A/N: EDIT: Sorry for the short chapter, it was either this, or no update for another six months. This chapter fought me tooth and nail T_T

...I'm back. Despite my injuries, despite RWBY being liquidated by Warner Bros and despite Long Covid, I'm still here.

Writer's block is an evil, VILE thing I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

Its hard to stay awake sometimes, more and more, I find myself stricken with the need to rest multiple times a day...T_T

Of course, I try not to dwell on the latter overmuch; I'm still alive and still writing. In an ideal world, I'd like to keep doing so for as long as I can. But old age is catching up to me and these days, the world is filled with so much madness and death. Feels like everyone's lost their minds sometimes. Even before that, so many friends and fellow writers I once knew are gone, now. Will I still be here in twenty years? Ten? Five? Its a chilling thought. But for now, I'm still here, still writing.

So here we go. The fate of this story depends on you, the reader. Your feedback determines the fate of this tale, and many others.

Now for a quick Q&A to get us up to speed.

Q: Cinder still has Kansho (Black Blade) and Bakuya (White Blade) that were forged for her no?

A: She does. As stated before she has those wicked weapons for a reason, and we all know where they're from. Who knows what else she might unlock down the line~?

*Grins*

Q: So who is on who's side again? Need a refresher, here.

A: Ironically, through Naruto's blundering, he's somehow managed to win the heartfelt loyalty of Watts and Tyrian, something that should've been downright impossible. Throw in Cinder, Sienna and Roman -the latter of whom is all but guaranteed to find Neo down the line- and quite suddenly, Salem's lost most of if, it not all her pawns from canon.

At present, Salem only has a badly wounded Hazel and the ever-insane Merlott as named allies; won't speak of the unnamed ones just yet.

Of course, she's not above recruiting others, as we've seen.

The next Arc is coming, and it'll be a doozy.

Oh dear, did I capitalize Arc...?

Q: More papa Naruto please!

A: Ask and you'll receive.

Q: Timeskips when?!

A: Sooner than you think~!

That should do for now. Off to work we go~!

As ever, I own no references, quotes, themes or memes. They're tributes to legends far greater than little 'ol me.

I'm just a humble author trying to make his way in this wild world, one word at a time.

Time and feedback will determine if this remains a story. Simple as that.

In other words...its up to YOU, the reader. Do let me know~!

And now...in the words of an infamous man...

Here...

...we...

...gooooo~!

There's a massive Fate reference/tribute ahead as well, one that's been coming for awhile now.

"...you must be ready for the trials ahead.

Are you prepared?

Show me."

~?

The Smiling Schnee

Stab.

Parry.

Riposte.

Cinder drilled hard with her twin blades, cutting a path of baleful black and wicked white before her in the air. Faced with such an assault, her opponent took the only option available to them; they gave ground rather than face her fury head on, weaving between her blows with rogue-like grace, grinning all the while. What few attacks she actually managed to land glanced harmlessly off her adversary's aura, coming within inches of cleaving their head from their shoulders time and again, yet still, that indefatigable grin never wavered, not once.

"That all you got?"

She grit her teeth, stamped down on her temper before it could get the better of her, and redoubled her efforts. Calm. She must be calm. She'd asked for this, hadn't she? To fight at a disadvantage, go back to basics, to better fine tune her Maiden Powers alongside her semblance and finally force the damn thing to evolve. It was her fault she'd bit off more than she could chew. This must not register on an emotional level; no, it wouldn't, because she refused to let it.

So she did what she did best; she got aggressive; she pressed the attack; she advanced.

There was no cover here in the courtyard; if her enemy retreated too far he'd run right up against the manor and unlike Naruto-Father!-he didn't have the liberty of running up walls. He must've realized it too; because he planted his feet and snapped forward. The sudden burst of offense startled her, causing her charge to falter for a moment.

And then Roman parried her.

