It all happened so fast.

One moment Yang was sitting on the spectator seats, leaning forward with anticipation as two of Beacon's strongest teams were about to challenge the other, and in the next, she was free falling.

Gritting her teeth, Yang thought back to a second before when Cursed Arm appeared with an unknown woman beside him.

BEyond the confusion, everything went to hell from there.

The Vytal festival venue exploded and the systems designed to keep the floating arena floating were destroyed. The blast, heat, and force of the sudden event ejected all spectators and participants through the air.

Worse, the sudden onset of Grimm the woman by Cursed Arm had somehow conjured were all heading to Vale proper. It didn't take much imagination to realize the gravity of the situation once those Grimm reached the ground.


Yang yelled mentally. She was told that a certain power now lay within her. An incredible power that only existed within four women at any time throughout Remnant.

Lightning crackled around her, the urgency fueling her Semblance.

Darkness was swallowing the Vytal Festival attendance, Cursed Arm's figure blurring as he killed countless people.

"We have to do something!" Yang screamed at her team, but the response was muted by the wind.

Squinting her eyes, Yang glanced around her and noticed the tension on everyone's faces. Even Blake looked like she'd seen a ghost, the banter between them utterly silent.

Yang was the only one who had not gone to Forever Fall, making her ignorant of the threat Cursed Arm imposed. Her impression was built up on the explanations of her classmates and warnings from her uncle Qrow alone.

She was still of the notion that if she could just get close enough, she could slog him right across the face!

Regardless, there was no answer to Yang's scream. The wind pressure was pushing everyone apart, and each had to focus on a landing strategy before they could even think of helping others.

Yang had no choice but to do the same.

Shifting Ember Celica into gun mode, she began offshooting shotgun shells to reduce the speed of her fall.

Near her, Yang noted Jaune raise the banner in his hand and produce a barrier of light that enveloped himself and those near him in a protective dome.

At least those near Jaune would be safe, but that wasn't Yang's concern as she noted the flicker of red in the distance.

"RUBYYYY!" Yang screamed as she noticed Ruby drifting in the opposite direction of everyone else in free fall.

The recoil of Ruby's sniper rifle and the wind dragging her by the cape was pushing her further and further away. Which was incredibly bad.

Priorities shifting, Yang began to angle the recoil of her shotgun blasts in the direction of her sister.

However, goosebumps suddenly ran down her arms when Cursed Arm suddenly appeared in front of her.

"?!" Her eyes widened as her breath caught in her throat.

She reacted quickly, trying to strike at him, but her right hook was caught by Cursed Arm's left hand before his twisted right arm made a grab for her face.

'Don't let his hand touch you. It activates a deadly curse.'

Archer's lectures and the warnings of her fellow classmates caused Yang's complexion to pale before lightning crackled around her and zapped at Cursed Arm, suddenly beating him back.

Cursed Arm glanced at the shock damage over his hand without a word or intonation of pain. The bastard just opened and closed his palm before setting his sights firmly on Yang again.

"YANG BE CAREFUL!" Blake finally found her voice and screamed in the distance, but Yang couldn't even hear her.

Twisting her body, Yang dived down faster to avoid another swipe of Cursed Arm's right arm, but fell victim to an unexpected kick to her face.

Spittle flew as Aura blunted the damage, but Yang was disorientated.

Cursed Arm did not miss the opportunity.

Dashing towards Yang, Cursed Arm's right hand came short of touching Yang by less than a finger's width.

A layer of green protective magic surrounded Yang and forcibly pulled her away to where Ozpin and the other teachers who attended the Vytal festival were falling. James Ironwood was valiantly shooting at the Grimm while trusting Ozpin to land their fall.

"Focus Xiaolong!" Ozpin warned. "You are a target!"

Around Ozpin, Summer hardened her expressions at the reminder. Ruby had told her that Yang had been the original target for Cursed Arm in Forever Fall. With Yang not being there, it was Glynda, Oobleck, and Port who perished instead.

Yang gritted her teeth, the wind whipping her hair back. Her uncle Qrow had already stressed that there would be people after her due to the power she inherited, but only now was the true danger sinking in.

"What about Ruby?!" Yang said, no longer able to see where her sister or any of her other classmates were falling.

