If she was being honest with herself, Ruby knew that she was far from the best at keeping secrets or her composure in social events, but she knew the difference between serious matters and non-serious matters. In this case, having what looked like a future diary in her hands must be categorize as important especially when it was her own.
Presently, she'd found a quaint coffee shop near her favorite Valve comic store where she found herself nestled into the obscurest area at the corner where she hoped no one else would sit. Yang often told her to step out of her comfort zones and meet new people, and Ruby did have all the motivation, but it never seemed to work.
Hence, the quiet spot at the corner: Perfect.
It was the social loner thing to do, but it was a habit she was fine with keeping.
Yang called it childish, but Ruby wasn't a child anymore.
She was mature, and mature adults knew that when you were doing something dubious, you had to have a cover to not draw attention.
Carefully, Ruby placed her Valve comics in front of her overtop the table and pretended to read them while actually whispering discreetly to herself.
"Shirou, you really can't see this?" Ruby asked nervously.
Once more, Ruby was holding the 'Sword of Remnant' in her hands and gesturing in the spot she knew Shirou to be in spiritual form.
"No, I don't see anything," Shirou reaffirmed, though this time there was a tad more interest. Based on how Ruby was acting, Shirou could tell that it really didn't seem like this wasn't just another instance of silliness. "Is there something I should be seeing?"
Ruby nodded her head quickly. "A book, my book-and it's dis..ap.. …?" Ruby trailed off seconds after she'd started. Her future diary was practically fading away in her hands, and the moment she stopped talking, it became visible again.
"What book?" Shirou inquired curiously.
Ruby pursed her lips, looking from her future diary to Shirou, then back to her future diary.
No way, it couldn't be possible.
Ruby wet her lips and tried again. "It's called the Sword of-"
The diary flickered again, nearly fading completely. Ruby shut her mouth, and stopped talking, letting the diary slowly restabilize.
W-Was she not allowed to tell anyone?
Without warning, Ruby scrutinized her future diary and opened the first page where a line of text not in her own hand writing glowed.
[The smallest actions may lead to the greatest changes. As agreed, the flap of one's wings should belong solely to that sole butterfly]
-A veteran traveler.
A symbol of a butterfly flapping its wings followed the message before it all faded away.
"Master? You were saying?" Shirou asked after noting Ruby's long silence, and the peculiarity of her behaviour. She was jittery, eyes dilated in alarm.
"N-Nothing," Ruby waved the issue off, shutting down any of Shirou's further attempts to probe while feeling awful. It never felt good to brush away someone else's concern especially when you knew that they just wanted to help.
"If you say so," Shirou remarked skeptically before going silent but alert.
Ruby then took the opportunity to look over her Valve comics, but in actuality, she was staring right at her future diary laid out over the table. No one else but her seemed able to see it, no matter how many times she glanced at others to verify.
'Remnant Calendar, Year XXXX…' She read inwardly, her heart palpitating wildly in her chest.
The entire situation seemed just like a Valve comic she'd once read, and she was freaking out. This particular genre of comic generally meant that something horrible must have happened in the future and this diary was the propelling device to change things for the better…it was now in her hands.
This couldn't be real, right?
Ruby swallowed, recalling her uncle and father's words never to just jump to conclusions. Somehow or someway, she had to verify the diary's authenticity.
She glanced at the diary's closest future entry and gasped when she realized who it would involve.
Without warning, she leapt out of her seat, grabbed her belongings, and left the coffee shop in a flutter of rose petals.
It never occurred to her that her actions only made Shirou more suspicious.
Vale's downtown district wasn't much different from that of the other kingdoms in that it wasn't difficult to know just what part of town to stay out of for ordinary civilians.
Yang Xiao Long was not an ordinary civilian. Her parents were both exceptional Huntsmen, and she was raised to follow in her father's footsteps.
Beacon Academy for Huntsmen and Huntresses would open its starting semester soon. Its entrance ceremony was practically around the corner, and she would be a student there.
Things like back alleys and the shadier parts of Vale shouldn't scare her considering she had her Aura unlocked and the most she should face are inexperienced gangsters or those without Aura. In which case, all that was left was her own naivety and inexperience.
