Chapter29, Rumor Mill News
I do not own anything relating to either series. Seriously. What a shocker.
"-Yes, that's right, Cyril, we have still yet to receive an official explination by the VPD or Valean Council on the events that transpired last night in our Industrial District."
"I've been thinking about it, Lisa, and the only logical conclusion I can come to is some kind of 'off the records' research being carried out on some kind of super weapon? Perhaps last night was just the first time its been tested so close to one of the four Kingdoms? I can imagine keeping that sort of fire power under wraps if the government had anything to do with it."
"Speculating will get us nowhere, Cyril, though I don't think your explination is outside the range of possibilities. For those of you just tuning in, thank you for choosing Vale News Network to keep you up to date on the latest, breaking news from around the four Kingdoms, and stay put as we go over what the public has started calling the 'Starfall' and what we know-"
Ozpin muted the monitor displaying the latest report from the local news before clasping his fingers near the bridge of his nose and leaning on his elbows, a pose he usually adopted when in deep thought.
His Scroll had been going off non-stop since the night prior, which had been a pleasant, boring night until a massive pillar of bright white energy of some sort descended from the heavens and decided to wipe out a warehouse that hadn't had an official use in over five years.
There was absolutely nothing left to denote that a warehouse had even been there, nor the concrete beneath it. The sea had rushed in to claim the large crater as its own, preventing anyone from seeing what lay at the bottom without some form of scuba gear or aquatic Semblance, nor was it announced safe to do so quite yet.
There seemed to be some form of exotic particle radiation present at the 'Starfall' site that was quickly disseminating into the environment, exotic particles that had long since stopped existing on Remnant naturally.
For the first time in what seemed like an eon, Ozpin could feel the natural, ambient Magic that had sprung up in the area as a result of whatever happened. He was expecting a report from a marine biologist on the state of the aquatic wildlife that had been found within the crater within the next few hours to either confirm or deny his hypothesis.
If he was correct, then whatever it was that had caused the bright pillar of energy to descend into Remnant had inadvertently reintroduced Magic to the world of Remnant, something that had been stripped away by the two brothers many hundred thousand years prior. It was like a boost of energy from one Dust shard to another in a chain, if Ozpin had to equate it to something non-Magical that occurs in nature frequently.
Already he could feel a boost to his own reserves of Magic by just standing near the epicenter for close to an hour as he conducted his research, while Qrow had idly commented on feeling like he felt like he had a 'Ruby level sugar high'. Ozpin could only speculate on what that meant in the form of measuring Magical reserves, but he had an inkling that it was a rather large amount.
It was almost as if the pillar of light had somehow been an act of the Gods, which left Ozpin completely in the dark on how it could have come to pass. He was of the mind that the Gods had literally abandoned Remnant, especially considering they said as much. It was why he was reincarnated time and time again.
If one of the two brothers had returned, likely the Elder of the two, then why had he not completed what he promised he would do? Why were they here before Ozpin could summon them back, with his objectives completed and Humanity united?
It was this reasoning that made him question the brothers involvement in what had happened, but still left him of the mind it was somehow an act Divine in nature.
Ozpin was positive of this fact, as no Human or Faunus alive including himself could replicate whatever kind of attack or summoning was used the night prior.
Only one person came relatively close to pulling it off would have been the local anomaly that Ozpin couldn't have predicted prior to his arrival in Vale. He had already displayed the ability to wield 'light' of some sort in the form of hard, physical objects via spears and arrows, so who was to say he couldn't also summon a massive beam of energy to annihilate an empty warehouse for apparently no purpose?
The more Ozpin thought about it, the more foolish it sounded in his head. He was aware that it was a stretch to assume that his fellow coffee enthusiast was the culprit, but there was also little evidence to prove that it wasn't.
Just as it was impossible to pull up any footage of Akira while he was present within Ozpin's office, it was also impossible to pull up any footage from the many cameras in the Kingdom of Vale that might have seen what had happened at the warehouse leading up to its annihilation.
