Welcome to the first chapter of Crimson Eyes. Those you following my other story, Lost Rose, will already know (assuming you've read my author's notes, which isn't a given) that this story is actually the older of the two. I started writing this story all the way back at my first RTX (2016), back when the only things we had to work with concerning Volume 4 of RWBY were the Ruby Rose Character Short, and a few pieces of concept art for the other characters. That being said, hopefully you'll still be able to read this first chapter, and make it to my notes afterwards.

Chapter 1:

The bullhead shook and rattled, the vibrations of its engines making the entire cabin buzz. Yang Xiao Long grimaced and shifted uncomfortably. This was one of the older models, which had been in use since before her first year at Beacon. It was old, and either needed a major overhaul or to be retired altogether, given how badly the passenger cabin was rattling.

Her lilac eyes darted to the person sitting next to her. Ruby Rose, Yang's younger sister by two years was asleep in her seat, apparently unaffected by the jarring motions of the cabin, her black hair with faint, red highlights barely stirring as she breathed. Her red cape was wrapped around her shoulders, enfolding Ruby like a cloak. Under these conditions, it was hard for Yang to imagine Ruby as the girl who led their team in saving the world from the machinations of Cinder and her master, Salem.

The next seat down was occupied by Ruby's partner, Weiss Schnee, looking elegant in her sparkling, pale-blue dress and petticoat, over which she wore a long-sleeved blue shrug. Looking at Weiss, it seemed more like she was an elegant socialite on her way to the latest ball, than a formidable Huntress in her third year of school. Weiss stared stoically across the cabin at the empty wall on the other side, unwilling to show the same discomfort that Yang felt so keenly.

Beyond Weiss was the fourth member of their team. Blake Belladonna was largely unconcerned by the the vibrations rattling the cabin because all her attention was rooted on the book in front of her. It was cold, even inside the bullhead, so Blake hadn't discarded her white overcoat, instead buttoning it so that it covered her black crop-top. Despite the events of the past couple years, she had yet to discard the bow atop her head, which hid the two cat ears that marked her as a faunus.

Yang turned her attention back to herself, including her tan jacket, orange crop-top, and tight-fitting black pants; and stifled a sigh. She was tired. She wanted to sleep. But, unlike Ruby, there seemed to be no sleep to be had as their transport made their way to its destination, not exactly the kind of conditions Yang liked, especially when they could be in combat within minutes of their arrival.

In a strange way, this all felt so normal. After all, they were students on a mission. As third-year students of Beacon, they were able to take bounty missions like this one, without the need to be shadowed by an experienced Huntsman or Huntress. What was strange that, in comparison to what they had been through, it was hard for Yang to accept the return to normality.

It had been a little less than a year ago that they'd endured their final confrontation with Salem, the mysterious woman who had been behind so much hardship in their lives. Yang still struggled to wrap her head around the reasons for that woman's grudge, suspecting that she'd never fully understand it. Salem hadn't been human after all. She had been something else. Some might have even gone so far as to call her a god, though that was the last thing Yang would have called her.

Salem had been behind more than just the schemes that had brought Beacon's tower crashing down and nearly plunged the world headlong into another Great War. She had been the driving force behind the Grimm themselves, a living manifestation of her grudge. The Creatures of Grimm had been bred by her for the purpose of exacting her revenge against humanity for...whatever wrong it was they had caused her.

But defeating Salem had not meant the end of the Grimm. Instead, Salem had used her final moments to ensure that the Grimm would plague the world long after she passed. Ironically enough, Yang, and those close to her, ultimately found themselves grateful for that. After all, in many ways, the Grimm were what preserved the delicate balance that had existed in the eighty-plus years since the Great War. It was hard for people to waste their energy on fighting for ideologies, or even their own greed, when a common enemy was forever on the verge of wiping them all out. Even more importantly, the continued presence of the Grimm ensured that people like Yang, Ruby, Weiss, and Blake still had a purpose in life. Without the Grimm, it was likely the system behind Huntsmen and Huntresses would collapse in on itself, producing an endless amount of chaos all on its own. It was ironic then, that the very monsters Salem had created to punish mankind had instead become the pillar that shored up their present civilization, even if they made said civilization rather tenuous.

I must be tired, she thought glumly. I'm waxing philosophic again.

