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Cover Art: Serox

Chapter 30

Cinder Fall knew how to make an entrance. She also knew how to cook a mean curry, but it was the entrance part that was most applicable to her current situation. Walking out of the smoke as the car exploded behind her, casting up a vast plume of black smoke highlighted with orange flame, one might have been forgiven for thinking her eyes shone bright gold. Swaying forwards with her hips swinging, she paused with one bare leg before the other, lips turned upward and hand flicking a lock of raven hair back.


The mobster in the middle of the two guards pointed her way. "Kill her."

The weapons rose and then began to glow bright orange. With startled cries, the henchmen dropped them and reached for their handguns, as if it was only a spontaneous burst of assault rifle immolation hitting them today. Cinder rolled her eyes and repeated the process for their handguns, except twice as quick since there was less metal to conduct.

"If we are quite done…"

A fireball bounced off her shoulder and flew by her face. One eyebrow raised, she looked at the mobster in charge, who had both his hands outstretched like he learned to use his Semblance by playing retro arcade games.

"Adorable." Cinder summoned a far larger fireball and held it up before her. "But as I'm sure you've heard from every woman you've been with; I've seen bigger."

"It's not about the size!" the mobster growled. "It's about how you use-"

The fireball drilled past his ear and burned a clear hole through the solid concrete wall behind him. The once solid material dripped down like slag, pooling at the base of the wall. Inside, the fire alarm quickly went off, which was the least of their problems tonight.


"Little children should know not to talk back to their superiors. I am Cinder Fall, your new godfather, mob boss or whatever it is you call your leadership nowadays. I'm in need of soldiers since my last bunch slipped the leash. You and your family will suffice."

"Little Lady." The familiar address made her eye twitch. "We are proud members of the Lumen family. We do not bow to your threats and we do not serve you. I will allow this transgression to pass should you walk away now."

"You shall allow it…?" Cinder laughed darkly and walked forward, enjoying the way her flames caused sweat to roll down the man's face. "I don't think you fully understand who is in command here. Perhaps another demonstration is in order."

Her attention turned the weapons dealers. Expendable in the grand scheme of things. With a click of her finger, pillars of fire erupted beneath them, burning flesh and roaring along with their agonised screams. In a rare act of mercy, she kept the fire going, killing them quickly instead of letting it end and leaving them to agonising hours before their bodies failed them. Of course, the three mobsters did not see it that way. Ashen faced, the bodyguards looked to their leader, prepared to betray him in an instant if he pushed them toward the same fate. And they said winning people over was difficult.

The leader gulped. "W-What do you want?"

Ah. Now they were talking. "What I want, gentlemen, is for you to pass a little message onto your leaders for me. Nothing too strenuous." Cinder tossed a scroll through the air, which one of the bodyguards caught and held to his chest. "Tell them that I will contact them through that tomorrow at midday to arrange a meeting. They will attend, as will many of your rivals and enemies. Worry not, they'll be on their best behaviour with myself there."

"And then what…?"

"Well, that depends on what families are prepared to pledge their loyalty to my cause. I can promise riches and success to those who do."

"You want manpower…"

Yes. Simply enough, she needed numbers. If Adam hadn't gotten himself killed then she would have had an army of faunus ready to fight and die for her cause, but that well had dried up and the new leader was resistant to her ideals. Worse, Roman's connections with Junior and his men were souring thanks to how many of them the incompetent thief got arrested.

Everything else was going to plan – from the defeat of Amber to the dust collection to the Vytal Festival and Atlas' arrival here. Some things were even going better than planned, especially the tense diplomatic relation between Atlas and Vale, and now between faunus and human. Alas, all of that would mean so little if she didn't have the numbers to make the plan work.

Worthless White Fang. If their new leader wasn't so secure in his position, I would stage a little accident.

"And if the families don't align with you?"

"Then they had best be prepared for the consequences."


"Jaune. Jaune!" Ilia's voice came through the earpiece. "What do we do?"

Good question. What did they do? The White Fang needed a win tonight for the ceremony taking place soon after, but this was so far beyond their pay grade it wasn't funny. Criminal groups were one thing; scary powerful huntresses were another.