What was strange about the missing footage was that the cameras present in the Industrial District were not fried by the pillar of light and remaining functioning, yet they somehow were missing the footage up until ten minutes after the warehouse had disappeared, and thirty minutes of footage missing leading up to it.
That left a window of almost an hour of missing footage, and this missing footage extended from the Industrial District all the way up until just two blocks past Leblanc Deux. The entire area had been scrubbed clean of evidence and it had been so thorough that all backup sites used to store said data had been scrubbed as well.
It was not only the large batch of missing footage that was suspicious, but the coordinated cyber attack on the VPD that occurred around the same time. All dispatched units anywhere near the Industrial District had been rerouted through GPS spoofing, relying on the fact that most of the Police relied heavily on localized positioning services to find the quickest and easiest routes to where they needed to be. Shifting those positions by a few blocks or sometimes up to a mile from where they were supposed to be had led to quite a few cruisers that should have been able to respond immediately finding themselves too late to intercept due to their own habit of driving where their GPS told them to go.
It was one of the largest disruptions to the VPD since its inception, leading to quite a few to call for the resignation of whatever dispatchers were responsible for such bad coordination.
There were quite a few people already working on trying to find the culprit responsible for the missing footage and coordinated cyber attack, though with how cleanly they had picked apart his security footage and systems, Ozpin had little faith in the VPD's investigation.
Ozpin had nothing to go on besides a few coincidences and a hunch, but in all honesty, that's all he really needed to tell him he was on to something.
The Headmaster was drawn from his thoughts by the sound of his Scroll ringing once more, causing him to sigh as he reached for the device once more. This would be his thirteenth phone call in the last two hours, and judging by the face on the screen, one of his longer calls.
Pressing the intercom button on his desk to page Glynda, it only took a moment for her to respond.
She sounded almost as tired as he felt on the inside.
"Would you please brew us a fresh pot of coffee? I have a feeling we will both need at least two more to deal with today."
"As you wish, sir."
Glancing back down at his Scroll, which was still ringing, Ozpin bit back the urge to ignore the man entirely and pretend he hadn't noticed the call.
General Ironwood was a hard man to work with, to say the least.
Cinder Fall was many things, but she was not a coward. It was a mantra she repeated to herself through the night as she paced before the room that contained the Seer Grimm, a subspecies of Grimm that allowed direct communication with her Mistress and Mother of all Grimm, Salem.
It had become abundantly clear to her that not reporting and playing ignorant would not be in her best interest, especially now that a few recordings of the event from a distance have leaked to all four Kingdoms and their news stations. If she didn't report it, then Watts would be the one to bring it to her attention, and that was not something she wanted.
It was best to report it and underplay it now before Watts could set Salem on her trail and catch wind of her would-be target by other means than herself. If someone was going to get some form of benefit for the information, it would be her!
That said, she had little information to provide her Mistress outside of a name, description and job description. There was his prowess in combat and resistance to her Magic to detail, of course, but that was the gist of what Cinder knew, outside of her not wanting to cross his path again in the future.
He had made it clear that his life was never in any danger, with his complete annihilation of the warehouse and all that it had entailed, but his response with violence was only gained when approached with violence.
She had a feeling that bribing him wouldn't have been an option, not with the White Fang involved in her current operations, but perhaps playing ignorant to his thefts of their Dust was a better alternative then having him as their enemy.
Her pacing was interrupted by a knock at her door, causing the scowl on her face to only grow more pronounced. "Who is it?"
"It's Mercury, Emerald still hasn't woke up." Mercury called out from the other side of her door, at least pretending to respect her privacy despite his lecherous ways.
"Go keep an eye on her, report back if she doesn't wake up in the next two hours." Cinder eventually called out, a minute amount of concern eventually piercing the veil her fears had brought along, "Don't let your guard down around the White Fang, Adam still hasn't reported in and they are getting... restless."
"You got it." Mercury answered back easily, and from the sound of his heavier than normal footfalls had turned to do just that.
Cinder sighed heavily once she was sure he was far enough out of range to hear her, a sign of weakness she only let show when she was sure she was alone.