She shifted again, moving her right arm, which moved with the barely perceptible whirr of servos and the occasional mechanical click. Yang brought it up to examine. It was her keepsake from that past conflict. Her arm had been cut off, just above the elbow by one of their most dangerous enemies. Its replacement shined with gold-colored plates, the forearm decorated with her flame motif, and even housing one of the rebuilt Ember Celica, built into her own cybernetics for superior performance.

Yang was proud of her new arm. It signified her conviction not to let the loss of the original get her down, to devote herself to being the best support she could for her sister. It had taken a lot of soul-searching and a lot of introspection to find that conviction. Yang still wasn't proud of the months she'd wasted moping around at home, languishing in her remorse over the things she'd lost during the fall of Beacon. She'd missed so much in that time. By the time she'd rallied, gotten a prosthetic, and gotten back into shape, things had progressed further than she'd ever imagined.

Still, at least she'd been there for the final battle. Yang was still amazed that they'd actually won. That was, in part, due to their enemies. Salem had been their foes' ultimate leader, but the mysterious woman known as Cinder Fall, the one who had stolen the Fall Maiden's power and killed Pyrrha Nikos, the woman who had been directly behind the downfall of Vale, had been the one to ultimately enable their victory. For, during that final decisive conflict, Cinder had deserted, disappearing and leaving her master in the lurch. With her had vanished Adam Taurus, Blake's former lover and the leader of the White Fang, also the person who had cut off Yang's arm. It still sent shivers down Yang's spine to remember that those two were still out there, still plotting God knew what.

Still, things weren't all bad. Cinder's role in the downfall of Beacon and the near destruction of Vale had been revealed to the world, as well as the ways in which she had been manipulating the world towards another war. They had rescued Ozpin from Salem's clutches. Beacon had been rebuilt. The world was heading towards another peace, hopefully one that would last even longer this time.

But, thanks to Salem's parting gift, the Grimm were still a problem, as evinced by their current mission. The village of Cherry Grove had reported a spike in Grimm activity, and requested assistance. Team RWBY had been personally recommended by Professor Ozpin, and had taken the mission with their usual gusto.

Yang just wished Ozpin had bothered with a newer bullhead.

"We'll be touching down in ten," announced the pilot over the intercom. His voice stirred Ruby from her slumber. Weiss blinked and Yang got the distinct impression that she had been sleeping with her eyes open. Blake closed her book and slipped it into her pack. The four of them took the remaining time to check and load their weapons, ensuring that they were ready for anything when they touched down.

Ten minutes later, the bullhead settled onto the landing pad with a lurch that made Yang's stomach jump inside her. The passenger bay doors folded open and Team RWBY sprang into action, leaping out and touching down onto the landing pad, looking around for any indications of trouble.

For a village that was supposedly besieged by Grimm, things looked awfully quiet to Yang. She frowned, her eyes sweeping over the houses, looking for the telltale signs of Grimm attack: smoke rising from burning buildings, dark shapes darting about, people running in panic. She strained her ears for the horrified screams, the roars and howls of hunting monsters…but heard nothing.

If anything, the village seemed to be fine. She could see no signs of attack. She could see the villagers wandering here and there, going about their business. Of the perimeter wall that Yang could see, there was no sign of any breach. The Grimm were curiously absent.

"What's going on?" asked Yang. "Wasn't this place supposed to be having problems with the Grimm?"

"Maybe it's something outside the walls," said Weiss. "There could be work sites that are under attack or maybe there's a caravan that's been pinned down."

"We should talk to the mayor," said Ruby, folding Crescent Rose back into its storage mode and putting it away under her cape. "According to the mission file, he's the one who sent the request, so he should know where we need to go and what we need to do."

"That sounds like a plan," said Blake.

The four of them made their way off the landing pad and headed for the town hall, where they could find out what was going on.

"Ha ha ha ha ha! I'm so sorry you girls came out here for nothing." The mayor was a jovial old fellow, sporting a bushy white beard that twitched as he laughed. The light gleamed off the top of his balding head, which he occasionally rubbed as though it were a good luck charm.

"So…there aren't any Grimm?" asked Ruby dubiously.

The mayor laughed again, this time sounding a bit awkward. "Well…there were. We did see an increase of Grimm assaulting our perimeter wall about a day ago, which is why we sent the request. But they ended up leaving of their own volition. Now there are none."

"They just gave up?" asked Weiss.

