire that illuminated the courtroom. Farran heard someone clear their throat, and turned back to the old man at the judge's podium, just as he began to speak in a light, welcoming voice.
"Welcome to the Velvet Room, my dear young man. Ah… It seems we once again have a guest with a rather intriguing destiny. Hmhmhm. My name is Igor, I am delighted to make your acquaintance. This place exists between dream and reality, mind and matter. It is a room only those bound by a "contract" may enter. Now then… why don't you introduce yourself?"
Farran blinked at him, confused, his jaw slack, "My name is… Farran Park. Igor, what is this place? How did I get here? I was in a hospital bed, and then…"
"Ah, do not be alarmed, my dear guest. You are still fast asleep in the 'real' world. As I said before, this room exists between dream and reality. You were brought here so that I may assist you, while your body remains safe and sound in the real world, recovering from those nasty injuries you suffered."
"I'm afraid I don't understand. How can you assist me? Do you know who I really am?"
"All in due time, my dear guest. As for who you really are, I cannot say. We only just met, have we not? Hmhmhm. Now then, we do have much to discuss. But perhaps, I shall introduce you to my assistant first." Igor motioned to the girl sitting next to him.
"My name is Viola. I am a resident of this room, here to assist my Master in guiding you towards your goal." Her melodious voice made Farran feel oddly calm.
"My goal? What exactly is my goal? I really don't know what I'm supposed to do, I don't even know who I am…"
"We will have to cover that at another time, I'm afraid. However, I can at least tell you this. The Velvet Room has always shaped itself after our guests' own hearts." Igor gestured to the room at large with a flourish, "In the past, it has taken the shape of an elevator, guiding our guest to a higher purpose. Or a limousine, ensuring our guest reached his destination at the end of an unclear road, the truth they sought shrouded in fog. Finally, a prison cell, helping to shape our guest for the rehabilitation he needed to gain his freedom. As for you, my dear guest, your goal is beyond my current knowledge. However, if I had to hazard a guess, it is here in this Velvet Room that your own justice will take shape. You can be sure to count on myself, as well as Viola here, to assist you in any way we can."
"My own justice… Huh. So, why exactly am I the one who can come here? That contract you talked about earlier, I think I know what you mean. But I highly doubt all Beacon students come to this room, correct?"
"Indeed, a fair assessment. You, my dear guest, possess a very special gift, one that our previous guests also had. That gift, is a very unique power known as the Wild Card. I imagine you are tired of my vagueness by now, however it would be very difficult to explain this gift to you in full at this point. I can say this, your power is represented by the number zero. Empty, and yet filled with infinite potential. Our past guests have taken chagrin with being called empty, but perhaps a much more palatable term would be a 'blank slate'. I'm sure you know what I mean by that in your case."
"Let's see, waking up with amnesia, told nobody knows anything about me, being given a new name and life… Nope, haven't the foggiest."
Viola shook her head, "Please do not make such trivial jests. My Master simply wishes for you to understand this new life of yours, your ability to begin again, is what will allow you to pursue your goal in the first place."
"Now, now Viola. Our guest has found himself in circumstances that are completely foreign to him. In these situations, humans sometimes rely on wit to prevent them from devolving into panic. Something you might want to remember. Now, it is nearly morning and our time here grows short. When next we meet, you will have already taken your first steps toward your own justice. It is my hope that you enjoy the start of this new life or yours. Until we meet again, my dear guest."
As Igor finished speaking, Farran found his vision blurring once again. Within seconds, the Velvet Room, with Igor and Viola along with it, had completely disappeared, Farran being cast out into the blue abyss once more.
When consciousness returned to him, Farran found himself once again in his hospital bed, heart monitor still beeping softly away next to him, although he noticed the IV's and a few of the gauze patches had been removed in his sleep. He stared at the ceiling, trying to piece together the foggy memories of his dream. It proved to be a mostly fruitless effort, as all but a few phrases vanished from his mind before he could even contemplate their meaning.
"Velvet Room. Igor. Wild Card. My own justice… What the hell does all of that mean?" Farran realized he could talk and breath almost normally now, the searing pain from the last night all but gone, "As if this whole situation wasn't messed up enough, now I'm having weird dreams I can't understand. Great… Well, at least I can't say it's boring."
He turned and eyed the stack of books that were left on his bedside table, picking up the one on top and giving it a once over. Goodwitch had told him to study them whenever he was feeling up to it, and he really didn't want to start off on a bad foot because he refused to do a bit of reading. No time like the present, I guess… Flipping to the first page, Farran began to read.