"The safe choice would be to stay out of this," he said, already knowing Adam would be raging at the decision. "It's time to-"

A finger tapped on Jaune's shoulder. Turning his head, he found himself looking into the widely grinning face of a short girl with pink and brown hair, an umbrella and mismatched eyes. Her lips parted to show a row of bright white teeth set in a vicious grin.

Jaune swore and scrambled back. "Help!"


It was time to help? Well, as orders went, they weren't exactly the most cognisant, but they were only waiting for the signal to go, and this seemed like that. Ilia nodded and switched the channel to contact the others.

"Alright guys," she shouted to the rest of the White Fang. "Jaune wants us to get in there and help!"

"Help who? The mafia? The crazy stripper?"

"Eh. Probably the city," Yuma replied. "You know, metaphor. Help the city by arresting both of them at once."

That honestly sounded about right, and Jaune wasn't adding anything more to his orders so Ilia went with Yuma's interpretation. "Go! Go! Go!"

The trap was sprung with alarming efficiency. A lorry drove recklessly into the head of the road and twisted sideways, jackknifing itself across the entrance to the warehouses and skidding to a stop. Tukson dove out of it, while more vehicles pulled up on the other side, driven by the rank and file to block off every exit.

Cinder Fall and the criminals in the centre looked around in surprise, suddenly noting the fifty or so masked terrorists/freedom-fighters now surrounding them. Those more available for combat took the front line, with the volunteers from Vale keeping a wider distance, serving as human roadblocks.

"Drop to the ground!" Trifa shouted. "The White Fang is here!"

"I'd listen to her if I were you!" Yuma yelled out. "She has spider's anuses for hands!"

"I will shove these anuses down your damned throat, Yuma!"

"The White Fang…?" the stripper asked herself quietly. "But I told Neo to contact me if she saw any…" Slowly, the woman sighed, pinched the bridge of her nose and shook her head from side to side. "What is wrong with me lately? Well, this isn't entirely inconvenient."

"Get down!"

The three mobsters slowly knelt, already unarmed from Cinder and quickly realising it wasn't going to get any better now that they were surrounded. Cinder did not, however. The woman tossed her hair back and inspected Ilia with a sultry smile.

Against Ilia's wishes, her face flushed.

What? She was smoking hot! Any guy, girl or rock was going to recognise that! Besides, it wasn't like Yuma and Sun weren't brazenly ogling her as well. Black hair and yellow eyes were sort of her thing, too. Or Blake's thing, but since Blake was her thing, it sort of made sense. Ilia coughed to clear her thoughts and the atmosphere, then cracked her whip in what she hoped was an intimidating (and only intimidating) fashion.

"You are under citizen's arrest for theft, weapons dealing and arson. Resist and you'll be going down!" Ilia paused. "As in, you'll be going down for the above crimes. Or to prison. Not going down in any other sense…"

Cinder's eyebrow rose.

"Just get down on the floor!"

The woman chuckled and held her hands out. Particles seemed to flat through the air, forming a black bow in her left hand and a long, sleek arrow in the right.

"Is your leader here today?" Cinder asked. "I did promise there would be consequences for failing to retrieve my dust. I think it's past time I proved myself good on that."

Tch. A fight it was, then. Ilia and the others fanned out to surround her.

"Jaune doesn't have time for people like you. He's too busy watching over us, planning our next move and outsmarting arrogant idiots like you. Why, I bet right now he's already planning your downfall."



Jaune skidded down the metal fire escape on his ass, bouncing on each step as he dodged the stabbing thrust of a thin metal blade by mere inches. He rocketed his way to the bottom and landed on his back, eyes looking up and widening as a small figure came hurtling down. Desperately, he rolled to the left, hearing the ring of metal as the girl's sword stabbed through the grating where his head had been.

She was trying to kill him!

He wasn't sure why that concept shocked him – she had come at him with a sword after all – but it kind of did. Screaming like a little girl, he kicked out at her and knocked her back against the railing, then took the brief moment of vulnerability to enact his grand scheme.

Jaune Arc raced down the fire escape as fast as his legs could take him.