The girls shared confused and skeptical looks. That didn't sound like the Grimm at all. Cherry Grove wasn't a thriving metropolis, but it was no isolated hamlet. It was on the smaller end of medium-size as settlements outside Kingdom borders went, but large and prosperous enough to support many of the amenities that the residents of an actual Kingdom were accustomed to. They had a CCT relay, which was what enabled their direct contact with Vale. They had plenty of Dust-based tech at their disposal, and their perimeter defenses were formidable. A Grimm surge large enough to worry them to the point of contacting Beacon for aid was not the sort of thing that just ended on its own.

It was true that the Grimm had a certain canniness about them, a self-preservation instinct that led at least some of them to learn the importance of when to abandon the fight and wait for a better opportunity later. However, when attacking en-mass, and in numbers to pressure the formidable defenses of a settlement like this one, it was not the sort of thing they were probably inclined to give up on. It was strangely atypical of them…and with Grimm, atypical behavior was dangerous behavior. It meant something sinister was afoot. As someone who had guided this settlement through numerous Grimm-related crises, the mayor should have been well aware of that.

So if the Grimm had done something so strange and unusual, and he wasn't the slightest bit bothered by it, then that meant that the mayor knew something about what had happened, something he wasn't sharing with the four Huntresses in front of him. Yang wasn't sure if that troubled her more than the idea of the Grimm suddenly abandoning an attack on the settlement for no seeming reason.

"Actually, you girls are real lucky," said the mayor jovially. "You're just in time for our annual festival."

"Festival?" asked Ruby, her eyes widening.

Yang could understand her sister's confusion. Why on earth would they have a festival right after a Grimm attack? It seemed impractical, a way to lower their guards. The fact that the mayor had called an "annual" festival meant that this wasn't just some impromptu event to raise the spirits of the townspeople after a trying affair, and keep too much negativity from piling up. Yang figured that a major Grimm attack, bad enough that the mayor had needed to call for help, would have thrown off their schedule by at least a few weeks.

"Well, it's not the sort of thing we want to postpone," said the mayor. "This time of year, our famous cherry blossom trees are in bloom, and we have a festival celebrating them as the blossoms fall. It's considered one of the most beautiful sights in Remnant. People come from all over to see it."

I've never heard of it, thought Yang, only barely managing to keep the thought in her head to avoid slighting the mayor. Even if he didn't need them anymore, it wouldn't do to offend him if they could avoid it.

"We'll cover your costs, naturally," said the mayor, "as an apology for causing you to make an unnecessary trip out here, along with a portion of the bounty."

"That's very generous of you," said Ruby. "We need to check with Professor Ozpin, back at Beacon, before we can give you our answer."

"Of course," said the mayor. "Our CCT facilities are yours to use."

As they headed to the call center, they debated plans.

"We should do it," said Yang. "We don't have any seminars scheduled for this week anyway, and we already planned things around being away for however long it took to deal with the Grimm."

"If they really are gone, I see no reason to dally," said Weiss. "Festival or no, it's better to get back and get ahead of things if we can. That will give us more leeway in the future, especially the more of our academic credits we can take care of ahead of time."

"I don't think we should assume that everything is all right here," said Blake, casting her eyes about suspiciously. "If the Grimm really did retreat from the walls, then we should try to find out why. It could be important. We don't know if they're up to something. We might leave, only for the town to be overrun later because of something we overlooked."

The other three nodded in agreement. "You have a point," said Yang. "We should hang around...just in case."

"Why don't Blake and I inspect the perimeter walls, and see what we can learn about the situation?" suggested Weiss. "Ruby, you and Yang can make that CCT call to the Headmaster and find out what he thinks we should do. He might have a better idea of the situation than us."

"Works for me," said Yang. She grinned and stretched both her biological and mechanical arms. "I won't complain about a week's vacation though."

"I guess..." said Ruby, sounding conflicted.

Yang frowned and looked at her little sister, feeling yet another twinge of regret at her own weakness. Because Yang had allowed her own despair to overwhelm her after Beacon's fall, Ruby had ended up shouldering the burden of leading the effort to stop Cinder and, ultimately, Salem. By the time Yang had thrown off her myopia and gone back to Ruby's side, Ruby had ended up maturing quite a bit while Yang had been away...a little bit more than Yang would have liked.