Around her were walled side streets lined with bricks, toppled garbage cans, and low-rise wires connecting electricity to the buildings in the area grid.
There was once a time where she'd first come here without any real idea about what to expect. She'd naively thought that any real information broker could provide her the relevant information she'd need to locate her mother, but acute disappointment and a sense of abandonment had changed all that.
The squelch of discarded trash crunched underfoot as Yang wasn't paying too much attention to what she was stepping. It was almost stereotypical how dirty these back alleys were and the fact that thieves and criminals would call it home, but admittedly, filthy places did have the effect of repulsing others.
In any case, she was just distracting herself by observing the surroundings.
She was feeling nervous, anxious even.
This occasion would mark the first time she was breaking a promise with Archer not to go back to Vale's Underground district since it wasn't safe. However, things were different now. The word 'safe' could be worked around. She was trained, strong, and capable.
An independent woman one might say searching for her destined one.
A fated reunion after years apart.
It was almost romantic when Yang put things this way, and the girlish nature behind her head-strong character bled through in the blush forming over her cheeks.
At her side secured by a strap to her left thigh was the dagger Archer had given her all those years ago. Even now, she still staunchly believed that if she was ever truly in danger, she could think of Archer and he'd surely be there for her. Yang didn't even let Ruby fiddle or inspect it and Ruby was a weapon's nut.
It was practically her life-saving treasure from this perspective and was of personal importance to her for the sentimental value it carried.
-Surely one day, the feelings connecting you and I will draw us together forever more.
The line of a drama passed through her mind, shivers running down her spine.
There was once a time she never understood all the hype her friends in school got all excited about when talking about boys and secret crushes, but now she actually started enjoying those conversations.
Imagining a future with her significant other had her feeling all giddy and dazed, let alone getting the courage to ask him out on a date without blowing it.
Of course, she never answered who her crush was at all when asked, as the looks her friends would give her would be too embarrassing.
She clapped her cheeks, her hands then moving to tidy her hair up to impress. She'd grown it back from her father's former bob-cut, and losing it once practically got her to cherish it even more now.
Junior's bar was just within sight, and she'd gotten a lead that a member of the Rose Mercenaries was seen inside.
This was Yang's chance to join after her efforts were foiled numerous times by Ruby.
Yang was frustrated with her younger sister, but she just couldn't stay mad at her for long. Ruby must have her reasons, and Yang assumed that it must be because their dad threatened Ruby's cookie supply to get her to be this motivated.
Regardless, the past was the past, and the moment was now.
Yang stepped into Junior's bar, ignoring the blaring music from the nearby dance floor in order to observe the surroundings within.
Yang would never admit it as it would ruin her image as a tough girl, but she was the most avid follower of the Rose Mercenaries. She could recognize all known members from just their figures and demeanor alone.
Said known members were currently the Archer, the tag-along Emerald, the strangely familiar Scarlet, the colourful Neo, and the slouched Orange-hair who always refused to give out his name due to street rep or something. Each moniker was one Yang had personally tagged to each Mercenary and weren't truly official.
In any case, her almost obsessiveness meant she could practically zero in on any member of the Rose Mercenaries whether they were hiding in a crowd or not.
Unknown to Yang, but Junior's bar was supposed to be an agreed hang out spot of the Rose Mercenaries where they wouldn't have to deal with publicity. Junior's bodyguards and staff made sure of that normally, but today was going to be different.
Soon enough, Yang's sources regarding a sighting of the Rose Mercenaries proved fruitful.
Her eyes narrowed, focusing on a remote counter near the corner of Junior's bar, not hidden but not too out in the open either.
It was a figure she wouldn't fail to recognize as a staunch follower of anything related to the Rose Mercenaries and by proxy, Archer.
The green Rose Mercenary, Emerald.
Emerald was sitting right there with her mask still on two tables away from a man and woman she seemed put off by.
The man's face looked kind of familiar, but unlike Emerald, the man and the woman who sat next to him weren't wearing the iconic Rose Mercenary masks. Hence, Yang lost interest in them fast despite Roman Torchwick and Neopolitan being actual members of the group. Roman frankly just hated the getup to the bones, no class, and no effort to looking stylish.
