An: College is back in session for me and it screwed up my writing schedule of a bit, so this chapter took longer than I wanted to, but now that I've settled back in, updates should be at least a little more frequent. Also, if you haven't read my other RWBY story A Series (Un)fortunate Meetings, go check it out.
The interior of the upside-down tower was dark, so dark that Emerald couldn't see the ground she stood on nor the doorway she had just passed through despite that there should have been light coming in from the outside.
She wasn't shocked that there wasn't. Cryphilictal wasn't a place where you could make assumptions on what should happen
None of that meant that there were no lights inside the tower. In fact, there were hundreds, possibly thousands, of little beads of light all around her. They just didn't illuminate anything besides themselves. They circled far above and even below her. It was like standing in the center of the universe which, for all Emerald knew, might have been the case.
"This is impressive," Yang said, "but what are we supposed to do here?"
Emerald could not see Yang any better than anything else, but from the sound of Yang's voice, Emerald could tell she was just to the left of her. She stretched her arm out and took side-steps until her hand brushed up against Yang's shoulder.
"What are you doing?" Yang questioned, trying to move away.
Emerald didn't let her.
"We need to hold onto each other. In this darkness, it would be all too easy for one of us to disappear."
Yang stopped resisting then moved her fingers to intertwine with Emerald's. "How do I know it's really you that's holding my hand?"
Good, she's learning. Maybe the mummy had given her the kick she needed to understand the unknown world wasn't something to underestimate. "You don't, but if I'm not who I say I am or vice-versa, we've probably already screwed up beyond repair. We're just going to have to trust that the other one is the real deal."
"Alright, I'll trust you, but just so you know if you eat me, I'm going to give to heartburn like you'd never believe."
"You're seriously still able to crack jokes?"
"It's how I cope. I mean look at this place. It's making me feel really insignificant."
"I understand exactly what you're saying. I feel it too." Emerald pulled Yang's hand and they started walking forward. Her aim was to get to the closest light bead on their level. She didn't know what it was or what she'd do when she got there, but it was something. Unfortunately, the light bead didn't seem to get any closer no matter how many steps they took. None of the beads did. It was like they were set to be a specific distance from them. Not to mention that, judging from the outside, it only should have taken a couple of steps before they hit the other side of the upside-down tower.
It was something Yang clearly caught onto. "We're not getting anywhere."
"Space is being warped."
"What do we do about it?"
"I have no idea," Emerald admitted. Trying to go back the way they came would be as useless as continuing forward. The opening they had used to enter the tower couldn't be used as an exit. She knew this.
"So, are we just trapped?" Yang quivered.
"No, there has to be a way out.
"I'm not seeing one."
"Neither of us are seeing much of anything."
"We need help?"
"From who?" Emerald asked.
"From Jaune. Isn't he supposed to be in here?"
"That's what I thought, but I don't know for sure."
"Then let's see if he's here. Try yelling out for him."
"I already told you. We don't want to risk getting the attention of something else."
"Well, we don't have a lot of options right now. If you won't do it then I will."
"Fine, JAUNE, CAN YOU HEAR ME?" Emerald waited for a bit but there was no response. "It didn't wor—"
"Wait, do you see that?" Yang shushed.
Emerald couldn't see which way Yang was facing, but she still knew where she was supposed to look. It was only after she turned to face the quickly blinking bead of light, did she realize what that knowing meant, but it was already too late to mention anything to Yang.
The bead flickered out, seeming like it may have gone dark forever, only to come back to life in an explosion of blue particles. Millions were flying in every direction and engulfing everything Emerald could see. The world turned blue and even shutting her eyes didn't help.
Emerald felt Yang's hand tighten around her own as the wave of particles and light hit them. It was an odd sensation. She wasn't blasted off her feet, but she had been thrown off them. It was just a subtler experience than she had been expecting. It felt like she was floating. However, there wasn't much time to enjoy it as gravity suddenly kicked in again, except in the opposite direction of what it had been, and the girls went flying upwards.
The crashed into something and the blue light condensed back into nothing just as quickly as it had expanded.
"My head," Yang groaned as she picked herself off the (roof?) ground.
Emerald did the same and looked around where they had landed. It was a pretty normal looking shop. The only thing that made it unique were the piles of strange objects cluttered around every corner and shelf. It was a place Emerald was actually familiar with.