Nowadays, Ruby was much more driven and focused than she'd been during their first year at Beacon. She was determined, dedicated, and pushed herself the hardest out of the four of them. Unlike Weiss, it wasn't out of a simple desire for perfect grades, but a manifestation of her determination to become the best Huntress she possibly could.

The downside was that the bright, cheerful, and fun-loving Ruby that Yang knew and loved and had looked after for years was rarely ever seen now. The conflict with Salem had apparently incited Ruby to set those things aside for the most part, and craft herself with the same care and attention to detail that she used on her own weapon. Of all the people around Ruby, it seemed that the only one that could reliably bring out that old cheerful playfulness of hers was Jaune Arc, the once dopey and dorky wannabe Huntsman; now still dopey and dorky, but no longer just a wannabe, and also Ruby's boyfriend.

Yang didn't have a problem with Jaune, even though he and Ruby had already gone plenty far in their relationship, far enough that the two of them sleeping together was not an regular event. Yang had always hoped that Ruby would find love, someone to capture her heart and make her happy. Jaune was probably one of the best people for the job that Yang could think of. But Yang was jealous that Jaune seemed to be better at making Ruby happy lately than she herself was.

Maybe I'm overthinking it, she thought as they headed in the call center.

"Well...at least they haven't completely abandoned their guard," said Weiss, looking down from the top of the wall, surveying the condition of the structure for as far as her eyes would carry along its length.

Work crews on scaffolds moved up, down, and across, repairing cracks and breaks where Grimm claws and teeth had begun to wear their way through the barrier before the monsters had beat their unexpected retreat. Even though there was no visible sign of them anywhere, the workers still kept their wits about them, spotters constantly scanning the tree line for dark shadows moving through the undergrowth.

Cherry Grove followed the usual plan of settlement communities and even Vale itself to a certain extent. The perimeter walls were bordered by three-hundred meters of cleared ground, the forests around the town being cut back to open up the space around the wall. Any Grimm going on the attack would have to pass through that cleared area, completely devoid of any cover, opening them up to a withering salvo of fire from the Dust-powered turrets that were set on the wall at intervals, along with supporting fire from the soldiers, whom Weiss was glad to see still going on their patrols.

"I don't see any sign of the Grimm at all," said Blake, her sharper vision giving her a better view through the shadows of the forest, even at this distance. "Where do you think they went?"

"Who knows," said Weiss with a shrug. "We'd probably have to mount a scouting expedition to find out. They might be massing for a more concerted attack."

"Ah...they'll be back in a week, give or take," said an old soldier on break, who'd settled on a bench next to where they were standing. The man looked to be nearly as old as the mayor, pulling out a pipe and lighting it up.

"A week?" said Weiss, looking at him skeptically.

"Yep," said the old man, taking a pull from his pipe. "This's been goin' on for five years, give or take now."

"Five years?" gasped Weiss. "Are you telling me that the Grimm in the area disappear for a full week, and it's become a regular event."

"Well...disappearin' ain't quite the right word," said the old soldier. "They scatter and run whichever way gets 'em outta our neck 'o the woods the fastest. They find this place mighty unfavorable come festival time."

"Please excuse me if I find it hard to believe that the Grimm are actually courteous enough to leave you alone for a week so that you can have your annual festival," said Weiss sardonically.

The old man let out a wheezing cackle. "It ain't courtesy," he said. "It's fear."

"Fear?" asked Blake, her eyebrows going up.

"Yep," said the soldier. "Ya see, it all started about five years ago. We started gettin' a special guest for our little festival. Mighty fond of the cherry blossoms he is. Comes every year, almost like clockwork. But the Grimm...now they don't like him one bit...can't stand the sight or smell 'o him I guess. So when they get wind that he's a'comin' they hightail it outta here."

Weiss took a moment to process what he just said. "So...you're saying that someone comes here every year, someone that the Grimm are terrified of. So the Grimm flee the moment he approaches."

"Yep," said the old man, taking another pull from his pipe and letting the smoke drift out of his nose.

"That's ridiculous!" scoffed Weiss. "There's no way that someone would be possessed of such an abnormal quality."

"If someone possessed the ability to repel the Grimm, it would have to be some form of Semblance," said Blake. To herself, she thought, Or something akin to the powers of the Maidens. It didn't seem so far-fetched now, with what Ruby was capable of.