Ironically, Yang would have noticed Roman and Neo, mask or no mask, if she had just chose to pay more attention to them with her knowledge of the Rose Mercenaries.
Unfortunately, Yang's target was Emerald since as far as Yang was concerned, they had beef with each other.
Gathering her courage and hyping herself up by comparing who had the bigger guns, she strutted forward and took the seat next to Emerald's by the counter.
"Orange sunrise, with the little umbrella overtop," Yang said deceptively calm to the bar keep despite the emotions she was feeling. She then turned to Emerald while waiting for her drink, tilting her head almost cockily. "So, you're Emerald."
"Yup," Emerald replied blandly, not even trying to deny it before glancing over at Yang. "Who's asking? Listen though, but I don't do autographs."
The friendliness of Yang's features was somewhat strained as an eyelid twitched irritably. "The name's Ms. Blondkickass, and I'm not here for an autograph," she said as civilly as she could, but this time it was difficult to hide the resentment in her tone.
Yang couldn't help it. The feeling was akin to suddenly seeing another woman sidling up to your crush- no actually, that was exactly it! And it didn't feel good at all.
Emerald's threat level had only ever been increasing when Yang heard unfounded rumours that Emerald could be Archer's woman or significant other. It was only made worse as Emerald never tried to deny it, and Archer was too elusive to get an answer from.
"Ah, I get it. She's an Archer fan." Roman spoke up with mirth and 'realization' in his eyes, one hand adjusting the bowler's hat over his head.
Yang grew flustered as it was practically the truth. "I-I'm here to join the Rose Mercenaries as Archer's real partner," she declared while the going was good.
Roman raised a brow towards Emerald who grunted before Roman snorted. "Another bitch you'll take upon yourself to shield Archer away from?"
Emerald gnashed her teeth in bitter reminder of past occasions. "Shut it, Torchwitch."
Roman spluttered indignantly.
"It's wick, Torchwick, ugh," Roman shook his head dejectedly. A Master thief disrespected by a mere sidekick, and he couldn't even do anything about it precisely because it was the Bossman's sidekick. What did his life come down to?
A hand patted Roman's shoulder in consolation, but when Roman turned to see Neopolitan handing him his drink from the bar with a little sticky note labeled 'Torchwitch,' he gritted his teeth.
Roman turned to stare at the bar counter and saw Junior nonchalantly wiping a glass with a white cloth. Obviously, he was the one who stuck the sticky note.
Oh, fuck you too. Roman signed.
Neo's shoulders trembled up and down as she inwardly indulged in her own mirth and amusement.
Neo was enjoying this, then again, Roman always knew she found the mask and gigs of the Rose Mercenaries to be amusing. They wore masks and were practically dressed in colours of the rainbow. That Scarlet chick was red, Neo was mainly pink, hell they even had green with Emerald while Roman qualified as orange.
'And now there's a yellow trying to weasel in.' Roman morbidly glanced at Yang. 'If I can't weasel out, then you shouldn't be able to weasel in.'
Yeah, there was a sick and twisted sort of amusement in the fact that a renowned mercenary group could pass off as a kid's power troopers' cartoon, but Yang looked like she wanted to fight tooth and nail for it. It didn't help that Emerald actually held the group in high regard.
"As if anyone could just join the Rose Mercenaries," Emerald said icily, her arms crossed. "If the only reason you want to join is because of Archer, then you're not qualified. Archer doesn't need someone like you when he already has me," and there in-lied the true reason Emerald was being so standoffish, and Yang knew it:
An innate skill among women to discern one another with critical eyes.
Neo sat by Roman's side and prepared to watch a show, her legs crossing over her thighs while Roman slid a neopolitan parfait Neo's way. She beamed at the offering, looking much livelier these days.
To be fair, this was one of the plus sides Roman considered in his relegation from Master Thief to Rose Mercenary 'chief of espionage and groundwork,' as he liked to dub it.
Anyways, time for some entertainment.
Like Neo, Roman prepared to watch a good show. It was no secret that Archer was practically Emerald's idol, and considered herself Archer's partner for the past three years. It even showed in how she tried to emulate him as best as she could in any given scenario, and now that someone suddenly came declaring herself to be Archer's 'real' partner, Emerald wasn't going to take that lying down.
