Been watching "Girl Band Cry" – or really bad subs of it. It's fun and the animated 3d graphics style reminds me of RWBY in a way. Much more slice of life than action, of course, but fun characters.


Cover Art: Aristeo Storm

Chapter 35


For the first few days in Vale, Qrow was content to let Summer and Raven yank him around without direction. The city was new to them and they were always dragging him out, which suited him just fine because it gave him something to do that wasn't agonise over the future. It was also easier to enjoy joining them while they were excited then it was to muster any excitement himself, Vale being something he was intimately familiar with, after all.

They visited the big shopping centres, which were a bit smaller than they would be in the future, weapons stores, which were less advanced than they would be, and numerous accessory and clothing shops. They, at least, felt better than the future, though Yang and Ruby would just shake their heads and say that was a clear sign his tastes were out of date.

But screw them. Fashion and music from this time was so much better than theirs.

"Raven, you need to wear more than just black," Summer insisted.

"I am wearing more than just black. See? It's got red on it."

Qrow ignored their argument, knowing full well that Raven's preference in colours would never change. To be fair to her, it wasn't purely about being edgy either, Raven just liked them because they matched her hair and eyes. Summer, on the other hand, did not like silver or grey or any colour close to her eyes. Bright reds, whites, creams and tans were her go-to choices, with a lot more variety in style than either of what we or Raven had.

Before, they'd had the excuse of having nowhere to store it, but it'd be a good idea to have some clothing going into Beacon, given they'd be spending the best four years of their lives there. That was why he'd agreed to come and be dressed up by them. Because brother gods knew forty years hadn't been enough for him to develop a sense of fashion.

"Qrow, come try this on!" Summer bounced up to him with a wide smile and a white dress shirt. "You need to wear brighter colours to offset Raven's, otherwise you're going to look like a pair of loners."

"How can it be a pair of loners?" asked Raven, as Qrow took the shirt.

"Shut it."

"Oh sure, silence people for pointing out you're dumb. That's mature. Hey Qrow, make sure to keep the top few buttons undone. I bet Summer will like tha— ow! Bitch, you didn't have to hit me that hard!"

Summer raised her fist in clear threat.

Raven had been teasing her on a crush angle for the last two days, and it wasn't like Qrow didn't understand why. They were a guy and a girl who were friends and, so, they inevitably got hit with that silly angle. It wasn't like Raven and him counted, being siblings and all. He got why Summer didn't like it either, since as much as they knew it was a joke, some guys might think it serious and that could cost her if she wanted to flirt with them. Taiyang, for instance.

Not that he didn't know Raven meant it as a joke, but still... you never knew who'd hear and who would think it more real than it was. Guys could be stupid like that, he should know, having been one of the dumbest teenage boys to ever haunt Beacon's halls. And, for teenagers, dating was serious business.

Even so, he did leave the top few buttons undone. It wasn't just because it was his "look" in the future, but also because he just hated the feeling of a tight collar. Had in Beacon, had after Beacon, and would back here in the past. It just itched so much, and there was no feeling worse than a button digging into your neck when you took a drink or a deep breath. Outside of weddings, where he grudgingly accepted so as to look his best, he was always seen with a loose collar.

It was a shame about the lack of a beard though, he mulled as he looked at himself in the changing room mirror. It was growing, but it was thin, straggly strands of hair softer than silk. Not the true stubble he'd come to enjoy, and which Ruby and Yang used to love scraping their fingers over when they were young.

Before Jimmy Irondick went and took his style, the beard-stealing bastard.

Sauntering back out, Qrow performed a quick twirl for his teammates, making Raven roll her eyes and Summer glance away awkwardly. "Well?" he asked. "How do I look?"

"Good," Summer whispered. "Really good."

"Like a fucking peacock," said Raven.

Most people would have taken that badly, either being offended or even thinking she'd said the outfit didn't work. Qrow knew better. Raven literally meant that he looked like a peacock, which was an animal that could be said to be arrogant and flamboyant, but also pretty. No one else might get it, but he knew she meant it as both insult and compliment at once.

"Good, then?"

"Yeah," she said, with a nod. "It'll do. Need some pants, though."