To the outside world, it was a dirty little junk and antique store, but if you had the right knowledge and connections, it was a place to fence and appraise stolen goods. She had made good use of its services, but this place had a much more important memory tied to it. Just outside the door, she had stolen Jaune's journal, and in doing so, changed her life forever.
She highly doubted that connection was a coincidence. If the tower had sent them here in response to her screaming Jaune's name then this place made perfect sense. The reason why the tower would do such a thing in the first place was less clear.
"This place is weird. Do you know where we are?" Yang asked.
"I do." Emerald left it at that but speaking about knowing. "Yang, have you been finding out about things you shouldn't know? Like what happened the night after we fought that strange Grimm."
Yang tilted her head. "I don't think so. Have you?"
"Yeah. I'm pretty sure it only started once when entered this tower and it's only been little things, but I know it's happening again."
"You think the tower is the cause?"
"That's my working guess."
Yang hummed. "You said you've been in this place before?"
"I'm familiar with it."
"Does it look strange to you?"
Emerald took another glance around to see what Yang was talking about but nothing struck out at her. "No."
"To me, everything looks washed-out. Like a grainy photo. Do you think that's because this place is from your memories and not mine?"
Emerald took that into consideration, but she didn't think so. She might have been here before, but she had never stuck around long, and her only focus had ever been the man at the counter, who was absent in this version. If this place was made exclusively from digging through her memories, there should have been washed out sections for her too.
She walked up to one of the shelves and opened up a music box with a human female and a faunus male holding hands. It was crystal clear despite her not having any previous idea of what was inside, or even that a music box had been sitting there in the first place.
It was possible that a music box like this one didn't actually exist in the real location. It could have been a fake prop added to fill the scene. It was definitely possible, but Emerald didn't think it was likely. She felt confident in saying there was a music box just like this one in the antique shop. She just hadn't known about it before.
"We should look around," Emerald said.
"What are we looking for," Yang questioned.
"For you, something that doesn't look washed out. For me, something out of place. Make sure not to stray too far though."
"It's not like this place is that big." Yang shrugged.
Emerald headed straight to the place she was most familiar with which was the store counter. It was the place she had the most precise image of, so if anything was out of place she'd notice it there.
Everything looked how it had always had except for a single brown paper bag sitting right in the center. That in itself wasn't unusual, paper bags were how all transactions were made in this place, but this bag was special. Emerald knew that on the day she met Jaune he had been tasked with delivering an envelope to this very store. In return, he had gotten a brown paper bag. A bag that Emerald knew was the same one that was in front of her now. Jaune never opened the bag so he never knew what was inside; thus, Emerald didn't know either, but she was ready to find out.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the shop, Yang found something that wasn't washed out at all. In fact, the tapestry painting looked more vibrant and alive than most things in the regular world. Yang found that she knew Jaune had been mesmerized by the same picture while standing in the same spot. She also knew that there was a key difference between the picture she was seeing and the one he had seen.
Her moon was a deep red while his had been a bright silver. Yang wanted to wipe it away. She wanted the picture to go back to its uncorrupted state. Who would have done such a thing to this wonderful painting?
Of course, the answer was Jaune himself when he had seen this painting for a second time in Cryphilictal, and the blood had leapt from his nose to stain the moon. Unfortunately, this was information Yang didn't get to know.
Back at the counter, Emerald had plucked a strange porcelain mask from the brown bag. It was white in color with no details at all except for the two eye holes. There wasn't even a strap to secure your face. If you wanted to wear it, you'd have to hold it up with one hand. Emerald did just that, but it was like looking through any other mask. There was nothing special about this one.
She set it down on the counter wondering why it was in the bag and why Junior would have wanted it. As a decoration for his club, Emerald didn't think it would fit. Maybe it was part of his personal collection. Who knew what that man was really into.
While she was busy chuckling at her own joke, she didn't notice that the paper bag, which had previously only contained the mask, began to bulge at the sides. When Emerald did notice, the lumps had already climbed to the top of the bag. She went to examine it, but before she could look inside a fountain of furry black rats exploded from the top.
She couldn't hold back her scream as she witnessed the horrifying sight. Thousands and thousands of black rodents flowed from the bag. Some of them died in a disgusting squelch when they hit the floor, but many of them survived to scurry around the floor.
Yang heard the commotion and turned her back to the picture to see what was going on. Sadly, she didn't have any time to comprehend it as something grabbed her shoulders and pulled her into the picture with one powerful tug.