Melodic Cudgel flicked out quick smart, smacked Kansho aside, dragged Bakuya out of the way and drove a fist up into her solar plexus. The pain was incredible. Her aura flexed and she physically felt her ribs creak for an awful moment before she managed to retaliate. Her temper sparked as she whirled, snapping a kick into her faux-sibling's ribs to send him flying across the garden.

He rode the momentum with a cackle. Let it buy him some distance now, as he raised his right arm. Up came his cane and Cinder heard an ominous click-

A searing volley of multiple dust rounds filled her vision.

Dodge!

Years of hardened instincts ingrained into her very soul by Naruto had her dropping flat to the dirt. And well that she did; because the explosion that followed warmed the back of her neck even through her hair. Against her better judgement, she waved a hand through the smoke to see his handiwork. Only a stone's throw away, an unlucky tree smoldered to cinders beneath the blaze. Cinder winced at the sight, knowing full well that could've been her if she wasn't careful.

Schnee dust was prime, potent, powerful stuff. Papa made sure his children were never lacking for it. Still, that much was overkill!

"Well, well, well~!" Roman planted both hands on his cane, jabbed it in the dirt, and stuck out his tongue. "Nothin' to say, Cindy? Maybe you're not so tough without those Maiden powers...

An indignant sputter of rage sparked to life in her chest-no. Calm. He was trying to rile her up.

She righted herself with a growl, forcing herself up onto her hands and knees.

Wait. Where was Sienna...?

Something lashed out of the smoke from behind her, curled around her ankle and yanked, launching her into the air. She righted herself with a gust of wind and fire but it was too late. Another rising whine informed her of a second volley and this time, she didn't have the liberty to dodge. Frantic, she shed dust from the sleeves of her dress, flung up her hands and conjured a wall of viscous volcanic glass between her and impending doom.

Just in time, too; the subsequent blast slapped Cinder out of the air like the hand of an angry god, sending her tumbling to the ground...

.

..

...with most of her aura intact. Ha! Victory was hers!

"Oh, come ON!" An indignant shout greeted her from within the smoky haze. "That semblance of yours is bullshit! We had you!"

She preened, flicking a strand of dark hair over her shoulder. "Don't hate the player, hate the game."

Payback time.

Alighting in a pointed crouch, she pressed a hand to the dirt and kicked backward in a flare of fire, dragged her palm across the manor gardens to create a towering wave of glass in her wake. Doing so drained her present aura reserves more than she cared to admit but still, despite the pain, despite the ringing in her ears, despite the hammering of her heart, a wry smile tugged at the corner of her mouth.

For all their squabbling, Roman and Sienna had displayed more than adequate teamwork just no and she only had herself to blame. She'd been so focused on Roman that she'd forgotten about all about the Faunus lurking in the background. Her sister-in-arms had never been the sort to let such things slide.

But two could play that game.

With a smirk she stomped a foot and sent all the glass she'd conjured snarling forward into the smokescreen. A series of startled shouts were her reward; she knew they'd be diving and ducking for cover right about now, which gave her all the time in the world to locate them. Stowing her blades behind her back, she closed her eyes, pressed her palms together and listened just as she'd been taught.

In a moment, she was swept up in a memory.

"Good!" Father's voice came to her unbidden, praising her from the past. "Very good! You may not have chakra like Winter, but you have even more potential. Between your Maiden powers, that semblance of yous, and a bit of training, anything's possible. You just have to realize it. Here, it helps if you have a chant to focus on. Find something that works for you...

Taking a deep breath, she knelt and pressed one palm to the dirt, superheating it with her touch.

The Maiden Power within her stirred, mingling with her semblance.

Then she began to speak. "I am the bone of my sword...

All around the manor, the world suddenly shifted as reality itself shuddered in vile anticipation. Spires of glass burst from the ground at her command, great gleaming geysers of death ready and willing to skewer anyone in her way. She directed them with her will, urging them to seek and hunt her fores, forced them to take the shapes she desired. Not just to piece, but so much more.

"Glass is my body, and fire is my blood."

Roman and Sienna yelped in the haze, unprepared for her penultimate technique.