"Your application is rejected on Archer's behalf," Emerald said flatly before shooing Yang off like all the rest before her. However, Yang certainly wasn't going to fall into the 'all the rest,' category.
Teeth gritted, Yang balled her hands into fists as if trying to wring Emerald's neck. "You can't just decide that."
"As the person who's spent the most time with Archer, I just did," Emerald narrowed her eyes. 'What are you going to do about it? Nothing, that's right.'
Emerald snorted and dismissively turned her cheek to Yang.
'Fight! Fight! Fight!' Neo mouthed while Junior looked grew aghast.
Yang narrowed her eyes, her upper body leaning forward almost provokingly. "Alright Emerald, as if that's even your real name-"
"It is, Ms. BlondKickass," Emerald enunciated every word.
Yang grudgingly shut her mouth at that point, knowing full well that Emerald was taking a dig at her. Ms. BlondKickass was a wanted criminal, and attaching Yang's actual name to that moniker wouldn't be good for her hair and her social image.
"-I'll have you know that Archer and I go way back to when we first met here in Vale," Yang finished speaking, almost gloating when she noticed Emerald grow alarmed at the revelation.
"Junior," Emerald called to verify.
Junior's bar wasn't just a legal establishment but a bonafide information broker organization with Junior at its head. If anything happened in Vale's underground, Junior would know.
"It's not well known, but there was a case of a Ms. Blondkickass tagging up with Archer," Junior clarified. "I answered honestly, so no violence in the bar. Take it outside."
"See?" Yang parroted from higher ground. "Archer and I go way back. I'm his real partner, and the only reason I wasn't with him was because he was worried about me and told me to stay out of Vale's shadier places. I'm stronger now, and have returned. The stand in can shoo to the side," Yang looked at her nails, another hand brushing back several strands of her silky golden locks that wafted with the aroma of a summer's breeze.
The echo of teeth gnashing was music to Yang's ears.
"Are you sure he wasn't just trying to get rid of you? You seem pretty useless, naïve, and green." Emerald sneered contemptuously, her legs uncrossing from where she sat in order to stand on her feet and loom threateningly next to Yang. "Someone who doesn't know the hardship of going hungry or stealing just to live can never understand Archer like I do!"
"As if you'd even know me!" Yang retaliated by standing up on her own feet and squaring up with Emerald. The two were practically butting heads. "Listen here, you hustler. You can't make light of another's feelings as if you knew how strongly they felt! You have no idea what he and I have been through and what he's done for me!"
Emerald scoffed. "I don't need to know anything in order to know that someone less capable than I has no place by Archer's side. My talent impressed him enough to give me a place in the Mercenaries, whilst you didn't make the cut."
Yang was seeing red, tufts of her hair shifting crimson as heat built up around her.
From a third person's perspective, Emerald's account was exactly what had happened to her all those years ago, but the emotions and concerns were all cast out.
Yang was no fool. She'd seen the way Archer seemed to care for her and her safety. To just say that she was pushed aside because she was too weak hurt since at the time, she had been too weak.
Suddenly, Yang recalled how Archer had stepped up for her against Raven. Emerald's words practically casting the meaning and heartfelt sentiments of that moment aside.
It was beyond insensitive.
Yang still reeled from Raven's rejection of her even now.
Her arms trembled, her muscles tensing in hot anger, and then a speeding blur of roses smacked into her.
"Yang!" Ruby appeared, trying to drag Yang away, but failing due to poor physical strength.
Ruby's arms only managed to drape around Yang's neck while trying to make her budge to no avail.
"R-Ruby?" Yang spluttered at the sudden attack. Then came indignation that her innocent little sister was in a bar Yang had walked into. "What are you doing here?!"
"A favour, Yang!" Ruby pushed off from her futile grip on Yang and started tugging on her arms instead.
Lip twitching, Yang grabbed at Ruby.
"Yang stop, you can't pull my cheeks! Don't fight me!" Ruby whined, red creeping up her neck as she worked herself into a fluster.
"Don't fight you? What are you even trying to do?!" Yang opened and closed her mouth before settling on her main priority. "Just leave me alone for a bit, I'm trying to deal with a situation." Yang pointed temperamentally at Emerald.