Emerald never even saw Yang get abducted as she was dealing with her own problems. The rats had piled onto each other and were at her kneecaps. She tried batting them away with her weapons, but that was a useless battle. They rose faster than she could ever hope to beat them down.
Paws and snouts licked her skin as the brown bag continued to pour the little creatures out by the thousands. She tried attacking the source, but her blade didn't even scratch the bag. It was like it had been turned into steel.
The furry mass was up to her shoulders. A few grab onto her long locks and used them to climb onto her head. One jumped up onto her nose and another tried to burrow into her mouth. She was drowning in them. It was all she could see. Soon they would cover every part of her body. Emerald tried her best to steady her breathing and ignore the thousands of creatures running over her body. She wasn't going to die here. She knew that, but she didn't know what was going to happen to her in death's place.
Whatever it was couldn't have been any worse than this, so instead of waiting for the rat sea to rise up and engulf, Emerald held her breath and dunked her head into the black sea.
When Emerald came back up, there was no black sea in either the fur or water variety. The only thing beneath her feet was a cement floor. A floor, that it would appear, she had just risen through.
Yang wasn't anywhere to be seen, but that didn't concern Emerald as much as it should because she knew that Yang was safe, at least for now. Yang was currently in a dense forest with a red moon bathing everything in a red tint.
It wasn't a great place to be, but it was a damn sight more attractive than where Emerald found herself. She was trapped inside a cement tube that's roof was low enough to not allow her to rise to anything above a crouch. On one side of the tube, there was nothing but a dead-end, but on the other side, there was a metal grate with a simple padlock to prevent it from being opened. Light shined through the openings and some noises were coming from the other side. First the sound of something being hit, then the sound of some liquid (blood) hitting the floor, and finally a round of cheers.
A furry black rat dove from its hiding place and scurried to the back of the tube as Emerald crab-walked to the metal bars to look through. Outside was an arena. Not a real one but more of a circular hole in the floor. Two shadowy forms were fist-fighting while a whole crowd of shadow people watched from above. Not a single one of them had any defining features. They were all just black smoky hazes.
It reminded her a lot of what happened during Mt. Glenn, which she didn't like one bit, and just to make the experience that much worse, she recognized this place in the same way she recognized junk shop.
This was Sir's lair.
Emerald had spent a lot of time here as a little girl after Sir had captured her. Probably locked inside this very cage, because that's what it was, forced to watch ring fight after ring fight until it was her turn to go up.
She could still remember the scraps of food the crowd would throw at her when she won, which was rare, or the spit they rained down on her when she lost. She remembered huddling in the back of her cage trying to capture as much heat as possible. She remembered getting sick and laying on the floor in agony wondering if it would be better to just let them kill her.
She remembered being so weak and terrified—but she wasn't a little girl anymore.
She grabbed the rusty metal bars and broke them without even needing her weapons. When she crawled out of her tube cage, every noise in the building stopped. The figures that were nothing more than blurry shadows froze and then disappeared altogether. Emerald was alone, and that was just fine with her.
Whether this upside-down tower was trying to frighten or traumatize her. It was going to have to do better than bring up old memories. She had already lived through them once. She wasn't going to be scared away by passable fakes. The echoes at Mt. Glenn had done it better.
"Is that a challenge?"
Emerald's body temperature plummeted as she snapped in the direction of the voice that wasn't really a voice. It was more of a sound that happened to form words, but it was enough to let her know what voice it was supposed to be mimicking.
Sir stood in front of her, or at least a version of him did, with the same shadowy body as the others but a face that was a perfect replica. Eyes the color of wet mud bore into hers. "It's been a long time," it said, mouth opening and closing like it was being moved by strings.
"You're not real." Emerald held her ground, but she couldn't stop her hand from shaking no matter how much she willed them to.
"That's cruel of you to say. I might not be completely who you see me as, but I assure you I'm very real."
"What do you want from me?"
"Just you? What about your friend Yang? Don't you care what I want from her?"
"I know she is."
Sir's head snapped to a sharp 90-degree angle. It caused her to jump back just a bit. "Are you sure you know, or do you just think you know? As they say, seeing is believing."
Emerald turned her body a bit so she no longer had to face Sir directly. "Then how about you let me see her. That's why we'll know who's right and who's wrong."
The personification of the tower's will, or whatever it was, cranked its head back into a proper position. Then without warning, it jumped forward so Sir's head was right in front of her so close that their noses were touching.