Fending off Cursed Arm had deteriorated her situational awareness and separated her from her classmates.

"Trust in your sister and she will be fine. She is a student of Beacon as are you." Ozpin said, pulling Yang behind him and glaring at the woman Cursed Arm had brought. "There's more at stake here than I have to explain!"

Ozpin conjured another green shield as the woman launched a ray of magic energy towards him.

Grunting, Ozpin suddenly stopped falling and hovered as magic energy surrounded him.

Now both Ozpin and the Grimm Woman were floating across from each other using some sort of magic.

"I will handle her." Ozpin said, speaking not towards Yang, but to Summer and James near her. "We cannot lose another Maiden. As headmaster, let me issue one final mission to a retired team of Huntsmen and Huntresses. Team STRQ, protect the Spring Maiden!"

"Ozpin!" Summer yelled in her guise as Scarlet, but she had no choice but to shield her eyes as Ozpin's magic clashed with Salem's.

Gritting her teeth, Summer moved towards Yang and focused on Cursed Arm.

A pair of black brids appeared next to Cursed Arm before turning into Qrow and Raven, each striking with their weapons from either side, but in a show of sheer agility, Cursed Arm evaded both.

Raven clicked her tongue while Qrow cursed.

James leveled a shot at Cursed Arm, but the shadow around Cursed Arm morphed into a bottomless hole and swallowed the bullet, causing James to click his tongue.

"Winter! Assist the civilians!" James ordered Winter who was striding through the air on floating glyphs and heading to strike Cursed Arm from the back.

"B-But general!" Winter stammered.

"You're worried about your sister." James got straight to the point, causing Winter to react by pursing her lips. "Go. We will handle him."

Winter balled her hands into fists, but nodded and headed in the direction where the majority of Beacon's students were falling.

The ground was coming fast, but Cursed Arm made another lunge towards Yang, but was intercepted again by a new arrival.

"Get away from my daughter!"

Cursed Arm blocked with a side arm guard as a gauntleted fist hit him from the side and forced him into a retreat.

"D-Dad?" Yang could only stare in wonder as her dad, Tai Xiaolong appeared.

The only way it would have been possible was if her dad had been in the Vytal festival stands when it had happened.

In the next second, everyone hit the ground.

Qrow and Raven returned to their avian forms to soften the blow before shifting back into humans.

Summer scattered into white roses and then reformed, while James and Tai cratered the area beneath them, using their Aura to tank the impact.

Meanwhile Yang was caught in someone else's arms before being gently let down.

"A-Archer?" Yang stammered in surprise.

"Sorry I'm late," Archer said, staring at 'Cursed Arm.'

Archer had subtly separated from the Grimm Shadow by dematerializing and was now letting the shadow pose as Cursed Arm. Unlike in Vermillion, with Salem present, she would be the one controlling the Grimm Shadow.

It would be difficult considering Salem was also fighting against Ozpin, but Salem was a more capable sorcerer than Ozpin who was formerly a knight.

"Nice of you to show up," Qrow said solemnly to Archer while getting into a combat stance.

"I was busy shooting at Grimm who made it into Vale. There were too many. The city is in chaos." Archer muttered while putting Yang behind him.

The air grew wary at the reminder of a sudden invasion, but attention refocused.

Unlike their landing, Cursed Arm hardly made a sound as he landed on his feet across from them.

On one side, Archer, Raven, Tai, Qrow, Yang, and James stood, while on the other Cursed Arm was alone.

Summer wet her lips, her grip tightening around her weapon.

The odds were in their favour.

Floating above the battlefield in the original spot of the Vytal Festival's floating arena, Ozpin stared grimly at Salem.

He'd never thought Salem would take this sort of approach after decades of keeping to herself in the depths of the Grimmlands. It was unnecessary for her to personally intervene as her greatest advantage she had over Ozpin and the people of Remnant was her Grimm.

Although quite a number of Grimm were flooding into Vale, the numbers still paled in comparison to Salem's homebase.

Salem was immortal, but she wasn't reckless. Ozpin could have her detained and sealed away if he couldn't kill her, but this entire situation proved her hubris.

"Is this what it has come down to?" Ozpin sneered at Salem.

Admittedly, Ozpin was not at his best.