Ruby blinked incredulously, stopping her resistance against Yang all together to stare Yang in the face.
"Yang, you're pointing to a table! Snap out of it before a larger crowd gathers!"
Huh? Yang pressed her eyes closed once then twice before she realized that she was indeed pointing at a table, an aloof Emerald gloating at her. It didn't take a genius to know who was at fault here.
"…Bitch," Yang spat out through her teeth.
"See? Couldn't even get out of that illusion on your own. As if Archer and the Rose Mercenaries needs a brute like you," Emerald hmphed and craned her chin up, her arms crossing. "Other than Scarlet, I'm all that Archer needs."
Seemingly justified, Emerald took this moment to make her exit, strutting out as if she towered head-over-heels over Yang.
"Wait, come back!" Yang growled.
It was too late. Emerald had departed out of the bar and took off on a parked motorcycle whereas Yang had taken to walking and was without her own.
Opening and closing her hands, yet finding no one suitable to vent her anger, she bottled it all in, half her hair a shiny crimson.
Without warning, she marched up to where Roman and Neo had placed themselves to watch a fight that sadly didn't happen.
"Yang, what are you doing!" Ruby called in panic.
Yang didn't answer, eyes focused instead on Roman. "Hey, where's Emerald going?"
"You're asking me?" Roman perked up a brow while Neo had a roguish glint of amusement in her eyes while tugging on Roman's sleeve.
'Do it. Do it,' Neo's features practically screamed, and who was Roman to refuse Neo's request?
"She's probably going to Anima on a mission regarding some renowned bandit tribe making trouble for the locals," Roman divulged without remorse. He shrugged uncommittedly. "Maybe if you pull her job off better than her, she'll have no way to refuse your qualifications to join the Rose Mercenaries."
'Nice one,' Neo signalled to Roman.
'Better take the next bullhead if you want to catch up to her before she completes the mission. She's Archer's right-hand woman so she's quite efficient,' Neo signed from her scroll, setting Yang off in a bout of jealousy.
It was an ugly emotion really, but one that everyone eventually feels in their life.
"No, she's not! She's second fiddle! I can do whatever she does better! I was the first!" Strands of Yang's hair lifted from a growing breeze, embers momentarily burning in a turbulent aura around her.
Instantly, she made up her mind, locking Ruby in place with her gaze.
"Ruby let's go!"
"Home?" Ruby asked precociously, batting her eyelids before her continence slowly fell at Yang's prolonged silence. "Home, right?" She tried again.
"Yaaannng," Ruby had crocodile tears while being dragged along at Yang's whims from the hood of her cloak.
The entry written in Ruby's future diary told Ruby that something was going to visibly upset Yang today, and that it was probably best to rein her in before it was too late.
What was the point in trying to change anything if she ended up only getting herself dragged along…No wait! Things really were happening like the diary had specified.
If Ruby just verified that the diary was real, then what about the thing with Archer!
Ruby had no time for this. "Yang, Yang stop! Let me go!" She squirmed despite the disparity in her physical strength vs her sister's.
Yang wasn't in the mood to listen, lips pursed and fighting spirit invoked. "I'm not letting you tattle me on dad this time!"
But she wasn't going to!
Ruby felt utterly wronged, yet this was her own fault after numerous occasions where she'd intercepted Yang.
A classic example of the girl who cried wolf.
'Shirou, Shirou help!' Ruby pleaded.
"How?" If Shirou materialized he'd instantly cause a scene and only add to the troubles.
Ruby slumped, her body going slack in Yang's grip while her heels dragged over the floor.
This wasn't how things were supposed to go!
As Yang dragged Ruby out of the premise of Junior's bar, Summer who'd been discreetly hiding within one of the stalls stepped out, her expression beneath her mask unreadable.
As stated before, Junior's bar was a prime hangout location for the Rose Mercenaries, and Summer would rather spend her time here than cooped up alone in Beacon before the new semester started. Besides, with Archer gone to the Grimmlands, it her job to supervise the group.
It just so happened that the sight of Summer's two daughters appearing at the bar had taken her full attention to the point that she'd deigned to eavesdrop.