"I have...created...

She choked on her own spit, unable to finish the chant as her aura began to fizzle. Too much. It was still too much for her. Sweat beaded down her brow and she righted herself, swaying on her feet to regard the vast plain of hardened, jagged glass before her. It was crude. Ugly. Incomplete. She hadn't mastered it yet and wouldn't for years to come. But what she'd created remained for a fleeting moment. Long enough to give her the edge, to allow her to both imprison and sense all that stood upon her domain.

Her eyes snapped open. Aha! There!

She burst into the fading smoke and swept it aside with a rush of primal flame. Sure enough, she found Sienna trapped between the glass spikes, standing terribly still; either unable or unwilling to move for fear of cutting her aura to ribbons.

Cinder showed no such mercy.

Her found Sienna's throat and slammed her down, stunning her. Glass shattered at her back, digging into her aura, until with a yelp, she flung up her hands.

"Give!" she cried! "I give up!"

"Oh, c'mon!" Roman swore not a stone's throw away, voice piquing with outrage. "That is so not fair! You dirty cheater! I'm telling dad!"

Cinder rounded on him, eyes flashed with fire.

"Alright, alright!" Her comrade flailed back, arms raised. "I surrender! Don't bust out the big guns. You know I can't handle that."

Cinder took a deep breath and, reluctantly...let it go. The last of her realm faded away, leaving only pockmarked dirt in its place. She took a moment to marvel at, preening a little. Sure, she was only a child, but what kind of child could command such power? Not many!

Life was good.

She had her fair share of friends-even if she called most of them minions- she had wealth, fame, power, everything a girl could ever want. Because you see, she had a family. Not just in Roman and Sienna, but in Father and Mother and even little Winter as well. She shuddered to think what she would've become had she remained at the Glass Unicorn.

But the past was her past and she preferred to keep it there. The future was now.

Now, she offered a hand to Sienna. "You fought well."

Roman grumbled as he rose. "Must be nice having Semblances.

"You'll unlock yours soon enough, Roman."

"Will I?" she didn't miss the bitter tinge to his tone. "Its been more than a year."

Sienna pinched his cheek. "Don't sulk. You'll get creases."

"Piss off!" he batted her hand down. "You don't know what its like!"

Cinder frowned, tilted her head now, blinked for good measure. Was he jealous? She couldn't blame him. Papa was papa; Mama was a maiden and so was she. Sienna was an ambush attacker through and through, while little Winter was already showing signs of the Schnee semblance. It must hurt, being the odd duck out.

She wasn't used to comforting people. Still, she felt the need to try. "I'm sure it'll be something grand, Roman."

Torchwick tutted and kicked his cane up into his hand. "This from the girl who was the literal power of seasons in her hands.

She shrurgged "Well, not so grand as me, but still."

"I want it to be something useful."he grit his teeth and looked away, seething. "Powerful." he all but growled the word, glancing Sienna's way. "Yours helps you because you're becoming a literal ninja, and don't get me started on you, ya damn fire fairy!" Quick as a flash, Cinder found herself the subject of his ire. "Your semblance was bloody broken before you got the superpowers. Now you're off creating...whatever the hell that was just now! What do I have?"

"You dodge good...?"

His face flushed. "I don't wanna be a damn dodge tank!"

A startled shout came from the manor, shattering the moment. "Kids! Come quick! Winter is walking!"

Cinder never moved so fast in all her life; she did not walk, she didn't run; no, no, no, she absolutely blurred; flames flashed from her feet as she flung herself forward, scorching the grass black. Behind her, Roman and Sienna abandoned their argument and raced after her. Good. They knew what was important.

Life was good; no, scratch that. Things were better than good. They were great!

Whatever troubles might come, she would face them, head on.

She had every reason to smile.

A/N: You're not ready for what is to come.

Thad said, would you like weekly updates? Do let me know!

As ever the Embers rule persists, reviews are my fuel, my fire, my life. Without them, I lose all inspiration, all hope, all ability to write.