Salem was better in the arts of magic and sorcery, and it didn't help that Ozpin had divided his power into the Four Maidens. What he had left was a far cry from the height of his power in the past while Salem should have retained her full strength.

Detaining her or not, this wasn't going to be easy.

"Where are you getting your confidence?" Ozpin brandished his cane and placed it in front of him. "Is it that Cursed Arm? He's strong, I will admit it, but not infallible."

Vermillion was proof of that, and those very same people that repelled Cursed Arm were present here!

The Grimm were one thing, but if Salem is defeated here and now, the losses could be justified. If sacrifices were needed, then he was prepared to see them through and deal with the consequences later.

"Ozpin." Salem answered with a determined expression. Hope was what had made her act, and it was hope that drove her to see through this operation. "You do not know the depth of what is to come."

Ozpin hardened his expression as the both of them flared their Aura.

Salem stared back, not expecting Ozpin to understand.

It would be difficult to fight two battles at once, but Salem didn't live this long to still live the life of damsel in distress.

In Ozpin's hand, he drew forth a misappropriated sword he thought he'd never wield again, while Salem pulled out a wand.

Screams echoed through the air, explosions, mixing with the groan of destroyed buildings. Metal warped and cement cracked and shattered as numerous Grimm fell from the sky and into Vale's streets.

The Vytal festival participants that had landed from the destroyed arena lay witness as the Grimm made their appearance and started wreaking havoc.

A woman screamed as an armored Beowulf lunged to bite her in half, but a bullet through the eyes had the Grimm fading into motes of black ash.

"There are Grimm everywhere!" Pyrrha yelled, staring down the line of her mech-shift weapon she'd just fired from. "We need to help the civilians evacuate!"

"Evacuate them where?!" Weiss pursed her lips while using her glyphs and Dust to freeze enemies and save people from falling rubble and debris.

Weaving through the crowds, Ren silently snuck up on an Ursa and dispatched it with a flawless cut through the neck.

"There are too many," Ren frowned, searching for Nora and finding her in the direction of explosions and the heavy impacts of a hammer.

"Tch," Ector clicked his tongue while raising his shield to block the feathers of a circling Nevermore.

"Weiss, can you find Neo or Ruby?!" Pyrrha asked.

"No," Weiss shook her head as she returned to the ground with a group of civilians following behind her. "They may have fallen elsewhere."

"Don't worry about Neo. I saw her fall that way," Emerald spoke up while reloading Dust rounds into her weapon. Meanwhile, Ector acted as a vanguard to stop Grimm from approaching.

"Then we have to go help her," Blake said as she and Nora finished clearing their side of Grimm.

Their expressions were tense. Both of them had seen Yang trying to fend off Cursed Arm in the fall.

The teams had all been scattered and it was a miracle they were able to land so close to each other.

"Neo will be fine," Emerald insisted.

Knowing Neo, she was probably out looking for Roman. More than her teammates, Neo's relationship with Roman was far stronger, and Vale was now a battlefield.

Emerald shook her head to sort her thoughts before stating what was most important. "We have to find where Jaune landed."

It was the most rational choice. Everyone had seen first hand that Jaune's barrier was the effective shield against Cursed Arm's shadow and even Cursed Arm himself. It would also heal the wounded in its glow.

Silence followed Emerald's words as the group considered them.

Blake and Nora were all for it. Just as they saw Yang getting attacked, Jaune did too and tried to get close to her.

However, their fearless leader didn't have the best landing strategy and was blown away in the wind, leading him to be separated from everyone. The only merit was that the glow of Jaune's banner saved many lives that managed to fall inside of it.

"I think he's that way." Ector said bluntly while looking beyond the destruction towards a patch of sky illuminated with a soft white glow.

There was no one in Beacon or those who'd seen the battle in Mt. Glenn who wouldn't recognize that light.

The group nodded to each other.

"Rally to the banner, and we'll save as many as we can on the way!"

No. No. NO.

It was all going wrong.

Ruby bit down on her lips while staring at the chaos befalling Vale.

Due to the trajectory of her descent, she'd fallen just within the perimeter of the city of Vale. She'd need to tax herself while using her Semblance to get anywhere near the fighting at the center of the city, and the point would be moot if she'd be exhausted upon arrival.

Rather than a help, she'd be a liability.