They shopped for a little longer, picking out a few sets until they had a coupe each – his and Summer's with a lot more variety than Raven's. Qrow offered to pay, using the money provided by Willow's father to treat them both. Something which had Summer blushing and thanking him, and Raven caustically pointing out that if he was that loaded, he should also have paid for just about anything else they wanted.

"I'm not spoiling you," he replied. "Or you'll buy random junk to drain my bank account. Besides, I already need to save some for the school uniforms."

"Uniforms!?" Raven leaned back. "Beacon has uniforms!?"

"Most academies do," said Summer. "Except Shade, I think."

"Fuck! I was never warned about this!"

Actually, they'd been to Beacon and seen a lot of people in them, but he supposed Raven had been too focused on Nicholas Arc's backside to pay attention. He wasn't much of a fan of the uniforms either, primarily down to the tie, but a lot of teacher let the absence of that slide. Less so the absence of a skirt on Raven's side.

"This is bullshit!" she complained. "Why can't I wear pants!?"

"Because then what would all the hormonal boys have to lose their minds over?" Qrow teased.

"Fuck! Not this shit again!"

"They'll be stronger here," Summer said, in clear warning. "So, you may want to withdraw the whole `win a spar to have a date` thing. Unless you want some hideous fourth year to take you out. They might be able to beat Qrow."

"No, no, no!"

"Unlessss..." Qrow said. "You were already in a relationship, and then no one would—"

"Fuck you, Qrow. Like I don't know where this is going! You want your Mistralian boytoy in your life, then you fucking go out with him!"

"It wouldn't have to be real," he said, laughing awkwardly at having been caught. Evidently, he wasn't as subtle as he thought he was. "You and Taiyang could just pretend, you know, fake it to ward off other guys."

"And girls from him," Raven said, eyes narrowed. "Meaning everyone thinks we're together and we have to go on dates to sell the story, and you're hoping I'll fall for him. Qrow, you're as transparent as glass. No. Fuck no. I am never getting with that loser. Get the message through your thick skull."

"Don't say that. What if he finds someone else?"

"Then I'll apologise for having forced that upon them and thank them for taking the bullet." Raven stomped off stroppily, turning the corner in the street only to freeze. "Okay, now what the fuck is going on!?"

Qrow caught up with Summer in time to see it.

Ah, there's the rally...

About two hundred faunus with signs were blocking one of the main paths on the high street, wielding signs and chanting messages. They were between several shops, in an area flanked by a few police officers, but they were cooperating for the most part. As protests went, this one looked quite tame. They weren't blocking off streets or roads and making it impossible for people to get on with their lives.

But, as polite as that sounded, it also meant they weren't being taken seriously.

There was always that dumb logic with protests, sadly. If you were polite and out the way, everyone ignored you and your message. If you put yourself in the way and interrupted people's lives, everyone got your message but then you were considered assholes, and even accused of no longer being a peaceful protest. The choice, then, was between success at the cost of public opinion, or public opinion at the cost of success.

It looked like they were still trying the polite angle. It was just sad to know, with absolute future knowledge, that this would go nowhere. That people would carry on and ignore them, forcing them to escalate to outright terrorism, and then turn around and say that the faunus had ruined their message of peace by resorting to violence.

Damned if you do and damned if you don't in both cases.

"It's the White Fang," said Summer, sparing him the need to explain. "They're promoting faunus rights and equal pay."

Raven grunted. "Are faunus not paid the same?"

"They are in most places, I guess, but there are a lot of businesses who discriminate, or so I've heard." Summer didn't sound confident of that, but then she was a teenage girl out of school. "It's really bad in places far away from the cities from what I'm told. They're paid little and a lot of them end up working in awful conditions."

"Then they should fight back."

Trust Raven to support them in violence.

"The problem," Qrow interjected, "is that they'll be labelled as terrorists if they fight back, and then those same people discriminating faunus now will feel they have even more right to discriminate them because of these people becoming violent."

"That's dumb. Faunus are strong. They have natural advantages."