Whatever it was Akira had done to Emerald had left her in what could almost be considered a coma, if not for the REM she had been displaying since she had been put to rest. Cinder could only assume it had been happening the entire time she was unresponsive.
Emerald's Semblance involved controlled the synaptic responses of her opponents minds, making them hallucinate to see whatever it was Emerald wanted them to see. Her falling to influence the black haired Faunus Cinder had foolishly brought to light implied his own Semblance was mental based, but his complete annihilation of the warehouse said otherwise.
Tugging lightly on the black hair cascading down and over her shoulders, Cinder allowed herself to sink into a plush chair nearest to a window facing the Bay of Vale and the edge of the Industrial District.
She couldn't help but stare at the large circular pool of water where one of Roman's old hideouts once stood, her lips pursed in thought and her body stiff despite her posture.
If there was one thing Ryuji Sakamoto knew for certain, it was that he absolutely hated sand. With a low growl, he kicked off his shoes and stumbled into the hastily assembled shack on the outskirts of the Golden Grove with slumped shoulders and his head hung low.
The shade afforded him by the roof over his head caused him to sigh in relief as he slipped off the white cloak designed to reflect the suns heat from his shoulders, the difference in temperature from the shack and the outside world immediately apparent.
"Holy shit it's hot today," The blond grumbled to himself as he reached into a small mini-fridge that served as his only way of preserving food and drink for his large jug of water, "No wonder there were only a few roamers out, the rest are holed up for the day."
His patrol had been forced short when one of his squad mates took a gnarly shot to the chest by a small Deathstalker hiding in one of the dunes. The scorpion monster decided to wait until three of the four squad members had passed its location before attacking, soloing out the weakest member of the rag-tag defenders as if it knew who was who.
If it wasn't for Maria Carmella, a retired Huntress from Atlas with a potent healing Semblance, Ryuji was sure poor Josef wouldn't have made it.
Gulping down a bit of water to wash the dryness from his throat, the blond staff wielder found himself once more thanking his lucky stars he had access to the vital liquid despite where he lived.
Feeling his Scroll vibrate three times in his pocket, an indication that he had just received a text message, he fished the device from his pocket and slid it open with one hand while taking another small sip of water.
It was from Sun, who had left to attend Shade Academy just a week prior. Furrowing his brows as he read the title of the message, which was 'End of the World?!', Ryuji found himself clicking the link provided by his blond brother in all but blood and leaned back against his counter when he realized the link took him to a video.
Knowing Sun's odd taste in cinema and conspiracy theories, Ryuji prepared himself for the worst and once more found himself idly sipping at his water, Scroll held aloft with a single hand.
The video started off simple enough, with the droning of a nasally voice droning on about something he called the Grimm Queen and some ancient hieroglyphics from an ancient city depicting a prophecy of some sort.
Ryuji couldn't help but roll his eyes at the stereotypical claims that he had heard Sun regurgitate before during their bandit patrols, but found himself paying close enough attention to glean a few new tidbits of conspiracy he hadn't heard before, specifically at the mention of prophecy.
All in all, the video was hardly interesting enough to warrant the wasted Data, but as the video drew to a close and the nasally voice finally fell silent, a small clip of a city suddenly engulfed in a bright white flash caught his eye and prevented him from snapping his Scroll shut in irritation.
'Wait, what was that?' Ryuji thumbed the screen of his Scroll and drew the small pin at the bottom of the video to the left to rewind it a bit before allowing it to play once more. Yet again, he bore witness to the strange column of light that seemed to linger before fading, this time taking note of the time stamp in the upper right hand corner of the video and its supposed location.
Something about that pillar of light was familiar, and Ryuji found himself clicking on a second link provided by Sun at the end of his first text to reroute his browser to a message board of some sort.
Judging from the disk shaped object near the top of the web page, Ryuji couldn't help but be incredulous of anything he heard, read or saw on the site. Even Remnant had UFO hunters, it seems.
Deciding to scroll through the page regardless, the blond Phantom Thief was rewarded for his efforts with another video of the same event, this time from a different angle and a closer position.
He was forced to spit the water in his mouth out to prevent from choking upon finally realizing why the pillar of light was so familiar.