One flight of stairs, two. On the third, the metal frame rocked suddenly as the girl leapt down the outer edge and caught herself acrobatically on the level below him, cutting him off. She hauled herself up onto it and pulled her sword out from between her teeth, waving eagerly. Swallowing, Jaune looked down, up and then sideways. The fire door exploded inward as he rammed into it.

The apartment block was shabby on the inside, the green carpet floor patchy and damp. None of that really mattered as he sprinted down it with a killer on his tail, but it was amazing what details the mind noticed when you were on the verge of death. Running past a cleaning trolley, he pulled it over behind him for an obstacle, then ran on and looked back in time to see the diminutive girl vault it with ease and keep coming.

"Crap. Crap. Crap!" Pushing himself further, he used his longer stride to build some distance. Ahead, the corridor ended suddenly with two elevators and a selection of vending machines. "Oh hell!"

Jaune slammed his hand on the elevator call button and then smacked it three more times in case that sped it up. His head twisted back, and he yelped, dodging aside from another thrust that. The girl's blade scraped against the closed elevator door. Even before he could recover, she snapped a foot into his chest and threw him back. His shoulders crashed into the glass front of a snacks machine, shattering the glass and setting off a dull alarm.

Neo smirked and drew her sword back, lunging forward once again – only to flinch as something came sailing her way. Slashing down, she sliced it in two, ripping open the packet and spraying toffee popcorn in her face. Surprised, she flinched back, wiping her face clean in time to be struck with a chocolate bar, then a bag of crisps and a roll of hard gummy sweets. Growling silently, she closed her eyes and rushed in, one arm over her face to shield herself.

The last thing she expected was the ceramic pot of a potted plant to shatter on her face. Thrown back, she landed on her butt, blinking stars away and looking up in abject shock.

Jaune Arc held a fern by its stem, wielding the plant like a mace, the ceramic pot now shattered and falling off. Before she could recover, he stabbed the soil into her face, splattering it all over her – into her mouth, her eyes, up her nose. There was no weight or solidity to it, which meant the gritty soil exploded all over her and caked her with mud. Neo's arms waved angrily as Jaune pushed her down, suffocating her under the business end of a house plant.


The elevator door slid open and two old grannies came out, freezing upon seeing them. As one, they tutted, staggered past and away. Jaune and Neo remained still, at least until the elevator doors began to close. Tossing the plant into Neo's face, he booked it, sliding sideways through the door and slapping his hand over the buttons.

The mute girl leapt to her feet, face streaked with mud, lips peeled back, and teeth bared. The tip of her sword stabbed between the metal doors, then started to shift upward as the elevator descended. The blade slid back at the last, leaving behind the sound of her furiously beating on the metal door.

Holy crap. Alive.

Leaning against the back of the elevator, Jaune gasped for air and held his pounding chest, watching the number above the door tick down. It got to 6 and then stopped, the door opening to reveal a middle-aged man waiting outside. He must have called the elevator down.

That psychopath must be waiting for me at the bottom, Jaune thought, stepping out and letting the man inside. Rather than do that, maybe I should get off here, go back to the fire escape and use that to leave the building.

She'd never expect him to go back that way. Gasping for air, he moved down the corridor, content in the knowledge she'd assume he was going to the bottom floor like that guy was. Such thoughts vanished when the elevator dinged behind him.

The guy who called the elevator had pressed both buttons like every impatient person ever. As the doors opened, he caught sight of the girl inside, arms crossed, leaning on the back with one foot pressed back on it, fingers angrily tapping on her elbow as dust and soil dripped down her now tussled hair. He wasn't sure who was more surprised to see the other.

The doors started to close again before she moved, lurching forward suddenly and wedging her arm and shoulder between the closing doors. Where before she'd looked like she wanted to kill him for funsies, now she looked murderous.

Jaune didn't wait to see if she got stuck.

Sprinting down the corridor, he turned a corner and ran to the first door. The handle shook but it was locked. He rushed to the next, then the next, testing every other door while looking back in fear. On the tenth attempt, he found a door that was unlocked, burst through it and slammed it shut behind him, sliding the deadbolt into place.

The door shook inward a second later, bowing under the force of a very small but determined impact.

"Are you the repair man?"

Wide-eyed, Jaune turned to regard the ninety-something year old woman.