It was just like Raven so be so wonderfully blunt, and he meant that as a compliment. Raven was many things, but discriminatory wasn't one of them. She lived her whole life on the basis of the strong ruling over the weak, and the tribe under her had been a meritocracy through and through. A brutal and unfair one, where the weak suffered, but there was always the chance to advance through hard work and skill with Raven. She didn't care for your age, gender, social standing or species. Only how much of an effort you were putting in and how strong you were.

There were worse people to be ruled by.

"We could always join in," said Qrow.

"What?" Summer turned to him. "But we're not faunus."

"I don't think they'd mind."

"We should do it." Raven had that annoyed and angry look in her eyes, and stomped forward before Summer could do anything. Qrow smirked and followed. "Oi!" said Raven, shouting out to some faunus on the edge.

Though she obviously planned to be supportive, she sure didn't look it – Raven's typical resting "bitch face" intimidating a few of the faunus. Almost immediately, a black-haired woman stepped out and Qrow froze.

Yang's teammate—?

No. This must have been her mother but, holy shit, they looked practically identical. Slightly darker skin, maybe a different shape to her ears, but that was about it. Side by side, you'd have been hard pressed to make out the differences. Then again, Summer and Ruby essentially had the same face – to the point where you could have copied and pasted their faces around on a photograph and nothing would change.

"What's your problem?" Kali demanded, squaring up to Raven so close their chests squashed together. The faunus' ears flicked and she leaned in. "If you're here to cause trouble, I'll send you away in a casket."

Whoah...

Qrow couldn't say he'd expected that attitude.

If Raven had faunus ears of her own, they'd have perked up excitedly. Far from intimidated, she looked Kali up and down with an almost lustful gaze. "You think you're strong enough, bitch? Let's throw down right here and—"

"She wants to join in!" Summer blurted out, thrusting herself between them and pushing them apart. "Raven wants to support and protest!"

Surprised, Kali let herself be pushed back. "Yeah?"

"Well, I did," said Raven, "but I kinda want that fight now as well. Can we fight first and do the waving signs around shit after?"

Kali ignored that, thankfully, and looked at them a little more closely now she knew they weren't threatening. He couldn't see a weapon but she looked confident enough to hold her own. Qrow suspected that might change if a fight actually happened, what with Raven being trained at Signal. They were without weapons here, so looked like any other teenagers.

And the White Fang probably got plenty of abuse from people like them.

Before she could speak, a larger, muscular man force his way out. "Kali," he grunted, immediately making her scowl. "What's this about? Are you harassing people again? I've told you it'll damage our image."

"Oh, stuff it you oversized housecat," she snapped back. "I've got this under control. Go back to your brownnosers and let them tell you how great you are."

The man, Ghira, Qrow assumed, let out a heavy sigh. "You're always such hard work."

"And you're an arrogant jerk."

"Violent woman."

"Pathetic man."

"Thug!"

"Coward!"

Two more faunus rushed in to separate them, pulling them away as they snarled at one another.

"Wow," said Qrow. "You could cut the sexual tension with a knife."

"HIM!?"

"HER!?"

Kali and Ghira shouted in unison, then each made retching noises. Qrow might have believed it if not for the existence of a Blake Belladonna in the future. Beside him, he heard Summer sigh and grumble under her breath.

"How come you're perceptive enough to notice it with them but can't when it's me?"

"What was that?" he asked.

"Nothing," she said, looking away glumly. "Nothing at all."

"You're welcome to join us," Ghira said, pushing back toward them with a warm smile. "We would love to have humans stand with us as equals and share our aims. Don't mind Kali and her aggressive mannerisms. Her parents didn't housetrain her."

"Is it really okay to make an animal joke about faunus?" Summer asked, as Kali seethed behind him.

Ghira winked. "It stings less from another faunus. In truth, she's just a bit of a psychopath—"

"Oh, piss off! He's a weak-willed pussycat who would apologise if someone broke their fist on his face. He talks good but that's all he's any use for." Kali wrestled her minder off and stomped forward. "If it weren't for me and mine, he'd have been run out of Vale when the first counter-protestors showed up."

"Counter...?"

"Kali, they could have been reasoned with," said Ghira.

"That's your problem. Always reasoning, always wanting to talk. Yap, yap, yap."