Emerald flinched backward and sent the blade of her weapon through the thing's stomach. Sir's face didn't react at all and thrusting her blade into the black haze didn't feel any different than doing practice thrusts in the air. The semi-gaseous skin just lazy wrapped around her weapon and filled in the gap when she pulled it out.
"Do I scare you?" Sir's mouth clicked as he blinked one eye at a time.
"I know you're lying."
Emerald didn't give the thing the satisfaction of a response.
"Would you like to know what else I know? Here, I'll show you."
The room snapped to complete darkness, and then snapped back but in a different place. It was a place Emerald didn't recognize at all. It was filled with metal and pipes, and there was this awful burning smell that lingered over the whole room.
It was when she was trying to find the source of that smell that she noticed it. A body with a head of blond hair laying in a pool of blood. Emerald didn't even think as she raced over to him, stepping over what she recognized as one of his etches.
As she got closer to him, she dropped to her knees, not caring in the slightest how much blood got on her pants and examined the damage. It was really bad; he didn't have a left side. She checked for a pulse and couldn't find one. She turned his body over so his head was cupped in her hands. All that looked back were cold lifeless eyes.
Emerald felt more than saw that thing with Sir's face materialize behind him. "Poor Jaune. He died to save you. All his hopes and dreams sacrificed for some little street rat that should have been strangled at birth. He gave you so much, and yet you couldn't give a thing to him. Not your skills, not your knowledge, and not your love. Now you'll never have the chance. Useless there's some other way to save him? Would you like to know?"
"You know a lot, don't you?"
"I know everything."
"Shame all that knowing doesn't make you any smarter; you don't even realize you screwed up." Emerald dropped Jaune head to the floor like it was nothing more than old trash and stood up. This time it was her who pushed their faces together. "If Jaune really was dead, then I would know, wouldn't I? You would have made sure of that. The simple fact that I don't means that all this is a lie. I can't know Jaune is dead because he isn't. Is that not right, Mr. Sir?"
The thing that had the face of her former tormentor made a feral hiss, not even bothering with the pretense of opening and closing Sir's mouth. "You little—why can't you just crave. Doesn't it kill you not to know? There are things in this world—for your betterment. Necessary. Lifeis knowing."
The thing quickly dove into nonsense, and Emerald started to ignore it, but suddenly the thing that only had the head of Sir morphed so it had the torso, arms, legs, and all the rest of Sir. It had become a much better copy—a perfect copy. It even had the same presence as Sir. The eyes that promised more pain than you could ever imagine if you defied him.
Then it spoke and the voice was a perfect match. "I may have lost this round, but before I go let me give you a prediction. If you and that Ceaseless Knight do escape this place, it won't be a happy ending. Sooner rather than later you realize that he's not what you need, and you'll come running right back to me. Right back to where you belong."
Yang stumbled into the forest. She spun around trying to find the thing that pulled her into this place, but there was nothing around here besides trees and grass. There wasn't any way to get back to the junk shop either. She and Emerald had gotten separated after all.
It wasn't too bad though. She knew Emerald was inside a cement tube that kind of reminded Yang of a sewer drain just without any of the water or sewage. She certainly didn't envy her position, but she was alive and well, and that was good enough for now.
Without any other option available to her, Yang started walking. She didn't know where she was going, and the forest didn't look like it even had an end, but standing around doing nothing wasn't going to do her any good.
As she walked, listening to the grass and twigs crunch under her boots, Yang took an interest in the blood-red moon that hung above her. It was like nothing she had ever seen before, for one it wasn't crack, and two it seemed to move relative to her. It followed her bathing everything she saw in a red glow. Honestly, even if it was a little creepy, Yang thought she could get used to this. It was like having her own spotlight.
Eventually, she started to hear a sound in the abnormally quiet forest. It sounded like someone talking, but there was another noise mixed in, squeaking like someone swinging on an old swing set.
Yang followed the sound all the way to a narrow dirt road, and on that road, was a younger her pulling an even younger Ruby along in a red wagon. "Don't worry Ruby, I'll find us a new mommy. Then it can be like it was before and daddy won't be so sad anymore." The wagon bounced and squeaked as it rolled across the uneven surface.
Yang remembered this night with absolute clarity. She could retrace every step, recount every word, and recall every feeling. The only thing she didn't remember was what the hell she had been thinking. She had been so stupid that sometimes she could hardly believe it.