"I don't think it's either of those things," said the old soldier. "It ain't anythin' unnatural...unusual sure...but pretty understandable."

"What do you mean?" asked Blake.

"Puttin' it simply, that feller is a disaster."

"What on earth does that mean?" asked Weiss. "That doesn't put it simply at all."

"Let me ask ya somethin'," said the man, turning his gaze on Weiss. "Ya ever hear about how before earthquakes, tidal waves, or eruptions that the animals in the areas around those disasters somehow know beforehand and start runnin' before most people know?"

Weiss and Blake nodded. It was a phenomenon recorded for as long as human history.

"Well...this feller is like that, but to the Grimm. He's so dangerous that they know they don't stand a snowflake's chance in Hell of fightin' him, so they run, rather than face him down. That feller's strong, no question." The old man coughed a little and put out his pipe.

"Someone so strong that the Grimm wouldn't dare attack him?" asked Blake rhetorically, staring out across the open space. It made sense, within reason. After all, one of the things that made the Grimm so dangerous was that their intelligence allowed them to learn and one of the things many of the oldest Grimm had learned was the importance of retreating when they knew they were outmatched. However, that was a trait that only a small handful of Grim from any given generation acquired, and for every one of those, hundreds, if not thousands, more were perfectly happy to throw their lives away in futile efforts to bring down even the most fortified locales.

"That's insane," declared Weiss in her haughtiest tone. "There's no way that someone that powerful could possibly exist. If he did, there would have been some record at him in at least one of the Academies."

"But he ain't a Huntsman," said the old soldier with another cackle. "So far as I know, he's just a wanderin' swordsman. Doesn't hold allegiance to any Kingdom or authority. Just goes his own way and does his own thing."

"That's…even more ridiculous," declared Weiss. "There's no way some wandering vagabond could possibly outclass a trained Huntsman or Huntress from the most prestigious institutions in the world, especially not to the ludicrous extent you're suggesting."

The old man took another long pull on his pipe. "Well…it's up to you whether ya believe me or not. I ain't in the habit of arguin' too much with youngsters like yourselves. Maybe, if you're lucky, you'll run into him. Then you'll see…"

"It's not like we have any idea who he is," said Blake.

The old man laughed again. "Oh, I think you'll know him when ya see him. There's no mistaken. You can't miss those demon eyes of his."

"Demon eyes…" said Blake, wondering what that even meant.

The man calmly put out his pipe and stowed it away. "I've got to get back to work. It was fun talkin' to ya ladies. Enjoy our festival, will ya." He shouldered his rifle and began to amble along the wall.

"Well…that was a thing," said Blake after a moment's silence. She turned to Weiss, expecting to see her friend scoffing at what the old soldier had said, only to notice that Weiss appeared to be deep in thought. "Weiss…?"

"Those words," said Weiss. "You don't think it's a coincidence, do you?"

"What coincidence?" asked Blake, wondering what Weiss was talking about.

"Well…at the very least, we have a clue to who this traveler the old man was talking about might be," said Weiss, pulling out her scroll. "If that's the case, this is much bigger than our original mission."

"What are you talking about?" asked Blake.

Weiss opened the scroll up into its tablet mode and showed her. Blake's breath left her in a shocked gasp.

"I'm terribly sorry about the inconvenience," said Ozpin, his voice buzzing faintly through the minor interference that affected all uplinks to the CCT. His image on the screen in front of Ruby flickered slightly before stabilizing again. "As it so happens, we did receive a notice of cancelation for the mission. However, by the time we were able to inform you, your transport had already passed the point of no return, so there was no way to bring you back to Beacon directly anyway."

"Okay," said Ruby. "I guess we should just head back as soon as the bullhead is fueled back up."

"Actually, I think it would be a fine idea for you to stay the week," said Ozpin, giving Ruby a small smile. "In all honesty, even if there is no Grimm activity there right now, I believe you could use this experience."

"What are you talking about?" asked Ruby.

Ozpin sighed. "Ms. Rose, I admire your dedication. After all, it is what saved this world from being plunged into chaos and darkness. But even you need time to rest every now and then. You and your friends have been pushing yourselves very hard lately. I understand that you do not wish for tangible rewards or renown for what you have done, but I hope that you would see an opportunity like this as a well-earned reward all the same. The mission will be catalogued as a success and you will have an unofficial week-long vacation, of sorts."