"We're here to change hearts and minds—"

"That doesn't mean we have to ignore when fist is used against us!" Kali rolled her eyes and waved toward them. "Give these three some leaflets to hand out. Maybe the racist pricks who won't take them from us will if human hands have touched them. I've got to go make sure no one tries to hassle us on the other side."

Seeing her chance, Raven darted after Kali, dodging the faunus offering some leaflets like she was trying to drive an axe through her throat, and jogging after and angry woman. The possibility of beating some people up would obviously appeal to Raven more. That, and she just seemed to get on with Kali for reasons that weren't too hard to understand.

"Forget her," said Qrow, as Summer groaned. "Raven would make people eat these leaflets anyway. Summer and I will hand them out."

"Sure, yeah, of course." Summer grumbled behind him. "Because we're not carrying bags of clothes already. What fun this will be."

The faunus smiled apologetically and handed them over. They seemed like good people, and Ghira chuckled, saying, "If you want, I can let you store your bags in the centre of the protest with ours. I'll personally make sure no one takes them."

"That'd be great, thanks." It was easy to trust him, what with knowing the future and all. Summer handed hers over as well. "Any particular things you want us to stay when we're handing these out?"

"Only what your heart tells you."

Inspiring.

It was just a shame Ghira's kindness and faith wouldn't be repaid by the people of Vale.

/-/

Qrow had always known faunus had it hard but he'd never appreciated it until he had to hand out leaflets for the White Fang. Seeing and feeling the glares sent his way, and hearing people comment on him being a troublemaker when he tried to offer them leaflets, made it clear just what the perception of this protest was.

And it was both peaceful and inobtrusive.

Of course, there were some people kind enough to take the leaflets – maybe half of those would even read them, while the rest were just accepting them to show some half-hearted solidarity, or to get him off their back so they could carry on their day.

The leaflets themselves were optimistic, highlighting the unfairness faunus faced with statistics but going on with examples of very simple and straightforward legal changes that could reduce or even deal with them outright. Nothing ridiculous was being asked, only that there be legal protections to stop discrimination on the basis of race.

Vale already had such laws for other things like gender, age and sexuality, but faunus were never included. Qrow suspected that was less by intent and more because lawmakers had just assumed no one would, faunus being human and all that. Optimism had bit them in the ass there, and Qrow knew Ozpin would have never started all this. He wanted humanity united against Salem.

They spent four hours handing out leaflets, until the sun started to dim and the streets became emptier. Faunus branched off in small groups, with Ghira always thanking them and making it clear that giving any time at all was wonderful. He obviously didn't want anyone to feel like they had to stick around if they had work elsewhere, but, at the same time, he had to stay to the end and lead by example.

Qrow, Summer and Raven ended up staying that long as well. They were some of the last ones there, able to collect their bags as the few remaining faunus patted them on their backs. The overall mood appeared to be that they were genuinely thrilled to have some human volunteers working alongside them.

"Thank you both so much for today," said Ghira, beaming brightly at them. "You don't realise how much it's raised the spirits of the faunus here that you offered. You're living proof that we can work together, and that there are humans out there who will stand by us." He shook Qrow's hand, clasping it between two much larger ones, and then did the same for Summer. "I wish more were like you, I really do. Perhaps then this wouldn't be necessary."

"N—No problem." Summer fidgeted. She was never good at dealing with praise, but she'd also not exactly volunteered to do all this and must have felt a little guilty. "Um. Maybe we can do it again?" she offered. "If that's okay with you."

"That would be great! Would you like to be added to our group chat? We arrange times and dates through there."

"Sure."

Qrow let his scroll be added to it as well, not seeing the harm. It was a productive use of the day and he'd much rather see the White Fang never become violent. It didn't feel like it was possible, not with how Atlas would treat them – doubly so once Jacques took over the SDC and prioritised profit over lives – but he'd never forgive himself if he didn't make the effort.

"You're not half bad – for a human!"

"And you're not either – for an oversized cat!"

"Bitch!"

"Whore!"

Ghira sighed.

Raven and Kali laughed, arms around one another, cheek to cheek, both a little bruised and dirty from the scuffles they'd gotten into. As expected, there'd been no shortage of people trying to cause trouble and disrupt the protest, and the police hadn't done much. They'd been content to let people throw bottles and insults.