"It's about time!" she busied, plodding into her kitchen. "The microwave isn't working. This was provided by the building and you said all the appliances were tested. I've half a mind to complain!"

"D-Do you have a phone? Can you call the police?"

"For a microwave? Don't be silly."

"I'm being chased!" he yelled.

"Well that's nice and all, dearie, but how am I supposed to cook a microwave dinner without a microwave? Oh, if my Roger was here, he'd have this sorted in a jiffy-"

The woman's door bowed inward again, one of the hinges splintering.

"Ma'am, this isn't the time! Is there another way out of here? Another exit?"

"You see, when I push the button like this, nothing happens. Not even a sound or a light. Back in my day, technology was never this useless. All these dust stoves and smart scrolls and such. Well, they can't be very smart if they don't know how to fix a microwave!"

"I'm sorry! It's broken! Here's some money to buy a new one, let me just get rid of this broken one for you!"

Jaune tore out his wallet and threw all his money into the woman's hands, picked up her microwave and ripped it out the wall. Without pause, he turned, hefted it up above his head and waited for the door to explode inward, tumbling Neo inside. She landed on all fours, having had to throw her entire weight at the door. She looked up, eyes feral.

For about half a second. They widened soon after.

Jaune slammed the microwave down with the force of a sledgehammer. She had aura, so she wasn't going to die from it, but the glass door on the front broke on impact with her aura-reinforced skull. The rest of it did not.

Neo fell flat on her back, head caught inside a microwave and more than a little dazed. Her mood didn't improve when Jaune stepped on her stomach, driving the air out of her in an explosive gasp, and hopped over her body, out the door and away with a final shout of, "You can keep the difference!"


Ilia wouldn't have said no to some leadership.

Hitting the tarmac, she rolled with the impact and away from any of those wickedly sharp arrows the woman was firing. Arrows that shattered on impact with the ground like glass, raining shrapnel in every direction. Those weren't even the worst part.

The worst was when you got close, as Sun and Yuma were experiencing as the bow left and two glass swords came out. Glass wasn't known to be the most rigid material to make weapons out of, it had to be said, but there was no denying that a weapon which exploded on impact and rained glass in your face did its job well enough. Also, she could reform them at will.

"Tukson is down!" Trifa called. "Get him out of here."

Two of the Vale volunteers took him off the spider faunus, dragging him away. His chest was bloody from numerous cuts and nicks, only about half as many as Bane had, but then Bane had more real estate to work with.

"This is ridiculous!" Trifa panted, catching up with Ilia and helping her up. "The only ones who can hold their own against her are Sun and Bane, and even that's stretching it."

True to form, Sun was able to defend himself but that was about it. He was holding his own. Surviving. Even then, it was obvious he was on the defensive against a far superior foe. As for Bane, he wasn't doing any better, but his wild swings at least forced the huntress to dodge.

"We're not going to win here," Trifa warned her. "What do we do?"

"I don't know. I've lost Jaune's signal."

"You're his second in command, Ilia."

"I am!? Since when!?"

"He trusts you. You're always involved when he does stuff." Trifa looked back, wincing as Sun missed a parry and took a nasty cut to his abs. Aura prevented the greatest tragedy known to Remnant, but only just. "What do we do?"

Damn it. Damn it. Damn it. Think, Ilia. Think. They needed a win and they sure as hell weren't going to get one here. Sure, they could try and overwhelm or wear her out, but it wasn't like the rest of Vale – or Atlas – was going to ignore all this action going on. Gunshots, fireballs and exploding vehicles tended to stand out, not to mention all the alarms going off. How were they meant to come out of this looking good?

"That's it!" Ilia said.

"You got something?"

"We'll attack her and drive her away a bit. Our main goal is just to catch those responsible for the stolen weapons." They were dead now, very dead, but they still had video evidence and those three mobsters. "Get the others to capture those guys and secure the stolen weapons. We can still deliver those to Vale and claim a moral victory even if we're forced to retreat. We can even release footage of this if anyone doubts us!"

"Focus on the objective," Trifa said, nodding. "Makes sense. Right. Will you be able to keep her busy while I collect the prisoners?"

Honestly, she wasn't sure. "Probably. We're not trying to win, just buy time. This must have been Jaune's plan when he told us to go in. Win or lose to her, if we technically stop the crime happening, we're coming out of this with something to show."