Behind Ruby, Yang broke out into a grin. She liked this idea and she got the feeling that this had been Ozpin's reason for sending them out in the first place. In fact, she got the impression that the original mission request might have even simply been an excuse cooked up between Ozpin and Cherry Grove's mayor. He seemed the kind of fellow willing to do that sort of thing.

"B-but…" Ruby demurred, not quite on board with idea.

Ozpin's smile widened fractionally. "If you are still reluctant, I must inform you that you might as well resign yourself to enjoying your time off. I'm afraid I was just recently contacted by the pilot who flew you out. Unfortunately, his transport broke down and is currently unable to fly. It will take a week or so to get the necessary parts out to fix it."

The message was clear, despite being veiled under such a mundane report. Like it or not, Ozpin had taken measures to ensure that they were stuck out here for the time being and had clearly made plans to keep it that way, so they were simply better off going along with him on this.

"Well, I guess we're stuck here," said Yang cheerfully, patting Ruby on the shoulder. "Cheer up, Ruby. It sounds like they're gonna have all sorts of fun stuff this week."

Ruby sighed in resignation. "All right," she said.

"Then I will see you when you return in a week," said Ozpin with a chuckle. "Have a pleasant day, Ms. Rose." He ended the call and Ruby stood up.

Yang gently hugged Ruby from behind. "Come on, Ruby," said Yang. "Don't sulk. The Professor's right. You need to relax and have some fun. We can't have you turning into Weiss, now can we?"

That got a tiny giggle out of Ruby, a sound that made Yang's heart soar. "You have a point, Sis," said Ruby giving Yang a small smile over her shoulder.

"So…let's go find Weiss and Blake and check out this festival everyone is getting so excited about," said Yang eagerly.

"You go on ahead," said Ruby. "I'm gonna go check out our lodgings and get that squared away."

"Okay," said Yang. "Don't take too long."

"Got it," said Ruby.

Leaving the call center, they went their separate ways. Ruby followed the map on her scroll in search of the inn where they were supposed to be spending their time in town, while Yang allowed herself to be carried along by the general flow of people figuring it would bring her to the festival's subject sooner or later.

Ozpin leaned back in his seat with a sigh as the call ended.

"I'm still not sure that was entirely necessary," said his deputy, Glynda Goodwitch, as she walked up to the desk.

"We did agree that Ms. Rose and her team deserved this opportunity," said Ozpin.

"But it somewhat undermines the idea of their enjoying it if you simply trap them in that village," said Glynda.

"True," admitted Ozpin. "However, even if Ms. Rose can't enjoy the festival, I believe it should be an interesting experience for her, especially if she or any of her teammates happen to meet a specific individual."

Glynda's eyes narrowed and she frowned. "You really think he's there?" she asked.

"I'm sure of it," said Ozpin. "The phenomenon of the Grimm fleeing from settlements for a brief period is always a prelude to his arrival. However, those occasions tend to vary, so it is all but impossible to anticipate his movements, save for one specific instance where he visits the same place, at the same time, every year. It would seem that he is quite fond of the cherry blossoms."

"A rather odd sentiment for someone as dangerous as him," said Glynda.

"Perhaps not all that odd," said Ozpin, "considering what cherry blossoms symbolize. I think it would speak to him rather strongly. I would find it very interesting if one of our students managed to meet him."

Glynda frowned. "I suppose we'd best hope that James doesn't find out about this. He won't be happy."

Ozpin sighed. "James is happy at little these days, especially since he lost his Seventh Mobile Brigade," he said.

"Which makes it all the more imperative that we don't provoke him," said Glynda.

"There's no telling what James will take as a provocation these days," said Ozpin glumly. "I'm afraid that the conflict with Salem has taken too great a toll on him, but he refuses to stand down. Sadly, it may take the destruction of all the strength he has built up to make him change his ways."

"I doubt even that would do," said Glynda skeptically.

"Despite that, I think this meeting is a necessary one," said Ozpin. "Salem may have been dealt with, but the world is just about to undergo a dramatic change, one which has the potential to undermine everything we've done…or usher us into a new golden age. Hopefully, we can make it the latter, if we are careful."

"And you believe having Team Ruby meet him is the key to that," said Glynda.

"Hopefully," said Ozpin, folding his hands together.