"Holy shit, that... that's the attack Akira used to kill that Grim Reaper in Mementos!" Ryuji felt his eyes nearly fall from his head due to how wide he had opened them, once more playing the video back from the beginning to be sure of what he saw.
The second view only confirmed what he saw in the first, as did the third video he watched and later the fourth. By the time he had watched the fifth video of the incident available on the page, his Scroll disconnected from the web and started to lag a bit from the low charge.
Stalking away from the small kitchenette area of his shack, he threw his Scroll on the charging pad next to his bed and sat down harshly on the down pad, his mind racing a mile a second.
Ryuji had never claimed to be the brightest. He knew his faults, that was true, but he wasn't stupid by any stretch. He knew in his gut that he had just witnessed Akira going full nuclear on something or someone, and that thought alone quelled whatever feelings of joy that had sprung up at the realization that his bro, his leader, was still alive.
He was alive, but apparently, he was not well.
The blond began to make plans immediately.
Daisuke Hikari wouldn't admit it aloud, but he was slightly worried about his traveling troupes next large performance. So far, his marry band of performers had traveled the entirety of Mistral over the last few years, going from village to village to not only help entertain and cheer up the masses of Humans and Faunus alike, but to offer their services of temporary mercenaries and craftsmen to all who would need the work.
It had started off modestly some ten years prior when he retired from his Huntsmen career for something a bit more his speed in his growing age and physical capabilities. Having lost his right arm to a Beringel had seen to that, but he didn't let it slow him down too much. Over his career, Daisuke had learned quite a bit about architecture and carpentry from the many odd jobs he had taken to some far out villages under siege by the Grimm, more often than not using said knowledge to offer whatever assistance he could for those in need.
In retirement, however, he had honed those skills and begun his travels all across the world, learning all he could now that he wasn't at the beck and call of a crooked government official. It was during his travels that he discovered a second passion, which was entertaining and awing an audience with something they had never seen before.
At first it started out with simple tricks with his Semblance, which was limited form of Pyrokinesis that relied on his emotional state, but then soon started delving into more and more complicated and dangerous displays.
He drew the line at swallowing a sword, having sliced his throat with a live blade one too many times to be comfortable with the experience.
After his small shows, he would be approached by crowds of people asking for autographs and tips for their own tricks, but as the months drew on and word started spreading of his performances, soon he would find employees who wanted to perform along side him.
These were his better years and he enjoyed every moment of it.
Despite enjoying the life of travel, however, he knew it wasn't for everyone. His two most recent additions to the Traveling Troupe, as his group was called, struck him as lost souls searching for something, or perhaps someone.
They had been wandering by themselves when the Troupe had first passed them by in between villages located in Mistrals countryside, keeping to themselves and apparently struggling to survive based on their ragged clothing and light traveling packs. The only thing that truly stood out about the two at first was their weaponry.
Daisuke had heard the mumblings of his Troupe as they passed, mainly questioning the choice of weaponry the blue haired male of the two seemed to wield. It was indeed an odd sight to see a Hunter wielding some form of giant paint brush and a rather long Katana, but it wasn't quite the strangest weapon Daisuke had ever seen.
His blond companion had a whip strapped loosely to her side, and from the way she palmed the pommel of her weapon as she passed, she was confident in her ability to use it.
When they arrived at the next town the following evening, the leader of the Troupe spotted the two in the crowd and had called upon the blond to demonstrate one of his more well known magic tricks, sawing someone in half.
It was her beautiful performance and willingness to play along that caused Daisuke to extend the two an invitation to travel and perform with them, especially upon seeing how easily she played the crowd into believing she had really been sawed in half.
It could also have something to do with the older man enjoying the view of her rather generous bust as she laid in his magic prop, but he wouldn't ever admit it if questioned.
Ann Takamaki and Yusuke Kitagawa, both of whom shared names similar to his own in origin, had become valuable members of the entertainers and skilled laborers ever since, even more so when he unlocked their Aura.