What possessed her to embark on the worst decision of her life? There were no answers and there would never be one. Only the grief and hope of a young girl. Now that night was playing out in front of her.
As if on cue, three large Beowolves jumped from the tree line and onto the road. Young Yang stood frozen in fear coming to realize just what her decision was about to cost both her and her sister. It should have been at this point that Uncle Qrow arrived to save the day, but Yang wasn't going to wait around and watch this happen. She was going to be the hero this time.
She sprinted from her position and slammed her fist into the first Beowolf she got to. Unfortunately, she punched right through it like it was made from nothing but air. Her momentum carried her through the Beowolf, her body passing through it with ease, and sent her rolling onto the other side of the dirt road.
Yang muttered a few curses as she got back to her feet, but she accepted that she couldn't interfere. This was all just a play put on by the tower for its own sick amusement. Where did it get off poking around her memories?
Whatever, Uncle Qrow would fly out from the trees and decapitate those Beowolves in just a few seconds. That, at least, was a show she could enjoy.
But, Uncle Qrow didn't come out of the trees. Instead, the head Beowolf lunged at Young Yang.
She screamed and dove out of the way, letting go of the wagon in the process. The little version of her had escaped being bisected but there were two long gashes along her forehead and one on her cheek from where the Beowolf had caught her. She brought her hand up to check the damage and when it came back, it was slick with blood, Yang could feel the panic in her younger version eyes.
Her younger version stared at the red wagon then at the approaching Beowolves, and then in a move that set the current version reeling, she ran away leaving her sleeping little sister behind.
Normally, the Beowolves should have chased after the negativity being produced by the fleeing girl, but this was all an act. These Grimm didn't have to follow the normal rules. They circled the sleeping Ruby, who had no idea what was going on. Yang rushed forward, yet again, to stop them wondering if the real her would have abandoned her little sister if Uncle Qrow hadn't been there to save them. She didn't want to think she would, but as she thought about what she had felt that day, she couldn't be completely sure.
Her attack on the Grimm was as ineffective as the last, but she kept trying and trying. The Beowolves didn't react to her presence, but she kept at it until she ran out of breath. If she tried to throw even one more punch, she thought her lungs might explode.
The lead Beowolf took that moment to pick up the human bundle with its mouth, and in one quick bite, Ruby's tiny body was crushed. Little columns of blood sprayed from the Grimm's teeth and hit Yang in the face matching the wounds her younger self had obtained.
The Beowolf finished its meal in one gulp. Satisfied with what it had accomplished it, and its kin, wander back into the forest leaving Yang alone with only the squeaky red wagon left as company.
It wasn't real, Yang kept telling herself. It was only a trick cast by the upside-down tower, her mistake hadn't cost Ruby her life. She was fine.
"Except she's not fine, is she?" a voice said. A voice Yang recognized even if she hadn't heard it in a long time. She didn't want to look knowing what she would see, but with all these things there comes a point where you have to look. You just don't have a choice.
Summer Rose, her mom, sat on a boulder that hadn't been there before looking down at Yang. She looked exactly like Yang remembered her down to the way her cloak always seemed to flutter behind her no matter what. The only difference was her expression. Yang always remembered her mother smiling and cheerful, but this Summer looked tired and disappointed.
"Yang, do you know what my last words were?"
Of course not. No one knew what Summer's last moments had been like.
Summer sighed and rubbed her hand over her forehead. "I asked for you to take care of your sister. I didn't give birth to you, but I loved you as a daughter just the same, and I thought you loved Ruby as a sister too."
"I do love Ruby! More than anything else in the world."
Summer pointed to the empty wagon. "Is that how you show it?"
"That wasn't real," Yang defended. "I know I screwed up but Uncle Qrow saved us, and I learned. I would never put Ruby in danger. I would die to protect her."
Summer sighed again, much longer this time. "Yang, I love you. I really do, but you've never been the one to put things in perspective. You've already failed."
"That's not true!" Yang yelled her eyes shifting over to red.
"Tantrums were another thing I remember dealing with often. I guess I'll have to provide you with some proof. Seeing is believing." Summer snapped her fingers and suddenly the both of them were in Beacon's infirmary.
It was where Ruby should have been resting, and Ruby was there; she just wasn't resting. She sat crossed-legged on top of her bed. She was rubbing at her eyes and crying. "Why does it hurt so much? Why doesn't it get any better? Why did Yang leave? Why isn't she here to help me."
Yang grew mortified as she looked over to Summer, who had that "I told you so" look that only parents could give.