Summer didn't like what she'd just heard, and was soon walking to another part of the boor that was less accessible than the first floor. It was a private room on the second with numerous private booths lining both sides of the room's walls.
With purpose, Summer ended up entering one particular booth team STRQ used to frequent back when Junior's bar was more of a local establishment than an information brokerage.
Shifting aside the cloth at the entrance of this particular private booth, Summer stepped in and sat across from a woman already on her second mug of alcohol.
"Summer," the woman greeted flatly.
"Raven," Summer replied back equally flat.
Raven had mellowed considerably over the years after the thrashing and wakeup call from Summer. Ever since then, the relationship between former team members was estranged, more on Raven's end than anything. This was due to one reason alone.
The first signs of regret and guilt were eating away at Raven at the prospect that she may have made a mistake in her life's decisions. It was dismaying when she thought that she'd left too early before Ozpin could pull out his secret trump card in Archer.
It was one thing if Salem truly was unbeatable, making all efforts both futile and suicidal; hence the reason she left, but it was another thing entirely when there seemed to exist a solution to put her down for good.
Possibility itself could provoke fortitude and fighting spirit.
In the end though, she'd turned her back on Tai and even Yang to go back and lead her tribe.
Could she have done things differently had she have known of Archer's presence? It was hard to say, but with the prospect of an actual victory rather than mere stalling of the inevitable, perhaps she'd still be with Tai and their little dragon.
No. Stop thinking about that. Actions already taken are useless to dwell over.
Raven grabbed her drink and took a long sip before wiping her mouth and regarding Summer.
Every time they met; it was a reminder of her mistake.
Wetting her lips, Raven rolled her eyes to stare into Summer's own. "What do you want, Summer? Come to convince me to make up with Yang again?" She drawled.
Summer was having none of the usual banter.
"Yang's going to Anima."
The words caused Raven to still before she swallowed and acted as if she wasn't affected by the news in the slightest.
"What do you mean 'and'?" Summer snapped in outrage. "She's following Emerald to one-up her on a mission to investigate a renowned group of bandits! Sound familiar?!"
Raven's glass suddenly shattered as she gripped it too tightly, features hardening almost in alarm and a trace of apprehension. Shards of glass clattered over the ground where the spilled drink splattered into a haphazard mess.
Jaw thinning into a line, Raven didn't say anything despite the wavering in her eyes.
"No more excuses Raven. You can't always be a coward," Summer tried, she really did to get the old Raven back, but it was the same result again.
Defensive and biting.
"Looks who's talking," Raven gritted her teeth, and spat back venomously. "We both left Tai, and we're both staying away from our daughters. You have no right to lecture me about things you yourself are guilty of!"
Summer chocked out a sob, her throat bobbing from repressing her own emotions. Mist covered her eyes as she shuddered, unable to refute the statement, but not without an outburst that struck Raven harder than any physical blow.
"At least I have the determination to try like the old Raven would have!" Summer walked away, chasing after her daughters.
The old Raven.
Team STQR, the team that could do anything no matter how dangerous so long as there was a chance.
Raven sat listlessly alone in silence seemingly unaffected, yet if one looked close enough, one would see her fingers trembling, the light in her pupils dimming.
Not too far off, and in his own private booth, Qrow who'd remained hidden from the two in another section of the bar minding his own business sighed ruefully in pity. His two former team members had done a piss poor job at controlling the volume of their voices.
If there was one person who could understand and read Raven well enough, it was Qrow.
Raven may appear fine and unfettered, but from Qrow's perspective, she seemed miserable, and this time, with no one by her side to mitigate anything.
The laughing and warm Taiyang was gone, the cheerful Summer was fed up with her, and Qrow himself no longer knew how to approach her lightly.
She was making her sad face.
You reap what you sow, sister.
Qrow took in a breath and shook his head.
You broke your own rule.
A bandit shouldn't live with regrets, always sure of their decision.
Qrow stayed sober enough just to hear the sound of a portal being ripped open and Raven stepping through…
Thanks for reading! And thanks to my newest Patron: Jordan G!
Next update: TBA
P a treon. com (slash) Parcasious
The Lonely Peak
New Book: Out on Amazon (Remove dash on link)
Survivor's Log Reflection: Amazon.c-om/dp/B08VDDGN7Z?