Yang wandered about, eying the shops and stalls that lined the streets. There were activities and games, snacks and souvenirs, just about everything a proper festival was supposed to have. It wasn't a match for the Vytal Festival, but for a town this size, it was certainly a lively one.

Then Yang reached the town center and gasped.

The center of town was occupied by a large, open park. Paved paths meandered amongst carefully trimmed lawns of grass, dotted by groves of trees that gave the village its name. Their branches were laden with the beautiful pink blooms for which they were famed, making the trees seem more like pink clouds than actual plants. Beneath them, people were seated on blankets, enjoying picnic lunches and sipping drinks, chatting, laughing, playing games, all while absorbing themselves in the beauty of the flowers that surrounded them.

Yang followed one of the paths, looking right and left. Everywhere she looked, she was struck by the glory of the the cherry blossoms. Earlier, she had mentally discounted the mayor's assertion that this festival made the town famous. Now Yang couldn't help but wonder why more people didn't know about it. For a sight like this, even she might be willing to brave the dangerous journey from Vale or one of the other nearby settlements to take part in a festival, if it took place in scenery like this.

Her stomach growled, reminding her that she'd missed breakfast, thanks to the flight out. Fortunately, food wasn't hard to find. There were vendors selling treats and boxed lunches everywhere she looked. Yang quickly settled on one for herself and bought it from the cheerful stall owner. Carrying her provender, she looked for a place to settle down and eat.

Despite the initially disorganized appearance, Yang could see some logic governing the use of space. Families and other groups clearly settled into spots to avoid crowding too close together. Yang would have felt like an intruder, trying to squeeze herself in between different groups, so she looked for an open space…which wasn't easy.

Then she found it. It was a spot so perfect, Yang couldn't believe that it hadn't been taken already. At the very center of the park was the largest and oldest cherry tree of all. Its trunk was easily as wide as two or three people standing side by side. Its branches spread out above like a massive umbrella, loaded down with pink flowers in a sight too magnificent for words. Amazingly, the space at the base of its trunk was completely clear.

Yang hesitated as she approached it. The spot was too perfect. There was no way it hadn't been claimed already. It must be reserved for the guest of honor, or something, she thought, whoever that might be.

"Would you like to sit with me?" asked someone standing behind her in a polite tone.

Yang stifled a shocked gasp and whipped her head around, startled by the fact that someone had come up behind her without her noticing. Granted, she was a long ways from being combat ready, but Yang prided herself on at least being aware of her surroundings.

The young man standing before her looked to be the same age as her, maybe a year or two older…possibly younger. It was hard for Yang to tell. He was at least half a head taller than her, the contours of his body hidden by the loose black kimono draped about his form. His head was covered with a mop of shaggy, black hair, not too dissimilar in style from Jaune's hair (one of the things that Weiss would perpetually nag the poor boy about). He had a young-looking, almost boyish face, one that Yang would have been more than willing to call handsome. However, what held Yang's attention were the boy's eyes. They were a brilliant crimson that seemed to be almost faintly luminous, the kind of eyes that Yang would not be surprised to find out glowed in the dark.

The sight of those eyes sent a rush like a shiver down her spine. Their color was strange, different from the eyes of everyone else she had ever met…save for one other person. More importantly, what shocked Yang most of all, was that the boy's eyes were the same color as hers when she unleashed the full power of her Semblance. Maybe, because of that, she felt an eerie sense of familiarity as she looked into those eyes, a feeling that both attracted and repulsed her.

From his right arm dangled a bag holding what looked like a boxed lunch not dissimilar to the one that Yang carried, along with a few other items. In his left hand, Yang was surprised to see that he carried a sheathed sword, nearly five feet long. It was actually a rather mundane looking weapon. It appeared to be a standard o-dachi. Yang couldn't spy any hidden mechanisms, though she supposed it might have a Dust function, like Weiss' rapier.

"I…I'm sorry," said Yang.

"Would you like to sit with me?" repeated the boy, gesturing to the open space underneath the massive tree. "There's plenty of room right there."

"A-are you sure it's okay?" asked Yang, looking at the strangely open spot with some trepidation. She didn't want to break some important tradition if there was a reason to keep this spot open.

"It's fine," said the boy with a cheerful wave of his hand. "I sit here every year." He let out a sigh and his expression suddenly changed to a melancholy one. "But it's not often I have company. It'd be nice to have someone to chat with here."