He still had a hard time coming to grips with how skilled the two had proven themselves as warriors in various bouts with Grimm and the occasional bandit during their subsequent travels, displaying no small amount of combat experience even prior to having Aura and the life saving abilities that came with it.
They had learned to fight without ever having access to the very energy of their soul, and it showed. They fought hard and they fought dirty, something that still troubled the older man quite a bit though he dared not let it show around the two.
It only took a week after unlocking her Aura for Ann to discover her Semblance, and it was for that very reason that Daisuke now refused to look her in the eyes. Unlike most, her Semblance was constantly active and drained next to no Aura unless being used actively, and it was as deadly as it was unnerving.
Her once pretty teal eyes had become bright pink after her Aura was awakened, and for some reason her pupils became shaped like hearts, but the significance of this change wasn't made apparent until they came across a group of bandits just outside of the Kingdom proper.
As per their contract with the Troupe, Ann and Yusuke quickly moved to the front of the packed crowd of travelers upon hearing Daisuke whistle out a warning code, one they had become familiar with after practice. It wasn't anything the two weren't used to and soon they were present before the group of six that tried to block the path of the entertainers.
Instead of instantly engaging them, however, Ann and Yusuke pleaded for the group to let them pass without a fight, as they did each and every time they came across some form of highwayman.
It was just the way they were, despite Daisuke constantly warning the two that the chances of their words working were slim to none.
As she pleaded, Ann had maintained eye contact with the leader of the Bandits, who had remained quiet despite the laughter of those around him. It took a few seconds for Daisuke to realize something was wrong, but by the time he did, the situation had already devolved into a blood bath.
For once, however, it was not due to the actions of Ann or Yusuke, at least not directly.
With his eyes flashing a bright pink and his pupils slowly constraining until they, too, were heart shaped, the leader of the group of bandits spun on his heel and lunged for the person closest to him with his weapon at the ready.
The second bandit was barely able to get a word out before he found his leaders knife imbedded through his lower jaw and into his brain.
Things went to hell from there and Daisuke was forced to watch as the man quickly dispatched two more of his own comrades before being felled by the last two remaining unscathed before he could round on them.
One of the survivors made the mistake of looking in Ann's direction before he, too, fell to her gaze and disarmed the one bandit that hadn't been killed or charmed yet, literally.
Ann and Yusuke watched in horror as the last bandit standing turned his weapon on his self, all the while staring Ann down with the same shade and shape eyes as her own.
That had been close to four months prior, and since then Ann had taken to wearing a blindfold when not in some form of combat. She had been far more subdued since that moment and her performances had dropped dramatically as a result, leaving Daisuke to pick another blond from his Troupe to replace her as his 'sawing victim'.
Ann had not shown any displeasure in his choice and even asked if she and Yusuke would need to part with the Troupe, but Daisuke was quick to squash their worry when he offered them a better contract than before, this time dealing only in security detail.
It had been some weeks since he had last spoken more than a few words with them prior to that evening, and that was part of what had him on edge. They had approached him of their own volition with questions of their next destinations and had been probing for something all the while. Eventually, their questions had died away and in their place the two made but a single request.
For permission to end their contracts prematurely.
When he gave them a pleading look to reconsider, Yusuke merely looked away while Ann remained oblivious due to her blindfold. Daisuke eventually relented and began to go over the terms of canceling their contracts, but only when they agreed to tell him what drove them to want to walk away.
Once more, only silence graced his ears at first as he awaited their answer, with Ann being the one to eventually break the silence and admit that they had business to tend to in Vale.
That was all she told him, and Yusuke refused to elaborate further.
Daisuke had a feeling it had something to do with the massive beam of light that took out a warehouse in Vale, as that seemed to be all the Troupe had spoken of for the past day or so.
If his hunch was right, then that begged the question...
Just what kind of business did Ann and Yusuke have if it involved international conspiracy and a supposed off the book super weapon located in the southern Kingdom?
Whatever the case may be, Daisuke had wished them nothing but the best and had personally seen the two off on their way back towards Mistral proper to book a flight.
If the two were somehow involved with whatever happened in Vale, perhaps it was for the best they parted ways with the Troupe.