"Where do you think Jaune is anyway?" Trifa asked.

"Taking care of important business, I'm sure."


Back out on the fire escape once more but now several levels lower, Jaune ducked a wild swing from his absolutely livid opponent. Her blade struck a metal support beam of the fire escape secured to the side of the old building, raining sparks on him.

Neo's face was red, streaked with mud, bruised, nicked in places and now damp from the questionable contents of an old woman's microwave dinner that he hadn't realised was still in the microwave when he'd brained her with it. What might have been shepherd's pie was dripping down her cheeks and shoulders, caking her hair and making it stick to her scalp.

He had the feeling she wasn't best pleased.

Another furious swing that would have suited a battle-axe more than her thin sword nearly cut him in two. This time, he ducked down onto the staircase to the next level, letting the blade hit another metal bar. Neo charged after him, frothing at the mouth – literally, though it might have been mashed potato in hindsight – and lashing left and right like a berserker.

Jaune got Crocea Mors up in time to block one of the blows but the others came to fast and too often. His aura was chipped away at, the small girl snarling in pure glee as she cut him down inch by inch. A solid kick knocked him back into the metal railing, which creaked ominously under the constant assault. Dust rained down from the metal bolts driven into the brick wall.

Neo charged him again and this time he gave up on swordplay. He was bigger and stronger, at least presumably, so while he couldn't stop her scoring a hit on his shoulders, he was able to grab her wrist before she could draw back.


In his head he'd imagined him wrestling her down with his big manly body and locking her wrists behind her back like he'd seen it done on the TV. Instead, it turned out he'd grabbed a bull by the horns. Neo kicked, bit, slapped and dug her heels into his feet. She was a whirlwind of knees and elbows that seemed capable of hitting every weak part on his body, including his groin.

Driven back under the assault, he rolled her onto her back with himself on top. That only let her sweep her legs up behind him acrobatically, lock the inside of her knee around his neck and drag him back. Jaune's entire spine threatened to snap under the pressure.

The fire escape groaned and shifted.

They both froze.

It happened in slow motion, or at least it seemed that way. A bolt popped out the wall, the connecting slat of metal, which was already rusty and far too old, swung free, and suddenly the fire escape was supporting all its weight on a whole lot less support beams. A second came free without trying, swinging the metal railing out and sending Jaune and Neo tumbling to the right.

That added weight caused a chain reaction, not ripping the entire fire escape off, but making one half of it swing out perilously. They both tumbled back off the edge, Neo catching the railing with both hands and Jaune catching onto the only thing he could. Her legs.

Jaune would not have called himself fat. He wasn't as fit as Sun, but he certainly wasn't overweight. He was, however, over six feet tall, as Neo was quick to find out as her fingers strained to hold on to the rusty metal now swinging awkwardly off the side of the building. Sweat ran down her face, mixing with compost to form yet more brown lines.

Glaring down at him, she managed to silently communicate that he should let go. Jaune looked down at the two storey drop and then back up.

"Are you kidding!? I'm not letting go!"

Screaming without sound, Neo squirmed and tried to kick at him with her heels. His head was around the level of her knees, making that difficult, but she was able to work them into his chest and that was painful enough. Her knee bumped his nose too, and she kept thrusting it into him to try and knock him off.

"Quit it!" he growled, reaching up her body. If he could climb over her, he could get up and escape, using her as a ladder. Naturally, she wasn't happy about that, but she couldn't let go or she'd fall as well. "Just hang on and I'll pull you up as well," he lied.

He was going to run like the fucking wind.

Neo either knew this or was just plain uncooperative. She continued to kick, swing and knee him in the face, and the way she kept wriggling her hips made it difficult to keep hold of her. Jaune's arms slid down the back of her thighs, and for a horrifying second, he thought he might fall altogether. In panic, he reached out and snagged onto her belt. His left hand caught it at the front, and he flung his right up, snagging her waistband at the back. The world shifted as Jaune dropped suddenly, falling about two feet before halting and swinging in the air.

Nervously, he looked up.

Neo's wide eyes stared back.