"I'm right here," Yang said desperately. She tried to give Ruby a hug, but some kind of invisible wall stopped her. She pounded on it to no avail.
"I just can't take this anymore." Ruby took her hands away from her face, and Yang saw that Ruby hadn't been rubbing at her eyes but clawing at them. Red gashes covered everything her cheeks to her nose. Her eyes themselves were barely recognizable as the silver orbs that had looked up to Yang so many times. They were loose and deflated with clear liquid and pus dripping from where Ruby had dug her nails into them.
It was enough to make Yang want to vomit, but the show wasn't over yet. Ruby looked over to one of the side tables that just so happened to be pressed up against the invisible that Yang was pounding on. Ruby shouldn't have been able to see anything with what she had done to her eyes, but Yang had felt where her gaze had landed.
"No, Ruby don't!" Yang redoubled her efforts in trying to break down the wall. It didn't stop Ruby from climbing off the bed, walking across the room, grabbing the scalpel off the table and holding it to her neck. "RUBY! Stop. I promise I'll help you, so just hold on a little longer."
Ruby didn't respond and she didn't wait. With a look of complete peace, she slid the scalpel across her throat, and the spray of blood that came from it covered the invisible wall in its entirety.
"Ruby," Yang muttered as she pressed her forehead against the now red wall. "That, that—that didn't happen. It's not real."
Summer's soft steps echoed across the floor as she approached her daughter's back. She wrapped her arms around Yang's stomach and leaned her chin on her shoulder. "It's not, but it will be very soon if you don't do something."
"I'm doing everything I can," Yang cried. "I'm trying my best."
"I know you are, but at this pace, you're not going to make it back in time."
"Then what I'm I supposed to do?"
"You just need a bit of direction. Would you like me to show you what you need to know?"
Summer smiled and brought her hands up until they completely covered Yang's eyes. When they were removed, Summer had vanished and Yang found herself in yet another new place.
She was on a sandstone bridge that had supports going down into a pit of endless darkness. On either side of the bridge were cauldrons filled with twisting flames that produced even more twisted shadows. It was like she had stepped into a theatrical version of one of those ancient Vacuo temples.
But, none of that could compete with what was at the end of this sand dusted bridge. Sitting all alone, floating above a podium, was a bright blue flame. It flicked and burst with embers falling off it at such a rate that it looked like it was melting. Surrounding it on three sides were prostrating figures in grey robes. Yang didn't even have to look under them to know that they were dead. They had kept praying to the flame until their last breath.
Why wouldn't they? This flame had the answers to everyone's problems. It was as obvious as the sky was blue. It would show her how to save Ruby. It would give her the knowledge she was missing. It would answer any question she asked. She only had to touch it and all of it was hers. It was so simple.
Yang took one step forward and then another and another then another and another and another. She was basking in the flame's glow. Hope, safety, fulfillment the flame would provide it all. Knowledge was power and the flame was the most knowledgeable thing there was.
She reached the podium.
The flame beckoned her with promises of all that she could learn.
"Come on Yang. No need to be scared."
Yang moved her hand up to the fire. She could feel the flame reach out to her and the heat singed her fingers.
It was so close now.
"What are you doing!" Yang felt something tackle her and push her away from the flame's reach. She went down hard on her back, and before she could even think about getting up, Emerald planted her knees in her stomach. "I knew you were an idiot, but are you this easily swayed?" She slapped Yang across the face and then once more for good measure.
Yang's eyes blinked feverishly and coughed up a storm as if she had just been saved from drowning. Everything around her seemed to be different even if nothing had really changed. The fires burning in the cauldrons were just that as well as the shadows they produced. The cloaked corpses didn't have any divine purpose and the melting flame wasn't here to help her. It was here to kill her.
"Looks like you're back in your right mind. That's good. I wouldn't want to slap you until your cheeks went red." Emerald got off Yang's stomach and offered her a hand.
Yang took it and was pulled back up. "How did you get here?"
"Same way you did, I suppose. That thing," Emerald pointed at the blue flame, "pulled me here. Only difference is I was a little farther along the bridge and I'm not stupid enough to go and touch it. Seriously, what were you thinking."
Yang looked away feeling pretty embarrassed and humiliated. She couldn't explain what she had been thinking to Emerald even if she tried. She couldn't even explain it to herself. "It showed me things. I thought it could help me save Ruby."