Kali and Raven had not.

"Hey, we're all going out for drinks to celebrate as usual, right?" shouted Kali. Ghira winced, ears flattening, and grunted back. "Sweet. We should bring Raven." Kali eyed them. "And the other two, I guess."

Raven nodded. "They're afterthoughts at best."

"Kali, please," Ghira said, with a heavy sigh. "You're making a scene, not to mention they're clearly exhausted. You never think of anyone else. Little wonder you're so reckless and—" He grunted as Kali shoved him out the way with one hand.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. I wasn't talking to you. Geez. Talk about self-important. You three wanna come for drinks? There'll be beer and food."

"Actually," Summer said. "I'm tired and—"

"I'm in!" Qrow declared.

"Ah—? Um. Yes, I'd love to!" Summer beamed tiredly. "Thank you so much!"

The bar the White Fang organisers took them to was a spacious place operating out the basement of some apartment block, with a staircase leading down the front to a doorway. It was a busy place, with loud music muffled by the concrete floor and ceiling, and a haze of cigarette smoke struggling to fit out a too-small window leading upstairs.

It was Qrow's kind of place, with cheap, shitty booze that hadn't been watered down, and patrons that were content to ignore you no matter how loud and rowdy you got. A place where people played pool, darts, sang karaoke and threw up in toilets that had probably been cleaned at least once this century.

Qrow fit in.

Summer did not, and clung to his side, eyeing everyone warily.

Had he not been enjoying his beer, he'd have considered taking her outside, but, well, it had been a while. Too damn long. Qrow yelled "CHEERS" and hit his beer glass to a faunus'. He couldn't remember their name, nor they his, but it didn't matter. The glasses went back and someone else chanted, "CHUG! CHUG! CHUG!"

"Ahhhhhhh!" Qrow gasped, slamming the empty glass down. "That's good!"

The White Fang were all loudly chatting between themselves, the mood being overall positive. Ghira was smiling and talking to some who must have been among the leadership, while Kali was off throwing darts at a board with Raven and a bunch of others, hooting loudly with each bullseye and making a racket. Most were like him, however, just happy to rest their legs and drink without having to put any effort in.

They'd been worked to the bone today already.

"Qrow, shouldn't you slow down?"

"Shouldn't you speed up?" he fired back at Summer, teasingly. "You haven't finished your first pint. Don't tell me you're going to go teetotal through Beacon."

"Maybe not but you're drinking a lot."

"I'm good for it. Trust me, I'm a professional."

Besides, they didn't have school or anything on, so if he wanted to sleep in until noon then that was very much on the cards. They all could, it was the school holidays. They had nothing but time available.

"But Ozpin said—"

"Ozpin is an old fuddy-duddy."

"Qrow, he's, like, not even forty..."

He was far older than that. "Same difference. Look, Ray is making friends and she's normally the antisocial one. She's already—" Qrow trailed off as Kali appeared, as if by magic, draping her arms around his neck and shoulders. "Uh. Hey," he said, wondering why her face was so close. "What's up?"

"Your sister says I should try my luck with you, hot stuff."

Qrow blinked.

Summer hissed.

"Yeah, I don't think that's a good idea," Qrow said, looking to Ghira. Kali brought his face back with a finger on his chin.

"Don't look at him. Why does everyone think we have something going on?"

"Probably the unresolved sexual tension."

"To hell with that. Geez. Any sexual tension I had with him would be unresolved forever. What's he going to do, talk me to an orgasm? Belladonna wouldn't know action if it snuck up and bit him on the ass."

Ghira cleared his throat. "I can hear you."

"You have four ears, shit-for-brains. Congrats."

"You have four ears, too!" he fired back. "We're both cat faunus!"

"Yeah, well only difference is this pussy isn't afraid to purr when she's petted, while you're just a pussy who wants to curl up with a ball of yarn." That confusing metaphor said, Kali plopped herself down in Qrow's lap, leaving him with a conundrum.

Firstly, Yang's best friend kinda needed to exist.