His hands were still gripping onto the waistband and belt of her trousers, but they weren't exactly around her waist anymore. The loose black-grey trousers were bunched and hanging around the tops of her white boots, drawn down to below her knees and dangling downwards as he swung from the edges. Neo's pale thighs shone in the moonlight, all the way up to her hips.

"Huh." Jaune said dumbly. "Pink. I guess that should have been expected."

If Neo could have screamed, she would have. Instead, she opened her mouth, closed her eyes and wailed in silence. She also let go of the metal bar to try and cover herself.

Jaune yelled for her as they fell in a tangled bundle, the pantsless girl slapping and attacking him even as they fell to their doom. Red faced with fury and embarrassment, Neo planted both feet on his chest and gave a solid kick, pushing him away from her even as they fell.

Jaune hit the opposite wall thanks to the added force, striking it and slamming down onto the tarmac below in an explosion of aura. Neo smirked and offered him two fingers, her other hand griping and trying to wrestle her pants back up as she came crashing down a second later. Directly into the metal garbage container she'd spared him from falling into.

Bin bags exploded and cushioned her fall but judging from the rotten vegetables, fruit and other household waste that erupted up into the air like a volcano, he had a feeling she'd have rather had the concrete. The foulest stench imaginable reached his nose.

Half-stumbling and half-limping over to it, Jaune dragged the lid of the container shut and then slammed the metal bar on the outside of it into place, locking it shut. Not a second too soon judging from the sounds from inside. The wild and frantic banging was like if someone had fired a metal ball bearing at sixty miles an hour into a steel box. He even thought he could hear scraping breath as a mute girl somehow screamed herself hoarse with rage.

Jaune Arc stumbled away, touching his earpiece and saying, "Hello…?"

"Boss! You're back!"

"Y-Yeah. I had a bit of a problem."

"Are you okay?"

"I guess you could say I took out the trash." If the furious impacts from within the trash container were any indication, Neo didn't approve of his sense of humour. "How are things on your end?"

"We didn't stand a chance against that woman. We were able to get two of the mobsters away, but she kept the leader. We were able to destroy the weapons though. That'll have to do as a win."

"Any losses…?"

"Sun's abs took a beating."

Jaune considered that for a moment. "Damn. Well, as long as they're okay. Can I get a pickup please?"

"Sure thing, boss."


Roman Torchwick was used to being surprised by Neo popping up behind him. She had a habit of sneaking up on people and enjoying their reactions. This was the first time he'd caught her before she did him, and it was entirely because of the smell of rotten food and putrid waste.

Neo stood poutily in front of him, smeared with garbage, banged up like she'd challenged a Goliath to a fight and sporting a banana peel woven into a lock of pink hair. There was a cracked egg behind her left ear, the yolk running down the back of her neck and under her top. Her white outfit was smeared with waste and dotted with the occasional maggot, and her trousers hung low on one hip, the belt and the button that should have buckled her fly shut broken.

It honestly looked like she'd taken a swan dive into a refuse heap.

"Do I want to ask?"

Neo sniffed once. Her eyes watered and she looked up at him, bottom lip wobbling.

"No. Absolutely not! Get away from-"

With a silent cry, she flung her arms open wide and threw herself on him, wailing like she wasn't the stone cold killer he knew her to be, but a child coming home from school after being beaten up and having had their head dunked in a toilet. Except that she smeared trash all over his best coat while she was at it.

"Neo, no- ack! You stink! I – oh for."

Scrunching his nose shut, he gave up and rubbed her back, trying to ignore the stench wafting off her normally well-kept hair.

"There. There. It's okay. How about I run a bath for you? Or maybe six baths. I think we have a jet washer around here somewhere. It's okay. We'll wash – we'll burn those clothes to ash and get you new ones."

Awkwardly, Roman picked Neo up by lifting her feet up off the floor and sideways marched her to the bathroom. Really, there were days where he felt more like a surrogate father than a master criminal.

Somewhere, somehow, there's someone who has a garbage smeared on girls fetish and they are feeling aroused at this chapter. Not sure why that came to my mind but hey ho, Coeur works in mysterious ways. This is probably also the first time Jaune has ever defeated Neo in one of my stories.

Next Chapter: 2nd Feb

P a treon . com (slash) Coeur