"Um…well…if you're sure," said Yang.

His smile returning, the boy led her to the base of the tree and seated himself, Yang seating herself along with him.

"Juice?" asked the boy, holding out a can towards her.

Yang, realizing that she'd forgotten to buy a drink with her lunch, accepted.

"So," said the boy, opening his lunch, "is this your first time seeing this festival?"

"It is," said Yang with a nod. "What about you?"

"It's my fifth time," said the boy with a warm smile. "After the first time, I couldn't stop coming. The cherry blossoms are beautiful, especially at the end of the festival."

"What happens at the end of the festival?" asked Yang.

"They fall," said the boy. "It's amazing to watch. I hope you get to stick around and see it for yourself. It's like watching a storm of pink snow. It has to be one of the most amazing sights in the world."

"Well, it sounds like we're gonna be here for the week anyway, so I think so," said Yang.

"That's wonderful," said the boy. "What are you here for?"

"We're Huntresses," explained Yang. "I came here with my team. We got a request for assistance because there was this big surge in Grimm activity...but then they vanished before we got here. Weird, huh?"

"I suppose," said the boy, taking a sip of his juice. "I'm glad they did leave. After all, it's not as though this festival could be postponed, and still be such a wonderful experience."

"I guess that's true," said Yang with a giggle. "It's not as though the trees could be made to put off flowering."

The boy laughed and nodded his agreement.

Yang had to admit that the boy was pleasant company. He had a gentle voice, and a kind demeanor. Yet she also got the indication that he was a lot stronger than he let on. Granted, the sword might have had something to do with that. It wasn't the most impressive thing in the world. Yang had seen bigger ones, including her uncle's blade and Yatsuhashi's massive weapon. The boy's sword was long, but not as wide or heavy looking as either of those other weapons. She wondered just how good he was with it.

Maybe he'll spar with me sometime this week, she thought. Depending on how good he was, it might be fun.

Thinking about sparring with him or even meeting with him again while this event was ongoing made Yang realize that she'd missed a crucial part of their mutual introductions. "By the way, my name's Yang Xiao Long," she said. "What's yours?"

The boy laughed awkwardly, momentarily reminding Yang of the mayor before scratching the back of his head and grinning sheepishly. "I'm sorry," he said. "I was so excited to have company that I forgot the basics. My name is Kyo…Mibu Kyo."

Well now, as I said at the beginning, this was started back before Volume 4 had even started airing. As a consequence, many of the plot and character developments that took place in Volume 4, and the subsequent volumes, did not find their way into this story. So there are no references to the Relics, or Ozpin being the Wizard (honestly, until it was confirmed in Volume 5, I really thought it was a red herring), and no Oscar, no Raven being the Spring Maiden, and...well...a whole lot of stuff. Back when I started this story, the official statement about Ozpin's status, in the wake of Volume 3, was "It's complicated." So I opted to assume he was taken captive in some manner. Don't think too hard about it.

I tried to squeeze in stuff from later volumes as I went along, but only if I could make it fit into my story as is. I'll try and keep you updated on the discrepancies as they appear. You might as well consider this story an AU of sorts.

Having said that, the fight against Salem is mostly referenced in this story as a Noodle Incident, that is to say, this thing that happened, but will hardly ever be elaborated on beyond a few basic facts, and the fact that our heroes won. Team RWBY went back to Beacon for their third year (which, considering the way the series is progressing, is hardly feasible in the canon timeline), which is where our story starts off.

Finally, onto the crossover elements. This story is a kinda...sorta...quasi-crossover with one of my favorite manga series, Samurai Deeper Kyo. (There was also an anime...but we don't talk about the anime...ever.) I use all those qualifiers because hardly any of the actual characters from that series appear in this story, with over ninety-percent of the cast with any ties to SDK being OCs. As part of the setting, I've appropriated one of the fan theories about Remnant being a future version of Earth, and ran with it. Thus, the events of SDK are something that takes place way in the distant past of the RWBY world.

The upside of this is that very little knowledge, if any, about Samurai Deeper Kyo, is required to enjoy this story. I've always felt that a good crossover should be accessible to fans of either of the component series, without requiring fans of one to have intimate knowledge of the other. I hope I've successfully managed that here.

This story will be updated every other day, so look for the next chapter on Monday.