But, on the other hand, there was a cat girl in his lap a year or two older than him, which meant legal. He was also tipsy, very much aware of how soft she felt in his lap and left wondering if it'd be such a bad thing if Blake had a brother or sister. Besides, no one said she couldn't shack up with Ghira later on, after moving on from him.

"Get off him!" Summer growled, pushing Kali away and solving the problem before Qrow could decide his own. He missed Kali's body already. "Qrow isn't like that, you hussy!"

"It's pussy, darling, like the cat—"

"No, I meant it as in a whore and a slut!"

The music in the bar stopped with a screech.

All drinking ceased.

Over by the jukebox, a man winced and said "Sorry!" and set the record back on, returning the music. Drinks were picked back up and conversation resumed, while Kali shrugged and sat down on Qrow's side, grabbing his arm instead.

"You can call me what you like but I'd much rather get Qrow's opinion. Raven has been telling me all kinds of things about you."

"Yeah?"

"Hmm. How strong you are, how brave you are, how good you are with your hands—"

"My sister said that?"

"I might be paraphrasing the last one a bit. Or a lot." Kali winked at him. "I'm open to testing how good you are with them, though. We should do our research."

Kali yanked him forward without warning. Drunk as he was, Qrow had the sense to close his eyes for a kiss, only to flinch as cold lager splashed over the back of his head. Kali hadn't been going for a kiss but had dragged him in the way of beer being thrown on her.

"SUMMER, WHY!?" he cried.

"I WASN'T AIMING FOR YOU! I WAS AIMING FOR HER!"

Qrow considered that, in his drunken mind, and whether it was actually in any way whatsoever a valid explanation for why she'd done what she'd done. He came to an answer.

"SUMMER, WHY!?"

"My hand slipped..." Summer took his shoulder and dragged him away. "And now you're all wet—"

"Because of you!"

"Through no one's fault."

"But it was your fault..."

"I'll help dry you up after Kali got you all soaked through." Summer pulled him away from everyone and toward the bar. "Come on, I'm sure they have some towels. Maybe a spray bottle of water as well."

"What would that do?"

"I dunno, but I've heard cats hate it when you spray water on them."

Qrow decided he wasn't going to understand this anytime soon and surrendered to the beer.

/-/

Summer growled as she struggled to navigate the two drunken idiots back to the hotel. One on either shoulder, their arms around her neck from both sides, stumbling and swerving like cars with only half their wheels. Every time she got one of them straight, the other would veer off and threaten to spill all three of them into the road.

"Can't believe you both," she growled. "You, Qrow, for being a drunk—"

"I'm drunk!"

"And you, Raven, for egging that bitch on!"

"I'm an egg!"

"You're something alright, you damn traitor. I thought you were on my side!"

"W—Who are you again?"

"Idiots," Summer hissed. "Both of you. I ought to—" Summer froze on reaching the street leading to the hotel.

Because Ozpin was standing outside, arms crossed, tapping his foot on the floor.

"Oh, crud."

"Oh, crud indeed, Miss Rose."

"I'm not drunk! It's their fault!"

"I am drunk!" Qrow giggled.

"And I am an egg!" Raven added, swaying precariously. "Watch me shatter!" Ozpin caught her by the arm before she could fall and do so. "Awwww. I wanna be an omelette."

"Inside," the man sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "And I will be speaking with you come morning." Raven's throat bulged. Had Ozpin not been a huntsman, he might have caught the spray of vomit. Fortunately for him, he was a huntsman, and was thus quick enough to angle Raven away when she threw up. "Delightful. I hope you all feel dreadful come the morning. I'll be waking you up bright and early."

"But it's not my fault..." Summer whined.

"Have you had a drink?"

"Barely!"

Ozpin tilted his head.

"I mean it! I threw most of it on that bitch!"

"Then you've been fighting?"

Summer opened her mouth, then closed her mouth, then sulkily looked away. "No."

"I cannot yet give you all detention but I am your legal guardians and, thus, we shall be discussing your actions tomorrow. Do you have anything to say to me?"

"Sorry," mumbled Summer.

"Blurghhhh!" said Raven.

"I'm drunk!" said Qrow.

Ozpin simply sighed.


Next Chapter: 22nd June

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