That's no joke. I have so little time to write these days with two jobs, scarcely one day off a week, and silence hurts. So by all means, speak up! Make yourselves heard! Every bit of feedback, no matter how small or large, matters! Really, it helps a lot. Its a joy to talk with you all and bandy ideas back and forth; it really is. Sorry if this seems shorter than usual, working on a tight schedule here.

Reviews are the fuel that keeps me writing. That's no joke. I really am sorry that the chapters are shorter these days, and the updates slower, but I'm trying my best. Silence hurts more than any flame...without feedback, I can't write a single world. Seriously! So speak up! Every word -and every review!- really does matter!

So in the Immortal Words of Atlas... ...Review, Would You Kindly?

Here, have some previews. Lemme know what you think!

And as ever: Possible spoilers! Seriously!

Mostly the same previews here.

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

SPOILERS AWAIT AHEAD!

YOU WERE WARNED~!

(Previews are condensed to save space!

...today is a good day to die."


Cinder's gaze lit up. Quite literally. He could see the Maiden flames fanning in her eyes, trailing out in wisps of heat. Does this mean I'll have more siblings?

Fiery little imp. He patted his knee. "C'mere. She hopped right into his lap, no hesitation. Roman hooted. Ha! Daddy's girl! A fireball clipped his shoulder, sparked off his aura, and sent him flying across the room. "Ohhh, you bitch! I liked that coat! Language. I'm going to be stepping up your training. She grinned. "I like training." Will it make me more powerful? Unbelievably.


WHISKERS!

That rather sounds like Raven.

Nah, I'm sure its nothing.

How many people do you know that call you whiskers?

Right on cue. You been banging my best friend?

She was mine first. Quiet, Schnee!


Kali didn't leap into his arms; she buried her head into hi chest. Ghira and he and she and I and I saw and...

"Hey, now!" Ever the gentlemen, Naruto took her by the shoulders and guided her down to a chair. "What's wrong?"

Kali told him her story, her tale of woe as he and Willow looked on.

Ghira would never look at her the way she wanted.

But someone else might.

Maybe someday...


Target in sight.

She'd been so careful these last few days, making sure no one saw her, that no one suspected. This was her time, this was her moment! Her day was now!

"Ruby Rose! You put that cookie down! No desert before dinner!"

Buuusted.

Mommy was best mom, but she really did keep a close eye on her cookie jar...

Daddy was better. He let her have sweets all the time!


"Again."

Winter climbed to her feet. Cinder waited her, golden eyes shining with flame. Roman knelt to retrieve his hat, dusted it off, and brandished his cane at her. Sienna cracked her knuckles.

"Pick up your sword. We're not done yet, little sister...


"What's gotten into you, Winter?"

She wouldn't look at him. She mustn't. She refused.

"I heard what you said to mother." Father arched an eyebrow at her, and in the absence of his words, child though she was, she found the strength to continue. "You think I'm weak because I'm not like you, like Cinder and Sienna, or even Roman." she stomped a foot and looked down, unwilling to meet his eyes. "I know I was never what you wanted, but I thought after all this time, maybe things were different.

His stoic gaze drilled into her. "When did you get the impression I didn't want you? You don't know everything kiddo...

"No, she sniffled, "but at least now I know the truth.

"The truth, eh?" he thumbed his chin. "Alright." a quick shove pushed his chair out from behind his desk. "You want the truth? C'mere." A metal hand patted his knee. "I'd wanted to wait another three years, but I suppose now's as good a time as any."

Her legs betrayed her and she found herself climbing into his lap. At the end of the day he was still her father and she was only five.

She tilted her head up to get a better look at him. As such she saw the moment his sapphire eyes snapped into scarlet.

Winter gasped despite her best efforts. "What did you do?! Is that a semblance or...?

"Nope. I'm a jinchuuriki, girl." she watched golden light dance across his face as he spoke, burning bright. "From another world, far from here. When I first met your mother I chose to be who I am now. To be more than a fight, but a leader as well. But the truth is, I'm far from perfect." he held up his false arm from her to see. "I killed my best friend. It wasn't something I wanted to do-that's how I got this arm. Even after that, I destroyed many who were deserving...and many who were not."