"I think I can make a pretty good guess at what you saw, but that's not an excuse. You're lucky I was here to save you."
"But why were you here to save me?" Yang pointed out. "Why would that flame bring you her just to give you the chance to stop me."
Emerald shrugged. "Why don't we ask it ourselves." The girls turned their gaze to the blue flame waiting for a response, but all they got was an abrupt, precise feeling that it was pissed off.
"Guess that's all we're going to get," Emerald said. "We should get out of here. Jaune was never here in the first place."
"But how do we leave?"
Emerald smirked and turned to face the flame fully. "It's over now. You lost, so it's time to let us go." There was a hiss similar to the sound water sometimes made when it was being boiled. "Stop being such a crybaby and accept your defeat. There's no reason for you to keep us here any longer. There's nothing left that you can do."
Emerald was very much proven wrong when suddenly it felt like someone had stabbed their heads with an icepick as unfamiliar memories burrowed into their brains.
Yang knew what Emerald got immediately. It was the memories of the day that she had already been forced to relive. The day when she took Ruby out in that little red wagon and nearly got her killed. It was the memory she was most ashamed of and she had never shared it with anyone but her dad and Uncle Qrow. Not even Ruby knew, but now Emerald knew all of it.
In exchange, Yang got to know a piece of Emerald's past and it was…it was…
"Don't talk about it!" Emerald basically yelled knowing what Yang knew.
"I said don't!" Her hands were shaking and her fists were clenched so tight that her nails were starting to draw blood.
"You need to talk to someone."
"Why! It's over with. What happened, happened there's nothing to be done about it." Her breathing was rapid and her eyes were wide. It was like she was a wild animal ready to pounce at the first sign of trouble.
"You should at least tell Jaune," Yang tired.
"What does that have to do with Jaune? He doesn't need to know what happened, or are you saying that because of my feelings for him, he should have a right to know? Can't lead him on into thinking I'm something I'm not."
Yang realized what she was implying and quickly backpedaled. "I didn't mean it like that."
"Good, so then you'll drop it."
Yang supposed she had to. It really wasn't any of her business. "I just want to say I'm sorry."
Emerald huffed, but at least she looked like she was starting to calm down. "Don't be, I did what I had to do to survive."
"But no one should have to go through something that awful."
"Well, I did."
"If you ever need someone to talk to I'm—"
"I told you to drop it."
Yang finally did, but she knew the memory she had gained would stay with her until she died.
Emerald turned back to the flame which was definitely laughing at them even if they couldn't hear it. "You got your last little bit of petty revenge," she growled. "Now let us out of here."
Yang wasn't convinced the flame would comply, but soon enough the burning fires in the caldrons extinguished themselves one by one until only the master of all flames was left, and then that too disappeared leaving Yang and Emerald in complete darkness.
They were back where they started except instead of beads of light to guide their way, there was a single opening to the outside world. That was all that Yang needed to see to dash towards it. She was scared that it might all be a trick, and the door would shut before she could reach it, but she made it through and fell that last couple of feet as the stairs that had helped them into the upside-down tower were gone along with any remnants of what had occurred in there like the blood on Yang's face.
Emerald was right behind her and by the time Yang was able to turn back around the opening into the tower was already shut. That was fine with her. It would take an army of Huntsmen to force her back in there.
"We need to get moving," Emerald said, interrupting Yang's musings.
"I don't know, somewhere." Emerald scanned the horizon looking for anything that stuck out. "Jaune wasn't inside. We wasted our time. We have to find him."
Now that the danger of the tower was over with, Emerald was back into worrying mode. Yang could understand, but scouring the whole city for Jaune wasn't practical or healthy. The problem was that Emerald wasn't going to give up, and Yang didn't have any alternative plan to find him.
Luckily, she didn't have to come up with one because the man of the hour miraculously rounded the corner. Yang could hardly believe it, and if that was the case for her, Emerald must have completely floored, but there he was. Jaune, a little sweaty and looking a bit tired but no worse for wear, stood there with his jaw hanging open.
"Jaune," Emerald muttered.
He looked back and forth between the two girls like he had been caught changing his clothes. "What are you two doing here?"
Emerald obviously couldn't take it anymore and ran up to greet him. Yang thought it was pretty cute up until she smacked the back of his head with enough force that even Yang was cringing. "That's for telling us to leave you behind," she lectured as Jaune cradled his head.
"But now I get a hug for coming back to you, right?"