Shirou was fighting his own battle against another incoming group of Grimm so he wasn't anywhere nearby.

What was she supposed to do?

Ruby pursed her lips and tried to think. It wasn't working. Everything was coming short, but perhaps it was also a blessing that Ruby was where she was.

A strong gust of wind and a loud roar had her wobbling on her feet, her hands flailing as she maintained her balance and turned to face the direction of the disturbance.

Her silver eyes widened in horror at the sight above her.

It was massive, jogging Ruby's memories of her time in Mt. Glenn.

Elder Dragon.

The name came unbidden, along with the growing panic of what it represented.

Ruby was no fool. Her battle instincts were always on point, and if that Dragon was anything like the one in Mt. Glenn, then it played host to thousands of other Grimm stored or produced within it!

S-She couldn't let that Dragon reach Vale, or any efforts at saving the city were doomed.

Worse, the dragon wasn't alone.

It was difficult to make out, but the silhouette of a woman was standing atop the dragon's head.

The woman was riding the Grimm Dragon that Salem had conjured and was heading towards the city.

Crescent Rose mecha-shifted without a second thought, Ruby going through the motions and bracing her weapon on its supports while placing her finger around the trigger mechanism.

Ruby aimed and fired a high-caliber Dust Sniper round without hesitation at the Dragon's snout.

"Stop right there!" She screamed.

A burst of fire stopped Ruby's shot dead in its tracks, the Dragon roaring before reducing altitude at the beckoning of its rider.

Heels came into view first, followed by an elegant red dress that wrapped around the woman's curves.

Fair skin, ashen black hair, and bright amber eyes filled with ambitions.

The description itself came unbidden to Ruby's mind because she'd read it before.

It was her.

"Cinder Fall…?" Ruby felt her stomach dropping from equal parts nerves and loathing as the Dragon stopped to a hover a short distance from Ruby.

This woman, Cinder, had been the cause of many of the unfortunate things that Ruby had read in her future diary. Moreover, she was said to be highly competent and dangerous.

"Oh, does my reputation precede me?" Cinder spoke in a sultry voice, limitless confidence abounding her as her amber eyes shone with magic.

Approaching Ruby was nothing else but indulgence before finalizing what was clearly a foregone conclusion.

Vale was going to be wiped off the map, especially with Salem herself participating.

Defeat never crossed Cinder's mind, rather, it was Watt's nagging and disparagement of her prior failure that irked her. Ruby was serving as a nice outlet before the main course.

"...You're not going anywhere." Ruby's voice hardened with growing anger.

It was this very woman that killed her friends in another timeline. This very same woman who would kill her friends and family if she got into Vale atop that dragon.

She had to be stopped here.

"Fufufu," Cinder stifled a laugh, bemusement gracing her lips. "Just you? What can you do alone?"

Cinder was right, and Ruby knew it. There was no way she could put a stop to this by herself.

There was no choice.

Ruby glanced at the remaining Command Seals on her hand, reluctance and regret tossed aside for the sake of saving others.


From the very beginning…

"I was never alone!"

Ruby raised her right hand up, revealing red sigils on the back of her hand.

Defending the kingdom from another invading force or not, it would all be the same now that the enemy had already infiltrated into the center.

Hesitating now would only endanger more lives, her friends lives, her family's.

If it was him, he could do it.

"By the power of this Command Spell!" Ruby channeled all her emotion into her voice, knowing the sentimentality of what she was giving up.

The loss of each sigil weakened the strength of her bond with him, and it crushed her inside.

Even so-

If it was him, he could save everyone!

Floating atop the city of Vale, both Ozpin and Salem froze and stared into the distance where a massive gathering of magic energy was congregating.

Him, a true hero!

It was a grand magic that neither Ozpin or Salem had ever seen or felt, capable of bending both space and time.

Tears welled up in Ruby's eyes as a sigil vanished from her hand-

"Archer, return to my side and save Vale!"

And in turn, space warped and a fabled Huntsman emerged.

An Ally of Justice.

Thanks for reading! And thanks to my newest patrons: Ken Foxkin, Emprisk, Ray Aledia, and Implord!

Free web novel :[The Apostate in Grim Fantasy] (For those that asked, the web novel is available on webnovel and the patron main page, leave a review if you'd like! New goal is 20 reviews)

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