"That still doesn't explain why you think I'm weak-

"You think you're weak, Winter? No, no, no." he shook his head, setting his pale hair swaying. "You're strong; the only other person on this planet with chakra besides me. Hell, you're probably going to be even stronger than me, once you grow up. Which is why you must be BETTER. I didn't want to tell you any of this until you were ready."

"Why not tell me all this before?"

"Because it could go to your head. Because strength without experience can create a lifetime of tragedy if you're not careful. I also wanted you to have a normal childhood."

She scowled at him. "How is anything about my life even remotely normal?"

He granted her a small smile.

"Fair enough...


"Ah, sweet training! What fun, what fun!"

"Don't break them, Tyrian...


Qrow was really starting to hate Mistral.

Bad enough that they had their crime syndicates, but this drug...no one had paid attention to it for the longest time. They'd known about it, even seen hints down in Menagerie, but this...

A drug that boosted semblances. Sounded great on paper, right?

It wasn't.

Using the damn thing killed you eventually. Semblances were meant to grow and evolve naturally. This...whatever it was, forced that evolution.

"Well, shit. Oz ain't gonna like this...


"We still haven't tracked down that semblance booster yet?

Evidently its cropped up in Mistral now.

"Lovely."


Winter wasn't cut out to be a big sister. Truly, she felt she wasn't. She'd been born broken. She only knew how to fight and kill. That was why she seldom spoke. Why she shunned others.

It was precisely why she was hesitating now, as the mewls of a newborn infant filled the hospital room.

"Oh, stop that. Come here and hold your baby sister. Weiss won't bite."


I do not take sass from insects."

"Insect?! I'm the strongest Huntress in a generation!"

"A beetle is still an insect, no matter how loud it might scream."

"See that, Neo? Right there? That was the moment the Boss turned the world upside down."


"I know that look."

Summer felt a fierce heat creep up the back of her neck like a dozen fire ants. Calm. She was calm. She was the eye of the storm, the very picture of poise and nobody but nothing could possibly make her talk-

Summer," Raven crooned, slinging an arm over his shoulder. "You wouldn't happen to be keeping secrets now, woul you?"

"No...?"

Her red eyes almost seemed to glow. Bullshit. What're you hiding?

Hands on her hips as Naruto kissed her, Willow's breasts pushing against her back, her own arching in pleasure...

Summer? Remnant to Summer?

Let it be, Rae. Qrow. Tai

Raven was relentless

Raven rolled her eyes. What am I, a glorified taxi?

Nah, just a bitchy one.

What was that, Taiyang?

He flicked a thumbs up her way. Its good thing you're handsome.

But not as handsome as Naruto, right? Whiskered bastard has all the luck.

You litterally have a bunnygirl as your girlfriend, brother mine. I don't wanna hear it."


...you're gonna be a daddy again.

Naruto fell out his chair!


...why do I laugh, you ask? I laugh because you have no idea what you've unleashed. There are things far worse than death."

Something tore the roof clean off above them; the roar of a beast split the air.

"Ah, right on time."


Winter scowled. It was a very impressive scowl she felt, easily capable of causing even the mightiest of Grimm to quaver in its boots.

It had no effect whatsoever on Big Sister Cinder. Her sister was everything she wanted to be; poise, power, and perfection. It didn't matter if they weren't related by blood. They were sisters. Anyone who said otherwise was getting an ice spike through the eye.

Now, now, there's no need to make such a face. You're only four, after all. What troubles you?

Daddy is busy again.

Cinder's face lit up. Really? Then I suppose we'll have to change that.


"Naruto, stop! This isn't you! This isn't who you want to be! They need to face justice!

Rationally, yes. But he wasn't feeling very rational right now.

"They came for my family. This is justice."

He squeezed their neck harder.

CRACK.

R&R~!