Emerald crossed her arms and moved back a few paces refusing Jaune his hug even if it was clear to Yang she had been about ready to do just that. Shame Jaune had to open his mouth. She went over to give him a pat on the back. "There's always next time."
"If I have to go through this city every time I want to even have the chance of getting a hug, I don't think I'm going to have very many chances."
"Oh, I wouldn't be so sure about that." Yang gave Emerald a very pointed look and wiggled her eyebrows. Emerald for her part ignored her. She had been so honest when it was just the two of them but now that the object of her affection was here, she was closing up. Looks like that smooch wasn't going to be happening.
It would have been a lot funnier if Yang hadn't learned what she did about Emerald's past.
"Anyway," Yang said both to get her mind away from those thoughts and because she really needed to know, "did you find anything that can help save my sister."
"Huh?" Jaune questioned.
"Ruby. My sister. The whole reason we're here. To find a cure for her." Yang sassed.
Jaune's eyes rolled off to the side like he was thinking about something else. It took a few moments for them to snap back forward. "Oh yeah," he exclaimed. "Sorry, I think Emerald's hit knocked my brain loose for a minute. I've got good news about that."
"Yeah, I found a place that was filled with information about all stores of things, and I think I figured out what we need."
Yang grabbed the collar of his shirt and started shaking him. "Where is it! We have to get it immediately!"
"Calm down," Jaune yelped, "between the two of you I'm going to get a concussion."
Yang realized what she was doing a quickly pulled her arms away, locking them behind her back so they wouldn't get into any more trouble. Guess she didn't have any right to criticize Emerald's excessively worrying after all.
Once Jaune seemed satisfied that he wasn't going to be attacked by his allies, he continued his report. "What we need is an advanced curse remover. Apparently, we can find one in the development district which from what I saw isn't too far from here."
"That's great!" Yang cheered. Saving Ruby was within their grasp.
Only Emerald noticed the way Jaune bit the bottom of his lip as he watched Yang give an early celebration. "That's more to it, isn't there?"
Jaune fidgeted with his feet before deciding it's best to just come out and say it. "Yeah, there is." That put an end to Yang's happy mood as both girls leaned in to hear him. "Removing a curse from the God of Death is not an easy thing to do. It's even worse since its power has been a part of her since she was born. If we remove it, it's possible she might go blind completely."
The silence lingered as Yang processed the full weight of those words. If Ruby lost her vision than her huntress career, her dream would probably be over. That wasn't even counting all the other things that would change if she lost her sight. It wouldn't be easy for her to adapt.
"Is there any other way?" Yang asked.
"I didn't find anything else," Jaune replied.
"What are the odds that she'll be okay?"
Yang took a deep breath. If it was between a suffering Ruby and a blind Ruby, Yang knew who she would choose, but this was Ruby's life they were talking about. Did she really have the right to make that decision for her? "We'll get the curse remover, then if we don't find anything better we'll go back to Beacon and ask Ruby what she wants to do."
Jaune and Emerald nodded, but they all knew that as long as the pain stopped, Ruby would say yes to anything without thinking. It wasn't really her decision at all. Yang had already made the call and everyone knew it. They were just kind enough to not point it out.
"Follow me then," Jaune said, "I'll lead us to the development district, but be careful. I have no idea what else we might find there."
Excerpt from a different book
What does the Relic of Madness want? Why does it do what it does? The answer isn't as complex as you might think. Like all know-it-alls, the Relic only seeks to tell others about its vast knowledge. It cares not what becomes to those that listen only that it shares with them because that's what it was made for.
Many people nowadays believe the upside-down tower to be the seat of the Relic's power but this couldn't be further from the truth. The tower, along with its many only functions, serves as the Relic's prison. The men who built it, long before even I was born, sought to find a way to use the Relic without suffering the consequences. The tower was their solution. By filtering the Relic's knowledge through layers of the user's own memories you could get an answer, even if they were often abstract, without having to touch the flame itself.
It more or less worked, but like all things, there's no perfect solution. The tower sometimes leaked, and even within the tower, the Relic would take advantage of the tower's systems to bring users to it. Safeguards were put in place like making it so if one user was caught and called to the Relic's room, all other users would come with them so the Relic couldn't keep a single user isolated in its presence.
Of course, safety measures only went as far as people were willing to use them, and there were plenty of people who sought out the Relic regardless of the consequences. Those who trusted the knowledge in the Relic more than the knowledge within their own minds.